dangerous


I wish I could say I had written this piece but such brilliant writing can certainly not be attriibuted to me. But its worth a read for sure and if you haven’t come across this then let me introduce you to this fantastic article I found.

It has been accused of supporting al-Qaida and double-dealing with the CIA. At the same time the ISI, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service, is being targeted by Islamist extremists. In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, what role will it play? Share 17 Comments (3) Declan Walsh The Guardian, Thursday 12 May 2011 Article history The compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro If there was one telling moment in Pakistan in the 10 days since Osama bin Laden’s death, when a Hollywood-style American assault on a suburban house left the country reeling, torn between anger, shame and denial, it occurred late one evening on a prime-time television show hosted by Kamran Khan. Chatshow hosts are the secular mullahs of modern Pakistan: fist-banging populists who preach to the nation over supper, often through a rightwing lens. Khan, a tubby 50-year-old journalist with neat glasses and a small chin, is the biggest of them. Every night on Geo, the largest channel, he rails against “corrupt” civilian politicians and America, and lionises the armed forces; some colleagues nickname him “the brigadier”. But as the country seethed over Bin Laden last week, Khan tore off his metaphorical stripes and stamped them into the ground. The army had failed its people, he railed. To Pakistan’s shame US soldiers had invaded the country; their finding Bin Laden in Abbottabad, two hours north of Islamabad, was a disgrace. The country’s “two-faced” approach to extremism had disastrously backfired, he said, reeling off a list of atrocities – New York, Bali, London, Madrid – linked to Pakistan. “We have become the world’s biggest haven of terrorism,” he declared. “We need to change.” Viewers watched in astonishment. The unprecedented attack targeted not only the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, but also the most sensitive policies of the military’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Feared, reviled and admired in equal measure, the ISI is considered the embodiment of army power in Pakistan, the object of hushed deference. But now, as one US official told me, “the world has changed”. And the ISI finds itself in the line of fire. The Bin Laden debacle has triggered a blizzard of uncomfortable questions, the sharpest come from Washington. How, President Barack Obama wondered aloud last Sunday, could Bin Laden shelter for years in a garrison town that is home to three regimental headquarters, the local version of Sandhurst, and thousands of soldiers? One retired US officer who has served in the region told me he had been mulling the same question. “All those times we drove up to Abbottabad, and we could have taken out our pistols and done the job ourselves,” he said. The CIA chief Leon Panetta, meanwhile, says he didn’t warn the ISI about the special forces raid because he feared word might leak to the al-Qaida leader. Behind the pointed statements lies an urgent question: was the ISI hiding Bin Laden? The answer may lie inside the ISI’s headquarters in Abpara, on the edge of Islamabad. The entrance, beside a private hospital, is suitably discreet: no sign, just a plainclothes officer packing a pistol who direct visitors through a chicane of barriers, soldiers and sniffer dogs. But inside, past the smooth electric gates, lies a neatly tended cluster of adobe buildings separated by smooth lawns and tinkling fountains that resembles a well-funded private university. Cars purr up to the entrance of the central building, a modern structure with a round, echoing lobby. On the top floor sits the chief spy: the director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha, a grey-haired 59-year-old three-star general. One American counterpart describes him as “brilliant and extremely intelligent . . . Thoughtful, pensive and extremely well read; if he was in the US military he would be a very successful officer.” Pasha and the ISI are the heart of Pakistan’s “establishment” – a nebulous web of generals, bureaucrats and hand-picked politicians (not always elected ones) who form the DNA of Pakistan’s defence and security policies. It has at least 10,000 employees (some say twice as many), mixing serving army officers, many on three-year rotations from other services, with thousands of civilian employees, from suited analysts to beefy street spies. In theory they answer to the prime minister; in reality they are a tool of the army chief, Kayani. To supporters, the ISI safeguards national security – monitoring phones, guarding the country’s nuclear weapons. But to its many critics, the ISI is the army’s dirty tricks department, accused of abduction and assassination, vote-rigging and torture, and running Islamist terrorist outfits. “The ISI,” said Minoo Bhandara, an outspoken Parsi businessman who ran a brewery across the road from army headquarters before he died in 2008, “is an institution full of intelligence but devoid of wisdom.” Oddly, it was founded by an Australian. As Pakistan recovered from its disastrous first war with India in 1948, Major General R Cawthorne, on secondment from the British army, decided the fledgling military needed a proper intelligence outfit. The first decades were inauspicious. The ISI mishandled the 1965 war with India and failed to predict the East Pakistan conflict in 1971, which sundered Pakistan in two and created Bangladesh. All changed, however, eight years later when Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979. The decade-long war of resistance – bankrolled by the United States, fought by Afghans and Arabs, but largely run by the ISI from Pakistan’s tribal areas – revolutionised the agency’s fortunes. It ran a network of secret training camps along the Afghan border that trained more than 80,000 fighters. It controlled a weapons pipeline, funded by the CIA and Saudi intelligence, that smuggled Kalashnikovs and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. And it grew powerful and rich. A legendary figure from that period was a man named Colonel Imam, whom I first met five years ago. He was tall and burly, with a thick beard and a crooked smile that suggested several missing teeth. He wore a white turban and an olive-green, British issue second world war-issue paratroop jacket, which he told me he had been wearing since he joined the army in 1971. During the 80s, Imam ran many of the ISI training camps, becoming popular among ethnic Pashtun fighters for his love of Islam and his fondness for killing Soviets. “Those were wonderful times,” he told me. Although his real name was Sultan Amir, to the Afghans he became “Colonel Imam”. “I loved the fight. And the mujahideen were very fond of me,” he said with a smile. The US liked him too. On the wall of his Rawalpindi home hung war trophies from the 80s – daggers, faded photos, a Russian general’s gun – but on the table sat a chunk of the Berlin wall, cased in glass. “To one who helped deliver the first blow,” it read. “The Americans gave me that,” he said. With the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the CIA largely abandoned Pakistan. But the spirit of “jihad” – fighters imbued with Islamist vim – lived on in the ISI. Pakistani officers, having imbibed too much of their own ideology, transformed the spy agency. It started to support Islamist groups across Asia – Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Burma, India – and the US placed Pakistan on a terrorist watchlist. In 1993, Javed Ashraf Qazi, a secular-minded general officer, was sent in to clean up the mess. “I was shocked at what I found,” he tells me. Senior ISI officers had jettisoned their uniforms for shalwar kameez; their subordinates would disappear off to the mosque for hours on end. The ISI had bought a hotel in Bangkok, probably to facilitate gun-running. The outgoing spy chief, Javed Nasir, was a playboy turned zealot who had grown a scraggly beard and refused to shake women’s hands. On his first day in the office Qazi found him running out of the door to a Muslim missionary conference. “When people say the ISI is a rogue agency, it was true in those days,” he says. Qazi fired the ideologues, sold the hotel and ordered his subordinates to wear their uniforms (some struggled to fit in them). “We cleaned it up,” says Qazi, who later became a minister under Pervez Musharraf. But the ISI was not done with jihad; it had merely narrowed its focus. The proof is on the wall of Qazi’s home. I notice an unusual rifle hanging on the wall. It is an Indian service rifle, Qazi admits half bashfully – a present from one of the “mujahideen” fighters the ISI started to send into Indian-occupied Kashmir from the mid 90s, when he was in charge. “We turned a blind eye to some groups,” he says. They included Lashkar-e-Toiba, he admits – the terrorist outfit that in 2008 would attack hotels and train stations in the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 170 people. In the early 90s, the ISI also started to support an obscure Islamist movement in Afghanistan called the Taliban. Colonel Imam was sent back into Afghanistan to advise the one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar. They had history: Imam, it turned out, had trained Omar back in the mujahideen camps in the 80s. With ISI backing, the Taliban swept to power in Kabul; at the UN in New York, a beleaguered Afghan official complained that Imam was the “de facto governor” of the newly conquered territories. “Ah, they are naughty people,” Imam told me of the Taliban with his shy smile. “Rough people, good fighters, but respected. And they were all my friends.” Over the past decade, however, the ISI has professed to have abandoned jihad. As American troops swarmed across Afghanistan, in search of Bin Laden in late 2001, President General Pervez Musharraf disavowed the Taliban, sacked his most Islamist generals (including the then ISI director, Mahmud Ahmed) and brought Colonel Imam home. The following January he made a signature speech banning a slew of jihadi groups. “We need to rid society of extremism,” he declared. On the ground, though, things have looked different. US diplomatic cables released through WikiLeaks last year claimed the ISI was still covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network, as part of its decades-old grudge match with India. And despite billions of dollars in American assistance, wrote ambassador Anne Patterson, “no amount of money” was likely to make the army – or the ISI – change direction. Simultaneously, though, the ISI has become a victim of jihadi violence. The Pakistani Taliban – related to the Afghan movement, but separate, and heavily influenced by al-Qaida – is seeking to oust the Pakistani state. The ISI, deemed to have betrayed them, has become the enemy. Hundreds of ISI officials have died in recent years, killed in bombings of buses and offices, and ISI spies have been beheaded in the tribal belt. In the latest atrocity on 8 March a massive car bomb outside an ISI office in Faisalabad destroyed an airline office and killed 32 people. I last saw Colonel Imam in January 2010 at his home in Rawalpindi. He joked about media articles describing him as the “father of the