Shahid Khaqan Abbasi … the ‘Other Face’ of Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif

Abbasi

Islamabad – New Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has a good reputation for being a hardworking politician and for never losing any elections since he entered the political field in 1988.

He was elected to parliament six times since 1988, thereby winning all the races he has entered. He is also a loyal follower of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This is the reason why he was chosen to succeed him after a court decision that led to his resignation.

One the eve of Abbasi’s election as premier, Mariam Nawaz Sharif tweeted that the new premier was “another face of Nawaz Sharif.”

“I have faith that the real Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to his post,” she added.

Abbasi retorted however by declaring: “I am the prime minister of the country, whether for 45 days or 45 hours. I am not here to reserve the seat for someone else.”

He called for respecting the constitution, saying that political life, which had its reputation tarnished, will regain its respect.

“We are all in the same boat whether you are in the government, bureaucratic system, opposition or army. If there is a hole in the boat, then we will all sink.”

In his first speech since being elected as PM, Abbasi focused on reviving the economy and improving the legal system throughout Pakistan.

Born in Karachi in 1958, he received his early education in Pakistan before traveling to the United States where he earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California. He then pursued a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University in the US capital.

Before entering the political field, he served as engineer in several projects in the US and Middle East. He also worked in the oil industry sector in Saudi Arabia.

Abbasi hails from a family that is active in politics. His father Khaqan Abbasi was a general in the airforce and worked in the country’s national assembly He also served as a minister of production under the premiership of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

He was killed in the 1988 Ojhri camp explosion that left over a hundred people dead and 1,000 wounded. Abbasi kicked off his political career following the death of his father

PM Abbasi’s sister was also a member of the ruling party in Pakistan in the 1990s.

The premier also owns private jets that operate in Pakistan and in 2003, he established AirBlue Limited, an aviation company that he chaired until 2007. He also acted as president of Pakistan International Airlines between 1997 and 1999 during Sharif’s second term as prime minister.

On August 1, Abbasi was chosen to become premier following Sharif’s ouster over his links to the so-called “Panama Papers”.

On the political level, Abbasi is known for the service he provides for his electoral district of Murree. Mohammed Islam, a government employee who hails from Murree, said that Abbasi worked tirelessly to establish a network of roads in the area. He also worked to build schools and hospitals in the district.

Abbasi had however been subject to accusations, along with Sharif and others, in the famous plane hijacking incident during the term of Prime Minister General Pervez Musharraf in the late 1990s. Abbasi was accused of preventing the landing of a plane, which was transporting Musharraf from a visit to Sri Lank to Karachi airport. It was said that Abbasi came under great pressure to testify against Sharif in the 1999 incident, but he refused.

He was consequently jailed for two years and released in 2001. In 2008, Abbasi claimed during an interview that Musharraf himself had personally seized control of the plane during the “hijacking.”

With his election, Abbasi, 58, becomes the 18th prime minister of Pakistan.

Generally, he is seen as very smart and as one of Sharif’s most loyal followers. It is viewed however that his tenure as premier will be temporary and that it is paving the way for Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz.

Nawaz himself had said that Abbasi will remain in his post for 45 days. During this time, Shehbaz will attempt to win national assembly elections that will make him qualified to become prime minister.

Informed sources in Islamabad said however that Nawaz may change his mind about Shehbaz becoming premier. A member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League said he believes that Abbasi will be allowed to complete his term as premier.

Married with three children, Abbasi is considered to be one of the wealthiest lawmakers in Pakistan with a fortune of 1.3 billion rupees (12 million dollars). He holds stocks in AirBlue and owns a house in Islamabad, as well as a restaurant and property in Murree.

Abbasi became prime minister at a tense political time in Pakistan due to the disputes between its various parties. There are fears in Islamabad that the upcoming days may witness a direct confrontation between Nawaz Sharif and a number of central institutions in the country, such as the military and supreme court.

