October 19, 2009

The authorities in Gilgit-Baltistan were not quite done celebrating the proclamation of the Empowerment and Self-governance Ordinance of 20091, when a bomb rocked Gilgit town on September 27 sparking off the latest bout of Shia-Sunni riots.2 Gun battles in the aftermath of the blast have led to the death of more than twelve people, including Raja Ali Ahmed Jan, a prominent leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.3 The incidents, culminating in a short-lived peace in this Pakistani occupied Shia region of Jammu & Kashmir, have led to the detention of several civilians as well two policemen. Some of the arrested are allegedly linked to those who assassinated Deputy Speaker Asad Zaidi and his companions in Gilgit in April 2009.4 Zaidi was the third-most high profile Shia politician, after the revered clerics Agha Ziauddin5 and Allama Hassan Turabi, to become the target of sectarian violence – a menace that has troubled Gilgit-Baltistan socially and economically, since the 1970s. Agha Ziauddin’s death in January 2005 caused widespread clashes leading to a six-month long curfew and emergency, and loss of more than two hundred lives. Allama Turabi, shot dead in Karachi on July 14, 2006, hailed from Baltistan and was the President of Tehrik Jafaria of Pakistan (TJP). His death has been termed as detrimental to Shia rights’ movement in Pakistan.6

In the sequence of events, as one looks back, eighteen people including the Director of the Agriculture Department of Gilgit7 died in 2008 as a result of Shia-Sunni clashes. However, by far, 2009 has seen more sectarian killings than the previous two years put together. It started in the middle of February when two Shias were killed in an attack on a van in Gilgit.8 Then, on June 17, ISI personnel arrested a Shia political activist, Sadiq Ali, and tortured him to death.9 Two months later, when the leader of the banned anti-Shia political party Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan (SSP), Allama Ali Sher Hyderi was killed in Sindh, riots broke out in Gilgit leading to the closure of markets and heavy gun battle between Shias and Sunnis.10 In September, two Sunni Pashtuns and three native Shias were killed in Gilgit while a bus with Shia passengers coming from Baltistan was torched, causing several casualties.11

For centuries, people of Gilgit-Baltistan, professing various religions, co-existed in amicable conditions. It was only after Pakistan’s annexation of these regions in the seventies that anarchy began. First, authorities abrogated the State Subject Rule, the law that until then protected the local demographic composition, and encouraged Pakistani Sunnis to settle in Gilgit town. This illegal government-sponsored settlement scheme damaged the social fabric and provoked religious feuds that continue to simmer. Pakistan created a political vacuum and a law and order crisis, once princely states and time-tested administrative structures of Gilgit-Baltistan were abolished. While Islamabad refused to delegate powers to local Shias by establishing viable a modern political structure, the despotic military rulers maintained ad-hoc policies to govern the region with an iron fist. It was during the same time that Pakistan embarked on its well-rehearsed divide and rule policy to paralyze local society. It exploited ethnic and religious fault-lines to weaken the natives in their demands for genuine political and socio-economic rights. Government-led Shia-Sunni and Shia-Nurbaxshi riots caused acute socio-political polarization in Skardo during the early 1980s. Events like these forced members of the local intelligentsia like Wazir Mehdi, the only Law graduate of Gilgit-Baltistan from Aligarh University, to admit that unification with Ladakh and Kashmir brought culture and civilization to the region while opting for Pakistan has resulted in the arrival of drugs, Kalashnikovs and sectarianism. On occasion, agencies employ religious leaders to fan hatred. In one such incident, intelligence agencies released a Punjabi cleric, Ghulam Reza Naqvi, from prison “to be sent to Gilgit to keep the pot of sectarian violence boiling.” His release was granted after negotiations with SSP, which also got their leader Maulana Mohammad Ludhianivi freed from jail.12 A watershed in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan causing permanent trust deficit was reached in May 1988 when tribal Lashkars, after receiving a nod of approval from General Zia, massacred thousands of Shias in Gilgit and abducted local women. The intention was to undertake demographic change by force in this strategically located region sandwiched between China, the former Soviet Union and India.

The recent killings of Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan may also hinder the election process for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) that will take place in November of 2009. With the newly proclaimed self-governance ordinance, GBLA is expected to legislate on 66 articles pertaining to socio-economic and administrative issues. While local political institutions are evolving towards achieving genuine autonomy, the Sunni minority fears that the Shias would gain a majority in the assembly, which the former sees as a direct attack on its long term political and socio-economic interests in the region. The authorities intend to exploit similar insecurities to consolidate control over Gilgit city, which is not only the largest settlement in the region but also the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan. As the regional ballot is nearing, authorities may resort to electoral engineering to create a hung assembly, thereby stripping GBLA of the mandate to pass laws. The past experience of reorganization of constituencies along Shia-Sunni lines has also enabled Sunni candidates to gain a majority in various constituencies.

Gilgit city is divided into two constituencies – Gilgit-1 and Gilgit-2. Until a decade ago, voters from both constituencies sent Shia members to the local Council. The demographic change has turned the tide in favor of the Sunnis; in 2004, voters of Gilgit city returned Sunni candidates as winners. Shias in Gilgit-1 were further marginalized when the major Shia settlement of Nomal was transferred to Gilgit-4, thereby tilting the population balance. Since then, contests between Shia and Sunni candidates have remained neck to neck.13 The tipping point is the vote bank in the Amphari neighborhood with a mixed Shia-Sunni population where sectarian polarization will help the Sunni candidate gain a lead. Likewise, in Gilgit-2, the settlement of Pathans and Punjabis has changed the demography and this one-time Peoples Party (PPP) stronghold supported Hafiz Rehman of PML in the 2004 elections, which he won by a small margin of 500 votes.14 The voters’ list released recently shows more than a 80 per cent increase in voters’ numbers in Gilgit-1 (from 28,146 to 47,835) and Gilgit-2 (from 34,517 to 62,048) in just five years.15 Of these, a majority are Pakistani settlers who will impact election results in favor of Sunni candidates. The government is planning to increase the number of GBLA seats after the November elections and the above-mentioned additional voters in Gilgit city will lead to an out of proportion representation for Sunnis in GBLA. Such interference from Pakistan will only lead to further sectarian clashes and deaths.

Although sniper shooting has remained the primary method of sectarian killings, owing to Taliban influences bomb blasts are also becoming common. In May 2009, a bomb blast occurred in Baltistan, which led to the arrest of two Sunnis and recovery of explosive-making material and hand grenades.16 Later in July, a bomb was hurled at Bagrot Hostel, Gilgit, killing two and injuring several other Shia students.17 In April 2009, an Al Qaeda member, Abdullah Rehman, threatened to bomb a four-star hotel in Baltistan.18 Many Taliban who escaped from Swat and adjoining areas found shelter among Sunni extremists in Gilgit.19 Analysts fear that locals may benefit from the Taliban expertise in the field of bomb and suicide jacket making. Local youth is also susceptible to converting to the extremist Islamic ideology and joining the suicide bomber club as a result of Taliban influences. The fact that more than 300 suspected terrorists were expelled from Gilgit in October 2008 highlights fears that the Taliban presence in Gilgit-Baltistan is widespread.20 Successful Talibanization of Gilgit-Baltistan means more Shia deaths and continued arrival of Taliban in large hordes, which will hasten demographic change and hurt local cultural identity and ethnic solidarity. The ongoing military operation in Waziristan against Taliban and Al Qaeda may also create greater problems for Gilgit-Baltistan as Shia soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment will be in direct confrontation with those who perpetuated the Shia genocide in Gilgit in 1988

Notes:

  1. 1. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KI16Df01.html
  2. 2. http://www.thenews.com.pk/updates.asp?id=87717
  3. 3. http://pamirtimes.net/2009/09/28/pml-leader-raja-ali-ahmad-jan-shot-dead-in-konodas-gilgit/
  4. 4. http://pamirtimes.net/2009/04/21/asad-zaidi-deputy-speaker-nala-shot-dead-in-gilgit/
  5. 5. http://pakistantimes.net/2005/01/14/top1.htm
  6. 6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allama_Hassan_Turabi#Early_life
  7. 7. http://hunzatimes.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/five-of-a-family-killed-in-gilgit-attack-updated-news-news/
  8. 8. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40756234671
  9. 9. http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2009/3193/
  10. 10. http://pamirtimes.net/2009/08/17/violent-protests-in-gilgit-over-murder-of-ali-sher-hyderi/
  11. 11. http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/pamir-times/854fb8cae3214331a32604745d595c27
  12. 12. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006%5C05%5C21%5Cstory_21-5-2006_pg3_1
  13. 13. http://www.ciaonet.org/wps/icg449/icg449.pdf (pp:16)
  14. 14. http://pakistantimes.net/2004/10/14/top2.htm
  15. 15. http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=87988&Itemid=2
  16. 16. http://dardistannews.wordpress.com/2009/05/
  17. 17. http://pamirtimes.net/2009/05/23/bomb-blast-at-hostel-in-gilgit-city/
  18. 18. http://weeklybaang.blogspot.com/2009/04/weekly-baang-karachi-voloum-02-issue-08_3275.html
  19. 19. http://dardistannews.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/taliban-hiding-in-gilgit-baltistan-operations-in-gb-asian-human-rights-commission-press-release/
  20. 20. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/nwfp/300-suspected-people-ex
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Shaheryar Ali

It was a pleasant evening and I was conversing with a progressive intellectual of Pakistan who was a Marxist revolutionary during the revolutionary times and now is a billionaire who runs an empire of NGOs through out Pakistan.  After the collapse of Soviet Union it was quite easy for these “revolutionary” intellectuals who literarily had no roof over their heads to sell their skill and talent to the international donors, a slight twist of language which converted “bourgeoisie” into elites did the trick and now most of them are richer than fellows of traditional propertied classes who were once their main declared enemy.

