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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Turbulence in West Asia and its Impact on Pakistan - Part II

Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Syria, Jordan are all experiencing churning and turmoil, some on a largescale and widespread and others on a much smaller scale. These have not erupted all of a sudden, as some may think. The Islamic world has been experiencing convulsions since the 18th century. Before we understand the modern foundations for this upheavel, we need to look historically at the period for three centuries before and see the impact of various events and dramatis personae had on today's turn of events. Pakistan is equally affected by these historical facts and it serves therefore to understand them.

Modern day Islamists are inspired by several Islamic scholars, not the least of which is ibn Taymiyya (c. 1263 - 1328). Indeed, he is the fountainhead of today's jihadi Islamism. Present day Islamist jihadis have used his fatwa (Islamic religious decree)that ‘if infidels (kafir)take shelter behind Muslims, and these Muslims become a shield for the infidels, it is permitted to kill the Muslims in order to get at the infidels.’ This was known as the Mardin Declaration referring to the city of Mardin in Turkey where Ibn Taymiyya was living at that time. The Mongol devastation of Syria radicalized his thoughts. The Wahhabi movement reveres ibn Taymiyya. He claimed that he was following the first three generations of Islamists (salaf in Arabic, meaning ancestors) and hence he is considered the ‘Architect of Salafism’. In c. 2010, a group of Islamic scholars from various countries felt that the Mardin Declaration (fatwa) was misunderstood due to a minute typographical error. A manuscript copy of the fatwa present in a Damascus library is considered to contain the correct wording. Whatever be the truth, who cares ? The damage is already done and irretrievably too. It means little now if an insignificant group of ulema talk of a typographical error.

In India, in the meanwhile, were born a series of Islamist scholars in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries who dominated the scene and created a fertile situation for today's jihad in the Af-Pak areas. During this period, India was largely ruled by the Muslim invaders whose grip was fast loosening. The first of such Islamist scholars was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi of the 17th century. He belonged to the Naqshbandi order (a Sufi order of Islam named after the Tajikistan-born mystic Bhauddin Naqshbandi). He is also known as Mujaddid-Alf-e-Thani (Reformer of the Second Islamic Millennium). There is a reason why he was given that title. By sixteenth century, Sufism had taken a stronghold in India and it helped to bridge the divide between the liberal polytheistic Hinduism and the rigid monotheistic Islam. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the synthesis between Islam and Hinduism reached greater heights. The Chishti order (another of the Sufi orders of brotherhood) took predominant roots over other Sufi forms such as Qadriyah, and Naqshbandi (It continues to have a wide following in the Indian subcontinent) Emperor Akbar’s accommodation of Hindu philosophy and his creation of a new faith Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith)was detested by the orthodoxy of Islam. To this day, Akbar is hated by the Islamists of Pakistan for that reason. After the codification of Islamic jurisprudence and the formation of the four schools or madhhab(Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafii) by the early 9th century, the ulema had shut the doors on any further interpretation of Islam. Akbar's actions therefore violated this ban and hence considered heretical. In Pakistan, history textbooks trace their nation only from the conquest of Mohammed bin Qasim in areas of Sind in 712 AD, then skip to Mahmud Ghaznavi in the early 11th century, thus skipping the intervening three centuries, then move to Mahmud Ghori of the late 12th century, again skipping nearly two centuries, refer to the establishment of the Mughal empire by Babur and later the rule of Aurangzeb (Akbar's great grand-son and a fundamentalist Islamist) skipping the rule of other emperors most notably Akbar, then move forward to the First Indian Independence War of 1857 only because the soldiers who mutineed looked upto the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, and then stop at the emergence of Jinnah in 1920s).

Sirhindi's time coincided with that of Jahangir (Nur-ud-din Salim Jahangir, son of Akbar). Jahangir’s grandson and a religious bigot and tyrant, Aurangzeb, was greatly influenced by Sirhindi. Sirhindi ensured that the ijtihad of Akbar did not allow the influence of Hinduism on Islam. Many credit Sirhindi for having introduced communalism that led to the creation of Pakistan three-and-a-half centuries later. He reportedly praised cow-slaughter in India as a great Islamic act.

Next in the line of such Islamist thinkers was Shah Waliullah Dehelvi (c. 1703-1762). He came at the time the Moghul empire was declining after the unpopular and tyrannical rule of Aurangzeb, with the Hindus and the Sikhs revolting. Waliullah helped the Afghan king Ahmed Shah (also known as Ahmed Shah Durrani or Ahmed Shah Abdali) to overcome the Mahrattas in the Panipat war in 1761. He also belonged to the Naqshbandi order of Sufism and was educated in Makkah and Madinah. Waliullah was a Sufi but his stay at Makkah and Medinah coincided with ibn Wahhab's time. He was greatly influenced by him. Upon his return to India, he decided to rid Islam in the Indian subcontinent of Hindu practices and influences. In this he was like ibn Taymiya who also started as a Sufi but ended up as a Hanbali votary. Waliullah's recipe for recovering from the decline of Islam was by making its practice more rigorous. However, he was for constant ijtihad (creative reinterpretation of Islamic jurisprudence) but wanted to get rid of the Hindu practices that might have corrupted Islam. He wanted an intensification of Aurangzeb’s efforts. His thoughts led to the formation of the Berelvi sect later on. Shah Waliullah’s contribution was the linkage he formed between Deobandi Islam and the Hanbali Islam of Saudi Arabia during his sojourn in the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia. Waliullah believed in the absolute truth of the Koran and the Sunnah (Hadith) and the times of the salafs (ancestors). He thus laid the foundation for Ahl-e-Hadith sect. The madrassah at Deoband, Saharanpur Distt. of Uttar Pradesh (UP), largely teaches Islam based on the interpretation of Waliullah. Ahmed Berelvi, whom we shall see next, was a disciple of Waliullah’s son, Shah Abdul Aziz.

