Lal Masjid anniversary
After one year, the Lal Masjid has taken on the identity of a national icon which the state destroyed and now must pay for. The head of the seminary, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who escaped from the premises in a burqa while the others were dying inside, is now a hero awaiting his “restoration” along with the judges. His lawyer sits with other anti-Musharraf discussants on TV and recommends death for President Musharraf. The entire nation has performed a volte face on what transpired last year.
When the Supreme Court was on the warpath it ordered restoration of the two seminaries — Jamia Faridia and Hafsa — before their handover to the people who had begun applying their law to Islamabad, picking up people and punishing them to end what they called “munkiraat”. Then followed a form of general “repentance”. Maulana Fazlur Rehman was taken to task by the federation of the seminaries for opposing the Lal Masjid clerics. He then went and met Maulana Aziz. So did the lawyers’ leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. Now the PMLN has Lal Masjid on its list of the “rectifications” it will make when it comes to power. And the PPP will probably trade on it. How unfortunate. (Daily Times, 4 July).
THE political scene in
More than eight decades after Kemal Ataturk established a secular republic,
If the AKP is banned and Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul are barred from politics for five years, the internal scene will undergo a radical change, the consequences of which are difficult to predict. A decision against the AKP will lead to an early general election, and the results could again be a weak coalition government that could be exposed to pressures from the military, lack the will to address the
How people see the war
By Khadim Hussain
Almost all seven agencies of Fata, Tank, Swat, Mardan and now
The people in high conflict zones of the Pashtun belt have remained the victims of militancy and militarism and have been living in a state of utter confusion, fear and terror. No war has ever been won without the support of the common people and since 2002, the military operations in Fata and settled districts of NWFP have alienated the people who are deeply frustrated with state institutions. The people of Swat, Waziristan, Kurram and now Khyber Agency had initially welcomed the security forces but later on either became neutral or switched sides to the obscurantist forces as the operations seemed ill organised, badly coordinated and off the target.
The military started bombing Mamdheria in Swat after Fazlullah’s militia vacated their ‘markaz’. The organisational structure of the militia remained intact, but what was observed by the people, who had initially welcomed the soldiers with sweets in Matta, was the fact that the bombings were mostly on schools and private buildings. The common man in Swat does not understand why the military did not proceed to the hills of Peochar to dislodge the training camp of the militia which had by then accommodated trainers from Waziristan and other parts of Fata and
Then the NWFP government signed the peace deal in May 2008 with Fazlullah’s militia which gave a golden opportunity to the militants to regroup and reorganise and get funding and weapons from sources still unknown to the well-known intelligence services of
The Fazlullah militia is now stronger and amply funded. It can threaten the administration of the state whenever it likes. They were recently able to strike from three different parts of the Swat valley simultaneously — Malam Jabba, where they destroyed the PTDC motel and the chairlift, Barikot where they set a school on fire and Sar Sinai where they burnt a police ‘chowki’ besides killing four people in Matta.
The provincial government now claims that the pact with the militants is intact while Fazlullah’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, has said in a statement that they have suspended talks with the government on the orders of Baitullah. One can observe the same pattern of perception amongst the people of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber and
The perception of the people in conflict-torn zones also brings another pertinent point to mind: they believe that despite sophisticated modern technology, the security forces usually target areas where the innocent and non-combatant suffer the most. The non-combatants in
The same has just happened in Khyber Agency where security forces have destroyed houses that belonged to ordinary people. The people in the Agency are also of the opinion that security forces have started an operation against the wrong people. Lashkar-i-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam are sectarian organisations at best and harbour no ambitions to establish their writ outside their sphere of influence. The people of high conflict areas also believe that the government has never paid any heed to their aspirations. They hold the justice system, colonial administrative structures and lack of economic initiatives responsible for all the mayhem around them. The people believe that lack of initiatives to empower them and lack of development are the primary reasons for this turmoil in the Pashtun belt.
Ill-coordinated operations have also created suspicions regarding the purpose of these actions. They maintain that it is not possible for any non-state organisation to survive the onslaught of state organisations if the state is serious about its endeavour, inferring that state institutions may be complicit in the activities of these non-state organisations. One can observe that the police force, Frontier Constabulary and other paramilitary forces are demoralised to the point of inaction. Constables deployed at checkposts may claim that their hands are tied and that they are mere scapegoats in this war against the militants, their training, remuneration and organisational structure plays a pivotal role in their state of disheartenment.