My dear friend was deeply distressed over the latest developments in Pakistan. The epic drama of entrenching and hostage taking in the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army in the Garrison town of Rawalpindi had pushed him beyond the limit. Playing with his glass of red wine which he had brought from France where he went to attend a conference on “Poverty alleviation”, he said to me, “Your country will become Afghanistan, this conflict will continue for at least 20 more years”. “They entered the GHQ. Killed a brigadier and took men hostage remained there for 24 hours” he continued. “It’s the damn headquarter, the heart of our defense establishment, can any one imagine such an incompetence? Where were the mighty ISI and MI” he kept lamenting. “The state of our state has been exposed in front of the whole world, our guardian cannot guard themselves” he sipped his wine, which perhaps didn’t soothed him at all. “Did you hear that press conference by Nawaz Sharif?” he asked me.

Whats there to listen? I said “Lier Lier bloody lier , he is a damn bloody lier” he threw away the glass. His sculptured face though showed the shadow of age but held its old mystique. His cheeks were now the colour of wine he was drinking. I wanted to remind him of his empire’s support of Judicial movement and his praises of “progressive Shahbaz

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Sharif” and his great administrative skills. These skills are clearly evident from Aata to Sugar crisis and attacks on Police Training center, which has become a ritual of the sort by the terrorists. I wanted to remind him about his praises of Sharif’s principle stand on “judiciary”. “Did you by any chance manage to read the decision of Lahore high court on the petition challenging the arrangement of leasing thousands of acres of land in Seriki southern Punjab to Saudi Arabia?” I asked him. “Yar is that the issue?” Southern Punjab is being talibanized , you know its become the den, I have just seen the mighty complex they are building in Bahawalpur.” He informed me. Yes I know, from Taank and DI khan, they enter Bakher and from there spread to whole Seriki wasiab, there are sleeper cells in Kabirwala , Mianchannu , Multan, they have been  piling up explosives for more than a year now. One depot of theirs exploded accidentally in Mianchannu demolishing the entitle village, I know whats going on in Bahawalpur, I also know why in certain mosques in this entire region study circles of university students are being conducted these days., I also know once again slogans of “Kaffir Kaffir Shia Khaffir” are being visible on the walls of this region” I said.

“And you still want to bash the judiciary instead of highlighting the real issue” he asked me. I thought about the state of distress my elder friend was in, the dream this generation saw of equality and change which shattered in front of them; they changed the course, compromising with western powers they took up the agenda of democracy, reformism and secularism, which too was failing in front of them. Taliban appeared as a ghost from their past to haunt them. “I am highlighting the real issue, though you may not acknowledge it” I commented. “You were also carried away by your dear friend Aitzaz Ahsan’s poetry—- Adel bina jamhoor na ga” I said sarcastically. “I am bashing judiciary but what Ali Ahmad Kurd is doing?” now the “azad manish judges are pharaohs eh? I took a sip from my glass and continued , “problem is my friend, you don’t have to attend namaz-e-janaza of murdered Bloch leaders, every second day in Quetta and face the angry eyes of Baloch nationalists who supported the judicial movement believing Ali Ahmad Kurd and Aitzaz Ahsan that it will result in rule of law” I said . “You don’t have to go through that ordeal every second day but Ali Ahmad Kurd

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

has too, he has to answer those in Quetta for those the murderous character of this state was not transformed into a Matriarchal one as Aitzaz Ahsan promised”. I went on. “and as for the dreams of Jinnah’s Pakistan and secular revolution you guys were bringing in imamat of Aitzaz Ahsan, General Hamid Gul and Qazi Hussein Ahmad, I just want to ask you why every sectarian monster incarcerated in Punjab has been released  in the past few months, the same monsters who are now entrenching in southern Punjab”. I asked him.

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

“One can’t accept an institution of a state to transcend the ideological boundaries of the state, they have a limited operative space Sherry” his face became redder. “ahan than what was the fuss all about my friend? What was the nonsense about revolutions and long marches, what was all that, last time I checked its called de-contextualization, you guys misled the public opinion exhausted the energy of the people to bring change and pushed them into disillusionment”. My voice raised a little and he winced. I helped myself to bar and put some orange juice in the glass and splashed a liberal amount of Vodka in it. I gave the glass to my friend; this will be soothing I told him. “The link between Punjabi sectarian organizations and Al Qaida has long been established. They were the first to join Al Qaida in Pakistan; they are the most advance tendency of extremism in Pakistan. They have demonstrated their ability by attacking Mumbai, GHQ and ISI instillations, why than they were being released by judiciary?”  I asked him. “You know Lahore High Court has made United Nation and Government of Pakistan ban on LeT practically ineffective. Now they have ordered the government to withdraw all cases against Hafiz Muhammed Saeed. Before that they released many people of other sectarian organizations , Supreme court of  Pakistan released Molana Aziz the monster of Lal Masid and he toured the whole southern Punjab with police escort instigating jihad. Only in Taunsa 300 burqa clad girls with strips of “Sharia or death” around their heads got their names registered with Aziz, this happened with the chants of “Jan Jan Taliban” now I was angry. “I hope Junaid Jumshaid and Aitzaz Ahsan will release a joint album of “Jaan Jaan Taliban and Riyasat ho gi maa ke jesi—adal bina jumhoor na ho ga” I taunted him.

“The judiciary in NWFP is giving similar concessions to Sufi Muhammed, his sons who were combatants in Swat were released what non sense is this? You people want more bloodshed in Swat? “Half a dozen or more poor human beings were burned alive in Gojra, the city PML-N chief, the police and these sectarian thugs burned people alive, our restored judiciary which was supported by NGOs and Human Rights brigade instead of acting on behalf of victims supported Blasphemy laws, the most honorable chief justice pledged to protect the Blasphemy law and to protect Pakistan from “conspiracies of Hindus and Jews” that according to the news paper reports” I told him. “Do you people have any decency left? Now you are crying over talibanization? You want me to curse Fazal-ul-reham and Zardari and mullahs, my dear friend you people are equally responsible. You brought back right wing partisans in judiciary and they have purged every liberal one” I continued.

Vodka had done the trick, my friend was now calm. “Ghulam Rasool!” he called his servant and clapped. “Yes Sir” he said. “Start the stereo”  “Janab what will you like to hear” he asked. My friend closed his eyes for few minutes and than said “Ub ke hum bichre tu shahid kabhi khabo mein millen— Sherry baba likes Ahmad Fraz” he told him and smiled. Servant knew well enough and soon the room was echoing with the voice of Hussain Hazervi.

“Wazirstan mein operation shuru ho gaya “the servant informed us. “Very good” he said. I had already read the International Crisis Group’s report on the expected failure of the operation and Army’s pact with two Taliban groups so was rather worried! “You havnt learned anything” I said. I took a big gulp from my glass and started listening to the wonderful ghazal

Nasha bherta he sharabe’n jub sharbo’n mein mile’n. But my nasha was already gone——-

From the BBC

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies,” he said.

“We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the [Pakistani intelligence service] ISI and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target.”

A close associate of Pakistan’s most wanted man, Baitullah Mehsud, who was reportedly killed in a US drone attack, has told the BBC he is alive.

Commander Hakimullah Mehsud said reports of the Taliban leader’s death three days ago in an attack on a house in South Waziristan were “ridiculous”.

The US said on Friday it was increasingly confident its forces had managed to kill Mr Mehsud.

Neither side has provided evidence to back up their claims so far.

Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday he was “pretty certain” Baitullah Mehsud had been killed.

The White House described Baitullah Mehsud as "a murderous thug"

The White House described Baitullah Mehsud as "a murderous thug"

But Commander Hakimullah Mehsud – who some analysts suggest may be positioning himself to succeed Baitullah Mehsud – told the BBC the reports of his death were the work of US and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies,” he said.

“We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the [Pakistani intelligence service] ISI and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target.”

He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.

‘Safer’

The missile fired by the US drone hit the home of the Taliban chief’s father-in-law, Malik Ikramuddin, in the Zangarha area, 15km (9 miles) north-east of Ladha, at around 0100 on Wednesday (1900 GMT Tuesday).

On Friday, another of Baitullah Mehsud’s aides told the Associated Press by telephone that his leader had been killed along with his second wife in the attack.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, described Baitullah Mehsud as “a murderous thug”, saying the Pakistani people would be safer if he was dead.

“There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead,” he told reporters.

South Waziristan is a stronghold of the Taliban chief, who declared himself leader in late 2007, grouping together some 13 factions in the northwest of the country.

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, he came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad – in which the security forces confronted and forcibly ejected militant students who were mostly loyal to him.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan

Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan has also denied the news of Mehsood’s death, see the story at BBC Urdu. Please also see this analysis by Haroon Rashid

Its Shameful the way Pakistani media has destroyed the Objectivity. Shame on those pro establishment pseudo secular clowns who are calling a “unconfirmed” new “Confirmed”. We dont know weather he is dead or Alive, we will only believe when we will see an evidence.

SA

Post Credit: Let Us Build Pakistan Blog

[The Mullah-Military (ISI-Taliban) Alliance Remains Intact?]

11:16am UK, Monday August 03, 2009

Alex Crawford, Asia correspondent

Sky News has obtained exclusive and conclusive proof that one of Pakistan’s most feared Taliban leaders is alive – contradicting government claims that he was killed months ago.

l-umer-khalid

The Pakistani Government said Khalid died months ago

Umer Khalid, who is also known as Abdul Wali, was thought to have died in the Pakistani government’s crackdown against extremists.

But our pictures show him not only alive and well, but with four hostages whom he is threatening to kill unless the authorities free Taliban prisoners they are holding.

Khalid allowed himself to be filmed to disprove the official claims and apparently to initiate negotiations with the authorities.

The Interior Minister Rehamn Malik told reporters in January that Khalid was among those killed in an attack on militant extremists in the Mohmand Agency, part of Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The claims were denied by the Taliban at the time.

The footage – which was filmed within the last few days – shows Khalid relaxing and smiling with a group of young, armed men who form his fighting group.

He says he has 35,000 fighters under his control but this figure is impossible to verify.

Sky’s cameraman is allowed to film the militant leader signing a paper giving his access to the four hostages.

The four hostages are sitting together in a line still wearing their security uniforms.

They belong to the Frontier Constabulary, which is the security force operating in the tribal areas.

Richard Holbrooke testifies at the House Foreign Relations Committee in 2007

US Special envoy, Richard Holbrooke

One of the men addresses the camera and says they have been held for three months.

He appeals to the government to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for their freedom.

Khalid tells Sky News that he has already killed two of his hostages but is willing to free the remaining four if five Taliban prisoners are let out of custody.

He appears to indicate he is ready to negotiate with the authorities.

The pictures of the Taliban leader coincide with concerns voiced by the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan over the success of the military operation in the Swat Valley.

Richard Holbrooke said he was not sure whether the operation had achieved its aim of driving the Taliban out of the former tourist spot.

There are increasing worries that the militants may have just shifted to other areas in the country or gone underground.

Holbrooke is the first high-profile member of the Obama administration to voice doubts over the operation in public.

The new US administration has up until now given great support to Pakistan’s attempts to curb extremism in the country.

The pictures showing Umer Khalid alive are likely to heap further embarrassment on the government.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Taliban-Leader-Alive-Umer-Khalid-Not-Dead-Despite-Pakistani-Governments-Claims/Article/200908115352539

We are publishing here the analysis of Lahore attacks as “state crisis” of Pakistan. Our readers know that we have been persistent on our position that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of “organic decay” of the post-colonial and Neo-fascist state of Pakistan. We have always maintained a sharp distance from the elitist perspective in vogue in certain secular/ex-left quarters of Pakistan on war on terror which is nothing but a blind drum beating for United States imperialism. We have also been critical of “pro jamat and pro Sharif Left” who is blindly following the Petty-bourgeois and bourgeois agenda in Pakistan. This analysis by International Marxist Tendency is a must read by all progressive Pakistanis. Its one of the most important pieces of work which has emerged on the present situation in Pakistan.

Pakistani section of IMT also held its annual congress in Lahore which is the largest congress of communists in Pakistan. The advance theoretical work which has emerged from this congress is very encouraging. We render our solidarity to the revolutionaries of Pakistan.

Shaheryar Ali

Lahore Terrorist mayhem shows crisis of Pakistani state

IMT correspondent in Lahore

Monday, 30 March 2009

At half past eight this morning (March 30) terrorists used machine guns and grenades to launch a savage attack on a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore. The police and special forces remain locked in pitched battle with the attackers who are hidden inside various buildings at the site, as emergency services are scrambling to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.

Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.
Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.

According to private television channels at least 20 policemen are dead and 150 injured. Two militants have also been killed according to Rangers personnel. “The number of killed is at least 20,” police sub inspector Amjad Ahmad told AFP outside the police training ground in Manawan. However, given the murderous crossfire as police attempted to flush out the terrorists inside the building, the death count may turn out to be much higher.

The incident took place as trainees were participating in a morning parade. Eyewitness accounts estimate some 10 militants carried out the attack, and at least 11 explosions have been heard so far. According to reports, some of the attackers entered the academy wearing police uniforms.

The location of the attack is significant, since Manawan is close to the road that leads to the Indian border. Clearly, the implication is meant to be drawn that the hand of India is behind this latest outrage. In the same way, some sections here tried to pin the blame for the recent killings of Sri Lankan cricketers (also in Lahore) on India, allegedly as retaliation for the Mumbai atrocity.

However, there is a far more likely explanation, and it points an accusing finger at a source far nearer to home. Yesterday the Pakistan authorities conveyed their “concerns” through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.

“We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn on Saturday. A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an “appropriate level”.

What did Obama announce that so worries Islamabad? The US President announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, the passage of legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and a commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no “blank cheques” for Pakistan.

What does this mean? It means that, although Washington sees Pakistan as a vital piece in its strategy to fight the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ambiguous role of the Pakistan authorities and in particular the role of the Pakistan secret services (the ISI), a shadowy state within a state, which is well known to have close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is secretly protecting and encouraging terrorist organizations for its own sinister purposes.

The response of the Pakistan foreign office was guarded because this is an explosive issue and one that lies at the heart of the crisis in the Pakistan state. Sources in the foreign office stated: “There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking.” They have good reason to keep silent!

American frustration was shown by recent declarations by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an “existential threat” to Pakistan itself. Gates was merely saying what everybody has always known: that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with jihadi terrorist groups “for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,” as he told Fox News Sunday.

“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,” Gates said. “They can count on us and they don’t need that hedge,” he said, citing the ISI’s links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The Pentagon chief’s comments came after President Barack Obama on Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

“He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we’re in it until we’re successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,” Gates added.

America is losing in Afghanistan

It is now an open secret that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. Western casualties are constantly rising. Obama is trying to extricate the US forces from Iraq in order to reinforce the US military presence in Afghanistan. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: “The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. […] And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.”

Obama is now exerting intense pressure to extract more troops from its unwilling European allies. Washington is also demanding more civilian experts and police trainers. But no matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the likelihood of victory remains a mirage. With every bomb dropped on an Afghan village the hatred of the foreign invader grows more intense. The government of Kabul is seen as a puppet government of collaborators and corrupt gangsters. On the other hand, the Taliban have an endless supply of recruits from Pakistan, plenty of money from opium smuggling and secure havens in the tribal areas across the border with Pakistan.

This explains the public attacks on the ISI from Washington, which have provoked angry denials from the Pakistan State Security. The fact is that the ISI was actively encouraged by Washington to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in the past, when these reactionary bandits were used to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This encouraged sections in the tops of the Pakistan army (and especially the ISI) in the belief that they would have a free hand in Afghanistan, which, in effect, would be under Pakistan’s control. They developed the notorious theory of “defence in depth”, which meant that Afghanistan would serve Pakistan as a kind of fallback position in the event of another war with India (a subject these elements are constantly obsessed with).

Ever since the US imperialists have changed the line and declared war on their former allies, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the ISI and other reactionary elements in the Pakistan General Staff have not concealed their displeasure. They have never abandoned the theory of “defence in depth”, nor their ambitions in Afghanistan. They have never broken their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather the fanaticism to get rich by dirty means.

As Pakistan’s economy collapses and the masses are faced with poverty and hunger, prominent citizens of Pakistan are growing fabulously rich on the proceeds of the black economy, especially the lucrative drug trade. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists are really gangsters and lumpens, linked to the drug mafia and transport mafia that trades in human misery. This is big business on a vast scale, which involves massive corruption that leads all the way up to the top – including the tops of the army. This is the cancer that is gnawing at the entrails of the Pakistan state and destroying it slowly from within. That is why Gates talks about an “existential problem”.

A few months ago, a Pakistani general, Ameer Faisal Alvi, a serving officer in the Pakistan army’s campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan, and head of the elite Special Services Group (Commandos), sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, general Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, denouncing the fact that generals of the Pakistan army were actively collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a result, he was dismissed from the army. After this, he sent another letter to the Chief of Staff, in which he named the generals concerned. It was an act of personal bravery for which he paid a high price. On November 26, 2008 he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Islamabad.

Splits in the state

This explains why the rulers of Pakistan are afraid to talk about certain matters. The rottenness of Pakistan capitalism has extended to the highest levels of the state, army and government, to the extent that it threatens complete breakdown. Last week a US think tank predicted that if something were not done soon, the state could break down in six months! All these events are a striking confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the state that was put forward in the recent congress of The Struggle.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto was an indication of the sinister forces at work in Pakistani society. The western media falsely portray this as the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism”, when in reality these terrorist organizations are small minority groups composed of lumpens and bandits manipulated by the powerful drug mafia and the state. Although it was a lumpen fanatic who pulled the trigger, the real murderers of Benazir Bhutto were the ISI. There is no doubt that the same people were behind the Mumbai atrocity and the killing of the Sri Lanka cricketers. And there is no doubt that the same invisible hand is behind today’s bloody events, which are meant as an answer to the threat from Washington.

The idea that the fundamentalists enjoy massive support in Pakistan society is a blatant lie and a slander against the people of Pakistan. These reactionary gangs were originally created by US imperialism under the brutal Zia dictatorship and were nurtured, financed, armed and trained by the Pakistan state. Without the backing of the ISI they are nothing. That is why the US imperialists are now demanding that the Pakistan government take action against the ISI.

This is very easy to say from the safety of an air-conditioned office in Washington, but not so easy to put into practice on the streets of Islamabad. The ISI is entrenched after decades of a pampered and privileged existence. It is linked by a thousand links with corrupt government officials and politicians at the highest level, to organized crime on a grand scale, to the drug and transport mafia, to the religious fanatics in the madrassas that turn out brainwashed fanatics prepared to act as the murderous instruments of reaction, and to the murky underworld of jihadi terrorism.

Another section of the state has different interests. They are in the pockets of US imperialism, whose interests they serve like a dog licking the hand of its master. They bow and scrape before their bosses in Washington, who treat Pakistan as if it were America’s backyard. The conflict at the heart of these two antagonistic wings of the ruling class is explained by antagonistic material interests.

As far as the working class of Pakistan is concerned, there is nothing to choose between these two rival groups of gangsters. The Pakistan Marxists will fight US imperialism and oppose its criminal actions in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Pukhtunkhwa. But we will do so with our own methods and under our own banner, which is not the black flag of fundamentalist reaction but the red flag of socialist revolution.

Only by taking power into their own hands can the working class overthrow the rotten, diseased state of the exploiters and build a new state – a democratic workers’ state in which the lives and destinies of the people will be determined by the masses themselves. That is the only way forward to lead Pakistan out of the present nightmare and into the realm of socialism and freedom.