The third and the last in this triumvirate list is Sayyid Ahmed 'Berelvi'. He founded the Berelvi sect of Sunnis. He introduced militancy into Islam hitherto practised in India, for fighting the Hindus, Sikhs and the British. He created Tariq-e-Muhammadiyah (Way of Muhammad) that combined sufism and orthodox Islam. At this time, Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Maharajah of the Punjab, was beginning to conquer Afghan territories west of the Indus. In c. 1820, Kashmir became his vassal state. Sayyid declared jihad against the Sikh rulers and wanted to establish an Islamic state in the Indo-Afghan border (the present day Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or what was until recently known as North Western Frontier Province, NWFP)where he emigrated to with his followers, a la hijra of Prophet Muhammad, in circa 1826. Such a migration was to take place from Dar-ul-Harb (Land of War) of India to Dar-ul-Islam (Land of Islam) of Afghanistan in the early part of the 20th century too after the Ottoman Empire and thus the Caliphate was dismantled in Turkey. Thus, Berelvi set the precedence. The second migration was also to end in failure, just like Berelvi's, because the Afghan King, Amanuallah Khan, son of Habibullah Khan and grand-son of the founder of modern Afghanistan Abd-ur-Rehman, unwilling to antagonise the British, turned the emigrés back. The Afghan borders have never been the same after this emigration by Ahmed Berelvi. The Yusufzai tribes rebelled against him for his attempts to enforce rules contradictory to the Pashtunwali code (the tribal code of conduct practised for centuries). Maharajah Ranjit Singh exploited the situation and his army ambushed the forces of Berelvi near Balakot and killed his followers along with the grandson of Shah Waliullah, Sayyed Ismail. Berelvi was defeated and then executed by the Sikhs in circa 1831. There is evidence that the British, in order to protect their geopolitical interests, actually helped Sayyid Ahmed to fight the Sikhs, especially because the Sikh rulers had turned to the French. Though a large number of Pakistanis are Berelvis, Deobandis have made significant inroads in Pakistani society too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Turbulence in West Asia and its Impact on Pakistan - Part I

I would interrupt the series on the connivance of the Pakistani judiciary in strangulating the conduct of the 26/11 trial in Rawalpindi to discuss another serious issue, the escalating tension in West Asia.

The ongoing turbulence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Bahrain, Yemen and Kuwait cannot but leave its imprint on the rest of the Islamic countries, especially the Land of the Purest otherwise known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Before delving into the reasons why there should be an impact on Pakistan, let us look into what is happening in these four West Asian countries and why, especially Saudi Arabia which is the most important country not only for the Muslims but also for the entire world because of its strategic fossil fuel resources. A little background on KSA would not therefore be out of place.

The collapse and the subsequent dismantling of the Ottoman Caliphate in the 1920s convulsed the entire Islamic world, a convulsion from which they have not sufficiently recovered to this day. It caused different probelms in different countries. It led to the violent partition of India a quarter century later and thus created permanent division among the people of Bharat that has left an enduring hostility in its wake. It led to the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in West Asia and prominence of Wahhabism, whose reverberations are felt all over the world today emanating from the terrorist hub of Pakistan in the form of terrorist tanzeems of the Salafi, Wahhabi and Deobandi ideologies. The death of the Ottoman Empire also created an ambition among several nations and their leaders to claim the now vacant title of Caliphate and Caliph, including among many Muslims of India who were taken in by the 'idea of Pakistan', an idea fabricated by the British for their geostrategic reasons and implemented with the help of the Muslim elites of the Ganga-Jamuna belt who, in turn, wanted to protect their power and their personal interests.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the largest in every which way in West Asia and dwarfs the neighbours in geographical, military, economic, political and demographical size and importance. Besides, it hosts the two holiest shrines for Muslims all over the world, Makkah-al-Mukarramah and Medinah-al-Munawarrah, so much so that the King of KSA prefers to call himself as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Some say that it was more to pre-empt the Hashemite King of Jordan from claiming this title, a title to which the Jordanian King is more legitimate than any King of KSA, he having been the ruler of the Hejaz area of modern-day KSA. In circa 1924, Abdul Aziz al Saud accused King Sharif Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan of having allowed the infidel British Christian army to have set its foot on the holy land of Hejaz, an accusation history would be a witness to repetition by a certain Osama bin Laden against Abdul Aziz's son, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, almost seven decades later. In between these two, there was another incident in c. 1979, when the Saudi King, this time King Khaled, a half-brother of King Fahd, had to seek the services of the elite French counter-terrorism forces to evict Saudi dissidents who did the most unthinkable act of seizing the Kaabah in Makkah and holding it for a fortnight. This time, King Khaled, decreed the Christians as Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book) and hence worthy of being sought out for help !

