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

Shaheryar Ali

Martyr Shabana

Martyr Shabana

Shabana’s bullet ridden body was found slumped on ground in the centre of Mingora’s green square, strewn with money, CD recording of her performances and photographs from her albums. Shabana was a traditional singer and dancing girl from Swat. She was brutally murdered for defying the ban imposed by Taliban. A Taliban leader later appeared on the FM Radio [which our most professional Army with one of the best technical skills, failed to block and claimed it was impossible to do so and which resulted in satirical responses from rival Indian Army as well as from distinguished physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy] and claimed the responsibility for her murder and warned that the Taliban will not tolerate any “un Islamic vices”

This all started when, enlightened and progressive General Pervez Musharraf , who than enjoyed the support of Judiciary [Honourable Justice Iftikhar including], the “civil” society, liberal Imran Khan, gave the province of NWFP to Mullahs of MMA , who in return passed the 17 amendment and legalized Musharraf’s coup. The conscientious judges followed suit.  Molana Fazul-ur Rehman and Qazi Hussein Ahmad enjoyed the fruits of governance for years and later became voices of democracy along with conscientious judges, civil society and of course Imran Khan! The 5 year rule of MMA in NWFP [Pakhtoonkhawa] resulted in banning of music, destruction of arts including the commercial Arts. The thugs of Jamate Islami blackened the feminine figures on the billboards in Peshawar. The traditional bazaars where music instruments were made and sold and where the artists and artisans lived were targeted by police and moral bigots who forced most of these people to flee the province. When MMA left, the province was in the hands of Taliban and Shabana got murdered.

A lot was written in foreign press, Shabana couldn’t finds even a two column10 space in our “free media”, just like that poor Pushto singer who was murdered in Peshawar a few days back. The girl was not even named! Only one who lamented Shabana was “buri auart”, that communist and Indian agent Kishwar Naheed. A representative of second wave feminism, who is now expressing the 3rd wave sensitivities, Naheed was part of the pro-communist Afro-Asian writers association with Faiz Ahmad Faiz. A living witness to the progressive movement and the tradition of resistance literature and Art, Naheed’s response to the times of Jihad has been a collection of poetry which has been titled Wehshat aur barrod mein lipti hue shairi”. ‘Poetry wrapped in explosives and barbarism. The poetry is the expression of a true artist living in the age of Jihad and Crusade! The moral relativism demonstrated by most of newly emerged pro-imperialist liberals by their silence on crimes of United States imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Pashtunkhawa, is not to be seen in this work by a great progressive. Whilst the focus of the book remains the Islamist barbarism, one finds echoes of Guantanamo bay, Fallujah and Sarajevo as well. The book includes touching poems on lost comrades like Ahmad Fraz, Benazir Bhutto and Edward Said.

Buddha crying in Swat

Buddha crying in Swat

Hundreds of years old historic statues of Lord Buddha were also wrapped in explosives and were blown. This monstrous attack on Pashtun history and cultural identity also took place during General Pervez Musharff’s golden rule. September 2007, the giant Buddha in Swat dating from 2nd century BC, was attacked twice in 20 days. The Taliban worked in broad day light putting dynamite with help of drill machines. The BBC, Hindustand Times, Dawn and Daily Times reported and highlighted the issue, but nothing was done and Taliban, re attacked it after 20 days. There was hardly any news in Urdu press; no protests were seen in any city of Pakistan. The free media channels of Pakistan also showed a complete apathy. Now Taliban are blowing humans in Swat. The attack of Taliban on statues and silent collaboration of MMA government scarred the artists especially those who earned their living craving Buddha sculptures which were popular amongst tourists.

