Swat girl denies she was flogged

7 04 2009

Two attacks a week to avenge U.S. drone strikes: Taliban

— Photo: AFP

Image taken from Pakistan’s Dawn News channel on Saturday shows the flogging of a woman by Taliban members in Swat valley.

Islamabad: The girl who was reportedly whipped by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley has denied the incident, even as a rally was taken out in Karachi to condemn the public lashing. The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a probe into the matter.

The girl was reportedly flogged by a Taliban cleric for “coming out of her house with another man who was not her husband”.

The girl’s statement before a magistrate was presented in the Supreme Court through Attorney-General Latif Khosa. “The girl has denied the alleged flogging incident,” Geo TV reported. The lashing footage was telecast on many news channels worldwide.

The victim was not present during the hearing.

Senior officials, including the Interior Secretary and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Inspector-General of Police, appeared before the eight-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary which is hearing the case.

Chief Justice Chaudhary said “investigations be conducted” into the incident.

A two-minute video showed the 17-year-old, burqa-clad girl screaming while being whipped by the Taliban men.

The grainy video, shot on a mobile phone, showed the girl face down on the ground. Two men held her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned man with a flowing beard, whipped her repeatedly, London’s Guardian newspaper reported.

The newspaper said it received the video through Samar Minallah, a Pashtun documentary maker.

After 34 lashes the punishment stopped and the wailing girl was led into a stone building.

The Minhajul Quran Women League (MQWL) on Saturday staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club to condemn the flogging and demanded strict action against those involved in the incident, the News International reported.

Addressing the protesters, MQWL chief Fatima Mashadi said those who flogged the girl were not following Islam and they had brought a bad name to the religion and the country. — IANS

PTI reports:

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a paramilitary camp in the federal capital that killed eight security personnel and warned it would carry out two attacks a week to avenge U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas.

Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the deputies of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, said Sunday’s suicide attack on a Frontier Corps camp in the heart of Islamabad was carried out by his group.

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Pervez Hoodbhoy: Pakistan needs a new vision?

8 03 2009

Pervez Hoodbhoy: Pakistan needs a new vision?

Source: Ittfaq


A leading Pakistani intellectual has described the Taliban as ‘barbaric’ because they are against elementary forms of civilisation and argues that negotiations are not possible with their leadership. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear Physics, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, also says in an exclusive interview to Shyam Bhatia of asianaffairs that the constitution of Pakistan needs to be altered to give equal rights to all citizens.

AA: Bearing in mind what happened at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, could you tell us how deep rooted are the Taliban in Pakistan?

PH: It was three or four years ago when we first heard of the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan. That translates into the Pakistan-Taliban movement. Prior to that we had thought the Taliban existed only in Afghanistan. Yes, we knew they were Pakistani creations, but in 1995 the ISI had formed and promoted them. That’s how they won their great battle in Jalalabad, that?s how they took over Kandahar and that’s how they ultimately took over Kabul. They were Pakistan’s favoured allies, Pakistan was the first to recognise the Taliban government. But after September 11, 2001 Pakistan made its famous U-turn. I think they did right by doing so, but that was also the time that the establishment betrayed its allies. Nonetheless, even after 2001, for years after that, Pakistanis assumed it was just a problem for Afghanistan.

AA: But when does the link start with Pakistan?

PH: In 2004 we hear that they have an existence in Pakistan and are so powerful that the Pakistan Army is making compromises. So you have the famous treaty of Shakai in 2004 in which it was agreed that the Taliban would not be attacked, that they would be compensated for their losses, that they in turn would not attack Pakistani troops. So one starts wondering at that time what the heck is going on! How is it that the Pakistan Army, which is reputed to have such good fighting skills, is making compromises over there and then suddenly once after that, we start hearing that the Taliban have spread into Swat, that mullahs are broadcasting fiery messages on their private FM stations that they have indoctrinated a fair percentage of the population of Swat. Then comes the January of 2007 when the Taliban essentially took over the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad. The way it started was that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) announced it was going to demolish eight illegally constructed mosques in Islamabad. When they began doing this, I remember being astonished but pleased that they were finally taking notice of these illegal constructions. These had been intruding upon playgrounds, public parks, green areas and so forth.

Immediately, there was a reaction. The Red Mosque authorities started organising people. They launched a campaign to stop the illegal structures from being pulled down.

