The subcontinent of South Asia has inexorably been developing into a cauldron of violence ever since the origins of Islam in Arabia and its steady expansion to the east. Here it clashed with Hinduism a religion that was an antithesis of Islam and over the centuries this unhappy mix has been smoldering and has now reached a point where there is likely to be a furious conflagration. During the course of the history of this subcontinent there have been many watersheds, ever since the advent of Islam into this region. The first serious clashes took place in the hot plains of North India when the Muslim armies clashed with the Hindu Rajput rulers. After some fierce battles, the Hindu peoples settled under the kings of the Muslim Sultanates of the earlier dynasties of the Slave kings, until the Mughals stabilized a Caliphate in North India. The Mughals after Aurangzeb declined and the dynasty petered out.
When the British East India Company was ruling the country, there was a second watershed between Hindu and Muslim cultures. This was the Sepoy Mutiny, when the rigid Wahabi philosophy was brought to India by Muslims who went for the annual Haj pilgrimage. While Hindu and Muslim sepoys were involved in the Mutiny against the British, the Sikhs and the Gurkhas did not side with the mutineers. The revolt was crushed and the British Government then took over the reins of the Government. The medium of administration was Urdu during the reign of the Mughals. After the British Government took over the reins of government after the Sepoy Mutiny, they changed the medium of administration to English. This had a major impact on the domination of the Muslims in administration. It was the Hindus who took to English education and who also took advantage of the hundreds of Catholic Convents and Protestant Mission schools that were set up by the Proselytising Christian missionaries both Protestant and Catholic. In a couple of years, the Muslim community had declined in Government.
The third flashpoint in this story took place when the British had to divide India between a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan. In the run up to independence, many Muslim scholars objected to the division of India between a Muslim Pakistan and a secular India. For many a Muslim hardliner India was a Muslim Caliphate. One such was Maulana Maudoodi, a Muslim scholar, who stated bluntly that there were three Muslim Caliphates in the world, Sunni Iraq with Baghdad as the Capital, Shia Iran with Isfahan as the Capital and the Sunni Mughal Empire with Delhi as the Capital. He left, a bitter man for Pakistan after raising a strict fundamentalist religious group called the Jamaat-e-Islami in the then undivided Punjab.
When India was partitioned on 15 August 1947, there was a bloodbath as the Muslims attacked Hindus and Sikhs who were hastily migrating to India from the just created Pakistan in the west. In East Pakistan, there was an impromptu migration of Hindus to India, who were attacked by Bengali Muslims. The killings of Hindus and Sikhs coming from Pakistan to India and Muslims who were fleeing to Pakistan were photographed by news reporters.
The fourth flashpoint in this story took place when the Maharaja of Kashmir a majority Muslim state opted for India after vacillating for a time. In the division of India into West and East Pakistan, districts of undivided Punjab, Rajasthan and Bombay provinces in the west and districts of Bengal, Assam and Tripura that would go to West and East Pakistan was first delineated. The districts in Punjab on the route to Jammu of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were Amritsar and Gurudaspur. It was decided by Cyril Radcliffe that the district of Gurudaspur would be going to Pakistan as it was a majority Muslim district. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the would-be Prime Minister of Pakistan was very happy at this as he thought that since the road to Jammu from Amritsar would have to pass through Gurudaspur district, Jammu and Kashmir would automatically fall into Pakistan’s hands.
Meanwhile Cyril Radcliffe mentioned in a press conference that three tehsils on the eastern part of Gurudaspur district would have to be taken out from the main Gurudaspur district and given to India. This came as a most unexpected bombshell to Muhammad Ali Jinnah because this meant that India would have a road axis to Jammu from Amritsar. This was the main reason for Pakistan jumping the gun and sending raiders consisting of Waziri tribals from the Northwest Frontier Province along with some Army regulars into Kashmir. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir suddenly acceding to India after procrastinating for some time also upset the plans that Jinnah was having for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then Kashmir has been a running sore between India and Pakistan, over which the two countries have fought three wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971. Kashmir is still a festering sore between India and Pakistan.
The fifth flashpoint had its impact on Islam on an international plane. This significant event was the revolution in Iran in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Monarchy in Iran with an Islamic Government. This brought about an evocative stir among Muslims from Morocco in Northwest Africa across the subcontinents of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia. The countries affected were Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, all the Middle East kingdoms and Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is this Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini that saw the first suicide bombing by the Hizbollah, an insurgent group of Lebanon. It also produced the word jihad into the everyday lexicon of the Islamic fundamentalist.
