Stimson in the News

Sameer Lalwani Quoted in La Razon on Safety of Christians in Pakistan

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«Mientras las insurgencias están bajo presión o colapsándose, pueden escalar su violencia para estar en boga al perpetrar ataques más arriesgados y espectaculares», asevera Sameer Lalwani, experto en Pakistán del Stimson Center. «Jamaat ul Ahrar, al igual que la mayoría de los grupos terroristas tiene incentivos orgacionales para competir por la atención y llevar a cabo ataques tan horribles. Mientras gana notoriedad, existen desgraciadamente algunos incentivos perversos como el hecho de que demostrar la habilidad de poder seguir haciendo ataques ayuda a mejorar su perfil y como consecuencia, su reclutamiento», manifiesta Lalwani. «Dicho esto, también este atentado puede minar sus metas orgacionales y estratégicas. Pues atacar un parque en lugar de instalaciones de seguridad o atentar contra civiles, en particular mujeres y niños, puede generar un sentimiento de ira moral general y voluntad política para terminar o eliminar a JuA», añade.

Read the original article here. An English translation of the article appears below.

Pakistan Fails to Ensure the Safety of Christians

There was a day of mourning in Lahore after the bloody attack against families who spent Easter Sunday in the Park Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Yesterday the first burials of victims of suicide bombings throughout the city were held. The balance rose to 72 dead, 29 of them children, and 359 injured. Pakistani police yesterday identified the suicide bomber, Farid Yusuf, who was 28 and lived in central Pakistan. After completing his religious training in Dera Ghazi Khan, he moved to Lahore as a teacher at a religious seminary. His three brothers and a dozen other people have been arrested by the Anti-Terror Department.

“I am here to reaffirm the national determination to fight terrorism until it’s eliminated from our society,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a televised speech. Sharif, who canceled a trip to Washington to participate in the National Security Summit, promised to fight jihadism until it is eradicated, because Pakistan is on the road to being “the land of happiness and success.” However, for local people, these words sound too optimistic. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, part of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), assumed responsibility for the Sunday terrorist attack and has been conducting massacres in the last few months.

“While insurgencies are under pressure or collapsing, they can escalate their violence to perpetrate riskier and more spectacular attacks,” says Sameer Lalwani, an expert on Pakistan at the Stimson Center. “Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, like most terrorist groups, have organizational incentives to compete for attention and carry out horrible attacks. While this wins notoriety, there are unfortunately some perverse incentives to demonstrate the ability to continue making attacks, which helps improve their profile and, consequently, their recruitment, ,” says Lalwani. “Having said that, this attack can undermine their organizational methods and strategies. Attacking a park instead of security installations, or targeting civilians, particularly women and children, can generate a feeling of general moral anger and the political will to terminate or eliminate JuA, ” he adds.

In fact, even though most of the killed and injured were women and children, the terrorist group said yesterday that they “only wanted to kill Christian men.” Christians represent 1.6 percent of the population and suffer persecution and discrimination.

“What was to be a happy day to celebrate with family became a black day for Christians,” Joseph Nadeem, Executive Director of the Renaissance Education Foundation of Lahore, explained to La Razon. For Nadeem, who has helped Asia Bibi, a Christian condemned to the death penalty, the key resides in the Pakistani authorities executing Mumtaz Qadri last month, who was the confessed murderer of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who had wanted to reform the blasphemy law. “After Qadri’s execution, his followers have thirsted for revenge, and have already asked for Bibi’s head.”

Nadeem himself has increased security at his school and he is afraid of ending up in the hands of extremist Qadri followers. “I’m on the front lines of protecting and defending my family.” For him, there is no doubt that the attack Sunday was pre-planned because the terrorists knew that families gather at Gulshan-e-Iqbal in the park for Easter and that “most Christian colonies are around the park.”

The Shadow of the Islamic State

In 2014, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar swore allegiance to the Islamic State “after internal differences with Tehrik-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP) and after rejecting the new leader, Mullah Fazlullah,” says Sameer Lalwani, an expert on Pakistan at the Stimson Center. “It appeared to be an opportunistic or tactical response to the decline of Al Qaeda and the hope is that it will get them to provide funds and support.” Still, for Lalwani, JuA could have rejoined the TTP in 2015 for tactical reasons upon entering peace talks in Afghanistan.

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