Lal Masjid was associated with Jamia Hafsa which was a madrassa for girls. It was originally sanctioned as a simple madrassa, which means one storey. It ended up as four storeys and accommodating between three and four thousand students, whereas it should have been for about 300 students. It was part of the Lal Masjid complex, or rather it became that, and at the end of January the students under the instruction of Lal Masjid mullahs took over the neighbouring children’s library, a government building. The government watched, there was no action. After that it was all the way down the steep slippery slope until July 4, 2007. In the intervening six months there is much that the government could have done to stop it. For one thing it was obviously illegal for girls of Jamia Hafsa to go out on to the streets, to kidnap women alleged to be prostitutes. It was obviously illegal and wrong for them to break into shops accompanied by male madrassa students armed with Kalashnikovs, destroying CDs, DVDs and videos. They set up their own parallel justice system and there was apparently no check on their activities.

Three months into the Red Mosque issue, I was introduced to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He is a former prime minister and was Musharraf’s emissary to the Red Mosque and he was very much in the news at that time. He also made statements, were published in the newspapers, that he had agreed to all the demands of the girls; these fanatical women with bamboo sticks accompanied by Kalashnikov-toting males.

He said to them, ‘Aap to hamari baitiyon ki tarah hain, aapkey khilaf hum koi operation nahin karengey’ (You are like our daughters and we will not launch any operation against you) and he said he agrees to their demands for having Sharia in Islamabad.

So when I was introduced to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in Islamabad, I asked him, ‘Chaudhry sahib, is that what you said?’ He replied, ‘Yes, it is.’ I asked him, ‘Who gave you the authority to do that?’ He pointed to a portrait of General Musharraf and said, ‘He gave me the authority.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘you are a disgrace to Pakistan and its people’.

AA: Who signed the treaty of Shakai that you referred to earlier?

PH: That was General Aurakzai. He was a corps commander who later became governor of the Frontier province.

AA: Could you elaborate on the role of women in the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan and are there women suicide bombers as well?

PH: There are now suicide bombers to the extent of maybe 10 per cent and they are particularly effective because they can get through without being checked. This is a tactic that has been learned directly from Iraq. The women in Jamia Hafsa – the madrassa next to the Red Mosque – were under Ummeh Hassaan, the wife of Maulana Abdul Aziz. He was one of the two brothers – the other one was Abdul Rashid Ghazi who was killed – and he is currently in custody. He tried to flee from the siege by hiding under a burka. He was apprehended and exposed on television, leading to a temporary loss of status. Now his release has become a cause celebre.

Now astonishingly enough the Zardari government has decided to restore Jamia Hafsa. After the military action Jamia Hafsa was razed to the ground. Under pressure from the right-wing they are now restoring that women’s madrassa. They have already released Ummeh Hassaan and the pressure is now on to release her husband.

AA: But what about the role of women in this militancy? Do they take their cue from the Iraqis?

PH: They are girls who have been brought mostly from the FATA and the tribal areas. They came under desperate circumstances, sent by their fathers. They spent their formative years in the madrassa and were brought up in a particular mindset. So when this whole thing happened (the siege of the Red Mosque), the girls were given the choice of leaving the madrassa. They chose to stay there and many were killed.

AA: You mentioned more than 60 suicide attacks in 2007. Was that one a week?

PH: It was mostly between July and December. And Islamabad has seen its 10th suicide attack. One of those, which left me quaking, was because of my daughters could have been in the path. They were scheduled to accompany the chief justice at a rally in August. They were heading towards the courts and it was then that the suicide bomber blew himself up and 32 people died.

AA: What are the favoured targets of the suicide bombers? Is it buses, public buildings?

PH: The favoured targets of the suicide bombers are first of all the military and ISI. The military has been devastated by the suicide bombers who have obviously acted upon inside knowledge. They have been able to get past security barriers, they have managed to kill special forces commandos. One of the suicide bombers breaks into their mess and manages to kill 16 of them. There have been attacks on the general headquarters, there have been successful attacks on the ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi. I remember that day so well because my students were late. I asked them what happened and they said Murree Road was closed and again it was a suicide bomber who got through. He apparently knew the security codes. I had a student who joined the ISI and then dropped out because he did not know who was on which side.

AA: Would you comment on our perception from the outside that the ISI is actually very heavily involved with the Taliban?

PH: The ISI is bitterly divided within itself, as is the army. These are organisations that were brought up on the premise that defending Islam was just as important as defending Pakistan’s national borders. After 2001 they find themselves in a quandary. Who must they obey? What they have been brought to believe, or those people who are in charge of the state, and don’t have the same convictions? So that has been extremely divisive, which is precisely why one cannot say that the Pakistani state speaks with one voice. This is a fact with which the leadership of Pakistan is confronted. It may not be the fault of the present leadership. This is a legacy they have inherited from Zia-ul-Haq.

