2008: BLEEDING PAKISTAN
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO.345
"It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out Jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him.We in al-Qaida Organization call on Allah to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi and those with him against Musharraf and those who help him, and for all the pure and innocent blood, foremost of which is the blood of the champions of Islam in Waziristan - both North and South - among them the two noble leaders, Nek Muhammad and Abdullah Mahsud." (My comment: Maulana Ghazi died in the Pakistan Army commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad between July 10 and 13, 2007) ---- From my article on "Bin Laden's Fatwa Against Musharraf & Pakistani Army" of September 22,2007, at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers24/paper2388.html
Pakistan has gone through a traumatic 2007. The trauma started with the Pakistan Army commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13,2007, during which about 300 young tribal girls from the Pashtun tribal belt, who were studying in a girls' madrasa run by the masjid, were allegedly killed. These girls came from poor tribal families. Many of them were the daughters or sisters of Pashtuns from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) serving in the Army and other security forces.
2.The anger caused by the commando action,the resuting death of a large number of young tribal girls and the damage to the masjid triggered off a wave of suicide terrorism, the like of which Pakistan had not seen before.The number of acts of suicide terrorism increased nine-fold from six in 2006 to 55 in 2007. The most dramatic victim of this wave was Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, who was killed by unidentified terrorists at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007.
3. Unless one constantly keeps in mind the traumatic impact of the commando action on the minds of the Pashtuns, one is likely to err in one's assessment of the worsening state of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan and blame everything that is happening in Pakistan on Al Qaeda. There has been a frightening wave of tribal anger in the wake of the Lal Masjid operation. Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist organisations have been capitalising on this anger to promote their own pan-Islamic, anti-US and anti-Musharraf agenda, but they were not the cause of this anger.
4. President Pervez Musharraf caused this anger by his inept handling of the Lal Masjid episode. Initially, he did not act against the members of the Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who were gathering inside the Masjid in order to instigate the madrasa students against the Government and the liberal sections of the Pakistani society. When these extremists started targeting some Chinese women working in Islamabad, he over-reacted, sent the commandos of the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) in and used force, which was perceived by many as disproportionate.
5. The result---the current wave of suicide terrorism by angry tribals and others. The suicide bombers are of varying backgrounds--- Al Qaeda, pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda tribals, the LEJ, which is largely an anti-Shia organisation of Punjabis, ex-servicemen not belonging to any organisation whose daughters or sisters died in the commando raid, the male students of a madrasa attached to the Lal Masjid, who want to avenge the death of the women students etc. Attempts to attribute everything to Al Qaeda and see everything that has been happening in Pakistan as part of Al Qaeda's global jihad against the US are too simplistic and would not permit a lucid understanding of the situation.
6. The international community and the post-9/11 crop of Al Qaeda watchers, who are largely influenced by American perceptions, may have difficulty in understanding the roots of the anger sweeping across Pakistan's tribal belt, but we in India should be able to understand it better. We passed through a similar trauma in the months after the Army's raid into the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984, to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists, who had taken control of the Temple. During the Army operation, many civilians, including Bhindranwale, the religious mentor of the extremists, were killed and some parts of the temple premises were badly damaged by the exchange of fire between the Army and the terrorists. The only saving grace for us was that there were no religious schools inside the temple complex and hence no young students were killed.
7. The Army raid into the Gold Temple, called Operation Blue Star, had a disastrous sequel---- many Sikh soldiers of the Indian Army deserted just as Pakistani tribal soldiers are deserting after the Lal Masjid raid; four Sikh deserters crossed over into Pakistan and sought political asylum; some of the Sikh deserters shot dead a serving Brigadier; Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, was gunned down inside her house by her own Sikh security guards; Gen.A.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff during Operation Blue Star was shot dead by Khalistanis at Pune where he was living after retirement; Khalistanis unsuccessfuly tried to assassinate Mr.Jule Ribeiro, who had served as the Punjab police chief, at Bucharest where the Govt. had sent him as Ambassador in order to protect him from the wrath of the Khalistanis, Mr.Bhajan Lal, former Chief Minister of Haryana, escaped a plot to kill him in the US due to the timely detection of the conspiracy by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Kanishka aircraft of Air India flying from Toronto to India was blown up in mid-air off the Irish coast by Khalistanis, coinciding with the first anniversary of Blue Star; another Air India aircraft escaped a similar disaster due to the premature explosion of the device at the Tokyo airport; Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted at New Delhi was kidnapped, migrant Hindu agricultural workers working in Punjab were targeted and killed; there was an upsurge in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) not only in Punjab, but also in Delhi etc etc. The post-Blue Star trauma and anger started subsiding only after 1992. It lasted eight years.
