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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fraudulent Theory of 'Non-State Actors' - Part III

By 1970, Pakistan Army had developed close working relationship with the clergy, especially with the Abu Ala Al Mawdudi led Jama’at-e-Islami (JI). One of the reasons was the precarious condition in which the President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, found himself after having announced the Presidential elections in 1965. His opponent in the form of the formidable Ms. Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the Founder of Pakistan, supported by the combined opposition, the high inflation and resultant economic woes, required him to seek the support of the clergy. The aftermath of the campaign by Ms. Jinnah and the 1965 war followed by the Tashkent agreement which was perceived as a surrender by Pakistanis, weakened the Presidency. FM Ayub Khan had already met JI’s chief Maulana Mawdudi twice and allowed him to preach his concept of jihad over Radio Pakistan. This led to concessions being given to the ulema who began to exercise their influence over an Army that was relatively secular till then. It was to be visible in the genocide of several million in East Pakistan in circa 1971 when these Islamist parties sent in their cadres to assist the Army implement its pogrom. Two of the most important ‘non-state actor’ outfits were Isla’ami Jamia’at-e-Tulba (IJT) and Al-Badr, both of which later played a significant role in stoking terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir in 1989. The Al-Badr consisted of the Pashtuns from the same tribal areas in NWFP from where lashkars were formed as ‘non-state actors’ to attack J&K in 1947. The IJT is the militant student wing of the JI. The IJT later sent its cadres to Kashmir for Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to fight India. Both the Al-Badr and the IJT have been close to the ISI. The nexus between the Islamist ‘non-state actors’ and the Pakistani Army grew considerably from then onwards. The Afghan jihad and the growing sectarianism within Pakistan spawned more Islamist jihadist tanzeems in the 80s.

The veteran Pakistani journalist, the late Khalid Hasan, has recalled how Gen. Musharraf in his very first official visit to the US in February, 2002 openly accepted that the LeT and Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD) were only doing jihad outside Pakistan. So, when Gen Musharraf thundered in Muzzafarabad on Feb. 5, 2000 that jihad had shifted from Afghanistan to Kashmir, one could understand in hindsight who was doing jihad and why Pakistan was doing nothing to take action against them. No wonder then that when Dar-ul-Uloom-Haqqania madrassah in Peshawar organized on January 9, 2001 a massive conference to support Osama bin Laden, the former Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Aslam Beg and former ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul openly attended it and pledged their support. Even when Gen. Musharraf had to ban these terrorist organizations under intense pressure after the Indian Parliament Attack on December 13, 2001, he took care that these organizations were not banned in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) or in Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), both places where they had setup training centres and which they used as launch pads across India and Afghanistan. Promptly, LeT morphed into JuD a few days before the ban was officially announced on January 15, 2002, cleaned its bank accounts, and moved its headquarters to PoK. The support from the highest office in Pakistan to ‘non-state actors’ was quite discernible.

It is not that Pakistan had always meticulously hidden its nexus with ‘non-state actors’. It has sometimes not attempted to overly hide its linkages with them, possibly to send a crude message or to incite a sense of euphoria among Pakistani masses. For example, in 1971, when an Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked to Lahore, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto went on board the hijacked aircraft and congratulated the hijackers, later describing them as heroes before they set ablaze the aircraft. On February 5, 1990, the then Chief Minister of the Punjab, Nawaz Sharif, inserted an advertisement in newspapers asking people to ‘pray for success of jihad in Kashmir”. The ruling PPP, led by Benazir Bhutto, not to be outdone in competitive politics, declared that day as a National Holiday. Since that time, Pakistan Army has been providing fire cover for the terrorists to infiltrate into India along the India-Pakistan border. Another recent incident when the ISI did not cover its tracks was in the Haqqani-led and ISI-ordered July, 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. It was meant as a message that growing Indian influence in Afghanistan was unacceptable. The Indian intelligence agencies and the CIA had enough evidence to nail down the ISI, which was promptly passed on to that country which as usual refused to take any action. Even in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, there have been tell-tale signs of State involvement. We shall later see in another post, how Pakistani Army officers have had deep involvement in terrorism for a long time now.

A further proof of Pakistan's complicity in terrorism of the so called ‘non-state actors’ was the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight, IC 814, from Kathmandu to the south-eastern Afghan city of Kandahar on Dec 24,1999, with the help of ISI, Pakistani terrorists and Pakistani diplomats in Kathmandu who supplied the would-be hijackers with weapons. The hijackers were helped in Kandahar by their comrades-in-arm, the Taleban as well as ISI-officers who were in constant touch with them during the entire duration of six days that the hijack drama lasted. They and the terrorists released by India in exchange for the passengers, later resurfaced in Pakistan to a hero's welcome and two of them have continued to operate freely till today, including collecting funds for jihad in Kashmir, an activity supposedly banned in Pakistan after the 9/11 events. All three of the terrorists released from Indian jails, Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Zargar, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, indulged in terrorism against India and the US from Pakistani soil. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh arranged funds for the 9/11 terrorists and also was instrumental in the killing of Wall Street Journal’s reporter Daniel Pearl. The FBI traced USD 100,000 wire-transferred to the WTC terrorist Mohammed Atta and 9/11 leader by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh at the instance of Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, chief of ISI.