Common people feel that the state is unwilling to carry out serious operations; it targets non-combatants, allows target killings, enters into peace deals with militants but remains fairly apathetic about the well being of the people. (Dawn, 5 July).
‘Khyber military action shows failure to rein in terrorists’
* Boston Globe suggests if Peshawar can be infested by Taliban, world has reason to worry about stability of nuclear Pakistan
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Action taken in the Khyber Agency implies that the coalition government is losing ground to extremists and its efforts to negotiate a truce agreement with Pakistani Taliban groups have failed to rein in, or even constrain, the various jihadist bands in the region, writes Boston Globe in an editorial.
Of the two “nasty realities” the next American president will need to confront, writes Boston Globe, one is that Pakistan, despite having a secular civilian government elected in free and fair balloting, which seems unable to overcome, or even resist, the swelling power of its Islamist militias. Al Qaeda has been able to recreate a new version of the safe haven it lost when
“[US President] Bush’s successor will need to reconsider the nature of the terrorist threat, starting with an understanding that the jihadist movement is aimed primarily at overthrowing regimes in the Muslim world which it deems insufficiently Islamic. In this internal war within the world of
The newspaper points out that President Bush’s inflating of the terrorist threat to the scale of a third world war has helped Islamist ideologues propagate the notion that the US is waging a war against Islam. To win a war of ideas with violent Islamists, the next president must counter this dangerous propaganda by resisting any temptation to conduct military operations in
Bara action is much ado about nothing
Security situation in NWFP exaggerated
PESHAWAR: Taliban at the gate, Taliban are taking over Peshawar, militants have tightened noose around provincial capital, Peshawar could fall to followers of Mulla Umer and Osama and Islamists could establish its rule in NWFP by taking control of Peshawar.
Azad Kashmir: women versus jihadis
Nearly 50 women travelled 80 km from Athmuqam to an army camp in the
The reply given to the ladies by the assistant commissioner,
The US Assistant Secretary of State for
South and Central Asian Affairs, Mr Richard Boucher, met the PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif at the latter’s residence a couple of days ago and discussed matters that clarify American policy on Pakistan as well as Washington’s view of Mr Sharif’s brand of politics. As one of
According to reports leaked by the PMLN, Mr Boucher asked Mr Sharif to avoid a move to impeach President Pervez Musharraf, and allow the President to use his own discretion to leave since his stay in power had become irrelevant. The ongoing “operation” in Khyber Agency also came under discussion and the matter of the sacked judges was apparently touched upon too. Mr Boucher dwelt on the political situation in the region. Mr Sharif responded by deeming President Musharraf’s impeachment essential to the survival of democracy. When he asserted that restoration of the judiciary was at the top of his party’s agenda, Mr Boucher said the sooner the judges’ issue was resolved the better it would be for everyone.
It is being said that Mr Boucher’s visit was aimed at introducing flexibility into the stance of Mr Sharif and his party, as well as to impress upon him that America was willing to spend big money on the economic development of Pakistan but was hampered in its plans by the rising trend of terrorism and the bad law and order situation in Pakistan. To this Mr Sharif produced the stock answer that his party and his supporters reiterate all the time: “Eradication of terrorism and the maintenance of law and order are
Mr Sharif knows — as per his adviser and ex-ambassador Mr Tariq Fatemi — that the Americans had planned the return of Ms Benazir Bhutto, armed with an NRO, to Pakistan to rule in tandem with PMLQ, and not the PMLN, after a free and fair general election. So while he likes the idea of flaunting his party as an anti-American force in step with the sentiments of most Pakistanis, he would like the Americans to note his popular PMLN as the party to reckon with when formulating policy on
The PMLN stance, however, has a domestic consequence. The PPP cannot afford to become the sacrificial goat simply to satisfy the PMLN’s passion for the judiciary as a political tool to achieve its objectives. Reference to the so-called “mandate” is simply bad politics. It would have been better had the PMLN and its allies among the lawyers and the APDM indicated a way to get rid of President Musharraf after making sure that the process would not hurt the PPP. So the PPP says the President should quit on his own before it can put together the numbers required in parliament to impeach him.