8. Popular perceptions---right or wrong--- of acts of descecration against places of worship and religious significance have disastrous after-effects. We saw it after Operation Blue Star and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India. We have been seeing it in Malaysia in recent months. The Hindus of Malaysia were a very law-abiding people. They had never in the past taken their economic and social grievances out into the streets, but their anger over the demolition of some Hindu temples and alleged bulldozing of some Hindu idols by municipal authorities at some places provoked them to come out in the streets in large numbers in defiance of the police and the law. We have been seeing a growing wave of anger among the Hindus of India over the alleged plans of the authorities to demolish the Ramar Setu, a site of religious significance, for the construction of the Sethusamudram Project in India's southern coast.
9. The suicide terrorism wave, which we have been seeing in Pakistan, is partly---if not largely--- the result of the anger unleashed among the tribals by what happened in the Lal Masjid. This anger is among the Pashtun tribals on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Even Afghan Pashtuns in large numbers, who were previously fighting against the US and other NATO forces in Afghan territory, have now been moving into Pakistan since July for acts of reprisal against Musharraf and his perceived collaborators----military as well as civilian. Action to kill Musharraf, whom they view as apostate, and other apostates has assumed priority in their eyes over action against the NATO in Afghan territory. Moreover, in their view, if they eliminate these apostates, their jihad in Afghanistan against Western forces would be facilitated.
10. There are over a dozen jihadi terrorist organisations operating from the tribal belt---- Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of which Baitullah Mehsud is the Amir, the TNSM of which Maulana Fazlullah is the Amir, the Lashkar Islam, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the LEJ, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union etc. Periodically, they have been putting out their own demands. Most of their agenda is influenced by local factors. But there is one agenda item which is common to all of them--- the need to avenge the alleged massacre in the Lal Masjid by Pakistani Army commandoes.
11. Even before the Lal Masjid episode, Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other jihadi organisations were well entrenched in the tribal belt, but they were facing difficulty in getting volunteers for suicide terrorism, but after the Lal Masjid raid, they are getting volunteers in their hundreds from the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.In its issue of August 3-9, 2007, the "Friday Times" of Lahore wrote as follows: "Recruits are formally registered with the Taliban as suicide bombers and given a receipt indicating their registration number. At any given point, there are thousands in line waiting to sacrifice their lives, an observer returning from South Waziristan told the weekly. If one of them is selected to be the next bomber, the news is a cause for celebration in his household. Once confirmation arrives of his death, the funeral prayers are substituted with congratulatory messages for the family....Women, because of the Taliban's strict anti-wife-beating policy, are largely in favour of them..... This is part of the strategy of winning over the mothers, who, according to the Taliban, have the greatest influence on the child as he grows up. Women are thus actively involved in the process of indoctrinating children in favour of the Taliban." The deaths of a large number of tribal girls in the Lal Masjid have further motivated Pashtun women to act as recruiters of suicide terrorists for whichever organisation wants them.
12. Al Qaeda is growing stronger in Pakistan. It has spread its tentacles even to Rawalpindi and into the lower and middle ranks of the Armed Forces. But, any counter-terrorism strategy, which focusses exclusively on the physical threat from Al Qaeda, without paying attention to the psychological factors being exploited by it, would prove ineffective. While stepping up action against Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda organisations, it is equally important to address the post-Lal Masjid anger in the tribal belt through actions such as an enquiry into the alleged deaths, compensation for the families of those killed etc. By refusing to admit the role of the commando raid in the upsurge of jihadi terrorism, Musharraf is only making the situation worse. If he continues with his ill-advised policies, Pakistan will continue to bleed.(4-1-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. e-mail: email@example.com )