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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Compatibility: The Pakhtun Culture, Talibanization and Obscenity

Taliban burnt more than 150 girls schools in Swat valley.
By Farhad Taj
One of the good things that have happened to Pakistan is the free media. The media’s educative and informative role in the society is commendable. The media, however, disappoint when it exhibits biases most probably unintentionally or when it promotes a particular view without even cross checking the facts on the ground.

Such views constitute constructed realities in the public eye that are based on ideological fantasies or vested interest or ignorance of some people whose voices are reflected in the media. Solutions are then recommended based on the constructed realities to critical problems of national level.

The solutions, disconnected from t facts on the ground, can affect no change.

In their zeal to be seen as ‘expert’ or at least ‘informed commentators’ on the Pakhtun culture, scores of discussants in media depict that Talibanization is somehow compatible with the Pakhtun culture. That confinement of women to homes, compulsory wearing of burqa, ban on female mobility in public sphere, minus those accompanied by related men, ban on girls’ education, ban on music, compulsory beards, killing people by slitting their throats, preference of madrassa over school education , compulsory punishments for not saying the daily five time obligatory Islamic prayers, and above all, going mad in revenge spree and eliminating innocent and perceived enemies without discrimination, all is Pakhtun culture.

They argue the Taliban’s Islam is not Islam, it is Pakhtun culture. The key premise seems to that a religion, especially a text based religion like Islam, is interpretation and interpretation is affected by culture. So, Islam, when seen through the lenses of Pakhtunwali turns out to be Talibanization.

One of those who project this view of Pakhtun culture is the ex-ISI chief General (Retd) Hamid Gul. His credential as pro-Taliban, pro-religious extremists in general and his role in Afghan Jihad that brought destruction of Afghanistan and the rise of radical Islam in Pakistan is beyond doubt. Still, surprisingly, the media anchors do not put him questions to investigate his view of the Pakhtun culture.

A journalist, Orea Maqbol Jan, in a TV talk show, Kalam Kar, claimed that even a Hindu woman in Pakhtun culture will have to wear shuttlecock burqa. To my utter disappointment, even Salman Ahmed of Junoon, one of my favorite musicians, displayed a similar distorted view of the Pakhtun culture. Addressing a gathering in Denmark he referred to his talk with the mullah ‘electricity’ in NWFP. Salman Ahmed said that ‘this (rejection of music) is his(mullah’s) culture’.

The mullah ‘electricity’ is presumably mullah Bijli ghar. A laughing stock among Pakhtuns, one wonders since when mullah Biji Ghar became a symbol of the entire Pakhtun culture.
Equally disappointing is the self-proclaimed voice of the Pakhtuns, Imara Khan of Tehrik Insaf Party. He argues that the Taliban’s spree of death and destruction is caused by the revengeful Pakhtuns, whose family members were supposedly killed in the on going military operation in FATA and other areas of NWFP. He rejects that religious extremism, systematically spread in FATA by the state agencies, may have anything to do with the atrocities committed by the Taliban in Pakistan (and Afghanistan) .

Imran Khan’s argument portrays the Pakhtuns as savage and uncivilized people who can be so blinded by revenge that they become stripped of any capacity to differentiate between the innocent and the ‘guilty’. It implies that Paktuns can be driven so mad in revenge that they would bomb their own educational and health institutions, destroy the livelihoods of the fellow Pakhtuns and murder innocent people, both Pakhtun and non-Pakhtun, across Pakistan. Although, I have yet to see a Pakhtun so maddened by revenge, I still suppose there may be some people of this kind. I argue this is the personal decision of those people and has no justification in the code of Pakhtunwali for the purpose. Moreover, people so maddened by revenge may exist in any culture of the world.

These are but a few names who present such a false view of the Pukhtun culture on media. There are scores of other. These people show disrespect to the Pakhtun culture, some out of ignorance (like Sulman Ahmed, I guess), some for ideological reasons (Gul Hamid), some for professional reasons (just to be seen as expert on the something, like the journalist) and some for petty political reasons (like Imaran Khan) . In addition to the disrespect to the Pakhtun cultures, these people display utter disregard to some of the established notions of the social science.

Most social scientists all over the world agree that human cultures are internally diverse, flexible and adaptable. There are dominant norms in a culture and also less dominant norms. They coexist side by side. Even the expression of the dominant norms can be diverse. Cultures are not written in stone. They are flexible: members of the culture may mange to push the limits of the culture within the framework of that culture. In line with the changing requirements of the time cultures may adapt new ideas and norms from other cultures and societies. All this holds true for the Pukhtun culture. I will try to explain with some examples.

Shuttlecock burqa that many identify with Pakhtun culture is diminishing norm in some Pakhtun communities or localities. It is not a universal norm all over the Pakhtun land. A nearly universal norm is chader. But length of chader varies from area to area, family to family and even woman to woman. The way it is worn by women also varies: some may cover their faces with chader, some may not.

Most Pakhtun communities stand for girls’ education: this is precisely the reason why the Taliban, whose worldview has not room for girls’ education, are destroying girls’ schools and colleges. One can name tens of girls’ schools and colleges in the Pakhtun area that government of Pakistan would have simply ignored to build. But thanks to the Pakhtun elders of the areas, mostly fathers and grandfathers, who pleaded with the government to build those girls educational institutions in their area and their requests finally moved the government in building those institutions.

The Taliban have now destroyed or destroying those institutions. In almost very city and town of the Pakhtuns there have been growing number of communities and individual families, who have had exposure to education and modernity. Women in such communities and families have taken up non traditional roles in the public sphare. Before the rise of the Taliban no one had ever heard of any Pakhtun community or individuals violently reacting the women who have broken the confinements of the traditional gender roles.

Taliban bans music, which is an integral part of the Pakhtun traditions. Before the rise of the Taliban no one ever heard of attacks on musicians and music shops. There have always been men with and without beard among the Pakhtuns. Those with beard never forced the others to grow beard. There have always been Pakhtun who were regular in saying daily prayers and those were not so regular and even those who hardly say any prayers for years and years. Before the Taliban, it was unheard of that those who are regular in saying daily prayers would force the other to be regular.

Imran Khan’s assertion that the Taliban unleashing the reign of terror on Pakistan are Pakhtuns driven by revenge essentionilizes the notion of revenge to the Pakhtun culture. Essentionalism has been greatly challenged by social scientists all over the world. Essentionlaism is the belief that people have an unchanging 'essence' that wipes off the possibility of changeable human behaviour. Most social scientists will disagree that each and very Pakhtun would take to violent means in the name of revenge. Agreed that revenge is an important notion of the code of Pakhtunwali, but, nevertheless, this a notion. When put in practice it may take different forms, not necessarrly the violent forms.

There is nothing in the code of Pakhtunwali that sanctions or even justifies indiscriminate use of violence in revenge. Revenge is a qualified notion in the code. There are clear limits to who can be targeted for revenge. Such limits are not respected by the Taliban. Innocent people, women and children (even from the enemy’s family) are never the targets of revenge killing according to the code of Pakhtunwali.

The Taliban’s world view is rooted in the narrow interpretation of Islam that has international connections with religious extremists across the globe. This worldview is unified, inflexible and violently resistant to adaptability. This is the exact opposite of the Pakhtun culture. Unlike Talibanization, the Pakhtun culture is rooted in the centuries old human history and traditions that evolved in a geographical location.

During an interview with Fredrik Baarth, a famous Norwegian scholar of the Pakhtun culture, this writer asked him whether he sees any compatibility between the Pakhtun culture and Talibanization. His answer was: ‘in terms of Pakhtun culture, Talibanization is obscenity’. So, there you have it! Anyone who knows the Pakhtun culture and is not motivated by a vested interest would reject any notion of compatibility between Talibanization and the Pakhtun culture.
(To be continued)

Farhat Taj is a PhD research fellow at the Centre for Women and Gender Studies, University of Oslo.