The Russian invasion of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s journey to fundamentalism
In 1979 a jihad was organised by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) when Russia invaded Afghanistan. This call for liberation of an Islamic Afghanistan from the clutches of a Godless Soviet Union went out to the Muslim world from Morocco in the west to Indonesia and the Philippines in the east. The response was immediate and overwhelming with a call that Islam was under threat.
The momentous event in 1979—the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in1979—marked the rise of a new wave of Islamist movements which toppled the Shah of Iran and eventually drove the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and it was the enduring impact of the Iranian revolution and the defeat of Communism which precipitated the creation of over a hundred contemporary Islamist movements in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans and also in western Europe. Its founders had painstakingly built Al Qaeda al-Sulbah (the solid base) for the sole purpose of creating societies founded on the strictest Islamic principles. The Palestinian ideologue Abdullah Azzam conceptualized Al Qaeda in 1987. Defining its composition aims and purpose he wrote in Al Jihad, the principal journal of the Afghan Arabs: every principle needs a vanguard to carry it forward…It carries the flag along the sheer endless and difficult path until it reaches its destination in the reality of life since Allah has destined that it should make it and manifest itself. This manifest constitutes Al Qaida al-Sulbah for the expected society.
Azzam the ideological father of Al Qaeda was the mentor of Osama bin Laden. After co-founding the Maktab al Kidmat-il-mujahideen-al Arab or Afghan Service Bureau in Peshawar in Pakistan in 1984 Azzam and Osama ran it together for several years.
The Maktab-al-Kidmat-il-mujahideen-al-Arab received all the volunteers from Morocco to the Philippines who had responded to the call that Islam was in danger, housed them, armed them and organised their training to fight the Godless Soviet Army that had invaded Afghanistan. The project was financed by the United States and its chief architect was Zbigniew Brezizinski, the United States’ National Security Advisor. The fallout was the wave of Islamic fundamentalism in the form of the Taliban, one of the most virulent Islamic fundamentalist groups, the gift of the Deobandi version of Islam and the Al Qaeda, a product of the extremist Wahabi sect of Islam that sprouted from Saudi Arabia. Both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda have changed the character of Pakistan forever making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The Al Qaeda and the Taliban have destroyed the culture of Pakistan and rendered it into a state of turmoil and despair where no one can say when a suicide bomber will appear and blow himself up, where there are everyday shoot-outs between Islamic factions and where the gentle Sufi sect of Islam that was the grace of Pakistan is in danger of being wiped out.
It was the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Army that brought about a cataclysmic change in that country. Terrified of the godless Russian soldiers, the people of Afghanistan thought that under the Russians their very character would be changed. More than a million Pashtuns with their families fled to Pakistan. This sudden wave of refugees had to be settled in makeshift camps.
At the time of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians, Pakistan’s Afghan policy was conducted with the help of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami. At this juncture, the Jamaat-e-Ulema- Islam (JUI) set up hundreds of Madrassas along the Pashtun belt on the borders of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan. The children of the Afghan refugees were all admitted to these Madrassas where they imbibed the JUI Deobandi philosophy. Among hundreds of JUI Madrassas opened, there were two that stood out. The first was a breakaway faction of the JUI led by Maulana Samiul Huq, whose Madrassa the Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania was in Akhora Khattak in the NWFP which became a major training ground for the Taliban leadership. Another sinister Madrassa was the Jamiat-ul-uloomi-Islamiyah located in Binori in Karachi with a capacity of 6000 talibs.
Thus while the Islamic volunteers from Morocco to the Indonesia were fighting the Russian army in Afghanistan, the next generation of Islamic fighters was being trained in the JUI madrassas in Pakistan. These were the talibs, the children of the Pashtun Afghan refugees who had fled to Pakistan because of the Russian invasion of their country. They were to become the Taliban.
India’s blunders in Kashmir and the diversion of Islamic fundamentalists to Kashmir
It was when all this was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan that certain events happened in Kashmir that gave Pakistan what they had tried so hard to do from 1947 onwards—to start a rebellion against India. In 1983, Mrs Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister was campaigning for her party, the Congress in Kashmir. She was not happy with Farooq Abdullah, who had been given the mantle of leading the National Conference the political party of Jammu and Kashmir by his father, Sheikh Abdullah.
Between 1947 and 1971 India and Pakistan fought three wars. Between 1947 and 1965, the Pakistan Army and its Intelligence unit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) tried its best to rouse the people to rebel against India by identifying dissatisfied elements. All these have been chronicled in an excellent book by Praveen Swami one of India’s most brilliant and perceptive journalists on Kashmir. All these attempts failed. They failed because the groups were amateurish and the Kashmir Police succeeded in each case in detecting the mischief makers, arresting them and neutralising each attempt.
