Posts Tagged ‘pakistanis’

UN terror list has 139 Pakistan entries

April 4, 2018

Dawn

By

Press Trust of India, Islamabad
File photo of Lashkar-e-Taiba head Hafiz Saeed arriving at a Lahore court in November 2017.
File photo of Lashkar-e-Taiba head Hafiz Saeed arriving at a Lahore court in November 2017. (AP )

WASHINGTON: The United Nations Security Council’s consolidated list of terrorist individuals and entities includes 139 entries from Pakistan.

The list — updated and accessed on Tuesday — identifies all those individuals who have lived in Pakistan, operated from there or have been associated with groups that used Pakistani territory for carrying out their operations, from Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri to known Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) activists.

The first person on the list is Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s heir apparent. The UN data claims that he is still hiding somewhere “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area”. Several of his lieutenants are also on the list who, the UN believes, are hiding with him.

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Ayman al-Zawahiri

The second person on the list is another internationally known terrorist, Ramzi Mohammad bin al-Sheibah, who is identified as a Yemeni national, arrested in Karachi and handed over to the US authorities.

Hafiz Saeed listed as a person wanted by Interpol for involvement in terrorist activities

More than a dozen suspected terrorists are listed in the same category, arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the US authorities. Some of them had Pakistani passport, issued by various Pakistani missions in the Middle East and renewed in Pakistan.

The list also includes Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, an Indian national who, according to the UN Security Council, has held several Pakistani passports issued in Rawalpindi and Karachi. The UN claims that he owns a “palatial bungalow in the hilly area of Noorabad, Karachi”.

LeT’s Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is listed as a person also wanted by Interpol for his involvement in terrorist activities. Haji Mohammed Yahya Mujahid, LeT’s media contact, and Hafiz Saeed’s deputies, Abdul Salaam and Zafar Iqbal, are listed under him. Like Hafiz Saeed, they are all wanted by Interpol.

LeT is listed with its various aliases, such as al-Mansoorian, Paasban-i-Kashmir, Paasban-i-Ahle Hadith, Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation.

Terrorist entities that were allegedly based in Pakistan, worked from there or had links to Pakistani individuals, include Al Rasheed Trust, Harkatul Mujahideen, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Wafa Humanitarian Organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Rabita Trust, Ummah Tameer-i-Nau, Afghan Support Committee, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Al-Harmain Foundation, Islamic Jihad Group, Al Akhtar Trust International, Harkatul Jihad Islami, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar and Khatiba Imam Al-Bukhari.

Some of them are listed as based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2018

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/united-nations-terror-list-has-139-pakistan-entries-including-hafiz-saeed-and-dawood-ibrahim-report/story-iPL6JhNxAk2I5e2DMMaBBM.html

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Pakistanis distressed as Uighur wives vanish in China dragnet — Reeducation plus some slow motion genocide…

March 25, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Gohar Abbas with Ben Dooley in Beijing | In recent years, China has heavily pushed its relationship with Pakistan, investing in border infrastructure projects

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Every autumn on the mountainous Karakoram Highway, part of the ancient Silk Road, groups of Pakistani merchants living in China’s far west would wave goodbye to their Chinese wives and cross the border to spend winter in their home country.

As the snow piled high, the men would stay in touch with their families by phone, longing for the spring thaw that would allow them to be reunited in Xinjiang.

But last year many of their calls suddenly went unanswered.

Their families, they learned, had disappeared into a growing network of shadowy “reeducation centres” that have swept up the region’s Uighur Muslim minority over fears of Islamic militancy crossing the border from Pakistan.

“My wife and kids were taken away by the Chinese authorities in March last year and I haven’t heard from them since,” said Iqbal, a Pakistani businessman who declined to give his surname over concern about his family’s safety.

Last July, he headed to China to find them, but was turned away at the border. Authorities “said my wife was in ‘training’ and the government was taking care of my kids”, he told AFP.

“I begged them to let me talk to my daughters, but they refused.”

Iqbal is one of dozens of merchants from Gilgit-Baltistan who return to Pakistan for visa reasons or to run their businesses and have been unable to contact their Uighur families living in China, according to Javed Hussain, a member of the local assembly for the Pakistani region that borders Xinjiang.

Earlier this month, the delegates passed a unanimous resolution protesting the “illegal detention” of the men’s families.

“The Chinese authorities should at least allow the men to meet their wives and children,” Hussain said.