Pakhtun Culture and Talibanization: the Romanticism and the Clash of Values (Part II)

By Farhat Taj


Professor Bakhshi Opendra is a philosopher of Indian origin based in a UK university. Once I asked him why the British colonizers had romanticized the Pakhtun, especially when the British had look down upon almost all natives in other areas they colonized. His answer was: ‘simple. The Brit was tall and well built. The Pakhtun was tall and well built. The Brit was good fighter. The Pakhtun was good fighter. The two clashed. The Brit got beaten up. Instead of admitting his mistake that it was the he (the Brit) who intruded into the Pakhtun’s territory and not the otherwise, the Brit began romanticizing the Pakhtun. The Pakhtun is so brave; such a natural fighter is he etc!

Colonization of major portion of the earth must have made the British arrogant. It must have been too much for their arrogant pride to admit to their mistake of attacking the Pakhtun territory and therefore they rationalized their defeat by attributing super human qualities to the Pakhtun. This is understandable.

But why do the Pakistani intelligentsia, journalistic circles certain political leaders, even ordinary people, like students, teachers, other professionals and housewives romanticize the Pakhtun by attributing to them too much religiosity? When the Pakhtun voted for PPP and ANP in Feb. 2008 elections, I thought this is it! The Pakhtun have chosen the parties that are closest to whatever level of democracy and secularism Pakistan has ever been able to achieve. So thought the ANP leader Asfandyar Wali, who in a post elections interview declared that the Pakhtun have sent have a powerful message to the world that they reject religious extremism. Unfortunately, even this affected no change in the attitude of the wider Pakistani society and the Pakhtun continued to be identified as Taliban or pro Taliban and their culture compatible with Talibanization.

Now this is not to suggest that Pakhtuns are not religious at all. Most Pakhtuns have deep respect for their religion, Islam. But at the same time they have worldly pursuits in life that are very important for them. Whether they would give up their worldly pursuits for the sake of religion as interpreted by their fellow Pakhtun-the Taliban- at the gunpoint is a big question mark. To explain it better I will give an example. Many Pakhtun businessmen are notorious for taking heavy interests on the loans they make to people. Once I asked an Alhaj (a person who had visited the holy Muslim site in Saudi Arabia many times) Pakhtun who also happened to be quite regular in saying five times prayer that why he takes so much interest on the loans when the Quarn forbids it. His answer was: ‘That (Quran) is my religions and this (taking interest) is my business. I do not mix them up. But I keep both. I need both’.

In the fist part of this article I tried to show how Talibanization is incompatible with the Pakhtun culture. Now I will try to depict how Talibanization is violently clashing with Pakhtun values. For example, sectarian diversity is one of such values. Most Pakhtun are Sunny Muslim. A significant minority is Shiite. Expect minor and sporadic troubles (which many believe were more tribal than theological) the Sunny and Shiite Pakhtun have been living in peace.

There have always been mix Sunny-Shiite Pakhtun communities and even families, with father Shiite, mother Sunny or otherwise. Sunny Pakhtun have been participating in Ashura celebrations, not in the actual rituals (some did this as well) but extending a helping hand in the arrangements for the celebrations, like keeping sabil of water, sweet drinks etc. Call it superstitious, but many Sunny Pakhtun believe (I personally know several) that if you have a longstanding unfulfilled wish, you go to the Ashura procession; make the wish to God there and the wish will be realized. There have always been Sunny Pakhtun going to the Ashura processions for fulfillment of their wishes. The Taliban is eliminating this diversity. For Taliban a Shiite is kafir and a Sunny who interacts with Shiite is also Kafir. Both must be killed.

On Peshawar-Parachinar road, Shiite passengers were dismounted by the Taliban in the areas under their control from the public transport and brutally beheaded just because they happened to be Shiite. The Taliban checked out ID cards of passengers. Anyone having Ali, Hassan, Hussain in their name were assumed to be Shiite. They also did body search and those with marks of Zanjirzani (a ritual when Shiite Muslim beat on their backs with a bunch of chains until the flush wounds and bleeds during the Ashura celebration) were recognized to be Shiite and dismounted to be beheaded. This brutality forced the Shiite from Parachinar to travel via Afghanistan to come to Peshawar and the rest of Pakistan.

The Taliban especially beheaded the Shiite among the captured of soldiers of Pakistan army and put their graphic videos on U Tube. The Taliban so traumatized the Shiite Pakhtun that they sent SOS calls to Shiite across the border in Afghanistan. The help came from Afghanistan but as a result innocent Sunny in the Shiite majority areas were murdered in cold blood or banished from their homes. Agreed that Shiite-Sunny conflict in the Pakhtun areas began due to past international and national events(Iranian Revolution, Afghan War, Zia’s Islamization etc). But now the tension is at its highest. Sunny Pakhtun Taliban have confronted their Shiite fellow Pakhtun with an impossible choice: they must perish or convert to the Taliban’s style Sunny Islam.

The Taliban are attacking the family values of the Pakhtun. A woman’s clothing and mobility in the public sphere are the absolute right and privilege of the family. Unrelated men interfering with those two issues are seen as violating the family honor, which can easily lead to honor-related crimes. Now, unrelated Taliban men openly order women to wear burqa or face consequences. If they did not abide by the order, Taliban publicly beat them- a scene unthinkable in the Pakhtun society. Such incidents have been reported from the Taliban control Swat and other area. In cities across NWFP the Taliban have threatened women to not to go shopping and stay in doors. They have publicly killed women, some for working with NGO’s, some they accused of prostitutions and some of adultery. So, it’s not the family but unrelated Taliban men controlling the women.

The British may have romanticized the Pakhtun for their bravery and honor. But now the Taliban are openly violating the norms of family honor of the Pakhtun and not much honor related crimes are happening! The Reason: the ordinary Pakhtun are no match to the heavily armed, indoctrinated and battle hardened militant Taliban Pakhtun. In the Taliban worldview a woman can only be a prostitute or bigger in the public. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they banned women from jobs , including war widows who were the only breed winners of their families. Resultantly the women had no option but to beg or prostitute themselves.

Another Pakhtun value that the Taliban have been so violently insulting is the reverence for Jirga- the council of tribal elders. Evolved in centuries of the Pakhtun history, the institution of Jirga has always been respected by Pakhtun in all circumstances. Even the blood thirsty warring parties would temporarily cease hostility during Jirga and under the instructions of Jirga. The Taliban have attacked with suicide bombings at least two grand Jirgas, one in Darra Adam Khel and the other in Orakzai agency, killing that entire tribal leadership of the areas. The Taliban have even been attacking funeral ceremonies, an extremely disgustful act in any culture.

The apologists of the Taliban have been saying on media that attacks on Jirga and funeral ceremonies have been the handiwork of spy agencies of the enemy countries-India and Israel. Well, India and Israel may or may not be providing money or weapons to the Taliban. But before accusing them we got to see that the Pakhtun Taliban are tearing apart the social order of their own society through violence. They are determined and this is the problem. Any real or perceived help from India or Israel, in my view, is of secondary importance. Even if there is no Indian or Israeli help (real or perceived) the determined Taliban may get it from elsewhere.

The apologists of Taliban also argue on media: ‘did the Taliban do this before the military operations in FATA?’Yes they did. Remember, even before 9/11 Muallana Sufi Mohammad of Tehrik Nifaz Sharia Mohammadi in Malaknad openly asked her followers to capture and take in Nikah then and there any female NGO worker that they spotted in the Malakand agency. The NGO’s workers of the area were terrified. In another incident of before 9/11 female activists of the pro-Taliban Jumaat islami attacked in a girls’ college in NWFP the participants of a Mina bazaar and forced the administration to close down the event because some of the girls were wearing kurta pajama that the Jumaat activists said was ‘Un Isamic Hindu culture’.