Considering the revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and its unleashing a wave of Islamic fundamentalism from Morocco to South East Asia and revival of Islamism among Muslims in all these countries, we should have handled Kashmir with kid gloves. The invasion of the Godless Soviet into Afghanistan and the reaction in the Islamic countries to this and the creation of the Maktab-alKidmat-il-Mujahideen-al-Arab should have alerted India to the consequences of this development Instead of that we blundered in Kashmir as will be seen by the underlying narrative.
In 1983, the State of Jammu and Kashmir was going to the polls for Assembly elections. Earlier, Sheikh Abdullah had passed on his mantle to his son Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was now leading the National Conference to the polls. Mrs Gandhi, the then Prime Minister did not like him, because he had befriended the new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, NT Rama Rao, who had defeated the Congress party there. When Mrs Gandhi campaigned in Kashmir, she hinted that the National Conference was close to the Pakistan ISI. This, to say the least was absurd.
The National Conference was a secular party and was dead against Pakistan. The people naturally did not like this and the National Conference won hands down in the Kashmir Valley and Dr Farooq Abdullah took over as the Chief Minister. At this juncture, Mrs Gandhi asked the Governor of Kashmir Mr BKNehru to destabilize Farooq’s Government by winning over his brother in law who was sulking in the background, as he had been denied the crown in Kashmir by Sheikh Abdullah. Mr BK Nehru refused to carry out Mrs Gandhi’s direction. She, then, shifted him to Gujarat and sent her minion as the Governor to Kashmir, who carried out her diktat, by buying Farooq’s brother-in-law and dismissing Farooq’s government. The people of Kashmir were naturally incensed at this dirty game. In 1984 Mrs Gandhi was killed by her bodyguards. Her son who knew no politics or administration was made the Prime Minister. His advisors suggested to the new Prime Minister that they should dismiss the Government in Kashmir and hold fresh elections. This was done. Then they advised the new inexperienced Prime Minister to tell Farooq Abdullah to have an alliance with the Congress in the new election. Farooq agreed to this. The people of Kashmir were aghast at this.
Here was Dr Farooq, who had been dismissed by Mrs Gandhi now being made to have an alliance with the Congress for the new election! When the elections were held, the National Conference openly rigged the elections, stuffing ballot boxes, and even beating up the opposition candidates. Hundreds of young boys began an exodus across the Line of Control to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. What Pakistan had tried to foment from 1947 till 1983- to start a rebellion in Kashmir by training and arming boys who slipped across to Pakistan, now found India offering the chance of fomenting a rebellion on a platter! In the background of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the creation of the Maktab-al- Kidmat-il-Mujahideen-al -Arab in Pakistan to fight the Russians and the ferment in Pakistan with the ISI in full cry, we created a situation in Kashmir for the ISI to divert the mujahideen after the Afghan war to fight in Kashmir. This was the real cause of the Kashmir insurgency. With the jihadis from Morocco to the Philippines collected in Pakistan for fighting the Russians, it was only a matter of time for a section of these jihadis to be sent to Kashmir. If Mrs Gandhi and her son and the leaders of the Government in Delhi had not blundered, there would have been no ground for Pakistan to divert the jihadis to Kashmir after they sent the Russians home.
The Pakistan Army’s Inter Services Intelligence immediately organised the reception of hundreds of young men from Kashmir, who had come by slipping across the Line of Control. Insurgent groups or Tanzeems had already been formed and camps established for training them in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, mainly in an area called Elaka Gair. The Kashmiri young men were poorly motivated as the majority of them were from a Sufi background. The Tanzeems formed like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Ikhwan-ul-Mussalmeen, Al Jihad, Al Umar were poorly motivated and turned out to be poor fighters. The first Kashmiri group that performed with credit was the Hizbul Mujahideen formed by cadres of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The volunteers turned out to be hard fighters. A related Tanzeem, the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen also turned out to be good fighters. The cadres of all the above mentioned Tanzeems flooded the state. It was at this stage in the early 1990’s that the ISI sent in the first Tanzeems who had fought in Afghanistan against the Russians. These were the battle hardened, Hizb-e-Islami a Tanzeem of the Jamaat-e-Islami, while the Harkatul Ansar was a Tanzeem of the JUI. Both these groups raised the tempo of the encounters in North Kashmir and the Army and the Border Security Force had some fierce encounters before killing two guest militants as they were called, Akbar Bhai, an Afghan and his compatriot from Sudan in 1992-93 in Sopore.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan the Russians were taking a beating. Among the groups who were battling the Russians a division began surfacing between the Jamaat-e-Islami sponsored Tanzeems like the Hizb-e-Islami. Initially they were also favoured by the Pakistan ISI. The Tanzeem sponsored by the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) had by now several thousand acolytes, all Talibs, children of Pashtun refugees from Afghanistan.