As for the “subordination” of terrorism to the issue of the judiciary, the world is not with Mr Sharif and his allies. The state has lost whatever writ it had in nearly half the territory of the country. The terrorists with whom Mr Sharif recommends “talks” keep on repeating the vow that they will continue to raid across the Durand Line. The world looks at FATA as the training ground of international groups preparing terrorist attacks in the
It would, therefore, be wiser for the PMLN to remain allied to the PPP and take advantage from this partnership to rule efficiently in
FATA is not about eating muesli —Ejaz Haider
Counter-insurgency is murky business; very murky in fact. It needs those who can get their hands dirty so the rest of us, the liberals, can eat muesli, show good manners and talk about probity
If it is accepted, as it should be, that effective media usage in today’s world is essential for winning public acceptance of a policy, especially one which relies on use of force or the threat of its use, then the government, in its current effort in Khyber Agency, has failed — again. Consider.
Knives are out and questions being asked: who is responsible for this operation; what and who is being targeted; how would this be effective in putting down the militants; who are these militants — Taliban or local, religio-sectarian groups; is it a charade played out for the benefit of Washington in the backdrop of increasing pressure on Pakistan to do something and the visit here of Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia?
Stories from the ground and analyses make various allegations: Frontier Corps and army troops have gone in after an understanding with the local groups; they have gone into an area which was quiet anyway; leaders of lashkars in Khyber are agencies’ boys; once troops pull out, the groups will rebuild their assets; the buildings destroyed by the troops were empty; et cetera.
These allegations do not add up to any coherent criticism and, in most cases, are at odds with each other. But that does not take away from the fact that they are lethal for whatever policy is being pursued.
Here’s an example: one major criticism against the previous government has been that it was fighting
If we suppose all this — and this is hypothetical — and juxtapose it with the criticism with which we began this exercise, should the critics not applaud the government for being very smart on the following counts: it has adopted a policy which has brought into harmony two conflicting requirements — making the US, international community and Afghanistan happy without having to kill its own people and getting own troops killed.
No. It is still being criticised.
If it acts in ‘reality’, it is criticised for killing its own people and getting its troops killed; if it plays out a charade, it is pooh-poohed and critics smirk because not a bullet is being fired, no soldiers have fallen, and no real culprits are being arrested (leave aside the fact that in this conflict critics upon critics have tried to tell us that there is only one culprit — the USA — while the Pashtun are reacting to its presence).
Note: This argument itself would necessitate, given international pressure on
That the government is getting the short end of the stick no matter what it does shows it needs to get its act together.
Let’s now move from suppositions to some facts.
Khyber Agency, far from being a quiet place, has been posing much trouble to
This is what Kathy Gannon of AP reported on May 20 under the caption, “Attacks on Khyber trucking threaten US supply line”:
“Thieves, feuding tribesmen and Taliban militants are creating chaos along the main Pakistan-Afghanistan highway, threatening a vital supply line for US and NATO forces.
“Abductions and arson attacks on the hundreds of cargo trucks plying the switchback road through the
“US and NATO officials play down their losses in these arid mountains of north-western
Tankers were being blown up and
If this is not reason enough to move in and show force I don’t know what is. Equally, to expect that some of these characters will not return to their bad habits or that if they do the operation would have been a failure betrays little knowledge of the area and how tribes and groups operate.
Khyber Agency is bounded in the north and north-west by Mohmand Agency, in the south and south-east by Orakzai Agency and in the west by
Now we have Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur, two Wazirs from South and North Waziristan Agencies, being put up against Baitullah Mehsud. This is a legitimate counter-insurgency effort and is far more effective than employing troops to attack insurgents from outside. The efficacy of this can be judged from Mehsud’s reported initiative to distribute pamphlets in Miranshah pledging never to fight against Gul Bahadur (see Daily Times, “Mehsud challenged by new militant bloc”; July 2). Earlier, Nazir was used to throw out Uzbeks from the area.
The point is that counter-insurgency operations, which rely heavily on effective intelligence, are not about dealing with angels. One rogue is used to put down another and some concessions are given for controlled activity to one in order to take out the other. This is not the stuff a squeamish liberal stomach can take (Ejaz Haider, “Eroding insurgency from the inside”, Daily Times, June 28).
There is always a downside to this approach; sometimes the rogue one is relying on and playing against another gets out of control. That’s a risk one has to take. When CIA was dealing with Manuel Noriega, the latter was also linked to
Counter-insurgency is murky business; very murky in fact. The situation in FATA requires multiple approaches and tactics even as there is only one strategic objective: bringing the area under control. This will require a running effort, not a one-off operation that can provide us the final solution.
FATA needs those who can get their hands dirty so the rest of us, the liberals, can eat muesli, show good manners and talk about probity.