The Seriaki speaking Pashtun city, Dera Ismail Khan, also known as DI Khan, the fusion of seraiki and Pushto civilization gave the city a unique status. A cultural hub, it was once known as “Dera Phulla’n da Sehra” [Dera is garland of flowers!]. After destruction of Jhang , this city has seen the curse of Jihad! Hundreds of people have been murdered. For years now target killing of Shia population and progressive artists and intellectuals is going on. Silence is the criminal response of Pakistan. The facts are buried in media grand meta-narrative of “sectarian violence”. There is no sectarian violence in DI Khan, there is no rift or collusion between any two sects which are living together for hundreds of years. What’s going on is an Anti-Shia holocaust by Jihadis: Target killing of intellectuals, writers and artists.

Philosopher, poet and linguist, author of 22 books Jamshaid Nayab , was tortured and his bullet ridden body was thrown in front of his house in DI Khan. The Molana praised the act of killing Kaffirs like him in the Friday sermon. Mr Nayab was an intellectual par excellence, a refined poet who authored books of history of western philosophy, on languages and civilization. He belonged to progressive tradition of intellectuals. He was member of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The left wing intellectuals and political activists have been the main target of Jihadi/Taliban forces in Pakistan. More than 450 socialists/Marxist/nationalists political activists have been murdered in Swat and Pashtunkhawa Most activists of PPP and ANP who have been murdered in Pashtunkhawa were those who belonged to socialists/Marxist wings within these parties. It must be noted 98% of  attacks and murders of political activists by Taliban are on 3 parties PPP, ANP and CPP  [all left wing parties]Many of these activists were poets and artists as well or main organizers of art and cultural activities in their regions. Great Urdu poet Mohsin Naqvi also fell a victim to these Jihadi forces in the 90s. His crimes were multifold, being a poet [Koran explicitly condemns poets and poetry in Chapters of Poets], was Shia , was progressive and socialist and supported PPP. He also famously wrote a poem on Benazir Bhutto. The poem has acquired a mythical status “Ya Allah Ya Rasool—–Benazir Beqasoor”

Music is a inseparable part of Pakhtoon culture and tradition. Pakhtoons have never lived without music and dance! For the first time such a thing is happening. The shrine of greatest Pashtu poet and Sufi, Rehman Baba was blown up by the Taliban. Rehman Baba had played a central role in building Pashtun identity, language and tradition. A humanist his poetry teaches peace, love and tolerance. He was known as “Nightingale of Pashtunkawa”. Barbarism didn’t spare the most sacred place of the Pashtun Culture. Hundreds of music centers and shops have been destroyed. Years back , great revolutionary and Marxist academic Eqbal Ahmad vested Kandahar of Taliban. He saw a graveyard of Pashtun culture and tradition. The living Kandahar of coffee houses, story tellers and musicians was no where to be seen. He wrote his impressions in form an article which was titled “Land without Music”. Now Pakistan is becoming the Land without Music.

To be continued

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.

The distinguished historian William Dalrymple have written in New York Review of Books an article which reviews Pakistan with the texts of Ahmad Rashid’s “Decent into Chaos: United States and the failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.. Rashid is perhaps most distinguished Journalist from Pakistan whose work on Taliban is considered most authoritative. He also mentions Shuja Nawaz’s insights into Pakistan Army. What emerges is the critique of United States and Islamic Republic of Pakistan who created Islamic Fascism which is now threatening Pakistan itself. Rashid has long been exposing ISI’s continuous support of Taliban even under General Musharaff, One of ISI’s blued eyed and white bearded boys is now in control in Swat. Pakistani security establishment has learnt nothing and PPP and ANP are just silent hostages of War of Terror. The brilliant piece of writing exposes Pakistan’s lies and ISI’s continuous support for the Jihadis. The continuous working of banned organization and Pakistan’s continuing descent in chaos. When United States and its stooge the Islamic Republic were busy creating these Islamists monsters to kill the Saur Revolution and Modern Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, people kept warning them that these monsters will not leave any civilization but anti-communist mania blinded Pakistani patriots. Rule of Taliban started with direct support of Pakistani Army and hanging of President Najib and his brother, the hangings now continue in Islamic republic, A month before his martyrdom President Najid told a reporter which now seems a prophecy , one which has now set in on Pakistan and United States.

