By: Fazal ur Rehman Afridi
Faisal Shahzad, the mastermind of the botched car bomb attack at Times Square of New York, was born in 1979. He is Kashmiri by ethnicity and a naturalized US citizen. He was first considered to be a lone wolf by Pentagon officials. Later, the US State Department allied him with the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), which supposedly trained him in Mohmand Agency. The latest twist came with new arrests in USA and Pakistan, paving the way for US authorities to finally put a halt to wild speculations in media by pin-pointing North Waziristan to be the launching pad for this attack. According to media reports militants of Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmiri militant group involved in Indian Parliament attack in New Delhi on December 13, 2001, now has developed strong links with TTP and Al-Qaeda) have been arrested in Peshawar and are being interrogated to arrive at the origin of this botched plot. It is believed that he had active contacts with Lashkar-e-Taiba also (a Pakistani based Kashmir-oriented Jihadist turned terrorist group involved in the Bombay terrorist attacks). Whatever may be the reason or origin of this malicious intent, one thing is for sure that Pakistan has not learnt lessons from its past. Terrorism and extremism has brought the country on the verge of collapse due the failed military policies. Out of touch with new realities of the changing world our establishment is bent upon harping the old tune of good and bad Taliban, still painting them to be a strategic asset.
The timing and the hast with which Air Vice Marshal (R) Baharul Haq the father of the accused in attempted act of terrorism, fled from his Peshawar house and was taken into the protective custody of Pakistan Army, put many questions marks on the involvement of some big fishes in this act of terrorism. According to some reliable sources a Military secret service took him in custody to avoid being questioned directly by American officials, before being briefed by it. The uncle of Faisal Shehzad, Maj Gen (retd) Tajul Haq, reported to have served as the Inspector General of Frontier Corps (IGFC) in the past. This puts a lot of question marks on the involvement of some government officials in the plot. I have been constantly making hue and cry about the Pakistani Military clean-shaved Taliban, who are more dangerous than Madrasa-educated Taliban. In my previous articles, I have elaborated the modus operandi of the ISI, which usually employ retired military officers to train the future terrorists and extremists in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They usually work through NGOs in order to avoid attracting the attention of media, United States and European intelligence agencies. Some NGOs of this type have been discovered by US but it is the tip of an iceberg. There are strong indications that Pakistani secret service may have worked as liaison between Times Square bomber and the terrorist out-fits like TTP, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Al-Qaeeda.
Another point which creates further doubts in the mind of an impartial analyst, is the hue and cry of the establishment-fed journalists like Shahid Masood, Kamran Khan, Talat Hussain, Rafeh Alam, Ansar Abbasi and Hamid Mir on the harsh statements of US officials. Who are trying their best to prove, however absurdly to the Pakistani masses as if this plot was hatched by US, just to put pressure on Pakistan to start military operation in North Waziristan. Instead of learning lessons from mistakes, the establishment is spreading rumors and conspiracy theories to create confusion among public, fueling anti-American sentiments in the country. The main pro-establishment politico-religious out-fit, Jamat-e-Islami is leaving no stone un-turned in blaming US for all the problems of Pakistan. Without a nod and support from establishment, JI could not have organized its anti-US campaign, which is gaining momentum with every passing day. The resurrection of MMA indicate that army establishment is again thinking about venturing into new un-charted territories, which will lead to dire consequences for the territorial integrity of the country.
Not in a distant past, our President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister were boasting tirelessly of the success of the Pak-US strategic dialogue, supposing that it will lead to a long term strategic relationship. The scribe, on the other hand in his previous articles elaborated in details that Strategic relations are established and successful between nations which share common values and similar view of the world. Pakistan and US does not fit into that category of countries which share common values and identical view of the world.
This wild day dreaming came to a sudden halt when the Times Square attempted terrorist plot surfaced. The resultant harsh reaction from USA on the highest level was not only unexpected rather shocking for our politico-military leadership. The threat of severe consequences by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was a stark reminder to the hard realities of the changed world. This warning by Foreign Secretary coupled with US Attorney General statements have exposed the myth of our so-called Strategic Relationship with US. I think the consequences, as pointed out by Hilary Clinton would have been catastrophic if this failed car bomb attempt would have been successful, resulting in killing of innocent Americans.