Taliban”. Weeks later he set off for Waziristan with another former ISI man, Khawaja, and a British journalist, Asad Qureshi, who had been commissioned by Channel 4, to interview the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. But the Taliban took them hostage. After a few weeks Khawaja was executed, after confessing on video to being a “CIA spy”. Qureshi was released in September after his family paid a hefty ransom. Then last January, a video of Imam surfaced showing him kneeling before a group of masked, armed men. Mehsud appeared, and said a few words. Then a Talib opened fire, pumped Imam with bullets. “When you’re Frankenstein, and you create a lot of baby monsters who are running round your ankles looking sort of cute, they eventually grow up to be recalcitrant adults,” a US official tells me in Islamabad. “And you hope you can get them back into the fold so they become useful. But the Pakistanis can’t control everything they create.” Could the ISI’s complex policy towards jihadi militants have caused it to harbour Bin Laden? Its many critics have little doubt, particularly in Afghanistan; last week the former Kabul spy chief Amrullah Saleh said he warned Musharraf about Bin Laden four years ago, only to be rowdily shouted down. Now Musharraf himself admits it’s a possibility, albeit one limited to “rogue” officers. Yesterday he told ABC News there was a “possibility” of a “lower-level operative . . . following a policy of his own and violating the policy from above”. But could it be done with the knowledge of the top generals? Opinion is split between agnostics and sceptics. “Did Pasha know? It’s entirely implausible that he didn’t,” says a former western military official who has worked in Pakistan. A senior diplomat sees it differently. Perhaps the ISI is neither complicit or incompetent, he says. Maybe they just didn’t look. “Looking for Osama may not have been a big priority when not finding him earns you billions of dollars a year, and if you did the Americans would leave the region,” he says. The ISI itself points to its consistent record in fighting al-Qaida. Over the past decade it has rounded up hundreds of Islamist suspects, many dispatched to Guantánamo Bay. They include the most notorious al-Qaida henchmen: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, architect of the 9/11 attacks, snatched from a Rawalpindi safehouse in 2003; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, captured after a gun battle a year earlier; Abu Faraj al-Libi, then the al-Qaida number three, arrested in Mardan in 2005 by ISI commandos wearing burka disguises. Not finding Bin Laden was “a failure on our side,” admits an ISI official. “Unfortunate, but a fact. We are good but we are not God.” Yet the questions remain. How did Bin Laden avoid ISI surveillance in a military area, just a few hundred metres from a major military base, in a zone where military intelligence traditionally keeps a close eye? And what about the army major who recently built his house just behind Osama’s? Did he not wonder about his neighbour with the barbed-wire fence and the security cameras perched on the wall? “I find it entirely implausible that the military and intelligence agencies knew nothing,” says Dr Farzana Sheikh, author of Making Sense of Pakistan. “There must have been knowledge at the highest levels.” But, along with so many other critics, she concedes “there is no proof”. In a country where so many pressing mysteries remain unresolved – from the plane crash that killed General Zia ul-Haq in 1988, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 – few are holding their breath. There could, at least, be accountability, although hopes are fading fast. As television anchors raged and criticism of the army swelled last week, some hoped Pakistan’s civilian leadership would seize the moment to claw back part of the power it has ceded over the past 30 years. Yet those hopes were dashed on Monday when prime minister Gilani stood up in parliament for a stout defence of the generals. “The ISI is a national asset,” he said. The battle, if it had ever been contemplated, was lost. Whose side is Pakistan’s ISI really on? It has been accused of supporting al-Qaida and double-dealing with the CIA. At the same time the ISI, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service, is being targeted by Islamist extremists. In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, what role will it play? Share 17 Comments (3) Declan Walsh The Guardian, Thursday 12 May 2011 Article history The compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro If there was one telling moment in Pakistan in the 10 days since Osama bin Laden’s death, when a Hollywood-style American assault on a suburban house left the country reeling, torn between anger, shame and denial, it occurred late one evening on a prime-time television show hosted by Kamran Khan. Chatshow hosts are the secular mullahs of modern Pakistan: fist-banging populists who preach to the nation over supper, often through a rightwing lens. Khan, a tubby 50-year-old journalist with neat glasses and a small chin, is the biggest of them. Every night on Geo, the largest channel, he rails against “corrupt” civilian politicians and America, and lionises the armed forces; some colleagues nickname him “the brigadier”. But as the country seethed over Bin Laden last week, Khan tore off his metaphorical stripes and stamped them into the ground. The army had failed its people, he railed. To Pakistan’s shame US soldiers had invaded the country; their finding Bin Laden in Abbottabad, two hours north of Islamabad, was a disgrace. The country’s “two-faced” approach to extremism had disastrously backfired, he said, reeling off a list of atrocities – New York, Bali, London, Madrid – linked to Pakistan. “We have become the world’s biggest haven of terrorism,” he declared. “We need to change.” Viewers watched in astonishment. The unprecedented attack targeted not only the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, but also the most sensitive policies of the military’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Feared, reviled and admired in equal measure, the ISI is considered the embodiment of army power in Pakistan, the object of hushed deference. But now, as one US official told me, “the world has changed”. And the ISI finds itself in the line of fire. The Bin Laden debacle has triggered a blizzard of uncomfortable questions, the sharpest come from Washington. How, President Barack Obama wondered aloud last Sunday, could Bin Laden shelter for years in a garrison town that is home to three regimental headquarters, the local version of Sandhurst, and thousands of soldiers? One retired US officer who has served in the region told me he had been mulling the same question. “All those times we drove up to Abbottabad, and we could have taken out our pistols and done the job ourselves,” he said. The CIA chief Leon Panetta, meanwhile, says he didn’t warn the ISI about the special forces raid because he feared word might leak to the al-Qaida leader. Behind the pointed statements lies an urgent question: was the ISI hiding Bin Laden? The answer may lie inside the ISI’s headquarters in Abpara, on the edge of Islamabad. The entrance, beside a private hospital, is suitably discreet: no sign, just a plainclothes officer packing a pistol who direct visitors through a chicane of barriers, soldiers and sniffer dogs. But inside, past the smooth electric gates, lies a neatly tended cluster of adobe buildings separated by smooth lawns and tinkling fountains that resembles a well-funded private university. Cars purr up to the entrance of the central building, a modern structure with a round, echoing lobby. On the top floor sits the chief spy: the director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha, a grey-haired 59-year-old three-star general. One American counterpart describes him as “brilliant and extremely intelligent . . . Thoughtful, pensive and extremely well read; if he was in the US military he would be a very successful officer.” Pasha and the ISI are the heart of Pakistan’s “establishment” – a nebulous web of generals, bureaucrats and hand-picked politicians (not always elected ones) who form the DNA of Pakistan’s defence and security policies. It has at least 10,000 employees (some say twice as many), mixing serving army officers, many on three-year rotations from other services, with thousands of civilian employees, from suited analysts to beefy street spies. In theory they answer to the prime minister; in reality they are a tool of the army chief, Kayani. To supporters, the ISI safeguards national security – monitoring phones, guarding the country’s nuclear weapons. But to its many critics, the ISI is the army’s dirty tricks department, accused of abduction and assassination, vote-rigging and torture, and running Islamist terrorist outfits. “The ISI,” said Minoo Bhandara, an outspoken Parsi businessman who ran a brewery across the road from army headquarters before he died in 2008, “is an institution full of intelligence but devoid of wisdom.” Oddly, it was founded by an Australian. As Pakistan recovered from its disastrous first war with India in 1948, Major General R Cawthorne, on secondment from the British army, decided the fledgling military needed a proper intelligence outfit. The first decades were inauspicious. The ISI mishandled the 1965 war with India and failed to predict the East Pakistan conflict in 1971, which sundered Pakistan in two and created Bangladesh. All changed, however, eight years later when Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979. The decade-long war of resistance – bankrolled by the United States, fought by Afghans and Arabs, but largely run by the ISI from Pakistan’s tribal areas – revolutionised the agency’s fortunes. It ran a network of secret training camps along the Afghan border that trained more than 80,000 fighters. It controlled a weapons pipeline, funded by the CIA and Saudi intelligence, that smuggled Kalashnikovs and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. And it grew powerful and rich. A legendary figure from that period was a man named Colonel Imam, whom I first met five years ago. He was tall and burly, with a thick beard and a crooked smile that suggested several missing teeth. He wore a white turban and an olive-green, British issue second world war-issue paratroop jacket, which he told me he had been wearing since he joined the army in 1971. During the 80s, Imam ran many of the ISI training camps, becoming popular among ethnic Pashtun fighters for his love of Islam and his fondness for killing Soviets. “Those were wonderful times,” he told me. Although his real name was Sultan Amir, to the Afghans he became “Colonel Imam”. “I loved the fight. And the mujahideen were very fond of me,” he said with a smile. The US liked him too. On the wall of his Rawalpindi home hung war trophies from the 80s – daggers, faded photos, a Russian general’s gun – but on the table sat a chunk of the Berlin wall, cased in glass. “To one who helped deliver the first blow,” it read. “The Americans gave me that,” he said. With the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the CIA largely abandoned Pakistan. But the spirit of “jihad” – fighters imbued with Islamist vim – lived on in the ISI. Pakistani officers, having imbibed too much of their own ideology, transformed the spy