Lahore, March 30, 2009

This was published in The New Yorker long time back in 2001. I remember reading it and forgetting it till I was reminded of it again by Rabia’s Grand Trunk Road. Takhalus has written a wonderful note which deals with cyclic history of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan. Most of the discourse emerging on Taliban and Pashtun issue from Pakistan unfortunately is plagued by the establishment’s smoke screen of “secular” vs “religious” divide. A position which was proxy of that of United States War on Terror: Bellum Justum to preserve the Post Enlightenment Western Civilization from barbarians. Neither United States nor Pakistani position is based on Truth; the result is multifold increase in terrorism since the start of War on Terror and increase in religious fanaticism since General Musharraf’s policy of Enlightened Moderation. The real cause of Taliban problem is Pakistan’s obsession with Strategic depth and her continuous interference in Afghanistan plus the dispossession and partition of Pashtuns by British imperialism and their heirs the Pakistani establishment. I am posting this old article because it gives a “historical perspective of Pashtun Issue” one which is lacking in most analysis which is coming forward. This article is a must read by all Pakistani , to know what they have been doing to the Pashtuns.  Unfortunately modern poison of biologism is present in this article and should be ignored.

Shaheryar Ali.

Letter from Pakistan: Pashtun Code

Isabel Hilton

I arrived in Pakistan on a warm afternoon in October, and several days later I set out by car, heading northwest, from the capital, Islamabad, toward the borderlands with Afghanistan and the land of the Pashtun. The American bombing raids had begun a few days before, and from Afghanistan came murky television images, along with messages of fear and despair from civilians and of defiance from the leaders of the Taliban, who were, unbeknownst to most of us at the time, entering a violent endgame. Here, along the border, another drama was being played out, in the passions and politics of the Pashtun people, men and women whose tortured loyalties reflected a mystical attachment to a land that they believed was theirs. Not every Pashtun is an Afghani—a citizen of Afghanistan—but every Pashtun considers himself an Afghan, and the Pashtun have always regarded themselves as the country’s natural rulers. Not only were they prepared to die in support of their claim but many were prepared to do so in the name of a brutal and repressive regime, that of the Taliban.

About sixty miles from Islamabad, I found myself on a bridge, on the Grand Trunk Road to Peshawar. Downstream was the Attock Fort, a spectacular structure with crenellated ochre walls, built in 1581 by the Moghuls, India’s Muslim dynasty, to fortify the Afghan frontier. Upstream was a confluence of two great rivers: the Kabul, which had travelled some two hundred and fifty miles from its source, in the mountains west of the Afghan capital; and the Indus, one of the legendary rivers of Asia, which begins high in the Tibetan Himalayas. The two rivers grudgingly accommodated each other. The Kabul was a sludgy burnt-sugar color, the Indus a brilliant blue-green, like a child’s painting of a mountain stream. Below the confluence, the two colors remained clearly visible, one river with two distinct streams, as though geography as well as history wished to make a point about this place and the boundary that it marks—between the land of the Pashtun and the Punjab, the heartland of Pakistan.

The Pashtun have never taken kindly to boundaries, and even less to boundaries imposed by others. Today, there are thought to be at least twenty million Pashtun, and their territory straddles the borders that the British drew, in the eighteen-nineties, through some of the wildest and least governable terrain on earth. For the British, this area—sometimes referred to as Pashtunistan—represented the extreme edge of the Raj, their greatest colonial territory. Beyond was the kingdom of Afghanistan, a mosaic of ethnic groups which, since 1747, had been ruled by Pashtun kings. As the British expanded their empire into northwest India, they clashed with, but never subjugated, the tribal Pashtun. Twice, they invaded Afghanistan, in 1839 and 1878. Both excursions ended in defeat. By 1893, the British had finally come to see that although they would never conquer the region, it could be made to serve as a convenient buffer between the Raj and the Russian empire.

The job of delineating a border was entrusted to Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India. Durand wrestled with the difficulties of marshalling the unconquerable and disorderly Pashtun on an orderly imperial map. His solution was to cut through their territories, dividing them between the Raj and the kingdom of Afghanistan, in the hope that the Pashtun on his side of the line would go along with the division and allow themselves to be absorbed into the Raj. They did not. In 1901, several uprisings later, the British again admitted defeat.

Their next solution was to treat the Pashtun lands as a second, inner frontier. If they could not be conquered, they could at least be a prickly hedge against intruders. The British sliced off a new province from the settled plains of the Punjab—which they named the North-West Frontier Province—and left the Pashtun tribal belt largely unaccounted for, a loosely administered territory where, all sides acknowledged, the colonial rulers would not attempt to impose their law. The tribal belt exists to this day and remains an ungoverned land. Formally part of Pakistan, in reality it is a spongy no-go area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a land of fierce and complicated tribal loyalties and equally ferocious tribal feuds, of gunrunning, drug dealing, and smuggling, where a nighttime traveller must move in armed convoy and where the only law that prevails is Pashtunwali—the code of the Pashtun. Although history, and outsiders, have tried to divide the Pashtun, they have failed to break the emotional, cultural, and social ties that bind Pashtun communities across this troubled frontier. Roughly half in Pakistan, half in Afghanistan, the Pashtun are as troublesome today to anyone in search of a neat political order as they were when the British contended with this last unsubdued corner of the empire. Their loyalties have never been more in doubt or more important. Are the Pashtun loyal to the Taliban? (The majority of the Taliban are Pashtun.) Are they loyal to Pakistan? Or are they loyal only to themselves? As the battle for Afghanistan makes its way into Pashtun territories, the Pashtun have begun to demand what they see as their historic role—the right to rule Afghanistan. How that demand is answered will help to determine not just the future of the country but the stability of the entire region.

Peshawar, until 1893 the winter capital of Afghanistan, is now a frontier outpost in Pakistan. No longer the small town that served for centuries as a gateway between Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, today it is a noisy, choking, overcrowded city of more than a million people. In its public face, it’s a city of men, heavily bearded and dressed in the loose overshirt and baggy trousers of the traditional shalwar kameez. Variations in color—pale blue, pale green, white, and occasionally light brown—do nothing to dispel the sense of uniformity. Men throng the potholed streets and lounge in doorways while boys hurry alongside the traffic, delivering glasses of green tea on brass trays. Bicycles and donkeys compete for space with tightly packed minibuses, whose last-minute passengers spill onto the roof or hang recklessly off the back. Women are anonymous to the point of invisibility—blue-robed ghosts, threading their way through the bazaar or crouched by the roadside, their children in their laps.

The Pashtun tribal lands around Peshawar are now out of bounds to foreigners. Getting into them has always required a permit, and none are being issued. “It is not safe,” a courteous but implacable Peshawar official told me. “And if we catch you trying to get in,” he added with a friendly smile, “you will be arrested.” The ban had been imposed in the name of security, when the bombing began: tribal emotions were running high, and a foreigner might be attacked on sight. But the controls to the south of Peshawar, I had heard, were not too effective, and I wanted to visit the village of Darra Adam Khel, which is notorious for the small workshops where, since the eighties, tribal gunsmiths have been turning out perfect copies of anything from an M16 to a rocket launcher.

Getting there was going to require a little subterfuge. I bought a woman’s version of the shalwar kameez and wound the wide scarf that comes with it around my head and shoulders, hiding my hair and the lower part of my face. The effect was to render me as anonymous as the women I passed on the street.

With a driver and a guide, I set off south. A few miles out of town, some trucks were stopped at a police post. “Keep your head covered,” the guide said, “and don’t look out of the window.” The police waved us through. We drove along a wide, barren valley, through a landscape dotted with square windowless forts—brick structures with defensive walls more than twenty feet high. They looked medieval, like ancient military towers, but they were family homes—a contemporary architecture of tribal violence. There were slogans painted on the walls. “Jihad is an obligation, like prayer,” one read. “Victory or martyrdom,” another said. “Telephone now for military training.” A number was provided.

At first sight, Darra Adam Khel seemed an unremarkable village—a string of ramshackle single-story houses and one-room shops on a main street. We drove along slowly, not stopping, for fear of my being detected. I scanned the shopwindows, and my guide pointed to small plastic bags containing a blackish substance. “Opium paste,” he said. Crammed into other storefronts was an astonishing range of military hardware—automatic weapons, rifles, shotguns, land mines, even a few rocket launchers. I counted thirty gun shops before my guide warned that I was attracting attention.

We pulled up beside an imposing fortified house—a watchtower was built in one corner—where we saw a young man sitting under a tree, chatting with an elder. My guide exchanged a few words with the man. I kept my face covered. Pashtun hospitality prevailed. He smiled and nodded and approached the car. Like many Pashtun, he had blue eyes and light-brown hair. His name was Wazir Afridi—a name that identified him as a member of the Afridi, one of the most powerful of the Pashtun tribes. He said he was “about thirty.” He was happy to talk about the skills of the local gunsmiths.

“In the bazaar, you can get copies of the most sophisticated weapons,” he said. “You can get copies of a Kalashnikov here—a gun that costs eighty thousand rupees—for twenty thousand,” or a little more than three hundred dollars. But the gunsmiths had stopped making really heavy weapons, he told me. “Five years ago, we decided not to make any more rocket launchers. Now there’s a five-hundred-thousand-rupee fine if anyone disobeys.”

Even before the present crisis, Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, had been trying to rid the country of one of the dangerous legacies of the last Afghan war: the staggering quantities of military hardware left over in the tribal belt. The arrival of modern weaponry in the nineteen-eighties, when there was an abundance of American support for the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, had had an alarming effect on traditional Pashtun tribal feuds. Instead of attacking their local rivals with clubs or flintlock rifles, the Pashtun fought one another with automatic weapons. Carrying automatic weapons was now banned in Peshawar (although I saw dozens, mostly slung over the shoulders of bodyguards), and a strict practice of licensing had been implemented to discourage the manufacture of new ones. As a result, the gun trade in Darra Adam Khel was depressed.