“China is our friend and this incident will leave a bad taste.”

China’s foreign ministry said that the “two sides are maintaining communication about problems related to interactions between both countries’ people”, while Pakistan’s said the issue was being “actively discussed with the government of China”.

– ‘Eliminating extremism’ –

Like many of the men, Iqbal’s family lived in Kashgar, an ancient city along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a trade route connecting China’s far west to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.

In recent years, China has heavily pushed its relationship with Pakistan, investing tens of billions of dollars in CPEC infrastructure projects in the country, and Beijing has upgraded the treacherous mountain road connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Xinjiang.

But China has had difficulty reconciling its desire for development with fears that Uighur separatists will import violence from Pakistan.

Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Xinjiang’s Muslims to international counter-terrorism, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like Al-Qaeda.

Uighurs have been tied to mass stabbings and bombings that left dozens dead in recent years across the country. Riots and clashes with the government killed hundreds more.

Over the past year, China has turned to increasingly drastic methods to eliminate what it describes as the “three forces”: terrorists, religious extremists and separatists.

In 2017, the government flooded Xinjiang with tens of thousands of security personnel, with police stations on nearly every block in urban areas and tough regulations to “eliminate extremism”.

This included the increased use of compulsory “reeducation” for anyone suspected of harbouring separatist sympathies.

– ‘Threat’ from Pakistan –

Iqbal and the other Pakistani men believe their wives — and even business associates — have been targeted because they received calls and messages from Pakistan.

“Any communication from Pakistan is considered a threat,” said Qurban, a businessman who has worked in Kashgar for over 30 years.

“One of my employees, a Uighur, was picked up two years back just because he was in touch with me when I went to Pakistan.”

Chinese authorities have denied the existence of reeducation centres.

But regulations against extremism adopted by Xinjiang last March call for authorities to step up political reeducation.

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In Kashgar alone, more than 120,000 people — about three percent of the area’s population — were being held in the facilities in January, according to Radio Free Asia.

An AFP review of state media reports and government documents verified the existence of at least 30 such centres and almost 4,000 cases of people being sent to them.

Regulations posted on a local website in Xinjiang’s Hejing county explained that even minor transgressions of strict religious regulations can be punished with up to three months in a centre.

Ali, a businessman who lost contact with his wife in December, said she had been taken by authorities to do a “sort of training where they teach them about Communism and prepare them to be patriotic citizens”.

“My wife told me that Chinese police had come to her house and asked her about the calls from Pakistan and asked her to explain her links with ETIM,” said Ali, referring to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group China has accused of attempting to foment Uighur separatism.

He plans to cross the border in May to find his family, but has been told his children are in the custody of the Chinese government and doesn’t know if he will see them again.

“They never tell you anything, they just say your family will come back to you when they finish their training.”

by Gohar Abbas with Ben Dooley in Beijing
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Leading Pakistani cleric slams Qatari politicization of Hajj — “It seems Qatar is following the wrong path, and this is something serious for the sanctities of Islamic values.”

February 6, 2018

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Chairman Pakistan Ulmaa Council Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi speaks during a press conference at Lahore Press Club. (Photo courtesy: social media)
ISLAMABAD: Qatar’s attempts to politicize the Hajj pilgrimage are “alarming for Muslims around the world,” the head of an alliance of Pakistani clerics told Arab News.
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“The way the Saudi government is taking care of the Two Holy Mosques is a matter of pride for Muslims across the globe,” said Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, head of the Pakistan Ulema Council.
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“Qatar should focus on its own internal issues, and it needs to settle matters with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries.”
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Trying to internationalize Hajj could have far-reaching consequences for Qatar, he said. “There’s no justification for this when Muslims are happy about the arrangements made by the Saudi government,” he added.
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“It seems Qatar is following the wrong path, and this is something serious for the sanctities of Islamic values.”
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Saudi Arabia previously said it deemed Qatar’s attempts to internationalize Hajj a “declaration of war.”
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90 Migrants Drowned After Boat Capsized off the coast of Libya

February 2, 2018

Reuters

90 migrants reported drowned after boat capsized off the coast of Libya early on Friday leaving three known survivors –

Reuters

GENEVA/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – An estimated 90 migrants are feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler’s boat capsized early on Friday, leaving three known survivors and 10 bodies washed up on shore, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

Survivors told aid workers that most of the migrants on board were Pakistanis, who form a growing group heading to Italy from North Africa, IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon, speaking from Tunis, told a Geneva news briefing.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water

FILE photo — In this Saturday Jan. 27, 2018, photo, 329 refugees and migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Bangladesh, wait to be rescued by aid workers of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after leaving Libya trying to reach European soil aboard an overcrowded wooden boat, 45 miles north of Al-Khums, Libya. (AP)

“They have given an estimate of 90 who drowned during the capsize, but we still have to verify the exact number of people who lost their lives during the tragedy,” she said.