To counter the threats by Hilary Clinton, the Military Establishment has again chosen the suicidal path of becoming hostage to radicals and hawks among its ranks; by giving a green signal to its politico-religious parties to resurrect the Mutahida Majlese Amal (MMA). The recent meeting of the leaders of the former MMA to discuss the revival of the old and discarded multi-party religious alliance is only possible after a nod from the Establishment.
Similarly, the alleged release of six top Taliban Commanders involved in insurgency in Eastern Afghanistan caste doubts on the commitment and credibility of the secret services of Pakistan. This shows how sincere we are in our commitment to eradicate terrorism and extremism from our soil. Is it what our leaders were calling strategic relationship?
The arrests of Col. Imam, Khalid Khawaja (two former ISI operatives) and Asad Qureshi (a UK based journalist of Pakistani origin) : and the resultant killing of Khalid Khawaja by a less known Punjabi Taliban group named Asian Tigers, shows that the terrorists are using the same tactics of double timing Pakistan. Weather Mr. Khwaja was a CIA agent or double agent, one thing is clear that Taliban have become strong enough to kill any one in Pakistan with impunity. Here too, Col. Imam seems to be the main culprit who organized this visit to trap Khwaja. Javed Ibrahim paracha of Kohat and Molvi Abdul Aziz, who have close links with Talibans and working actively for ISI are involved in this murder. Involved in almost every big terrorist attack, Tariq Afridi, the leader of TTP Khyber Agency, continue to abduct, torture and kill innocent people, not only in Khyber but in Kohat too. He is providing safe heavens to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangwi, Asian Tigers and Al-Qaeda. Pakistani military and secret agencies instead of arresting him provide training, logistics, sanctuaries and finances.
Despite the mighty intelligence apparatus of CIA in hand, ironically US could not know about the fact that in Swat and South Waziristan operations, military gave a safe exit corridor to the Taliban to avoid direct confrontation with them. It is clear like a day light that in all military operations conducted by Pakistan Army including the two well known operations of SWAT and South Waziristan, Taliban including their leadership were given safe exit to avoid confrontation. Later on, only innocent civilians were bombarded by Pakistani helicopter gunships, long range artillery and fighter jests in contravention to the Geneva Convention. The same is happening now in North Waziristan. All the terrorists have been informed by Military Establishment through journalists like Hamid Mir to vacate the area before the military is forced by US to conduct military operation. So, now all the terrorists including TTP, Jaish-e-Muhammed, Lashkar-e-Taibba, 313 brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri and Asian Tigers (the Pubjabi Taliban) have been shifting to settled areas of Pakistan. Yet in another dangerous move, after pressure from US, the terrorists and extremists are moving into AJK and trying to cross over to Indian Held Kashmir to sabotage the current peace process between India and Pakistan. It is an open secret that without the connivance of Military Establishment this would have been possible for Taliban Militia to move freely in the whole country from Swat to Karachi and from FATA to AJK without any fear of confrontation.
IS PAKISTAN READY TO SOLVE ITS ASTRONOMICAL PROBLEMS?
Pakistan is faced with myriad of problems ranging from socio-political, religious, ethnic and economic. Our outdated education system, non-functional health system, inefficient and paralyzed institutions, corrupt and visionless leadership and un-bridled military driven by medieval Wahhabist ideology.
Instead of correcting our wrongs, we have developed a psyche of denial, resulting in further piling up of problems. We have developed a psychology of spreading rumors and conspiracy theories, blaming US, Israel and India for all our failures. Instead of taking responsibility for our failures and deficiencies, we blame others to avoid accountability. Policy of putting our heads into the sand like an Ostrich will not work any more with increased political awareness of the masses through independent print and electronic media. The economic mismanagement, political upheavals, social anarchy, unemployment, energy crisis, sky-rocketing prices, corruption, total disregard for rule of law and supremacy of the constitution are of our own making. Nobody from America, India or Israel has come to create these problems for us. We will have to fix the responsibility once and for all. Otherwise, God does not change the destinies of those nations, who are not interested in changing themselves. Blaming others for our self-created problems will lead us to no where. Time has come to bring to justice all those who have brought the country to this state of the affairs. We are living in a country where hundreds of innocent people are killed both by non-state actors like Taliban and un-bridled military everyday. Establishment has turned the Pakistan into a security state rather than a welfare state. We will have to say goodbye to culture of extremism. Establishment must stop supporting extremist groups in Pakistan to preserve it sovereignty. Pakistan has to decide once and for all whether it is on the side of the forces of darkness or enlightenment. The establishment should transfer all the powers to the civilian democratic dispensation particularly foreign affairs, finance and national security. Pakistan can ill-afford this drama of the all powerful military establishment taking credit for all the successes and blaming the civilian leadership for failures using them as scapegoats. By the same Establishment, Baloch and Pashtuns have been alienated to an extent that it seems impossible for them to reconcile with the Pakistani State. Baloch and Pashtun nationalism is on rise and sooner or later they are suppose to declare independence from Pakistan, because they did not join Pakistan to be ruled by Military dictators and live like slaves under the black Punjabi imperialists.
