Monday, July 4, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad on Nawaz Sharif & Jamat-e-Islami.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday demanded a full independent investigation over Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country, rejecting the government’s internal military probe. “We completely reject the prime minister’s committee. It is powerless and cannot investigate the matter in depth,” he told a news conference shortly after returning to Pakistan from medical treatment in Britain. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday announced that a lieutenant general would head an inquiry “to get to the bottom of how, when and why” bin Laden had been hiding in the garrison town where he was killed by US forces. US President Barack Obama has pressed Pakistan to probe how bin Laden managed to live for years under the nose of its military, saying he must have been supported by locals. Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a major forces academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him. Sharif, considered the most popular politician in Pakistan, called for the government to establish a revised commission within three days headed by the country’s top judge and not the military. “This commission should ascertain the full facts of Osama bin Laden’s presence and the American operation in Pakistan,” he said. REFERENCE: PML-N demands independent probe on bin LadenAFP May 11, 2011 (5 weeks ago)  EDITORIAL Syed Saleem Shahzad’s Courage Published: June 1, 2011  Nawaz Sharif said he could not understand why the government was hiding the facts and frightened of exposing those responsible. Demanding the reconstitution of the independent commission, Nawaz asked the government to order a probe into the PNS Mehran and the killing of Asia Times Online Pakistan Bureau chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad. Nawaz stops short of announcing anti-govt movement Friday June 03, 2011 (1136 PST)

Nawaz Sharif Osama Bin Laden Khalid Khwaja 1


ATol: Explain how Sheikh Rashid started the training camp.

KK: The story starts in 1986-87, when out of emotion I wrote a letter to General Zia ul-Haq saying that he was a hypocrite and he was only interested in ruling Pakistan, rather than imposing Islamic law in the country. General Zia immediately ordered my dismissal from my basic services in the Pakistan air force, where I was a squadron leader, and from the ISI, where I was deputed at the Afghan desk. I went to Afghanistan and fought side-by-side with the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet troops. There I developed a friendship with Dr Abdullah Azzam [a mentor of bin Laden], Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Abdul Majeed Zindani [another mentor of bin Laden's]. At the same time, I was still in touch with my former organization, the ISI, and its then DG [director general], retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul.

After General Zia's death in a plane crash [1988], elections were announced and there was a possibility that the Pakistan People's Party [PPP] led by Benazir Bhutto would win, which would be a great setback for the cause of jihad. We discussed this situation, and all the mujahideen thought that they should play a role in blocking the PPP from winning the elections. I joined my former DG Hamid Gul and played a role in forming the then Islamic Democratic Alliance comprising the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamaat-i-Islami. The PPP won the elections by a thin margin and faced a strong opposition. Osama bin Laden provided me with funds, which I handed over to Nawaz Sharif, then the chief minister of Punjab [and later premier], to dislodge Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif insisted that I arrange a direct meeting with the "Sheikh", which I did in Saudi Arabia. Nawaz met thrice with Osama in Saudi Arabia.

The most historic was the meeting in the Green Palace Hotel in Medina between Nawaz Sharif, Osama and myself. Osama asked Nawaz to devote himself to "jihad in Kashmir". Nawaz immediately said, "I love jihad." Osama smiled, and then stood up from his chair and went to a nearby pillar and said. "Yes, you may love jihad, but your love for jihad is this much." He then pointed to a small portion of the pillar. "Your love for children is this much," he said, pointing to a larger portion of the pillar. "And your love for your parents is this much," he continued, pointing towards the largest portion. "I agree that you love jihad, but this love is the smallest in proportion to your other affections in life."

These sorts of arguments were beyond Nawaz Sharif's comprehension and he kept asking me. "Manya key nai manya?" [Agreed or not?] He was looking for a Rs500 million [US$8.4 million at today's rate] grant from Osama. Though Osama gave a comparatively smaller amount, the landmark thing he secured for Nawaz Sharif was a meeting with the [Saudi] royal family, which gave Nawaz Sharif a lot of political support, and it remained till he was dislodged [as premier] by General Pervez Musharraf [in a coup in 1999]. Saudi Arabia arranged for his release and his safe exit to Saudi Arabia.

