politics


The Imran Khan Jalsa was impressive. Regardless of whether you choose to support him or not… one has to give credit to the man for people showing up to show support from every walk of life and economic strata with no one misbehaving. Goes to show how hungry Pakistanis are for change and for a leader to bring them out of the abyss that Pakistan has fallen into. On Twitter it was amusing to see so much dialogue on whether he is the future or not. PTI supporters are quick to aggressively cut down and /or humiliate anyone who dares question the great Khan (which is worrying…after all we are all pushing for democracy….right?) while the anti Khan’s were hanging on every word hoping that some solid strategies and policies would be clearly marked out as to how the Khan wants to achieve what he is promising to do. Mr Khan’s speech was a bit disappointing to say the least. And though entertaining in a private setting… a potential world leader to be calling Mrs Clinton Chachi Clinton was not the way to behave. Playing to the galley one can understand but surely if one is expecting change, then one would hope that the change would be right from the beginning and teaching the awam that being respectful while having intelligent discourse is something Pakistan and Pakistanis are capable of .

Don’t get me wrong. I have admired Imran Khan for his cricket and of course his fabulous work with SKMT. Not sure of his abilities to run a country. But … if he has that much support…then maybe it may be a good idea for people to come on board to support and hold him accountable so he doesn’t make the same mistakes and fail the way Musharraf did. He clearly is popular… we ALL want change…. we are happy to watch and criticize but that’s a good thing. Imran Khan would do well to listen to all the critics and sift out the valid rational concerns from the rabbit “I hate because I love to hate him” critics. I for one would love to see someone come and turn this country into the kind of nation one feels proud to be a citizen of at the international forum instead of only being known for our weaknesses.  If that is to be Imran Khan … and I say IF…. then please… take note of the genuine concerns of those who also want change… and address them too.

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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

It baffles the mind how muslim men can storm a place of worship… kill with such abandon and justify it in their heads as a crime that does not weigh as much as cartoonists in a foreign country. The Ahmedis have been targeted time and time again in Pakistan…a trend started by the way during Zulfiqar Bhutto’s time who wanted to please the clerics of that age. The police either are unable or don’t want to do anything to take extra measures to protect them. But judging by how things have been unfolding lately I think if the Ahmedis weren’t there …some other excuse would have been found…Its almost as if a whole generation of young men whose minds have been twisted by some warped sense of righteousness have taken it upon themselves to rid the world of filth as they see it… all the while being used by filthy people with their own selfish motives.

Is the army in control of Pakistan? What are the Intelligence agencies really doing? All these arms, ammunition, bombs…have to come from somewhere… they cost a lot of money… where is the source…surely these people couldn’t have been operating for so long in Pakistan and no one knows this? In which case who all is involved? and will they really be able to make it stop once their motives are achieved? Or will they sit smiling smoking cigars in some exotic foreign country surrounded by their ill gotten wealth and it not really matter that they leave a devastated country behind? So many questions…. where are the answers?? Is it RAW at work again as we are prone to say or just our own working on some devious complicated plan that benefits just a few?

I switched on the tv the other day and with sadness I watched a younger generation talk about Pakistani heroes and how we should honour them blah blah blah… and I realized..its the same talk we did when we were at that age…sweet innocence… and the cycle goes round but nothing ever changes. I have watched my closest most optimistic loved ones through the years lose hope and brightness and optimism as it slowly dawns on them that no matter how hard one tries…at the end of the day… it really makes no difference…. Too much has been damaged… from corruption at all levels to corrosion of all institutions… education, health, you name it…its been eroded away by bad policies and foolish people leading a country that should have had better leaders…had we had the wisdom to choose them and more  importantly create them. Today I am more saddened than usual by Pakistan and what we …the Pakistanis have allowed to happen to our motherland.

How dare we accuse the West of a wrong understanding of Islam when this is ..for the most part…the side of Islam that is most often shown? How dare we get indignant about cartoons that non muslims draw when our very own brothers are killing their own? When will the Muslims learn how to live?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Swat diary: ‘Taleban rule now’

 

A masked militant supporter of Maulana Fazlullah, a hardline cleric, raises a sword and a knife as he stands guard outside a building, where paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps are detained, in Charabagh near Mingora, Nov 2007

Militant Taleban sympathisers are fighting for control of Swat

Munir (not his real name), an administrator in the Swat region of north-west Pakistan, describes the challenges of daily life in his valley as the Taleban and the army vie for influence. In recent weeks, he says, the Taleban have gained the upper hand and are making their presence felt in brutal fashion.