The Kings of Saudi Arabia have always ruled that country with an iron hand in collusion with the clerics. Dissent is not tolerated and nipped in the very bud while non-Sunni-Hanafi Muslims in general and non-Muslims in particular are treated worse than cattle on their way to a butcher's shop. KSA also gives asylum to scoundrels like Idi Amin of Uganda (since dead) and Ben Ali of Tunisia. Pakistan's own Nawaz Sharif and his family were extradited to Jeddah, the port city on the west coast which is the gateway to Makkah and a one-time capital of KSA, for almost eight years as part of a treaty brokered by the Saudi King with Gen. Musharraf. The Saudi royalty buys out opposition because of its deep pockets, as King Abdullah has decided to do now also with a generous announcement of USD 37 Billion package for social upliftment, and simultaneously banning all public demonstrations. How much of this generosity will actually reach the Shi'a of the Eastern province is a moot point.

A small digression here is worthwhile, I thought. The ongoing protests in KSA brought forth memories of a similar protest in the capital city of Riyadh during the time of the Gulf War in 1990. It was early November and the lovely winter was approaching. War preparations were in full swing all over the Kingdom and foreign jornalists had descended en masse there to cover the approaching war. CNN was just then becoming popular though there were very few satellite receivers in the Kingdom itself, a place where viewing TV was considered immoral and a game of Chess is officially banned even to this day (because the King is eventually checkmated !). For the American journalists, a visit to Saudi Arabia must have come off as a great shock because of the number of things that were prohibited in that country ! For example, a woman has to be completely covered in a black loose-fitting garb called abhayya except for the face (no such concession for a Saudi woman who can only reveal her eyes), a woman cannot drive, a woman cannot be seen in the company of a man unrelated to her as a mahram, a woman can work only in certain professions (like a teacher in a girls' school or as a nurse for women patients etc), a woman cannot travel without explicit permission from her husband or father etc. A group of Saudi women used the opportunity to highlight their plight through some helpful foreign journalists and drove their cars, in protest, from near the Old Airport (which was an American Airbase where several AWACS could be seen on the tarmac all the time, from the Al Mathar Road in Sulaymaniyah Distt.) to the Government offices. The much dreaded Muttawwa (Religious Police for the Propagation of Virtues and Prevention of Vices) did not know how to handle the situation. For one, they were not used to their women folk dissenting in public and for the other the foreign journalists were watching the unfolding events. Ultimately, they forced the husbands of these women to stop them and took both husbands and wives to the police station for interrogation. The husbands were threatened with dire consequences if they did not stop their wives from undertaking such perilous activities against the King. Some of the husbands lost their jobs and had to spend a long time under the scanner of the Istikhabarat, the dreaded secret services. Anyway, that protest ended soon thereafter though it created a ripple that took a long time to die down.

Then there was a cartoon from a famous cartoonist who depicted how shabbily the Shi'a-dominated Eastern Provinces (Al-Khobar, Dhahran, Al-Qatif, Jubail etc.) were treated while Riyadh was being lavished with the money minted from the oil fields of the Eastern province. The Persian Gulf coast of these West Asian countries is dominated by the Shi'as, from Kuwait through Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. Anyway, the presence of American troops on the sands of the Holy land incensed a lot of people in the Arab and West Asian countries. Many felt that the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussain was their own internal matter that did not need American intervention, even as the Kuwaiti royalty was ensconsced in the salubrious mountains of Al Taif situated in the Sarawat mountain range near Makkah. The then Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Aslam Beg, also voiced a similar opinion. Osama bin Laden, of the famous and rich bin Laden family (of Yemeni origin) and which is quite close the Royalty, openly expressed his displeasure for letting the infidel Army enter the Holy Land. He had to be ultimately thrown out of the Kingdom, stripped of his citizenhip. His family inserted advertisements in local newspapers condemning and disowning him. Osama bin Laden took refuge in the impoverished Sudan, where an Islamist regime of Hassan al-Turabi welcomed him. He would later take down the Al Khobar Towers, a building where US servicemen stayed, killing several American soldiers.

(... To Be Continued ...)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 26/11 Case - How Pakistan and its Judiciary Help the Terrorists - Part V

Meanwhile, interesting things had happened in the United States. A certain Daoud Gilani (also known as David Coleman Headley), an agent of US DEA, FBI, CIA and who also worked with the Pakistani ISI, LeT and Brigade 313 was arrested on Oct. 10 at O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, en route to Pakistan. His fellow terror mate Tahawar Hussain Rana (48) was arrested on Oct. 18, 2009, at his home in Chicago. Headley revealed the connections between LeT and the Pakistani Army. He had done the reconnaissance at the Taj and the Trident, took extensive video footage (corroborated by Kasab) and had arranged for the ammunition to be made available there for the terrorists who were to came later. We will not go into those details yet again here.