That was a typical situation, when Osama was famed for his generosity, and even politicians like Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who was president of the National People's Party and president of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, and then interim prime minister, were also after me to arrange meetings with the "Sheikh". Then Nawaz Sharif introduced me to Sheikh Rashid, and he took me to his Freedom House camp near Fateh Jang Road near Rawalpindi. He asked me to get support from Arabs. I took several of my Arab friends to his training camp, and they provided him with some money, though they were not satisfied with the environment. The youths were mostly trained to fire AK-47 rifles, but there was no arrangement for the ideological training of youths. That was the point on which the Arabs objected, that it is ideological training that makes a difference between a mercenary and a mujahid. Rashid was the least bothered about ideological training, he was interested in money - Rs50,000 per person. Some money was provided to Rashid, and he claimed that he procured AK-47 guns with that money. How many, I do not remember. REFERENCE: The pawns who pay as powers play By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Jun 22, 2005

Nawaz Sharif Osama Bin Laden Khalid Khwaja 2


The momentum for finding a strategy that will allow for an honorable exit is becoming irresistible. Enter Mansoor Ijaz, a US citizen of Pakistani origin with close ties to the right wing of the Republican Party. In London, with the help of British authorities, he began the peace process. Mansoor's point man in Pakistan is Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official who was a close friend of Osama bin Laden. Khawaja's associates included Paracha, a former member of the provincial assembly in North West Frontier Province and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group). His claim to fame is his advocacy for the families of al-Qaeda operators detained by Pakistani authorities.

One of the inducements put on the table for the Taliban leadership was their inclusion in the government of President Hamid Karzai, but Mullah Omar rejected this, saying there could not be any form of a deal until all foreign forces were pulled out of Afghanistan. Thus there was no possibility of the Taliban laying down their weapons. "Actually, the media have jeopardized the peace initiative when it is still in its initial stages, though part of the news is correct, that yes, there is a discourse between the Taliban and the US, but it is wrong that any US officials met Javed Ibrahim Paracha," Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times Online.

Asia Times Online sources in the Afghan resistance across the border from Pakistan confirm that there has been recent contact between Karzai and the Taliban leadership. This took place through a go-between. Karzai, according to the contacts, sought support for himself and agreed that any cooperation with the Taliban would hinge on one single point - the evacuation of foreign troops. The contact was confirmed at a time the Afghan parliamentary results confirmed that members of the former Taliban regime and former mujahideen leaders had won seats in parliament with heavy mandates. The general perception is that these new parliamentarians are split into small political groups, and will therefore not be able to make much of an impression. However, most of the Taliban warlords who won in the elections are still in contact with the Taliban leadership, and so are the members of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami, whose leadership sits quietly in Peshawar, Pakistan. Veteran warlord Hekmatyar is still active in the Afghan resistance. Far from being splintered, these new parliamentarians are believed to be in a decisive position, and they are taking guidance from their Taliban or Hizb leaders. For instance, once Mullah Omar received Karzai's communication agreeing that the withdrawal of foreign troops was the minimum starting point for any negotiations, Mullah Omar called a shora (council) and then sent messages to all former Taliban members in parliament to support Karzai. REFERENCE: Time to talk: US engages the Taliban By Syed Saleem Shahzad Central Asia Nov 22, 2005

Nawaz Sharif Osama Bin Laden Khalid Khwaja 3


KARACHI - There was a day when former premier Nawaz Sharif was part of Pakistan's ruling military oligarchy. He tried to be independent and a strongman, and consequently was removed from power in a bloodless coup by now President General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999. However, after serving a year in jail and then going into exile in Saudi Arabia to avoid charges of treason and hijacking, he has once again dealt with the military and finalized a deal with the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj, in Saudi Arabia. As a result, they both returned to Pakistan - on flights half an hour apart - on Sunday. Sharif returned to the country two months ago, but was hustled straight back onto a plane to Saudi Arabia. This time there was no such drama as the circumstances have changed.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, a retired military brigadier and the publisher of a large media group were involved in backroom negotiations between the military, Sharif and Saudi Arabia which resulted in him being given the go-ahead to return to Pakistan provided "he did not make trouble". Musharraf is expected to be sworn in as a civilian president this week, which means he will step down as chief of the army staff in preparation for national elections in January. According to the contacts, following the elections, Shabaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz, has been earmarked to lead a unity government comprising liberal democratic forces, but under the umbrella of the military. Initially, former premier Benazir Bhutto had been chosen for this job and she, too, returned from exile, only to fall out with the United States-inspired plan and Musharraf himself. It is not yet clear what part Nawaz Sharif, considered a conservative and traditionalist and an acceptable face for Pakistan's religious forces, will play in this new political dispensation.

