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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pakistan Army and its Involement in and Support for Terrorism - Part II

In Part I, we saw about the nexus between the then ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, ex-SSG Ilyas Kashmiri, and the GHQ attack.

Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed was not the first or the last ISI chief who lost his job for being openly in cahoots with the terrorists. The distinct honour of being the first ISI Chief to lose his job because of his close proximity with the terrorists and fundamentalists goes to Lt. Gen. Javid Nasir. The extreme religious views of DG, ISI, Lt. Gen. Javid Nasir, that sprang directly from his association with the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), ultimately led him to be sacked. In the shuffling of the ISI that followed his dismissal, over two dozen officers were also transferred for their suspected links. No less a person than Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, the well known Pakistani diplomat, has described in her book how ultimately the US and even Pakistan's Arab friends demanded his removal. Of course, the born-again Muslim that he was, Lt. Gen. Javid Nasir was a regular member of the fundamentalist Tablight Jama'at and regularly took part in its congregations and activities. He was not alone in the Tablighi Jama'at congretations(ijtima) at Raiwind near Lahore; he was in the august and regular company of the then President of Pakistan Rafiq Tarar as also Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul and Lt. Gen. Naseem Rana, both the latter being former Director General of the 'angelic'  ISI (sarcastically referred to as 'The Angels' within Pakistan because the agents wear white shalwar kameez).

On the eve of the November, 2009 annual convention of the Tablighi Jama'at, 50 former high-ranking officers of the armed forces met under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen. ( r) Javid Nasir for a day in what was termed as "Halqa-e-Khawas" (group of special people), to deliberate on how to take the movement forward, possibly within the armed forces. The well known English-language newspaper of Pakistan, The Nation, reported this faithfully. Apart from Lt Gen (r) Nasir, there were Lt Gen (r) Agha Masood Hasan, former CNS, PN (Chief of Naval Staff, Pakistan Navy), Admiral (r) Karamat Rehman Niazi, Lt Gen (r) Aftab Ahmed and others. The Nation quoted an ex-Army officer as saying "There are thousands of serving armymen who have joined this party and no force disallows the soldiers from practicing their religion,". Such is the hold of the Tablighi on the armed forces. Thus, the non-salafist but equally fundamentalist and radical Tablighi Jama'at has huge following within the armed forces of Pakistan. It is another entirely different matter that the 'pious' Javid Nasir swindled Rs. 3 Billion of EPTB (Evacuee Property Trust Board, of which he was Chairman) funds and fled Pakistan. Probably, these funds were used to fund terrorism and tablighi activities. It may be wothwhile to remember here that the brutal daylight attack on the mosques (officially known as Ibadatgarh because of the law declaring Ahmedis as non-Muslims) of the Ahmedis on May 28, 2010, that killed 95 of them was carried out by a suicide squad which had been assembled in the Raiwind office of the Tablighi Jama’at. Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, attended the mosques run by Tablighi. Several men connected with the aborted UK plane bombing of Aug, 2006 were members of the Tablighi. Tablighi Jamaat members were also involved in a failed coup against Ms. Benazir Bhutto. This coup was staged by Maj. Gen. Zaheer ul Islam Abbassi in Sep. 1995. Several members of the TJ are jailed in Central Asian Republic (CAR) countries for indulging in violence and terror. TJ is therefore not involved only in pure and simple dawah as it usually claims.

Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, who succeeded Lt. Gen. Ahfaq Pervez Kayani as the ISI Chief in September, 2007 was also forced to leave the position by the US as President George Bush complained in August 2008 that it was “impossible to share intelligence on the al-Qaeda and the Taliban with Pakistan because it goes straight back to the militants.” So much so, that when Gen. Ashfaq Kayani went aboard USS Abraham Lincoln to meet with Adm. Mike Mullen in late August, 2008, he took with him his DGMO (Director General of Military Operations), Maj. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha who replaced Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj within a couple of months. Of course, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whose close confidante was Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, promoted him and gave him another plum post. During his tenure as the ISI Chief, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj had planned the 26/11 Mumbai carnage along with LeT and Al Qaeda, especially the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri. Earlier, Nadeem Taj had played a crucial role as the Military Secretary of Gen. Musharraf and a member of the infamous 'Gang of Four' in Kargil and the 1999 coup that brought Musharraf to power.

Several months before 9/11 happened in circa 2001, the extremist Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania madrassah in Peshawar organized a meeting on Jan 9, 2001 which was attended, among others, by Gen. Hamid Gul, former DG of ISI and Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, former COAS of the Pakistani Army, wherein a declaration was made to defend Osama bin Laden and attack the Western countries as a sacred duty of Muslims. The significance of the meeting place, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq's Haqqania, could not be lost because it was a nerve production centre of mujahideen and later the Taliban. The noted Pakistani commentator, Zahid Hussain, in his book, "Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam" (Penguin; 2007) writes that in spite of a ban on meetings, the Pakistani government did not stop the January, 2001 congregation and it was conducted with the support of the intelligence agencies.

