US launched air attack inside Pak after verifying ISI-Taliban link

22 02 2009

: Book22 Feb 2009, 0854 hrs IST, PTI
Source: Times of India

NEW DELHI: The US national security agency (NSA) has intercepted messages to indicate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was in”complete coordination” with the Taliban, according to a US journalist.
New York Times’ White House correspondent David E Sanger has claimed in his latest book that the US decision to launch air attacks inside Pakistan’s western borders was taken after “one such high-level conversation was intercepted” in which a speaker said the Taliban was a “strategic asset” for Pakistan.

Excerpts of the book ‘The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the challenges to American power’ were published by Pakistani newspaper The News.The daily said former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf called a press conference recently to “repeatedly deny” allegations in the book that he had held a series of parleys with slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto about her security, following which she returned to Pakistan.The book also claimed that NSA had intercepted messages indicating ISI officers of helping Taliban in planning a big bomb attack in Afghanistan although the target was unclear.

After some days, Kandahar jail was attacked by Taliban and hundreds of their militants were freed, it said, adding that the US decision to invade Pakistani territories was taken “after CIA reached a conclusion that the ISI was absolutely in complete coordination with the Taliban”.According to the Pakistani daily, Sanger also wrote that the telephones of all senior army officers, including its chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, were bugged by NSA and CIA.The author “claims that American intelligence agencies were intercepting telephonic conversations of army officers and the decision to attack Pakistan through drones was taken after one such high-level conversation was intercepted claiming the Taliban as a ‘strategic asset’ for Pakistan”, it said.

The US scribe “seemed to have been given direct access to the secret record of several meetings held at the White House before George Bush left on January 20,” the daily said.The book said NSA had picked up intercepts like someone giving advance warning of what was coming to Taliban when the Pakistan Army was getting ready to hit places in tribal areas.According to ‘The News’, the book also claimed that the Americans were in “full knowledge of the facts on the ground and they started attacking territories inside Pakistan as they thought the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies were no more interested in fighting the Taliban.”It also speaks of a two-star general as saying that supporting Taliban was absolutely necessary as “Indians will rein when Americans pull out”.

The Pakistani daily said it had sought a detailed response from the Inter Services Public Relations to its report and promised to give it “equal and similar space”.

The Roots Of Terrorism Are Internal, Not External

15 02 2009

Source: Radio free europe

As long as Pakistan’s youth have little choice but conservative religious education, they will be trapped in the same cycle of poverty and extremism.

February 13, 2009
By M. D. Nalapat

Muslims across the world have a right to be angry.

Despite being blessed with natural riches and an expanding population, 60 percent of them are illiterate, a figure that rises to more than 70 percent in the case of women.

More than half the world’s Muslims live under authoritarian rule and are denied the right to vote and other benefits of democracy. Access to travel and modern education is reserved for the elite, as is the ownership of assets.

In short, the long-established elites in many Muslim-majority countries have so monopolized power and its benefits that the rest of the population continues to suffer discrimination and lack of opportunity

Take the example of Pakistan, a country that today produces large numbers of terrorists. Unlike neighboring India, where democracy has taken deep root and has led to land and economic reforms across more than 80 percent of the country, Pakistan’s rural poor continue to suffer under landlords who use them almost as draft animals.

Politics in Pakistan is very largely controlled either by this feudal elite or their cousins, the business community that acquired its wealth through contacts with the all-powerful armed forces. People’s Party leader and President Asif Ali Zardari comes from a family of feudal landlords, while Nawaz Sharif, the second-most-powerful politician in Pakistan and head of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), is one of the richest businesspersons in the country. In the National Assembly, there are almost no representatives of the urban or rural poor, even though together those groups constitute more than 80 percent of the population.

Teaching To Fail

Why is it that the people of Pakistan have thus far been unable to empower themselves in a way that ensures a fairer distribution of national assets? Why is it that after six decades of independence, only the feudal elite and the well-connected can hope to succeed in Pakistan?