Earlier security officials in the western Libyan town of Zurawa said two Libyans and one Pakistani had been rescued from the boat. It said 10 bodies had been recovered, mostly Pakistani, but gave no further information.

Zurawa, located near Libya’s border with Tunisia, is a favoured site for migrant boat departures .

Libya is the main gateway for migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea, though numbers have dropped sharply since July as Libyan factions and authorities – under pressure from Italy and the European Union – have begun to block departures.

More than 600,000 people are believed to have made the journey from Libya to Italy over the past four years.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, Additional reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Power Struggle Seen Within Surging IS in Afghanistan — “We all fight for Allah and his religion”

June 7, 2017

ISLAMABAD — A letter drafted by a senior Islamic State militant and obtained by The Associated Press points to a growing power struggle within the group’s Afghan affiliate, pitting notoriously fierce Uzbek fighters against Pakistanis seen as too close to that country’s powerful intelligence service.

The rumblings of discontent come as the IS affiliate, which refers to itself as the Khorasan Province, is at war with both the U.S.-backed government and the more well-established Taliban, with which it differs on tactics, leadership and ideology.

The IS affiliate emerged in 2014 and refers to itself as the Khorasan Province, an ancient term for an area that includes parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian states. It has pledged allegiance to the IS group in Iraq and Syria but consists mainly of disgruntled former Taliban and other insurgents from South and Central Asia.

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The letter, obtained by a jihadi fighter with ties to the IS affiliate and then provided to AP, was signed by Moawiya Uzbekistani, the apparent nom de guerre of an Uzbek militant, who claims to have become the leader of the IS affiliate after the death of Abdul Hasib, who was killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in April.

Uzbekistani rejects reports that another fighter, who he identifies as Sheikh Aslam Farouqi, has been chosen to lead the group and suggests Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is behind the rumors.

“Even if this information is true, then it’s the ISI of Pakistan behind this function and we don’t accept it, because we all fight for Allah and his religion,” the letter says, warning against “infidels, intelligence services and the deceitful” acting from “behind the scenes.”

Militants belonging to allied groups said Central Asian fighters as well as Afghans want the leadership of the group taken out of Pakistani hands, even though the founder of IS in Afghanistan, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was a Pakistani tribesman. Khan was killed in a U.S. drone strike in July 2016.

The rift seemed to widen with a recent IS meeting in Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal belt, from where Khan originates, according to two people familiar with the meeting, which was said to have been attended by 40 senior IS commanders.

The council appointed Saif-ul Islam, a close Pakistani ally of Saeed, as the new leader. With the many names used by insurgents it wasn’t immediately clear if Aslam Farouqi and Saif-ul Islam were the same person. Sheikh Abdul Qadir Khorasani, an Afghan from the eastern Kunar province, was appointed deputy, they said. The militants all spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief reporters.

There has been no official IS confirmation of a new leader and in Washington intelligence officials refused to comment.

More than 16 years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to end Taliban rule and flush out al-Qaida, the mountainous regions along the Afghan-Pakistani border are still home to an array of extremist groups. Pakistan’s spy service is said to have connections to some, including the Afghan Taliban, even as it battles other groups that threaten its own citizens.

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The growing assertiveness of the Uzbek militants within the IS affiliate is particularly worrying.

Uzbek fighters were so vicious in Pakistan’s South Waziristan province that they drove the area’s fractious tribesmen to unite to push them out in 2015. They then based themselves in North Waziristan before being driven across the border by a Pakistani military offensive. They have since clashed with the Taliban in different parts of Afghanistan and claimed responsibility for brazen and deadly attacks in Kabul, including a daytime assault and siege of an Afghan military hospital that killed 50 people earlier this year.

Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow-based expert on Central Asian militants, says the Uzbeks’ reputation for brutality is likely rooted in the fact that they are “aliens” in much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are dominated by other ethnic groups.