As charges were framed on November 25, 2009, exactly a day before the anniversary of the carnage in circa 2008, the reason for Pakistan's action was far too apparent. The Indian Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh, was visiting the United States and Pakistan wanted to appear doing all the right things by the book and earnestly too. Even as the Kasab trial in the Mumbai court was winding down, there were more delays in the 26/11 trial at ATC-I. This time, the hearing on December 5, 2009 was adjourned as defence lawyers struck work showing sympathy with those who were killed in the previous day's terrorist attack in Rawalpindi. The irony cannot be lost by anyone. Here was a set of lawyers who were defending some of the most dreaded terrorists in the world showing sympathy for victims of terrorist attacks ! In the farcical drama unfolding in ATC-I, every little delay counts ! So, the case was adjourned to December 12, when prosecution was asked to present its witness.

In the meanwhile, Ajmal Amir Kasab, retracted his confession that he had made a couple of months earlier. He now said that he came to Mumbai to act in films and that he was roaming in Juhu after having seen a late night movie in a theatre when he was arrested and falsely implicated by the local Mumbai police. He went on to claim that all the 26/11 terrorists were Indians after all !! His sudden about turn was laughable because there was overwhelming evidence against him and his own confession was corroborated by evidences, both eyewitness and scientific. Even the Pakistani investigating agency, FIA, said in a report to ATC that they had enough evidence to corroborate Kasab's confession in Mumbai. For the record, Kasab had made three confessions after his arrest. One was admission of guilt before police soon after his arrest, the other confession was made before a magistrate which is admissible as evidence and the third one was in the trial court when the accused accepted his guilt partially.

When ATC-I re-convened on December 12 at Adiala, the accused raised legal objections to their indictment. They raised the objection that since the judge had been replaced last month, the new judge could not indict the accused based on the charges accepted by the previous judge ! The case was thus adjourned to December 19. When the hearing started on December 19, the defence raised a slew of objections. The defence
  • challenged the Pakistani court's decision to separate their trial from that of Kasab.
  • demanded in earlier hearings that Kasab should be brought to Pakistan so that he could be cross-examined and tried under Pakistani laws.
  • objected to the indictment of the accused by Judge Awan on the basis of charges that were framed and argued while the case was being heard by the previous judge, Baqir Ali Rana.
  • demanded acquital because Ajmal Kasab had already retracted his confession in the Mumbai court.
  • said that the accused had been charged with criminal conspiracy, but without mentioning the motive or the place where they had hatched the conspiracy.
So, instead of the formal trial starting, the case was still in the pre-trial stage. Now that Man Mohan Singh's US visit was over, Pakistan was again back to playing games until another situation demanded the facde of serious action. On December 19, the court reserved the judgement on the these appeals and adjourned the hearing until December 24. Again, when the court met on December 24th, not unusually in this trial, the case was adjourned to January 6, 2010 because the judge was absent due to 'personal engagement'. On the appointed day, the judge rejected the applications filed by the accused and asked the prosecution to present its witnesses on January 16. Then, three days before the D-Day for the real beginning of the trial, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi filed an application in LHC praying for the case to be transferred to Lahore because he feared for his life and the lives of his defence lawyers in Rawalpindi from the Indian intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW)! The jihadi-pasand then Chief Justice of LHC, Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, immediately issued notices to the federal Interior Secretary, Attorney General and Advocate General of Punjab province to respond to Lakhvi's plea at the next hearing, which was scheduled for January 21, 2010. Lakhvi also accused India preposturously of 'pressurizing the ATC-I judge' and 'resorting to blackmail linking peace talks with a favourable outcome to the 26/11 trial.' Another set of irrelevant reasons to cause further delay. The ATC Judge now has an excuse to postpone hearings until the case in LHC is disposed off one way or another. The frivolous case was dismissed by the LHC on January 22. When the trial re-commenced at ATC-I on January 23, the case was immediately adjourned to January 30 as the defence lawyers boycotted proceeding on account of 'lack of security for them'. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation's (SAARC) Home Ministers' conference was coming up in February 2010 and therefore one would expect some interesting moves by Pakistan on the 26/11 case. Let us see what really happened in the next installment. (. . . To Be Continued . . .)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The 26/11 Case - How Pakistan and its Judiciary Help the Terrorists - Part IV

This series was interrupted by the unfortunate incident at Islamabad of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. I will now resume our understanding of how the Pakistani Government and the Judiciary help the terrorists. I wrote in the the last part of how eventually Justice Baqir Ali Rana framed the charges on October 10 and how he immediately asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) to relieve him from the case due to 'unavoidable personal reasons' and how the accused also demanded the same, leading to its prompt compliance by the LHC. Thus, a new judge, Justice Malik Muhammad Akram Awan replaced Justice Baqir Ali Rana with no change in the lackadaisical approach to the trial. Thus, the 26/11 trial case moved to ATC-I in Adiala Prison. Two reasons were cited by various Pakistani reports for Baqir Ali Rana's request; threats from Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) and 'pressure' from the Government of Pakistan. The Indian Home Minister, P.Chidambaram, interpreted this change of Judge as a further proof of the unwillingness of the Pakistani Government to pursue the 26/11 case in earnest.