The reason such bizarre incidents happen more frequently now is that earlier the Taliban’s savagery was focused on Afghanistan. Now they have turned their eyes to Pakistan. Their acts of terrorism in Afghanistan were wrong, just as they are wrong in Pakistan. It was wrong of the establishment of Pakistan to back the Taliban in Afghanistan while fully knowing how savage they were.

People in the wider Pakistani society must understand that the Pakhtun are under attacks by the ferocious religious extremist Pakhtun supported by the global forces of the violent Jihad. They deserve help and support of the rest of the Pakistani society, not just for moral reasons, but for their own interests. Non-Pakhtun Pakistanis must remember if the Pakhtun society collapsed under the weight of Talibnization, the rest of Pakistan will follow shortly and probably more swiftly.
(To be continued)

Farhat Taj is a PhD Reasearcher at the University of Oslo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission

'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission

The mountainous borderlands where Afghanistan meets Pakistan have been described as a Grand Central Station for Islamic terrorists, a place where militants come and go and the Taliban trains its fighters. Now Barack Obama has made solving the 'Af-Pak' question a top priority. But could the battle to tame the Pashtun heartland become his Vietnam?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Senator Anwar Baig and Haroon Akhtar suggessions to Minister of Tourism Mr. Ata ur Rehman

Sanitor Anwar Baig of PPP and Haroon Akhar of PML Q suggessions are really intresting and very funny.
They said Minister of Tourism Mr. Ata ur Rehman should be sent to visit Switzerland and France beaches ( St.Propez,cannes Monte) to know abt tourism and to relax condition...

Will you remain silent till the Taliban come for you?

Will you remain silent till the Taliban come for you?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The Taliban have destroyed the most beautiful part of the country, Swat, burning down over 200 schools, denying education to a whole generation and pushing them to the Dark Ages. There is a mass-scale migration from Swat as well as Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. The poor people of Swat and FATA who have no place to go are subjected to the tyrannical rule of the Taliban. As for those who have moved to camps in Peshawar or Islamabad, they too are suffering. Residents of Peshawar are living in fear and there has been a sharp drop in the number of visitors from other provinces.

Regrettably, the rest of the country seems unmoved. The religious parties organise demonstrations to condemn Israel's bombing of Gaza -- which is a worthy cause -- but do nothing and say nothing when Muslims are being butchered in FATA and Swat. As for the lawyers, they are more concerned about the restoration of a single man to his lost position than about the Taliban which may soon knock on their own doorstep. As for the urban-based media, they too seem more concerned about a judge's daughter getting more marks than about a whole generation of children being denied their right to education.

Leaders of the PPP and the PML (N and Q) meet each other and talk about possible political permutations but no one has the courage to visit any of the country's Taliban-infested areas. I am sorry and I hate to say this but there are many people in Swat who are now beginning to think that the rest of the country, especially the people of Punjab and Sindh, have now forgotten them completely.

What I want to ask the people of Punjab and Sindh is that when will they speak for us and break their silence -- will they do this then when the Taliban set foot in Blue Area?

Hussan Parri

Tehsil Matta, Swat

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Petition to the UN

Petition to the UN

Secretary-General of the United Nations
4 February 2009


Dear Sir,

As concerned citizens of Pakistan, committed to human rights and human development, we are appalled by the continuing genocide and reign of terror that has been unleashed on our people in the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

In Swat, over 186 schools have either been destroyed or occupied by the military or the militants. After January 15th 2009, 119,248 girls are affected and 3425 female teachers have been rendered jobless. Of the 1.7 million residents of Swat, 700,000 people have been displaced. The number rises by the minute (Fact sheet attached).

We, the citizens, represent coalitions and organisations committed to the cause of saving the NWFP, including Swat, and our tribal areas. We have led an active protest since 2007 and particularly since the past year when the situation in the NWFP and FATA has worsened. The campaign of one of the organisations has intensified since the eve of January 14th, 2009, one day prior to the closing down of girls' schools/colleges in Swat. Our protest has been in the form of Petitions; Signature Campaigns; Online Petitions; Media Coverage; Fact Sheets to Parliamentarians. To date 18,000 citizens have signed these Petitions.

The networks and organisations of citizens involved in this drive and writing to you are:

1. Pukhtun Peace Forum: Based In Canada and currently appealing to Pukhtuns and non-Pukhtuns to save their land.

2. Idara e Taleem O Aagahi: Working on education. Registered in June 2000. Primary focus on comprehensive education reform beginning with public sector schools which are in a state of decay and degeneration. Also in other sectors of basic education in non-formal and literacy programmes for disadvantaged groups. (signatures of education institutions and students attached).

3. NWFP Citizens' for Peace: An informal group of individuals from the NWFP who started a petition drive and presented this to the Provincial Government in December, 2007. The drive continues. The group consists of an ex Foreign Secretary, ex Ambassadors, civil society members, private sector representatives and other citizens of the Province. The drive was nation-wide and also signed from other countries, through an e Petition. (signatures attached)

4. Aryana Institute for Regional Research & Advocacy: A think tank working towards peace, consisting of academics and scholars. Concentrate on the area between the Oxus and Indus rivers and working towards spreading moderation and tolerance for our people. (Signatures attached)

The petitions and signatures of Idara e Taleem o Agahi specifically dealing with the education situation in Swat, have been delivered week after week since January 14th, to the following:

The President of Pakistan
The Prime Minister of Pakistan
The Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan
Director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence
Federal Ministers and Secretaries for Interior, Information, Education, Human Rights and Social Welfare & Special Education/NCCWD
Governor NWFP; Chief Minister NWFP
Chief Ministers Sindh, Baluchistan & Punjab
Education Minister and Secretary NWFP & Director Education FATA
Speaker National Assembly
Chairman Senate
Parliamentarians : Chairperson Standing Committees: National Assembly and Senate
Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Social Sectors
We are appealing to the United Nations as we realise the situation in Pakistan is not one that would be contained within our boundaries and has serious international implications. It is an issue for the world to take the situation extremely seriously. We believe civil society and the international bodies need to come together for peace in our country.
We are demanding the following through the United Nations:

Stop the GENOCIDE in the NWFP (particularly in Swat) and FATA immediately
Initiate a formal Independent Inquiry Commission into the protracted Genocide in Swat, Talibanisation through collusion and with no writ of the Pakistani State and the military
Restore Girls’ and Women’s education with immediate effect, with protection.
Provide an institutional mechanism for temporary admission for displaced children into other schools on an emergency, temporary basis, to give their examinations
Address urgently the needs of the displaced people of NWFP districts and FATA
As the leading organisation for global peace and humanitarian assistance, we request you to act urgently and seriously and to start a global campaign to save our Province and our country from the growing menace of extremism.

Idara e Taleem O Aagahi
The Pukhtun Peace Forum
NWFP Citizens' for Peace
Aryana Institute for Regional Research & Advocacy

Click for complete article

Friday, February 06, 2009

How to reverse the militancy crisis

How to reverse the militancy crisis

Friday, February 06, 2009
by Charles Ferndale

A frequent cause of the human animal’s capacity for self-deception is arrogance coupled with wishful thinking. When Robert Gates, the American secretary of defence, said recently something to the effect that America could not afford the money or time to create some sort of Valhalla in the NWFP, if that was what was required to defeat the militancy there, he was deluded by arrogance. Does he think it can be done on the cheap, according to America’s timetable?

Valhalla, in Norse mythology, is a great hall to which half of those who die in battle go and where they then live in peace. I doubt that Gates had read up on his Norse mythology. What he intended to say was that America could not afford to create an ideal land in the NWFP just to put an end to the militancy there. But what Mr Gates failed to realise is that, in the troubled areas of Pakistan, paradise is having something to eat, is not freezing to death, is not having one’s family killed and injured, is not having one’s home destroyed; in short, is not being terrorised. And Mr Gates seems to have overlooked the fact that this tragedy is a direct consequence of American foreign policy since 1977. Since the Americans made the dreadful mess, they should pay to have it cleaned up.