It is certain that these confrontations, should they happen, will harm the political process in the country. Political analysts said that Abbasi will have to find a balance between the rival parties if he wants to keep his position.

The military after all had conspired to topple Sharif, but Abbasi and Shehbaz both have strong ties with this powerful institution.

Bin Laden’s Wife: Someone Betrayed Us on the Night He Was Killed

Osama bin Laden

Islamabad – Amal Ahmad al-Saddah, Osama Bin Laden’s fourth and youngest wife, has finally spoken about the night US forces raided their home in their compound in Abbottabad and killed her husband on May 2011.

Amal recently recounted the story of the night her husband died at the hands of US special forces, Seals, and the clashes with the sons and daughters of Bin Laden.

Amal recounted the events to Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clarke, for their book “The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden” which was mentioned in British newspaper Sunday Times. Along with Amal, six of her children, Osama’s second wife Khairiah, third wife Seham and son Khalid, 22, were all in the house.

She said that they all gathered on the top floor of the main house, “they want me, not you,” he finally said, instructing his wives to go downstairs with the children.

Amal refused to move, while his oldest daughters, Miriam and Sumaiya, hid on the outside balcony with some of their younger half-siblings. Amal, bin Laden and their son Hussein were alone, listening as the US forces charged into their house.

Bin Laden, Amal and their young son Hussein remained in the room, “It was clear,” she thought, “our safe house was a death trap and someone from our inner circle had betrayed us.”

Amal’s story tells how after six years of isolation, Osama had no emergency procedure aside from some euros sewn into his underwear along with emergency numbers for his deputies in Waziristan.

Meanwhile, the Seals blasted a locked door and entered the house before heading upwards.

Amal was right in front of her husband and rushed towards the Seals as they entered the room. She tried to push them away, but was shot and collapsed onto the bed. Bin Laden was shot and as more Seals entered the room, more rounds were fired into his body.

She knew she had to play dead if she wanted to survive, so she closed her eyes and tried to slow her breathing. Her son Hussein was near her and he had witnessed everything. The Seal picked him up, threw water on his face and put him down next to his mother.

Amal remembered how both Mariam and Sumaiya were grabbed and held over their father’s body, demanded to identify the man, as his second wife Khairiah sat beside him.

It was then when Amal realized that after six years cooped up in this airtight place, the end they had never dared to discuss had come and gone in minutes.

Osama’s youngest wife had caused many problems to Pakistani authorities when she was detained. She was on hunger strike for the way authorities treated her. She continued her strike because local authorities wouldn’t allow her to leave. A relative said she never received proper medical treatment after her wound during the raid.

Amal is from Yemen and has five children with Osama.

Osama’s wives were part of a long diplomatic debate. His two older widows are of Saudi origins but they were stripped from their nationalities in 1994 when Osama was stripped as well on the account of extremist activities.

Bloggers Kidnapped in Pakistan…Fingers Pointed at Security Agencies

An activist holding an image of Salman Haider during a protest to condemn the disappearances of social activists, in Karachi, Pakistan, this month. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Islamabad- In the three past weeks, Pakistani media reported extensively on the disappearance of four bloggers in different regions of Pakistan. Many media outlets and civil society organizations have accused international intelligence bodies of standing behind the kidnap of these bloggers. However, a TV host took a different position by accusing all media outlets and the abducted bloggers of being atheists working against the interest of Pakistan. He also accused media outlets and The Research and Analysis Wing, a primary foreign Intelligence agency of India, of being a part of a plot aiming to distort of the reputation of Pakistani intelligence.

This rebellion host, Aamir Liaquat Hussain appeared on BOL TV in a daily show. During his program, he focused on attacking activists and journalists who call for releasing the abducted bloggers.

Among people accused by Liaquat was a lawyer who filed a complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) against the TV host. PEMRA banned Liaquat from appearing on TV. In his complaint, the lawyer said that the TV host deceptively accused him of being an atheist and partaking in plans opposing Pakistan and Islam.