AA: Didn’t Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah make a distinction between mosque and state?

PH: Mohammed Ali Jinnah did not leave any clear blueprint for the state of Pakistan. Had he lived longer he might have had a greater say in how the state was to be structured. But that’s a hypothesis. He was primarily concerned with bringing Pakistan into existence. What he had in mind is unclear because he did not write any books, he did not author any academic titles wherein he expounded on his vision of Pakistan. He gave a number of speeches at different points and at different places. But some of those were based on expediency, others reflected his true thinking. But which reflected his expediency and which reflected his thinking is unclear. So, for example, he never used the word secularism. When he was asked, ‘Will Pakistan be a secular state?’ he replied, ‘I don’t know what a secular state is.’

Thereafter he had an interesting exchange with journalists from Australia where he essentially dodged the question. But precisely because he dodged the question, it has remained a question.

AA: Why do some people in Pakistan refer to the Taliban as barbaric?

PH: I would like many more people to use the adjective ‘barbaric’. The reason is obvious. These are people who do not want girls to be educated. In fact they blow up girls’ schools roughly at the average of two per week. They are opposed to music, they have declared that every form of music, whether classical or folk, is haram. They do not allow even simple pleasures like kite flying or traditional pleasures like bear fighting. They sent in a suicide bomber in Kandahar who blew up in a crowd of 1,000 who were spectators, killing a hundred and wounding who knows how many. They say no man who doesn’t have a beard will be allowed to walk the streets and whip those without beards.

They have issued threats against barbers and tailors because they say even tailoring clothes for women is inherently against Islam. They are against those elementary forms of civilisation and they are indeed barbarians. I feel their leadership cannot be negotiated with. It must be destroyed because people who follow this level of primitivism cannot be persuaded out of it.

On the other hand I think the rank and file of the Taliban is made up of simple folks. They are those who have been used to simple ways of living, they are in desperate circumstances, they are also subjected to culture shock because when they look at life in the cities finding it totally out of consonance with the life that they have been leading. And, of course, there are plenty of criminals as well.

AA: Where do they draw their inspiration from? Is it 18th century Wahabis from Saudi Arabia or the Deobandhi School?

PH: Before 1979 the Frontier region was populated by heavily armed tribals. The Soviet invasion led to the organisation of the great global jihad under the leadership of the U.S., joined in by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But the logistics were primarily placed in Pakistan. The aim was to defeat the Soviet Union. To enthuse the mujahideen, the U.S. projected this as a religious war and said Islam was under threat. So it was not a question of one country invading another. The Reagan administration thought that the most efficacious way of doing this was to declare this as jihad. Soon the CIA, working under the Reagan administration, brought in the most hardened warriors from across the globe. The religious sanction came from Saudi Arabia, the logistics from Pakistan, the money and the weapons from the U.S.

AA: Islam would justify this level of violence?

PH: The history of Islam has not been peaceful. Personally, I think no religion is peaceful. It can be used when necessary and parts of its history can be used to justify virtually anything.

AA: So the Americans in Afghanistan and their allies created a kind of goonda cult and took out whatever suited them from the religion, handed it to them and said now go ahead and do what’s necessary.

PH: It wasn’t the goondas, it was ideologically charged Islamic fighters that they brought in. Remember that at that point in history – the time of the Cold War – it was communism versus Islam. They brought the fatwas from all the maulvis and mullahs from across the world and they projected it as a religious war.

AA: Is there anything in the speeches of the Prophet and in the hadiths that proscribes music or that you should not educate girls?

PH: There are arguments you can make both ways and people cherry pick. I cannot say that Islam liberates or oppresses women, it depends on how you read it. To my mind saying that Islam is a religion of peace is just as wrong as saying that it’s a religion of war. You just pick out the pieces you like.

AA: The Taliban have created problems for and in Pakistan, yet many Pakistanis remain ambivalent about them. Why?

PH: Let’s try and understand what the Taliban demand. Their demands to the government of Pakistan are three in number. First, that they should be allowed to fight the Americans in Afghanistan for as long as the Americans occupy Afghanistan. The second demand is that the Sharia should be ordered as the law of the land in Pakistan, starting with the Frontier province and then extending to all of the country. Sharia is the system of law set down in the hadiths. What it means depends on what school of thought you belong to and there are four major schools. The third one is that whatever harm has been done to them by the Pakistani state should be compensated, prisoners released and so forth. But basically it’s just these three demands.

