Inside the secrets of Intelligence Bureau (IB): IB becomes no.1 counter terror spy outfit?

[pullquote]Details of a rare visit to its headquarters by Azaz Syed[/pullquote]

ISLAMABAD: The Intelligence Bureau (IB), Pakistan’s premier civilian intelligence outfit’s headquarter is not known as IB headquarters in Islamabad’s Secretariat; rather it is known as, “K” Block, located almost at the deep end of the secretariat towards the mighty Margalla Hills of the federal capital, Islamabad.

Whenever you ask anybody about the location of “K” Block in Islamabad, he would briefly look at you and would guide you towards the location.

Being a journalist curious to meeting interesting personalities and visiting places where only a few have access, you would obviously land here. I was there to follow the whispers about the agency’s role in recent make and break in Balochistan Assembly and during Senate elections.

During my visit to the agency headquarters, one of the top officers of the agency was my host who wants to be anonymous. When you enter the building after going through the required security check ups, you observe a big green gate where security personals give you a final go ahead to enter the building. “K” Block in green color is also visibly inscribed at the wall on the entrance gate. The moment you enter, you see a wide cemented road going straight and also taking a left turn, on the right there is a parking area for about 15 to 20 vehicles.

The security personnel guides you to the parking and signals you to the main building where office of the, IB chief is located. It’s right on the left from the entrance gate. If you have a chauffeur he can drop you at the main gate and if you don’t have like myself then you have to walk almost 80,90 steps for entering the building after parking your car in the specified area.

The squared shaped IB, headquarters is located at a hilly point at about 100 canals of land. Its present building was built in late 1960s and the chiefs of this agency started sitting in the present building since 1973.

The front side of the building has only one entrance, apparently. The moment you get closer you find two flags mounted on your left side in a small green belt which is almost one an half feet higher than ground. One is of Pakistan’s national flag and the other is IB’s organizational flag and on their feet 1947 is visibly inscribed on a cemented block.

A wooden rack with multiple shelves is the most prominent thing you observe when you step in the main building after passing a walk through gate. The shelves are filled with different souvenirs of foreign agencies, given to IB, giving reflection of its coordination with other international spy agencies. In this area you feel that silence is dominating the environment and a dim light increases the sense of suspense to the visitor.

The young receptionist with silver suit and a blue tie passes a smile and gives you the security badge, with a request of submitting mobile phones at that point. Then he accompanies you to upstairs.

IB Chied Khalid Sultan

The walls of building corridors from downstairs to upstairs are renovated with beautiful paintings fixed in wonderful wooden frames. While walking through the office of the spy agency one feels that walls around you are privy to many secrets. The secrets range from history to date and the officers and the employees working in this building are the custodians of these secrets.

After about 30 steps you reach the first floor which is probably the executive floor, where chief of the agency sits. The first chief of the agency G. Ahmed was appointed 13 days (on August 1 1947) before the partition reveals that agency is 13 days older than the country herself. To date 39 chiefs headed the agency, though it was headless at times.

Apparently the first 13 chiefs of the agency were civil bureaucrats; it was only Gen Zia which appointed first military officer Major General Agha Nek Muhammad as its chief on April 16th 1985 who continued until 30th July 1986 when a police officer Aslam Hayat replaced him. Out of the 38 chiefs of the agency since 1947, nine were military officers.

Traditionally IB and its chief are known as the eyes and ears of the prime minister who appoints the agency head and most of the time depends on them more than any other intelligence outfit.

Currently Aftab Sultan, a retired officer of the police service, is heading the agency since June 7, 2013. He was appointed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who picked him up probably because of his strong-headed nature.

Aftab Sultan was the one, who being a senior police officer deployed in Sargodha during the Musharraf regime, had refused to choreograph referendum in favour of the dictator. Aftab was made OSD (officer on special duty) as punishment.

It is not the first time he is serving on the position rather he had also remained the choice of former Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani between October 2011 to July 2012 for the same slot. Aftab Sultan is the only officer who has served two different governments of PPP and PML.N under almost four different Prime Ministers ranging from Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Nawaz Sharif and now PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Tenure of Aftab Sultan is ending on 2nd April and his farewell visits have started formally. He is the 39th chief of the agency. IB remained central arm of the civilian Prime Minister since 2014 protest sit in at Islamabad to Panama and Dawn leaks however its officers believe that their real success is in the field of countering terrorism during last five years.