That may also explain their tensions with the Afghan Taliban. While both IS and the Taliban are determined to overthrow the Afghan government and impose a harsh version of Islamic law, the former views itself as part of a global movement, while the latter confines its operations to Afghanistan.

Dubnov also noted that the son of Tahir Yuldashev, the powerful Uzbek leader of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan in 2009, is leading efforts to help expand IS influence in Afghanistan.

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Central Asian fighters are now a key pillar of support for the IS affiliate, according to Anatol Lieven, a regional expert at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus.

“They have been encouraged to move to IS because of the longstanding Taliban declaration that they are not an international jihadi force,” he said.

“The estimates of the number of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen and other fighters from the former U.S.S.R. living in Afghanistan that I heard ranged from 6,000 to 25,000,” said Lieven adding many have intermarried with Afghans of a similar ethnic background.

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Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

Greek police evacuate Athens migrant camp

June 2, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Children play in a corridor at the former Hellinikon airport turned into a refugee camp, near Athens, on March 30, 2017

ATHENS (AFP) – 

Greek police early Friday began evacuating the last remaining migrants and refugees from a makeshift camp at Hellinikon, a disused former airport and ex-Olympic facility south of Athens, officials said.

“About 450-500 people are in the camp,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told AFP.

“The operation is underway without incident as they had been informed beforehand,” he added.

The mainly Afghan refugees were living at the camp at Hellinikon — which until 2001 was the Athens airport — in crumbling flight lounges and abandoned sports facilities built for the 2004 Olympics.

Rights groups have repeatedly labelled the makeshift camp on Athens’ coastal front unsuitable for long-term accommodation and called on the government to find alternative arrangements for the refugees.

In February, some of the refugees went on hunger strike to protest the lack of hot water and suitable food.

Families will be relocated to another camp near the town of Thiva, and solitary adults will be taken to police headquarters for an identity check, Chronopoulos said.

The refugees were initially deposited at Hellinikon from late 2015 onwards as a temporary measure, as Greece’s leftist government scrambled to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people of all ages landing on Europe’s doorstep to escape war and poverty.

Many of them slept at the port of Piraeus, at Hellinikon and at another improvised camp on the northern Greek border for months before organised camps could be created with the help of volunteer groups and EU funds.

Overall, some 60,000 people including many young Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis, have been stuck in Greece for the past year after neighbouring countries along the migrant route into Europe shut their borders.

At the start of the 2015 influx, Afghans were originally viewed as refugees and allowed to continue their journey from Greece to other countries in Europe.

But many now face deportation — despite growing insecurity that saw civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a record high in 2016 — after a disputed deal between EU and Kabul to send migrants back.

South Africa Sees More Attacks on Foreign Immigrants

February 22, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — The South African government says it is concerned about inflammatory remarks on social media following recent attacks on foreign immigrants.

Security officials said Wednesday that threatening posts, made by South Africans and immigrants against each other, have escalated. South African officials are appealing to people to refrain from remarks that could incite violence.

South African media say homes belonging to Nigerians were recently set on fire in neighborhoods of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital. Shops run by Somalis and Pakistanis were also looted.

Nigeria has urged the South African government to protect Nigerians and other African nationals currently in South Africa.

In 2015, anti-immigrant riots in and around the South Africa city of Durban killed at least six people. In 2008, similar violence killed about 60 people.

Migrants protest on Greek island of Chios against deportations

April 3, 2016

AFP, Reuters, AP

© Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP | Migrants protest on the Greek island of Chios on April 3, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2016-04-03

Migrants waving signs that read “We want freedom” protested on the Greek island of Chios on Sunday, a day before a controversial EU deal that will see hundreds of people deported back to Turkey was due to come into effect.

An estimated 750 people will be sent back to Turkey between Monday and Wednesday as part of the first wave of deportations under the EU deal, Greece’s state news agency ANA reported
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Under the terms of the much-criticised agreement, all newcomers who arrived in Greece after the March 20 deadline are liable to be deported if they fail to apply for asylum or if their request is rejected.

The demonstration came after hundreds of migrants on Chios tore through a razor fence surrounding their detention centre on Friday, camping out at the port in protest against the planned expulsions.

Clashes also broke out at the site late on Thursday, during which windows were smashed and 10 people were lightly injured, according to a police official.