The new judge warned the accused that he would 'begin recording the testimony of witnesses at the next hearing regardless of their decision not to accept the chargesheet'. It is worth recalling that 15 months after this brave statement and 24 months after the case was registered on February 15, 2009, just the testimony of one witness has so far been recorded. This prompted the defence lawyers to file a case in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court challenging the proces of framing the chargesheet itself in their absence (as we saw in Part III). Thus, this whole thing, of the earlier judge 'framing charges' after asking the lawyers to rush home because of the attack while the judge himself calmly continued with 'framing charges' and then the judge requesting to be relieved of the case, a new judge replacing him, defence lawyers appealing to the High Court on the inadmissibility of charge-sheet etc. etc. are all great games being played to delay the case and leave technical loopholes in the proceedings of the court so that the verdict can be easily struck down later on citing these. In its order, the Rawalpindi-bench of the Lahore High Court directed the ATC-I to 'take into account the views of the accused and to redress their grievances before proceeding with their indictment.' The case was therefore back to Square One as the charges framed by the previous judge were thus rejected and the process had to be gone through afresh ! Based on this advice, the lawyers for the seven accused moved the ATC-I court On November 7, 2009 for copies of the chargesheet and attested copies of Kasab's confession. The judge adjourned further hearing by a week and the next week, the judge was absent and the case was delayed by another week until November 16. Another excuse was found on November 16th to postpone the trial, this time it was the upcoming Punjab Bar elections. So, the trial was postponed to November 23rd. It was most optimistically expected by some that the charges would be framed on that day. The defence lawyers also indicated, for the first time, their intention to bring Kasab to Pakistan to stand trial and examination. This, it was apparent, would not simply delay but derail the whole judicial process and that is what has happened.

Meanwhile, in India, the trial of Kasab, Ansari and Sahabuddin, which started in April came to an end in November. The trial included examining over 250 witnesses, 30 identification parades by eyewitnesses, DNA tests to prove that DNA samples in the articles recovered from the hijacked motor vessel M.V. Kuber matched Kasab's and the other nine slain terrorists, other forensic and ballistic tests, examination of CCTV footages from several places (CST, Times of India, Hotel Taj, Hotel Oberoi-Trident etc.) What was Pakistan doing at the same time ? First it denied for a long time that Pakistanis were at all involved, then when their own Pakistani journalists uncovered the truth about Kasab they were jailed (Rab Nawaz Joya and Javed Kanwal Chandor), and then it has been conducting since then a mockery of court trials as we are chronicling.

Around this time, the Italian Police cracked the money-transfer trail for the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology used by the LeT handlers sitting in Pakistan to communicate with and direct the operations of the terrorists in Mumbai minute-by-minute. Once again, Pakistan arrested a low-level operative (Barcelona-resident Javed Iqbal) though Indian investigators believe that money was transferred at the behest of Zarar Shah. Though a Sheikhupura-resident by name Abdul Wajid has been jailed claiming that he was indeed Zarar Shah, we have to doubt the veracity of this because Pakistan has been stonewalling giving voice-samples that would establish if he was indeed the one who spoke on intercepted phone calls (284 calls running into 995 minutes). Pakistan has also denied access to the American FBI agents to interrogate the so-called Zarar Shah. They have even refused to give a photograph of the alleged Zarar Shah in their custody to Indian investigators. Such stonewalling by Pakistani authorities only raise suspicion because Pakistan has forever been surviving on the staple diet of fraudulent behaviour.

On November 23, when charges were expected to be framed, the Judge reserved his judgement and adjourned the case to November 25. By this time, it was clear that the case was being heard every week but absolutely no progress was being made. The Pakistanis wanted to present the appearance of running while standing at the same place. Finally, it was on November 25, 2009, just a day prior to the first anniversary of the 26/11 carnage, that the seven terrorists were indicted and declared 16 others (except Ajmal Kasab because his whereabouts were known) as 'proclaimed offenders'. The accused pleaded 'not guilty' as their lawyers explained later that the charges were not backed up by evidence !! But, just what were the charges ? The lawyers refused to divulge the details citing the gag-order of the court. It can only be surmised that the following are the charges: Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, LeT operations commander and the “mastermind” of the attacks; Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, a “facilitator and expert of computer networks”; Hamad Amin Sadiq, who is charged with “facilitating funds and hideouts” for the Mumbai attackers; Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama, described as a “handler”; Shahid Jamil Riaz, who is described both as a facilitator for funds, as well as a crew member of a boat used by the attackers; Jamil Ahmed, described as a “facilitator”; and, Younus, also a “facilitator”. They were also charged with setting up militant training camps in Yousaf Goth, Karachi and Mirpur Sakroo in Sindh to train the Mumbai attackers under the operational command of Mr Lakhvi. The BBC reported on December 4 that the charges also included 'disrupting civil life in both India and Pakistan' and 'trade between the two countries'.