“If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many more years. Afghanistan will turn into a center of world smuggling for narcotic drugs. Afghanistan will be turned into a center for terrorism.”

Shaheed President Najid to NewYork Times, One month before his murder at the hands of United States and Pakistan’s monsterous creation , The Taliban

Shaheryar Ali

NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS.

Volume 56, Number 2 · February 12, 2009

Pakistan in Peril By William Dalrymple

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan , Afghanistan , and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid

Viking, 484 pp., $27.95. Lahore , Pakistan

William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple

The relative calm in Iraq in recent months, combined with the drama of the US elections, has ma nag ed to distract attention from the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America ‘s response to September 11: the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan .

The situation here could hardly be more grim. The Taliban have reorganized, advanced out of their borderland safe havens, and are now massing at the gates of Kabul , threatening to surround and throttle the capital, much as the US-backed Mujahideen once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late Eighties. Like the rerun of an old movie, all journeys out of the Afghan capital are once again confined to tanks, armored cars, and helicopters. Members of the Taliban already control over 70 percent of the country, up from just over 50 percent in November 2007, where they collect taxes, enforce Sharia law, and dispense their usual rough justice; but they do succeed, to some extent, in containing the wave of crime and corruption that has marked Hamid Karzai’s rule. This has become one of the principal reasons for their growing popularity, and every month their sphere of influence increases.

The blowback from the Afghan conflict in Pakistan is more serious still. In less than eight months, Asif Ali Zardari’s new government has effectively lost control of much of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the Taliban’s Pakistani counterparts, a loose confederation of nationalists, Islamists, and angry Pashtun tribesmen under the nominal command of Baitullah Mehsud. Few had very high expectations of Zardari, the notoriously corrupt playboy widower of Benazir Bhutto. Nevertheless, the speed of the collapse that has taken place under his watch has amazed almost all observers.

Across much of the North-West Frontier Province—around a fifth of Pakistan—women have now been forced to wear the burqa, music has been silenced, barbershops are forbidden to shave beards, and over 140 girls’ schools have been blown up or burned down. In the provincial capital of Peshawar , a significant proportion of the city’s elite, along with its musicians, have now decamped to the relatively safe and tolerant confines of Lahore and Karachi . Meanwhile tens of thousands of ordinary people from the surrounding hills of the semiautonomous tribal belt—the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that run along the Afghan border—have fled from the conflict zones blasted by missiles from unmanned American Predator drones and strafed by Pakistani helicopter gunships to the tent camps now ringing Peshawar. (See the map.)

The tribal areas have never been fully under the control of any Pakistani government, and have always been unruly, but they have now been radicalized as never before. The rain of armaments from US drones and Pakistani ground forces, which have caused extensive civilian casualties, daily add a steady stream of angry footsoldiers to the insurgency. Elsewhere in Pakistan , anti-Western religious and political extremism continues to flourish.

The most alarming manifestation of this was the ease with which a highly trained jihadi group, almost certainly supplied and provisioned in Pakistan, probably by the nominally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba—an organization that aims to restore Muslim rule in Kashmir—attacked neighboring India in November. They murdered 173 innocent people in Bombay , injured over six hundred, and brought the two nuclear-armed rivals once again to the brink of war. The attackers arrived by sea, initially using boats based in the same network of fishing villages across the Makran coast through which a number of al-Qaeda suspects are known to have been spirited away from Pakistan to the Arab Gulf following the American assault on Tora Bora in 2001.

In November, on a trip to Pakistan , I tried to visit Peshawar , which functions as both the capital of the North-West Frontier Province and the administrative center for FATA. But for the first time in twenty-five years, I was warned by Pakistani journalist friends not even to attempt going. In one week, an unprecedented series of events made up my mind for me.

