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NTI 2020 and Pakistan’s Cyber Preparedness

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In the contemporary global strategic affairs, nuclear safety and security are widely perceived as the fundamental for any country to be recognized as a responsible nuclear state. Over time, the parameters of the nuclear safety and security have changed considerably. The emergence of sophisticated technologies has become one of the leading factors that contribute to the change in the dynamics of nuclear security. It includes all those technologies that are related to computers and computing systems. Presently, the major intimidations which states have been facing from emerging technologies are the cyber threats. The Nuclear Security Index (NTI) Report 2020 has also highlighted the importance of cyber technology for nuclear safety and security. In this regard, the NTI has taken into consideration the various security measures taken by the states that possess the weapon usable nuclear material. The assessment is aimed at critically identifying the emergent cyber threats to nuclear security.

In general, the NTI report has highlighted some of the basic elements for theft and sabotage of nuclear-related materials. For instance, the assessment of the number of sites, security control measures, gauging of risk environment, global norms, and abiding by domestic commitments. The NTI report 2020 has taken into consideration some key ‘Security and Control Measures’. These include; on-site physical protection, prevention of insider threat, response capabilities, and security culture. It has analyzed nuclear safety and security from a new perspective. There has been an emphasis on the need of adopting new tools and indicators to measure the security of the nuclear infrastructure. It further highlights that countries that possess weapon usable nuclear material are improving cyber security regulations following the rapidly changing cyber threats to nuclear facilities. Although NTI suggests such measures the growing cyber threats to nuclear facilities still need a firm global response. In this regard, the integration of cyber security, physical protection, and protection critical of digital assets from cyber-attacks, creating awareness of cyber threats, and training of personnel with cyber risk scenarios are significant. Such frameworks are aimed at addressing the prevention of insider threat, the establishment of security culture, control and accountability procedures, physical protection, and response capabilities.

In the same vein, according to the report, to integrate physical protection and cybersecurity, and to protect critical digital assets, including systems related to physical protection, control, accounting, and safety of improved cyber tools, watchdogs are required at facilities to protect against cyber-attacks. The potential for cyber-attacks at nuclear facilities, as well as combined cyber-physical attacks should be taken into consideration while threat assessments. To identify weaknesses and to make continuous improvements, ‘Threat Tests and assessments’ are required regularly to identify weaknesses and to make continuous improvements.

Among countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, Australia for the third time has been ranked at the first position in the sabotage ranking and for the fifth time for its security practices. Likewise, New Zealand and Sweden stand first in the ranking for countries without materials. It is very pertinent to highlight here that Pakistan’s commitment towards nuclear safety and security, has also been duly acknowledged. In this regard, since Pakistan has adopted new on-site physical protection and cyber security regulations, it has been appreciated in the index. This would likely further improve Pakistan’s existing insider threat prevention measures. Nevertheless, the 2020 NTI report has ranked Pakistan among the countries that have nuclear materials but its adherence to nuclear safety and security has been vindicated.

It is worth mentioning here that in the theft ranking for countries with nuclear materials, Pakistan has improved its ranking by an overall score of 7 points. In this regard, Pakistan has made major progress in the ‘Security and Control Measures’ category with an incredible (+25) points based on the new regulations. Also, Pakistan has improved in the Global Norms category with (+1) points. The strengthened laws and regulations have provided sustainable security benefits and resulted in improving Pakistan’s overall score. Moreover, Pakistan’s improvement in the Security and Control Measures category is quite significant. Over time, by improving +8 points in 2014, +2 points in 2016, and +6 points in 2018, Pakistan has steadily improved in the Security and Control Measures category. Owing to new regulations for on-site physical protection its score has improved since 2014. Whereas since 2018; the insider threat protection has also improved. When the report was first launched in 2012, since then Pakistan, unlike other states has improved its score in the security and control measure category with 25 points. This is an incredible improvement as it is the second-largest improvement among the related states.

At the national level, Pakistan has taken various initiatives including; the establishment of Cyber Forensic Laboratory at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), and the Computer Emergency Response Team (PAK-CERT) to deal with cyber-related threats. Furthermore, the National Centre for Cyber Security at the Air University also aims at making cyberspace of Pakistan more secure. It has affiliated Research and Development Laboratories working on projects related to network security systems and smart devices. To maintain such a status, in the longer term, Pakistan needs to further expand the scope of its existing national cyber policy framework. This would enhance Pakistan’s capabilities to tackle cyber threats to nuclear security in a more efficient way.    