The charges were framed against the seven under the Anti-Terrorism Act, several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), including Section 302 for murder and under the Explosives Act. From the dossier that Pakistan had given to India, one understands that Bahawalpur-based Shahidi Jamil Riaz and Rahim Yar Khan resident Hammad Amin Sadiq have been charged, according to an official Pakistani dossier, with “planning, preparing, financing, arranging boats, logistics, training, facilitating and launching LeT terrorist attacks from Karachi.” However, Pakistani investigations (conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency, FIA) have not dared to go beyond these people and unravel the entire terror plot.

The defence lawyers immediately decided to challenge the indictment in the Lahore High Court. They also challenged the admissibilility of separating the trial of Kasab from that of the others. However, the Rawalpindi bench of LHC rejected both counts and said that any such question could be raised in ATC-I itself during the trial.

(To Be Continued . . .)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another Assassination in the Land of the Purest

Assassination is so common in Pakistan that anybody of any importance in the Land of the Purest must be wondering every day when it would be his or her turn. It was only on January 4 this year that Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri pumped in 27 bullets into Governor Salman Taseer (who also happens to be the nephew of one of Pakistan's greatest poets, Faiz Ahmed Faiz) to avenge the blasphemer and within two months we have another blasphemer, Shahbaz Bhatti, being 'taken care of' by the true and blue-blooded Believers.

So, what was Bhatti's crime ? He was appointed by the President Asif Ali Zardari to investigate the blasphemy charges under which a Christian mother of four kids, Ms. Aasia Bibi, is held in a Pakistani prison. His investigations found the charges to be false and he demanded her release. He also criticized the misuse of the Blasphemy Law (more about this in a while) in Pakistan. These are sufficiently incendiary demands for the frothing-at-the-mouth-corner jihadi Islamists who mill around every every conceivable space of Pakistan. Under the simple but effective expedient that anybody who speaks for a blasphemer is also a blasphemer, Mr. Bhatti became a marked man.

Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his own security guard but Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by the lack of a security detail. Bhatti's requests for enhanced security, like shifting of his residence to a more secure place or access to a bullet-proof car were 'not entertained' eventhough everybody and his uncle as well as aunt knew that he was a prime candidate in the hit list of the Islamist jihadi terrorists. In any other country, such a person would have been protected much better, but not in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This assassination reeks of a similar one that took place in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. The similarity was not in the execution but in the way the 'Deep State' enabled such an event to take place. The State knew that Ms. Benazir Bhutto was the highest in the hit list of the terrorists. How can one be sure that the State knew ? Well, it was the State that sponsored the assassination in the first place after all. In order to facilitate the murderers, the State thinned out the security cover for Ms. Bhutto that evening.

In Bhatti's case, there are two versions. One speaks of Bhatti demanding a much enhanced security for himself following repeated death threats and the other quotes the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad claiming that Bhatti actually discarded his security cover. Obviously, both cannot be true at the same time. As in the case of Ms. Bhutto's assassination, when the 'Deep State' announced that she died because of her head hitting the heavy lever of the sun-roof of her SUV, one can expect to hear in the coming days various excuses being proferred by the Islamic Republic. In the case of Governor Taseer, the Deep State deliberately allowed a known extremist with links to a well-known outfit, and who was found unfit for police work, being given the job of a bodyguard to protect a man who was again high on the hit-list. Apparently, Qadri had informed the fellow bodyguards in the squad of his plan and asked them not to shoot him down, a request to which the others agreed. So, he emptied the full magazine into Governor Taseer without let or hindrance. It shows the extent of the spread of extremism within the police. The military is no better. The general society can be assumed to be equally afflicted with this extremist and jihadi mindset because the police and the armed forces are nothing but a microcosm of the much larger society. In fact, if the more disciplined armed forces are that bad, the society must be even worse. It is said that “First the gods make crazy those whom they wish to destroy”. The Deep State first makes such persons 'sitting ducks'. The end result is the same in both cases.

When Governor Taseer was murdered, there were some anguished Pakistanis. This time around, that number will be far less because Bhatti was after all a kafir. More importantly, those minuscule number of Pakistanis who may feel genuinely anguished, would be more immune now to a shock like this and might also feel intimidated. They should be because the State looks on helplessly as these things unravel. But, what else can one expect in a country after such medieval laws as the Hudood or Blasphemy etc were passed ? As usual, it was Gen. Zia-ul-Haq who takes the blame for this black law though it must be understood that it was after all the 'Socialist' Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who irrevocably set the Islamization process in Pakistan.