(To be Continued . . . )

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pakistan Army and its Involement in and Support for Terrorism - Part I

Iman, Taqwah, Jihad fi Sabilillah”. So says, proudly, the motto of the Pakistani Army. Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah was how the Islamist General Zia-ul-Haq changed the motto from Jinnah’s “Ittehad, Yaqeen aur Tanzeem (Unity, Faith and Discipline)”. The Pakistani Army has lived up to the new motto ever since it was coined.

No doubt that the Pakistani politicians and even the ‘usurper’ Generals have used the ‘religion’ card whenever it came to defending their power or defending their country against the infidel Hindu India. Field Marshal Ayub Khan who once ensured that one of the greatest Islamist jihadi thinkers of the previous century, Abu Ala Al Mawdudi was sentenced to death for inciting the Lahore riots against the Ahmedis and who later dropped the honorific adjective ‘Islamic’ from the reference to the Pakistani Republic, had to resort to compromises with the very same Islamist forces he opposed in order to defeat Ms. Fatima Jinnah. It was at the behest of a whisky-swilling and philandering Gen. Yahya Khan that the Pakistani Army encouraged the fundamentalist Islamist party of Jama’at-e-Islami to popularize the slogan, “Pakistan ka matlab kya Hai ? La Ilaha il Allah”. Ultimately, the mard-e-momin, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq made the Objectives Resolution, which disenfranchised the minorities of Pakistan, a Preamble to the Constitution of Pakistan.

Thus, Pakistan Army’s overt contribution to the strengthening of fundamentalism and extremism may be well known. For a long time, India has also been aware of the covert involvement of the Pakistani Army, and of course all sections of the Pakistani Government, in terrorism directed against India. They have been successfully portrayed as pro-Kashmiri freedom fighters by Pakistan, a line of argument accepted by the benefactors of Pakistan because it suits them geopolitically and geostrategically. Once the US and KSA decided to allow the ISID and the Pakistani Army to tactically control the Afghan jihad, and the CIA decided to upgrade the ISID significantly, the situation spun out of control. As it usually happens, such violent terrorists do not always remain committed to their benefactors and they do turn against them if and when the situation so demands. In the process, skeletons begin to tumble out of the cupboard.

Let us look at the emerging connections between terrorism and the Pakistani Army.

The most dramatic event in recent times was the 26/11 carnage at Mumbai. Two main actors of this carnage have spilled the beans. One was Ajmal Amir Kasab, held by Indian police and recently awarded death sentence and the other is a double-agent of US and Pakistani Army, Daood Gilani alias David Coleman Headley. Ajmal Amir Kasab spoke of how a certain ‘Major General saheb’ used to visit their training camps in the company of the LeT emir Prof. Hafeez Saeed and how he personally conducted the tests to select the group that eventually went on the 26/11 mission. For his part, Headley has implicated several Pakistani Army officers, both serving and retired. The serving officers whom he said were ‘handlers of the 26/11 terrorists’ were identified under their possible nom-de-guerre as ‘Major Iqbal’ and ‘Major Samir (Sameer) Ali’. He also identified Major Saeed and Colonel Shah as being involved in the planning of 26/11. Headley has also spoken of a certain Special Services Group (SSG) officer Maj. Haroon Ashique as being a collaborator with Lashkar-e-Tayba’s (LeT) operational commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Obviously, these serving officers could not have been involved in terrorism without the express knowledge of the Pakistani Army’s top brass. When the Government of India (GoI) handed over a dossier to Pakistan at the recent Foreign Secretary level meeting at Delhi and indicted Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali, the Pakistani government could only dismiss it as a ‘piece of literature’. Headley’s accomplice in the mass murder was Tahawwur Rana, who was himself a Pakistani Army Captain, who claims to have deserted it. Strangely, both Headley and Rana attended the same military school, the Hasan Abdal Cadet College.