For its part, PEMRA said it received several complaints concerning the hate speech delivered by Liaquat. Therefore, the Research and Analysis Wing ordered Bol New to cease the airing of all hateful content, specifically Liaquat’s show.

The agency stated it has banned Liaquat from appearing on any other channel, promoting hate speech or accusing anyone of non-belief.

These accusations and offenses have become a trend on the Pakistani media. Journalists and TV channels have wrongly exploited their influence to distort one another’s reputation, by using provocative, insulting speeches. Accusations of betrayal have also spread among competing TV hosts.

An eminent journalist told Asharq Al-Awsat that verbal clashes among Pakistani journalists and media figures have always happened in the country. The ideological discords between media influencers were the reasons behind the battles on Pakistan in the seventies and eighties, he added.

However, the current tension has extended to Pakistani outlets working abroad. ARY Network had falsely accused Editor-in-Chief Jang and Geo group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman of being a traitor and enemy of the state who deceived the nation and conspired with other countries against Pakistan. ARY failed to prove these allegations in court and admitted that it has no evidence to back its vile claims. The court ordered ARY to pay £3 million in damages and costs.

Pakistan Exchanges the Daughters of Zawahiri for Army Chief’s Son

Zawahiri

London, Islam Abad – Al-Qaeda affiliated magazine al-Masra announced that a prisoners’ swap took place weeks ago during which the two daughters of Ayman Zawahiri had been exchanged for the son of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff. No comments have been made by the officials in Islam Abad and a source at the Pakistani army refused to comment.

The exchange included the release of Fatima and Umaymah Zawahiri as well as Sumaya daughter of leader Murjan Salem, along with their children, according to sources.

Qaeda issued a statement in the magazine accusing the Pakistanis of holding the three women and their children on the “orders of American intelligence” since 2014.

Al Qaeda said it would hold the Pakistani government and its “American masters” responsible “for their criminal behavior” of abducting the women.

Hani al-Sibai, head of the London-based al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies, told Asharq Al-Awsat that this comes in accordance with Qaeda’s policy in trading with states. He added that it had happened before with Iran when Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in Yemen and was exchanged for seven leaders held in Tehran prisons.

According to Sibai, Qaeda had learned from Taliban negotiation techniques to release members, unlike ISIS which slaughters the hostages after kidnapping them.

Sibai claimed that the army won’t admit that the son of Kayani had been kidnapped for the embarrassment it causes. He added that this is considered negotiating with terrorists and they are afraid it will encourage other armed groups to do the same.

Sibai, who is also an expert on counter-terrorism, said that most probably heads of Pakistani tribes oversaw the negotiations in cooperation with the Pakistani military intelligence.

Zawahiri’s daughters were arrested on the Afghani-Pakistani borders with their children after they left their city Waziristan due to constant bombing. While Sumaya was arrested when Pakistani forces raided the town.

The magazine also published a lengthy interview with Abo Qutada, bin Laden’s associate in Europe, who was deported from Britain to Jordan in 2013.

Pakistan…Another Face for “Jamaat-ud-Dawa”

Hafiz Saeed (C), head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, waves to his supporters as he leads the rally to mark Pakistan Day (Resolution Day) in Islamabad March 23, 2014. (Mohsin Raza/Reuters)

Islamabad-When it comes to the existence of “Jamaat-ud-Dawa”, we see several changes taking place. The group first kicked off as “Markaz-ud Dawa-wal-Irshad” (Center for Preaching and Guidance, or MDI), and formed its military wing known as “Lashkar-e-Taiba”, which is banned in the country and enlisted as a terrorist organization. Then, Leader of the group Hafez Saeed announced the establishment of “Jamaat-ud-Dawa”. After the U.S. Department of State announced the group as a terrorist organization, it transformed itself into the “Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation”.

