March 18, 2014
Khadija Shah, a 26-year-old British woman of Pakistani descent, was sentenced to life in prison in Pakistan on Tuesday after being convicted of trying to smuggle 63 kilograms of heroin out of the country. According to reports, Shah was arrested at the Islamabad airport in May 2012 after the heroin was discovered in several suitcases in her possession. She has claimed that she was carrying the cases for someone else and was unaware of their contents. Her lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said they would appeal the conviction — given by the Special Narcotics Court in Rawalpindi — next week.
Maya Foa, the director of legal charity Reprieve’s Death Penalty team, said the conviction was “a terrible outcome” for Shah and her baby girl, who was born in prison; Shah was six-months pregnant at the time she was arrested. Foa urged the British government to “ensure that Khadija gets the urgent assistance she needs to appeal her sentence so that her baby doesn’t grow up behind bars.” A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they were aware of the case and providing Shah and her family with “consular assistance.”
Editor’s note: This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing. This is the first of three stories.
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.
Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.
Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix. They pointed, however, to the capture last year of alleged al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame off the coast of Yemen. Warsame was held for two months aboard a U.S. ship before being transferred to the custody of the Justice Department and charged in federal court in New York.
The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.
A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.
A group of American anti-war activists are in Pakistan to join a march into the country’s tribal belt to protest U.S. drone strikes in the rugged northwest territory. Their presence has energized organizers behind the protest but also added to concerns that Islamist militants will target the weekend event.
The two-day march — in reality a long convoy — is to be led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician who has become a top critic of the American drone strikes in Pakistan.
It is to start Saturday in Islamabad and end in a town in South Waziristan, a tribal region that has been a major focus of drone strikes as well as the scene of a Pakistani army offensive against militants.
The American activists — around three dozen representatives of the U.S.-based activist group CODEPINK — along with Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the London-based legal advocacy organization Reprieve, want to march with Khan and publicize the plight of communities affected by the U.S. drones.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Four Pakistani men charged with terrorism-related offenses for allegedly helping failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad were acquitted in a Rawalpindi court Saturday, their lawyer said.
The men, Faisal Abbasi, Muhammad Shahid Husain, Muhammad Shoaib Mughal and Humbal Akhtar, had been accused of arranging meetings between Shahzad and top Pakistani Taliban leaders, and sending him money to help prepare the attack. Their lawyer, Malik Imran Safdar, said an antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi found that prosecutors failed to prove their case and released the men.
Two other men initially arrested along with the four others were released previously.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a sport utility vehicle filled with propane tanks and fertilizer in Times Square on May 1, 2010. The botched bombing marked the first time the Pakistani Taliban had tried to engineer an attack outside its strongholds in the tribal regions of western Pakistan along the Afghan border.
The Pakistani film follows survivors of acid attacks . “Saving Face” is co-directed by Daniel Junge, an American who had heard about Jawad and his work with British acid burn victim Katie Piper, whose case was well covered. “I called him out of the blue and said, ‘Are you aware of the prevalence of acid attacks in the Muslim world?’ ” Junge recalled.
The film says more than 100 acid attacks are reported every year in Pakistan but many more go unreported. The attacks are often done in violent retaliation by a rebuffed suitor or a would-be marriage partner. Acid is readily obtained in Pakistan because it is a product widely used in the nation’s dominant textile industry.
The Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad helps these victims of domestic violence to regain some sense of normalcy. Its work is also highlighted in the documentary, which begins airing on the HBO network on March 8.
He was a “15-year-old white kid with Dad a diagnosed schizophrenic, rapist and racial separatist and Mom fresh off her second divorce,” Michael Muhammad Knight writes in his 2006 memoir, “Blue-Eyed Devil: A Road Odyssey Through Islamic America.” At home in Rochester, he “listened to a lot of Public Enemy and read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ and by 16 had a huge portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini” on his bedroom wall.
At 17, Mr. Knight, having converted to Islam, was “running around Pakistan with Afghan and Somalian refugees” and studying “at the largest mosque in the world: Faisal Masjid in Islamabad, which happens to look like a spaceship.”
Mr. Knight now writes that his immersion in the world of Five Percenters made him, in a sense, an insider. He does not accept the literal truth of all their claims (and he is skeptical that all Five Percenters do). But he is no longer an outsider looking in.
In his book’s introduction, Mr. Knight offers a bit of advice to other scholars doing fieldwork: “Keep your guard up and keep your distance. You spend that much time with a culture and fail to check yourself, you’ll fall in love and become your subject.”
How will you know when you have gotten too close to your subject? For Mr. Knight, there were clear signs. In 2008, he made the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca. “Here I am,” he told me, “a quasi-orthodox Muslim in Mecca, walking around the Kaaba” — the shrine Muslims around the world face during prayers — “and I am interpreting it through mathematics, the lessons, Wu-Tang lyrics. I had to make sense of that.”
In Islamabad, an anti-terrorist court charged five Americans from Washington area with plotting terrorism. The five were arrested in December on allegations of attempt to link to al Qaeda. The men, all students, face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Two women, one a Muslim, have become the first people to be barred from boarding a flight because they refused to go through a full-body airport scanner. Manchester airport confirmed today that the women, who were booked to fly to Islamabad with Pakistan International Airlines, were told they could not get on the plane after they refused to be scanned.
The Muslim woman stated her religion as the reason to refuse the scan, which would display intimate body parts to strangers, and decided to forfeit her ticket. Her companion also left the airport saying she did not go through the scanner on medical grounds because she had an infection. The full-body scanners were introduced at Manchester and Heathrow last month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit. The £80,000 Rapiscan machines show a clear body outline and have been described by critics as the equivalent of “virtual strip searching”, while the affect on health is also unclear as yet.
Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal region have opted to delay plans to kill Canadian hostage Beverly Giesbrecht, but her captors are apparently still holding out for a ransom before releasing her. The abduction of Giesbrecht, 53, has become a sensitive issue, and tribesmen of the embattled area are reluctant to speak on the matter openly. However, some locals said that while there is no hard information about her release, it could come at any time.
In a video released last month, the West Vancouver resident said her captors warned that they would behead her if their demands for $375,000 USD weren’t met by the end of March. That deadline was later extended to April 6. The Canadian embassy in Islamabad has been working behind the scenes with Pakistani authorities to help secure her release.