Archive by Author | albarsheikh

Pakistani Band Uses Satire to Renounce Violent Extremism

Over the past couple of weeks Lahore-based band Baygairat Brigade has burst onto the internet scene after posting its video “Aalo Anday” on YouTube. Baygairat’s song criticizes Pakistanis for, among other things, making heroes out of violent extremists such as Malik Mumtaz Qadri and Ajmal Kasab – the former assassinated Punjab Governor Salman Taseer for opposing the blasphemy law and the latter was one of the perpetrators of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. There’s great coverage of this in American press (New York Times) as well as Pakistani Press (Dawn, Dawn, Express Tribune).

Check out the video here:


Anwar al-Awlaki’s Post-Mortem Presence on Urdu Jihadi Forums

On September 30, 2011 Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born propagandist for al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in an airstrike approximately 90 miles outside of Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Awlaki’s death is considered a significant blow to al-Qa`ida because it eliminated a charismatic communicator who used his conversational English and fluent Arabic to preach al-Qa`ida’s violent extremist ideology to English-speaking audiences (Jihadica has a list of sources that provide varying views on the impact of Awlaki’s death here).

However, Awlaki’s influence was not limited to Arabic- and English-speaking audiences. Specifically, several of his statements and written works have been translated into Urdu over the years. Following his death, users on two separate Urdu-language jihadi forums, the Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum and the Ahl-e-Sunnat Forum, posted a nearly 300-page compilation of Awlaki’s work in Urdu. The posted document contains 14 bookmarks with selected titles below:

  • 44 Methods of Jihad
  • Call to Jihad
  • Allah, Prepare Us (Muslims) for Victory
  • Constants on the Path of Jihad
  • The Battle of Hearts and Minds
  • Ways of Establishing Khilafah
  • Suicide or Martyrdom?

Here are some images from the compilation of Awlaki’s work in Urdu:

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LeT and JeM Affiliates Exploit Floods to Raise Money, Gain Support

Beginning in August 2011, monsoon rains hit large swaths of Pakistan – in Sindh, Balouchistan, and Punjab – causing devastating flooding for the second consecutive year in the country. According to recent reports, the floods have affected 8.9 million Pakistanis and destroyed 1.5 million homes in Sindh alone. Over 400 people have been killed as a result of the floods, including 107 children. Currently, about 660,000 people are living in refugee camps.

After last year’s floods, the Pakistani government was (relatively) better prepared to deal with this year’s natural disaster (see article in Dawn on improved institutional and infrastructural preparedness; also see National Disaster Management Authority response in Sindh here and here).

However, despite these improvements there remain serious deficiencies in the delivery of humanitarian aid services, which are being filled by several different types of organizations including national and international NGOs and charitable organizations. As noted in other posts on this blog, illicit charities affiliated with several of Pakistan’s violent extremist organizations have become adept at exploiting the humanitarian deficiencies of the Pakistani government as opportunities to raise funds and cultivate sympathy and support among local audiences. This year’s floods are no different.

Since the beginning of this year’s floods, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and Al-Rahmat Trust – charitable front organizations for Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, respectively – are using the floods as a means to raise funds and cultivate local support for their groups. Their activities on the ground have included providing emergency healthcare, food items, shelter, and trafficking individuals from flood affected-areas to safe camps. FIF in particular has been especially adept at using the internet, specifically its website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel to advertise its activities to a broader, more global target audience across Pakistan and the Pakistani Diaspora community around the world for raising funds and gaining support.

Let’s take a look at some of FIF and JeM’s online efforts.

The flyer below was posted on the FIF website and calls on Pakistanis to donate money to the efforts of FIF. In an effort to solicit support, the flyer cites a verse from the Quran that states, “He who saves one man’s life, it is as if he has saved entire humanity.” Also included on the flyer are the phone number and address of the group as well as its email address for those interested in making a donation.

The two flyers below are from JeM’s online weekly magazine al-Qalam. The first flyer provides a list of humanitarian items and their respective costs. For example, the flyer says that weekly rations for a family can be fulfilled with a donation of Rs. 1,700, beds for winter cost Rs. 2,000, new clothes are Rs. 700, and a water cooler runs Rs. 1,000. The second flyer includes similar information and indicates that the group needs five ambulances that cost Rs. 600,000 each.

The pictures below are from the FIF Facebook page and show the LeT affilate openly providing humanitarian services.

Picture 1: A FIF aid distribution camp.

Picture 2: Members of FIF collecting donations.

Picture 3: FIF shuttles people from flood-affected areas to dry land.

Picture 4: FIF camp

Picture 5: FIF medical relief camp.

Picture 6: Flood victims receive medical care from FIF ambulance.

LeT Affiliate Solicits Funds for Eid ul-Fitr and Humanitarian Activities

Just over a month ago, this blog examined the Ramadan fundraising efforts of a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) charitable front organization, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). At the onset of Ramadan, FIF published several new flyers on its website soliciting readers for money to fund its humanitarian efforts and to pay for the suhoor (pre-fast meal) and iftaar (breaking of the daily fast) meals for those who cannot afford them.

With the conclusion of Ramadan (Eid ul-Fitr) and reports of flash flooding in areas of Pakistan, FIF has issued yet another solicitation for financial support. In its newest flyer (copied below), the group asks its supporters to donate money for Eid ul-Fitr to flood victims and the poor so that they may also celebrate the holiday with food and new clothes. Specifically, the flyer states that with a donation of Rs. 5,000 (approximately USD 57.00) individuals can purchase an Eid Package that would pay for food and new clothes for one family in need.

The United States should work with Pakistani stakeholders to ensure that the operating environment for illicit charities, particularly those with ties to violent extremist organizations (VEOs), is minimized. This action is critical to thwarting VEOs’ ability to use charities to raise and move funds, provide logistical support, and recruit followers. Additionally, charitable abuse can undermine donor confidence and endangers the integrity of the entire charitable sector, which in a country like Pakistan provides essential services to large populations. Put simply, providing secure avenues for donating money to trustworthy charities could also increase giving within Pakistan and across the Pakistani diaspora. (Great report on Pakistani diaspora philanthropy by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy)

Next, as mentioned in a previous blog post, shutting down organizations such as FIF is not easy, nor is it the complete answer. Shutting down FIF is not easy because ties between Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment and FIF’s “mother ship” organization LeT remain murky. Therefore a clear and verifiable severance of ties between the “establishment” and the VEO is a sine qua non. Lastly, in addition to limiting the operating environment of illicit charities, the U.S. must work with the Pakistani government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to ensure viable alternatives to FIF exist. These alternatives are key to filling the humanitarian void left by weak institutions, corrupt leadership, and a lack of functioning infrastructure.


State Department Releases New Country Reports on Terrorism

The State Department released the latest iteration of its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which you can find here. As expected, there is plenty in there about Pakistan. I pulled some of the Pakistan bits.

Expectedly, Chapter 1 of the report opens with an assessment of the threat from al-Qa`ida Core (AQC). According to the report, while AQC is weaker, the terrorist threat to the United States emanating from Pakistan remains high due to resurgent affiliates:

“Al-Qa’ida (AQ) remained the preeminent terrorist threat to the United States in 2010. Though the AQ core in Pakistan has become weaker, it retained the capability to conduct regional and transnational attacks. Cooperation between AQ and Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based militants was critical to the threat the group posed. In addition, the danger posed by Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT) and increased resource-sharing between AQ and its Pakistan-based allies and associates such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network meant the aggregate threat in South Asia remained high.”

Chapter 2 is the chapter that extensively discusses Pakistan. The report discusses several aspects of counterterrorism including: 2010 terrorist incidents; legislation and law enforcement; countering terrorist finance; regional and international cooperation; and countering radicalization and violent extremism. Some key findings from each of these categories include:

2010 Terrorism Incidents

“Pakistan experienced hundreds of bomb blasts, suicide attacks, and sectarian violence, resulting in more than 2,000 dead and scores more injured. Known terrorist organizations such as Tehrik-e-Taliban (the “Pakistani” Taliban) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for a number of attacks. The Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and al-Qa’ida also have a significant presence in Pakistan and maintained the capability to plan, influence, and assist violent extremist organizations within Pakistan and regionally.”

Legislation and Law Enforcement

“While Pakistan’s law enforcement community continued to pledge to prosecute those responsible for terrorist acts inside Pakistan, a 2010 review by the United States of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court rulings revealed that Pakistan remained plagued an acquittal rate of approximately 75 percent. The review, in conjunction with information provided by Pakistani law enforcement partners, painted a picture of a legal system almost incapable of prosecuting suspected terrorists.”

Countering Terrorist Finance

“Pakistan strengthened its counterterrorist finance regime and committed to making additional improvements. Pakistan’s terrorist financing law is ambiguous on key points, however, and the country’s implementation of UNSCR 1267 was incomplete.”

Regional and International Cooperation

“Pakistan continued to cooperate in regional and international counterterrorism forums. However, India-Pakistan counterterrorism cooperation was lacking in 2010.”

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism

“The Government of Pakistan has realized that counter-radicalization through non-military means is a critical component to long-term success against violent extremism, and has initiated certain counter-radicalization efforts in 2010.”

These efforts included plans to set up a television channel focusing on culture and traditions of the country with the objective of countering violent extremism, an army-run school in Malakand for rehabilitating Taliban-influenced youth, and the creation of interfaith committees at the district level to meet monthly to address issues of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

Terrorist Safe Haven

Chapter 5, which addresses terrorist safe havens, also mentions Pakistan, stating that, “despite efforts by Pakistani security forces, al-Qa’ida (AQ) terrorists, Afghan militants, foreign insurgents, and Pakistani militants continued to find safe haven in portions of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Paktunkhwa (KPK), and Baluchistan.”

Happy Battle of Badr Day!

Today is the 17th day of Ramadan and on this day in 624 A.D. (2 AH – Hijri/Islamic calendar) a critical battle in the history of early Islam was fought – the Battle of Badr. At this battle, the Prophet Muhammad defeated the powerful Quraysh tribe that controlled Mecca.

I thumbed through my old copy of Pickthall’s translation of the Quran and copied below one of its references to the Battle of Badr. The Quranic excerpts indicate that it was divine intervention that aided in the unexpected victory of Prophet Muhammad’s forces. From surah Al-Imran (2:123-126):

  • “Allah had already given you the victory at Badr, when ye were contemptible. So observe your duty to Allah in order that ye may be thankful.” (2:123)
  • “When thou didst say unto the believers: Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should support you with three thousand angels sent down (to your help)?” (2:124)
  • Nay, but if ye persevere, and keep from evil, and (the enemy) attack you suddenly, your Lord will help you with five thousand angels sweeping on.” (2:125)
  • “Allah ordained this only as a message of good cheer for you, and that thereby your hearts might be at rest – Victory cometh only from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise.” (2:126)

In their recent Ramadan issues, multiple Urdu-language jihadi publications referenced this historic battle. For example, in its August 2011 issue Nawa-i-Jihad Afghanistan contained at least four articles about the Battle of Badr. Lots of fodder here for future posts, but in the interim here are some of their topics:

  • A prologue titled “The Prophet’s Prayers for Success at the Battle of Badr” (pictured below)
  • “Identifying Believers and Unbelievers at the Battlefield of Badr”
  • “The Aim of the Muslims in the Battle of Badr – The Caravan of Quraysh Traders”
  • “How Can You Forget the Battle of Badr?”

Another example is from Jaish-e-Muhammad’s (JeM) weekly Urdu-language magazine, al-Qalam, which contained an article referencing the historic battle. In the article (referenced in the previous blog post), the author encourages his readers to increase certain habits, including jihad and cites the Battle of Badr as an illustrative example.

In both publications the references to the Battle of Badr are likely an effort to draw a comparison between the Prophet Muhammad’s unlikely victory over the Meccans and current global jihadist efforts to defend Islam against the so-called “Crusader-Zionist alliance” in order to generate support for their cause. Simply put, these publications use this historical imagery to convey to their target audiences that as Allah helped defeat the powerful Meccans in Islam’s early period, he will also help defeat those they consider currently as enemies of Islam.

Jaish-e-Muhammad Tells Readers How to Spend Time During Ramadan


Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which translates to “Army of Muhammad,” is a violent extremist group based in Pakistan and founded by the infamous Masood Azhar in 2000. The U.S. added JeM to its foreign terrorist organization list back in 2001 and Azhar was designated in late 2010. Azhar has made a long career targeting the United States and India. In a public speech in Karachi in 2000 he said,  “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” Like many of its peer groups in Pakistan, JeM has shifted its focus from the Kashmiri insurgency to Afghanistan. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department noted that, “JeM recruitment posters in Pakistan contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.” JeM openly continues its activities – Azhar himself has been arrested and released multiple times by Pakistani authorities – part of which include a weekly, Urdu-language online publication, al-Qalam. (For more analysis on past issues and articles of al-Qalam check out Jihadica)

In the last week’s issue of al-Qalam, contributor Talha al-Saif wrote an article advising the magazine’s readers on acceptable behavior during the month of Ramadan. The article is divided into several subsections. I highlighted some of the more interesting passages below (NOTE: They are not word-for-word translations. They are summaries that touch on the points I found most interesting).

Summary of the Article

The article begins with a brief introduction that uses poetic language to describe Ramadan with several of the repeated themes throughout the article. These include descriptions of Ramadan as the month of the Quran, the Battle of Badr, jihad, and fasting.

“Save Yourself from the Wrong Jump”

Satan is man’s enemy and tries to lead him astray. The true meaning of Ramadan is sacrifice, for example eating less, drinking less, and performing jihad. Satan on the other hand has taught people that the meaning of Ramadan is eating, drinking, and sleeping in excess.

“Habits Recommended to Increase”

This section says that Ramadan is a very valuable month and that individuals should maximize time spent performing acts of worship. These acts include:

  • Prayers – To include required prayers and the taraweeh (extra evening prayers performed only during Ramadan)
  • Talawat – Recitation of the Quran
  • Sadaqat – Charitable Donations. Individuals should donate food/iftaar materials to those who are fighting [e.g. mujahidin] the enemies of Islam head-on.
  • Jihad – Ramadan is the month of jihad. The Battle of Badr was fought in this month and therefore one should remember it. Sacrificing life and money. Invitation to jihad.
  • Reflecting Upon the Hereafter – We will not remain in this world. The true life is life in the hereafter.

“Habits Recommended to Eliminate”

  • Television – Absolutely no television. Neither news, nor anything else.
  • “Places of sin” – Stay away from places where there are immoral conversations such as lies and backbiting.

Last 10 Days of Ramadan

Last 10 days of Ramadan are quite valuable. New clothes are not necessary for Eid al-Fitr. Also, the happiness of Eid can be fulfilled even without a new pair of shoes. One should not waste the last 10 days of Ramadan in bazaars. One should not let the last 10 days of Ramadan go to waste, as it is possible that this Ramadan is our last.

“Beware of Iftaar Parties”

Iftaar parties are a wasteful act in which there is gluttony and useless conversation. One should not host such parties, nor go to them. If there is a religious gathering you should attend it. Also, one should send food for Iftaar and dinner to the poor, religious scholars, and the mujahidin.


In al-Saif’s article many of the recommendations (such as increased prayer and reflection and the heightened importance of the last ten days of Ramadan) are standard practice for Muslims during Ramadan and some others are not so standard (including the ban on all television watching and the warning against attending or hosting Iftaar parties). What is most interesting, however, is JeM’s attempt to capitalize on Ramadan as an opportunity to gain recruits and generate support for its mission. This is done in two ways: direct solicitation and generation of sympathy using religious imagery. First, the article directly tells its readers that Ramadan is a month of sacrifice and jihad, and that sacrifice can include the donation of money and food to those individuals fighting the enemies of Islam head-on.  Next, the author’s multiple references to the Battle of Badr are important as they highlight a critical battle in Islam’s early history (also mentioned in the Quran) in which the Prophet Muhammad led his forces to an unlikely victory against the Meccans. Using this history and religious symbolism to draw a comparison to current wars may resonate with al-Qalam’s target audience.

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