“This is our business,” Wazir Afridi said. “No government has had any say here since 1901. This is a tribal area. We have our own traditions and laws. The business was flourishing until Musharraf imposed his ban.”

Wasn’t it dangerous, I asked, to have so many weapons? Wazir Afridi shook his head. “We have the lowest rate of gun-related deaths here. Now we negotiate disputes in the jirga—the ad-hoc Pashtun tribal council that operates on every social level, from the village to the nation.

In Peshawar, I had met a Pashtun tribal leader named Lateef Afridi, who told me that his father, two of his brothers, and two of his cousins had been killed in tribal disputes. “When the Pashtun have a family feud, they now blast each other with land mines,” Lateef Afridi said. (After his father died, Afridi discovered that he’d inherited some missiles—”Apparently, my father had bought them, but I’ve never bothered to pick them up.”) These disputes are part of Pashtun life, but they disappear in the face of an external threat. The Pashtun have a saying: “Me against my brother, my brother and me against our cousins, we and our cousins against the enemy.” It was a common enemy, I was told repeatedly, that accounted, in part, for the Pashtun support of the Taliban. The Pashtun had fought the Soviet Union when it occupied Afghanistan. They had fought for control among themselves and with warlords of other ethnic groups after the Soviet troops left. When the Taliban came to power, in the mid-nineties, the Pashtun acknowledged them as tribal brothers. And, now that the United States had attacked them, the Pashtun were rallying to their defense. I saw evidence of this everywhere in Peshawar: there were Pashtun roadside stalls for collecting money and blood for the Taliban, and I was regularly harangued in the street by Pashtun men who proclaimed themselves ready to join the jihad against the United States. According to Wazir Afridi, fifty thousand men from his district had said they were willing to fight. The whole area, he told me, is backing the Taliban, “their Pashtun and Muslim brothers.”

At the time—the bombing was in its seventh day—no one I spoke to in Peshawar could imagine that the Taliban would lose. The United States was seen as just another foreign aggressor, and, like the Soviet Union, it, too, would be chased off. Now, with the Taliban in collapse, tribal interests are again paramount. The Pashtun are determined to reëstablish their rule—in whatever form it may take.

Violence in Pashtun society, the American anthropologist Cherry Lindholm has argued, is learned in infancy. Lindholm spent nine months living in the female quarters of a Pashtun household in Swat, in northern Pakistan. Hers is a rare study of life behind a family compound’s walls, and her descriptions of the domestic culture, published in the collection “Frontier Perspectives,” are hair-raising. Pashtun family members, she writes, are engaged in a permanent and often violent struggle for power in which only two human types are recognized—the weak and the strong. “The strong survive, take power, and gain prestige,” Lindholm writes, because they learn from their earliest years the value of “aggression, egotism, pride, and fearlessness,” and must be “adept at the art of manipulation and intrigue, and above all trust no one.” Domestic violence is regarded as the main entertainment of village life, and women routinely display bruises and scars they have received at the hands of their husbands. (The term for a husband who does not beat his wife is “a man with no penis.”)

Adam Nayyar, a fifty-two-year-old former nuclear chemical engineer, who abandoned his career when Pakistan began trying to build the bomb, in the mid-seventies, is now an ethnomusicologist and an expert on Pashtun culture. I spoke with him at his apartment in Islamabad. “Pashto is the only language I know in which the word for ‘cousin’ is the same as the word for ‘enemy,’ “ he said. I had asked him to explain Pashtunwali—the code that has regulated Pashtun society for centuries and which, I had been told, was one of the components of the Taliban philosophy.

Pashtunwali, Nayyar said, is based on the absolute obligations of hospitality, sanctuary, and revenge. The Pashtun draw their identity from Islam—they believe they are direct descendants of Qais, a companion of Muhammad— but their interpretation of Islamic law arises out of their own tribal code. “Under Muslim law, for instance, girls can inherit,” Nayyar said. “But women never get anything from the Pashtun.” In tribal Pashtun society, he told me, three things are essential. “They all begin with ‘z’ in Pashto: zan, zar, and zamin—women, gold, and land. Possessing them is essential to Pashtunness—to doing Pashtun as opposed to being Pashtun. And if you lose them—if you lose your land, or your women are dishonored—you’re out. There is no caste system, so there is no reëntry further down the social scale. You are just out. You end up as a night watchman in Karachi or something.”

Nayyar recalled witnessing a marital dispute being settled by a local jirga in the early seventies. A soldier had discovered that his wife was having an affair with a tailor and had called for a tribal council to impose punishment for the injury to his honor. The jirga ordered that the tailor and the errant wife be tied to a tree and shot. Everyone went to watch. “I remarked afterward to a Pashtun friend that it had been horrible,” Nayyar recalled. “He agreed. It was a shame for the tree, he said.”

The Taliban took Pashtunwali to extremes far beyond the tribal norm. Culturally, they were Pashtun, but their ideology was more fundamentalist: they were uncompromising in their aim to return society to the purity of the seventh century, the era of Muhammad. Their approach to women was fanatically severe. Purdah was the traditional Pashtun practice, but the Taliban policy of publicly beating women who were deemed to walk too noisily was not.

Islam is, of course, fundamental to Pakistan’s identity. The Muslim faith was the reason that Pakistan came into being as a country, separate from India, with its Hindu majority, when the British left in 1947. Partition—the painful separation from India of its former province of Sind, along with the Muslim districts of Punjab and Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, and Baluchistan—precipitated savage communal violence on both sides of what was to become the border; millions of Muslims poured into Pakistan as Hindus fled in the other direction. It was a chaotic and unpromising beginning for a state that was already riven with social and ethnic divisions. Pakistan was not a state that most of the Pashtun wanted to join. Like the Baluchis and the Sindhis, they were fearful of losing their identity in this new country dominated by the Punjabis, who made up more than half the population. The Pashtun resisted, as they had resisted the British. The story of that resistance is one that successive Pakistani governments have tried to erase, but which, I discovered, has lived on in the Pashtun nationalism of the region.

Badsha Khan was a Pashtun leader in the twenties who promoted Pashtun nationalism. He doesn’t feature in many history books. I learned of him from photographs I saw in offices and homes around Peshawar. He founded a political movement, the Khudai Khidmatgars, to fight for independence from the British. The movement’s popular name—the Red Shirts—came from the members’ uniforms, which were dyed with red brick dust. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Badsha Khan believed that nonviolence was the most effective weapon against colonial rule, and although he was a devout Muslim, he mistrusted the political influence of the maulanas, or Islamic scholars. The reforms he promoted—education, sanitation, road building—were secular.

Despite the Pashtun propensity for violence, Badsha Khan’s message took hold. Thousands of followers joined his nonviolent movement, campaigning to get rid of the British and win autonomy for Pashtunistan within the Indian state. But, when the British left, an independent Pashtunistan was not on offer. In 1947, a referendum proposed a choice only between India and Pakistan. Badsha Khan called for a boycott, and just seven per cent of the population of the North-West Frontier Province voted. Nevertheless, the Pakistan option was deemed to have been approved. The Red Shirts were branded traitors, the movement was banned, and their long fight against the colonizers was all but eradicated from the public record.

One evening, I went to uncover the traces of the Red Shirts’ movement. In a mansion two hours’ drive from Peshawar, I sat on a deep veranda, as servants offered tea and cakes, and chatted with Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Badsha Khan’s daughter-in-law.

Badsha Khan and his son, Abdul Wali Khan, she told me, had paid a price for their resistance: they had spent many years in prison. But this did little to persuade them to abandon their Pashtun identity. As Wali Khan once put it, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.” When Badsha Khan died, in 1988, hostilities between the Soviets and the mujahideen in southern Afghanistan ceased for a day so that his funeral cortège could travel safely to Jalalabad. In the mid-eighties, Wali Khan had founded a political party, the Awami National Party, which campaigned for a secular democracy. Now he was an old man, too sick on the evening I called to meet with visitors. He was not too sick, though, to have enraged local religious leaders and their Pashtun warrior faithful by declaring his support for the United States’ war against the Taliban.

The people of the tribal belt, his wife told me, were sympathetic to their fellow-Afghans—their Pashtun brothers. But that did not necessarily mean that they supported the Taliban. There was, not surprisingly, a division within the Pashtun. There were those who, stirred by a small group of religious parties that were promoting hard-line Islamism, wished to fight alongside the Taliban and had denounced her husband as a traitor. And there were those who, like Wali Kahn, argued for the separation of politics and religion. It had been the same in the eighties, she said, when the Awami National Party had criticized the holy war against the Russians. The Party followers had seen it as a war between superpowers—between the Soviets and the Americans—and not as an Islamic cause. “We were called kafirs,” she said. “Nonbelievers. Indian agents, Russian agents.” She shrugged. “But this is the way we think.”

The military has ruled Pakistan for twenty-six of its fifty-four years, alternating power with a series of corrupt and inept civilian governments. It ruled the country during the war against the Soviets, in the rather sinister person of General Zia ul-Haq. And it rules the country now, in the person of General Musharraf. On a mundane level, Pakistan does not look like a militarized society: except when demonstrations are anticipated, you do not see soldiers on every corner. Nevertheless, the country is shaped and dominated by military concerns.

Chief among these concerns is a preoccupation with Kashmir. Pakistanis believe that Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, should have become part of their country at Partition. Pakistan and India have fought two inconclusive wars over Kashmir since then, and in the last decade, Pakistan claims, seventy thousand Kashmiris have died in rebellion against what they describe as an Indian occupation. It is an open secret that Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence wing—the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.)—has sponsored armed groups in Kashmir to support the long-running popular resistance. It is also well established that the I.S.I. was a backer of the holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. For Musharraf—who, after September 11th, aligned himself with the United States against the Taliban—the unwanted repercussions of the I.S.I.’s involvement in both regions derive directly from policies pursued by General Zia ul-Haq.