Apart from the absence of land reform designed to free the millions of peasants and landless from the tyranny of the feudal lords, another reason why Pakistan has become a problem for the international community is its education system, especially at the school level. Because of extreme poverty and lack of educational infrastructure, many parents have no option but to send their children to the “madrasahs,” or religious schools. Given a choice, most of these parents — and their children — would probably prefer a comprehensive education, rather than the restricted curriculum available within a madrasah.

Pakistan’s elite: Nawaz Sharif (left) with Asif Ali Zardari (center) and his son Bilawal

In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development began a scheme six years ago that provided madrasahs state-funded access to computers, as well as to subjects such as the English language, and several religious schools have taken advantage of this to expand their staff and the range of subjects taught. While an old-fashioned madrasah education does not equip a graduate to compete effectively in the global marketplace, students in the more modern madrasahs in India are enabled, by a fusion of religious and comprehensive teaching, to handle a much greater variety of occupations than their counterparts from old-fashioned institutions.

Even the most fanatical religious extremist does not hesitate to use the Internet or modern methods of travel and communication, correctly recognizing in them not just attributes of culture but tools for self-betterment. Likewise, language too is only a method of personal advancement, and the learning of English — the international language of communication — can open the way to opportunities that would otherwise remain closed.

While in India several madrasahs have now dropped their objection to the teaching of English (and in some cases, even to teaching in English), in Pakistan those who run the madrasahs remain opposed to any innovations in their curricula. The result is that hundreds of thousands of students graduate from religious schools without the ability to compete in the international jobs marketplace.

No One Else To Blame

Because of this frustration, some turn to extremism, just as many from poor urban and rural families in Pakistan turn to extremism because local elites have blocked their paths to advancement.

Although the local elite in Pakistan blames external factors for the accelerated radicalization of youth in the country, pointing to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the disputed Kashmir region, the truth is that they themselves are the culprits. It is the ramshackle educational structure that they have imposed on the poor that is to blame. It is the absence of opportunity caused by the stranglehold of the feudal elite in the rural areas and the commercial-military elite in the cities that has led thousands of youths towards radicalism.

By always emphasizing external factors, the elites in Pakistan hope to be able to continue concealing from the rest of the population the fact that they themselves are the guilty persons. They themselves are responsible for the poverty and the lack of opportunity in Pakistan that creates the atmosphere in which so many embrace radicalism.

The lone individual caught in the November 26-28 Mumbai terror attack, Ajmal Kasab, represents the face of this new terrorist. He joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba group because it provided him with both an income and a social identity. Unless fundamental reforms take place within Pakistan’s society and educational system, the country will continue to turn out terrorists, even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, along with those in Kashmir, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The roots of terrorism are internal, not external.

The Time For Truth

A situation similar to that in Pakistan exists in several other Muslim-majority countries, many of which are ruled by a single family. True, a few monarchies have introduced reforms, such as Kuwait, where elections take place in which even women have the vote, but others have continued to deny their populations any say in governance. Small wonder that it is in such countries that extremists find fertile ground to recruit the young to their deadly cause.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be good, but wouldn’t solve Pakistan’s problems.

Yes, Iraq is important. This writer has consistently supported the right of the Iraqi people to run their own country, rather than have important issues decided from outside. Yes, Afghanistan is important, as is a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ensures a prosperous Palestinian territory. For unless people in the Palestinian Territories (who are among the most versatile in the world) are enabled to build up their economy, recruitment will continue to organizations that seek to destroy Israel. Yes, the people of Kashmir need to be assured that their interests and identity will be preserved, so that some in their midst cease to resort to violence and terror in the cause of an independent homeland.

However, what the peoples of the Muslim-majority countries need most is democratic governance, the removal of feudal constraints to personal advancement, and the creation of educational infrastructure that can once again propel Muslims to the forefront of human creativity.