Our Human rights record is also not enviable. We have a black spot on our face in the form of FATA which is governed by a century old draconian law of FCR, through which Pashtun tribes are persecuted through collective punishment and territorial responsibility. Despite being citizens of Pakistan, the tribes do not enjoy even the basic rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan cannot exercise its jurisdiction in FATA. The parliament of Pakistan, cannot legislate for FATA. People are languishing in jails for the crimes they have not committed. All this is in contravention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the General Assembly of UN in 1948. A recent US panel’s report has declared Pakistan as worst in religious freedom violations. Shia-sunni antagonism and the support received from the establishment by certain groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangwi is not a secret. These groups are killing innocent people in broad day light and no body is arrested or tried in the history of the country. Religious minorities are constantly under attack by extremists fanatics. Most important of all one Muslim Ahamadi group is constantly harassed, tortured and killed with impunity even with the assistance of establishment, where Police, executive, and even judges are biased towards this small group. Even some high profile journalists like Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasy, Haroon Rashid etc, are always spewing hate and venom against this group resulting in further persecution of innocent people. The professional ethics of these journalists should be questioned by the press freedom organizations to stop them creating anarchy and fanaticism in the country. We have removed the name of Dictator General Zia ul Haq from the constitution for which the present Parliament deserve credit, but his ghost is still haunting the religious minorities and even some Muslim sects in the form discriminatory laws.
In terms of press freedom, more than 40 journalists have been killed since 2004. Journalist with commitment to their profession and love for the truth are still being killed with impunity both by Pakistan military and Taliban. The private media is pressured and subjugated by the government by holding advertisement to those who do not follow the government line. Establishment is not only pervasive in most of the big media, rather it has hundreds of prominent journalists on its pay rolls, who are fed stories by the Establishment. Taliban and secret military agencies are physically threatening , harassing, abducting, torturing and killing the journalists with impunity. Ironically not a single person has been arrested or tried in the killings of such a big number of journalists.
Not only journalists: Pakistan has an un-enviable reputation of killing its own leaders. The founder of the Nation, Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was left to die in want of medical assistance. Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was killed by the establishment in Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. Then the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a rude shock to the people of Pakistan. Murtaza Bhutto was killed in day light by Pak secret services to embarrass his sister Benazir Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto was the last leader killed by the same establishment to stop civilian leaders strengthening democratic institutions in the county.
The issue of disappeared persons is a black spot on the face of Pakistan. Our Military intelligence agencies are flouting all the laws and fundamental human rights as a matter of routine practice. Articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution state that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty, except in accordance with law- and no person shall be arrested or detained without being produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest or detention. Despite, the frequent calls of the Parliament, and the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan, not a single disappeared person could be recovered from them, in a complete disregard for the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution.
Pakistan has to say good bye to the old failed traditionalist illusionary policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan. Taliban are not a strategic asset, rather they are a strategic threat now for Pakistan and the whole region. Complete overhaul of the military strategy, training and ideological education is the need of the hour in order to cope with new challenges in a changed world after 9 11. Military has to be accountable to the civilian leadership, if we want to win the war on terrorism. British War Prime Minister , Winston Churchill has put it rightly that war is too serious a matter to be left to Military. Lesson can be learnt from not so distant example of former USSR crumbling under the heavy weight of military expenditure on account of war adventure in Afghanistan sans strong economic development.