We also know that apart from possibly being agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA of the US, Headley was also involved with LeT and Al Qaeda, especially the Brigade 313 component of the latter. ‘Brigade 313’ is a particularly extremist organization led by another ex-SSG commando, the one-eyed Ilyas Kashmiri. His tentacles into the Pakistani Army are legendary. He lost one of his eyes in an Afghanistan operation when he was part of the Pakistani Army. After the Afghan jihad, the Pakistani Army asked him to direct his attention to the jihad in Kashmir and he joined the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (HuJI). He was captured by the Indian Army but escaped within two years. He ran a terrorist training camp in Kotli, his home town, which was frequently visited by the then Rawalpindi Corps Commander of the 10th Corps Gen Mehmood Ahmed. The Rawalpindi-based 10th Corps has responsibility for Kashmir operations and for pushing infiltrators across the LoC. Ilyas Kashmiri has also been described as chief of al-Qaeda’s shadow army—Lashkar-e-Zil, a loose alliance of al-Qaeda-and Taliban-linked anti-US militia which has distinguished itself by conducting unusual guerrilla operations, like the one that targeted the CIA’s Forward Operating Base in Khost on December 31, 2009, killing seven CIA officials. He has reportedly conducted several major military actions in India, including the 1994 Al-Hadid operation in New Delhi, to get some of his jihadi comrades released. He is even reported to have beheaded an Indian Army officer in c. 2000 for which Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave him a cash reward. The dividing line between the Pakistani Army and the Islamist jihadi terrorists thus disappears in most cases.

This does not mean that Ilyas Kashmiri had not hesitated to bite the hands that fed him once. In spite of receiving a cash reward from Gen. Musharraf, he tried to assassinate him later on. The Islamist cause is obviously more important than individuals, friendship and regimental loyalty. He was to prove this point once again in November, 2008 when he eliminated Maj. Gen. (retd.) Feisal Alvi, the ex Commander of his own SSG because he had conducted operations against the Taliban earlier. He used Major Haroon Ashique for this purpose. Later, in December 2009, he mounted an audacious attack on the General Head Quarters (GHQ) itself at Rawalpindi with the possible intention of capturing or killing Gen. Kayani, the Chief of the Pakistani Army. He made use of another ex-Army officer Col. Usman for that purpose.

(To be Continued . . . )

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Why Ajmal Amir Kasab Shoud be Hanged Quickly

26/11 was unlike any other terrorist incident before in India because it was nothing less than an urban warfare unleashed on not only unsuspecting Mumbaikars going about their normal daily business but also on the entire nation. It affected not only the residents of Mumbai but also people from many parts of the world who had come to Mumbai for business and pleasure. For three days, a large part of Mumbai was held to ransom by a mere handful of hardcore terrorists trained and motivated by a determined enemy. The calm voice of the handler asking the terrorists at Chabad House to kill their hostages in cold blood while keeping the mobile switched on because he wanted to hear the gunshots, was most cruel and spine-chilling. That too, after assuring the Rabbi’s wife that no harm would come her way if she followed his instructions. The Rabbi and his wife, as were many others in the Taj and Oberoi hotels, were murdered simply because of religious hatred. The telephone transcripts are there for everyone to see, however much some of the so-called secular brigade might wish to whitewash this and want us to believe otherwise. The rest of the attacks at CST, Cama Hospital and elsewhere were random in nature but were still carried out due to hatred and to instill a deep sense of fear. Kasab was part of this  group that also killed in cold blood the Captain and the crew of M.V. Kuber, who were simple fishermen.

As usual, some voices have been heard for showing mercy to Kasab. While pleading for commuting the death sentence to Kasab, one should not lose sight of the nature of the crime and the attitude of the convict. The convict belongs to a group which wants to wage a jihad against kafir India. It has conducted several fidayeen attacks on India for over two decades now, and continues to espouse its violent policies even after the UN Security Council ban. The 26/11 terrorists were trained in a military-like fashion for the 26/11 mission with extensive reconnaissance conducted before to help the terrorists inflict maximum fatalities and damage. Kasab never felt remorse while being interrogated or even in the court when trials were going on. In the last eighteen months, Kasab never sought forgiveness from the families who have suffered grievously and irreparably because of his actions. He never ever hinted that he understood the futility of it all or expressed repentance. On the other hand, he tried to wriggle out of the situation by spinning stories about how he had been caught by Indian police several weeks before the Mumbai carnage etc. He was caught red handed even as he shot Police Constable Tukharam Omble dead as the brave policeman tried to grab Kasab’s AK47 with bare hands. One is unable to see the use of keeping such an unremorseful, unrepentant, bigotted and violent person supported by a group which swears by jihad against Hindu India, in a maximum security person for the rest of his long life with the constant overhanging threat of attacks by the Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) to attempt to release him. Such attempts will certainly lead to more bloodbath. What is the sanctity of a Pakistani jihadi, who has been conclusively proved of mass murder, that we are willing to sacrifice more and more innocent Indian lives ? It is also morally repugnant to ask the very same persons who have lost their loved ones to this mindless terrorist, for no fault of theirs, and the rest of the country terrorized by him, to pay for his maintenance, upkeep and security through their taxes. That would be taking dhimmitude to greater and newer depths.