General Zia seized power in 1977 and soon thereafter the man he had overthrown, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged. In April, 1979, during the Carter Presidency, the United States suspended economic and military aid to Pakistan and introduced a number of sanctions. Eight months later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in an attempt to save its tottering Communist regime. Zia now saw enemies on all sides: to the west, a militant Shiite revolution in Iran; to the south and east, India; and now, next door, in Afghanistan, India’s ally the Soviet Union. Pakistan needed to have a friendly government in Afghanistan, Zia decided. Islam was the flag he raised to rally resistance against the Soviets.

Suddenly, Zia’s fortunes were transformed. Ronald Reagan was now in office, and the sanctions fell away. The Reagan Administration provided $3.2 billion in cash and arms, despite Zia’s nuclear program and human-rights abuses, and Peshawar became the hub of the anti-Soviet jihad, awash with money, spies, refugees, and arms.

In the recruiting grounds for the jihad—the Afghan refugee camps, which were rapidly spreading around Peshawar—young men whose tribal links had been ruptured became ready targets for a fundamentalist message. In that decade of easy money, hundreds of madrasahs—the all-male religious schools that teach a particularly severe and absolutist version of Islam—were set up in the North-West Frontier Province, offering Afghan refugees and Pakistani militants free education, food, and military training. The jihad also attracted thousands of international recruits—including young Saudi fighters such as Osama bin Laden—who moved to Peshawar and brought with them more men, more money, and an even more militant form of Islam, Wahabbism.

Asfundiyar Khan, the grandson of the Pashtun leader Badsha Khan, whom I met in Islamabad ten days after the United States began bombing, described to me what the time of the anti-Soviet jihad was like. Asfundiyar, who is fifty, is the president of the Awami National Party. He was first arrested at a political meeting when he was thirteen, and has been in and out of prison ever since.

“The Afghans have never accepted foreign domination,” Asfundiyar told me. “But their resistance had always been in the cause of nationalism. Zia changed that. Backed by the United States and its millions of dollars and its Stinger missiles, Zia based a war against Soviet intervention on religion.” There had been, until then, an acknowledged division between mosque and state, between the maulanas and political power. Civilian politicians paid homage to religious ideas, but there were so many versions of Islam that any attempt to elevate a single dogma to a prime political position led to conflict with rival followers of the Prophet. Politicians had learned to tread carefully. But, when Zia seized power, that changed. “Every Afghan refugee fleeing the war had to go to one of the fundamentalist groups for tents, food, weapons,” Asfundiyar said. “People were pushed into the arms of the fundamentalists.” The Awami National Party, he pointed out, is secular, liberal, and democratic. “You can’t imagine what we went through, trying to keep it going, as the United States was funding the jihad. I remember sitting with a cousin in a bank when a man came in to cash a check for twelve and a half million dollars. This was the kind of man you would never have shaken hands with. How could I fight that kind of money?”

He recalled how marginal figures were changed overnight into powerful politicians. “Like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,” he said. Hekmatyar was a radical Afghan Islamist who was picked by Zia’s I.S.I. agents, and the C.I.A., to help lead the new holy war. “When Hekmatyar was made a leader, he had scarcely one bicycle and one bedroom to his name,” Asfundiyar said. He mentioned Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, another mujahideen patronized by the I.S.I. “Sayyaf used to sell socks out of a basket in the bazaar. Suddenly, he and all these other leaders had Land Cruisers and Pajeros. None of them had a political organization inside Afghanistan. They had private armies, built in Peshawar with American dollars.”

Asfundiyar’s recollections reminded me of a question posed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser. “What was more important in the world view of history?” he asked. “The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

“We used to be a moderate Muslim society,” Sarfraz Khan, a Pashtun professor of Central Asian history, whom I met at the University of Peshawar, told me. “In 1978, when there were moves in Afghanistan toward land reform, literacy campaigns, the emancipation of women, some of the Pashtun here in Peshawar, in the intelligentsia, thought it a good thing. But others—who mattered—were afraid it might happen here, too.” He recalled a time when Afghani girls went to school, when women were seen without the veil, when television was a normal part of life. “Then the fundamentalists were promoted in every sphere. There was persecution—careers were blighted, businesses ruined, people were killed.” Many liberal Afghan exiles who opposed the jihad were murdered in Peshawar. He grimaced. “I was pushed out of my job in 1984,” he said. “People like me—who criticized the jihad, hundreds, thousands of us—were persecuted. You had to go into hiding. Our state was doing it, and you, the West, were pumping money in.”

Zia had hoped that his holy war would lead to a government in Afghanistan that was friendly to Pakistan. But he never saw the outcome: he died in a mysterious plane crash, on August 17, 1988. Six months later, the Russians conceded defeat and withdrew, and the Americans lost interest. The money stopped. And, with the Russian enemy gone, the mujahideen fought among themselves. By the following year, twenty-five thousand Afghanis had died, and the country sank into a civil war that lasted six years.

The Taliban movement came to prominence in the southern city of Kandahar, in 1994, when its members—former madrasah students—gained control of an important trade route that had been subject to interference from local bandits, warlords, and fighting tribes.the former mujahideen  A grateful Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, abandoned and rewarded the Taliban with her support. The Taliban went on to conquer most of the country. Only in the north did the resistance prevail, under the leadership of a Tajik commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. By 1996, most of the warlords were in exile. By then, Pakistan, too, was harboring its own radical Islamic movement—one that had flowered in the hothouse of the Afghan war.

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the most influential figure in the I.S.I. in the eighties, and for a time its director. He was responsible for the military doctrine that reinforced Zia’s policy toward Afghanistan. Called “strategic depth, the theory was that, in the event of an invasion by India, Pakistan would need Afghanistan as a military hinterland, a place of retreat and continued resistance. This doctrine may have been, as a former colleague of Gul’s put it, “hoax and humbug,” but that didn’t much matter: for Gul, it was enough to justify a decade’s worth of meddling and military intervention.

I met General Gul, who is now retired, in his house in a military district of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, where he lives in spacious comfort. I was shown into a reception room, and I sat on a sofa waiting for the General to appear. Beside me, on a low table, a piece of the Berlin Wall was on display—a gift, it seemed, from the West German foreign-intelligence service. The engraving read, “With deepest respect to Lt. General Hamid Gul who helped deliver the first blow.”

General Gul, I’d been told, believed that he had set in motion the events that destroyed the Soviet Union. He was, it appeared, not entirely alone in that view. He was a key proponent of the policy of fighting the Soviet invasion as a holy war, rather than as a national struggle. He had boasted of how he recruited radicals from all over the Muslim world—an Islamic international brigade, as he saw it—and had financed and encouraged the powerful Islamic militants who were now on the streets crying for Musharraf’s downfall.

The General bustled into the room. He is a small man with a neat gray mustache, and was dressed in a shalwar kameez. He spoke rapidly, in long rhetorical bursts, and was eager to describe his strategic vision. He appeared to have no regrets, or doubts, about the legacy of his encouragement of Islamist extremists. If things had recently taken a dangerous turn, he argued, it was because the United States had made a critical mistake by neglecting the Taliban in the nineties and by attacking them now.

“The nation that gifted you your superpower status today—that nation is being ravaged and destroyed once again,” he said. “I am very much a supporter of the Taliban, because they have brought to Afghanistan what it needed most—central authority, law and order, elimination of poppy cultivation, de-weaponization, all those things. It was like a miracle. I never thought they could do it in such a short time, but I saw it with my own eyes. Now you have destabilized a society that had stabilized. It’s a great tragedy. A great cruelty, I would say. A great inhuman act.”

The Taliban, he told me, had been pushed into a corner. If the United States had tried a different approach, things would have been different.

“And you could have got everything you wanted from the Taliban,” he said, with the exasperated manner of a schoolmaster explaining an obvious point to a particularly obtuse pupil. “They would have been eating out of your hands. But you never talked to them, because you thought that they were not honorable. You thought you could pick up bin Laden like you picked up Noriega from Panama. But Afghanistan is not Panama.”

General Gul resented the United States’ relationship with India and its lack of support for Pakistan over Kashmir. He resented, too, the military sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan exploded six nuclear devices, in 1998. For him, the United States’ decision to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda was the beginning of the apocalypse. “The jihad call has been given,” he told me. “It will bring the Muslim masses out of their slumber. You cannot say that it’s not a war against Islam, that it’s a war against terrorism, nameless, faceless terrorism. Who are the terrorists? All the people who took part in this great tragedy are still hiding in America. I can’t believe that it’s just those nineteen people and they all got killed and that’s that. There must be a very elaborate command-and-communications system, a logistics system, people who provided the safe haven as well as the training. And it is simply not possible that someone got six months’ training flying the aircraft. You can’t fly a jumbo jet like that. It’s all bunkum. There had to be somebody manipulating the air traffic-control, somebody who switched off the warning system for the Pentagon. Somebody who asked the Air Force not to scramble for seventy-four minutes. Those people are still inside America.”

The September 11th attack was, he said, part of a much bigger conspiracy, an attempted coup against the White House. I asked him who was behind it, anticipating as I put the question the answer that would come.

“Ariel Sharon,” he replied. The Israeli Prime Minister, he said, had been enraged by George W. Bush’s being in the White House. Al Gore was the man who would have done Israel’s bidding. General Gul then listed what he claimed were Israel’s demands: the destruction of Pakistan’s nuclear program, the disarming of its Arab neighbors, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “headquarters,” and a definitive “no” to a Palestinian state. These, he concluded, were the real objectives of the September 11th attacks. “No wonder that Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres and Netanyahu—all of them!—are saying, ‘America, you have the might! Do it now! Destroy them! Finish them off!’ It’s a crusade against the Cross and the Crescent, both. And the inspiration? The same people who inspired the medieval crusades. The Jews.”