Just a day before his return, two devastating suicide attacks killed at least 16 people in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjoining Islamabad. One attacker targeted a vehicle carrying ISI personnel, the other a gate at the military's general headquarters (GHQ). The attacks serve as a strong hint to the Pakistani army to reverse its intervention in the Taliban's fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan. The attacks, impeccable sources at GHQ reveal, were based on precise intelligence. However, the sources refused to name the victims or their ranks. Mounting US pressure has forced Pakistan this year to do more in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in the country, leading to head-on confrontation. As a result, Pakistan's channels of communication with militants have been choked and the situation is reaching a point of no return in the battle between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani army. The deal with Sharif has both internal and external aspects. The Pakistani military is concerned that the "war on terror" is spilling far too much into the country. The Pakistani Taliban already have a strong presence in the tribal areas and in North-West Frontier Province.

Pakistan's leading security think-tank, the National Defense University, has floated the idea that Afghanistan and Pakistan could be prevented from falling into the clutches of extremism by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces withdrawing from Afghanistan and being replaced by troops from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). Ironically, four Muslim countries with the strongest armies in the OIC are non-Arab - Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh. If a decision is taken to send in the OIC, these four countries would be at the helm. With the insurgency in Afghanistan spiraling out of control with every passing day, Washington is giving an ear to this suggestion. But the biggest problem would be for Muslim countries to find leaders to speak to the insurgents in a spirit of mutual trust. Otherwise, OIC forces could be just as much of a problem as NATO's. For instance, if the militants declare the troops infidels, it would only add to the hopelessness of the situation. Apparently, the deal brokered by Saudi Arabia to allow Nawaz Sharif back into Pakistan aims to bring his brother Shabaz into the spotlight. Nawaz Sharif had personal interactions with Osama bin Laden (The pawns who pay as powers play, Asia Times Online, June 22, 2005) many times when both were planning to dislodge Bhutto's government in the late 1980s. In Pakistan's charged environment, anything is worth a try, including this old wine in a new bottle - it's worked before. REFERENCE: Strings attached to Sharif's return By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Nov 27, 2007

Nawaz Sharif & Rehmat Shah Afridi Part 1


JI condemns journalists murder LAHORE, May 31: The Jamaat e Islami chief, Syed Munawar Hasan and Secretary General, Liaquat Baoch, have strongly condemned the murder of senior journalist and Asia Times Bureau Chief, Saleem Shahzad. They have demanded that the elements involved in the abduction and murder of Saleem Shahzad be unearthed and dealt with in accordance with the law. In a joint condolence message, the JI leaders deplored that journalist community in the country suffered from insecurity and several journalists had been abducted and subsequently murdered in the past. But the killers had not been brought to the book. They expressed deep condolences with the bereaved family. REFERENCE: JI condemns journalists murder Posted on : 2011-05-31

Nawaz Sharif & Rehmat Shah Afridi Part 2


ISLAMABAD - Several hundred students in the southern port city of Karachi have left the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), Pakistan's largest student union, to join al-Qaeda training camps in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, Asia Times Online has learned. The IJT is an offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the country's premier Islamic party. "This is true. They now have their own camp in North Waziristan and it is purely the work of the late Dr Arshad Waheed that such a huge number of people are joining here," Usman Punjabi, a militant leader, told Asia Times Online on the telephone. Waheed was a renowned kidney specialist who was president of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, an offshoot of the JI. He and his brother Dr Akmal Waheed, a cardiovascular physician, were arrested in 2004 after an attack on a military motorcade in Karachi in 2004. They were charged with facilitating members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jundallah.

