The exposure this week of a plot to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper is, according to experts, merely “business as usual” in once tranquil Scandinavia five years after a crisis over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) began.
“The result of the cartoon crisis has been that we went from having a very, very low threat level to a much bigger threat level,” explained Danish terrorism expert Lars Erslev Andersen.
Magnus Ranstorp at the Swedish National Defence College agreed, describing attack plots by extremists as “business as usual in Denmark.”
“They live with terrorism. They know there are extremists. They know they are the focus,” he told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Once renowned for their virtually non-existent crime rates, Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Norway have recently seen a string of thwarted attacks and unraveled plots by extremists.
Just weeks after Sweden’s first ever suicide bombing, which narrowly missed wreaking carnage among Christmas shoppers, five men were arrested Wednesday for hatching what Danish officials called a plan to “kill as many people as possible” at the Copenhagen offices of the Jyllands-Posten daily.
The paper published in September 2005 a dozen cartoons of the Muslim prophet, triggering violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.
The controversial drawings were originally printed as part of a debate about self-censorship and freedom of expression after no one could be found to illustrate a book about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) amid fears drawings of the prophet, prohibited by Islam, would provoke retaliation.
After Danish police discovered a plot to assassinate one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, at least 17 Danish dailies reprinted his drawing featuring the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse in February 2008, reigniting anger among many Muslims.
A month later, a voice message purported to be from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned that publishing the “insulting drawings” was worse than Western forces killing Muslim women and children and that the “reckoning for it will be more severe.”
“What the cartoons did was make Jyllands-Posten, Denmark and really all of Scandinavia visible and a target for Islamic extremists,” explained Wilhelm Agrell, an intelligence analysis professor at Lund University in southern Sweden.
The Scandinavian countries’ participation in Nato-led forces in Afghanistan and Denmark’s role as an eager ally in the US ‘war on terror’, with around 500 troops stationed in Iraq until 2007, also made the countries more visible to extremists.
Before 2003, “there would really have been no point for (extremists) to attack the Scandinavian countries … but through developments they have become targets,” Agrell told AFP.
In the past year alone, there have been four failed attacks in Denmark, including a Somali man who tried to kill Westergaard with an axe and a Chechen man who was arrested after accidently setting off a package bomb destined for the Jyllands-Posten offices.
David Headley, who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai massacre, had also been planning an attack on the paper, and according to reports may have had links to this week’s thwarted attack.
One of three men arrested in Norway in September suspected of plotting attacks said the trio planned to target the Danish daily.
Suicide bomber Taimour Abdelwahab, who killed only himself in Stockholm on December 11, meanwhile made no reference to the Danish cartoons in a message sent out shortly before the blast, but he did mention Lars Vilks.
The Swedish artist, who provoked outrage with a 2007 drawing of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a dog, has this year faced several assassination plots, the fire-bombing of his house and was head-butted while giving a university lecture.
Following this week’s foiled attack, experts stressed there was no established connection between the attempts across the region and insisted the threat level in Scandinavia was no worse than elsewhere.
“If you look at Germany, the Netherlands, France, Britain… my impression is that the Scandinavian countries are not an exception to the overall situation in Europe, but rather that they have moved up (the threat scale) to be part of the general pattern we’re seeing everywhere,” Agrell said.
And as elsewhere, the possibility of averting all future attacks is slim.
“These attacks are hard to spot,” he added, lamenting that “sooner or later, one will succeed, from the perpetrator’s perspective.”
Bar-bench bond breached in 2010 clashes
Just three years after establishing what appeared to be an unbreakable bond, the bar and bench turned against each other at all levels in 2010.
In March 2007, the country’s lawyers stood behind Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his attempted suspension by Gen Pervez Musharraf, launching a historic movement for judicial independence.
This year, lawyers boycotted the courts in protest at the CJP’s policies, broke the door to the chambers of the chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC), and threw shoes at a sessions judge.
The Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) took the lead on May 15, 2010, when its vice chairman Mumtaz Mustafa announced that the bars of the province would boycott the courts every Saturday in protest at the National Judicial Policy. He said the policy, under which judges were instructed to clamp down on continuances, hurt lawyers and litigants. The boycott is still continuing, despite efforts to resolve it by the then chief justice of the LHC.
But the major flash point of the year revolved around a district and sessions judge, Zawar A Sheikh, and manifested in violent street clashes between police and black-coated advocates. In June, the Lahore Bar Association demanded that the judge quit for his alleged rudeness towards lawyers who appeared before him.
On July 12, lawyers led by LBA president Sajid Bashir marched from Aiwan-e-Adl to the Sessions Court, barged into Sheikh’s chambers and forced him out.
They stopped all proceedings, threw stones and shoes at Sheikh and other judges as they tried to flee in their cars, and closed the gates so they couldn’t leave.
The police eventually arrived to rescue the frightened judges. The subordinate judiciary announced a 15-day strike. Then LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif tried to reconcile the two sides, but to no avail. CJP Chaudhry took suo motu notice and set up a committee headed by an LHC judge to encourage the two sides to find a negotiated solution to the dispute, but that committee failed too.
On September 30, a group of LBA lawyers broke windows in the courtroom of the LHC chief justice and manhandled the registrar, Abdul Sattar Asghar, when he tried to stop them. They also burnt an effigy of Sheikh in the courtroom. The police were called in and they arrested more than a hundred LBA lawyers.
