Wednesday, August 20, 2008


(An article written for the forthcoming issue of ‘India Abroad” of the US)


" O Allah, Pervez, his ministers, his 'Ulama and his soldiers have been hostile to your friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially in Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and Lal Masjid: O Allah, break their backs, split them up and destroy their unity; O Allah, afflict them with the loss of their dear ones as they have afflicted us with the loss of our dear ones; O Allah, we seek refuge in You from their evilness and we place You at their throats; O Allah, make their plotting their destruction; O Allah, suffice for us against them with whatever You wish; O Allah, destroy them, for they cannot escape You; O Allah, count them, kill them, and leave not even one of them."

Extract from Osama bin Laden’s fatwa of September 20,2007 against Musharraf & the Pakistani Army. My analysis of the fatwa is available at

Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf played a double-game in the war against terrorism. He pretended to condemn terrorism and religious extremism. In his televised address to his people on January 12,2002, he described terrorism as an absolute evil, whatever be the cause, but, in practice, he made a distinction between terrorism directed against India and Afghanistan and terrorism directed against the US.

2. He was more active against Al Qaeda, which threatened the US, than against the Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, which threatened India, and against the Taliban, which threatened Afghanistan. He helped the US through limited operations against Al Qaeda infrastructure in Pakistani territory, but refrained from even such limited operations against the jihadi infrastructure directed against India and Afghanistan.

3. He knew how to manipulate political opinion in the US in his favour. Periodic high-profile arrests of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistani territory, whose presence was detected by the US intelligence, thereby leaving him with no choice but to act, was one of his ways of impressing US political opinion. Among such arrests were those of Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Punjab,Ramzi Binalshibh in Karachi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi and Abu Faraj al-Libi in Mardan in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

4. Another way was periodically sending the Army and the para-military forces into the tribal areas for operations against Al Qaeda and its allies such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) etc, but these operations were half-hearted and subject to periodic ceasefires whenever the security forces were unable to counter the terrorists effectively.

5. The third way was reiterating often to Western interlocutors his determination to reform the madrasas and free them from the control of the jihadis, but not acting on his promises. He managed to project himself to Western policy-makers as a courageous and determined fighter against jihadi terrorism, not through action on the ground, but through impressive words on the TV. It took the US some time to realise that he was “bravely” countering terrorism not on the ground, but on the TV screen through words and phrases which were not followed up by action.

6. He did little to help the US in its hunt for bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No.2. According to the US, they were operating from the Pakistani tribal belt, but he avoided acting against them due to fear of violent repercussions in Pakistani territory. Criticism of his double-talk and half-hearted action should not obscure the fact that he did try to help the US in its war against terrorism through a number of other ways such as the following:

Post-9/11, for some months, he placed two bases of the Pakistani Air Force in Balochistan at the disposal of the US for mounting search and rescue operations in Afghan territory.

He placed the Karachi port at the disposal of the US navy for bringing logistic supplies for the NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan and allowed their transportation by road to Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

He allowed Pakistani naval ships to join the NATO’s naval task force patrolling the seas in the Gulf to prevent sea-borne operations of Al Qaeda.

He directed his intelligence agencies to pick up informally Pakistani nationals and Pakistani visitors from the US suspected by the US to be Al Qaeda sympathizers and secretly hand them over to the US agencies for interrogation at detention centres in places such as the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Diego Garcia, Bagram in Afghanistan and Morocco. The due process of law was not followed in these cases such as informing their relatives, producing them before courts etc. According to allegations in Pakistan, about 200 such Pakistanis were rounded up and illegally handed over to the US. The whereabouts of many of them are not known till today. It was the action of dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in initiating enquiries into these cases which initially annoyed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Musharraf against him. It led to the conflict between Musharraf and Chaudhury.

He secretly allowed a large increase in the US intelligence personnel based in Pakistani territory. It was said that during Musharraf’s tenure more US intelligence operatives were operating from Pakistani territory than during the US-sponsored proxy war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He even allowed them to run secret operations for recruiting Pakistani and Afghan nationals as human sources.

He secretly released a number of notorious heroin smugglers, who were in jail in Pakistan, so that the US intelligence could use them in its hunt for bin Laden and Zawahiri.

While openly opposing trans-border operations by the Afghanistan-based US troops and unmanned US Predator aircraft in the Pakistani tribal belt, he closed his eyes to air strikes by the Predator aircraft on suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda and its allies in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While some of these air strikes killed genuine terrorists, some others killed innocent civilians, including young children studying in madrasas due to wrong information.

He informally detained Sultan Bashiruddin Mohammad Chaudhury and Abdul Majid, two retired nuclear scientists, whom the US suspected of having contacts with Al Qaeda and allowed the US intelligence to interrogate them in Pakistani territory.

He gave the US a role in monitoring the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in order to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of Al Qaeda or other terrorists.

7. Since the US forces went into action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghan territory on October 11,2001, there was considerable anger against Musharraf among the people----particularly the Pashtun tribals--- for co-operating with the US. This anger was aggravated by the deaths of a number of tribal children during the Predator air strikes in the tribal areas and by the commando raid ordered by him into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad from July 10 to 13,2007. A large number of Pashtun girls from the FATA studying in a madrasa attached to the Masjid were allegedly killed during the raid. Anti-US and anti-Musharraf anger reinforced each other leading to a wave of suicide terrorism, mainly by the tribals, since July last year in the tribal and non-tribal areas and the spread of the virus of Talibanisation across the tribal belt.

8. Of all the leaders of Pakistan, only Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto were articulate in expressing their concern over the threat posed to Pakistan by the increasing extremism and terrorism and in showing an inclination to co-operate with the US in some form or the other. When Musharraf ordered the commando action in the Lal Masjid, Benazir refrained from criticizing him. Before her assassination on December 27,2007, she had even stated that, if elected, she might permit the US troops to enter Pakistani territory to arrest or kill bin Laden if the US had precise information about his location. It is her statements, which were viewed by the jihadis as anti-Islam, which led to her assassination at Rawalpindi.