Mr Gates should make up his mind whether or not the present American administration wants seriously to help defeat the militants. Successive US administrations have claimed that defeating the militants is vital for the security of the rest of the world, so presumably they should be deeply committed to that end. Pakistan can certainly not afford to do what is necessary alone. If the Americans really do want victory over the militants, then they must do whatever it takes.

Here is what I think is the minimum that must be done in order to defeat the militants:

— The Americans should guarantee Pakistan against any first attack from India, so that the Pakistani Army can concentrate fully on the troubles on its western border.

— The militants’ sources of finance should be discovered and stopped. No insurgency can survive without a continuous supply of money. If, as many Pakistanis believe, a major source of funds is the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, then America must make India an offer they cannot refuse.

— The resupply of arms must be stopped by whatever means it takes.

— Anyone who has studied guerrilla warfare will know that the single most powerful weapon that can be used against insurgents is inside knowledge, so the militants must be infiltrated. They are too smart and too closed a society to be infiltrated from outside, so their own people should be induced by whatever means it takes—one of which is money—to inform on their colleagues.

— Whatever information is gained from infiltration of the insurgents must not be allowed to leak back to the insurgents, which, given the supposed sympathy for militancy within the ISI, cannot be guaranteed except by setting up sealed cells within the intelligence services.

— A study of successful counter-insurgencies shows that conventional armies do not do well against insurgents. What is needed is undercover special forces who are as hard to detect as are the insurgents. The Pakistani Army has little experience in this type of warfare, so they should find those who do and get them to train the Pakhtuns as a counter-insurgency guerrilla force. The trainers could be sympathetic Mujahideen who fought the Russians, Vietnamese who defeated the Americans, the mountain warfare sections of the British Marines and the British SAS, the Canadians, and so on.

— Chairman Mao, the great Chinese insurgent, said that guerrilla fighters are fish that swim in the sea of the people. Take away the cover of the people among whom they hide and they become fish out of water. The only effective way to do this is to take back and secure, permanently against re-incursion, every village and town in which the insurgents seek cover, food, medical care and resupply. America’s record in Vietnam for successfully doing this was bad; maybe the Pakistanis, especially well trained Pakhtuns, can do a better job because they are of the people.

— With villages and towns permanently secured, the damage done by the army and militants can be undone, and people can return to nearly normal life in the sure knowledge that they will not be killed by the army or militants later. Putting guards on schools so as to lure back girl students is a hopeless idea unless the area is permanently secured. The smaller the area the easier this strategy should be. So start in the small villages and broadcast successes. The people of the towns and villages should also be armed and trained by Pakhtuns already armed and trained in counter-insurgency. Having broadcast the successful freeing of a village from militants, these guerrilla counter-insurgents should lie in wait for militants returning to take revenge on the newly freed village.

— To guard against arrogant and indifferent abuses of power by the army, as many Pakhtun commanders as possible should lead the conventional army in the NWFP operations. Special operations should be largely made up of Pakhtuns from the areas in which they fight.

— Stop killing non-combatants in the areas affected by insurgency. The present curfew policy—shooting curfew-breakers on sight—is an obscenity. Anyone who is not an insurgent and is willing to risk life by breaking the curfew is clearly in urgent need of help, which they should be given. The Punjabi dominated army should be reminded that it is their job to protect, not to kill, non-combatants. This is something the Americans have never understood, for the simple reason that all the wars they have fought in the last 63 years have been in other people’s countries, where they have shown indifference to the deaths and injuries they have inflicted upon the indigenous people. The Pakistani army often behaves as if the NWFP were a foreign country.

— Deprive the insurgents of their means of communication, both in military and in propaganda terms. Why the army has not jammed the militants’ FM radio, or bombed it out of existence, is beyond me. Radio triangulation is not rocket science.

— Launch effective and honest information services (radio and television) to counter the propaganda put out by the insurgents, and to inform people isolated by war of what is going on around them (set up a Tribal Broadcasting Network). Set up communication systems so that people within range can call in rapid assistance teams (medical, military, food, information). The people whom the militants terrorise must have good reason not to feel abandoned by the government and the militants must know that their attacks on those people will cost them their lives. The supply of personnel to the militants will dry up if non-combatants feel safe and are not enraged by suffering they perceive to have been caused by the central government.

— Within the secured areas, undertake intensive, effective, projects that will employ the people and make them self-sufficient. Almost universal literacy could be accomplished within a year at most (in Nicaragua, the Sandanistas changed 85 percent illiteracy to 5 percent in six months, though their population and area was larger). Set up clinics, schools, agricultural advice centres, technical colleges, markets and especially agencies whose job it is to listen to people’s grievances and to seek honest solutions to their problems.

— Address all the grievances of the local people with impartial courts and jirgas comprised of only trustworthy indigenous people and deprive the bullying intruders of all power and, if necessary, of their ill-gotten property too.

In my view, these are the necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for a successful reversal in the NWFP of the present militant terror. Of course, if they were implemented, it would mean that the NWFP would become an area in which social justice would truly exist, for the first time in Pakistan. That would not be Valhalla, it would be a miracle.

The writer has degrees from the Royal College of Art, Oxford University, and the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. He divides his time between the UK and Pakistan. Email:

CIA-ISI Jihadi “Frankenstein” Sows Chaos, Reaps Death

CIA-ISI Jihadi “Frankenstein” Sows Chaos, Reaps Death

by Tom Burghardt / January 26th, 2009

With 180 girls’ schools torched since 2008 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and some 900 indefinitely closed, the future for education for some 125,000 young women is under dire threat by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The latest bombings took place Monday in the district capital, Mingora, “once considered the safest place in Swat,” according to The Guardian. Five girls’ schools were leveled by TTP militants who last week decreed a permanent ban on education for girls.

In recent weeks, residents who have crossed the TTP have been strung-up from trees, beaten, or had their shops destroyed while markets have been ruled “no go” areas for women.

First mobilized during the 1980s by the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) as “plausibly deniable” assets to wage “holy war” against Afghanistan’s socialist government, organized crime and drug-linked jihadi groups now threaten Pakistan itself. Call it “blowback” on steroids.

As the Obama administration prepares to the double the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, attacks in Pakistan by the American-led NATO coalition will only accelerate the splintering of the nuclear-armed South Asian nation and fuel new attacks by international terrorist outfits such as “former” allies, the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda.

Amply warned by South Asian and Middle Eastern experts in the 1970s who predicted a slow-moving but inevitable catastrophe for the region, short-term Cold War “gains” against the Soviet adversary trumped long-term strategic planning which, if America were a sane country, would have worked to strengthen, rather than undermine, progressive regional forces.

Despite the inescapable conclusion that the CIA’s Islamist Frankenstein monster is running amok, one can only surmise that America’s corporatist masters continue to view religiously-inspired neofascists as a reliable auxiliary force to advance geopolitical goals against their capitalist rivals.

As I documented in “Unconventional Warfare in the 21st Century: U.S. Surrogates, Terrorists and Narcotraffickers,” (Antifascist Calling, December 19, 2008) despite the catastrophes wrought by American global gamesmanship, for United States Special Operations Command (USSOC) and the CIA, this disastrous paradigm is still fully operational.

Indeed a September 2008 USSOC planning document, first disclosed by Wikileaks, avers that unconventional warfare “must be conducted by, with, or through surrogates; and such surrogates must be irregular forces.” For the people of Pakistan, the “irregular forces” ranged against them are driving the country headlong over the edge of a precipice. Unfortunately however, this is not by accident.

As Swiss investigative journalist Richard Labévière wrote, describing Pakistan’s descent into chaos, “The Pakistani morass and its profound strategic implications for all of Central Asia have become one of the most alarming and chaotic scenes on the planet. As one of the most strategic areas of the next millennium slips into a criminal state, Uncle Sam looks on with cynicism (if not benevolence).”