The General lost his job on Oct. 8, 2001 after clinching evidence from India. It was the same General, who as Corps Commander, Rawalpindi was one of the “Gang of Four” who planned the Kargil intrusion in 1999 and also the coup on behalf of Gen. Musharraf. He was neither the first nor the last of the ISI Chiefs to lose his job for associating with terrorists. Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, who succeeded Lt. Gen. Ahfaq Pervez Kayani as the ISI Chief in September, 2007 also was forced to leave the position by the US as President George Bush complained that it was “impossible to share intelligence on the al-Qaeda and the Taliban with Pakistan because it goes straight back to the militants.” Earlier too, another Director General of the ISID, Gen. Javid Nasir, was removed from service along with a few dozen officers, for his extreme association with jihadi organizations. As for Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, he surrendered to Brig. Ejaz Shah (Retd.), the then Home Secretary of the Punjab on February 12, 2002. We are now aware that Brig. Ejaz Shah was Omar Saeed Sheikh’s handler when he was in the ISI. Several serving Army officers have been arrested in connection with the case of David Coleman Headly, and two of them were implicated in funding terrorism through him.

Pakistan’s support for terrorism in India is well documented and many terrorists who were captured in India have given detailed accounts of their activities and their sponsors back in Pakistan. Among all those Pakistanis caught in India on terrorism related charges, the most dramatic and prized-catch was that of Ajmal Amir Iman Kasab. Several pointers emerged later as Ajmal Kasab was interrogated. The ten fidayeen terrorists were all Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) operatives, they had been combat trained for several months by members of Pakistan’s serving and/or retired Army and Navy personnel, the Pakistani maritime authorities had supplied them with charts for the sea-borne operation, they were in constant telephonic contact with their cold-blooded handlers back in Pakistan who appeared to be hardened combat veterans and well versed in psychological operations pointing therefore to the involvement of the armed forces, communication facilities between the terrorists and their handlers had been arranged by a division of the Army, and they had been visited frequently at the training centre by a top-ranking General along with the chief LeT, Prof. Hafeez Saeed. The captured GPS confirmed four waypoints-route maps that point to Karachi, Porbander, Diu and the Mumbai coast. It soon turned out that Prof. Hafeez Saeed, ex-Amir of LeT and now JuD, was the mastermind behind the attack. However, even when Prof. Hafeez Saeed had been declared a terrorist by the UN Security Council as a result of this attack, even as he was being implicated by India as the mastermind and the Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice to arrest him, top notch Pakistani politicians like ex-President Rafiq Tarar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (Chief of PML-Q), Mushahid Hussain (PML-Q Secretary)and Sheikh Rashid (ex-federal minister and a self-proclaimed jihadi) condoled with him for a bereavement in his family by visiting his house. All cases brought against him in the Lahore High Court, the Supreme Court and the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC)were dismissed one after the other either for lack of evidence or for being bad in law. The Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, has repeatedly talked of a ‘lack of evidence’ against Prof. Hafeez Saeed as though only other nations have to give that.

In the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 attack, as a nervous Pakistan whipped up war-paranoia, the Taliban jihadis who were mercilessly attacking Pakistan itself from within, ‘offered’ their support to ‘fight India’ and top Pakistani Army and intelligence officials immediately welcomed the offer and termed the Taliban as ‘truly patriotic’. Another Pakistani Army official claimed that “the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistani Army to save Pakistan, if India attacked that country”. This brings out clearly how the Army forged close links with the jihadi ‘non-state actors’ and were not averse to using them even when a few months earlier the same jihadis had called the Pakistani Army as ‘unIslamic’ ! It was no wonder therefore that several service personnel of the Army, Air Force, ISI and police were found to be involved in the assassination attempts against President General Musharraf in c. 2002 and 2003, in collusion with the very same ‘non-state actors’ that the Pakistani state had assiduously developed.