For too long have feudal and other elites fooled the people by blaming on external factors problems caused exclusively by their own oppression and misgovernance. This cloak needs to be pulled away and the truth exposed. Which is the shameful misuse of religion and its symbols to conceal the absence of internal reform. Which is the attempt to divert public attention towards external conflicts in order to prevent people from looking too closely at their own situation and its real causes.

The time for internal reform has arrived.

M.D. Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair and is director of the Department of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India. The views expressed in this commentary are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

analysis: Swat under siege —Abbas Rashid

24 01 2009

Source: Dailytimes

Both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space

One indicator of the state of Swat is the fate of its schools. According to one estimate, over the last fortnight, around twenty schools have been burnt down — more than one a day on average. The total number of schools in Swat that have been destroyed has now exceeded 150. Most are girls’ schools. In fact, few schools in the area are actually functioning because of understandable concerns on the part of parents and teachers for the safety of the children.

There are doubts expressed sometimes as to who is responsible for this. Obviously, it is not possible to rule out the involvement of more than one element. But the Taliban have often enough made clear their aversion to girls’ education and the experience of their rule in Afghanistan provides ample testimony as to their determination in this regard.

But what are we doing about the havoc being wreaked in Swat?

Earlier this week members of parliament passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the people of the valley, pledging to “stand up for the protection of their rights in the face of the onslaught by non-state actors”.

We are not quite sure just how this will happen. On Thursday, President Asif Zardari met security chiefs and politicians to discuss the violence in Swat and elsewhere in the northwest, and said the government was following a “three D” policy of dialogue, development and deterrence.

The problem, however, is that dialogue and short-lived peace deals have been tried before, only to have the Taliban return to the area stronger than before. Development interventions are not possible unless preceded by peace and a modicum of stability. And so far, the fairly substantial presence of military and paramilitary forces in the area has somehow not deterred the Taliban from terrorising the people of Swat and FATA, forcing large numbers to leave their homes and flee the area. The majority of the police force is no longer performing its duties and even the security advisor suggested as much when he declared Thursday that the police would have to work at restoring their credibility.

But Swat is now in the grip of a broader Taliban-led insurgency challenging the writ of the state in FATA and increasingly in the settled areas of the NWFP. And a successful counter-insurgency strategy operation cannot be carried out by a demoralised police force. While the military and paramilitary forces have carried out successful operations in the area, there is a general sense that the initiative still rests very much with the Taliban who seem to be running short neither of arms, men or money in what is nothing less than an unrelenting drive to take effective control over large areas of Pakistan and force millions of its citizens to do their bidding.

An ISPR spokesman Wednesday blamed the situation in the area partly on the two months of truce agreed by the new provincial government with the militants, giving them a chance to regroup and tighten their grip. That may be so. Earlier, this was a strategy followed by the military under President Pervez Musharraf as well.

Now, again, the federal government has sought the services of JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to negotiate with the Taliban. It is unlikely that the latter will agree to anything less than exercising effective control in large parts of the NWFP and imposing their own version of sharia that, among other things, rules out education for women and polio shots for children.

Clearly, a negotiated peace is the best option but it should not be a synonym for the surrender of the writ of the state. In the alternative, force has to be judiciously but effectively used to restore confidence in a terrorised populace. And while the Maulana may be the right person to negotiate with the Taliban, he might need reminding that his party lost in the last elections, held less than an year ago, and the ANP and the PPP won convincingly in the area: it says something about the preferences and aspirations of the people as opposed to those of the militants and terrorists.

Meanwhile, there is a level of uncertainly created by the fallout from the bomb blasts that killed so many innocent people in Mumbai last November. As the threats from India mounted, Pakistan made it clear that it would move troops fighting the insurgency to its eastern border and some were reportedly redeployed.