We have seen the birth of the Al Qaeda midwifed by Abdullah Azzam, the Jordanian and his friend Osama-bin-Laden. Bin Laden had come to Pakistan when Azzam had started the Maktab-al-Kidmat-il-Mujahideen-al Arab and Bin Laden was flush with money from his father’s construction business in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden liberally funded the Maktab. The other financier was the United States, obsessed with fixing the Russians. Their funding was through Pakistan, where the funds were handled by the Pakistan Army through its Inter Services Intelligence. Naturally a part of the money was diverted to arming and training the Kashmiri militants and the Pakistani militants being trained for operating in Kashmir.
As far as India was concerned, Abdullah Azzam was the architect behind raising one of the fiercest Tanzeems—the Lashkar-e-Taiba the Army of the Pure (LeT). For raising this he found the ideal religious fanatic in Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed a committed Sunni cleric. It was with the funds from the CIA given for raising the Maktab that a part was diverted for raising the LeT. Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed located several hundred acres of land outside Lahore and there a vast complex of dormitories, mosques, and training facilities, firing ranges was constructed. His other associate was Zafar Iqbal. This was the Markaz-e-Dawa-wal-Irshad.
Strangely the LeT was sent into Kashmir for the first time in 1994. The Tanzeems of the JUI like the Harkat-ul-jihad-e-Islami (HUJI), The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) were sent earlier from 1993. I was posted in Kashmir in June 1993. By this time the first cadres of the HUA had already infiltrated. My first encounter with this group was in September 1993, when we had information that three Pakistani militants had occupied a house in Ilahi Bagh a locality of Srinagar on its northern outskirts. We had quickly surrounded the target bungalow and vacated several houses surrounding it and were exchanging fire with the militants holed up inside the bungalow. The target bungalow was quite big and we soon found that bullets that we were firing were not reaching the inner rooms.
The grenades we fired also did not land in the inner rooms. We could guess that the militants holed up were Pakistanis and from a tough tanzeem, because when we shouted through the loud hailer to the insurgents holed up inside the bungalow, that they should come out throwing down their weapons and we would not shoot them, they shouted back that they had come to become shaheeds (martyrs). Ultimately we had to fire rocket launchers that set the bungalow on fire and all three militants inside were killed. In all further encounters with the Harkat-ul-Ansar or the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, their cadres never surrendered and we had to fight every inch of the way till all the insurgents were killed.
The LeT were exclusively recruited from Pakistan, Punjab. They were carefully selected and rigorously trained and motivated. Once ordained they never cut their hair. All the cadres were given pseudo names from the kuniats of the Companion of the Prophet. They were trained to be ruthless. In all encounters they never asked nor gave any mercy. Generally, when they fought an encounter and found that the enemy had exhausted his ammunition, they closed in and finished off the force personnel by decapitating their heads or disemboweling them. LeT is a very secretive organisation. Hafiz Sayeed says that Allah has ordained every Muslim to fight until his rule is established. We have no option but to follow Allah’s order.
Pakistan’s journey to a jihadi state began with the training camps organised on the border with Afghanistan in the North West Frontier Province to train the mujahideen who were to fight the Russians. The ISI organised the training and the instructors were from the Pakistan Army’s elite group the Special Services Group (SSG). Among the trainees was a young Afghan from Kandahar Muhammad Omar, who would later lead the young Talibs from the JUI Madrassas. Omar was selected for the longer course and his trainer would remember him as one of the best trainees.
The long road to a jihadi state began even earlier for Pakistan when Gen. Zia-ul-Haq took over the Government in a bloodless coup on July 5, 1977. The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief had a key role in the coup plan, indicating the role of the ISI in the future talibanisation of the State. Gen. Zia started the process of Islamisation of the Pakistan Army, by permitting the Tablique Jamaat, a fundamentalist Islamic religious group that was born in India to preach inside the cantonments. In 1979, Gen. Zia appointed Lt. Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rehman as the ISI chief. Cold, inscrutable, and secretive Gen. Rehman ensured that all contacts with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, all supplies of weapons to them would be handled by the ISI officials only. No CIA official was allowed to go into Afghanistan and all movements of the mujahideen into Afghanistan were handled exclusively by the ISI. Funds totaling millions of dollars received from the United States, matched by equal amounts from Saudi Arabia were all handled by the ISI only. The character of the ISI was effectively changed and it became a dreaded organisation in Pakistan.