The brothers were later released and relocated to South Waziristan, where Arshad Waheed was killed in a drone attack in 2008. He was the first Pakistani al-Qaeda sympathizer to be featured by al-Qaeda's media wing al-Sahab in a long documentary, in which he was called a role model. The exodus of students to the tribal areas was also confirmed by a former leader of the JI's youth wing who spoke to Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity, "To me there is no need to hide this thing, it is true, a big number has already left and I am afraid that the remaining ones will also be leaving Karachi soon." According to a Pakistani counter-terrorism official, case studies show that initially all jihadis are recruited to fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan, but ultimately they end up fighting against the Pakistani security forces. This is an important development in al-Qaeda’s struggle and a major blow for Pakistan that a large number of people affiliated with the country's most influential Islamic party - always considered a major strategic asset for the military establishment - have joined forces with al-Qaeda. This development can be compared to 2005, when, after a crackdown on militants, hundreds of highly trained and battle-hardened fighters from Kashmir went to North Waziristan to join forces with al-Qaeda. These included Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is now an important operational arm of al-Qaeda, and veteran jihadi Abdul Jabbar.

Beginning of a new phase

Shortly after last Tuesday's attack on a Punjabi regimental center in Mardan in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) in which three suicide bombers were killed and four soldiers wounded, the Taliban sent out a press release in English. The first section read:

Recently, news has circulated in the media of a report of Amnesty International regarding the brutal rule of the Pakistan army in Swat, northeastern Pakistan, under a so-called "operation". The report says that the Pakistan army in the name of the operation, Rahe-Rast, did brutal assaults in poor areas of Swat Valley and allegedly killed hundreds of men without charges and without any proof or legal procedure before they were executed. These extra-judicial killings not only unveil the nature of the Pakistani army, they also bring the truth in front of the whole nation. A few months ago, a video tape was circulated on the Internet in which many Pakistan army men were seen brutally beating villagers, nearly killing them.

Earlier, a movie was shown on local and international television channels containing scenes of a women being executed by some men [Taliban], saying this is the so-called Islamic judiciary system the Taliban wants to impose on the people of Pakistan. [As a result] the army took action and started operation Rahe-Rast. If the serious think-tanks of Pakistan compare these two video clips, they must speak out. What is interesting about this release is that is was relatively well articulated; in the past, militant spokesmen had difficulty even expressing themselves in Urdu.

Contacts in North Waziristan confirm that the large-scale movement of IJT members took place earlier this year. The organization responded by expelled all of them. However, these students maintain a very active presence on the Internet, and blogging is their main tool for recruitment. The JI apparently did its best to bring these students back, without success. It even sent Hafiz Waheedullah Khan to Wana, the largest town in South Waziristan, to speak to Akmal Waheed. Kahn is the father of the Waheed brothers and a well-respected educationist who runs a network of private schools. He was a founder of the JI-backed Teachers' Association of Pakistan, the largest in the country. Akmal refused to speak with his father. The JI was banned in the 1960s by then-dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan's regime but it fought its case in the courts and won back its legitimacy. In the 1970s, the JI formed two notorious militias, al-Shams and al-Badr, which fought with the Pakistan army against Indian forces and rebel Bengalis. That support brought the JI close to the military and that continued until the era of former president General Pervez Musharraf, who came to power in 1999. The IJT was formed in 1948 as an offshoot of the JI to counter left-wing student unions. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the IJT won elections at the country's three main campuses - Punjab University, Karachi University and Peshawar University.

Student leaders of that period became national leaders, including incumbent ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani (he was elected president of the IJT-backed student union of Karachi University); the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Javed Hashmi (Punjab University); incumbent Law Minister Dr Babar Awan (president of the IJT Rawalpindi), beside a long list of politicians in different political parties and a very strong representation in Urdu-language media outlets. During the Afghan jihad in the 1980s against the Soviets, IJT members enthusiastically fought and in the process they developed ties with Arab militants. For this reason, after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, top al-Qaeda members, including 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were arrested from the residences of JI leaders. As a result, at one time the Americans put immense pressure on Pakistan to ban the JI, so much so that then-Pakistani interior minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat announced that the government was thinking of doing so. However, the military establishment put its foot down, despite a personality clash between Musharraf and then-JI president Qazi Hussain Ahmad. Instead of the JI being banned, Hayat was removed from his post.