“They say that they don’t want to go back to Turkey and that they are afraid for their safety after yesterday’s clashes between migrants in the hotspot,” the official said on Friday, using an EU euphemism for what have basically become detention centres.

The tension on Chios has raised fears of further unrest less than 24 hours before the deportations are due to begin. It is also still unclear how and where the operation will take place.

“Planning is in progress,” said George Kyritsis, a Greek government spokesman for the migration crisis.

Turkey’s interior minister, Efkan Ala, was quoted by the pro-government newspaper Aksam as saying 500 people were expected in Turkey from Greece on Monday. Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis would be deported to their countries, he said.

Although arrivals have slowed, 514 migrants crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands on Sunday morning. Overall, more than 6,000 have registered since the March deadline.

‘A historic blow to human rights’

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and human rights groups have denounced the EU deal as lacking legal safeguards.

Amnesty International has called it “a historic blow to human rights” and said it would send a delegation to Chios and nearby Lesbos on Monday to monitor the situation.

“We feel there’s still gaps in both countries that need to be addressed,” said UNHCR’s spokesman on Lesbos, Boris Cheshirkov, referring to Greece and Turkey.

“We’re not opposed to returns as long as people are not in need of international protection, they have not applied for asylum and human rights are adhered to,” he added.

More than 3,300 migrants and refugees are on Lesbos, Greece’s third-biggest island and home to many Greek refugees who fled Turkey in the 1920s.

About 2,800 people are held at the Moria centre, a sprawling complex of prefabricated containers, 800 more than its stated capacity. Of those, 2,000 have made asylum claims, UNHCR says.

Aid agencies have pulled out of the Lesbos camp since it became a closed facility last month, and also as a protest at the conditions there. Journalists have been barred from entering the site or the holding centres on four other islands.

Condition on Lesbos were “challenging and volatile”, UNHCR said, with insufficient food and pregnant women and children among those held. Families have been separated because of the agreement, with some members inside the Lesbos holding centre and others on the mainland or elsewhere in Europe.

“Many of those who have arrived here have experienced horrendous wars,” Cheshirkov said. “To be put in a closed environment it feels like punishment, whereas seeking asylum is not a crime, it’s a fundamental human right.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

‘We feel ashamed’ say Pakistani relatives of California shooter

December 6, 2015

By Khurram Shahzad

Estranged relatives of a Pakistani woman involved in a mass shooting in California spoke Sunday of their shame at her crimes, as former classmates and teachers painted a picture of a quiet, religiously conservative student.

Tashfeen Malik, 29, and her husband Syed Farook, 28, gunned down 14 people at a social services centre in San Bernardino, an act praised by the Islamic State group who hailed the couple as “soldiers” of its self-proclaimed caliphate.

According to her uncle Malik Ahmed Ali Aulakh, who is a former provincial minister, Tashfeen was born in the village of Karor Lal Esan in the central province of Punjab but moved to Saudia Arabia around 1989.

Tashfeen’s father Gulzar Malik, an engineer, had grown distant from his family and “he never came back even to attend the marriages of close relatives”, added Aulakh.

“We are ashamed and shocked about this act done by our niece — why did she do something so gruesome? We can’t believe it,” he told AFP.

Malik Omar Ali Aulakh, another of her uncles, added: “We have not kept in touch with Gulzar’s family and he avoided contacting us.”

A Pakistani intelligence agent told AFP they had conducted a search Saturday of a second family home in the region’s main city of Multan, around 130 miles (200 kilometres) northwest of their ancestral village, but found nothing of interest.

An AFP reporter at the scene Sunday afternoon saw a woman wearing a black burqa and green sweater leaving the pink-and-white two-storey house located in a middle-class neighbourhood with a bearded man, both carrying luggage.

“This woman was part of Gulzar Ahmed Malik’s family and the man with her was her maternal uncle. They were living in this house and now they have gone somewhere. I don’t know where have they gone,” said Zulfiqar, a resident of the area.

– Devout student –

The southern region of Punjab from which Tashfeen hailed has long been associated with Sufism, a mystical form of Islam whose adherents worship with song and dance, attend shrines and devote themselves to historic saints — practices viewed as heretical by more orthodox Muslims.

Indeed, according to Mohammad Jamil, a neighbour of Tashfeen’s father, one of Tashfeen’s uncles himself was a Sufi devotional singer.