The next step to a fundamentalist Pakistan was the raising of the Sunni communal organisation, the Sipah-e-Sahiba. The raising of this communal organisation was not connected with the crusade against the Soviets. It was because of the fact that political and economic power in Punjab lay in the hands of large land owners, mostly Shias, a minority compared to the Sunni sect. In a predominantly agricultural district of Pakistan Punjab called Jhang, most of the landlords were Shias. Over the years, Jhang developed into a centre of rich traders, transport operators, who were all Sunnis. There was a clash of interests. The 1979 revolution in Iran which sparked off a wide movement of awakening in Islamic societies led to the Shias in Pakistan to assert their rights. The Sunni Deobandi and Ahle Hadith seminaries that had come up by then led to a Sunni-Shia sectarian clash. This led to the birth of the Sipah-e-Sahiba a Sunni sectarian group to oppose the Tehriq-e-Nifaz-e-fiqh-e-Jafria. The Sipah-e-Sahiba soon declared that the Shias were not Muslims. Clashes took place where the Shias lost as they were numerically much smaller. The attacks on Shia mosques soon took the form of suicide bombers coming into a Shia mosque at the time of prayer and triggering off their suicide jackets amidst the congregation resulting in the most revolting casualties.
Meanwhile in Peshawar, Abdullah Azzam was suddenly killed in a bomb explosion. The Al Qaeda was taken over by Osama-bin Laden. The murder was never solved, but it was strongly believed that Azzam was killed by a bomb set up by Jordanian Intelligence. The majority of the people who joined the Al Qaeda were Arabs from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, The actual brain behind the Al Qaeda was the lieutenant of Osama bin Laden Dr Ayman Zawahiri a product of the Islamic Brotherhood raised by Hassan al Banna. He was a medical doctor, not a doctor of divinity but he was the genius behind Al Qaeda. His motivation came from a deep study of Syed Qutub, the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda came into existence in the 1980s, but it took its real shape when ideas fused with resources in the middle 1990s, with the alliance of Al Zawahiri’s ideas and bin Laden’s resources. Dr Zawahiri and bin Laden issued a joint statement in February 1998 sanctioning the shedding of the blood of every American. Al Qaeda motivated tribal youth in Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan to raise pro-Taliban militias. It also hunted for natural leaders like Nek Muhammad, Beitullah Mehsud, Abdullah Mehsud, and Hakimullah Mehsud to infuse into them the spirit of Al Qaeda ideology and the strategies to be employed in the future.
The fallout of the Al Qaeda being constituted and the campaign against the Russians was the complete churning that took place in the two totally underdeveloped regions of Pakistan, its Tribal agencies, the Frontier Administered Tribal Area, particularly in two of its main divisions—North and South Waziristan. This area was inhabited by tribal clans who prized their independent way of life. The population in this Agency and in the districts of Afghanistan bordering FATA was mostly Pashtuns or related tribes who were fiercely independent and had their own way of life and code of honour called Pashtunwali. The British had not extended the pattern of administration they had structured for the plains districts of undivided India to these tribal areas. Here, tribal elders of each village were allowed to administer their population by jirgas or tribal councils. The Governor of FATA was generally a retired Army general. All offences committed was decided by convening a Jirga or council and after listening to the two sides a decision was given by the leader of the area called a Malik.
With the advent of the Al Qaeda and the fundamentalist Islam of the Taliban prevailing, the Mullahs who were generally well down the social scale now pushed down the Maliks and took over their role. Hundreds of madrassas for training the JUI cadres had come up in these border areas of Pakistan. The FATA had been given a thorough Islamisation of the Deobandi variety.
After the Russians retreated from Afghanistan in 1979, it was the Tadjhik leader Ahmed Shah Masood, who took control of Kabul. This was not liked by Mullah Omar, the Pashtun leader of the Taliban from Kandahar. He challenged Masood and after some fierce fighting captured Kabul. The Afghans were now divided. On one side was the majority Pashtun from the south and east of Afghanistan and on the other, the Tadzhik, moderate Sunni, the Uzbek also moderate Sunni, the Heratis, majority Shia and the Hazaras, Shia. The ISI could not intervene to resolve this problem..
It is after the Taliban captured Kabul that the situation began to deteriorate for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The forward movement of the Taliban was guided and abetted at every stage by units of the ISI attached with each group of the Taliban. Meanwhile the Al Qaeda was busy planning to carry the Islamic war into the country who was its arch enemy, the United States.