The problem is with all of these. First, if Pakistan gives them sanction to attack the ‘infidels’ in Afghanistan, where does that leave Pakistan? Is it ready to fight the U.S. as a declared hostile state? On the second demand, if the Sharia is to be imposed then that’s the end of civil law in Pakistan. It will also lead to infinite divisiveness. Pakistan may be Muslim, but it’s infinitely sectarian. Even more, it has a 20 to 30 per cent Shia minority. Forget about the one to two per cent Hindu, Sikh and Christian minorities. So what happens to all except the majority Deobandis and Baralvis? The third demand means you allow the Taliban to carry weapons, to give back all those that have been taken back from them. All three are extreme demands, but nevertheless the rejection of the Taliban by the Pakistani people has not been unequivocal. Why? Two reasons: one is that Pakistanis have been told from the very beginning that Pakistan was made from Islam.

If the Taliban say they are the true followers of Islam, then even if some of their acts are extreme, they are still in the right direction. They are simply seen as being too enthusiastic about things, but they are seen as basically right.

The second thing is that they are fighting the Americans and they are the only ones doing so today. This is more important than the first reason.

AA: You and others speak of the need for a new vision of Pakistan. Is the country in desperate straits?

PH: To my mind Pakistan has to stop pretending that it is a religious state. That it is defined by a religion. The fact is that there are many different faiths living within Islam, as well as faiths living outside of Islam. If all those who live within the geographic boundaries of Pakistan are to be considered as citizens, they are going to have to be given equal rights and be regarded equally. The constitution of Pakistan will have to be altered to express that fact. To have anything different means that those who do not belong to that one particular sect of Islam are going to be discriminated against, are to be excluded. And that is simply not possible for a modern state to have. If Pakistan is to have a future, it will have to have ethical and moral premises that are independent of the particular linguistic and religious backgrounds of its citizens.

AA: If Pakistan implodes, how will that affect India?

PH: India has a particular responsibility to see that Pakistan stays together, does not implode or explode, because in either situation the people of India would be in extreme danger. One always talks of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, but even if those nuclear weapons are somehow captured or neutralised, that too would not be sufficient. Here is a country of 170 million. If a tiny fraction is possessed of the idea that it must go out and change the world and use horrible methods, it would be an extreme danger for the world and in particular for India and China. So as a citizen of Pakistan I have to fervently hope that Pakistan stays together. That’s for our own people but also for the rest of the world. The fact is that geographical boundaries in this day and age do not constitute any insurmountable obstacles to terrorists. How difficult is it to cross two miles? Well it is difficult to cross directly, but then you can go around the world pretty much get to where you want. India’s well-being lies in Pakistan holding together.

The girls(who have taken to militancy) are mostly from the tribal areas and come under desperate circumstances, sent by their fathers.

The favoured targets of suicide bombers are, first of all, the military and ISI.

One of the legacy of Zia rule is that ISI and the army were brought up on the premise that jihad was the most important thing and it was the duty of Pakistan armed forces to further that role. India has a particular responsibility to see that Pakistan stays together, does not implode or explode.

FEMALE TALIBAN: Girls from the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, affiliated to the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, had set up their own parallel justice system in 2007

LIVING WITHIN ISLAM: If Pakistan is to become a modern state, it will have to grant equal rights to its minorities





opinion: A just war on terror —Rafia Zakaria

24 01 2009

Source: Dailytimes

A just war on terror can only be a war that abandons force and invests faith in the idea that if people are no longer bombed in the name of protecting America, they will themselves join the just fight against terror?

On January 2, 2009, his first day in office, Barack Obama ordered the shutting down of Guantanamo Bay within a year. This pivotal move was long expected by his supporters and marked the beginning of what has been touted as the forthcoming theme of Obama’s nascent presidency: regaining America’s moral stature in the world.

By all accounts, shutting down Guantanamo seems to be a calculated symbolic first move, putting a dramatic and visible end to the kind of flippant rejection of the rule of law so closely associated with the Bush-Cheney Administration.

In addition to the Guantanamo order, another executive order forbade the use of torture in the interrogation of terror suspects in an effort to show, in the president’s own words, “that we are able to follow the core standards of conduct not solely when it is easy but also when it is hard.”

However, the closure of Guantanamo and the official cessation of the use of torture, welcome as it is, puts into focus what will be the Obama administration’s most challenging task in the days ahead: redefining the war on terror as a just war. Inherent in this project is reconfiguring not simply the means and rules by which America conducts warfare but also taking a second look at the strategic goals that Obama has not questioned in his campaign.