agency. It started to support Islamist groups across Asia – Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Burma, India – and the US placed Pakistan on a terrorist watchlist. In 1993, Javed Ashraf Qazi, a secular-minded general officer, was sent in to clean up the mess. “I was shocked at what I found,” he tells me. Senior ISI officers had jettisoned their uniforms for shalwar kameez; their subordinates would disappear off to the mosque for hours on end. The ISI had bought a hotel in Bangkok, probably to facilitate gun-running. The outgoing spy chief, Javed Nasir, was a playboy turned zealot who had grown a scraggly beard and refused to shake women’s hands. On his first day in the office Qazi found him running out of the door to a Muslim missionary conference. “When people say the ISI is a rogue agency, it was true in those days,” he says. Qazi fired the ideologues, sold the hotel and ordered his subordinates to wear their uniforms (some struggled to fit in them). “We cleaned it up,” says Qazi, who later became a minister under Pervez Musharraf. But the ISI was not done with jihad; it had merely narrowed its focus. The proof is on the wall of Qazi’s home. I notice an unusual rifle hanging on the wall. It is an Indian service rifle, Qazi admits half bashfully – a present from one of the “mujahideen” fighters the ISI started to send into Indian-occupied Kashmir from the mid 90s, when he was in charge. “We turned a blind eye to some groups,” he says. They included Lashkar-e-Toiba, he admits – the terrorist outfit that in 2008 would attack hotels and train stations in the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 170 people. In the early 90s, the ISI also started to support an obscure Islamist movement in Afghanistan called the Taliban. Colonel Imam was sent back into Afghanistan to advise the one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar. They had history: Imam, it turned out, had trained Omar back in the mujahideen camps in the 80s. With ISI backing, the Taliban swept to power in Kabul; at the UN in New York, a beleaguered Afghan official complained that Imam was the “de facto governor” of the newly conquered territories. “Ah, they are naughty people,” Imam told me of the Taliban with his shy smile. “Rough people, good fighters, but respected. And they were all my friends.” Over the past decade, however, the ISI has professed to have abandoned jihad. As American troops swarmed across Afghanistan, in search of Bin Laden in late 2001, President General Pervez Musharraf disavowed the Taliban, sacked his most Islamist generals (including the then ISI director, Mahmud Ahmed) and brought Colonel Imam home. The following January he made a signature speech banning a slew of jihadi groups. “We need to rid society of extremism,” he declared. On the ground, though, things have looked different. US diplomatic cables released through WikiLeaks last year claimed the ISI was still covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network, as part of its decades-old grudge match with India. And despite billions of dollars in American assistance, wrote ambassador Anne Patterson, “no amount of money” was likely to make the army – or the ISI – change direction. Simultaneously, though, the ISI has become a victim of jihadi violence. The Pakistani Taliban – related to the Afghan movement, but separate, and heavily influenced by al-Qaida – is seeking to oust the Pakistani state. The ISI, deemed to have betrayed them, has become the enemy. Hundreds of ISI officials have died in recent years, killed in bombings of buses and offices, and ISI spies have been beheaded in the tribal belt. In the latest atrocity on 8 March a massive car bomb outside an ISI office in Faisalabad destroyed an airline office and killed 32 people. I last saw Colonel Imam in January 2010 at his home in Rawalpindi. He joked about media articles describing him as the “father of the Taliban”. Weeks later he set off for Waziristan with another former ISI man, Khawaja, and a British journalist, Asad Qureshi, who had been commissioned by Channel 4, to interview the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. But the Taliban took them hostage. After a few weeks Khawaja was executed, after confessing on video to being a “CIA spy”. Qureshi was released in September after his family paid a hefty ransom. Then last January, a video of Imam surfaced showing him kneeling before a group of masked, armed men. Mehsud appeared, and said a few words. Then a Talib opened fire, pumped Imam with bullets. “When you’re Frankenstein, and you create a lot of baby monsters who are running round your ankles looking sort of cute, they eventually grow up to be recalcitrant adults,” a US official tells me in Islamabad. “And you hope you can get them back into the fold so they become useful. But the Pakistanis can’t control everything they create.” Could the ISI’s complex policy towards jihadi militants have caused it to harbour Bin Laden? Its many critics have little doubt, particularly in Afghanistan; last week the former Kabul spy chief Amrullah Saleh said he warned Musharraf about Bin Laden four years ago, only to be rowdily shouted down. Now Musharraf himself admits it’s a possibility, albeit one limited to “rogue” officers. Yesterday he told ABC News there was a “possibility” of a “lower-level operative . . . following a policy of his own and violating the policy from above”. But could it be done with the knowledge of the top generals? Opinion is split between agnostics and sceptics. “Did Pasha know? It’s entirely implausible that he didn’t,” says a former western military official who has worked in Pakistan. A senior diplomat sees it differently. Perhaps the ISI is neither complicit or incompetent, he says. Maybe they just didn’t look. “Looking for Osama may not have been a big priority when not finding him earns you billions of dollars a year, and if you did the Americans would leave the region,” he says. The ISI itself points to its consistent record in fighting al-Qaida. Over the past decade it has rounded up hundreds of Islamist suspects, many dispatched to Guantánamo Bay. They include the most notorious al-Qaida henchmen: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, architect of the 9/11 attacks, snatched from a Rawalpindi safehouse in 2003; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, captured after a gun battle a year earlier; Abu Faraj al-Libi, then the al-Qaida number three, arrested in Mardan in 2005 by ISI commandos wearing burka disguises. Not finding Bin Laden was “a failure on our side,” admits an ISI official. “Unfortunate, but a fact. We are good but we are not God.” Yet the questions remain. How did Bin Laden avoid ISI surveillance in a military area, just a few hundred metres from a major military base, in a zone where military intelligence traditionally keeps a close eye? And what about the army major who recently built his house just behind Osama’s? Did he not wonder about his neighbour with the barbed-wire fence and the security cameras perched on the wall? “I find it entirely implausible that the military and intelligence agencies knew nothing,” says Dr Farzana Sheikh, author of Making Sense of Pakistan. “There must have been knowledge at the highest levels.” But, along with so many other critics, she concedes “there is no proof”. In a country where so many pressing mysteries remain unresolved – from the plane crash that killed General Zia ul-Haq in 1988, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 – few are holding their breath. There could, at least, be accountability, although hopes are fading fast. As television anchors raged and criticism of the army swelled last week, some hoped Pakistan’s civilian leadership would seize the moment to claw back part of the power it has ceded over the past 30 years. Yet those hopes were dashed on Monday when prime minister Gilani stood up in parliament for a stout defence of the generals. “The ISI is a national asset,” he said. The battle, if it had ever been contemplated, was lost. In America the scrutiny will not vanish so easily. Angry congressional leaders have called for Pakistan’s $3bn annual aid package to be slashed; hostile media coverage portraying the ISI as an enemy unit is growing. Government officials, however, are more circumspect. With Nato’s main military supply line running through Pakistan, other al-Qaida figures still at large including Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a peace settlement to be negotiated in Afghanistan, many quietly speak of the need to eventually patch up the Pakistan relationship – although few doubt that it has been utterly changed over the past 10 days. “We can’t break it, it’s too important,” says one US official. “We’re going to have to sit down across the table and try and tell some truths to each other.” Still, he adds: “There are degrees in truth. We would like to have a degree of the truth.” American popular opinion may be less nuanced. The forthcoming trial of David Headley, an American jihadi accused of helping Lashkar-e-Taiba carry out the Mumbai attacks, is likely to bring fresh accusations of ISI “double-game”. And movie culture is likely to have a strong influence. Even before Bin Laden died an action thriller called tentatively “Kill Bin Laden”, by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, was in the works. Now many more will surely follow. In the coming months, casting directors will start seeking actors to play macho navy Seals, a tense American president and an elusive Saudi fugitive. And, almost certainly, they will be looking for a clutch of double-dealing Pakistani spies. In the ISI, Hollywood may have found a new bad guy. In America the scrutiny will not vanish so easily. Angry congressional leaders have called for Pakistan’s $3bn annual aid package to be slashed; hostile media coverage portraying the ISI as an enemy unit is growing. Government officials, however, are more circumspect. With Nato’s main military supply line running through Pakistan, other al-Qaida figures still at large including Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a peace settlement to be negotiated in Afghanistan, many quietly speak of the need to eventually patch up the Pakistan relationship – although few doubt that it has been utterly changed over the past 10 days. “We can’t break it, it’s too important,” says one US official. “We’re going to have to sit down across the table and try and tell some truths to each other.” Still, he adds: “There are degrees in truth. We would like to have a degree of the truth.” American popular opinion may be less nuanced. The forthcoming trial of David Headley, an American jihadi accused of helping Lashkar-e-Taiba carry out the Mumbai attacks, is likely to bring fresh accusations of ISI “double-game”. And movie culture is likely to have a strong influence. Even before Bin Laden died an action thriller called tentatively “Kill Bin Laden”, by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, was in the works. Now many more will surely follow. In the coming months, casting directors will start seeking actors to play macho navy Seals, a tense American president and an elusive Saudi fugitive. And, almost certainly, they will be looking for a clutch of double-dealing Pakistani spies. In the ISI, Hollywood may have found a new bad guy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/12/isi-bin-laden-death-pakistan-alqaida