“We can say that IB has become the No.1 counter terrorism agency,” says a key officer of the agency further adding that, “We have increased the capacity of agency in countering terrorism while joining hands with the provincial police and Counter Terrorism Departments (CTD),” , For backing up his point of view he shared data saying that during 2013 to the end of 2017 IB has carried out 3635 intelligence based operations across the country and traced 7062 high profile and terrorism cases in the country.

The officer shared that IB has resolved 70 cases of suicide terrorism, 165 bomb blasts and 867 target cases of target killings were resolved besides 257 cases of the attacks on law enforcement agencies. According to the data shared with this correspondent IB arrested 2779 terrorists and 1205 proclaimed offenders and during these entire process 29 officers of the spy agency embraced martyrdom.

“I can tell you proudly that we are far ahead of any other intelligence outfit with regard to countering terrorism despite our fewer resources in comparison with some sister agencies. We are ready to present our work before parliament which may draw a comparison,” the officer said.

What about the political make-and-break in Balochistan and the Senate of Pakistan? I asked the officer. “We had already informed the elected government about the situation emerging in Balochistan including the fact that some key officials were directly involved in making and breaking the government in the province and the same was the situation about the recent Senate elections, we informed the government what we knew, and “we knew”,” the officer emphasized.

When I asked “if you were aware of the protest sit in at Faizabad by clerics led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi”, the official said: “here too we had our homework done and forewarned the government about what was coming, and later kept informing what was happening.”

Once a key government functionary told this correspondent that during the protest sit in (dharna) of 2014, a very important, top official had held a meeting with Aftab Sultan asking him to come to his side which he had refused, I narrated the incident to the official for confirmation. “Yes it’s true,” was a short answer with no details.

“We are here to help the constitutionally elected government; it’s not our job to take part in any kind of conspiracies against the government. We are also bound to tell what is right and what is wrong, we are proudly doing it,” the officer added.

When I said: “In a country where civil military imbalance often create situations, only a few understand the importance of the constitution and the sanctity of the elected prime minister,” I was told: “This office (IB HQs) has always stood by the supremacy of parliament and the constitution, and that is why its chief always attended each meeting of the parliament or any of its committee which called him. The IB chief remained always available before the courts as this agency respects the courts,” the officer said.

I was told that since the current chief of the agency is retiring on April 2 following which one of the two police officers, Khaliq Dad Luck and Dr. Suleman, is likely to become the next chief. However Dr. Suleman, currently heading KPK chapter of the agency, has a fair chance to be elevated.

Pakistan’s first transgender newscaster recounts her struggle

A private TV channel recently recently made history by hiring a transgender newscaster.

Marvia Malik, however, thinks she might have made history by appearing on TV, the difficulties facing her community are far from over.

“They are still faced with more than their fair share of hindrances, reveals Marvia in an exclusive interview with The News.

Marvia also made headlines in the recent past as the first Trans model to walk the ramp during a fashion week.

She says she was interviewed at Kohenoor News TV channel three months ago and was hired the same day.

In conversation with The News, she has revealed the innumerable hurdles that a transgender has to go through in their routine life. “The life of a transgender is full of tremendous difficulties and they are all leading the same life and facing the same challenges,” stated Marvia.

After being abandoned by her family, she financed her higher education at the Punjab University by utilizing the skills she had acquired through a beautician course.

Her family has remained silent on the news of her success as a news anchor, she reveals.

Graduating from Punjab University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Marvia revealed that the teachers at her institution had been extremely supportive and she did not face any discrimination at the hands of her professors, unlike the students who did tend to develop a prejudiced behavior towards her.

“When transgender are so isolated by society as well as family, they obviously have no other option but to sell their bodies and become escorts, or dance on the streets and become beggars,” stated Marvia on the adversities transgender are facing.

Marvia encouraging those struggling with their gender identity, stated that: “Keep fighting and keep working hard regardless of what field you’re working in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a news caster or a driver, if you work hard and be resilient in the face of hardship you can achieve success unquestionably.”

Nobody moove! Cow causes chaos at Indian airport

Ahmedabad: First it was monkeys and rabbits. Now a cow has forced flights to be diverted from Ahmedabad airport and Indian authorities said Friday human negligence may have had a role.

The brave bovine crept past security at a cargo gate at the airport in India´s Gujarat state to stray near the runway sparking a rodeo chase with guards.