One notable example of these is the oft-repeated American aim of catching and imprisoning Osama bin Laden, something Obama has continually recounted during his campaign speeches. The issue of bin Laden’s pursuit and the concomitant portrayal of the Afghan war as the “right” and “just” war by Obama raises the question: can an unmanned drone attack on Pakistani territory in pursuit of this goal, and the killing of innocent civilians that routinely accompanies such attacks, be considered a “just” act equally capable of the moral high ground America achieves to recapture?

The answer from the Pakistani side is no, but will Americans be tempted to believe that all sins of the Bush Administration have been instantly absolved with the closure of Guantanamo and the forbidding of torture?

If they do indulge in such moral compartmentalisation where constitutional flouting in America is considered impermissible but killing civilians abroad is not, then little will have changed in the moral calculus of evaluating America. Americans may indeed believe themselves redeemed by eliminating the visible symbol of Guantanamo, but the rest of the world, most prominently the Muslim world towards which Obama has extended a conciliatory hand, will shake its head with the same disgust and disappointment that has marked its relationship with America in the past eight years.

The juxtaposition of the symbol of Guantanamo and the use of military power against civilians illustrates how both are ultimately symbols of imperial overreach that cannot be reconciled with moral leadership. It also brings forth another crucial dynamic of the war on terror: the gaping economic chasm existing between the countries where it is conceptualised and the countries where it is waged.

Take for example the following scenario: if a future terrorist attack on the United States were traced to a small village on the outskirts of London, how would the United States respond? Would a surgical strike that eliminates the village be an option?

The scenario sounds ludicrous since no one would even consider such a route, but the underlying logic it exposes is integral to understanding the moral dimensions of a war that is waged in a certain way when it involves poor countries and another where rich industrialised nations are involved.

Imagine further if such a strike on an English village is permitted and an unmanned drone kills members of a wedding party. It is undoubted, of course, that the world would be up in arms with moral outrage; there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was an unjust act, despite the presence of possible terrorists.

The purpose of drawing attention to such a hypothetical scenario is not to argue for its plausibility or probability but to emphasise how the Obama’s administration’s strategic military goals may clash with their stated moral goals. This often unaddressed aspect of the war on terror has successfully been used by Islamist groups to cast the struggle as one between the world’s haves and its have-nots. A war where powerful nations can gloss over the sovereignty of poor ones and the lives of the cab drivers in Gaza cannot be equivalent to those of the ones in New York City is thus as much a moral quagmire as Guantanamo and the use of torture.

Recasting the war on terror requires re-evaluating the use of any military options against civilian populations. Support for groups like Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e Taliban in the Muslim world persists because they are unfailingly able to portray themselves as the “little guy”, the weapon-less, ragtag warriors of faith fighting a military behemoth armed with drones and F-16s. The populations where they have taken root are all identify with being the “little guy”, and when a bomb falls on their village, the memory of burned CD shops, destroyed schools and public floggings fades under the deafening onslaught of an enemy that can kill without sending a single soldier.

In other words, the inherent destruction promised by military operations cannot possibly salvage moral standing for a superpower with much blood on its hands.

Undoubtedly, the impending closure of Guantanamo shows that the Obama administration is invested in turning the tide. The precept that insists that the Guantanamo inmates could be held indefinitely, tortured and refused a fair trial is the same doctrine that says civilian populations in areas where Al Qaeda may be hiding are mere collateral damage.

Accepting this fundamental similarity and abandoning both as epithets of the imperial overreach that has so maligned America in the Bush years requires elevating moral leadership not simply as a rhetorical theme but as a priority superseding the nation’s reliance on brute military force. A just war on terror, thus, can only be a war that abandons force and invests faith in the idea that if people are no longer bombed in the name of protecting America, they will themselves join the just fight against terror.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at rafia.zakaria@gmail.com





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 abbasrh@gmail.com





LeT is looking at India through the global lens

29 12 2008

Source: TOI
Were the masterminds and perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage influenced by al- Qaida, the chief proponent of global jihad? In future, will sub-continental terrorists prefer to attack the ‘crusader and Jewish’ target set identified by the global jihadists as opposed to ‘Indian government and Hindu’ targets? The Mumbai attack was unprecedented in target selection; of the five pre-designated targets. Was the target selection influenced by India’s alliance with the US and Israel? The method of operation was classic al-Qaida style – a coordinated, near simultaneous attack against high profile and symbolic targets aimed at inflicting mass casualties. The only difference was that it was a fidayeen attack, a classic LeT modus operandi.