The basis of the argument of those who hold a candle to showing mercy to such hardened terrorists is that it is simply immoral to take the life of a person however strong the case may be against him/her. It is their argument further that a government cannot partake that act. However, they miss the point that the one of the first duties of any government is to provide security to its people. The common belief is that punishment deters future repetitions of crime thereby protecting society and laws are framed therefore on such a thesis. Even Islam, which is usually claimed to be 'a religion of peace' and to which religion Kasab belongs, prescribes severe punishments for crimes. If 'just punishment' is a false notion, we do not need courts at all as it not only negates man-made laws but even the God-given shariat. Obviously, the Government of India will not be extinguishing the life of an innocent, if and when it finally gathers enough courage to hang Kasab, but one who has on his hands the blood of scores of people he wantonly killed and maimed and who were complete strangers to him and had no quarrel with him whatsoever.

The message that this judgement gives is that India will punish the criminals through legal means after giving even a mass murderer every opportunity to defend himself/herself, however grave his/her crime is. Such arguments as ‘immorality of death sentence’ can be taken to any length and the entire justice system scrapped because any kind of punishment can be argued as immoral. What about the commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) killing the other nine terrorists in the two hotels and the Chabad House ? Can it be also argued that they were immoral too ? At least in the case of Kasab, it was a judge who after giving every chance to Kasab to prove his innocence, awarded him the death sentence, but, no such opportunity was given to those nine terrorists. Does it mean then, that no armed operation should ever be mounted against terrorists because that may potentially lead to their killing ? Would we be extending the same ‘morality’ argument if the terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb over us and we catch the perpetrators ?

What would be immoral though, is to delay the death sentence handed to a person after it has been confirmed by the highest court of the land. To keep a prisoner, awaiting death sentence, in jail for more than the minimum needed time is a violation of human dignity. We must support Afzal Guru's recent request to hang him rather than keeping him in solitary confinement. Already, India awards death sentence only in the rarest of rare cases and there is no reason therefore to delay such sentences by the Government once they are confirmed by the Apex Court. The practice of pardon by the President through mercy petitions can be only used an escape route in the rarest of the already very rare cases of death sentence in our country; and in cases like those of Kasab or Guru, who waged war against our country, the sentences should be processed forthwith.

Some have argued that a country that achieved its independence through non-violence cannot resort to the crude practice of the State itself hanging a criminal or a terrorist. They also argue that such punishments have not been known to curb crimes by a determined person or a group. It is true that a significant factor for our gaining Independence from the British was our sustained non-violent struggle; but, it must be recognized that it was not the only factor. The same non-violence could not stop Partition, could not prevent the millions from being massacred and could not subsequently prevent the enduring hostility between us and Pakistan. If himsa, in the context of capital punishments, has limitations, so is ahimsa. Besides, we should not mix governance and statecraft with our struggle for Independence or traits that we may follow in our personal lives. We cannot also quote Gandhi ji out of context in his ‘eye for an eye will make half the world blind’ remark. That was made in the context of personal practices, which does not apply even to a society much less a nation state. In any case, there are two obvious fallacies in that statement if we try to interpret it literally as the proponents of non capital punishment argue. If one half of the world has to go blind, then it is as though one quarter of the world is trying to blind another quarter. There are very few people indulging in such violence and the fear of half the world going blind is therefore purely rhetorical. But, even going by the same logic, at least, a quarter of the world would still go blind even if did not retaliate in kind, would it not ? Is that acceptable ?

Again, it is not for killing one person that Kasab is to be hanged as those who repose their faith in the ‘going blind’ theory seem to argue. It is simply not a ‘tit for tat’. The tit here is for a huge tat that ended up in waging war with a country due to religious hatred, taking the lives of many innocent people, orphaning children, maiming so many more and mentally scarring even more people. The argument that Kasab’s execution will only spur an evil ideologue to harden the stance and therefore bring us more of the same, can be equally counter-argued that non-execution will embolden his mentors to mount far more audacious acts because it is then misinterpreted as cowardice and submission to terror. This especially applies to Pakistan where such misinterpretations have gone on since the days of Ayub Khan who famously doled out the ratio of one Pakistani soldier being equivalent to every 10 Indian soldiers. Mrs. Benazir Bhutto whom many Indians mistakenly assume as a dove vis-a-vis India,  raised that ratio to 1:100, for her part !

Rather than wasting our time in the style of an argumentative-Indian, let us get on with the follow up to the judgement and implement it expeditiously now that the verdict is given.

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