This intensified the protest, with the lawyers blaming the LHC chief justice for the police excesses. On October 3, the beleaguered Justice Sharif sent Sheikh on one week of forced leave. In response, some 1,300 lower court judges handed in their resignations.
The escalating crisis came to a head on October 10, when the police again came face to face with LBA lawyers. The blackcoats wanted to march from the Sessions Court to the LHC to show their anger at the chief justice.
The city district government banned public protest and heavy police contingents used teargas and baton charges to stop the lawyers from coming on to the streets.
Justice Sharif finally relented and transferred the controversial sessions judge, making him a member of the LHC inspection team.
Before he retired from the LHC on December 8, Justice Sharif tried to reach out to the LBA by sending them an unusually large grant. They refused to accept it. At the chief justice’s retirement reference, the PbBC vice chairman accused him of creating the conflict between the bar and bench.
At the end of October, the Supreme Court Bar Association elected Asma Jahangir as its leader. The new president aimed several criticisms the Supreme Court’s way in her first few speeches, saying it relied too much on suo motu actions, interfered in bar elections and was stepping on parliament’s legislative territory.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.
Blast damages oil tanker in Chaman, injures one
A blast badly damaged a Nato oil tanker in the bordering town of Chaman in Balochistan on Friday.
Official sources said unidentified people had planted an explosive device on the rear of the tanker. The device went of with a huge explosion when it reached near border with Afghanistan. Tanker caught fire because of blast.
One person sustained injuries as fire also engulfed a nearby car.
Fire fighters extinguished the fire. The blast and fire however badly damaged the oil tanker.
Attacks on Nato tankers have become a frequent occurrence.
Boney M frontman found dead
Boney M’s frontman Bobby Farrell was found dead in his hotel room in St Petersburg on Thursday, the day after a performance in the city where the band rose to stardom in the Soviet era, his agent said on Thursday.
“He did a show last night as part of Bobby Farrell’s Boney M and they found him dead this morning in his hotel room,” agent John Seine told Reuters by telephone from the Netherlands. Farrell was 61.
“He did not feel well last night, and was having problems with his breathing, but he did the show anyway,” he added.
The cause of his death was not immediately clear, said Sergei Kapitanov, representative of St. Petersburg’s branch of Russia’s investigative committee.
Farrell was famous for dancing and lip synching for the disco band that rose to prominence in Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union with songs like “Ma Baker,” “Rivers of Babylon” and “Rasputin.”
The irony of the situation is that Farrell died the same day as Grigori Rasputin, the infamous mystic whose story made the subject of Boney M’s hit song.
Boney M was put together by German singer-songwriter Frank Farian who also produced most of the vocals for the group, which stormed to the top of the charts in the late 1970s with a string of disco hits.
The quartet of Farrell, Maisie Williams, Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett were one of the most popular bands of the late 1970s. Known for their unusual costumes and dances, the band sold around 80 million records.
Their “Rivers of Babylon” released in 1978 became the highest selling single of all times in UK, selling nearly two million records in Britain alone. “Brown Girl in the Ring” spent 19 weeks in the UK Top 10.
The group disbanded in 1986.
Celebrities send out their sincerest condolences
Khurram Waqar (Qayaas)
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, they (Boney M) were the best. Though I wasn’t a big fan of them, I respect them as artistes.
Taimur Rahman (Laal)
I have always been a big fan and loved to dance to their music. Boney M stands for disco. They took disco to a whole new level. Everyone who grew up in 1980s even Nazia Hasan used to listen to them and their musical influence could be felt in that era. Most artistes of that time consciously and unconsciously mirrored their music aesthetic. I didn’t know he had passed away. That’s really sad. Bobby Farell was the real talent behind the band.
Farhad Humayun (Overload):
It’s really funky quintessential disco music. Their music was the anthem for the people of the 1970s and 1980s. They brought funk music to the forefront. I loved their drumming in particular and the singer who would act in a foolish way on stage. They were a spectacular live act.
I was quite saddened by the news. He was a great show man. I expected that they would release something new and even googled them in anticipation and that’s when I read that Bobby Farrell had passed away.
Omar Ali Khan (Filmmaker)
I never bought their music. The worst form of German disco crap. That guy didn’t even know how to sing! He would just prance around with the microphone. It had to be the worst band in the history of recorded music. Shiekh Amer Hasan, whose shows always had ‘Ma Baker’ as background score, even brought them to Pakistan. Needless to mention I did not attend.
Boney M introduced the disco scene. ABBA and Boney M are my first few references to the disco music.
I totally loved them. I have their music on 24/7 in my car. I’m totally shocked to hear about it (death of Bobby Farrell).
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2011.
Unpredictable weather ends Pakistan vs PM’s XI match in draw
MQM-P urges devolution via constitutional amendments
Sukuk oversubscribed by 16 times
Pakistan team finally issued visas for World Cup in India
Regional players to meet in Russia on Afghanistan
Attack plots the norm since Danish cartoon crisis: experts
Business2 weeks ago
Using technology to hit the right notes
Technology3 weeks ago
a futuristic tech unable to replace smartphones
World4 weeks ago
Saudi Arabia to host extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit
World4 weeks ago
Israel warning to Lebanon sharpens amidst cross-border enmity
Sports3 weeks ago
Mohammad Hafeez replaces Mickey Arthur as Pakistan team’s director
Pakistan3 weeks ago
Use of force by any militia, entity or group ‘unacceptable’: COAS
Pakistan3 weeks ago
Hajj applications open from November 27
Pakistan3 weeks ago
Pakistani teacher wins award for schooling poor children