Unfortunate opposition to ‘action’ in Bara
The PMLN and the JUI(S) have opposed the Bara Operation — or ‘action’ as the government would have us believe — because they were not “consulted” before the operation was undertaken. The third coalition partner, the ruling ANP in the NWFP, says it was consulted in two meetings that took place in
The PMLN view was expressed by an outraged Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the National Assembly. It was elaborated by its leader from Peshawar, Mr Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, on TV when he said that apart from the fact that his party was kept out of the loop it had always opposed military operation against Pakistan’s “own people”. He insisted that the only way to deal with the situation in the Tribal Areas was through the “political process” (whatever that means), negotiation and peace agreements.
As for the position of the JUI(S), it has always been well known. It represents not so much Islam as the Pakhtun population living in the Tribal Areas and Balochistan. Its leader Maulana Ghafur Haideri has repeated the plaint that his party was not consulted. He went on to say that military action would be counter-productive and his party would not support it. But will the JUI(S) leave the coalition on this issue? No. Much the same response can be expected from the PMLN. Mr Jhagra made it clear that his party would not abandon the coalition. He must however be conscious of the fact that his party’s status in the coalition is different from that of the other partners who are also a part of the government. By getting out of the government, however, the PMLN has obtained the freedom to openly disagree with decisions taken by the prime minister and his cabinet.
The ANP and the JUI(S) have taken positions that are likely to encourage the building up of opposition to the operation among the Pakhtun. Indirectly, the ANP has opted out of the
The result is that the PPP will have to face up to the backlash that is going to come from the general public who support the views of the PMLN, and from the Pakhtun hinterland. In the coming days, we may expect the TV channels to reflect this “consensus” with the kind of emphasis expected from the “process of repetition” inherent in competition. But the objective fact is that the operation had become unavoidable. And it is no excuse that it should not have been undertaken because it was not thought of three years ago when the warlords of Khyber first came on the scene.
MONDAY’S kidnapping of 30 paramilitary troops in Kurram Agency — who were subsequently released — confirms, yet again, the enormity of the task ahead. If the military machine cannot protect its own men, how does it intend taming the militants and offering citizens an enduring sense of security? The state may be making its presence felt in Khyber Agency’s Bara area, which after all is right outside
In any case the likes of Mangal Bagh and Haji Namdar, leader of Amr Bil Maroof wa Nahi Anil Munkir, are mere irritants compared to Baitullah Mehsud of
Talking to journalists in
First reports about them and others like the Arabs and Chechens were dismissed as false by the MMA government in the NWFP at the time which said that the “foreigners” were actually the mujahideen who had come here to join the jihad against the
The IMU was led by Qari Tahir Yuldashev whose position about jihad was close to that of Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Aiman Al Zawahiri. He believed that jihad should first target not the
The Uzbeks were seen by Pakistani journalists when they came to Swat as a part of the Taliban force in the wake of the storming of Lal Masjid in
The IMU targets
There are Chechens in the Tribal Areas too. They came in with Al Qaeda but “fresh” Chechens from the
The Taliban challenge
THE operation against the militants in the Khyber Agency raises questions that are germane to a successful culmination of the war against the Taliban. One question concerns what appears to be the ambivalent attitude of officialdom toward the militants. Conversely, the Taliban are absolutely clear about their war aims. After the army action began they have scrapped the previous deals and suspended the talks. Baitullah Mehsud has even threatened attacks in ‘
This is also the time for an open debate on the ‘war on terror’ in the national and provincial assemblies, so that we know exactly who stands where. The operation that is on now is a continuation of the anti-terrorist operations that have been carried out in the past and will continue into the future. For that reason it must have a national consensus behind it. A civilian government is in power, and obviously the ultimate responsibility rests with the PPP-led coalition. But given
The challenge to
Anti-Americanism & Taliban
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
THE recent killing of eleven Pakistani soldiers at Gora Prai by American and Nato forces across the border in
Prime Minister Gilani declared, “We will take a stand for sovereignty, integrity and self-respect.” The military announced defiantly, “We reserve the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression,” while Army chief, Gen Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, called the attack ‘cowardly’. The dead became ‘shaheeds’ and large numbers of people turned up to pray at their funerals.
But had the killers been the Taliban, this would have been a non-event. The storm we saw was more about cause than consequence. Protecting the sovereignty of the state, self-respect, citizens and soldiers against aggression, and the lives of Pakistani soldiers, suddenly all acquired value because the killers were American and Nato troops.
Compare the response to Gora Prai with the near silence about the recent kidnapping and slaughter by Baitullah Mehsud’s fighters of 28 men near Tank, some of whom were shot and others had their throats cut. Even this pales before the hundred or more attacks by suicide bombers over the last year that made bloody carnage of soldiers and officers, devastated peace jirgas and public rallies, and killed hundreds praying in mosques and at funerals.