A flight from Abu Dhabi and a cargo plane had to be diverted to Mumbai after one of the pilots spotted the beast. The arrival of five domestic flights and several departures were also delayed.

Aviation sources said airport security guards and fire officials struggled for more than 90 minutes to move the cow away from the runway.

“The cow had entered from near the cargo gate of the airport. The security personnel with sticks and air guns chased the animal away,” one source said.

Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport and other Indian airports have had previous troubles with disrespectful animals.

In February last year, an IndiGo flight at Ahmedabad was delayed on the takeoff strip because of rabbits on the runway.

In November 2016, a Chennai-bound plane had to abort take off after some monkeys were spotted on the runway.

Two years earlier, a Delhi-bound flight from Surat hit a stray buffalo on the runway a few seconds before take-off.

The Airport Authority of India has ordered an inquiry into the latest incident.

“The AAI chairman has asked the Ahmedabad airport director to ascertain possibility of any human negligence in the incident.

“Directives have been given to take stringent steps to avoid any such occurrences in future,” said an AAI statement.

Alligators on Ice: North Carolina reptiles strong survival skills on sho

(WECT) Alligators in North Carolina are dealing with the freezing temperatures by sticking their noses up through the ice to breathe.

According to George Howard, the general manager at Shallotte River Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach, the gators, including the 12 rescued at the park, stick their noses up through the ice to breathe, then they hibernate.

Howard said technically the American alligators’ form of hibernation is called brumation. He said they lower their body temperature and metabolism so they can survive.

“They poke their noses up and are able to breathe and be perfectly fine, so they’re doing this as a mechanism so that if it freezes over, they can still breath,” Howard said. “(It’s) just an absolute amazing survival technique and these guys were built tough millions of years ago and they remain tough today.”

According to Howard, this is completely normal as a survival mechanism for alligators.

The park’s rescued alligators previously have been in captivity and can no longer go back in the wild.

First transgender elected official in Virginia lauded as trailblazer

WASHINGTON: A 33-year-old transgender Democrat was being lauded as a pioneer on Wednesday after she won a seat in the Virginia state legislature against a Republican incumbent who openly boasted of being a “homophobe.”

“Discrimination is a disqualifier and the message of inclusion is a winning message,” Danica Roem, a former local newspaper reporter and singer in a heavy metal band, told AFP.

“It´s humbling and I know I have a big responsibility right now — get results,” Roem said in a telephone interview following her landmark victory.

Roem defeated Robert Marshall, a staunchly conservative Republican who had represented the 13th District in Prince William County for 26 years, by 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent in a contest that drew national attention.

Roem will become the first openly transgender state lawmaker in the United States when she takes up her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in the state capital, Richmond.

Democrats made stunning gains in the Republican-controlled Virginia legislature on Tuesday and romped to victory in the governor’s race in what some analysts described as a wave of anti-Trump sentiment.

During a hard-fought campaign, the 73-year-old Marshall refused to refer to Roem in interviews or campaign literature as “she” or to agree to a debate.

Marshall once boasted of being Virginia´s “chief homophobe” and was the author of a bill that would have forced transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth.

He also co-authored a bill banning gay marriage.

‘Clear warning’

Roem has said she did not enter politics to become an LGBTQ symbol but to deal with municipal and infrastructure issues, particularly traffic congestion in her district.

But she campaigned wearing a rainbow-coloured headscarf and the historic nature of her win was not lost on her on Wednesday.

“I will be the first out and seated transgender state representative,” Roem told AFP.

“I have the opportunity to get a lot of infrastructure projects done while at the same time demonstrating to people in the 13th District and around the world that transgender people make very good state legislators and that we care about our communities, too,” she said.

Advocacy groups welcomed Roem’s win as a victory for equality.

“Danica Roem´s historic victory is a clear warning to anti-equality lawmakers across the country that the days of attacking LGBTQ people to scare up votes are over,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with her to help continue moving equality forward in Virginia,” Griffin said.

“Voters chose a smart, solutions-oriented trans leader over a divisive anti-LGBTQ demagogue,” said Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund president Aisha Moodie-Mills.

Equality Virginia executive director James Parish praised Roem´s victory as “not only a victory for transgender Virginians, but for transgender Americans as well.”

“Roem ran a smart, issues-driven campaign focused on improving the lives of her neighbours; a campaign that ran counter to her opponent´s divisive and transphobic rhetoric,” Parish added.