With the US deepening its political, economic and military ties with India, will Muslim extremist groups in the subcontinent come under the operational and ideological influence of al-Qaida? The Mumbai attack was a watershed. It demonstrated the stark departure by the LeT from being an anti-Indian to both an anti-Indian and an anti-western group. LeT’s direct and operational role in Mumbai attack surprised the security and intelligence services of Pakistan, India and other governments. Very much a group founded to fight the Indian presence in Kashmir, LeT has evolved into operating against targets throughout India. Today, it has moved further from a national to a regional and a global group.

Although its rhetoric has been anti-Indian, its anti-western rhetoric has grown significantly since 9/11. The mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi directed LeT military operations even outside the Indian theatre. He dispatched LeT trained Pakistani and foreign operatives to Chechnya, Bosnia and Southeast Asia. And since 2003, they have been sent to assess the situation in Iraq, and later to attack US forces in Iraq. Although LeT operatives have been arrested in the US, Europe, and in Australia, LeT was not a priority group for the international community. It is because LeT did not align itself with al-Qaida and refrained from operating in Afghanistan. But it maintained relations with al-Qaida at an operational level.

Until Mumbai, LeT has been in the category of Islamist nationalist groups. Some groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizbul Mujahideen remained Muslim nationalist groups. In contrast, groups in Egypt, Algeria and Indonesia that began with local agendas transformed into groups with regional and international agendas.

After the US intervention in Afghanistan, the epicentre of international terrorism has shifted from Afghanistan to tribal Pakistan. The influence of al-Qaida is profound on groups in tribal Pakistan such as Tehrik-e-Taliban and on mainland Pakistani groups. The insurgency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas is spilling to NWFP and beyond. To contain their influence, the Pakistan government proscribed a number of militant groups. By 2008, exploiting the political instability, a number of these banned groups, that adopted new names, began to operate openly.

Over time, both New Delhi and Islamabad are likely to realise the need to fight a common threat, both ideologically and operationally. Mumbai has demonstrated that the pre-eminent national security challenge facing both India and Pakistan is terrorism and not each other.

The writer teaches at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, one of the world’s largest counter-terrorism centre. He is the author of the bestselling Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror





FATA is Pakistan’s Fallujah: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com
August 22, 2008

At least 78 persons, most of them civilian workers in a cluster of arms production factories located in the heavily-protected cantonment area of Wah, about 30 km from Islamabad [Images], were reported to have been killed on the afternoon of August 21 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside different gates of the factories during shift change.

The ease with which they penetrated this high security area would indicate either that they had accomplices in the security staff or that they were workers of one of the factories who had no difficulty in entering the complex. If suicide bombers could penetrate such a high-security area with so much ease, it should be equally easy for other terrorists to penetrate Pakistan’s nuclear establishments one day. The expression ‘high security’ has ceased to have any meaning in Pakistan’s sensitive establishments because of the penetration by the jihadi elements.

This is the third suicide attack in the non-tribal areas since the elected coalition government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani assumed office on March 18. The previous two targeted the Danish embassy in Islamabad (June 2) in protest against the publication by some Danish newspapers of caricatures of the Holy Prophet, and policemen who were returning to their stations after performing duty at the Lal Masjid in which a meeting was held (July 6) in memory of those killed during the commando raid in July last year.

The blasts in Wah came in the wake of the threat issued by the Tehrik-e-Taliban [Images] Pakistan to resume terrorist attacks in the non-tribal areas if the government did not stop the on-going military operations in the Bajaur Agency, where many leaders and cadres of Al Qaeda [Images] and the Afghan Taliban have reportedly taken shelter. Since the threat was issued by the TTP, the Pakistan Army [Images] has not been much active on the ground in the Bajaur Agency either by itself or through the paramilitary Frontier Corps. However, helicopter gunships of the army and the planes of the air force have stepped up their air strikes in response to the US pressure to neutralise the terrorist infrastructure in the area, which was making the NATO forces in Afghanistan bleed.

Making a statement in the NWFP provincial Assembly on August 21, Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti said thousands of foreign militants were present in the Bajaur Agency and claimed they would have captured the area if the military operation had been delayed for a couple of days.

According to him, in the past, the two traditional pillars of power in the tribal belt were the political administration and the Malik (tribal chief) system. He said a third pillar, inducted into the area during the 1980s, had emerged stronger than the traditional pillars. He added that some called this third pillar the Mujahideen [Images], some others called it the Taliban and yet some others termed it Al Qaeda. It was this third pillar which was now dominating the tribal belt.

According to him, there cannot be peace in the NWFP without peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and there cannot be peace in FATA without peace in Afghanistan. The ground situation in Afghanistan, FATA and the NWFP was closely inter-connected. He said before launching the military operation in the Bajaur Agency, the government had sent a delegation for talks with the local tribals, but there were thousands of Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens in the area who are unaware of the Pashtun traditions and customs and came in the way of peace.