These murders were largely ignored or, when noted, simply shrugged off. The very different reactions to the casualties of American and Nato violence, compared to those inflicted by the Taliban, reflect a desperate confusion about what is happening in
Some newspaper and television commentators want
There is, of course, reason for people in
Even Americans — or at least the fair-minded ones among them — admit that there is a genuine problem. A June 2008 report of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs entitled The Decline in
American hypocrisy has played into the hands of Islamic militants. They have been vigorously promoting the notion that this is a bipolar conflict of Islam, which they claim to represent, versus imperialism. Many Pakistanis, who desperately want someone to stand up to the Americans, buy into this.
This is a fatal mistake. The militants are using
A Taliban victory would transport us into the darkest of dark ages. These fanatics dream of transforming the country into a religious state where they will be the law. They stone women to death, cut off limbs, kill doctors for administering polio shots, force girl-children into burqa, threaten beard-shaving barbers with death, blow up girls schools at a current average of two per week, forbid music, punish musicians, destroy 2000-year statues. Even flying kites is a life-threatening sin.
The Taliban agenda has no place for social justice and economic development. There is silence from Taliban leaders about poverty, and the need to create jobs for the unemployed, building homes, providing education, land reform, or doing away with feudalism and tribalism. They see no need for worldly things like roads, hospitals and infrastructure.
If the militants of
Pakistanis tolerate these narrow-minded, unforgiving men because they claim to fight for Islam. But the Baitullahs and Fazlullahs know nothing of the diversity, and creative richness of Muslims, whether today or in the past. Intellectual freedom led to science, architecture, medicine, arts and crafts, and literature that were the hallmark of Islamic civilisation in its golden age. They grew because of an open-minded, tolerant, cosmopolitan, and multi-cultural character. Caliphs, such as Haroon-al-Rashid and Al-Mamoun, brought together scholars of diverse faiths and helped establish a flourishing culture. Today’s self-declared amir-ul-momineen, like Mullah Omar, would gladly behead great Islamic scholars like Ibn Sina and Al-Razi for heresy and burn their books.
Pakistanis must not be deceived. This is no clash of civilisations. To the Americans,
Action in Khyber, reaction in FATA
Paramilitary forces, whose personnel were freely held for ransom by warlord Mangal Bagh, have gone into the Khyber Agency in the neighbourhood of
Warlord Mangal Bagh has fled to Tirah, the high altitude valley that
When his “government” became too big for Khyber’s capacity to generate revenues to pay for it, Mangal Bagh descended on
The whole thing was tiresomely old hat. A hundred years ago a water-carrier by the name of Batcha Saqao appeared in
The warlords of the Tribal Areas gain sustenance from the umbrella control of Al Qaeda which can supplement the income of anyone who has exhausted his capacity to live off the retreating authority of the state and the helplessness of the citizens abandoned by the state. According to one
How much has the state of
If there is action in Khyber, there is bound to be predictable reaction from Al Qaeda too. This has come from Baitullah Mehsud. He has suspended all peace talks with the army and declared that he will attack Sindh and
Under the circumstances, the response of different groups of people will be important. Will the politicians and the TV channels disapprove of the military operation and expect that when Baitullah Mehsud strikes in
The army knows the pattern from its memory of the Lal Masjid Operation last year. First there is a public demand for “doing something” against a public flouting of state authority, then there is the moral reneging on it, then the operation is made grounds for removing the government in power. The army this time has clearly got a public fiat from the government to launch the operation. If we don’t want
ANP must wake up!
An elder of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Swat, Mr Muhammad Afzal Khan, has stated that the
“Lala” Afzal, as he is known to the people of Swat, was attacked by the outlaws last year in September when he refused to succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome of the beheadings staged by Al Qaeda’s Uzbek savages. He survived miraculously after receiving a number of bullets in his body. He now asks the PPP not to go the way the supine ANP has gone. He has called its attention to the systematic target-killing of the PPP leaders in Swat and has asked the
Afghan opium trade
HAMID Karzai of Kabul may have his concerns, some of them valid, about
Besides lining the pockets of tribal chiefs and politicians of criminal bent, the Afghan drug trade is fuelling the very insurgency that the country’s government and Nato troops are attempting to quell. By taxing poppy farmers and extorting protection money from operators of morphine and heroin laboratories, the Taliban are estimated to have earned more than $100m last year from