This new development of IJT students joining al-Qaeda is more dangerous for Pakistan than any other previous al-Qaeda alliances. Most colleges and universities are the stronghold of the IJT, while the IJT's parent body, the JI, is the richest political party in the country and runs schools, madrassas (seminaries) and a vast network of social services and charities. Karachi contributes about 65% of the JI’s revenues. When the Kashmiri fighters joined forces with al-Qaeda, it improved the group's guerrilla techniques in the battlefield, while the IJT cadre will greatly boast al-Qaeda's recruitment drive and enhance its political influence. REFERENCE: Pakistani students prefer guns to books By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Jul 27, 2010

Nawaz Sharif & Rehmat Shah Afridi Part 3


Jamat-e-Islami Links with Al-Qaeda

Terror mastermind captured – Terror mastermind captured – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is thought to be the man who masterminded the attacks on 11 September. His capture in Pakistan was seen as a key success in the US fight to counter al-Qaeda. BBC News Online presents key video reports following the arrest. Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 22:56 GMT  - KARACHI – Under immense pressure from the United States, a slow and gradual operation has begun in Pakistan against the strongest political voice of Islamists and the real mother of international Islamic movements, of which Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front is the spoiled child. In a surprise move this week, Pakistan’s federal minister of the interior, Faisal Saleh Hayat, listed a number of incidences in which members of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the premier fundamentalist party in the country, had been tied to al-Qaeda, and called on it to “explain these links”. “It is a matter of concern that Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a main faction of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal [MMA], has neither dissociated itself from its activists having links with the al-Qaeda network nor condemned their activities,” Faisal said, adding that “one could derive a meaning out of its silence”. The MMA is an alliance of six religious parties that gained unprecedented electoral victories in national elections in 2002. One of its members is the leader of the opposition in the Lower House, while the MMA controls the provincial government in North West Frontier Province. It also forms part of a coalition government in Balochistan province. The MMA has 67 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly, with just under a third of them held by the JI. Asia Times Online predicted that the JI would be targeted (Jihadi’s arrest a small step for Pakistan , Aug 10) and now contacts confirm that moves have already started against associates of the JI in its strongest political constituency, Karachi. The next phase will most likely be in Rawalpindi and southern Punjab. Several close affiliates are believed to have been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) without charges being laid against them. Pakistan turns on itself By Syed Saleem Shahzad Aug 19, 2004  Khalid: A test for US credibility By Syed Saleem Shahzad Mar 6, 2003  Profile: Al-Qaeda ‘kingpin’ Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009  ‘THE MASTERMIND’ For smug KSM, federal court could be perfect arena By Peter Finn Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, November 14, 2009
Nawaz Sharif & Rehmat Shah Afridi Part 4


At the end of July, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, handed in his resignation. During the 22 years in which he held this position, he managed to exert undisputable influence over successive US administrations. However, his replacement appears equally capable: the next Saudi ambassador to Washington will be Prince Turki al-Faisal. 

Born on February 15, 1945 (the very day on which King Abdul Aziz al-Saud and US President Franklin Roosevelt met on board the USS Quincy and agreed on the "enduring relationship" that has linked the United States and Saudi Arabia up to the present day), at age 14 Turki was sent to boarding school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He subsequently enrolled at Georgetown University in the same year as future president Bill Clinton, but left before graduating and then completed his studies by obtaining a degree from Oxford, England. His father, King Faisal, had reigned over Saudi Arabia from 1964 until his murder in 1975. Prince Turki's career has been pursued mostly within the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), Riyadh's main intelligence service, which he headed from 1977 to 2001.

Background of Prince Turki

His stint at the GID, which came almost by chance due to the need to maintain a precarious balance of power among the various clans in the Saudi royal family, made him one of the longest lasting and authoritative intelligence chiefs in the world. Under Turki's leadership, the GID transformed into a modern intelligence service; as a member of the Safari Club (which brought together the intelligence chiefs of France, Morocco, Egypt, Arabia and Iran in an anti-Soviet effort during Washington's difficult Watergate phase), he exerted a determinant influence on Afghani events following the Soviet invasion of 1979.