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so today was exciting. My twitter feed was a flutter to put it mildly… have to say I missed the action as I was fast asleep when everything went down. In fact before turning the tv on, I browsed through the paper and saw the story of the helicopter going down somewhere in Abbottabad and didn’t think twice about it … though @realvirtual unwittingly became a live tweeter to the event. That’s what I love about Twitter…how you could be randomly just reporting things as you see them and it turns out to be the event of the decade!! In sleepy Abbottabad no less which has been described by Western journalists as a suburb of Islamabad. Idiots. then again Geography was never their strong point.

So the OBL story has finally been laid to rest. Of course the conspiracy theorists are having a field day and many believe this is all hogwash. The man was probably dead for years but they couldn’t let the info out as how would one justify the ongoing presence of US soldiers in the area. Many things don’t add up about the case. Lets say for argument’s sake that they really thought this was OBL and Uncle Sam radioed the boys on the ground and asked them to mosey their boodies down there and put a bullet in the devil’s head. Which apparently they did. But then why the rush to “bury the body at sea”? Wouldn’t they WANT to prove to everyone they had indeed finally gotten this evil evil man if they had him? So they didn’t want to be attacked and have the corpse looked at as a martyr… how about flying the corpse out to Batagram  ? Afghanistan? which by the way was what was reported till later reports came in on the corpse being buried at sea. The question is WHY? why the rush? then some picture was released off the man on Express tv and it looked like a bang up photo shop job… and the US conducted this operation on our territory? again? do they still have a free hand to conduct drone attacks? If we are giving them this much freedom why not just ask them to take over the country ….maybe they could set us straight. Why even pretend?  at the end of this eventful day….. all that we are left with really are more questions than answers. And all the US has is another body added to their growing body count of corpses

For your perusal I am also attaching links to some articles that may be worth reading as well as posting here

Bin Laden killed: How it happened

More details have now emerged of how al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.

The compound is a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy, an elite military training centre, which is being described as Pakistan’s equivalent to Britain’s Sandhurst or the West Point academy in the US.

There were conflicting reports about the compound’s distance from the academy, with Pakistan’s military saying they are as much as 4km (2.4 miles) apart.

In any case the compound lies well within Abbottabad’s military cantonment, and it is likely the area would have had a constant and significant military presence and checkpoints.

Pakistan’s army chief is a regular visitor to the academy, where he attends graduation parades.

The operation against Osama Bin Laden began at about 2230 (1730 GMT) and lasted about 45 minutes, military sources told BBC Urdu. Two or three helicopters were seen flying low over the area. Witnesses say they caused panic among local residents.

One report of the operation emerged in real-time: Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, posted on Twitter at about 0100 (2100 GMT) that a helicopter was hovering above the city.

He continued tweeting as the operation unfolded before eventually realising: “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.

Barbed wire and cameras

The target of the operation was the compound, which had at its centre a large three-storey building.

Continue reading the main story

Abbottabad

  • Abbottabad – known as “city of pines”- is a small town nestled in the beautiful lush, green hills of north-west Pakistan.
  • It is an agricultural community, but with a population of about 120,000, it provides a centre for many of the neighbouring villages
  • It is a military garrison town and has one of Pakistan’s most prestigious training academies
  • It takes its name from British Major James Abbott who founded it in 1853 after he annexed the Punjab area

When the helicopters – which had reportedly flown from Afghanistan – landed outside the compound, men emerged from the aircraft. The raid was conducted by a special team of between 20 and 25 US Navy Seals.

People living in the area, known as Thanda Choha, told BBC Urdu that they were commanded in Pashto to switch off their lights and not to leave their homes.

Shortly afterwards residents said they heard shots being fired and the sound of heavy firearms.

At some point in the operation one of the helicopters crashed, either from technical failure or having been hit by gunfire from the ground. But no US commandos were injured.

The compound was about 3,000 sq yds in size but people from the area told the BBC that it was surrounded by 14ft-high walls, so not much could be seen of what was happening inside.

The walls were topped by barbed wire and contained cameras.

There were two security gates at the compound – said to have been valued at about $1m (£600,000) – but no phone or internet lines running into the building.