A major redeployment would obviously provide the Taliban with the opportunity to consolidate their gains and advance further. But, the pressure from India now seems to be receding and with the new US administration headed by Barack Obama, it is likely that there will be an attempt to put a regional initiative in place with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Richard Holbrooke has been reported as Obama’s choice for the position of US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan But an important part of his mandate could be Pakistan-India relations as well. President Obama spoke during his campaign about the need to resolve the Kashmir issue and the recent remarks made by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband are indicative of the thinking in western capitals that a ‘regional’ solution may not be entirely possible without some kind of a settlement on Kashmir.

Pakistan, for its part, has made it clear that it will go along with any settlement acceptable to the Kashmiris, while India remains deeply suspicious of any third party involvement as indicated yet again by its sharp reaction to the Miliband’s remarks. However, India needs to resolve the Kashmir issue not for Pakistan but for itself just as Pakistan has to meet the challenge posed by the Taliban in FATA and the NWFP not in support of the US war on terror, but for its own integrity and survival as a nation-state.

For now, however, both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space. To deal effectively with the growing menace of militancy and terrorism, both countries need to allow for a regional approach to the issue.

Abbas Rashid lives in Lahore and can be contacted at

An ostrich mentality

30 05 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ikram Sehgal

Whenever the economy is in trouble, central banks the world over take measures to ease pressures on the business community by lowering discount rates, as done recently by the US Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England. Intervention is normally anathema to “free market” theory but the fear of a domino effect on the economy evoked a rescue effort. Raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy does fight inflation. In Third World countries with large blue-collar workforces fighting unemployment must be the moral objective. This is at variance with IMF practices and beliefs. While inflation lowers the buying power of salaries, it is still preferable to be employed and have some food on the table for the family than not have any money to buy food.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has woken up from years of slumber, raising the discount rate and banking charges. And that is meant to control inflation? Manufacturers and merchants will simply pass the rate rises onto the consumers, the common man has had it. Did Governor Shamshad Akhtar consult the government-in-power, what will the PPP answer to the populace? She should have anticipated the rise in inflation. The last SBP Quarterly Report was oblivious to it. Lack of anticipation also failed to prevent a run on the Pakistani rupee and enact pre-emptive measures when the world economic situation was staring us in the face for months. The US dollar was already taking a pounding because of oil prices, and food shortages worldwide were front page news. While the sudden SBP frenzy is not by itself responsible for the stock market downturn, it is certainly a contributing factor. Her recent “Asia Banker” award notwithstanding, is Dr Akhtar up to facing national economic crisis on this scale?

There are signs we may weather the “atta” crisis because of (1) early measures regulating the internal flow (2) reducing smuggling to Afghanistan (3) a bumper wheat crop expected shortly and (4) staggered wheat imports for bolstering buffer stocks. Despite protests from the NWFP and Balochistan, we must keep on hanging tough about internal movement of wheat and atta stocks while keeping supply pipelines open. Why are we being generous in giving Hamid Karzai 50,000 tons of wheat when he badmouths us all the time?

The US is impatient with the peace initiatives in FATA and Swat. While one must not negotiate with terrorists, we must differentiate between terrorists and militants. Those crossing the border into Afghanistan are mostly militants but could also be “equal opportunity” terrorists, Baitullah Mahsud’s forays reaching innocents in cities and towns deep inside Pakistan. Since he has publicly boasted about sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan, with what credibility do we oppose “hot pursuit” and Predator strikes on locations in FATA’s terrorist-infested areas? The unfortunate Catch-22, further radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. Both the US and Pakistani interest lie in stopping militant activity on either side of the border, with Mahsud’s terrorists faction isolated from other militants. This fine balancing act is a calculated risk, requiring both understanding and patience from the US. Incidentally our media are accessories to murder, giving media time to terrorists. Pakistan’s must be the only fourth estate in the world that helps spread the terrorist message of hate and suicide bombings. We must act more responsibly, the blood of innocents pays for the media space given to terrorists.