Roem said she had received a congratulatory call from former vice president Joe Biden and “a lot, a lot, a lot of people gave me hugs last night.”

She said she also delivered an important message to her stepdaughter.

“I told my stepdaughter last night you can be whatever it is that you want to be,” she said.

Polly want a broadband connection? Cockatoos cost Australian cable company

Australia’s government-built $36 billion broadband network, already under attack from underwhelmed customers, has found a new and formidable enemy – cockatoos are chewing through cables across the country.

Repairing the damage wrought on the broadband system, including replacing steel-braid wires that the pesky parrots have gnawed, has already cost A$80,000 ($61,500), network builder NBN Co said on Friday.

The company estimates the bill could rise sharply as more damage is uncovered and more cables are rolled out in the national telecommunications infrastructure project, which is not due to be completed until around 2021.

“They are constantly sharpening their beaks and as a result will attack and tear apart anything they come across,” said NBN Co project manager Chedryian Bresland in a blog post on the company’s website on Friday.

“Unfortunately, they’ve developed a liking to our cables … these birds are unstoppable when in a swarm.”

Yellow-crested cockatoos are prolific in Australia and well-known for their voracious appetites for everything from fruit crops to wooden window frames.

Much of the cable chomping has occurred in grain-growing regions in Australia’s southeast.

“It would have to be an acquired taste, because it’s not their usual style,” Gisela Kaplan, a professor in animal behaviour at the University of New England, told Reuters.

“Cockatoos usually go for wood, or strip the bark off trees, They don’t usually go for cables. But it might be the colour or the position of the cables that’s attracted them,” she said.

The broadband network itself has come under fire for poor service and slow speeds, with customer complaints spiking nearly 160 percent this year, according to government figures released last month.

Australia’s average internet speed of 11.1 megabits per second ranks 50th in the world, according to the most recent State of the Internet report by Akamai Technologies, an IT company specializing in internet speed technology.

NBN Co is installing protective casing it says will protect the wires from birds in the future.

Priyanka Chopra makes it to Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women List

Indian actress Priyanka Chopra has made it to Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful Women List 2017. Priyanka who has found fame in Hollywood with her hit TV show Quantico ranked #97 on the list.

Apart from Priyanka, another first-time entrant to the list was first daughter Ivanka Trump who ranked #19.

The first two spots were secured by politicians, German Chancellor Angela Merkel #1 and British Prime Minister Theresa May #2.

Other prominent personalities making it to the list include.

Melinda Gates #3

Christine Lagarde #8

Aung San Suu Kyi #33

Beyonce Knowles #50

Hillary Clinton #65

Taylor Swift #85

J.K. Rowling #88

Birthday special: here is all that you need to know about Aishwarya Rai

Age is definitely just a number for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who turns 44 today, as she continues to reign the hearts of fans all across the world.

From being considered the most beautiful actress to having a tulip named after her, Aishwarya is clearly every bit of the diva.

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about the charismatic actress.

Many Firsts

Aishwarya Rai is the first Bollywood actress to get a wax statue hosted at Madame Tussauds.

She is also the first Indian actress to be invited as a guest to the coveted ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.

Awards & Accolades

The talented actress has not only worked on big-ticket Bollywood projects, she has also starred in select international films, winning appreciation from fans and the film industry in her stride.

Among the innumerable honours both from India and internationally is the Padma Shri in 2009 by the Government of India and the ‘Ordre des Arts et des Letters’ by the Government of France in 2012.

Special Appearance

Aishwarya is all set to dazzle the upcoming 70th Cannes red carpet.

She debuted at the prestigious film festival in 2002, and has since then graced the Cannes red carpet for the last 15 years.

She is the first Indian actress to be on the jury of the Cannes International Film Festival.

The actress has stunned the audiences time and again with her impeccable sartorial choices, with her appearance being one of the most awaited ones each year.

One-of-a-Kind

Mattel Inc., manufacturer of the famous Barbie doll, in 2009 announced that Aishwarya would be the Indian face of the world-famous doll.

The doll was based on her looks from the films ‘Jodha Akbar’ and ‘Devdas’.

She is also the first Indian star to be mentioned in the Rolling Stone magazine.

Her fan base goes beyond age, gender and nationality.

Women-run restaurant cooks up a storm in Quetta

Five women in Quetta’s Hazara town are breaking gender stereotypes and dishing out equality through their culinary expertise. In a first, the gutsy women have opened an all-female workforce restaurant and set a new trend for the women in the area.