On Monday, November 11, some sixty militants identified with the Pakistani Taliban looted thirteen trucks carrying military supplies and a fleet of Humvees going up the Khyber Pass to US troops in Afghanistan . Twenty-six people were kidnapped. The next day, a suicide bomber narrowly missed killing the governor and some of the ministers of the North-West Frontier Province , as they left a stadium. Three people were killed in the attack. On Wednesday of that week, unidentified gunmen shot dead Stephen Vance, a US aid worker, and kidnapped an Iranian diplomat, who joined the Chinese engineers, Pakistani truck drivers, and Afghan diplomats now being held in Taliban captivity. On Thursday, two journalists—one Japanese, the other Afghan—were shot at and wounded. Peshawar suddenly seemed to be becoming as violent as Baghdad at the height of the insurgency three years ago.

All this took place in the vacuum created by the temporary flight from the province of the chief minister and leader of the ruling Awami National Party of the NWFP, Asfandyar Wali Khan. This followed a suicide bombing on October 2 that killed three guests and a member of his staff while he was greeting visitors during Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. Immediately after the bombing, a rattled Asfandyar fled from the province in a helicopter sent to him by Zardari, then flew straight on to Britain . He was persuaded to return only with some difficulty. In February 2008, Asfandyar’s party had been elected with a huge majority, breaking the power of the MMA Islamist alliance, a coalition of Islamic groups that has been a major force in Frontier politics, and that had ruled the province for the previous five years. The election seemed to mark a moment of hope for Pakistani secular democracy; but that hope was soon shattered by the apparently unstoppable advance of the Pakistani Taliban out of FATA.

Sharia Law, Herat.Thanks RAWA

Sharia Law, Herat.Thanks RAWA

Since then there have been several more suicide bombings and a number of daring attacks on US convoys and depots in and around Peshawar , including one that led to the burning of two hundred trucks and dozens of Humvees and armored personnel carriers, and another that led to the capture by the Taliban of fifty containers of supplies. Other civilian convoys have been allowed to continue, but only after paying a toll to the Taliban, who now, in effect, control the Khyber Pass, the key land route between Pakistan and Afghanistan . At the moment more than 70 percent of supplies for the US troops in Afghanistan travel through the NWFP to Peshawar and hence up the Khyber Pass. The US is now trying to work out alternative supply routes for its troops in Afghanistan via several Central Asian republics—Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, which has the important Manas Air Base—all of which have themselves been markedly radicalized since 2001.

Far from the frontier, in Pakistan’s artistic capital of Lahore, at the heart of the prosperous Punjab, the usually resilient members of the liberal elite were more depressed than I have ever seen them, alarmed both by the news of the Taliban’s advances and by the economic difficulties that have recently led Pakistan to seek a $7.6 billion IMF loan. The night I arrived I went to see Najam Sethi and his wife Jugnu, editors of the English-language Daily Times and Friday Times newspapers, who now found themselves directly in the Taliban’s crosshairs. Three weeks earlier they had begun to receive faxes threatening them with violence if they didn’t stop attacking Islamist interests in their columns. One such fax had arrived that morning. The two have bravely survived years of harassment by various governments and agencies, but now felt powerless to respond to these anonymous threats.

Another old friend in Lahore , the remarkable human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir, had also received fax warnings—in her case to desist helping the victims of honor killings. Asma, who had bravely fought successive military governments, was at a loss about what to do: “Nobody is safe anymore,” she told me. “If you are threatened by the government you can take them on legally. But with nonstate actors, when even members of the government are themselves not safe, who do you appeal to? Where do you look for protection?”

These events dramatically illustrate Ahmed Rashid’s central contention in his brilliant and passionate book Descent into Chaos. Throughout the book Rashid emphasizes the degree to which, seven years after September 11, “the US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than existed on that momentous day in 2001”:

Rather than diminishing, the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates has grown, engulfing new regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe and creating fear among peoples from Australia to Zanzibar . The US invasions of two Muslim countries…[have] so far failed to contain either the original organization or the threat that now comes from its copycats…in British or French cities who have been mobilized through the Internet. The al Qaeda leader…is still at large, despite the largest manhunt in history….