Maulana Fazlullah and his “holy army” in Swat terrorised the local population, imposing brutal authority with great savagery in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. They had to be militarily eliminated; this was done in brilliant fashion by the Army. Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, has been in government custody since returning from Afghanistan (of his own choice for self-survival because he got his “volunteers” slaughtered by the Coalition air strikes and Northern Alliance during the short, sharp Afghanistan war post 9/11). Rashid Dostum buried thousands of surviving Pakistanis, handed over by Mullah Dadullah in Konduz during Ramzan in 2001 for his own freedom and that of his Afghan followers, alive in containers in Shebergan. Estranged from Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah took over the TSNM during his absence. The ANP government in the NWFP acted pragmatically in releasing Sufi Mohammad and entering into a peace deal with him to counter Fazlullah’s residual influence.

Trying to push the 62-clause Constitutional package through Parliament in one go is not advisable, some points will likely get short shrift. Can the PPP muster a two-thirds majority? Even in a joint session of Parliament the numbers don’t add up! The major stumbling block is the proposal to reduce the Chief Justice’s tenure to three years, making him retire before he becomes active, in effect the “minus one” formula. The president will hardly agree to giving away his powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner and the services chiefs.

We should not allow Musharraf-specific emotion and prejudice overwhelm our good judgment, Article 58 (2) (b) and the National Security Council (NSC) should be retained. Without these the Armed Forces would have to declare martial law (thus committing treason technically) when the situation spins totally out of control. Any presidential move should be qualified, if imposing 58 2(b) fails due judicial scrutiny, the president should resign. The appointment of the services chiefs should not be politicised in the manner Mian Nawaz Sharif did when he was prime minister. Even though Musharraf certainly had merit, two course-mates senior to him, Ali Quli and Khalid Nawaz, had no less. The choice of Musharraf was political for Mian Sahib’s own personal benefit, it rebounded in his face. The president should forward three choices to the prime minister for public scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee. If their recommendations are in variance to his, the president should consult with the prime minister and the committee. The same process can be followed for the post of the chief justice, as well as for the CEC.

When denials to outlandish rumours without any foundation are not handled professionally, the perception will be “the lady doth protest too much,” as my good friend and colleague Kamran Shafi has duly noted. The ISI’s political cell undercuts (in public perception) the Army’s firm (and welcome) resolve to stay away from politics. Col Skorzeny, Germany’s “Commando Extraordinary” during World War 2 had it right when he said, “Politics is the soldier’s curse!” Deviation from the ISI’s primary mission is not only a waste of public money, time and effort, it undermines this national asset’s tremendous potential (and successes) in keeping the country secure from external dangers, demeaning the achievement of the vast majority of the agency’s magnificent rank and file who get a bad name simply by association.

With its political wing transferred lock, stock and barrel to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI must be actually (not theoretically) under the prime minister’s control. Rather than honestly facing unpalatable facts, this country excels in burying its head in the ground and circumventing the truth as they did in 1971. For the sake of the country we profess to love, stand up and be counted, instead of continuing to put our heads in the ground and closing our eyes and ears to existing realities.

We do not need an ostrich mentality!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder

The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s Proxy Wars, Islamic Jihad and the Taliban

28 12 2007

The most horrific acts of terror in recent times has just been in the neighbouring pakistan. Benazir Bhutto the former PM of Pakistan has been killed in an allegged Alqaida attack. FACT prays for peace to her soul.

Another high profile victim for the fundamentalism and another round of applause for the fundamentalism from the stupidity.

The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s Proxy Wars, Islamic Jihad and the Taliban
by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Benazir Bhutto twice ousted as Prime Minister of Pakistan, prompted by fears of arrest is presently in self-imposed exile in Dubai for the last two years. Sensing that elections may be held by the Pakistan Army next year and with a political vacuum existing due to banishment of the last Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, she has been active in running around Western countries subtly projecting that she is the only viable civilian alternative to head Pakistan. With the inauguration of President Bush in Washington, she has already visited Washington in February and embarking soon on a second outing. Her campaign on Capitol Hill is aimed at impressing the American law makers and the think-tanks in Washington that she is a moderate Pakistani leader having nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism, proxy war in Kashmir or with Taliban. Such a line carries conviction to the Americans when coupled with her personal charm and western education eloquence.