Also, the sectarian conflict between Pakistan’s Sunnis and Shias became bloody and deadly as Sunni cadres attacked Shia congregations in Shia mosques. Between January 1989 and June 2005, 1793 Pakistanis were killed while 3288 persons were injured. Today the situation has deteriorated so much that Shias and the hapless Ahmediyas may have to look for sanctuary in a neutral country. The editorial of the February 2012 edition of a popular journal of Pakistan, Newsline leads me to this conclusion. Where were the law enforcement agencies of the Government, when the proscribed groups, the Jammat-ud-Dawa, formerly the LeT and the Khatm-e-Nabbuwat held a rally against the Ahmediyya community in Rawalpindi on January 12, 2012?
These creatures of hate had pronounced their intent well in advance through anti-Ahmediyya posters and banners that appeared on Rawalpindi lampposts and shops many days earlier. Neither the local authorities nor the law enforcement agencies lifted a finger to stop this public display of hate literature against a section of society in the nation’s capital twin city. In 2011 alone 24 lawyers from this community were targeted and in the New Year four more have been killed. Not so long ago it was the Shia doctors who were targeted. Eighty Shia doctors were shot dead in clinics, hospitals and on the streets and many hundreds were forced to flee Pakistan and settle abroad.
The situation in Pakistan took a second turn for the worse, when the Al Qaeda after years of planning sent in three suicide bomber planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Tower in New York and into the Pentagon. It was a complete failure of intelligence of the CIA and related agencies of the United States. The US government however found out immediately that the plot was hatched from the Frontier Agency of Pakistan and Al Qaeda was behind the plot. Musharraf, the former Chief who had taken over as President of Pakistan after a coup was bluntly asked by the United States whether Pakistan was with them or against them. He had to say yes to this after consulting his Generals and then he had to hand over two of his Air Bases to the United States for their operations into Afghanistan, besides directing his Intelligence agencies to coordinate with the Central Intelligence Agency to locate Al Qaeda cadres hiding in the FATA and North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The ISI however continued to play a double game in direct defiance of United Nations resolutions, and continued to send in supplies of arms ammunition and fuel to the Taliban. Thus while some ISI officers were helping the United States to locate Taliban targets for US bombers, others were pumping in fresh armaments to the Taliban. Though Musharraf had promised to pull back all ISI personnel from inside Afghanistan, before the US bombing began, dozens of officers from the Pakistan Army stayed back in Afghanistan.
The first attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan commenced on October 7, 2001. In a bombing that continued for four weeks and then Dostum, the Uzbek chief led cavalry charges against the Taliban positions and routed them. Some 8000 Taliban retreated and the US Air Force targeted the retreating Taliban and the entire north became a shooting Gallery. Soon Kabul was captured. The retreating Taliban collected in Kunduz and Kandahar. In Kunduz a number of ISI officers and other Pakistani Army officers were trapped along with the Taliban. At this stage Gen. Musharraf spoke to the US President George Bush requesting to stop the bombing and to give him an air corridor so that he could send some Pakistan Air Force planes and evacuate his trapped officers. The US President agreed and kept the operation secret.
On November 15, 2001, Northern Army Commanders in Kunduz reported that Pakistani Air Force planes were flying in to Kunduz to evacuate/air lift the Pakistanis at night. Gen. Richard Myers Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff denied this. He was lying. ICRC and UN officers who were on the ground at Kunduz confirmed the air lift. Taliban and Al Qaeda cadres also escaped in these air lifts. Meanwhile the Taliban retreated from Kandahar into the FATA areas and also into Baluchistan further south and sought shelter in Quetta, where the ISI arranged to shelter their leader Mullah Omar and set up his rear HQs. The majority of the Taliban retreated to North Waziristan and connected to old war lords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani family. Mullah Omar began rebuilding the Taliban.
The Lal Masjid Operation
This was a turning point for Pakistan. It spelt the end of Musharraf as the head of the Pakistan Government and sent the country spinning into a maelstrom of fundamentalism from which as we see it today there is very little chance of Pakistan ever recovering.
The Lal Masjid had been founded by Maulana Abdullah, a veteran jihadi who had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The mosque had strong ties with radicals like Mullah Omar, Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Tahir Yuldachev and Osama bin Laden. After Abdullah was assassinated, two of his sons, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rasheed Ghazi became Lal Masjid’s Prayer Leader and Deputy. The Pakistan Army had intensified operations in the Tribal areas in mid 2003.
The move was unpopular from the beginning. In the Frontier Tribal areas, the people saw the Taliban as an anti-imperial movement. On the advice of Al Qaeda, Maulana Abdul Aziz issued a decree in 2004 that declared the South Waziristan operation of the Pakistan Army as un-Islamic. The decree prohibited the burial of soldiers killed in these operations in Muslim graveyards. Funeral prayers for the soldiers who had died in action against the Muslim militants in South Waziristan were prohibited. The decree was circulated throughout the country and 500 clerics signed it. That was all the spin required to ignite further anti- American feelings in Pakistan. All the combined guns of the militants could not have been so useful in belittling the Pakistan Army as that religious decree. The result was the demoralisation of the Pakistan armed forces.