Gen. Zia decided to introduce Nizam-e-mustafa, which required all laws to be based on Islamic injunctions. This resulted in the introduction of such abominable laws as Hudood (the only other Islamic country to have that law is Saudi Arabia), just to please the Saudi monarchy which was bankrolling Pakistan including its nuclear weapon project. He also introduced sections 295-B & C in Pakistan Penal Code that comprise what is more popularly known as the Blasphemy Law (Tahafooz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat). Section 295-B states “Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom, or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” This has come very convenient and handy for implicating non-Muslims in blasphemy cases. {Under the Hudood Laws of Pakistan, a raped woman has to produce four male witnesses of pious standing who can testify to the actual act of penetration. If not, the woman will be arrested under adultery.}

In circa 1991, the Federal Shariah Court struck down a provision of the Blasphemy Law that allowed life imprisonment instead of death for acts of blasphemy and opined that only death was permissible under the Islamic shariah. When Ms Benazir Bhutto criticized this ruling, a fatwa was issued in 1992 by the then Religious Affairs minister of Pakistan, Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi, who was also an Islamic cleric as his title suggests, calling her a kafir for acting in an unIslamic way. Many Pakistanis have taken this law into their own hands to settle personal issues, especially with the minorities. Such people are never arrested or punished. Usually, the blasphemy cases result in the award of death sentence for the accused in lower courts and there will be relief only in the highest court. The lower courts generally award death because of the fear that the judges of the lower courts have of the frenzied mobs which intimidate them. Usually in the lower courts, on the day of the judgement, the courts are pasted with banners and posters demanding death and warning against leniency invoking the Quran in support and there would normally be a super charged environment. In c. 2008, a Hindu factory worker in Karachi was killed by his Muslim colleagues for alleged blasphemy even as the police remained as mute spectators. Any non-Muslim should be really insane to blaspheme in a country where 97% are Muslims and where death is the only punishment for that crime. Later enquiries revealed that the Hindu worker did not blaspheme but was simply qurelous in nature. Blasphemy came handy to get rid of him once and for all. How easy ! In c. 1997, a judge of the Lahore High Court, Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti (what a coincidence of the name) , was assassinated in his chambers for releasing two prisoners, young Christian boys, accused of blasphemy. Later, in April 2009, the Federal Shariat Court confirmed again that only death sentence was possible in cases involving blasphemy, dismissing an appeal against death sentence for blasphemy.

The Human Rights Council of Pakistan (HRCP) estimates that the number of blasphemers booked in Pakistan under the infamous Blasphemy Law far exceeds those punished for the same crime in the entire 1400 year old history of Islam. In addition, the Blasphemy Law has become convenient for settling private scores with the members of non-Muslim community as well as rob them of their valuables and property. Once somebody accuses another of blasphemy, life becomes miserable for the accused. He or she is sure to be hounded out and killed even if eventually freed by the Supreme Court. For the other members of the family, life turns upside down immediately.

So, when a leading member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples' Party, Ms. Sherry Rehman proposed meaningful changes that would prevent such incidents, one naturally felt sorry for her bravado. Even the Great Dictator Gen. Musharraf at the peak of his power could not change these Laws. He had to beat a hasty retreat from such an attempt that would have even then only made cosmetic changes. Ms. Rehman's proposal was therefore not expected to even scratch the surface leave alone making a dent. So, when she introduved a Private Member’s Bill calling for amending the death sentence provision in the Blasphemy Law, the infuriated right-wing politico-religious parties and extremist organizations called for a nationwide strike, and the nervous Religious Minister, Syed Khursheed Shah, firmly announced that no change would be made to the Blasphemy Law and affirmed government’s commitment to the Law on the floor of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister, Mr. Gilani, confirmed the Minister's assertion a few days later to cool down the tempers. Ms. Rehman's bill was later withdrawn, on her own volition or not we do not know.

Thus the issue of Blasphemy remains a crowning glory on the much blotted face of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Certainly, a nuclear Pakistan is heading for severe radicalization and is a grave threat to countries in the region and beyond, especially India.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 26/11 Case - How Pakistan and its Judiciary Help the Terrorists - Part III

Pakistan's diplomatic ploy against India is quite well known and has been evolving with changing circumstances. However, there is a fundamental and constant foundation on which it operates: perfidy. Pakistan has been denying for long that it has any terrorists at all targetting India though everyone knows that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has been the story since 1947. It claimed furtively that the terrorist attacks in India were purely indigenous. Indeed, terror was the tactic that the Muslim League used in pre-partition India during the last phase. No wonder that an independent Pakistan, implacably obsessed with India, chose to carry on with terror as a weapon. Once, terror could no longer be plausibly denied, as proof was coming thick and fast, Pakistan blamed inflamed passion generated by the long-running Kashmir question as the root cause, little recognizing that it had a legal, moral and binding responsibility to prevent such terrorist activities, inflammation notwithstanding !

Then it blamed India itself for amassing 700,000 troops along the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) border and yet being unable to stop infiltration of the terrorists. Yet, there has never been a single instance of Pakistan having caught even one such terrorist infilitrator trying to cross into India. It is as though Pakistan wants to present the face of a disinterested spectator in this whole drama. On the other hand, it is well known that it provides covering fire and diversionary attacks to make it easy for these jihadi infiltrators to sneak into India. Mr. Zardari's flight of fancy has resulted in a new term 'non-state actors' as though it is again not Pakistan's responsibility and international committment to arrest these terrorists, dismantle their outfits and prosecute them, let alone prosecute speedily. When things reach a difficult stage where it becomes indefensible for Pakistan anymore, it invokes the sob-story of itself being a great victim of terrorism. What a travesty and what a pathetic performance !! Its citizens, elite and ordinary alike, partake this shameful and disgusting performance of mendacity. If international pressure mounts further, it promises actions, only to speak with a forked tongue and make just the very minimal efforts to give the appearance of some action being taken with tantalizingly more to follow only to be belied later.