From 1980 onward, Turki committed the GID to the task of providing financial support for the mujahideen war effort against the Soviets, channeling vast amounts of funding to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), subsidizing jihadis from all over the Middle East who wanted to participate in the anti-communist crusade, and assisting the efforts that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was starting to make in the same direction.

The impact of Turki's influence determined who was to prevail among the Afghan leaders; his funding laid the foundations for the Islamic volunteer groups who fought in Afghanistan (giving rise to the formation of groups such as al-Qaeda) and enabled the ISI to attain such importance that it became a parallel government in Pakistan. It was Turki who made a deal with the CIA that Riyadh would supply the ISI with an amount equal to the funding provided by US intelligence, thus pouring huge sums of money onto the Afghan chessboard.

Turki had known Osama bin Laden since 1978; bin Laden became one of the linchpins of the GID's funding policy toward the ISI and anti-Soviet warfare in Afghanistan, and he met with Turki several times in Islamabad. Many years afterward, in 1998, when bin Laden had already become engaged in an anti-American crusade, Turki was responsible for requesting his extradition by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but did not succeed in this task.

Turki's exit from the GID stirred the rumor mills since it occurred on August 31, 2001, less than two weeks before the September 11 attacks and just after his appointment had been confirmed for another four years. In 2002, he was appointed Saudi ambassador to London. In 2005, Turki was cleared of accusation of having financed the terrorist groups responsible for the September 11 attacks. REFERENCE: Riyadh's new envoy just the US ticket By Giuseppe Anzera Middle East Aug 19, 2005  

KARACHI - The recent arrest of two top Pakistani jihadis, Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, marks the beginning of the end of an era that started in the mid-1980s when the dream of an International Muslim Brigade was first conceived by a group of top Pakistan leaders. The dream subsequently materialized in the shape of the International Islamic Front, an umbrella organization for militant groups formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 and loosely coordinated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan. The arrests in Pakistan, made under relentless pressure from the United States, are aimed at tracing all jihadi links to their roots, which are mostly grounded in Pakistan's strategic core. As a former Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operator and air force official, Khalid Khawaja, commented in the Pakistani press on the arrests of the two jihadis, "Every link of the arrested jihadi leaders goes straight to top army officials of different times." At one level the arrests are linked to conspiracies against the government - including assassination attempts on President General Pervez Musharraf - and the recruitment of jihadis to fight against US troops in Afghanistan, but the real motives are much more far-reaching. The present problems in the "war on terror" are linked to the labyrinth of groups developed during the decade-long Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsored much of the jihadi movement, using the ISI as a front and a conduit.

For example, US planes used to fly supplies, arms and ammunition for the Afghan fighters to Islamabad, from where they were transferred to the ISI Afghan cell's facility at Rawalpindi, from where the ISI had its own network to distribute the merchandise to the mujahideen groups of its choice. This modus operandi exposed a serious flaw in US strategic thinking. By not dealing directly with the Afghan groups, the US had no control over which ones benefited, and invariably only those factions that were both anti-Western capitalism and anti-Soviet socialism were cultivated by the ISI. In this environment, late Pakistani dictator General Zia ul-Haq and his closest associate, the then director general of the ISI, Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, both of whom died in a plane crash in 1988, saw their opportunity to lay the foundations for a global Muslim liberation movement. Blissfully unaware of this perspective, the CIA supported Pakistani efforts to recruit Muslim youths from the Pacific to Africa, and a whole generation of youngsters was trained in jihadi, and, importantly, with strong anti-US overtones. Youngsters were drawn from groups such as Abu Sayyaf from the Philippines and Muslims from Arakan province in Myanmar. To keep the movements under the strict control of the ISI, the ISI established proxies such as al-Badr, the Harkat-i-Jihad-i-Islami and Harkatul Ansar (or Harkatul Mujahideen as it was once known). Akhtar, incidentally, was leader of Harkat, while Khalil was head of the Harkatul Ansar.