Afghanistan is once again staring down the abyss of state collapse, despite billions of dollars in aid, forty-five thousand Western troops, and the deaths of thousands of people. The Taliban have made a dramatic comeback…. The international community had an extended window of opportunity for several years to help the Afghan people—they failed to take advantage of it.

Pakistan …has undergone a slower but equally bloody meltdown…. In 2007 there were 56 suicide bombings in Pakistan that killed 640 people, compared to just 6 bombings in the previous year….

In 2008, American power lies shattered…. US credibility lies in ruins…. Ultimately the strategies of the Bush administration have created a far bigger crisis in South and Central Asia than existed before 9/11.

It is difficult to disagree with any of this. Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all.

Ahmed Rashid’s book convincingly shows how the Central and Southern Asian portion of this tragedy took shape in the years since 2001. Rashid has long been an authority on the politics of Pakistan , Afghanistan , and Central Asia, and his welcoming house in Lahore has for many years been the first port of call for visiting journalists and writers. An urbane, witty, bookish, Cambridge-educated bon viveur, with a Spanish Galician wife, he is a writer whose high spirits can easily make one forget both the immense bravery of his consistently fearless reporting in such a dangerous environment over thirty years—Rashid was recently sentenced to death in absentia by the Pakistan Taliban—and the deep scholarship and research that give his work its depth. Rashid, a contributor to TheNew York Review, came to world attention after the Islamist attacks on America when his book Taliban1 was recognized to be virtually the only serious work on the regime that had given shelter to al-Qaeda. As a result it quickly sold nearly 1.5 million copies in twenty-six languages across the world.

In his new book, Rashid is particularly perceptive in his examination of the causes of terrorism in the region, and the way that the Bush administration sought to silence real scrutiny of what was actually causing so many people in South and Central Asia violently to resist American influence. Serious analysis was swept under the carpet, making impossible

any discussion or understanding of the “root causes” of terrorism—the growing poverty, repression, and sense of injustice that many Muslims felt at the hands of their US-backed governments, which in turn boosted anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism…. Bush did more to keep Americans blind to world affairs than any American leader in recent history.

Instead, terrorism was presented by the administration as a result of a “sudden worldwide anti-Americanism rather than a result of past American policy failures.” Bush’s speech to Congress, claiming that the world hated America because “they hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote,” ignored the political elephant standing in the middle of the living room—US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, with its long history of unpopular interventions in the Islamic world and its uncritical support for Israel’s steady colonization of the West Bank and violent repression of the Palestinians. As the Department of Defense Science Board rightly pointed out in response to Bush’s speech: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies.”

It was partly the intense hostility to Islam emanating from both the press and the government of the United States that made it so difficult for moderates in the Islamic world to counter the propaganda of the extremists. How could the moderates dispute the notion that America was engaged in a civilizational war against Islam when this was clearly something many in the administration, and their supporters in the press, did indeed believe? It also had a strongly negative effect on policy decisions. By building up public hysteria and presenting a vision of an Islamic world eaten up with irrational hatred of America , an unspoken feeling was generated among Americans that, as Rashid puts it,

if they hated us, then Americans should hate Muslims back and retaliate not just against the terrorists but against Islam in general. By generating such fears it was virtually impossible to gain American public attention and support for long-term nation building.

It also made possible the comprehensive pattern of human rights abuses that the administration presided over—the torture and “rendition” program—that Rashid describes here with shocking and uncompromising clarity. As well as the damage this did to the image of the US abroad, it also encouraged repression among its regional allies: “By following America ‘s lead in promoting or condoning disappearances, torture, and secret jails, these countries found their path to democracy and their struggle against Islamic extremism set back by decades,” Rashid writes.

But while laying part of the blame for the current disaster on the “arrogance and ignorance” of the American administration, Rashid is also well aware of the large share of responsibility that must be put at the door of Pakistan ‘s army and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI. For more than twenty years, the ISI has, for its own purposes, deliberately and consistently funded and incubated a variety of Islamist groups, including in particular Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Since the days of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen, the Pakistani army saw the jihadis as an ingenious and cost-effective means of both dominating Afghanistan—something they finally achieved with the retreat of the Soviets in 1987—and bogging down the India n army in Kashmir—something they succeeded in achieving from 1990 onward.