Citing the confluence of interests amongst American corporate grifters and far-right Islamist terror networks, Labévière pointedly cites a top U.S. intelligence officials’ approval of the reactionary forces set in motion by America’s anti-Soviet Afghan gambit as a signpost for future destabilization campaigns:

“The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army,” explains a former CIA analyst. “The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter Chinese influence in Central Asia.” In a certain sense, the Cold War is still going on. For years Graham Fuller, former Deputy Director of the National Council on Intelligence at the CIA, has been talking up the “modernizing virtues” of the Islamists, insisting on their anti-Statist concept of the economy. Listening to him, you would almost take the Taleban and their Wahhabi allies for liberals. “Islam, in theory at least, is firmly anchored in the traditions of free trade and private enterprise,” wrote Fuller. “The prophet was a trader, as was his first wife. Islam does not glorify the State’s role in the economy.” (Richard Labévière, Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam, New York: Algora Publishing, 2000, p. 6)

But inevitably, facts on the ground put paid the mad schemes of imperialist architects such as Graham Fuller and his acolytes. Fast forward a decade and it becomes all-too-painfully clear it is the Afghan and Pakistani people who are paying the price in blood for America’s bankrupt policies. Having armed, financed and provided an ample array of targets for “free trade liberals” such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda–subsisting on the illicit profits of the international narcotics trade and other dubious ventures–Yankee hubris, as historian Chalmers Johnson reminds us, has called forth the goddess of divine retribution, Nemesis, on all our heads.

Medievalism in Swat Valley: Pakistan, and America’s, Future?
While moves to impose sharia law on the Pakistani people through violence is the alleged intent of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and their al-Qaeda “brothers,” more mundane, though far-more worldly concerns motivate the jihadists: state power and the loot such a position would afford enterprising charlatans.

What better means than control–through fear–of a terrorized population forced to look the other way as a gang of “holy warriors” steal their resources and process heroin on an industrial scale while turning a quick profit in the bargain!

Investigative journalist Amir Mir, writing in the Lahore-based newspaper The News International reports that Around 10,000 TTP militants have been pitted against 15,000 Army troops since Oct 22, 2007, when the [Swat Valley military] operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan Army is Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcasts, still operational despite being banned by the NWFP [North West Frontier Province] government, the firebrand keeps inspiring his followers to implement Shariah, fight the Army and establish his authority in the area.

Military authorities have repeatedly alleged that Fazlullah, who has thousands of armed supporters ready to challenge the security forces on his command, has close links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The cleric has already become a household name in Swat, as his Shaheen Commando Force is destroying and occupying government buildings, blowing up police stations, bridges, basic health units and hotels and burning girls’ schools. (”Amid Rising TTP Gains, Army Adopts New Strategy,” The News International, January 21, 2009)

Since the military launched an offensive against the clericalist thugs, indiscriminate Army attacks against the civilian population have wrecked havoc. In addition to burning down nearly 200 girls’ schools, the TTP have torched 80 video shops, 22 barber shops and have destroyed some 20 bridges in the mountainous region. Mir reports the TTP have carried out some 165 bomb attacks against security forces, including 17 suicide bombings and increasingly sophisticated remote-controlled IED attacks.

So serious has the situation grown in the Swat Valley, that 800 provincial police, half the stated total according to The News International, have either deserted or left the area under pretext of going on “extended leave.” Other observers contend that the TTP and the Army are collaborating together.

Local politicians who have fled the valley claim that “elements of the military and the militants appear to be acting together.” Bushra Gohara, the Vice-President of the Awami National Party told The Independent on Sunday, “Even if they are not, there needs to be a complete review of the military’s strategy.”

“The suspicion of collusion, said a local government official in the largest town, Mingora,” according to the IoS, “is based on the proximity of army and Taliban checkposts, each ‘a mile away from the other’.”

Reports indicate that Fazlullah’s militia now effectively controls the Swat Valley. “Under these circumstances,” Mir writes, “the state writ has shrunk from Swat’s 5,337 square kilometres to the limits of its regional Mingora headquarters, which is a city of just 36 square kilometres.”

In Mingora itself, once a prosperous urban hub that thrived on the tourist trade, the nature of the crisis can be gauged by the number of bodies that appear each morning after a night of terror. According to Mir, shopkeepers are now finding “four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or trees.”

Unsurprisingly, it is the civilian population who have suffered the worst depredations of the TTP and the Pakistani Army. Hemmed-in on all sides, a military spokesperson conceded that a third of the population has fled the area since the Army launched its offensive.

Creating a dual-power situation as the state’s hold in the area shrinks, some “70 Taliban courts are now ruling on hundreds of cases of ‘immoral activity’ every week,” The Sunday Times reported.

Fueled by the repressive Saudi-inspired Wahhabi doctrine that fired the Afghan mujahedin during America’s anti-Soviet Cold War “jihad,” the TTP have embarked on a rule-by-fear strategy that seeks to impose “Sharia law” on an unwilling–and unarmed–population, as part of its long-term strategy to seize state power.

As in Afghanistan under the Taliban however, it is women who face the harshest sanctions by the jihadi thugs. The refusal to wear a veil or dancing in public are “offenses” punishable by death. The Sunday Times averred,

The emergence of a parallel Taliban legal system has a sinister objective. “This is our first step towards the implementation of sharia in Swat,” said Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman. In the next phase, Khan said, the courts would begin to carry out harsher punishments, such as execution or chopping off hands.

Villagers said the Taliban were already killing people who defied their orders. “They didn’t even spare barbers and women coming out of markets without wearing their veils,” said a Mingora resident.

There have been 51 Taliban executions since the start of the year, he added. The victims include politicians, security men, dancers, prostitutes and shopkeepers selling alcohol. (Daud Khattak, “Taliban’s deadly ‘justice’ cows Pakistan,” The Sunday Times, January 18, 2009)

Ominously, Fazlullah’s state within a state is not staffed primarily by madrassa-educated cannon-fodder, but draw on a surplus of former Army and intelligence officers to fill the ranks, raising suspicions that the TTP enjoys powerful backing from ruling elites.

According to Mir, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) and TTP are composed of two Shuras, or councils. One is the Ulema Shura that advises the group on “religious polices,” while the Executive Shura, “is the highest policy-making organ of the TNSM, which has a large number of ex-servicemen, including retired commissioned officers, as its members.”

Since 9/11, under intense pressure by their American “allies” in the “war on terror,” the Army and ISI have been partially purged by military and political elites who rule the roost. However, disaffected ISI cadre who never endorsed former President-General Pervez Musharraf’s half-hearted–some would say, deceitful–”break” with the Army’s own creation, the Taliban, continue to sponsor retrograde jihadist outfits.

Still allied with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and home-grown terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), elements burrowed deep within the state, including prominent former generals closely associated with former dictator, General Zia ul-Haq and the CIA, are actively conspiring to destabilize the civilian government.

Indeed, last November’s terrorist assault on Mumbai, a joint venture amongst disaffected elements of the security/intelligence apparatus, LET and organized crime-linked assets such as Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company, was a shot across the bow of President Asif Ali Zadari’s administration meant to further polarize the country and sow doubt amongst ruling class elites as to the efficacy of civilian rule.

Staggering from crisis to crisis, under heavy pressure from imperialism to “show results” for the billions of dollars in “aid” showered on the military by Washington, time is running out as the jihadi Frankenstein flexes its muscles.

From the Lal Masjid Siege to the Bhutto Assassination
Fazlullah’s rise, and the TTP’s assault on the people of the Swat Valley, can be directly linked to the fall-out from the July 2007 Red Mosque siege.

When the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) controversy exploded, the state was forced, though some would say dragged kicking and screaming, to act against brothers Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the al-Qaeda-linked leaders of the Mosque.

It wasn’t always that way. Since its founding in 1965 in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, the Red Mosque enjoyed patronage from influential members of the government, primes ministers, army chiefs and presidents, according to BBC News.