Hence, the emergence of cyber threats to nuclear security both at the regional and the global levels needs to be addressed with greater cooperation among the states. Likewise, it is also essential to address the human factor for cyber security when insiders could unwittingly introduce or exacerbate cyber vulnerabilities. Pakistan needs to further enhance the role and increase the capacity of its specialized cyber workforce. In this regard, if required, the number of highly skilled technical staff may be increased keeping view of the emergent cyber threats to the nuclear facilities. After acknowledgment of Pakistan’s efforts in the NTI report 2020, this would further add to its compliance with the international practices of nuclear safety and security. Furthermore, regular training workshops for personnel should be organized. Pakistan must go for cooperation with other states to strengthen the global nuclear security framework. This would add to the international reputation of Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state. Nevertheless, Pakistan has improved a lot in the realm of cyber security and also improved the cyber-surveillance systems and watchdogs’ frameworks. A broader National Cyber Security Strategy is the need of the hour to further strengthen the already established cybersecurity framework that would cover nuclear security as well.

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Ethnic War a Newfangled Pakistani Forward-policy for Afghanistan

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistan’s ISI is trying to start ethnic and maneuvering war again in Afghanistan, of which distinct objective is to refurbish the age-old enmity between the Achakzai and Noorzai tribes in the southwest zone. Besides, they want to start an ethnic war among Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns across Afghanistan, and between the northern and southern directions, thus, the prominent leaders of the Taliban, who are led by the ISI, have been entrusted with the task. As in the east and north of Afghanistan, Pashtun Taliban militants are oppressing other Non-Pashtuns, raiding their homes; however, no high-ranking Pashtun Taliban officials are preventing them because the ISI network leads this strategy. In order to revamp a civil war in Afghanistan, score of influential figures have been summoned by the Pakistani military establishment. 

The latest examples are as follows: Two days ago, the Pashtun Taliban killed the former police chief and an influential tribal leader in Mandol district of Nuristan province, which caused many emotions against Pashtuns especially about southwest zone of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in order to afresh the years of hostility between the Noorzai and Achakzi tribes in the southwestern region of Afghanistan, the ISI network raised the issue of a mass grave by several leading Taliban militants, especially by the current governor of Kandahar province and Noorzai tribe leading leader, Haji Mohammad Yousef Wafa.

Qari Aslam Noorzai call for by Pak security forces

At a time when the former leader of the Noorzai tribe, the leading smuggler of drugs and heavy weapons in Central and South Asia, and the financial supporter of the first Taliban regime, Haji Bashar Noorzai was released from the US prison in Guantánamo. The Noorzai tribe once again became twice as strong and dominant in Afghanistan, especially in the southwest zone.  Resulting threats towards the Achakzai people, on the other hand, ISI has started rapid efforts to recommence the years of enmity between these two tribes.

Hajee Feyzullah Khan Noorzai meets Pak military Intelligence

Recently, Pakistan’s intelligence network ISI, with the help of some leading social media and high-ranking Taliban officials, has kept the issue of finding a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan broiling, namely by inducing  the blame-game. Meanwhile, local tribal leaders and residents of Spin Boldak district claim that such a grave is the grave of those who were taken out of their homes by the Taliban after August 15.  Since, they were connected to Achakzai tribe and on the other hand, they served in the security departments of the overthrown Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that is why the Taliban night raided their houses, and massively killed them.

Moreover, mass murdering Hazaras at their educational institutions via suicide bombing and meantime blowing up the worship places of Sufi-Muslims, who preach the non-violent form of Islam, while calling for De-weaponization and De-politicization of Islam.

Consequently, by applying such a forward-policy, Pakistan will achieve its fancied strategic-depth in Afghanistan, while subjugating the Afghan Nation.

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Pakistani Intelligence Agencies ignite Tribal Conflicts in Pak-Afghan Region

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistani intelligence community supported by some international rings want to once again spread dispute and disharmony among the tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan; subsequently the centuries-old evils and wars between the tribes will once more take a new color and become fresh. Recently, rumors of the discovery of a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan are spreading; the blame for this mass murder falls on the former police chief of Kandahar province and the former leader of the Achagzai tribe, General Abdul Razaq Achagzai.  In order to afresh raising the reaction of the Norzi tribe against the Ackzai and anew the evil and war between these two tribes. Even though the current governing body of Afghanistan is completely under the control of the Noorzi tribe, because most of the high-ranking leaders of the Taliban, including the leader of the Taliban, Sheikh Haibatullah, are related to the Noorzi tribe, so there is a greater threat posed to the Achakzi tribe.

Even now, in spite of such menaces, more than 6000 Achakzi families live in Kandahar province, whose members served in the security departments under the command of General Abdul Razaq Achakzi, a staunch opponent of the Taliban.  Currently, in such a tense situation that the Taliban administration has control over Afghanistan and the head of this administration is connected to the Nurzi tribe, the harsh criticism of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai’s mass killings is logical, which can cause international and internal outcries.  As a result, the major victims will be the youths and leading tribal leaders of the Achakzai tribe.

By the advent of Taliban on August 15, 2021, in the first four months, more than 600 youths and tribal leaders from the Achakzi tribe were killed in the southwest zone of Afghanistan, while applying night operations or raids by the Taliban. The most famous case happened to the family of Haji Fida Mohammad Achakzai in Spin Boldak district. Haji Fida Muhammad Achakzai, known as Haji Fida Aka, is a leading leader of the Achakza tribe of Spin Boldak district and had close relations with the family of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai.