In India too, there are many advocates of Ms. Bhutto amongst retired diplomats of Nehru-Gandhi vintage, Track II participants and Generals/Admirals turned peaceniks. The Indian media glitterrati as is their wont, do not take pains to delve deep in to the political background of such leaders.

In the current security environment obtaining in South Asia in the India-Pakistan context, Indians are led to believe by opinion makers that Islamic fundamentalism, proxy war and Jehadi terrorism and the Taliban were and are the creations of Pakistan military rulers beginning with General Zia and now General Musharraf. This is only partly true.

The significant fact that has not been brought out by the Indian media and opinion makers is that Benazir played a significant role in drawing Pakistan deep into the Islamic fundamentalism morass, in escalating the Pak proxy war in Kashmir and giving active encouragement to the formation of the Taliban.

The aim of this paper is to highlight the active involvement of Ms. Benazir Bhutto in these activities as Prime Minister of Pakistan. Revelations in a recent book authored by the Director of the United States Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare eloquently highlight Ms. Bhutto’s complicity. (1)

Other published works stand referred to in order to substantiate Ms. Bhutto’s involvement in setting up the Taliban.For the record and also to enable readers to correlate contemporary events in South Asia, the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan were1.

1 December 1988 to August 1990.

2. October 1993 to November 1996.

Benazir Bhutto’s Islamic Fundamentalisation of PakistanBenazir Bhutto’s first advent as Prime Minister coincided roughly with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan where Pakistan was spearheading the American effort. Since strategic aims had been met, it would have been logical for the self-proclaimed Pakistani democrat Prime Minister to wind up the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen bases in Pakistan and their nurseries. No such thing happened.

On the contrary “Benazir Bhutto, who became the Prime Minister in 1989 had a profoundly different perception of the role and utility of Islamist terrorism. Convinced that Pakistan’s destiny lay in strategic alliances with such countries as Syria, Iran, China (PRC) and North Korea, Benazir Bhutto’s Islamabad re-examined all aspects of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and the world of State-sponsored terrorism became an instrument of crucial significance for Pakistani policy. Islamabad now committed to furthering Islamism in the heart of Asia . . . Islamabad recognized the growing specter of confrontation with the United States over strategic posture in the region. Still Islamabad shifted to active support for militant Islamism.”(2)

As a follow-up of Benazir Bhutto’s policy of exploiting Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a state-sponsored tool, Pakistan was flooded with about 16000-20000 Islamist militants from over 20 countries all freely given visas for Pakistan. The Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan and surely they had not come for Afghanistan’s liberation. They had come for training in Pakistan and to fight for Pakistani state-sponsored Jehads from Kashmir to Central Asia.

General Zia as military ruler of Pakistan for eleven years preceding Prime Minister Bhutto could not achieve what she achieved in terms of Islamic fundamentalisation of Pakistan: ” In the quest for Islamic violence the camps of the Islamist Afghan resistance in Pakistan became to Sunni Islamist terrorism what Lebanon had been for radical leftist terrorism. Pakistan became a place of pilgrimage for aspiring Islamist radicals.” (3)

Benazir Bhutto on return to power in 1993 had not lost her zeal for Islamic fundamentalisation : “By the end of 1993, after her round of visits to Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran, Bhutto clearly demonstrated her determination to implement these policies (Islamic terrorism as state-sponsored foreign policy tool) and realise this strategic posture as soon as possible. Markedly increasing Pakistan’s participation in the Islamist international terrorist system was an integral part of Bhutto’s new strategy.” (4)