The people of Pakistan, General Gul insisted, shared his view, except, he admitted, for what he called “a handful of intellectuals who occupy Islamabad. But what’s Islamabad?” he went on. “Only an island in the sea called Pakistan. And a storm rising out of Pakistan will submerge Islamabad. General Musharraf seems to think that this storm is a small thing, that we are a tiny minority. He says that it’s no more than ten or fifteen per cent of the people, without realizing that, even going by his figures—though they are not correct—ten per cent means fourteen million activists and fifteen per cent means twenty-one million. And these activists are the ready-to-die types. If they rise against the government, the government will not be able to stand up to them.” He added, “The Army has been known to join the people.”

General Gul’s version of events was widely shared. I encountered it among government officials and intellectuals, in newspapers, and, every Friday, in demonstrations in Islamabad and Peshawar. The demonstrations followed the Friday-afternoon prayers. As a woman, I was barred from the mosques, but I listened to the speeches of the maulanas relayed on tinny loudspeakers to the streets outside, and the religious leaders I spoke to reiterated the same themes.

On the day following my meeting with General Gul—a Friday, he predicted, that would see tens of thousands on the streets—I went to see what was expected to be a large rally near some government offices in Islamabad. Many of the demonstrators were young madrasah students who repeated the line they had been taught by the maulanas—the same one that General Gul had laid out for me. From a loudspeaker truck, a group of bearded maulanas was haranguing the crowd. Bored members of television crews were foraging for action, and there was a momentary lifting of their spirits when a group burned an American flag. A blow-up plastic alien dangled from a tree. “It’s President Bush,” a demonstrator explained.

But the demonstrators numbered barely a thousand—fewer, it seemed, than the riot police who were lined up with shields and batons. I had by then attended several demonstrations and found that most of them were small, lacklustre affairs. General Gul had articulated a vision of steadily growing protests that could tear Pakistan apart, but, despite the efforts of the maulanas, there was little sign of that yet. This seemed to bear out what I had been told about the true position of the radical religious parties in Pakistan. The Pakistani people showed them a certain respect but did not seem to want them in power. They had never succeeded in elections and would have remained on the political fringes had they not secured the patronage of the I.S.I. The influence of Islamic extremists was felt more in the armed forces and in key appointments in the civil service, which many of them now occupied—again, thanks in part to General Gul’s efforts. Musharraf was trying to dislodge these people. Several religious leaders had been put under house arrest, and Musharraf had reshuffled his Army command and the top echelon of the I.S.I. in order to rid them of fundamentalists who could form a covert opposition to his policies. Even so, there was a widespread feeling that the purge had not gone far enough. And it was possible that the maulanas preaching an inflammatory message in the mosques would eventually have a greater effect on their captive audience.

When the bombing began, Pakistan tried to close the border: thousands of Pashtun tribesmen had reportedly crossed into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, and, in the other direction, thousands of refugees, destitute already after two years of drought, were fleeing the war. The government ruled that no refugees would be admitted, and that any who entered illegally would, if discovered, be arrested and deported. In fact, refugees did come, bribing their way across the border or crossing at night along wilder, more dangerous routes. Then they vanished. Those who had relatives stayed with them. Others were forced to find a place in existing camps. None of them could declare their presence without risk of deportation. Officially, there were, therefore, no refugees.

When the war began, there were forty-eight camps in the North-West Frontier Province, providing a temporary home to some two million people. According to Lateef Afridi, the Pashtun leader, there have been two million refugees in this part of the world for twenty-two years, and now the problem will only worsen. “Two million people without an education, without homes, the agonizing victims of war,” he said. “For these people, human rights and bloodshed have no meaning. Most of them are uneducated and addicted to fundamentalist ideas. Iran, Pakistan, the West—the world deserted them. They need a development package, infrastructure, they need a government.”

A visit to one of these camps entails a bureaucratic obstacle course: one requires stamped letters of permission and, depending on the state of tension, an armed escort. The most notorious camp, Jalozai, a squalid plastic city just outside Peshawar where only the most destitute go, remains off limits. Others, like Kacha Gari, one of the largest camps in the Peshawar area, can be visited if one secures permission.

Kacha Gari is a bleak place, built on a strip of desert on the outskirts of the city in 1980. Before September 11th, it housed around seventy thousand people; the numbers have increased since then. To get there, you bounce along a dirt road through a moonscape created by the excavation of clay soil to make bricks. As I drove by, bricks were stacked in the sun to dry, and tall chimneys belched foul black smoke, from old tires being burned as fuel. When I appeared on the edge of the camp, I was surrounded by children with open sores on their arms. A man on crutches tugged my sleeve and led me along a rough sandy track to his house, a single mud-brick room, where a group of relations had gathered—an uncle and his five children, newly arrived from Afghanistan. They had been farmers, the uncle explained. Fifteen days ago, they sold their last cow to raise the money to come here. Their possessions were stacked in plastic bags in the corner. “I have lost everything,” the old man said. “Here I am, a refugee.”

Zahir Khan, the welfare officer for this section of the camp, gestured hopelessly at the miserable accommodation: “These were people who had a good life in our own country.” Every day, he said, there are deaths, among the old and the children.

Finally, on November 7th, the Pakistani government agreed to open eleven new camps in the tribal areas. By then, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the newest group of refugees numbered about a hundred and thirty-five thousand.

In Islamabad, I met Sahar Shaba, a twenty-eight-year-old Afghan Pashtun, who is a member of the clandestine Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). A small woman, she was wearing a shalwar kameez, her scarf draped across her shoulders, and short dark hair loose around her face.

Shaba was born near Jalalabad, and, following Pashtun tradition, lived in an extended family of some thirty members. Had she stayed there, she said, she would have become a conventional Pashtun wife after an arranged marriage at fifteen. But her family fled to Pakistan as refugees from the Soviet Army. The camps, she confirmed, were dominated by fundamentalists. They banned music and television, as well as secondary education for girls, so when she heard of an underground girls’ school in Quetta she begged her father to send her there. The school was run by RAWA. The organization, which is dedicated to the liberation of Afghan women, has a number of schools for girls. (It was founded by a young Afghan called Meena, who was murdered in 1987, at the age of thirty. The assassins, her followers believe, were members of the Afghan secret service.)

Shaba arranged for me to visit a camp near Peshawar where RAWA operates. The name of the camp, she insisted, must be kept secret. At an appointed time, a young Afghan man appeared at my hotel. I noticed with a jolt that he was wearing jeans and a shirt. I had grown used to a country in which the women were all but invisible and the men were uniformly dressed in shalwar kameez. His name, he said, was Nazeem and he was seventeen. We climbed into an ambulance and set off.

“When I was young,” he said, “my father used to tell me that one day there would be peace and freedom. Now he is dead, and I am seventeen and there is still no peace. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar murdered my father because he was broad-minded, because he wanted democracy. I wish I had been born in any other poor miserable country except Afghanistan.”

The camp we were going to, he told me, held some six thousand people and had been set up in the eighties by a liberal Pashtun leader. The camp was, he felt, the way Afghanistan used to be. “We have jirgas,” he said, “and we all live together—Tajiks, Pashtun, Uzbeks. And you can wear what you like. In other camps, people throw stones at you if you dress like this.”

We were driving through a landscape of neat sugarcane fields. About twenty miles outside Peshawar, we turned onto a dirt road in another desert of brick fields. On the other side rose a mud-brick settlement. We stopped in front of a door, and I stepped into a courtyard shaded by young trees. I spent the evening and the night in the camp. This was the first time, in more than two weeks in Peshawar, that I had been in the company of unveiled Afghan women. Night fell, and, as I was led to small houses set in secluded courtyards, I felt as though I were visiting a peaceful rural village. Sitting cross-legged on thin rugs laid out on hard earth floors, the women told me their stories. Under the Russians, they said, women had been forced to abandon the veil. Under the jihadis, they had been forced to wear it again. Under the Taliban, they had been forced to wear the burka and were confined to their homes. And, even now, with the Taliban gone, most women had not abandoned their bur-kas. They were afraid of what was next.

Fatima, a tall, attractive woman from Kandahar, had fled to Pakistan with her four children three days earlier, after her husband was seized by the Taliban. He had once been a doctor and she a teacher, but under the Taliban she stayed at home and he sold vegetables.

She glared at me. “What will you do for us?” she asked. “The Americans are killing people. I have no food for my children, and I at least am lucky that I crossed the border. I hate the Taliban,” she continued. “I don’t hate them for obeying the laws of Islam. I hate them because of the poverty, the fact that there are no jobs, the fact that if a woman is sick she can’t go to the doctor.” Her youngest son, a fierce two-year-old, sat on the floor and began to eat a flower that was crushed in his fist. He grimaced and spat it out. His mother began to cry.

Another mother, surrounded by her six children, described how her husband, too, had been taken by the Taliban. A former teacher, he had run a shoe shop where he secretly taught his youngest son. Six days earlier, the child had come running home, the keys to the shop clutched in his hand. His father had been taken away. The woman fled with her children. “I have very little hope that my husband is alive,” she said. “People in Afghanistan have no tears left. We have seen our sons grow up and be shot.” She told me stories of the Taliban’s cruelty—the cutting off of hands and feet and the slitting of throats.

That night, I joined a group of RAWA activists for a meal of eggplant and meat served with rice. Two RAWA teachers talked about the children in their classes— the little girl haunted by the murder of twelve members of her family, the boy who wept when the bombing began, convinced that his remaining relatives would be killed. One day, they told me, there will be another Afghanistan, another government. “Then we can return to teach in our own country.”