Its occupants were so concerned about security that they were reported to burn their rubbish rather than leave it out for collection as other residents in the area did.

‘Waziristan Mansion’

After the operation witnesses said all they could see was fire snaking up from inside the house.

Osama Bin Laden did resist the assault and was killed in battle, US officials told White House reporters. The al-Qaeda leader was shot in the head.

The officials described the operation as a “surgical raid” and said three adult males, including Bin Laden’s adult son, were killed. But, they added, a woman who was being used as a shield was also killed.

According to local residents speaking to BBC Urdu the forces conducting the operation later emerged from the compound, possibly with somebody who had been inside.

Some reports say Bin Laden’s body was then flown to Afghanistan before eventually being laid to rest at sea.

Local residents say that women and children were also living in the compound.

One local resident told the BBC Urdu that the house had been built by a Pashtun man about 10 or 12 years ago. The resident said that none of the locals were aware of who was really living there. However, the New York Times said US officials believed that the house was specially built in 2005.

According to one local journalist, the house was known in the area as Waziristani Haveli – or Waziristan Mansion.

The journalist said it was owned by people from Waziristan, the mountainous and inhospitable semi-autonomous tribal area close to the Afghan border, which until now most observers believed to be Bin Laden’s hiding place.

This house was in a residential district of Abbottabad’s suburbs called Bilal Town and known to be home to a number of retired military officers from the area.

Intelligence officials in the US are quoted by AP as saying that the house was custom-built to harbour a major “terrorist” figure.

‘Trusted’ courier

Compound in AbbottabadPolice walk past the compound where the battle took place

As details of the raid emerged it became clear that the operation had been long in the planning. US officials said they received intelligence that Osama Bin Laden might be in that compound as long ago as last summer.

CIA experts analysed whether the “high value target” living at the compound could be anyone else but they decided in the end that it was almost certainly Bin Laden.

US intelligence agents focussed in particular on one of Bin Laden’s couriers – a man identified as a protege of captured al-Qaeda commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The courier’s pseudonym was reportedly given to US interrogators by detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, US media reported.

He appeared to be one of the few couriers completely trusted by Osama Bin Laden, who helped keep the al-Qaeda figurehead in touch with the rest of the world.

For years US intelligence had been unable to name the courier. But four years ago they worked out who he was and two years later they discovered where he operated.

It was only in August 2010 that they located him in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The order to carry out the mission was finally given by President Obama last Friday, after he had held five National Security Council meetings in March and April.

US officials described as “extraordinary” the security measures in the Abbottabad compound – among them high walls and barricades, very few windows, and a 7ft high privacy wall on the second floor.

After the US attack Pakistani troops arrived at the scene and secured the area.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13257330

Yet another article I post below supports an idea the conspiracy theorists love.

Has Osama Bin Laden been dead for seven years – and are the U.S. and Britain covering it up to continue war on terror?

By SUE REID
Last updated at 10:59 PM on 11th September 2009

The last time we heard a squeak from him was on June 3 this year.

The world’s most notorious terrorist outsmarted America by releasing a menacing message as Air Force One touched down on Saudi Arabian soil at the start of Barack Obama’s first and much vaunted Middle East tour.

Even before the new President alighted at Riyadh airport to shake hands with Prince Abdullah, Bin Laden’s words were being aired on TV, radio and the internet across every continent.

Osama in October 2001Genuine picture: Osama Bin Laden in October 2001

It was yet another propaganda coup for the 52-year-old Al Qaeda leader. In the audiotape delivered to the Arab news network Al Jazeera, Bin Laden said that America and her Western allies were sowing seeds of hatred in the Muslim world and deserved dire consequences.

It was the kind of rant we have heard from him before, and the response from British and U.S. intelligence services was equally predictable.

They insisted that the details on the tape, of the President’s visit and other contemporary events, proved that the mastermind of 9/11, America’s worst ever terrorist atrocity, was still alive – and that the hunt for him must go on.

Bin Laden has always been blamed for orchestrating the horrific attack – in which nearly 3,000 people perished – eight years ago this week. President George W. Bush made his capture a national priority, infamously promising with a Wild West flourish to take him ‘dead or alive’.

The U.S. State Department offered a reward of $50million for his whereabouts. The FBI named him one of their ten ‘most wanted’ fugitives, telling the public to watch out for a left-handed, grey-bearded gentleman who walks with a stick.

Bin LadenFake? Bin Laden two months later, when he was supposedly dead

Yet this master terrorist remains elusive. He has escaped the most extensive and expensive man-hunt in history, stretching across Waziristan, the 1,500 miles of mountainous badlands on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Undeterred, Barack Obama has launched a fresh operation to find him. Working with the Pakistani Army, elite squads of U.S. and British special forces were sent into Waziristan this summer to ‘hunt and kill’ the shadowy figure intelligence officers still call ‘the principal target’ of the war on terror.

This new offensive is, of course, based on the premise that the 9/11 terrorist is alive. After all, there are the plethora of ‘Bin Laden tapes’ to prove it.

Yet what if he isn’t? What if he has been dead for years, and the British and U.S. intelligence services are actually playing a game of double bluff?

What if everything we have seen or heard of him on video and audio tapes since the early days after 9/11 is a fake – and that he is being kept ‘alive’ by the Western allies to stir up support for the war on terror?

Incredibly, this is the breathtaking theory that is gaining credence among political commentators, respected academics and even terror experts.

Of course, there have been any number of conspiracy theories concerning 9/11, and it could be this is just another one.

But the weight of opinion now swinging behind the possibility that Bin Laden is dead – and the accumulating evidence that supports it – makes the notion, at the very least, worthy of examination.

The theory first received an airing in the American Spectator magazine earlier this year when former U.S. foreign intelligence officer and senior editor Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University, stated bluntly: ‘All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.’

9/119/11: Bin Laden originally insisted in official press statements that he had played no role in the atrocity

Prof Codevilla pointed to inconsistencies in the videos and claimed there have been no reputable sightings of Bin Laden for years (for instance, all interceptions by the West of communications made by the Al Qaeda leader suddenly ceased in late 2001).

Prof Codevilla asserted: ‘The video and audio tapes alleged to be Osama’s never convince the impartial observer,’ he asserted. ‘The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic, aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between the colours and styles of his beard are small stuff.’

There are other doubters, too. Professor Bruce Lawrence, head of Duke University’s religious studies’ department and the foremost Bin Laden expert, argues that the increasingly secular language in the video and audio tapes of Osama (his earliest ones are littered with references to God and the Prophet Mohammed) are inconsistent with his strict Islamic religion, Wahhabism.

He notes that, on one video, Bin Laden wears golden rings on his fingers, an adornment banned among Wahhabi followers.

Bin Laden
Bin Laden

Bin Laden in 1998 (l) and, allegedly, in 2002: Sceptics have pointed to a thicker nose and the ring on his right hand as proof it is an imposter

This week, still more questions have been raised with the publication in America and Britain of a book called Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?

Written by political analyst and philosopher Professor David Ray Griffin, former emeritus professor at California’s Claremont School of Theology, it is provoking shock waves – for it goes into far more detail about his supposed death and suggests there has been a cover-up by the West.

The book claims that Bin Laden died of kidney failure, or a linked complaint, on December 13, 2001, while living in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains close to the border with Waziristan.

His burial took place within 24 hours, in line with Muslim religious rules, and in an unmarked grave, which is a Wahhabi custom.

The author insists that the many Bin Laden tapes made since that date have been concocted by the West to make the world believe Bin Laden is alive. The purpose? To stoke up waning support for the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To understand Griffin’s thesis, we must remember the West’s reaction to 9/11, that fateful sunny September day in 2001. Within a month, on Sunday, October 7, the U.S. and Britain launched massive retaliatory air strikes in the Tora Bora region where they said ‘prime suspect’ Bin Laden was living ‘as a guest of Afghanistan’.

This military offensive ignored the fact that Bin Laden had already insisted four times in official Al Qaeda statements made to the Arab press that he played no role in 9/11.