The restaurant, Hazara Restaurant, offers solace to all local women seeking a safe environment with the added bonus of a wide selection of tasty delights, ranging from traditional Hazara dishes to fast food.

However, the restaurant is not just limited to women but open to everyone including families and men.

Speaking about the restaurant, owner Hameeda Ali shared that she is just playing her part in bringing women to the forefront and fight for their rights.

Ali remarked that the first step towards female empowerment is to empower them financially.

Ali, a social and political worker, is a member of the Hazara community. She runs HurmattyNiswa Foundation and is working for the rights of the females.

However, the process of opening up a restaurant was filled with tremendous difficulties for Ali. She told Geo News that she faced many difficulties as many people discouraged her from running a business.

Since she hails from a tribal society, she remarked that she had to break many stereotypes to enter the restaurant industry.

“Many people tried to break my spirit but there were others who supported me throughout the process,” she remarked, adding that her family’s wholehearted support kept her going on.

The women working at the restaurant include students as well, who are earning money to pay for their education.

Baseera, a woman working at the restaurant, shared that she was encouraged after working with Ali, adding that her peers treat her with respect.

“My family’s economic burden was also lessened since I started working here,” she added.

Speaking about her experience, one of the customers Batool remarked that the opening of an all-women restaurant is a good omen. “I feel more secure here,” she added.

Ali shared that she feels she has been successful in achieving the aim of the restaurant. “The restaurant allows women to meet up their friends for an hour or 45 minutes and discuss various topics,” she said, adding that the eatery has given wings to fly and prove that they are no less than men.

The response to the restaurant has been very positive, she added.

Papua New Guinea skull ‘world’s oldest tsunami victim’

A 6,000-year-old skull found in Papua New Guinea is likely the world’s oldest-known tsunami victim, experts said Thursday after a new analysis of the area it was found in.

The partially preserved Aitape Skull was discovered in 1929 by Australian geologist Paul Hossfeld, 12 kilometres (seven miles) inland from the northern coast of the Pacific nation.

It was long thought to belong to Homo erectus (upright man), an extinct species thought to be an ancestor of the modern human that died out some 140,000 years ago.

But more recent radiocarbon dating estimated it was closer to 6,000 years old, making it a member of our own species — Homo sapiens. At that time, sea levels were higher and the area would have been near the coast.

An international team led by the University of New South Wales returned to the site to collect the same geological deposits observed by Hossfeld.

Back in the lab, they studied details of the sediment including its grain size and geochemical composition, which can help identify a tsunami inundation.

They also identified a range of microscopic organisms from the ocean in the sediment, similar to those found in soil after a devastating tsunami hit the region in 1998.

“We have discovered that the place where the Aitape Skull was unearthed was a coastal lagoon that was inundated by a large tsunami about 6,000 years ago,” said study author and UNSW scientist James Goff.

“It was similar to the one that struck nearby with such devastating effect in 1998, killing more than 2,000 people.

“We conclude that this person who died there so long ago is probably the oldest-known tsunami victim in the world.”

The conclusions, aided by researchers from the United States, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Massive inundation

Goff, a world authority on tsunamis, said while the bones of the skull had been well-studied previously, little attention had been paid to the sediments where they were unearthed.

“The geological similarities between these sediments and the sediments laid down during the 1998 tsunami made us realise that human populations in this area have been affected by these massive inundations for thousands of years,” he said.

“After considering a range of possible scenarios, we believe that, on the balance of the evidence, the individual was either killed directly in the tsunami, or was buried just before it hit and the remains were redeposited.”

Following the 1998 tsunami, which penetrated up to five kilometres inland, attempts to retrieve victims were called off after a week because crocodiles were feeding on the corpses, leading to their dismemberment.

This may also explain why the skull of the person who died 6,000 years ago was found on its own, without any other bones, the researchers said.

World attention has been drawn to the devastating impact of tsunamis in recent decades, particularly following those in Indonesia in 2004 and Japan in 2011, which killed about 230,000 and 16,000 people respectively.

But research in the Pacific has shown that throughout history and prehistory, the region has seen repeated catastrophic tsunamis that have caused death, abandonment of settlements, breakdown of trading routes and even war, the study said.

“This work reinforces a growing recognition that tsunamis have had a significant influence on coastal populations throughout Pacific prehistory and doubtless elsewhere as well,” said study co-author Darren Curnoe, also from UNSW.