 When Kandahar province fell to the Taliban before August 15, the two young sons of him were killed by the Taliban on the first night, unfortunately none of the Taliban officials took any action to prevent the tragedy. Nevertheless, this time, there is a plan going on at the international level to renew the age-old differences between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes, which the international media warmly supports.  If this time the internal differences and conflicts between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes in Afghanistan get sturdier, then it will have damaging effects not only in Afghanistan, but also, serious negative measures will be taken against the Norzai under the leadership of Mahmoud Khan Achakzai, the head of the Achakzai tribe, in the Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan.

In the meantime, the decision of the Pakistani government to hand over the Pashtun areas in Pakhtunkhwa provinces to the Taliban was approved and supported by the Nurzi tribe, conversely, this action of the Pakistani government was strongly condemned by Mahmoud Khan Achakzai and PTM leader Manzoor Pashtun.

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Afghan Zarqawi is shot dead in Panjsher valley of Afghanistan

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According to intelligence information, the leading Taliban commander Maulvi Habibullah Sheeran, who was known as Zarqawi, a resident of Zhrhai District, Kandahar Province, in the southwestern zone of the Taliban was killed in Panjsher battle.

Meantime, the intelligence report indicates, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the general military officer of Panjshir and Andrab and the deputy of the Ministry of National Defense, was injured in Panjshir on Friday, September 16 at 3:25 p.m.

Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, who is considered one of the leading and influential war commanders in the southwest zone of the Taliban, has the support of about 4,000 low-ranking and high-ranking Taliban fighters. He is one of the Taliban military commanders who, during the first mobilization of the Taliban, formed the Taliban group with the support of Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, the founder of the Taliban, and attracted hundreds of young men from Helmand province to the Taliban group.

When the Taliban came to power for the second time in Afghanistan, due to internal differences among the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir left the Taliban for a short time and went to his native Kajki district of Helmand province. However, due to the many efforts of the Taliban, especially Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir’s assistant and the current head of security of presidential palace  Mullah Mutaullah Mubarak, He joined the Taliban again and was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Taliban leaders made more efforts to reunite Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir with the Taliban, because he was an influential military leader, and on the other hand, Taliban leaders were receiving reports that Mullah Qayyum Zakir wants to join ISIS against Taliban. Nevertheless, when he joined with the Taliban leaders for the second time, he was assigned the position of Deputy Minister of Defense, So, for a period, he cooperated with the Minister of Defense Maulvi Yaqoub as a military advisor in the Ministry of Defense.

 When the rumors of the fall of the northern part of Afghanistan were spread and the fighting between the NRF or the National Resistance Front and the Taliban in Panjshir and Andrab intensified, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, based on the special permission of Sheikh Haibatullah, Appointed General Military Officer of Northern Afghanistan. In addition, from September 9, under his leadership, a special military operation named Al-Fath began in Panjshir and Andarabs to clear and liberate northern Afghanistan from the fighters of the National Resistance Front.

As a result of the operation, from September 9th to September 16th, dozens of NRF fighters were also killed but the casualties of Taliban fighters are methodically shown below, although scores of Taliban fighters were destroyed.

  • The bodies of 60 to 70 Taliban fighters who were killed in the battle of Panjshir have been transferred to Uruzgan province.
  •  The dead bodies of 50 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kandahar Province.
  • The dead bodies of 33 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Helmand Province.
  •  The dead bodies of 22 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Ghor Province.
  • The dead bodies of 11 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Takhar province.
  • The dead bodies of 6 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kunduz Chahar Dara.
  •  The dead bodies of 12 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Zabul province.
  • The dead bodies of nine Taliban fighters have been transferred to Wardag Province.
  • The dead bodies of 10 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Dandi Ghori in Baghlan province.  

Last Friday, September 16, in the bloody battle, Mullah Qayyum Zakir, the military officer in charge of Panjshir and Andrab, was seriously injured and eight of his bodyguards, who were residents of Helmand and Uruzgan provinces, were killed. Mullah Qayyum Zakir was transferred to the 400-bed hospital in Kabul at 10 o’clock in the evening on September 16, and former Taliban doctor Atiqullah was invited to Kabul from Al-Khair Hospital of Balochistan province of Pakistan for treatment.

There is a bloody war going on in the north of Afghanistan and around 300 al-Fatih forces are going to Panjshir from Kabul tonight and may reach tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the plan for the formation of a new military and political movement was announced in a three-day meeting of the anti-Taliban political officials of the former government of Afghanistan. Moreover, based on that military plan, after dividing Afghanistan into five major parts, the political and military leaders of each zone will start preparing their organizations against the Taliban, and they will use such political and military tactics as the Taliban used against the government of the Republic of Afghanistan during the last 20 years of resistance.

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