In retaliation for the air strikes, the TTP blew up an air force bus on Kohat Road in the NWFP on August 12 killing 13 persons, including seven administrative personnel of the PAF, and followed this up on August 19 with an explosion outside the district headquarters hospital of Dera Ismail Kahan in the NWFP, in which 32 persons, many of them Shia outdoor patients, were killed. The TTP claimed responsibility for both these attacks and projected them as being in retaliation for the continuing air strikes in the Bajaur Agency.

While the targeting of the PAF bus is explained by the anger of the TTP over the air strikes, its targeting of Shia outdoor patients is attributed by well-informed police sources to its strong suspicion that the Shias of the NWFP and the Kurram Agency of FATA have been collaborating with the Pakistan Army in its operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Over 100 persons — more Shias than Sunnis — have been killed in continuing Shia-Sunni clashes in the Kurram Agency for the last 10 days.

While the attacks of August 12 and 19 were in the tribal areas, the attacks in Wah on August 21 were in a non-tribal area. The TTP has already admitted responsibility for the suicide attacks in Wah and warned of similar attacks on military installations in other cities including Lahore [Images], Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi if the government does not stop the air strikes in the Bajaur Agency and withdraw the Army from the Agency and the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The government has to take these threats seriously in view of the repeatedly demonstrated capability of the TTP to strike at military targets in non-tribal areas since the commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007.

The anger of the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda against the Pakistan Army has not subsided as a result of the resignation of Pervez Musharraf [Images] from the post of president on August 18. They hold Musharraf as well as the army responsible for the commando action in Lal Masjid and for the military operations in the tribal belt, which they view as undertaken to protect Western lives and in support of the NATO operations in Afghanistan. They are demanding not only the stoppage of all air strikes in the tribal belt and the withdrawal of the army from there, but also the stoppage of any co-operation with the US and other NATO forces against the Afghan Taliban.

It is only a question of time before the anti-Musharraf and anti-Army anger for their co-operation with the US broadens to include anti-Asif Zardari anger for the continuing co-operation with the US. The terrorists view Zardari as no different from Musharraf and as much an apostate as Musharraf. They are convinced that the air strikes and ground operations in the Bajaur Agency have been agreed to by Zardari and Gilani as a quid pro quo for the role of the US and the UK in persuading Musharraf to quit as president.

FATA is emerging as Pakistan’s Fallujah. After the US occupation of Iraq, Fallujah became the launching pad of terrorist strikes in the rest of Iraq — whether by Al Qaeda or by ex-Baathist resistance fighters. Only after the US ruthlessly pacified Fallujah and destroyed the terrorist launching pads there, did it start making progress in its counter-insurgency operations in the rest of the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The NATO forces will continue to bleed in Afghanistan and the jihadi virus will continue to spread in Pakistan unless and until FATA is similarly pacified through ruthless application of force. The Pakistan Army has not demonstrated either the will or the capability to do so. A more active role by the NATO forces under US leadership is necessary — either covertly or openly. A strategy for a Fallujah-style pacification of FATA is called for — with the co-operation of the Pakistan Army if possible and without it, if necessary.

The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in FATA and NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in FATA.

Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [Images], and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

B Raman





FATA is Pakistan’s Fallujah: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com
August 22, 2008

At least 78 persons, most of them civilian workers in a cluster of arms production factories located in the heavily-protected cantonment area of Wah, about 30 km from Islamabad [Images], were reported to have been killed on the afternoon of August 21 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside different gates of the factories during shift change.

The ease with which they penetrated this high security area would indicate either that they had accomplices in the security staff or that they were workers of one of the factories who had no difficulty in entering the complex. If suicide bombers could penetrate such a high-security area with so much ease, it should be equally easy for other terrorists to penetrate Pakistan’s nuclear establishments one day. The expression ‘high security’ has ceased to have any meaning in Pakistan’s sensitive establishments because of the penetration by the jihadi elements.

This is the third suicide attack in the non-tribal areas since the elected coalition government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani assumed office on March 18. The previous two targeted the Danish embassy in Islamabad (June 2) in protest against the publication by some Danish newspapers of caricatures of the Holy Prophet, and policemen who were returning to their stations after performing duty at the Lal Masjid in which a meeting was held (July 6) in memory of those killed during the commando raid in July last year.