During the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad, the Red Mosque played a prominent role in the recruitment and training of fighters and was supported handsomely by the ISI when the Taliban was launched in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. During the 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, many Red Mosque fighters were captured or killed by U.S. forces and Northern Alliance militia fighters.

In other words, high state officials, including intelligence chieftains such as Hamid Gul and Mahmoud Ahmad were staunch backers of the Ghazi brothers, hard-line advocates of dictator General Zia ul-Haq’s program to “Islamize” Pakistani society come hell or high water. In this bankrupt project to destroy what little remained of Pakistani democracy and civil society, Zia and his retinue of Islamist generals were generously supported by the United States.

Former ISI General Hamid Gul told Asia Times, “It is a pity that our army was preparing youths to seize Lal Qala [the Red Fort of Delhi] and they ended up seizing the Lal Masjid.” According to a recent report in The News International, Gul is now wanted by the U.S. “charged … with providing financial assistance to Kabul-based criminal groups and involvement in spotting, assessing, recruiting and training young men from seminaries,” as well as accusations that the ex-general has been “assisting the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in developing high-tech weapons.”

Gun battles erupted in 2007 after gangs of burqa-clad seminary students occupied a children’s library, kidnapped a group of Chinese women accused of being “prostitutes,” and after repeated forays into surrounding commercial districts trashed CD shops accused of selling “pornography.” But when the “students” demanded strict enforcement of sharia law, the state’s hand was forced.

When police failed to stamp-out the mini-rebellion in the nation’s capital, the Army was brought in. By the time the smoke cleared, Abdul Ghazi had been killed and his brother Abdul Aziz was arrested after attempting to flee the scene dressed in a woman’s burqa, sparking outrage amongst the fundamentalists and former high-ranking intelligence officials. Conflicting reports claim that anywhere between 200 and 1,000 people lost their lives during the siege. In the aftermath, according to multiple press reports, a huge arms’ cache was recovered, including stocks of AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers.

After the raid, Fazlullah joined forces with TTP and Pakistani al-Qaeda “emir” Baitullah Mehsud, “in a bid to provide an umbrella to all insurgent movements operating in several tribal agencies and settled areas of the NWFP,” according to journalist Amir Mir.

Scant months after the Lal Masjid affair and in the midst of tumultuous nation-wide demonstrations by tens of thousands of democracy activists, including lawyers and left-wing labor militants demanding the restoration of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry, sacked by the Musharraf regime after ordering the government to account for Pakistan’s “disappeared,” Benazir Bhutto was murdered in Rawalpindi.

In the aftermath of Bhutto’s December 27, 2007 assassination, state officials alleged that Mehsud claimed responsibility for her murder, a claim he denied. The “targeted killing” of Pakistan’s most popular political figure followed on the heels of the October 2007 Karachi bombing that killed 150 of Bhutto’s supporters when she returned home from exile.

The official story has undergone several contradictory metamorphoses. Shortly after Bhutto’s murder it was alleged that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), another banned terror group linked to al-Qaeda, were the reputed authors. The story then changed and al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed responsibility, telling Asia Times, “We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat the mujahideen.” Many analysts believe these serial fabrications by the government were meant to muddy the waters and conceal the true architects of the attacks.

In a letter to Musharraf before her murder, published by the Karachi-based newspaper Dawn, Bhutto named four persons involved in an alleged plot to kill her: Intelligence Bureau (IB) Chief Ijaz Shah, former chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, former chief minister of Sindh Arbab Ghulam Rahim, and the former ISI chief, Hamid Gul. All are prominent pro-Islamist figures within the intelligence and security establishment who favored a continuation of Pakistan’s policy of fielding terrorist proxy armies.

While first claiming that Bhutto was killed when she struck her head on the latch of her SUV sunroof fracturing her skull as the result of a suicide bomb blast, video footage surfaced showing a gunman firing several shots at the popular politician prior to the bomb’s detonation. This would increase the likelihood that the suicide bomber’s actual target was the gunman and therefore, part of a clean-up operation meant to conceal the identities of those who ghostwrote the Bhutto assassination script.

However, conflicting claims of responsibility, the hasty manner in which the security services removed all traces of forensic evidence from the crime scene and threats by police and intelligence officials against physicians who examined Bhutto’s body, fueled speculation that Islamist elements within ISI and the Army–or the state itself–either manipulated the militants or carried out the terrorist outrages in a move to bolster Musharraf’s waning grip on power.

Though allegedly on the outs with the clericalists, Musharraf was a staunch supporter of the Army’s policy of fielding “irregular forces” comprised of far-right thugs such as Lashkar or the virulently anti-Shia communalist group Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) to carry out “plausibly deniable” strikes against India or internal left-wing political opponents.

Originally founded in 1985 at the behest of dictator General Zia ul-Haq to liquidate secular and leftist forces opposed to his moves to “Islamize” Pakistani society with the blessings of the CIA, the SSP was “banned” in 2002 but quickly regrouped under the banner of Millat-e-Islamia. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was an SSP member as was his uncle, the al-Qaeda operative and alleged architect of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Echoes of the Lal Masjid affair continue to reverberate. On September 21, 2008 a massive truck bomb was detonated outside the Marriot Hotel in downtown Islamabad, killing 60 and wounding some 260 people, virtually obliterating the five-star hotel. Some 700 Pakistanis had gathered to break the daily Ramadan fast. If the bomber had managed to drive the truck into the lobby, the toll would have been far higher.

The conclusion drawn was bleak: if the Marriot could be hit in one of the most secure and upscale neighborhoods in the heart of Pakistan’s capital, then no one was safe. It was feared that the bombers’ intent was to destabilize and possibly spark an Army coup against the first civilian government in nine years.

With little to hope for from the Army and ISI, President Asif Ali Zadari has expanded the civilian-led Special Investigations Group (SIG), a distinct antiterrorist branch of the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA), The Guardian reported earlier this month. The SIG had languished under Musharraf. According to investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott Clark,

On December 14, the British PM flew to Islamabad to announce a £6m “pact against terror”, saying he wanted to “remove the chain” that led from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of Britain. A significant part of the funding was intended for the SIG currently a tight-knit cell of 37 full-time specialists that was to be expanded into a 300-strong force with an investigation division, an armed wing, an intelligence department and a research section. In return, Britain asked for access to the SIG’s raw data and captured extremists who might illuminate British plots. (”On the Trail of Pakistan’s Taliban,” The Guardian, 10 January 2009)

The need for security would indeed be high. On March 11, 2008, the anniversary of the Madrid transport attacks, a suicide bomber struck the SIG’s provincial office in Lahore, killing 25 people, including 13 officers. Tariq Pervez, the SIG’s head told The Guardian that since the end of 2007, “suicide strikes from this region had killed 597 security force personnel and 1,523 civilians, including Benazir Bhutto on December 27.”

Despite attempts to recruit–or co-opt–poverty-stricken, often unwilling young members of TNSM/TTP head-honcho Baitullah Mehsud’s extended clan in Waziristan for use as cannon-fodder, Pervez told The Guardian its a hard sell given Mehsud’s brutal methods of dealing with those who oppose him.

Indeed, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, when 600 tribal elders spoke out against the TNSM/TTP in 2005, Mehsud had each of them sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own funeral shrouds: all of them were subsequently murdered.

The situation has deteriorated to such a degree for U.S./NATO “coalition” forces that America’s main supply route into Afghanistan from western Pakistan’s tribal belt, that the military “has obtained permission to move troop supplies through Russia and Central Asia, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in the Middle East, said on Tuesday,” according to The New York Times.

In December, hundreds of NATO supply trucks were torched in Peshawar by Taliban, TTP and al-Qaeda fighters and Pakistani truck drivers are now refusing to drive along the supply route.

Frankenstein Turns on its Master: “Round Up the Usual Suspects!”
The alliance forged in the wake of the Lal Masjid siege and the Bhutto assassination amongst forces loyal to Maulana Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP, Mullah Mohammed Omar’s Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Afghan-Arab database, al-Qaeda, are chickens that have come home to roost for U.S. imperialism. But it is the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who are paying the price.