Crucially, all this was done without the CIA and, for that matter, the leaders of the Islamic movements knowing just how much control the ISI actually had. To keep the Arab movements under control, an al-Badr facility was organized in Khost province in Afghanistan. A dynamic law and master of arts graduate from Karachi University, Bakhat Zameen Khan, a member of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), a powerful religious party (who originally hailed from Dir in North West Frontier Province), was chosen as commander. He brought together all Arab jihadis at the facility, and linked senior ones to the ISI. Out of this camp, the Palestinian Hamas emerged, as well as the Arab-sponsored Moro liberation movement led by Abu Sayyaf. Khan was gradually weaned from the JI, and he exclusively allied al-Badr with the Hezb-i-Islami (HIA) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who today plays a key role in the Afghan resistance. As a result, the JI announced its separation with al-Badr when it launched the Hizbul Mujahideen militant movement in Kashmir in 1989. Al-Badr was kicked out of Afghanistan after the emergence of the Taliban in the mid-1990s because of its affiliation with the HIA. The ISI then set up new camps for al-Badr in Pakistani Azad Kashmir - that portion of Kashmir administered by Pakistan. In the Kargil operation of 1999, which almost brought Pakistan and India to all-out war, al-Badr fighters were initially sent by the Pakistan army to occupy Indian bunkers. Later, another ISI connection, the recently arrested Khalil, and his fighters battled side-by-side with Khan and the Pakistan army against Indian forces.

ISI makes up ground

Former Afghan prime minister and legendary mujahideen Hekmatyar went into exile in Tehran once the Taliban came to power in 1996. But as the Taliban regime disintegrated in late 2001, the US put pressure on Tehran to expel Hekmatyar, planning to arrest him as soon as he returned to Afghanistan, where he believed he could reinvent himself as an anti-US resistance guerrilla leader. By this time, though, Islamabad, having been persuaded to abandon the Taliban and join the United States' "war on terror", was in the process of finding a substitute connection in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar was the obvious choice. Khan was sent to Tehran to assure Hekmatyar of Pakistan's support should he return to Afghanistan. Al-Badr members were tasked to escort Hekmatyar from Iran to Afghanistan and to keep him away from the Americans. He was kept in a safe house in Chitral, where al-Badr members, along with Pakistan commandos, guarded the premises. As soon as al-Badr members located other diehard HIA commanders, such as Kashmir Khan and Ustad Fareed, Hekmatyar was launched in Afghanistan's Kunar province to reorganize the HIA as a proxy of the ISI in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, al-Badr, with its long experience in the region, helped many Arabs and their families, desperately wanted by the US, by providing them shelter and arranging fake passports for them to return to their countries of origin. From the mid-1980s, then, to the present the ISI and al-Badr have virtually been one and the same thing. The US State Department declared al-Badr a terrorist organization a few years ago, and has steadily put pressure on Islamabad to arrest its operators. However, Pakistan, for obvious reasons, has been reluctant to comply with US demands.

The Harkat

The Harkat-i-Jihadi-i-Islami was the first-ever Pakistani militant organization to be formed by clerics of the Deobandi school of Islamic thought. The organization was soon cultivated by the ISI, which provided its jihadis with special training facilities in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan, as well as in Khost in Afghanistan. The organization's conservative and traditional outlook was well suited to militants from other countries, such as from Bangladesh and Muslims from Myanmar. They were grouped under the Harkat-i-Jihad-i-Islami al-Alami (international) led by Akhtar (now under arrest). Later, when Harkat was outlawed by the US State Department, Harkatul Ansar was formed. However, in secret, Harkat's structure was kept intact. Akhtar was a main character in the infamous "Operation Caliphate" in which several Pakistani army officers attempted to topple Benazir Bhutto's government in 1995. Other leading players were Major-General Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi and Brigadier Mustansir Billah. The officers planned a coup with the help of civilian guerrillas (in fake army uniforms) led by Akhtar. The plotters aimed to occupy General Army Headquarters during a corps commanders' meeting and arrest key leaders and then take over the government and proclaim the formation of an Islamic caliphate. The plot failed miserably, many officers were arrested, and huge piles of ammunition and army uniforms were recovered from Akhtar's car.

The rebel officers were released when Musharraf came to the power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, as was Akhtar. He immediately made his way to Kabul, where he became close to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who only elevated Pakistanis once the ISI had approved. Akhtar was subsequently put in charge of several important assignments, such as training police and armed forces, and some administrative matters. Khalil, meanwhile, was a veteran of the Afghan war against the Soviets and acclaimed by his Afghan colleagues for his heroic role in the conquest of Khost city by defeating the communist forces there in 1991. Khost was the first Afghan city to fall to the mujahideen after the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989, after which the central communist government fell like a house of cards. The conquest of Khost was conceived in the safe houses of the ISI in Peshawar in Pakistan's tribal area by the then director general, Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani. In 1989, after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the ISI, then headed by retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, had devised "Operation Jalalabad" in which the HIA, led by Hekmatyar, was given a key role. The plan was to capture the strategic city of Jalalabad, and then march on Kabul to topple the communist regime. However, the operation came to nothing. When Durrani took over the ISI he revamped its strategy. Instead of Jalalabad, the center of operations was focussed on Khost, from where the army would mobilize the mujahideen movement for Kabul. At first Hekmatyar's HIA called the shots for the Khost operation. Under the new strategy, the HIA was removed from the front line and Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani was given the leading role, along with Pakistani fighters commanded by Khalil. This combination worked much better, and Khost fell to the mujahideen in the holy month of Ramadan (1991). All mujahideen circles still admit that "Khost was captured by Punjabis". Khalil's Harkatul Ansar was a signatory of a ruling issued by Osama bin Laden in 1998 in which he announced war against the United States after the Americans fired cruise missiles on Afghanistan in retaliation for al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Africa. The missiles targeted positions in Kandahar and in Khost, where several members of the Harkatul Ansar were killed. Khalil publicly denounced the US and vowed to take revenge, and soon after made his way on to the United States' list of "most dangerous" people.

At this time Khalil was chosen by one of the architects of the Kargil operation, then lieutenant-general (now General) Aziz Khan to take part in the daring raid into Indian territory. After Bakht Zameen Khan captured some Kargil peaks, Khalil fought side-by-side with the Pakistan army and al-Badr fighters, and remained part and parcel of all military strategies. After September 11, 2001, Khalil sent several thousand fighters to Afghanistan well in advance of the US-led attack on the country, and personally commanded the forces.  However, after the then director general of the ISI, Lieutenant-General Mehmood Ahmed, retired the day the US attacked Afghanistan, Khalil returned to Pakistan and was placed under house arrest as Islamabad had done an about-turn, under US insistence, on support for the Taliban. The ISI, jihadi leaders and the Pakistani army have over the years been inextricably linked, especially in Afghanistan. Now that two key jihadi figures, Khalil and Akhtar, have been arrested, it can easily be deduced that the story of their involvement, and the quest to stamp out the jihadi movement at its heart, will not end with them being incarcerated: there has always been someone in the Pakistani establishment, whether active or retired, to pull the strings, as was the case with Khalil and Akhtar, and with Bakhat Zameen Khan. Now, with the arrest of the the jihadi leaders, the "cover" has been broken and there is little place left for the "operators behind the scenes" to hide. "The cat is cornered against the wall and the much-awaited game within the army is about to start," commented an observer based in Washington. REFERENCE: Cracking open Pakistan's jihadi core By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Aug 12, 2004

1 comment:

Qurat-ul-ain said...

Mian Nawaz Sharif has a very short memory; before vilifying military leadership today, he must not forget that it was his own master General. Zia that planted the Islamist poison seed and the tree from that seed is now bearing the toxic fruit. Following the policy of Zia, Nawaz Sharif toed the very line patronizing terrorist groups in Punjab.
It was Gen. Zia who ushered in a new era of Islamic fundamentalism, bigotry and blasphemy laws in Pakistan targeting minorities, together with nurturing radical, armed Islamic groups, bent on waging jihad across the world. Officers recruited in his era are today three-star Generals and the Pakistani Military is largely motivated by the ideology of the “Quranic Concept of War” articulated by Zia’s protégé Brigadier (later Major General) SK Malik. It is simply pot calling the cattle black. The policies, pursued by Zia and later by PML-N hooligans now firing back. At this juncture of history along with military all the inheritors of Zia should be held accountable.