“We don’t want Muslims to do such things. Such people should be punished, must be punished,” said Jamil of Tashfeen, adding: “She has dishonoured Pakistan.”

It is still not clear where Tashfeen became radicalised, but by the time she returned to Pakistan in 2007 to pursue a degree in pharmacology at the Bahauddin Zakariya University that lasted till 2013, she was devoutly religious and wore a veil, according to former instructors.

“She was not outspoken or ultra-modern but she was religious minded, polite and submissive,” said Dr Khalid Hussain Janbaz, chair of the pharmacy department.

Abida Rani, a fellow student, told AFP that Malik lived in university accommodation for two years before moving into a house with her mother and another sister, also a student.

“She would often watch religious TV programmes and attended religious lectures,” said Rani, adding that Malik remained in touch with some of her friends via Facebook, and told one that she was pregnant.

“She preferred to remain in veil or burqa throughout her stay in the university and provided veiled pictures for all her university documents,” said Rani.

– ‘Don’t blame Pakistan’ –

Pakistan’s government Sunday issued a statement condemning the attack, even as its interior minister said Islamabad could not be held responsible.

“We have contacted the US government and assured them we will provide them whatever legal assistance possible, if asked,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters in Islamabad.

But, he added: “A country or a national or a religion cannot be held responsible for a crime committed by an individual and I appreciate a wise approach adopted by the US administration on the issue.”

Pakistan: Fearing International Condemnation, Government Downplays Background of Tashfeen Malik, San Bernardino Terrorist

December 6, 2015

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani security forces appeared to be trying to dampen down reporting this weekend on the background of Tashfeen Malik, who mounted an attack alongside her husband that killed 14 people in California.

Three professors at Malik’s university said they had been advised not to talk to the media, while men claiming to be from Pakistan’s security agencies told reporters to drop their investigations into her background on pain of arrest.

An official at the interior ministry later said this was due to a “misunderstanding”.

U.S. authorities are treating last Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino as an “act of terrorism”. Malik, 29, and husband Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, were killed two hours later in a shootout with police.

The Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State jihadist group has claimed the couple as its followers, although it has not said it was in contact with them or that it directed the attack.

Malik was born in Pakistan but spent most of her life in Saudi Arabia before she came to the United States to marry her husband, a U.S. citizen. She had a degree in pharmacy from a university in Pakistan’s central city of Multan.

On Sunday, three professors at Bahauddin Zakariya University, which Malik attended, said they had been instructed by security agencies not to speak to reporters.

One, who asked not to be named, said security officials visited the university on Saturday and removed records and pictures of Tashfeen.

“She was a very reserved person, a very quiet girl, she kept to herself,” the professor said. “I could have never imagined she was capable of something like this. And there was nothing on the surface to suggest she had such extremist tendencies.”

“I think this change in her mind, whenever it happened, must be very recent. The girl I remember … she could not have the guts to do this.”

Another former professor said he did not remember her at all. “She was probably not someone who stood out, academically or otherwise,” he said.

UNSPECIFIED OFFENCES

Men claiming to be from security agencies, but who refused to provide identification, also sought to discourage Reuters from further reporting on Malik’s background, threatening journalists with arrest for unspecified offences.

“Whether you consider this a request or a dictation (order), I would advise you not to pursue this story,” one said.

Tim Craig, a reporter from the Washington Post, tweeted that police had prevented him from leaving his hotel in Multan.

“I’ve lost track of how many different security/intel officials I’ve had to talk to, copy my passport, etc in past 17 hours – think 12 to 16,” he tweeted.

Reuters was eventually allowed to continue reporting with a police escort provided for security reasons.

An interior ministry official later told Reuters the situation had been the result of a misunderstanding by over-enthusiastic local police.

“This is not our policy. We have nothing to hide, and we want to facilitate journalists,” the official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Several security officials said the restrictions on the press were partly due to Pakistani fears that the country would be blamed for Malik’s actions.

“Pakistan has nothing to do with this but it will be used to malign Pakistan. So of course we have to care about how this is being seen and reported,” one official said.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said Pakistan was willing to give any assistance that the United States required to investigate Malik, and highlighted that she spent most of her life in Saudi Arabia.

“Such acts of terrorism which take place across the world bring a bad name to Islam,” he said. “You cannot blame the religion and the nation due to the personal actions of one person.”

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in KARACHI; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Richard Balmforth)