Despite the grave threats to the people of Central, South Asia and the Middle East posed by a resurgence of far-right fundamentalism sponsored by the United States, Washington still continues to view Islamist terror and organized crime-linked networks such as al-Qaeda and their related complex of jihadi groups as “off-the-shelf,” plausibly deniable intelligence assets.

Notwithstanding the severe global capitalist economic meltdown, geopolitical expansion into regions of strategic and economic interest to the United States is a top priority of the Obama administration. A central pillar of the American policy despite “regime change” in Washington, is the destabilization of Iran. As Seymour Hersh reported, the U.S. via their ISI and Saudi “allies” are arming and financing Pakistani-based jihadi groups such as Jundullah to target Iran.

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers–in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” [Vali] Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support. (”Preparing the Battlefield,” The New Yorker, July 7, 2008)

While North American and European Muslim communities remain a target of repressive “counterterrorist” policies that demonize Muslims and Arabs as dangerous “others,” internal “enemies” and “usual suspects” to be preyed upon by police and intelligence agencies, real, not fictional, terrorist networks continue to operate, indeed thrive, with impunity. Here, as elsewhere, short-term tactical advantage over capitalist rivals trump democratic processes and economic well-being based on social justice.

As security analyst and historian, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed documented in a Briefing Paper prepared for the British Parliament in the wake of al-Qaeda’s 2005 London transport attacks,

The government appears unable to fully extract itself from these strategic interests, continuing to tolerate Islamist extremist networks in the UK, including successor organizations to al-Muhajiroun, and showing an inexplicable unwillingness to investigate them; displaying ongoing reluctance to arrest and prosecute leading extremists despite abundant evidence of their incitement to terrorism, murder, violence and racial hatred (with serious action delayed until public pressure is brought to bear); and refusing to investigate key al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist suspects based or formerly based in the UK connected to 7/7 and other terrorist attacks. In this dire situation, proposing the extension of state power through yet further anti-terror legislation, as the Brown government is now doing, can never hope to contribute to real security. For in this context, such legislation not only fails to rectify the multiple failures of domestic and international security policy behind the paralysis of the British national security system; it simply lends unprecedented powers of social control to a paralysed system operating according to a defunct and dangerous intelligence paradigm. (Inside the Crevice: Islamist terror networks and the 7/7 intelligence failure, London: Institute for Policy Research and Development, August 2007)

Much the same can be said for the United States and its myopic “counterterrorist” policies that rely on the demonization of entire communities, driftnet surveillance of the population, the infiltration of provocateurs into antiwar, socialist and left-wing organizations with no demonstrable ties to international terrorism, and the induced climate of suspicion and fear that breed social paralysis in the face of grave, contemporaneous ruling class threats to democracy.

As a tsunami of Predator drones rain remote-controlled death on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as the Obama administration prepares a major military escalation in Central- and South Asia, girls’ schools continue to burn in the Swat Valley with matchbooks labeled “Made in the USA.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles by Tom, or visit Tom's website.

This article was posted on Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 10:00am and is filed under Afghanistan, Empire, Imperialism, Pakistan, Terrorism. ShareThis
3 comments on this article so far ...

1. kahar said on January 27th, 2009 at 8:10am #

Good article.
It’s actually wrong to use the label “Salafi” for these psychos because it implies they are followers of Islam when it is easily proven by scholars that they are not, in fact more than that, where these Wahhabi/Zionist (saudi trained) terrorists operate such as in Iraq I have known people kidnapped by them to describe them as sleezy scum with a mocking regard for religion — they are simply playing a part they enjoy and get well paid for by the ruling government. And the Saudis and Israelis have their united destructive hand everywhere. It’s all about the total destruction of Islam

2. Tom Burghardt said on January 27th, 2009 at 3:37pm #

Thanks for your comments, Kahar.
I don’t presume to be an Islamic scholar, but during another period of activism I frequently came up-against their “cousins,” the theocratic Christian Right. If an analogy would be appropriate, the “American Taliban” have as much in common with the teachings of Jesus as the lunatics who behead and murder people do with the teachings of the Prophet. Needless to say, their Zionist counterparts, i.e., the fanatical “settlers” are in the same camp.
Its all about the loot and very little else…

3. kahar said on January 27th, 2009 at 6:41pm #

I’m not sure it’s just that, it’s also about demonisation of religion, destruction of culture, progress and a way of life and a love for ugliness and depravity and hatred.

Wahhabism was invented 250 years ago and its publicly declared enemy are all Muslims who reject it, hence you get the suicide bombers in Iraq (mostly found to be from saudi arabia), and, these vicious attacks on girls and schools in Pakistan. They are followers of their own invented craziness and hide behind the Salafi label, it’s a sick joke.

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Story of Swat Pakistan, a heaven turned into a hell

This is about Swat, a city of breathtaking natural beauty turned into a nightmere by those who use thename of Islam but all their actions are against Islam.

Interview with Afrasiab Khattak

We have reservations about the operation"

-- Afrasyab Khattak, Provincial President, ANP; peace envoy to the NWFP government

By Tauseef-ur-Rahman

The News on Sunday: Who are Taliban and what is their agenda in the Swat valley?

Afrasyab Khattak: The extremist insurgency in Swat is not an isolated phenomenon; it is connected with the militancy that has its bases in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). There is a very popular myth about former president, Gen Musharraf, taking an about-turn of sorts. If there was an about-turn, it was a double about-turn because the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives were allowed to enter Fata and set up bases for fighting from across the border. When the pressure on insurgents increased in southern and eastern Afghanistan, they started expanding their bases to acquire depth on east of Durand line. They had a plan to Talibanise the settled districts. Now it has emerged as a type of a parallel state with Waziristan as its capital. They chose Swat because it is a district situated in the north of the province and away from Waziristan so that it may not look like an expansion of Taliban's Emirate of Waziristan.

Secondly, connected with Shangla, it is a transit for 'Mujahideen' who want to come from Azad Kashmir to join fighting in the Kunar province of Afghanistan.

Thirdly, the sophisticated mind behind the apparently crude and primitive Taliban chose Swat because the absolutist feudal rule of Waali had succeeded in disintegrating tribal structure in Swat so that there is no tribal base for resisting the onslaught of neo-fascism that calls itself Taliban.

TNS: How do you see the present law and order situation in the valley?

AK: The problem was mishandled by the MMA government which allowed this monster of violence to grow without any hindrance. More regrettable was its refusal to recognise the existence of a developing insurgency spreading from Fata into Swat. So, there were no preparations on the counter insurgency front. There was no investment into building the civil security apparatus to meet the challenge of insurgency.

When the ANP-led government took power in April 2008, it was confronted by an ever strengthening extremists' insurgency without institutional preparation to meet the challenge.

TNS: Is your party satisfied with the military operation taking place in Swat?

AK: We have certain reservations about the military operation. The first operation that was launched in July 2007 was inconclusive. Taliban were chased out of the valley by the army and they took shelter in Peuchar and other camps in the mountains. But, their legacy - FM radio stations and heavy weapons - remained intact.

As for the second phase of the operation which started on July 29, 2008, it has been ineffective in the sense that Taliban's activity has increased both quantitatively and qualitatively in Swat. Since most of the operation has been carried out through long-range guns and air force, the collateral damage is quite high.

TNS: The Army holds ANP responsible for the regrouping of Taliban, thanks to the May-21 agreement with militants. What is your take on that?

AK: The agreement was very important as it politically exposed and isolated the militants. Had it not been for the Swat agreement there would be no popular resistance and uprising against Taliban in Dir, Buner and other districts of the province.

TNS: So, whose failure is it?

AK: We believe that the major cause of militancy and extremism in Fata and Pukhtunkhwa is the duality in our Afghan policy. We (Pakistan) pay lip service to peace in Afghanistan but we tolerate militants' sanctuaries in Fata.