Since then, Hafez Saeed and “Dawa” have been doing all they can to be acknowledged locally as politic group taking part in politics. Their efforts have yielded results.

In January 2015, “Dawa” organized a massive protest in Lahore in which thousands participated. Such protests were considered an annual activity until the party known back then as “Lashkar-e-Taiba” was suspended in 2002, following attacks on the Indian Parliament’s headquarters. The goal from these protests was clearly to tell the world that Hafez Saeed and “Jamaat-ud-Dawa” enjoy momentous popular support in the Pakistani community.

From the ashes of “Lashkar-e-Taiba” arose “Jamaat-ud-Dawa.” The group was involved in terrorist attacks on Indian cities in 2008, but it had never participated in the attacks against the Pakistani state and its institutions. Yet, incidents over the past five years showed that the group’s chance to play a regional role has diminished, due to the increasing pressures practiced on Pakistan by India and its western allies to suppress the group’s activities. According to a senior military official, these developments urged a change in the group’s behavior, saying that all what Saeed and his group seek now is to become a power in the interior policy.

It is worth mentioning that Hafez Saeed has become more active in the interior politics since the Raymond Davis’s accident, in which a CIA agent killed two people on their motorcycle in Lahore in 2011. The police arrested the committer but released him later under American pressure. At that time, Saeed and his group led a popular campaign to trial and punish the agent. According to Hassan Aaskari, the group is currently adopting local political organizations’ techniques, like drawing graffiti on walls and organizing protests and press conferences to prove its role in the local political scene.

In addition to their involvement in the local policies, Saeed and “Dawa” group lead a popular campaign to support matters related to national security to gain the support of the Pakistani public. They used national issues to hide their real agendas. For example, “Dawa” group is a pure sectarian organization followed by supporters of the extremist

Hadith group. Security analyst Amir Rana said that “Dawa” have supporters in all Pakistani regions, and that the extremist speech it adopted, particularly concerning the fighting in Kashmir, was welcomed by other sects as well.

Over the past five years, “Dawa” group has formed alliances with six other religious groups to establish the group known as “Pakistan Defense Council”, which is still active till this day and organizes protests against American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions.

The Pakistani government faced intense pressures from Washington and New Delhi to trial Hafez Saeed for his involvement in Bombay’s attacks that killed 200 people, but the government hasn’t mentioned his name yet.

Media outlets recently reported that the “Dawa” group rules an illegitimate Sharia court in the second biggest city in Lahore. Pakistani police launched an investigation to verify the media reports alleging that the Group’s court enforce people to stick to its provisions.

It is worth mentioning that the ministry of interior has also enlisted “Dawa” as a terrorist organization in November and the government has banned the publications related to the group’s issues. Yet, “Dawa” remains a legitimate group in the country, which practices charity activities and organizes protests across the country. The group and Hafez Saeed have denied any involvement in Bombay’s attacks. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in an interview that no one is allowed to force people to resort to arbitration or impose rules on them, because that is illegal and unconstitutional.

Sharia courts are not the only mean used by the group to spread its control over the society. The headquarters of “Dawa” group is located near Lahore and is composed of a house compound, a religious school, a large hospital, a market, agricultural land, fish farms, and a residential area, in which reside the group’s scholars and members of the education committee. The group also manages 16 religious institutions, 135 high schools, ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Sources say that “Dawa” collects donations from Pakistani committees in Gulf countries and the United Kingdom in addition to Islamic NGOs and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen.

Although the group is facing intense pressures from the Pakistani government and from exterior parties, “Dawa” currently leads the political scene and the political speech in the country.

Yet, political analysts see that both Hafez Saeed and “Dawa” group need the support of traditional Islamic parties and the main political parties to stay out of prison amidst the growing international pressures practiced on the Pakistani government. Therefore, crowds from the traditional Islamists have gathered to support Saeed, while political parties keep distance with him.