Benazir’s active linkages with Pan-Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisations stands adequately exposed in the book referred: “In mid-December 1993, Turabi (Sudanese Islamic fundamentalist leader) organised another “Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (PAIC) in Khartoum to discuss the next phase of the Islamist struggle . . . The PAIC conference focussed on the role of Pakistan . . . in particular Pakistan’s future active support for Islamist armed struggles and international terrorism. The official Pakistan delegation was led by two other Bhutto confidants (the other was a close Bhutto adviser from her party PPP) General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former Chief of Staff of Pakistani Armed Forces and Lt. General Hamid Gul, the former chief of ISI (Pakistani intelligence) . . . Their participation in the Khartoum conference and leading role in the formulation of Pakistan’s relations with the PAIC and the Islamist (read Islamic fundamentalist) world was proof that Bhutto’s Islamabad would continue to pursue Islamist policies.” (5)

Benazir Bhutto’s Duplicity with the United States: Forming a Trans- Asian anti-USA Alliance

Since Benazir Bhutto’s current visits to USA are related to garner US support for her installation as Prime Minister on return to civil rule, it is pertinent to highlight her duplicity with the United States and formation of a Trans-Asian and anti-US Alliance.

Washington should note that: ” The Islamist surge coincided with Benazir Bhutto’s return to power in Islamabad. Behind a facade of pro-Western and pro-democracy rhetoric she initiated a program designed to make Pakistan a central member of both the Islamic bloc and the Trans-Asian axis, an anti-US radical alliance stretching from the Mediterranean to North East Asia . . . Islamabad emerged from these alliances with distinct roles.” (6)

The roles assigned to Pakistan, can be summarised as follows:

*Pakistan would serve as centre for defence production for the Islamic bloc. This would also incorporate nuclear weapon technologies.

* Pakistan would be the financial centre for laundering Islamist drug money.

* Pakistan would acquire legally or illegally sophisticated western technology for its Islamic and other allies.

“Islamabad and its allies were convinced that Bhutto’s rise to power, especially in view of her pro-democracy rhetoric, would relax the western guard” and that “Pakistan would be able to acquire the necessary items . . . ” (7)

It seems that USA and the West were taken in by this approach.Bezazir Bhutto’s apologists may argue that all this was done under Pakistan Army’s pressure. It does not seem so as Bodansky clarifies that: “Pakistan’s growing role in the anti-US build up was one of Bhutto’s personal priorities (note ‘personal priorities’). Immediately after return to power in fall 1993, she embarked on a series of political moves that would formulate the new grand strategy for a post-Cold War and post- Gulf crisis Pakistan.” (8)

Benazir Bhutto’s Intensification of Pak Proxy War in KashmirIt needs to be noted that: “From 1972 to December 1989, Kashmir was not an issue of high crisis in Indo- Pakistan relations, though Pakistan continued to harp on it during this period.”(9)

It would be obvious from this that both in her father’s tenure as Prime Minister and that of eleven years of President Zia no major escalation took place on the Kashmir issue.

Kashmir was whipped up as an emotive and frenzied issue only by Benazir Bhutto when she came into power in 1989 and thereafter in1993. Never before had Kashmir been made such a provocative issue in Pakistani elections as done by Benazir Bhutto. She outdid what Islamic fundamentalists uttered on Kashmir. “Indo-Pak relations were to go off into a spin from the end of 1989” and that “The tenuous hopes of a new beginning (friendly Indo- Pak relations) came to a somewhat abrupt end in December 1989” (10).