By 2007, Lal Masjid had become an Al Qaeda powerhouse in the federal capital of Islamabad, directly in the face of the ISI in Islamabad and the Army GHQ in Rawalpindi. Meanwhile the militant’s strength kept increasing throughout the country. They expanded their influence from South Waziristan to North Waziristan, and then moved on to Bajaur, Mohmand and Orakzai agencies.
In January 2007, the Pakistan Taliban in South Waziristan, broke its ceasefire with the Pakistan Army and unleashed a series of attacks on their positions. Shortly thereafter, the Lal Masjid students took to the streets against the demolition of some mosques built illegally. Then women students of the Lal Masjid Madrassa illegally occupied a Children’s Library nearby and would not vacate unless Sharia law was enforced in the country. Then a Chinese beauty parlour worker was abducted by the students of Jamia Hafsa of the Lal Masjid. In July 2007 the Pakistan Army surrounded the Lal Masjid and forcibly entered it after a siege of a few days. In the ensuing firefight, Abdul Aziz Ghazi was captured when trying to flee in a burqa, while his brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi was killed. A number of students of the Madrassa were killed. Osama bin Laden installed Abu Obaida al Misri as the Imam-e-Khurruj the leader of a revolt against Pakistan. The strategy of Al Qaeda was working as per their plan. The Lal Masjid operation changed the dynamics of the country forever.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was established by Beitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan in 2007 with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Faqir as his lieutenants. Within a few months of its inception the TTP was able to extend its foothold in South Waziristan and adjacent areas. The tribal areas of FATA steadily fell to the Taliban groups and the Waziristan Shura came into being. In 2007, the agencies of North and South Waziristan became a no go area for the Pakistan security forces. The TTP surrounded and captured 300 soldiers of the Pakistani forces in 2007. By 2008, the TTP had spread to the areas around Peshawar. Mullah Omar now claimed that the TTP would spread to Karachi soon.
Karachi by this time had become a smouldering cauldron. It was initially controlled by the Mohajirs—Indian Muslims from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan who had migrated to Pakistan after separation of India into India and Pakistan to replace Hindus who had migrated to India. The Mohajirs organised into a political party, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) that generally controlled Karachi. The situation changed with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan when thousands of Pashtuns came as refugees and settled in Sind and carved a niche for themselves in Karachi. Soon turf wars started in Karachi for control of the spoils of the financial capital of Pakistan. It did not take much time before Karachi was awash in arms and pitched battles between the MQM Mohajirs and the Pashtun immigrants became a regular feature in Karachi, with each encounter claiming casualties.
Karachi was once a rocking city—bustling with life energy and hope. A city of dreams that embraced all who entered its fold, starry eyed, full of aspirations to make it big—or simply make it. But now an ominous silence descended on the city.
As people step out of their homes to go about their work, there is the nagging fear that they may return home as bullet ridden corpses. There is the smell of death in the air. Karachi has been turned into a graveyard of sorts by those who preside over its destiny—the PPP, the MQM and the ANP. They are engaged in a shameless turf war to seize control of the country’s economic lifeline, strangling it in the process, and caught in the bitter battle are the people of Karachi, from the business houses, who are being forced to cough up millions by extortionists of all political shades, or face abduction or closures, to the poor vegetable vendors, rickshaw drivers, daily wage earners, who are being killed on a daily basis because they belong to one or other ethnic group. In three days of strikes in March 2012, 35 vehicles were torched, 40 innocent people killed. This government in Pakistan is the most impotent government that the country has ever had.
The Al Qaeda targets the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)
The Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP). Its population though it had a sizeable Pashtun element was religion wise moderate Bahrelvi. In Pakistan the Bahrelvi was a moderate group who prayed in mosques but also believed in worshipping at Sufi shrines. The main route of transporting supplies for the NATO and US troops in Afghanistan was from Karachi to Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and from there through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.
The Al Qaeda wanted to disrupt these supplies and then put in a plan to get the Taliban to dominate this region. A group was created under the leadership of Maulana Sufi Muhammad who had fought against the Russians that was named Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). Maulana Sufi Muhammad’s son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah then began to preach through his Radio Fazlullah to threaten the moderate Muslims of Swat to adopt Sharia law. They began enforcing Sharia Law by burning girl’s schools and CD shops. A wave of terror swept across the beautiful Swat valley as the TNSM, which translated meant the movement for the enforcement of Islamic laws began operating in the Swat valley. The TNSM is a Wahabi militant group whose objective was to implement a strict version of Islam in the Malakand and Swat province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa region.