Indeed, on the fourth occasion, on September 28 and a fortnight after the atrocity, he declared emphatically: ‘I have already said I am not involved. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge… nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act.’

Within hours of the October 7 strikes by the U.S. on Tora Bora, Bin Laden made his first ever appearance on video tape. Dressed in Army fatigues, and with an Islamic head-dress, he had an assault rifle propped behind him in a broadly lit mountain hideout. Significantly, he looked pale and gaunt.

Although he called President George W. Bush ‘head of the infidels’ and poured scorn on the U.S., he once again rejected responsibility for 9/11.

‘America was hit by God in one of its softest spots. America is full of fear, from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that.’

Then came a second videotape on November 3, 2001. Once again, an ailing Bin Laden lashed out at the United States. He urged true Muslims to celebrate the attacks – but did not at any time acknowledge he had been involved in the atrocity.

And then there was silence until December 13, 2001 – the date Griffin claims Bin Laden died. That very day, the U.S. Government released a new video of the terror chief. In this tape, Bin Laden contradicted all his previous denials, and suddenly admitted to his involvement in the atrocity of 9/11.

The tape had reportedly been found by U.S. troops in a private home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, after anti-Taliban forces took over the city. A label attached to it claimed that it had been made on November 9, 2001.

BushBush made Bin Laden’s capture a national priority, claiming he could get his man – dead or alive

The tape shows Bin Laden talking with a visiting sheik. In it, he clearly states that he not only knew about the 9/11 atrocities in advance, but had planned every detail personally.

What manna for the Western authorities! This put the terrorist back in the frame over 9/11. The Washington Post quoted U.S. officials saying that the video ‘offers the most convincing evidence of a connection between Bin Laden and the September 11 attacks’.

A euphoric President Bush added: ‘For those who see this tape, they realise that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, but he has no conscience and no soul.’

In London, Downing Street said that the video was ‘conclusive proof of his involvement’. The then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, added: ‘There is no doubt it is the real thing. People can see Bin Laden there, making those utterly chilling words of admission about his guilt for organising the atrocities of September 11.’

Yet Professor Griffin claims this ‘confessional’ video provokes more questions than answers. For a start, the Bin Laden in this vital film testimony looks different.

He is a weighty man with a black beard, not a grey one. His pale skin had suddenly become darker, and he had a different shaped nose. His artistic hands with slender fingers had transformed into those of a pugilist. He looked in exceedingly good health.

Furthermore, Bin Laden can be seen writing a note with his right hand, although he is left-handed. Bizarrely, too, he makes statements about 9/11 which Griffin claims would never have come from the mouth of the real Bin Laden – a man with a civil engineering degree who had made his fortune (before moving into terrorism) from building construction in the Middle East.

For example, the Al Qaeda leader trumpets that far more people died in 9/11 than he had expected. He goes on: ‘Due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the explosion from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. That is all we had hoped for.’ (In reality the Twin Towers’ completely fell down).

The words of the true Bin Laden? No, says Griffin, because of the obvious mistakes. ‘Given his experience as a contractor, he would have known the Twin Towers were framed with steel, not iron,’ he says.

‘He would also known that steel and iron do not begin to melt until they reach 2,800 deg F. Yet a building fire fed by jet fuel is a hydrocarbon fire, and could not have reached above 1,800 deg F.’

Griffin, in his explosive book, says this tape is fake, and he goes further.

‘A reason to suspect that all of the post-2001 Bin Laden tapes are fabrications is that they often appeared at times that boosted the Bush presidency or supported a claim by its chief ‘war on terror’ ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

‘The confession tape came exactly when Bush and Blair had failed to prove Bin Laden’s responsibility for 9/11 and both men were trying to win international public support, particularly in the Islamic world, for the anti-terrorist campaign.’

Griffin suggests that Western governments used highly sophisticated, special effects film technology to morph together images and vocal recordings of Bin Laden.

So if they are fakes, why has Al Qaeda kept quiet about it? And what exactly happened to the real Bin Laden?

The answer to the first question may be that the amorphous terrorist organisation is happy to wage its own propaganda battle in the face of waning support – and goes along with the myth that its charismatic figurehead is still alive to encourage recruitment to its cause.

As for the matter of what happened to him, hints of Bin Laden’s kidney failure, or that he might be dead, first appeared on January 19, 2002, four months after 9/11.

This was when Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf told America’s news show CNN: ‘I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a kidney patient. The images of him show he is extremely weak.’

In his book, Professor Griffin also endorses this theory. He says Bin Laden was treated for a urinary infection, often linked to kidney disease, at the American Hospital in Dubai in July 2001, two months before 9/11. At the same time, he ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be delivered to Afghanistan.

How could Bin Laden, on the run in snowy mountain caves, have used the machine that many believe was essential to keep him alive? Doctors whom Griffin cites on the subject think it would have been impossible.

He would have needed to stay in one spot with a team of medics, hygienic conditions, and a regular maintenance programme for the dialysis unit itself.

And what of the telling, small news item that broke on December 26, 2001 in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Wafd? It said a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban had announced that Osama Bin Laden had been buried on or about December 13.

‘He suffered serious complications and died a natural, quiet death. He was buried in Tora Bora, a funeral attended by 30 Al Qaeda fighters, close members of his family and friends from the Taliban. By the Wahhabi tradition, no mark was left on the grave,’ said the report.

The Taliban official, who was not named, said triumphantly that he had seen Bin Laden’s face in his shroud. ‘He looked pale, but calm, relaxed and confident.’

It was Christmas in Washington DC and London and the report hardly got a mention. Since then, the Bin Laden tapes have emerged with clockwork regularity as billions have been spent and much blood spilt on the hunt for him.

Bin Laden has been the central plank of the West’s ‘war on terror’. Could it be that, for years, he’s just been smoke and mirrors?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1212851/Has-Osama-Bin-Laden-dead-seven-years–U-S-Britain-covering-continue-war-terror.html

Another great link to look at http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/2/did_pakistani_govt_know_where_osama

After all is said and done…with so many untruths and further untruths one wonders will the world ever know the truth about what really happened on 9/11 , the day that changed the world and wreaked havoc on a people far removed from the USA.

Two Ahmedi (a muslim sect…though Pakistan has declared them as non muslims) mosques were raided and the worshippers inside attacked by armed millitants in Lahore. Two months ago…two Ahmedi brothers in Faisalabad shot in cold blood because…they were Ahmedis… the hospital where the injured from the mosque attack were taken… came under fire when militants stormed the hospital to either finish off what they started and or to take care of their comrade who was taken prisoner and was being treated at the hospital

While all this was going on tweeps were busy on Twitter tweeting away their comments, ranging from anger, disgust and cynicism . Amidst all of this I was shocked when someone actually asked me if I was Ahmedi as I guess they were surprised why I seemed so appalled at these happenings. I don’t know what appalled me more. The militants are warped and so are expected to behave in deranged ways but to have an ordinary Pakistani citizen ask me if I was Ahmedi was disappointing. Does it matter I asked? does it make a difference? shouldn’t we stand for anyone who is wronged in Pakistan? Shouldn’t we all stand together as on nation regardless of what my personal relationship with God is. All these invisible dividing lines that are now becoming more and more visible and searing through the very soul of Pakistan. Does Pakistan still exist? did it ever? Or are we just a collection of disgruntled people living under a name and a flag that actually has no meaning to us. I have my tribe…you have yours…don’t mess with me… I won’t mess with you…or I might …if I really don’t like what you’re thinking… or what you wear…or if you have too much…. or too little…. this is what we have come down to…

I am ranting again… but it is horrifying to see what we have become. Where a visit to the emergency ward of a hospital or to go worship one’s God could be one’s last.

A 13 year old girl is raped for 21 days by police officers…. the Police are investigating the matter… but there is no nationwide public outrage at this kind of behaviour. A journalist is accused of yellow journalism and could possibly be the the cause of the murder of an ISI agent by the Taliban and that does not get too much media coverage. Some people decide to draw cartoons that admitedly may be offensive, but I wouldn’t know as I choose not to bother to even take a look at the page as quite frankly that does not interest me. That gets everyone’s attention and we rise to defend our religion. I don’t want to get into a religious debate but I will put some quotes here that I came across.

“Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion,” [Quran, 109:6] “Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve,” (Quran, 18:29)”There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is distinct from error,” [Quran, 2:256]

Why are messages like these from the Quran rarely if ever stated by our religous lot? Why have we as Muslims allowed the clerics with their own political agendas to hijack our religion. First of all.. your relationship with God is your business…not mine or Maulvi whatever his name is.

Another point I feel strongly about is the dangers of censorship. We are supposedly living in a democratic country and for someone else to decide for me how much information they want me to have is not something I am willing to accept. Pakistan blocked Facebook, You tube, even Twitter at some point. I believe Google fell in there somewhere too. Its like the authorities had found the perfect excuse to send us back in time when the govt of Pakistan decided to dictate to its people what they should or should not believe. All this under the banner of a democratic govt. In actual fact all this accomplished was more attention drawn to the group, and a large part of the internet community of Pakistan fighting back by finding ways around to get back on the net only to show that the choice needs to be in their individual hands.

I could understand if the offensive link was blacked out so as to avoid a backlash back home who wait for opportunities like this to show their righteous stants. but a blanket ban? seriously? How about not cutting off communication and allowing Pakistani Muslims to peacefully register their protests in the way of reasonable arguements or discussion or dialogue? The above quotes from the Quran were put up on my status on Facebook and to my horror I got an invite from a Christian person to a group hating Jews. Needless to say I didn’t join but hate mongering for any group should not be tolerated. I believe Facebook should take action against any group that aims to insult any group of people whether they are Muslims, Jews, Christians, Ahmedis, whoever. I believe all of us as a community should stand up for anyone who is treated in that way. Tolerance is not a natural trait for us humans clearly and perhaps that is something that is to be fostered. Thus I come back to the quotes from the Quran:

“Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion,” [Quran, 109:6] “Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve,” (Quran, 18:29)”There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is distinct from error,” [Quran, 2:256]

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7891955.stm

 

Pakistan valley under Sharia law

Pakistan has signed a peace deal with a Taleban group that will lead to the enforcement of the Islamic Sharia law in the restive Swat valley.

Regional officials urged the Taleban, who agreed a 10-day truce on Sunday, to lay down their arms permanently.

Once one of Pakistan’s most popular holiday destinations, the Swat valley is now mostly under Taleban control.

Thousands of people have fled and hundreds of schools have been destroyed since the Taleban insurgency in 2007.

Chief Minister of North West Frontier Province Ameer Hussain Hoti announced a bill had been signed that would implement a new “order of justice” in the Malakand division, which includes Swat.

The bill will create a separate system of justice for the whole region.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan, who was recently in Swat, says the Taleban had already set up their own system of Islamic justice, as they understand it.

 

 [The deal] was reached after realisation that it was the demand of the people 
Ameer Hussain Hoti,
NWFP chief minister

Their campaign against female education has led to tens of thousands of children being denied an education, our correspondent says.

US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, who is in India, said he needed more information on the deal but that the situation in Swat had “deeply affected the people of Pakistan, not just in Peshawar but in Lahore and in Islamabad”.

Mr Holbrooke said Swat “demonstrates a key point and that is that India, the United States and Pakistan have all a common threat now… [we] all face an enemy which possesses a direct threat to our leadership”.

‘Very positive’

 

Tribal areas map

The government of North West Frontier Province had been holding talks with local militant leader, Sufi Mohammad, on making amendments to the enforcement of Sharia in Swat.Sufi Mohammad, a pro-Taleban cleric, is the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, who has been waging a violent campaign to impose Sharia in the region.

Mr Hoti said: “An agreement has been reached with Sufi Mohammad’s delegation and this is a great

“The recommendations and proposals have been finalised, but they can only be implemented after peace is achieved.”

Mr Hoti said President Asif Ali Zardari had “in principle… approved this package”.

Mr Hoti said the agreement had not been made “under pressure from anyone” and was not unconstitutional.

“It was reached after realisation that it was the demand of the people.”

The chief minister said the government had done all it could and asked for the Taleban to now lay down their arms.

He said a grand jirga (council) led by Sufi Mohammad would now be going to Swat to get all the factions to comply.

The Taleban have said they will examine the document before ending hostilities permanently.

The Agence France-Presse news agency quoted Sufi Mohammad as saying: “We had been holding negotiations with the government on a 22-point charter of demands for quite some time. There were differences on five points, which were removed in a meeting on Sunday.”

 

Local people fleeing Swat   

Many people have fled Swat to be in safer parts of Pakistan

Sharia law has been in force in Malakand since 1994. But appeal cases are heard in the Peshawar high court, which operates under the civil code.Our correspondent says there will be alterations to the appeals process – a point of contention often cited by the militants for their continued insurgency.

The agreement will bind the provincial government to implement Sharia law in the Malakand division, which comprises Swat and its adjoining areas.

The people of Swat have been caught in the crossfire between the army and the Taleban, our correspondent says.

More than 1,000 civilians have died in shelling by the army or from beheadings sanctioned by the Taleban. Thousands more have been displaced.

The Taleban now control the entire countryside of Swat, limiting army control to parts of the valley’s capital, Mingora.

Many people in Swat now would favour an early exit by the army as they have failed to roll back the Taleban or protect the Taleban’s opponents, says our correspondent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

veiled-womanThere is no requirement in Islam to cover one’s face — the niqab is the epitome of male control over Muslim women
By Tarek Fatah, Citizen SpecialFebruary 5, 2009
Barely a week goes by when my religion, Islam, does not face a fresh round of scrutiny. If it is not a suicide bomber blowing himself up in an Iraqi mosque screaming “Allah O Akbar,” it is news that an imam in Malaysia has declared the practice of Yoga sinful. If it is not a Toronto imam defending suicide bombing on TVO, a Muslim woman writes a column in a Canadian daily, advocating the introduction of Shariah law in Canada.

But the one topic that rears its head in almost predictable cycles is the subject of a Muslim woman’s supposed Islamic attire. Whether it is swimming pools or polling booths there is no escape from the repeated controversies surrounding the face mask, better known as the niqab, or the burqa.

The latest incarnation of the niqab controversy surfaced this week when a Toronto judge ordered a Muslim woman to take off her niqab when she testified in a case of sexual assault.

The woman invoked Islam as the reason why she wanted to give testimony while wearing a face mask. She told the judge, “It’s a respect issue, one of modesty,” adding Islam considers her niqab as her “honour.”

Her explanations were rejected by the judge who determined that the woman’s “religious belief” was not that strong and that in his opinion the woman was asking to wear the niqab as “a matter of comfort.”

But all of these arguments are premised on the acceptance of the myth that a face mask for women is Islamic religious attire.

Humbug.

There is no requirement in Islam for Muslim women to cover their faces. The niqab is the epitome of male control over women. It is a product of Saudi Arabia and its distortion of Islam to suit its Wahabbi agenda, which is creeping into Canada.

If there is any doubt that the niqab is not required by Islam, take at look at the holiest place for Muslims — the grand mosque in Mecca, the Ka’aba. For over 1,400 years Muslim men and women have prayed in what we believe is the House of God and for all these centuries women have been explicitly forbidden from covering their faces.

For the better part of the 20th century, Muslim reformists, from Egypt to India, campaigned against this terrible tribal custom imposed by Wahabbi Islam. My mother’s generation threw off their burqas when Muslim countries gained their independence after the Second World War. Millions of women encouraged by their husbands, fathers and sons, shed this oppressive attire as the first step in embracing gender equality.

But while the rest of the world moves toward the goal of gender equality, right here, under our very noses, Islamists are pushing back the clock, convincing educated Muslim women they are sexual objects and a source of sin.

It will be difficult to pinpoint what went wrong, but most of Canada’s growth in niqabi women can be traced to one development in 2004, when a radical Pakistani female scholar by the name of Farhat Hashmi came to Canada on a visitor’s visa, to establish the Al-Huda Islamic Institute for women.

Maclean’s magazine reported in July 2006 that she had “established a school where she lectures to mostly young, middle-class women from mainstream Muslim families, not only from across the country but also from the U.S. and as far away as Australia.”

In October 2005, the Globe and Mail ran a story on Dr. Hashmi quoting a 20-year-old Muslim woman as saying, “I agree with Dr. Hashmi that women should stay at home and look after their families.” This student was so impressed with Dr. Hashmi’s sermons that she convinced 10 of her friends to enrol in the course that involved wearing the niqab, leaving the work force and embracing polygamy.

In the Globe piece, 18-year-old Sadaf Mahmood defended polygamy and the burqa saying: “There are more women than men in this world. Who will take care of these women? It is better for a man to do things legally by taking a second wife, rather than having an affair.”

While the rest of Canada sleeps, the Islamist agenda, funded by the Saudis and inspired by the Iranians, continues to make its presence felt. The vast majority of Muslims look on in shock, unable to understand why this country would tolerate the oppression of women in the name of religion and multiculturalism.

The woman who was denied her burqa in court is a victim. She is merely a puppet in the hands of those who wish to keep women in their place. First she suffered the trauma of the alleged sexual assault, which was then compounded by the controversy about her niqab. She could have asked the judge to not let her face her alleged attackers, and that would have been a fair request.

But when she invoked Islam and said hiding her face would be an act of religiosity, she became a voice not for justice, but for those who wish to sneak Shariah law into our judicial system. This should be stopped.

Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. tarekfatah@rogers.com
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Courtesy and Thanks: Ottawacitizen.com
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Life/Lifting+veil+niqab/1254516/story.html

A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan.

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Back
The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.

For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.

A full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths. It is only a matter of time before this fighting shifts to Peshawar and Islamabad (which has already been a witness to the Lal Masjid episode) and engulfs Lahore and Karachi as well. The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy.

Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals and ordinary people praying in mosques have all been reduced to globs of flesh and fragments of bones. But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of the army operation against the cruel perpetrators of these acts because they believe that they are Islamic warriors fighting for Islam and against American occupation. Political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have no words of solace for those who have suffered at the hands of Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved exclusively for the victims of Predator drones, even if they are those who committed grave crimes against their own people. Terrorism, by definition, is an act only the Americans can commit.

What explains Pakistan’s collective masochism? To understand this, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have rendered this country so completely different from what it was in earlier times.

For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula. This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a magnificent Muslim culture in India for a thousand years. This culture produced Mughul architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam (Wahhabism) is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state used Islam as an instrument of state policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts in universities required that the candidate demonstrate a knowledge of Islamic teachings and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – still in an amorphous and diffused form – is more popular now than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state.

Villages have changed drastically; this transformation has been driven, in part, by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other sects, who they do not regard as Muslims. The Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, are now beginning to take a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from the recent decisions of the Lahore High Court.

In Pakistan’s lower-middle and middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement that frowns on any and every expression of joy and pleasure. Lacking any positive connection to culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichitraveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. So the university has been forced to hold its music classes elsewhere. Religious fundamentalists consider music haram or un-Islamic. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has few teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence. Nevertheless, the Pakistani elite, disconnected from the rest of the population, live their lives in comfort through their vicarious proximity to the West. Alcoholism is a chronic problem of the super rich of Lahore – a curious irony for this deeply religious country.

Islamisation of the state and the polity was supposed to have been in the interest of the ruling class – a classic strategy for preserving it from the wrath of the working class. But the amazing success of the state is turning out to be its own undoing. Today, it is under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jihad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers.

Pakistan’s self-inflicted suffering comes from an education system that, like Saudi Arabia’s system, provides an ideological foundation for violence and future jihadists. It demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of a school-going child a sense of siege and embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

On the previous page, the reader can view the government-approved curriculum. This is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an act of parliament passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It was prepared by the curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education, government of Pakistan. It sounds like a blueprint for a religious fascist state.

Alongside are scanned pictures from an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet. The masthead states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines.” Although not an officially approved textbook, it is being used currently by some regular schools, as well as madrassas associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Musharraf. These picture scans have been taken from a child’s book, hence the scribbles.

The world of the Pakistani schoolchild remained largely unchanged, even after September 11, 2001, the event that led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jihad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation,” General Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned down version of the curriculum that existed under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto who had inherited it from General Zia-ul-Haq. Fearful of taking on the powerful religious forces, every incumbent government has refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be moulded by fanatics. What may happen a generation later has always been a secondary issue for a government challenged on so many fronts.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jihad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, they invited students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers and declared a war which knew no borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jihad. Post-2001, this ceased to be done openly.

Still, the primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates back to the 11th century, with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as ‘maulvi sahibs’ teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jihad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrassas provided the US-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder they needed to fight a holy war. The Americans and Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan. A detailed picture of the current situation is not available. But according to the national education census, which the ministry of education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the NWFP with 2,843; Sindh has 1,935; the Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA), 1,193; Balochistan, 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 586; the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), 135; and the Islamabad capital territory, 77. The ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are acquiring religious education in the 13,000 madrassas.

These figures appear to be way off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free boarding and lodging plus provision of books to the students, is a key part of their appeal. Additionally, parents across the country desire that their children be “disciplined” and given a thorough Islamic education. The madrassas serve this purpose, too, exceedingly well.

Madrassas have deeply impacted the urban environment. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from the rest of Pakistan. Also, it had largely been the abode of Pakistan’s elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students, sporting little prayer caps, dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm the city, making women minus the hijab increasingly nervous.

Total segregation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists, the consequences of which have been catastrophic. For example, on April 9, 2006, 21 women and eight children were crushed to death and scores injured in a stampede inside a three-storey madrassa in Karachi, where a large number of women were attending a weekly congregation. Male rescuers, who arrived in ambulances, were prevented from moving the injured women to hospitals.

One cannot dismiss this incident as being just one of a kind. In fact, soon after the October 2005 earthquake, as I walked through the destroyed city of Balakot, a student of the Frontier Medical College described to me how he and his male colleagues were stopped by religious elders from digging out injured girl students from under the rubble of their school building. This action was similar to that of Saudi Arabia’s ubiquitous religious ‘mutaween’ (police) who, in March 2002, had stopped school girls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing their abayas – a long robe worn in Saudi Arabia. In a rare departure from the norm, Saudi newspapers had blamed and criticised the mutaween for letting 15 girls burn to death.

The Saudi-isation of a once-vibrant Pakistani culture continues at a relentless pace. The drive to segregate is now also being found among educated women. Vigorous proselytisers carrying this message, such as Mrs Farhat Hashmi, have been catapulted to the heights of fame and fortune. Their success is evident. Two decades back, the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu. Today, some shops across the country specialise in abayas. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, the female student is seeking the anonymity of the burqa. And in some parts of the country she seems to outnumber her sisters who still “dare” to show their faces.

I have observed the veil profoundly affect habits and attitudes. Many of my veiled female students have largely become silent note-takers, are increasingly timid and seem less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. They lack the confidence of a young university student.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the distance. The socially conservative are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine – the list runs on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims, and if presented with incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression.

The immediate future does not appear hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control of the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Baitullah Mehsud, Maulana Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh. Poverty, deprivation, lack of justice and extreme differences of wealth provide the perfect environment for these demagogues to recruit people to their cause. Their gruesome acts of terror are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis merely as a war against imperialist America. This could not be further from the truth.

In the long term, we will have to see how the larger political battle works out between those Pakistanis who want an Islamic theocratic state and those who want a modern Islamic republic. It may yet be possible to roll back those Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years and to defeat its hate-driven holy warriors. There is no chance of instant success; perhaps things may have to get worse before they get better. But, in the long term, I am convinced that the forces of irrationality will cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls only in one direction. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and the evolution of the humans into a higher and better species will continue. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, they will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religiosity and nationalism. But, for now, this must be just a matter of faith.

The author teaches physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

E-mail: newsline@cyber.net.pk

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