This was mid-way in Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan.The following need to be noted in relation to Benazir’s escalation of proxy war in Kashmir:* “Violence in Kashmir increased between December 1989 and February 1990. India had firm information about a quantum increase in the flow of arms and infiltration by trained terrorists.”(11)

* Benazir Bhutto visited POK for the first time as Prime Minister on 13 March 1990. She gave a historical speech at a public meeting in Muzzafarabad declaring the struggle in Kashmir to be a ‘holy jehad’.”(12)

The increased jehadi infiltration in Kashmir and acts of terrorism during Benazir’s tenures as Prime Minister was the manifestation of what has been discussed earlier, i.e., the adoption by PM Benazir Bhutto of state- sponsored Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a foreign policy tool. Retrospectively, it can also be analysed that Benazir Bhutto was carrying a chip on her shoulder from the Simla Agreement 1972 days when she was a witness to her father Z.A. Bhutto giving in to Indian demands that Kashmir was to be a bi-lateral issue between the two countries.

The Taliban’s Creation During Premiership of Bhutto

Pakistan figures prominently in any discussions related to the Taliban in terms of creating this medieval monster in Afghanistan and the subsequent inhuman repression that the Taliban has imposed on the Afghans themselves. ISI also figures prominently in relation to provision of Pak Army cadres, military advisers and military hardware. However what does not figure is Benazir Bhutto’s role in its creation. The Taliban emerged forcefully on the Afghan scene in the period 1993-94 and captured the whole of Afghanistan, less the Northern Provinces by September 1996. It requires to be noted that all these developments took place during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure as Prime Minister, i.e., 1993- 1996. As one author puts it: “Furthermore, there was considerable evidence to suggest that the Taliban were being strongly supported by the Pakistani government led by Benazir Bhutto, ironically a woman educated at Oxford and Harvard.”(13)

Initially, more than the ISI, it was the Bhutto party machine both at Islamabad and in the provincial capitals at Peshawar(NWFP) and Quetta (Baluchistan) which were active in the reinforcement and furtherance of Taliban operations. It is indicated that: “When the Taliban captured Kandahar, the ISI was initially more sceptical than the Government about the chances of further success. While General Babar( Bhutto’s Interior Minister) and the Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam pushed for support to the Taliban, the ISI took a back seat. Thus Babar had a free hand in “civilianising” the initial support to the Taliban.” (14)

Benazir’s newly created Taliban ensured that they had the right connections in Pakistan to enable continued support as this would suggest: “And the Taliban soon developed close relations with several businessmen close to Asaf Ali Zardari- the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who in turn were given the highly lucrative permits to export fuel to Afghanistan. As the Taliban’s war machine expanded, permits for fuel supplies from Pakistan became a major money earner for Pakistani politicians” . . . (15) The linkages and implications are self evident.

ConclusionBenazir’s pretentious pronouncements are avidly lapped up in Washington and New Delhi as emanating from a committed democrat, a Pakistani politician of moderate hues and above all a Muslim with western educated secular values, in short someone New Delhi could trust in political dealings. The above record of Benazir Bhutto however does not match up with what she would like us to believe about her.Bodansky states that: ” Pakistan’s ascent in the Islamist terrorist system is particularly important in a strategic context. Pakistan’s growing involvement resulted in both escalation of the war by proxy in Kashmir and the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, two movements that still provide shelter and closely cooperate with Osama bin Laden.” (16)

What Bodansky has not added to complete this summation is that in terms of contextual time-spans both these developments emerged during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Benazir’s duplicity against the United States of America of forming a Trans-Asian anti- US alliance while mouthing platitudes on democracy during Washington visits indicates a fatal flaw in her political credibility. Comparatively speaking, former PM Nawaz Sharif appears far superior to Benazir’s Bhutto. He had at least the courage to fight an election in Pakistan on the agenda of improvement of Indo-Pak relations and won on this issue with an overwhelming majority.

Regrettably, Benazir Bhutto’s record on Islamic fundamentalism of Pakistan, escalation of the proxy war in Kashmir and the creation of the Taliban leads one to the conclusion that Washington’s assessments of Pakistani politicians and Pakistan’s political scene tend to be faulty and unreliable as inputs for any Track II diplomacy. Both these conclusions are pertinent presently for those advising and espousing the continuation of India’s cease fire in Kashmir.