This was only the beginning of the real troubles of the beautiful Swat valley. A much more extremist leader had appeared on the scene—Bin Yameen sponsored by the Al Qaeda. His group was called the Tora Bora group comprising local Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Arabs. Bin Yameen’s group ambushed Army convoys and brutally slit their throats. They took camera footage of this and forwarded it to TV channels. Waziristan’s Qari Hussain Mehsud a former leader of the anti Shiite Lashkar-e-Jhangvi together with Bin Yameen established a reign of terror in the Swat valley. Within weeks, the entire Police network in the valley had collapsed. Pir Samiullah, a Bharelvi spiritual guide and his followers were armed by the Pakistan Army to fight the Al Qaeda group. Before Pir Samiullah could organise his group, his shrine was attacked. Pir Samiullah and dozens of his supporters were killed. Bin Yameen found that the Pir had been buried. He had his body exhumed and hung it up for several days and then looted all the banks. By late 2008 Swat was completely in the hands of the Al Qaeda insurgents.
The Pakistan Government then tried to use Maulvi Sufi Muhammad to bring back Swat under Government control. Al Qaeda however sent Bin Yameen again into the area. He organised the Al Qaeda forces and stormed Buner, only 65 miles from Islamabad in the first week of April 2009. Sufi Muhammad could not be found for some time. When he finally surfaced, he was not alone. He was accompanied by Bin Yameen and eight suicide bombers! Sufi Muhammad then read out a speech given to him by Bin Yameen. “There is no room for democracy in Islam,” read out Sufi Muhammad. He then gave a deadline for all judges to withdraw from Malakand Division within four days and set up a Darul Qaza an Islamic appeal court to hear appeals against the Government’s Qazi courts. Sufi Muhammad’s speech changed everything.
The international media publicised his address and depicted it as Swat’s rule by the Taliban. The Pakistan Government now deployed a strike corps in Swat and ruthlessly started a second Swat operation Rah-e-Rast (Operation for the Right path). 2.2 million people of Swat and Malakand division were shifted to camps outside the area. The Strike Corps then used air power and bombed the militant hideouts. Hundreds of militants were killed. The operation continued till end July 2009, when the Al Qaeda militants retreated to the Hindu Kush Mountains and the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
Attacks on the NATO convoys in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Major Haroon retired from the Pakistan Army when he found the turnaround of the Pakistan Army against the Taliban after the US attack on the Taliban. The death of his brother Major Khurram led to his retirement and he soon worked himself into the inner circle of the Al Qaeda. Major Khurram was posted in the elite Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan’s policy turnaround on the Taliban after the US invasion of Afghanistan had disillusioned the whole of the middle cadre of the country’s armed forces. Both Major Haroon and Major Khurram resigned from the armed forces. Both brothers joined the LeT. Due to their motivation many officers from the Pakistan Army resigned their commissions.
Haroon now found a new comrade in Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, who had fought in Kashmir. All of them shifted their location to North Waziristan and settled there, fighting for the Al Qaeda against US forces in Helmand. It was in Helmand that Major Khurram died in an encounter with US forces in 2007. Major Haroon now planned the operations to disrupt the NATO supply line of containers from Karachi to Afghanistan. There followed a series of attacks on the NATO convoys in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Curiously there were virtually no human casualties. Convoys were held up and torched. The convoys were being run by civil contractors. The US lost hundreds of crores worth of supplies, POL etc.
The final humiliation for Pakistan was the attack on the Mehran Naval base in Karachi on 22 May 2011 by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. There must obviously have been an inside contact, else, the base so heavily guarded could not have been breached. Eighteen military personnel were killed and sixteen injured before the defenders could control the situation. Two P-3C Orion aircraft and one helicopter were damaged. The interesting sequel to this dramatic incident is that one of Pakistan’s most daring reporters Syed Salim Shahzad went missing a few days after he had reported on this incident, that there was complicity by security personnel in helping the intruders to penetrate the defences of the base. His body was found a few days later. We have to come to our own conclusions as to who killed Syed Salim Shahzad.
Finally to close this dismal story of Pakistan, we have the gunning down of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard confessed that he shot him because the Governor had opposed the blasphemy law of the country. The only silver lining to this brutal story is that the honourable judge before whom, the bodyguard of Salman Taseer was tried courageously sentenced him to death after the trial despite open threats. The final shame for Pakistan was that the judge had to be secretly settled abroad fearing that he would be killed for sentencing the bodyguard of the slain Punjab Governor.