Several purportedly Islamic charity trusts in Pakistan have been known to fund terror activities internationally. Many of them, Rabita, al-Rashid, al-Akhtar, Wafa Humanitarian Organization, Ummah Tamer-i-Nau, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, Afghan Support Committee, Aid Organization of the Ulema, al-Aqsa Foundation, and al-Harmain Foundation trusts were identified by the US State department on Oct. 12, 2001 as funding terror outfits. It was incidentally noticed that Gen. Musharraf, the then military-President of Pakistan, was one of the trustees of Rabita trust. The Secretary General of Rabita Trust, Wael Hamza Jalalidin, was one of the founder members of al-Qaeda. The link between al-Akhtar trust and al-Qaeda was established later. However, Pakistan decided to close down the Al-Rasheed and Al-Akhtar trusts only in Feb, 2007 even though the UN Security Council declared them to have links with terrorist organizations as early as 2001. The Pakistani interior minister later explained to the Pakistani population rather apologetically that even though the Pakistani government fought the case of the two trusts in the UN, they had to close them now due to the UN resolution as otherwise the nation will attract economic sanction. This shows the reluctance on the part of the Pakistani government to take action against the front-ends of the terrorist organizations. While Al-Akhtar and Al-Rasheed trusts were collecting funds for Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), the Al-Hilal and Al-Asar Trusts were doing so for Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Al-Ershad trust was collecting funds for Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (HuJI). By June 2008, the US State Department determined that Al Rasheed trust was operating under the new names of Al Ameen Trust while Al Akhtar had morphed into Pakistan Relief Foundation and Azmat Pakistan Trust. Thus, the channels of funding to various terrorist organizations were protected by the State of Pakistan and when action was taken reluctantly, they acquired new names and the Government ignored the new Trusts.

The Punjabis dominate the Pakistani Army (roughly 70%) and the Punjab is also the most fertile ground for recruitment of jihadi terrorists. Organizations like JeM, LeJ, HuJI as well as LeT are centred around Southern and Central Punjab. Since the Army recruits come from the same region where jihadism is widespread, it is natural to expect such sentiments to be carried forward into the Army. By his own admission, the then DG, ISI, Lt. Gen Mahmoud Ahmed admitted as far back as circa 2000, that 15% of the army officer corps were religious extremists. Afghanistan, which has been one of the worst sufferers from the ‘non-state actors’ of Pakistan, has leveled serious accusations against the state of Pakistan for its support. In several interviews, the Afghan intelligence chief, Amarullah Saleh, has accused the Pakistani Army leadership and the Pakistani establishment for their support to ‘non-state actors’.

Since its Independence, Pakistan has also been in conflict with its western neighbour, Afghanistan, over the settlement of its border row with that country. The Durand Line which, by the mere stroke of a British pen divided the Pashtuns, has been the root cause of this problem. Within Afghanistan itself, a society steeped in feudalism and fractured by different identities, any reform had been met with stiff resistance by the feudal landlords, tribal chieftains and the clergy who feared loss of their traditional power. So, when new reforms were initiated by the new Leftist regime after the ‘Great Saur Revolution’ in April, 1978, the traditional stakeholders rose in revolt. The regime, unable to suppress the harassment by Ismail Khan of Herat and the Panjsheri Mujahideen supported by Pakistan, invited the USSR for help by invoking the provisions of the ‘Mutual Defence Treaty’. It was thus the USSR Army entered Afghanistan on Dec. 24, 1979. Pakistan, which had already been hosting Islamists like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Rabbani, and Abdulrub Rasool Sayyaf used them in destabilizing the Afghan regime. Unfortunately, a deeply Islamist military General, Zia-ul-Haq was in power at that time in Pakistan and he had already established a close relationship with the wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia in order to stem the rising influence of Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran among the Shi’a of both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. As part of this, he had initiated a large-scale Islamization of the Pakistani society, an initiative already started by the Islamic Socialist Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to retain his power. This led to violent changes within the Pakistani society and the clergy. Not content with the society, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq also started Islamizing the Army. Like his predecessor Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq also turned to JI for support and this allowed JI’s student wing, IJT, unhindered access to all educational campuses across the country where all the other student organizations had been banned. The clerics of JI were affiliated to Army units. Thus a deep entwining with the Islamist ideology took roots within the Army. The Army and the ‘non-state actors’ became inseparable.