Martyardom of President Najib by Taliban

Martyardom of President Najib by Taliban

As Hamid Gul, the director of the ISI who was largely responsible for developing this strategy, once explained to me, if the ISI “encourages the Kashmiris it’s understandable.” He said, “The Kashmiri people have risen up in accordance with the UN charter, and it is the national purpose of Pakistan to help liberate them. If the jihadis go out and contain India , tying down their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?” Next to him in his Islamabad living room lay a large piece of the Berlin Wall presented to him by the people of Berlin for “delivering the first blow” to the Soviet Empire through his use of jihadis in the 1980s.

For Gul the usefulness of the jihadis was self-evident, and in this view he had plenty of company. As Steve Coll put it in Ghost Wars :

Every Pakistani general, liberal or religious, believed in the jihadists by 1999, not from personal Islamic conviction, in most cases, but because the jihadists had proved themselves over many years as the one force able to frighten, flummox, and bog down the Hindu-dominated India n army. About a dozen India n divisions had been tied up in Kashmir during the late 1990s to suppress a few thousand well-trained, paradise-seeking guerrillas. What more could Pakistan ask?[2]

It is for this reason that many in the army still believe that the jihadis make up a more practical defense against India n dominance than even nuclear weapons. For them, supporting a range of jihadi groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir is not an ideological or religious whim so much as a practical and patriotic imperative—a vital survival strategy for a Pakistani state that they perceive to be threatened by India ‘s ever-growing power and its alliance with the hostile Karzai regime in Kabul.

The army’s senior military brass were convinced until recently that they could control the militants whom they had fostered. In a taped conversation between then General Pervez Musharraf and Muhammad Aziz Khan, his chief of general staff, which India released in 1999, Aziz said that the army had the jihadis by their tooti (their privates). Yet while some in the ISI may still believe that they can use jihadis for their own ends, the Islamists have increasingly followed their own agendas, sending suicide bombers to attack not just members of Pakistan’s religious minorities and political leaders, but even the ISI headquarters at Camp Hamza itself, in apparent revenge for the army’s declared support for America’s war on terror and attacks made by the Pakistani military on Taliban strongholds in FATA. Ironically, as Rashid makes clear, it was exactly groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which were originally created by the ISI, that have now turned their guns on their creators, as well as brazenly launching well-equipped and well-trained teams of jihadis into India n territory . In doing so they are severely damaging Pakistani interests abroad, and bringing Pakistan to the brink of a war it cannot possibly win.

Turning of Tide,Taliban Justice in Pakistan

Turning of Tide,Taliban Justice in Pakistan

It was the military dictator General Zia ul-Haq, between 1978 and 1988, who was responsible for initiating the fatal alliance between the conservative Pakistani military and the equally reactionary mullahs that led to the use of Pakistan ‘s Islamic radicals in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan . Their recruitment was always controlled by the ISI, but was originally jointly funded by the CIA and Saudi intelligence. Militant mosques such as the Lal Masjid near the ISI headquarters in the center of Islamabad were turned into recruiting centers for potential Mujahideen, and places where the intelligence services could be in touch with young radicals.

This vital period under Zia, when the jihadis were first harnessed to the use of the Pakistani state, is brilliantly described in a history of the Pakistani army by Shuja Nawaz, the Washington-based brother of a former Pakistani army chief of general staff. One of the most telling passages in the book describes the “strange non-military atmosphere” in the ISI in the early 1990s at the end of the reign of one of the most overtly Islamist directors of the agency, the Zia-appointed Lieutenant General Javed Nasir. When his successor turned up to take over, he found that “the corridors were filled with bearded civilians in shalwar kameez,” the pajama-like traditional dress, “many of them with their shalwar hitched up above the ankle, a signature practice of the [ultra-orthodox] Tablighi Jamaat to which Nasir belonged.”