The blasts in Wah came in the wake of the threat issued by the Tehrik-e-Taliban [Images] Pakistan to resume terrorist attacks in the non-tribal areas if the government did not stop the on-going military operations in the Bajaur Agency, where many leaders and cadres of Al Qaeda [Images] and the Afghan Taliban have reportedly taken shelter. Since the threat was issued by the TTP, the Pakistan Army [Images] has not been much active on the ground in the Bajaur Agency either by itself or through the paramilitary Frontier Corps. However, helicopter gunships of the army and the planes of the air force have stepped up their air strikes in response to the US pressure to neutralise the terrorist infrastructure in the area, which was making the NATO forces in Afghanistan bleed.

Making a statement in the NWFP provincial Assembly on August 21, Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti said thousands of foreign militants were present in the Bajaur Agency and claimed they would have captured the area if the military operation had been delayed for a couple of days.

According to him, in the past, the two traditional pillars of power in the tribal belt were the political administration and the Malik (tribal chief) system. He said a third pillar, inducted into the area during the 1980s, had emerged stronger than the traditional pillars. He added that some called this third pillar the Mujahideen [Images], some others called it the Taliban and yet some others termed it Al Qaeda. It was this third pillar which was now dominating the tribal belt.

According to him, there cannot be peace in the NWFP without peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and there cannot be peace in FATA without peace in Afghanistan. The ground situation in Afghanistan, FATA and the NWFP was closely inter-connected. He said before launching the military operation in the Bajaur Agency, the government had sent a delegation for talks with the local tribals, but there were thousands of Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens in the area who are unaware of the Pashtun traditions and customs and came in the way of peace.

In retaliation for the air strikes, the TTP blew up an air force bus on Kohat Road in the NWFP on August 12 killing 13 persons, including seven administrative personnel of the PAF, and followed this up on August 19 with an explosion outside the district headquarters hospital of Dera Ismail Kahan in the NWFP, in which 32 persons, many of them Shia outdoor patients, were killed. The TTP claimed responsibility for both these attacks and projected them as being in retaliation for the continuing air strikes in the Bajaur Agency.

While the targeting of the PAF bus is explained by the anger of the TTP over the air strikes, its targeting of Shia outdoor patients is attributed by well-informed police sources to its strong suspicion that the Shias of the NWFP and the Kurram Agency of FATA have been collaborating with the Pakistan Army in its operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Over 100 persons — more Shias than Sunnis — have been killed in continuing Shia-Sunni clashes in the Kurram Agency for the last 10 days.

While the attacks of August 12 and 19 were in the tribal areas, the attacks in Wah on August 21 were in a non-tribal area. The TTP has already admitted responsibility for the suicide attacks in Wah and warned of similar attacks on military installations in other cities including Lahore [Images], Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi if the government does not stop the air strikes in the Bajaur Agency and withdraw the Army from the Agency and the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The government has to take these threats seriously in view of the repeatedly demonstrated capability of the TTP to strike at military targets in non-tribal areas since the commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007.

The anger of the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda against the Pakistan Army has not subsided as a result of the resignation of Pervez Musharraf [Images] from the post of president on August 18. They hold Musharraf as well as the army responsible for the commando action in Lal Masjid and for the military operations in the tribal belt, which they view as undertaken to protect Western lives and in support of the NATO operations in Afghanistan. They are demanding not only the stoppage of all air strikes in the tribal belt and the withdrawal of the army from there, but also the stoppage of any co-operation with the US and other NATO forces against the Afghan Taliban.

It is only a question of time before the anti-Musharraf and anti-Army anger for their co-operation with the US broadens to include anti-Asif Zardari anger for the continuing co-operation with the US. The terrorists view Zardari as no different from Musharraf and as much an apostate as Musharraf. They are convinced that the air strikes and ground operations in the Bajaur Agency have been agreed to by Zardari and Gilani as a quid pro quo for the role of the US and the UK in persuading Musharraf to quit as president.

FATA is emerging as Pakistan’s Fallujah. After the US occupation of Iraq, Fallujah became the launching pad of terrorist strikes in the rest of Iraq — whether by Al Qaeda or by ex-Baathist resistance fighters. Only after the US ruthlessly pacified Fallujah and destroyed the terrorist launching pads there, did it start making progress in its counter-insurgency operations in the rest of the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The NATO forces will continue to bleed in Afghanistan and the jihadi virus will continue to spread in Pakistan unless and until FATA is similarly pacified through ruthless application of force. The Pakistan Army has not demonstrated either the will or the capability to do so. A more active role by the NATO forces under US leadership is necessary — either covertly or openly. A strategy for a Fallujah-style pacification of FATA is called for — with the co-operation of the Pakistan Army if possible and without it, if necessary.

The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in FATA and NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in FATA.

Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [Images], and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

B Raman