TNS: How do you explain the refusal of 600 Elite Force to perform in Swat?

AK: There were mistakes committed in preparing this elite force. Most of them were earlier recruited to serve in their own districts but were suddenly asked to go into the troubled valley. These mistakes are being rectified and very soon a strong civilian security apparatus in Swat and the rest of the province will be put in place.

TNS: Police and other government officials are quitting their jobs in Swat. Comment.

AK: Actually, when the large-scale insurgency erupted, civil security apparatus was ill-prepared to meet it. We have to provide more resources for building a civil security apparatus to meet the challenge in coordination with traditional armed forces.

TNS: The chief minister and other ANP ministers have been talking about some good news to come in a couple of weeks. What could that possibly be?

AK: Naturally, we cannot put up with the status quo. We are working on a new political initiative to improve the situation, but it is rather premature to go into details at this point.

TNS: How will you respond to the hit list issued by the Swat militants?

AK: That is all rubbish. They are outlaws and fugitives. They have no legitimacy whatsoever. Instead, it is the government which will bring them to justice.

TNS: Where are the militants getting the financial support from?

AK: We believe Fazlullah is paying Rs 15,000 a month to about 10,000 people, apart from arms supply and other expenditures. There is a link between terrorism and drug trafficking, but we believe that the Arab money is still pouring in through Waziristan.

TNS: Do you think the Shariah Regulation will bring about an improvement in the situation?

AK: We have done our homework to address the concerns of the people and we shall make public our reform package of the judicial system to provide quick and inexpensive justice to the people of the Malakand division.

TNS: Don't you think this will encourage the people of other districts to make such a demand?

AK: No. In fact, Swat, Chitral and Malakand division have a particular history. They have been demanding it from the late 80s and 90s and the demand is limited to these areas because of its particular condition. I think in other settled districts the traditional system is well entrenched and accepted.

TNS: What future do you see of the Valley, in the context of its current security situation?

AK: The democratic government is determined to rectify the past mistakes, to defeat the insurgency and to carry forward the process of political integration and socio-political transformation. These goals can be achieved only through the unity and determination of both the state and the society.

Emptied of its poetry - Swat: a laboratory for testing a bomb called ‘strategic depth à la religious bigotry’

Sunday, 1 February 2009
Emptied of its poetry - Swat: a laboratory for testing a bomb called ‘strategic depth à la religious bigotry’

Emptied of its poetry

By Shaheen Sardar Ali

‘Da Malakand da sar tootee wai, pa ohr sati wai Kho Tohmati na wai Mayana’

(Were that I could become a carefree parrot perched on the peak of the Malakand mountains … that angry flames would burn me…not this stigmatised betrayer of my people).

THIS impassioned cry of remorse exhorting release from the burden of having betrayed one’s people expressed in the tapa above, is one of the most haunting expressions of regret and guilt in Pushto poetry.

Part of a rich oral narrative, the poem records the battle of Malakand where local tribes fought to protect the homeland against the British colonisers. Sadly, as we all know, it is never in our power to turn back the clock of history. Confessions of betrayal, guilt, treachery, negligence and remorse often come too late and more often, never. The heart-wrenching plea of the betrayer, echoing in the wild olive groves of the Malakand mountains, may perhaps be a solitary one. Tales of betrayal spurred by greed for money, power and social status changing into deep regret, are few and far between.

Self-reflection, soul-searching and learning from our mistakes is not a common trait, least of all among those who have tasted the sumptuous and disgustingly lavish interiors of the corridors of power. Had that been an instinct, our history books would contain chapters on lessons learnt from the secession of East Pakistan, repetitive insurgency in Balochistan, successive military interventions to rule the country and causes leading thereto.

In these times of economic, political and ideological turmoil, our elected representatives would not have voted to enhance their emoluments when internally displaced people from Swat and Fata were dying of hunger, cold, and ill health, and shivering for their lives in tattered tents.

Had we learnt our lessons in honesty and sincerity, I would not be asking the question: when was the last time, if ever, that the president, PM, CM, governor et al visited this strife-torn valley to send a signal of solidarity to the people and the much-trumpeted ‘writ of government’? (One wonders why all the suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to keep Messrs Blair and Bush from visiting their troops. Yet, our leaders, firm believers that life is in the hands of Allah and only He can give and take it away, shy away from visiting Swat and Fata, a part of their own country.)

I am particularly reminded of this tapa as I sit here trying to make sense of the tragedy, destruction and misery that has become Swat resulting from direct and indirect betrayal by those in positions of power and authority. Failing one’s people comes in a myriad shades and denominations. It includes what we ought to have done, could have done and would have done to address the situation but did not do. Sitting on the fence while people and country fall apart is just as culpable as actively contributing to the chaos and turmoil wrought on innocent people. Using Swat and Fata as examples for our foreign masters that if the dollars fail to come thick and fast a religious militant regime will gobble the country, is just as criminal, if not worse.

Why else do we waste precious time in endless meetings to discuss strategies while homes are destroyed, women, men and children killed, maimed and disabled for life. If our own homes were under fire, our own children killed, God forbid, or in danger of being taken away from us, would we sit in sarkari safe houses and engage in sagely analysis and hair-splitting about hidden foreign hands, monthly salaries of militants and the likely budget of their terrorist operations etc, but not do anything about it?

I am afraid I am not entirely convinced that our enemy is solely the so-called religious militant operating in the name of Islam. Multiple actors, state and non-state, are at play, taking advantage of a fearful, harassed, and insecure population that looks around and finds no presence of the state of Pakistan or any of its institutions of governance.

But now, our bleeding wounds and weeping eyes have washed the wool off our trusting gaze. We Swatis realise that we were chosen for destruction, not by any other but our very own, a laboratory for testing a bomb called ‘strategic depth à la religious bigotry’. The blatant lies fed by half-hearted minions declaring that ‘the government will not allow anyone to challenge its writ’; or the ridiculous statement ‘all girls’ schools in Swat will soon open’ add insult to injury. The deep anguish of betrayal by one’s own; abandonment by those towards whom thousands of tearful eyes looked for protection, is written large on the broken hearts and traumatised souls of the forsaken Swati, young and old, rich and poor, dead, dying or alive.

We ask: why would anyone want to blow up schools in Swat or anywhere else and who would be heartless and soulless enough to plunder the place and sell, brick by brick, the remains of those destroyed buildings? Who could be so brutal and savage as to chop off human heads and display them at crossroads, hanging from poles and in the streets?

Who would terrorise men, women and children forcing them to flee their homes and hearths, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to the biting cold winter? Who would be so callous as to ignore these travesties and pretend they are either not happening or present it simply as a grand and gory conspiracy against the democratically elected government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its elitist rulers? Who would ruthlessly brush aside the genocide of the Pakhtun nation by arguing that there were other more important calls on their time and attention … such as ‘buying’ and ‘selling’ people’s representatives, transferring civil servants to display control over governmental institutions not to mention juvenile acts of attempted government toppling?

In a coalition government of the ANP/PPP, who is it that chooses to spare leaders of one coalition partner while mercilessly killing leaders of the other. Why is it that those who decide to remain in Swat and brave the wrath of the destroyers, do not receive wholehearted army and government support to defend themselves and their homeland?

Perhaps we Swatis have to acquire the skill of raising our voices above the screaming sirens of ambulances carrying dead and dying people towards Saidu Hospital as well as the deafening sound of strafing, shelling and low-flying helicopters, in order to be heard in the corridors of power. Peshawar and Islamabad are simply too far away and our voices too feeble with fear, hunger and hurt pride and dignity. I wonder if many years later, will anyone ever muster the courage, dignity and honesty to recall their roles of commission and omission, wrench their trembling hands in agony and repeat, Da Malakand da sar tootee wai…… (Dawn)

The writer is a professor of law, University of Warwick, UK.