He was shown a strong room that once had “currency stacked to the ceiling” but was now empty as adventurist ISI officers had taken “suitcases filled with cash” to the field, including to the newly independent Central Asian republics, ostensibly to set up safe houses and operations there in support of Islamic causes. There were no accounts or any receipts to these money transfers….Most officers were absent from their offices for extended periods, often away for “prayers.”[3]

Rashid’s book takes up the story where Shuja Nawaz leaves off. Descent into Chaos breaks entirely new ground in making explicit, in strikingly well-researched detail, the degree to which the army and ISI continued this duplicitous and risky policy of supporting radical Islamic groups after September 11, 2001, despite President Musharraf’s many public promises to the contrary. The speed with which the US lost interest in Afghanistan after its successful invasion and embarked on plans to invade Iraq , which clearly had no link with al-Qaeda, convinced Pakistan ‘s military leaders that the US was not serious about a long-term commitment to Karzai’s regime. This in turn led to them keeping the Taliban in reserve to be used to reinstall a pro-Pakistani regime in Afghanistan once the Americans’ attention had been turned elsewhere and the Karzai regime had been left to crumble.

So it was, only months after Septem-ber 11, that the ISI was giving refuge to the entire Taliban leadership after it fled from Afghanistan . Mullah Omar was kept in an ISI safehouse in the town of Quetta , just south of the tribal areas in Baluchistan, near the Afghan border, while his militia was lodged in Pashtunabad, a sprawling Quetta suburb. Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, the leader of the radical Mujahideen militia Hizb-e- Islami, was lured back from exile in Iran and allowed to operate freely outside Peshawar , while Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the most violent Taliban commanders, was given sanctuary by the ISI in north Waziristan, a part of FATA.

In order to keep contact with such groups beyond the radar of Western intelligence, the ISI created a new clandestine organization, staffed by former ISI trainers and retired Pashtun officers from the army, who armed, trained, and supported the Taliban in camps around Quetta . In view of the high level of military training of the Lashkar jihadis who attacked Bombay , it may well be that some similar arrangement involving former ISI officers was used to prepare the Bombay terrorists for their mission too.

By 2004, the US had filmed Pakistani army trucks delivering Taliban fighters to the Afghan border and taking them back a few days later, while wireless monitoring at the US base at Bagram picked up Taliban commanders arranging with Pakistani army officers at the border for safe passage as they came in and out of Afghanistan. By 2005 the Taliban, with covert Pakistani support, was launching a full-scale assault on NATO troops in Afghanistan . As Rashid notes in his conclusion:

Today, seven years after 9/11, Mullah Omar and the original Afghan Taliban Shura still live in Baluchistan province. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders live on further north, in FATA, as do the militias of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. Al Qaeda has a safe haven in FATA, and along with them reside a plethora of Asian and Arab terrorist groups who are now expanding their reach into Europe and the United States .

The foot-dragging response of Zardari to the attacks on Bombay last November shows the degree to which the two-faced dual-track policy of courting both the US and the various jihadi groups remains effectively in place with the Pakistani military. For the last decade Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been allowed to operate from Muridke, near Lahore . Although, in reaction to US pressure after September 11, Lashkar has officially been banned, in reality it continues to function under the name of Jamaat-ud Daawa, while Saeed continues openly to incite attacks on India and Western targets. The speeches quoted by Rashid show how easily such attacks could have been anticipated, and how they should have been stopped: “The powerful Western world is terrorizing Muslims,” Saeed told an Islamabad conference in 2003. “We are being invaded, humiliated, manipulated and looted…. We must fight against the evil trio, America , Israel and India . Suicide missions are in accordance with Islam. In fact a suicide attack is the best form of jihad.”

Even now, after the mass murder in Bombay , although Saeed is himself now under house arrest for masterminding the attacks (an accusation that he denies), his organization’s madrasas and facilities remain open and appear to benefit from patro nag e offered by Pakistan ‘s authorities. Only this year the Zardari government cleared the purchase of a bulletproof Land Cruiser for him. Zardari does indeed seem to be in what the India n foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, calls “a state of denial” about the involvement of Pakistani jihadi groups in the Bombay massacres.