Thus Gen. Zia-ul-Haq transformed the charter of the Army from defending ‘frontiers of Pakistan’ to defending the ‘frontiers of Islam’. The motto of the Army was appropriately changed to ‘Iman-Taqwa-Jihad fi Sabilillah’ (Faith, Unity and Jihad in the Way of Allah). Successive Prime Ministers and Presidents have mouthed the same inanity of the Army being defenders of the Frontiers of Islam. Thus, Pakistani state and its armed forces cannot but support those ‘non-state actors’ who claim to be fighting to ‘defend frontiers of Islam’. The need for jihad thus unites the professional Army of Pakistan and the ‘non-state actors’ at the hip. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq appointed the Islamist jihadi and an Afghan veteran Prof. Hafeez Saeed, who founded the LeT later on, to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), an organization created by the State to ensure all laws of the land complied with Islam. So, when the Soviet Army marched across the Oxus river on the eve of Christmas in 1979, the Bear Trap set by the United States was triggered and the resources of the state of Pakistan along with its ‘non state-actors’ were thrown into the jihad. The Pakistani society was militarized with the help of the United States and Saudi Arabia to provide a constant supply of ideologically pumped up mujahideen to fight the evil Red Army. Pakistan’s calculi were two fold in its Afghan venture; one, to install a compliant regime in Kabul that will blunt Pashtun nationalism and allow it to build its ‘strategic depth’ against India and second, to gainfully use the huge army of ‘non-state actors’ including foreign jihadis deployed in the Afghan theatre, in its dispute with India. These overlapping linkages are steadily being revealed in terrorist incidents such as 26/11 where Pakistani naval personnel have helped the terrorists with their maritime requirements, and Army communication experts have been involved in setting up communication links. The still unraveling case of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana reveal their connections with serving and retired Army personnel.

Even as the Afghan jihad was going on, Pakistan simultaneously developed its nuclear weapons in collusion with China and under the benign neglect of the USA, in order to blunt the asymmetry in power between India and herself and also force India not to escalate the tension into a full-blown war whenever the jihadis were later unleashed on India after the conclusion of the Afghan jihad. Thus, Pakistan made a complete and comprehensive investment in its policy and practice of ‘non-state actors’ since the early 80s. After the withdrawal of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) from Afghanistan in circa 1989, the Taliban were created by the Pakistani Army to take control of Afghanistan. So much so, that in the aftermath of the fall of Kunduz to the Northern Alliance in late 2001, the Pakistanis forced the Americans to airlift thousands of Pakistani military officers, soldiers and ‘non-state actors’ who were fighting along with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s ‘non-state actors’ have also wrought havoc within Iran. The Jundullah, a Sunni sectarian terrorist organization, which has recently been implicated in the suicide attack on the Iran Revolutionary Guards in the Sistan-Baluchistan area, has always been accused by Iran as being supported by the Pakistani intelligence agencies. After the recent attack, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged that the attack was planned from Pakistani soil and that the Pakistani intelligence agencies were cooperating with the terrorists. In late May, 2009, Jundullah bombed a mosque in Zahedan in the Sistan-Baluchistan province which angered Iran enough to warn Pakistan that it had “the power and military means to trace and hunt down terrorist groups in Pakistan if such activity is not stopped by Pakistan.” Pakistan routinely denies the presence of Jundullah in Pakistan.

So, how have these ‘non-state actors’ come into being and how are they sustained ? The powerful ISID, the indoctrinated Army & ISI officers both serving and retired leading to a close linkage between the regular Army and the terrorist organizations, the mullahs, the presence under the benign neglect or even support of the Pakistani state of militias of Uzbeks, Chechens, Turkmens, Tajiks, Uighurs, Indonesians and Arabs who have all cut deals with the tribes of NWFP for protection, hospitality and support, the lawlessness of the FATA where the Federal laws of Pakistan do not operate, the huge cache of funds and leftover arms from the Afghan campaign, increasing poverty, an opium industry patronized by the Taleban, Al-Qaeda and the ISI as an easy source of funding for procuring arms and promoting terrorist activities, the spiralling madrassahs generously supported by fundamentalist charity organizations from the Middle East especially the Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, spewing out the strict Wahhabi or Deobandi interpretation of Islam, the capitulation of the Government to the increasing Talibanized approach of these madrassahs, the indoctrination of young minds even in mainstream non-madrassah schools as a state policy, the collective hatred against the Americans, Jews and the Hindus (the Yahud-Hunud-Nasara conspiracy theory meaning Jews-Hindus-Christians were conspiring to deprive the Muslims of their rightful place which is popular in Pakistan ), and above all the State policy to use terror as a weapon against India and Afghanistan all acted as a potent mix, and continue to do so with increasing vigour, in the terrorism brew. Pakistan has also learnt to blame the ‘international community’ for the scourge of ‘militancy and extremism’ in today’s Pakistan forgetting conveniently that it was an equal and willing partner in the Afghan jihad for its own geopolitical and geostrategic reasons and even after the cessation of the jihad there, it nurtured and created more terrorist outfits for its India theatre of operations.

Therefore, all sections of the society such as common folk citizens, mullahs et al and all sections of the State such as the Army, intelligence agencies, bureaucracy, political leaders et al have contributed to preserving, nurturing and helping the ‘non-state actors’. Thus, Pakistan and its ‘non-state actors’ are indistinguishable.