Women like Sahar Shaba and her fellow-refugees are consumed by another battle raging in Pashtun society, a battle between tribal tradition and modernity. For them, a future Afghanistan must have a place for women outside the confines of purdah, free of the restrictions of both fundamentalism and Pashtun custom.

The next morning, I left the camp just after dawn and drove back to Peshawar, a city where the maulanas were preaching the message of holy war and the women were invisible under their blue burkas. At a traffic light, a woman with a baby in her arms came to the van’s window to beg. The camp, with its hopes of education for girls, of democracy and peace, its faded memories of a time in Afghanistan when teachers taught in schools and doctors attended to their patients, seemed like a dream. Nazeem shook my hand as we parted. “When we go back to Afghanistan,” he said, “I will invite you to the public hanging of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.”

In Peshawar, I witnessed the first attempt to rally broad support for convening a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan—the highest form of jirga, it would be a temporary national council that could decide on the country’s new political structure without resorting to violence. It was organized by Pir Sayeed Ahmed Gailani, a Pashtun religious leader who was being backed, I was told, by the Pakistani government—an affiliation that had probably doomed the meeting before it began. It was held in a modern conference center and attended by a thousand men from all the tribal areas and from Afghanistan, as well as by a number of familiar Peshawar faces.

Pir Gailani swept onto a platform, a magisterial figure in black robes and a white turban. He seemed to be already auditioning for the office of Afghan Prime Minister. Local reporters scanned the rows of bearded faces, looking for figures of authority who would indicate how serious this attempt at organizing a viable alternative to the Taliban would be. They were disappointed. As speaker after speaker called for the return of the king, Muhammad Zahir Shah, to convene the Loya Jirga, it was finally noted that the King had sent no representative. Nor was there any senior figure from the Northern Alliance.

Many of the Pashtun’s rivals in Afghanistan feel that a Loya Jirga would be simply a device to restore the Pashtun to power—an aim that traditional Pashtun certainly hope to achieve. Even among the Pashtun, though, authority has been eroded by twenty years of war and the rise of radical Islamism, which has become the focus for many in the refugee generations.

Some convoys have set off from the refugee camps, returning ragged families to what remains of their Afghan homes. But most refugees are holding back. They remember, Sahar Shaba, the RAWA activist told me, the last time that the Northern Alliance held power. “We would be deceiving ourselves,” she said, “if we thought this was a real peace.” What she sees, from her vantage point, is another version of a familiar story—warlords, in different guises, jockeying for positions of power. “The situation is getting worse day by day,” an aide to Pir Gailani told me, “and there is no sign either of the Loya Jirga or of the broad-based government we proposed a month ago. If the United Nations does not act, the warlords will simply seize territory.”

On November 15th, exiled mujahideen crossed the border from Peshawar and swept into Jalalabad to haggle with rival commanders for control of the city. In Kabul, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, who was President of Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, also returned, on November 17th, apparently, with the intention of resuming his old job. And in the Pashtun heartland many local figures have emerged, positioning themselves to claim their historic right to rule Afghanistan. But their ethnic solidarity does not disguise their lack of a united leadership or their conflicting positions. Some are willing to strike a deal with the deserting Taliban commanders. Others see them as an obstacle to the greater purpose: the reunion of the Pashtun under the tenuous authority of Afghanistan’s former king—a figure who carries no weight with the Northern Alliance. The political leadership of the Pashtun has been systematically undermined by the likes of Zia and General Gul, the I.S.I.’s veteran holy warrior, by the refugee camps and the madrasahs, by the maulanas in the mosques, and by Pakistan’s calculated effort to strip the Pashtun of their political identity. For many Pashtun, radical Islam is their new allegiance: that’s what this generation knows.

This allegiance was at the front of General Gul’s mind. “I asked myself why the Taliban waited so long to retreat,” he told me when I spoke to him several days after the Taliban had abandoned Kabul. “But now I understand. They held on to give themselves time to evacuate their Scud missiles and their anti-aircraft guns before they took to the hills. Withdrawal is the most difficult military operation. It requires command and control and meticulous planning. This they have achieved. Ask your intelligence where the Scud missiles are. They had two hundred and fifty of them.” There is now, the General said, a Russian-backed government in Kabul. “Putin has played a very clever card. But the Pashtun will resist, of course. And who will lead that resistance? The Taliban.” And their foot soldiers, he insisted, would be the Pashtun tribesmen. “They don’t like bombing,” General Gul added. “But a long-drawn-out conflict in the mountains—that’s the thing they enjoy the most.”

I found the General’s predictions dubious, and yet there was no denying that few parties are eagerly inviting the Pashtun to form a government. Once again, Afghanistan’s neighbors—India, Russia, and Iran—are entertaining alternatives. The Pashtun are not in a good position to bargain. For now, the only hope they have is to win, with force, enough territory to make them too strong to ignore, to become a power without which no peace can come to Afghanistan. If nothing comes of negotiation, they will fight

Shaheryar Ali

Aafia Siddique

Aafia Siddique

Finally the cat is out of sac. The latest “victim” of Islamophobia, Eurocentricism, Secular Fascism and other such terms which Pakistani right wing, liberal and confused progressive misuse turns out to be a Jihadi. For months now Pakistani Right wing media have lamented the “innocent muslim girl” the great scientist of MIT, the “good mohajir” girl Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the “daughter of Islam” and “Pakistan” who is being abused at the hands of non muslims. Comparisons were drawn with the mythical story of alleged abuse of Arab women at the hands of Sindhis which resulted in invasion of Sindh by barbaric Muhammed Bin Kassim. The fact was lamented while in those times 17 y old Kassim heard the cry of the “abused” sister and invaded Sindh and spread the glorious message of Islam [with not so glorious genocide of Sindhis], our 17 y old boys are busy in music and dancing whiles the daughter of Islam the innocent naïve girl Aafia Siddiqui is being sexually molested.

The day Dr siddiqui was produced before a court of law In USA I became suspicious of the whole story of “disappearance”. The fact that she was produced in a court of law indicated that US administration had a case. Many others remain disappeared and are not produced in courts. Now Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s ex husband has finally broken his silence and have spoken to BBC. He has told BBC Urdu that the innocent naïve AAfia was an ideologically motivated islamist. She wanted to go to Jihad. Mr Amjad Aziz Khan told BBC urdu that during their marriage he kept trying to convince Dr Aafia Siddiqui that Islam doesn’t allow “extremism” and she should not indulge in extremist activities but she refused. He further told the reporter that Dr Siddique had contacts with Pakistani extremists and terrorists. He named Aamar Baluchi , Aziz Paracha and Majid Khan with whom she was continuously in contact. It is to be noted that all these are terrorists and Mr Paracha was convicted by a court In United States for providing material support to Al Qaidia and was sentenced to 30 years in prison…

Victim of Jihadi mother

Victim of Jihadi mother

Mr Khan asserted that after the 9/11 attacks on United States Dr Siddique kept forcing him to go to Afghanistan and participate in Jihad against United States but he kept refusing. Mr Khan says that these were the reasons their marriage didn’t worked. Mr Khan took Dr Siddiqque to a big Maddrassa in Karachi and consulted with the eminent Mufti Rafi Usmani [Duo bandi /Wahabi cleric] who tried to persuade Dr Siddique that Jihad is not an immediate duty for both of them. Refusing to accept the advice she divorced Mr Khan in few weeks and left with the Kids.

The chilling fact that Dr Sidique was an ideologically motivated Islamist in contact with Al-Qaidia puts a lot of things in perspective, the people whom she identified with have blood on their hands, and they are responsible for heinous crimes against humanity, suicide bombings which have killed innocent civilians, woman and children. The want to bring a system in which there will no human rights and fascist states will be formed. She agreed to all this and was an active supporter of this monstrous ideology. Despite this Pakistani secularists and human rights activists climbed on the band wagon of Pakistani Right wing. The dispassionate interest of Pakistani human rights activists in this should only have been on making sure that Dr Siddique gets a fair trial. But even people like Senator Iqbal Haider became a party to this Jihadi propaganda by engaging in the emotional circus constructed by the family. Pakistani secularists went out of line and ignored the warning signals which were always there.

The fact that this whole story was broken by a person whose mental health itself is under question mark and who is a Taliban supporter they should have been cautious but caution is a thing Pakistani modernists don’t know. Yvonne Ridley could be suffering from Stockholm syndrome or she could be an Islamic fascist herself. Than the section of media and society which rallied to her cause and the degree of response left nothing secret of whose “girl” Dr Siddiqui was. The fact that same people havnt said a word about the fate of “Zarina Marri” shows that all this has nothing to do with human rights but was ideologically motivated.

Iqbal Haider

Iqbal Haider

Not only Dr Siddique left her husband she put the life of her children in danger by taking them with her in Jihad. This is an extraordinary case of neglect of parental duties and putting the life of children in danger. Mr Khan have stated in his statement that she was not kidnapped but was hiding on purpose with the children trying to get into Afghanistan from where she was finally captured. This gets further confirmation from the article written by Mr Farooqi who is maternal uncle [Mammu] of Dr Siddiqque in which he wrote that Dr Aafia Siddque met him in 2008 and stayed at his home in 2008 and told him that she wanted to go to Afghanistan for Jihad.

Now Dr Sidiqque is mentally unfit to undergo trial , she is not going to pay for her crimes or prove her innocence, But Pakistani secularists instead of working on Jihadi agenda should work to give Dr Siddique’s children safe environment. The fact that her sister and mother are close to Jihadi quarters will keep the children constantly under threat of abuse which they suffered at the hands of their mother so their father be given the custody of these poor kids. They have a right to grow up free of abuse.

Now that facts are coming out on Aafia I am suspicious of yet another “Islamist human rights” activist, Amna Janjua who is wife of an ex ISI mercenary who has “disappeared”. While we must always condemn illegal acts of states we must never become a party in crime with these fascists. The BBC urdu report can be reached here.