Yet viewed in the light of Pakistani power politics, Zardari’s position has a certain dangerous logic. Army insiders say that General Ashfaq Kiyani, the current chief of staff, who is already involved in a full-scale conflict with the Pakistani Taliban in the frontier tribal areas, does not feel sufficiently strong to open a second front with the jihadis in the Punjab; while Zardari, even though he may wish to be rid of Lashkar and the Punjabi jihadis, cannot afford to be seen to cave in to India n pressure. It is a classic South Asian catch-22, which allows Lashkar to continue functioning with only cosmetic restrictions, whose main function is to impress the US . Yet the fact remains that until firm action is taken against all such groups, and training camps are closed down, the slow collapse of the Pakistani state will continue, and with it the safety of Western interests in the region.

Several factors will determine the future. Rashid makes it clear that only a radically changed policy by the United States under Barack Obama can hope to begin turning things around. He writes:

South and Central Asia will not see stability unless there is a new global compact among the leading players…to help this region solve its problems, which range from settling the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan to funding a massive education and job-creation program in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan and along their borders with Central Asia .

As Obama has hinted, such an approach could be coupled with negotiations with some elements of the Afghan Taliban.

The second factor, of course, has to be reform of the ISI and the Pakistani military. The top Pakistani army officers must end their obsession with bleeding India by using an Islamist strategic doctrine entailing support of jihadists, and realize that such a policy is deeply damaging to Pakistan itself, threatening to turn Pakistan into a clone of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan rather than a potential partner of a future India n superpower.

A third factor, which Rashid does not discuss in this book, is somehow finding a way to stop the madrasa- inspired and Saudi-financed advance of Wahhabi Islam, which is directly linked to the spread of anti-Western radicalization. On my last visit to Pakistan , it was very clear that while the Wahhabi-dominated North-West was on the verge of falling under the sway of the Taliban, the same was not true of the Sufi-dominated province of Sindh , which currently is quieter and safer than it has been for some time. Here in southern Pakistan , on the India n border, Sufi Islam continues to act as a powerful defense against the puritanical fundamentalist Islam of the Wahhabi mullahs, which supports intolerance of all other faiths.

Visiting the popular Sufi shrine of Sehwan in Sindh last month, I was astonished by the strength of feeling expressed against the mullahs by the Sindhis who look to their great saints such a Lal Shabaz Qalander for guidance, and hate the Wahhabis who criticize the popular Islam of the Sufi saints as a form of shirk, or heresy: “All these mullahs should be damned,” said one old Sufi I talked to in the shrine. “They read their books but they never understand the true message of love that the prophet preached. Men so blind as them cannot even see the shining sun.” A friend who visited shortly before me met a young man from Swat, in the North-West Frontier Province , who said he had considered joining the militants, but their anti-Sufi attitude had put him off: “No one can deny us our respected saints of God,” he said.

The Saudis have invested intensively in Wahhabi madrasas in the North-West Frontier Province and Punjab , with dramatic effect, radically changing the religious culture of an entire region. The tolerant Sufi culture of Sindh has been able to defy this imported Wahhabi radicalism. The politically moderating effect of Sufism was recently described in a RAND Corporation report recommending support for Sufism as an “open, intellectual interpretation of Islam.” Here is an entirely indigenous and homegrown Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism, with deep roots in South Asian culture. Its importance cannot be overestimated. Could it have a political effect in a country still dominated by military forces that continue to fund and train jihadi groups? It is one of the few sources of hope left in the increasingly bleak political landscape of this strategically crucial country.

January 15, 2009

Notes

[1]Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia ( Yale University Press, 2000).

[2]Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA , Afghanistan , and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (Penguin, 2004), p. 495. See also the review in these pages by Ahmed Rashid, May 27, 2004.