In the case of 26/11 probe and prosecution, it has done all these and in addition blamed India also for not providing it with concrete evidence, forgetting that evidence is what it should establish for the events that took place within its borders and against the terrorists who operate from there !!! It was in this context that the Indian Home Minister, P.Chidambaram stated "If it is half-baked, they (Pakistan) are welcome to bake it fully". So, when the then Indian National Security Adviser, M.K.Narayanan, said towards end of August, 2009, that he did not expect Pakistan to proceed much further as "They’ve done just enough to take the heat off them from the West.", it was not only an accurate assessmnet but also indicated India's conclusion that it would be futile to expect any further movement by Pakistan. The accuracy of the above Indian assessment is proved by the fact that even two years later, by March 2011, only one witness had taken the stand and already three judges have heard the case.

Therefore, when Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi promised that serious action would take place in the courtrooms from October 3, 2009, nobody in India believed it. Pakistan has not belied such Indian (non-)expectations. On October 3, 2009, the Trial Judge was taken ill and so the hearing was postponed for the sixth time in the previous two months ! Rehman Malik had said that the nine accused would be formally indicted on September 26 and then Qureshi had promised that a full fledged trial would positively start on October 3 and yet none of these milestones was met. Finally, the accused were chargesheeted only on October 10th. But, framing the chargesheet itself was wrought with high drama. There was an on-going siege of the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistani Army at Rawalpindi on that very same day and the ATC judge therefore asked the defence lawyers to leave the court to save their lives and not be caught in traffic jam and stranded while he bravely went ahead with framing the accused ! {I have really not made this up} After thus asking the defence lawyers to run for their lives even when they protested that they would stay behind, the Judge asked the prosecution lawyers and the accused to appear before him and he framed the charges. The accused refused to accept the charges citing the absence of their lawyers and the chargesheet being in English. The Judge should have very well known that the defence, which even otherwise was raising objection after objection to delay and kill the case, would surely object to this flouting of law at the next hearing and yet he went ahead with this ! What a convenient ruse to delay the case further ! Pakistan makes every attempt to stifle this case and it gives us great merriment to chronicle their efforts and expose them. If the Judge cannot be accused of being hand in glove with the terrorists and their lawyers in giving them loopholes to challenge the very process of framing charges and thus delay the proceedings, can anyone disagree with that ?

Two days later the spirit of the jihadi camp was mightily lifted when the jihadi-pasand Lahore High Court dismissed the twin charges (of inciting jihad and collecting funds for jihad) against Professor Hafeez Saeed saheb. It said, inter alia, "Anti-terror law does not apply to Saeed," because JuD was not a banned organization in Pakistan ! It is thus very clear that either Pakistani government failed to prove that LeT and JuD were one and the same and were involving themselves in terrorism and jihad or the Lahore High Court did not accept such proof in order to help the terrorists. It is also possible that both were true. Of course, the United Nations' Security Council (UNSC) had already declared, in December 2008 itself, JuD as a terrorist organization which was binding on all member countries but apparently not in Pakistan !! Later, Interior Minister Abdul Rehman would offer weak excuses that since JuD was already declared as a terrorist organization by the UNSC itself, Pakistan did not deem it necessary to issue such a declaration within Pakistan. For its part, the Punjab government confirmed that JuD was only on a 'watch list' as it was a charity organization. What was most striking was the speed with which the Lahore High Court disposed of this case, less than a month, in contrast with the 26/11 trial at ATC-II at Adiala prison.

Back in the ATC-II, there was more drama to come when the court re-convened on October 17 for the hearing. As was expected, the defence lawyers protested serving of chargesheets to their clients in their absence the previous week. The lawyers boycotted the proceedings and the Judge, Baqir Ali Rana, promptly postponed the hearings to October 24th. Meanwhile, India decided to send to ATC-II, court-certified copies of witness depositions as well as the deposition of the Judge to whom Kasab confessed. Two days later, and before the next adjourned hearing, Justice Baqir Ali Rana of ATC-II, Adiala refused to take any further part in the hearings and asked the Lahore High Court to recuse him from the case due to "unavoidable personal reasons". News reports said that the judge felt that his position had been made "vulnerable" because of the move to conduct the proceedings behind closed doors. Thus the 'gag order' he himself issued came back to haunt him ? Or, was he forced to issue the 'gag-order' in the first place ?

In the meanwhile, in the jihadi-pasand Lahore High Court (LHC), another case came up for hearing and that pertained to the one filed by Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi asking the LHC to transfer the case out of Justice Baqir Ali Rana's court as he was acting under directions from the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik. Thus, both the Judge and the accused wanted the case to be out ! So, the LHC appointed a new judge on Octoer 24 to conduct this all important case !

(To Be Continued . . . )