9. There is a serious threat to the life of Musharraf, which would continue despite his resignation as the President. When in office, he escaped three attempts by Al Qaeda to kill him---one in Karachi and two in Rawalpindi. It will make redoubled efforts now to eliminate him. If it succeeds, it could make other leaders of Pakistan even more reluctant to co-operate with the US.

10. There is not yet much convergence of views between Zardari and Nawaz over the co-operation with the US in the war against terrorism. Nawaz wants major modifications, if not a complete break, with the policies followed by Musharraf. He does not regard the Taliban as a terrorist organisation. He looks upon it as a national resistance movement like the Afghan Mujahideen of the 1980s. He is, therefore, against any association of Pakistan with the NATO operations in Afghanistan. He wants the use of the Karachi port and Pakistani territory by the NATO forces for the transport of logistic supplies to Afghanistan to be re-considered. He favours continued co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda in the form of intelligence sharing and Pakistani operations in the Pakistani territory on the basis of intelligence given by the US. He is against any joint operations with the US or any unilateral operations by the US in Pakistani territory. He wants a review of the reported presence of a large number of US intelligence personnel in Pakistani territory for collecting intelligence. He is of the view that intelligence collection in Pakistani territory should be done by the Pakistani intelligence agencies. As regards action against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other Pakistani jihadi organisations in the tribal belt, he holds the view that the nature of these operations should be decided by Pakistan in accordance with its national interests and that there should be no dictation by the US on this issue. Like Musharraf, he does not accept US allegations that Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are based in Pakistani territory. He is totally against the practice of Pakistani agencies informally picking up suspects named by the US and handing them over to the US agencies without following the due process of law. Zardari favours the continuance of the mechanism for co-operation laid down by Musharraf. However, he agrees with Nawaz that the practice of informally picking up suspects named by the US and handing them over to the US should stop. Ultimately, the advice of Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the COAS, as to the co-operation mechanism with the US, which would suit Pakistan's national interests ,will have considerable impact on the changes, if any, to be introduced in the policies inherited from Musharraf.

11. The US and the international community will have more reasons to be concerned if Nawaz Sharif comes to office as the Prime Minister. His attitude to terrorism has always been ambivalent. During his first tenure as the Prime Minister (1990 to 93), he appointed Lt.Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir, a member of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), as the Director-General of the ISI. He had to remove him under pressure from the Clinton Administration in 1993. During his second tenure (1996 to 99), he had Mohammad Rafique Tarar, another member of the TJ, elected as the President of Pakistan. Nawaz’s father was also closely associated with the TJ. The TJ of Pakistan has had a long history of association with the jihadi organizations, while projecting itself outwardly as a purely missionary organization to help Muslims become better Muslims. bin Laden shifted from Khartoum in the Sudan to Afghanistan during the last weeks of Benazir’s second tenure in 1996, but he flourished during Nawaz’s second tenure. Nawaz repeatedly evaded US pressure to allow its special forces to mount an operation from Pakistani territory into Kandahar to kill or capture bin Laden. If he had permitted the US and if the US had succeeded, there might have been no 9/11. His ambivalence has not changed.

12. The security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would be of even greater concern now than it was under Musharraf. It is doubtful whether Nawaz would allow the US the kind of role in ensuring its security that Musharraf had allowed.

13. Apart from the war against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, a matter of equal concern will be the capability of the post-Musharraf dispensation to prevail over the Pakistani Taliban known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP headed by Baitullah Mehsud has strengthened its hold in the FATA and in the Swat Valley of the NWFP and has been spreading its activities to other parts of the NWFP. If it manages to acquire control of the NWFP, it is only a matter of time before it spreads its influence to the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, thereby aggravating India’s problems in Jammu & Kashmir.

14. The lack of a consistent policy towards the TTP displayed by the Pakistan People’s Party led Government since it came to office on March 18 last does not bode well for the future. While the post-Musharraf dispensation could be expected to extend at least some co-operation to the US---- though not on the same scale as under Musharraf--- it will follow Musharraf’s policy of not acting against the anti-India and anti-Afghanistan terrorist infrastructure. India cannot expect any relief from the problem of the ISI-sponsored cross-border terrorism.

15. It is important for India to revive its covert action capability against Pakistan-based terrorism, which was wound up in 1997 under the so-called Gujral Doctrine of unilateral gestures to our neighbours. Even if we do not use this capability now, it should be available for use, if the situation warrants it. Knowledge that India has such a capability at its disposal and may use it, if left with no other option, may itself act as a deterrent.

16. Pakistan is not yet another Afghanistan, but it could become one if the Government there and its security forces are unable to prevail over the jihadi hordes operating from the tribal belt. The medium and long-term implications of such a development for India need to be clearly analysed, anticipated and pre-empted. We continue to pay a price for our failure to do so in respect of the success of the Afghan Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the 1990s.

17. The new vintage of jihadi elements coming to the forefront across India such as the so-called Indian Mujahideen are already projecting their jihad as part of the global jihad being waged by the Muslims of the Ummah and not as a localized jihad for purely local reasons. If they join hands with Al Qaeda and other global jihadi terrorists, our internal security problems will be magnified. It is important to identify deficiencies in our preventive capabilities and remove them quickly.

18. If we continue to close our eyes to the developing situation in India and around us and remain in a denial mode, fondly hoping that this cannot happen to us, it is only a question of time before we find that India has become another web of jihadi terrorism. It can happen to us too as it happened in Afghanistan and has been happening in Pakistan. (20-8-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )