Pakistan cracks down on militants after Kashmir attack

Pakistani Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi, right, and Pakistan's Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan give a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 March 2019

Pakistan cracks down on militants after Kashmir attack

  • Around 44 members of banned outfits, including two close relatives of JeM chief Masood Azhar, detained
  • Interior secretary says action taken of own accord, not because of pressure from any other country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has arrested members of a militant group and detained its leader’s relatives, following a suicide attack that killed Indian troops and brought both countries to the brink of war.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack in the disputed Kashmir region, prompting a furious India to launch an airstrike. 

Pakistan retaliated by launching its own incursion that ended with an Indian fighter jet being downed and its pilot being captured. 

On Tuesday Pakistan’s interior minister said that two relatives of JeM leader Masood Azhar had been placed in “preventive detention” and that the move was part of a fresh crackdown on militancy.

“We have taken 44 under-observation members of proscribed organizations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar, in preventive detention for investigation,” Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi told the media.

Pakistan has been under pressure from India and other global powers to act against militants accused of carrying out cross-border terrorism.

The recent standoff was regarded as the worst in decades between the two countries although tensions have eased, with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan returning the captured pilot to India last week.

India handed a dossier to Pakistan about the suicide attack and demanded action, especially against the JeM for its involvement. The Interior Ministry detained 44 members including Raoof and Azhar, who are the brother and son of the JeM leader.

“Names of all those arrested are included in the dossier (shared by India), and if we find any evidence against them, further legal action will also be initiated,” said Interior Ministry Secretary Azam Suleman. 

But India had not provided any evidence for all the claims it had made in its dossier, he added, denying that Pakistan had acted under pressure.

“This is Pakistan’s decision without any pressure from any other country. We have initiated across-the-board operations targeting all proscribed organizations.”

Pakistan on Monday said it was freezing accounts and seizing assets linked to organizations banned by the UN Security Council, in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s guidelines.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, and the region remains a flashpoint between them.

Retired army general and security analyst, Amjad Shoaib, said Pakistan wanted to get rid of all militant groups.

“As per the consensus of all policymakers, Pakistan is moving ahead to de-radicalize members of militant outfits and mainstream them through a process. This is in our national interest,” he told Arab News.

UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 18 June 2019

UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.