 


I know I always say the situation is terrible. And each time I find myself saying it, I am aware it has got worse.Over the last five to six days 13 bodies have been found in our area. In Mingora [capital of Swat] bodies are laid out in the square called Green Chowk. Hundreds come and look at the dead bodies.

Sometimes they have been beheaded, sometimes they are just shot.

Over the last few months the number of people killed in my village alone is in double digits. Some of them are villagers, others are frontiers corps and sometimes we see total strangers just lying there.

But recently there was a terrible death in our village. It happened while I was away. It was a prominent man who spoke against the Taleban and tried to unite people against them. He was shot dead.

 

 Here, nobody really fully knows who belongs to the Taleban. The militants are obvious, the sympathisers are not. 

The deadline of 15 January that the Taleban have set for girls schools to close down is a false deadline. Schools have already closed.Dozens have been burned to the ground. My two nieces were going to school and now they just stay at home. Nobody dares to educate girls now.

People are very sad about this but they are more sad about the dead bodies. People are really becoming very upset about this problem.

‘Beatings’

And the Taleban are taking power, they are going up in the world.

Last night I saw for myself in my village that they had painted on walls signs saying: “Do not smoke” and “do not sell hashish”. It is frightening to see these things painted around your home.

In a village close by militants entered people’s homes and broke television sets and beat the owners using terrible force on them.

They walk about warning people not to smoke and sell cigarettes or hashish. Some people in our village smoke hashish and opium.

The people who were seen smoking during Ramadan were taken by the Taleban, beaten and their mobiles were broken.

‘People leaving’

Most of the Taleban in my area are local villagers, I have come to believe now. Or at least people who were close friends of the Taleban.

Things have changed a lot recently as the Taleban have gained more power in this region. They have guns, weapons, they have got everything. So I think this makes people want to become one of them.

Some people are leaving. My uncle’s old home has been occupied by the Taleban. They have total control of his village. Many of the homes there were razed to the ground when the Taleban battled the army – but the Taleban are still there, although many villagers have left.

Here, nobody really fully knows who belongs to the Taleban. The militants are obvious, the sympathisers are not. There is no trust. The issue becomes complicated when reporters come to the district. Nobody is willing to talk to them.

Everyone is scared. 

By Fatima Bhutto

Why is the University of Texas naming a chair of Pakistan Studies after the notorious U.S. congressman who helped destabilize that country? Fatima Bhutto—niece of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—demands an answer.
Pakistan’s new government, the only in the world headed by two former convicts—who have their fingers on the button of a nuclear-armed state, no less—is nothing if not a keen purveyor of irony.
There’s currently an effort underway by the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Texas to raise funds for a chair of Pakistan Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. The chair, a dream of the Pakistani diplomatic community, is to be named after Charlie Wilson. For those who missed the movie, it’s worth noting that of all the people to name a chair of Pakistani Studies after, Charlie Wilson is possibly the stupidest.
Why Pakistan would chose to honor Wilson is beyond everyone, even the Texans.
“Good-Time Charlie,” as Wilson was affectionately known by Afghan warlords and Texan socialites alike, has the dubious reputation of being the godfather of what would later be known as the Taliban in Afghanistan. (He was also buddies with Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza.) In the 1980s, Wilson led Congress into supporting the CIA covert operation aimed at funneling money and arms into Afghanistan through Pakistan’s military and secret services, the ISI. That money, it should be said, did not go to Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet’s communist invasion. No, it went to the mujahideen in the form of $17 million worth of anti-aircraft weapons, armaments, and other war toys. By the end of 1983, Wilson had managed to siphon $300 million of unused Pentagon cash to the Afghan mujahideen. Before they were the Taliban bad boys of the region, the mujahideen were one of Wilson’s pet projects. And now, Pakistan has decided to honor him by naming a chair of studies after him.
Personally, this is a source of great revulsion for me. My aunt, Benazir, and I never agreed on much, and though she’s no longer alive to debate the point, my guess is that the idea of such a chair would be one more thing we’d not see eye to eye on—she had quite a different relationship with the Taliban than I do.
Why Pakistan would choose to honor Wilson is beyond everyone, even the Texans. According to the university’s newspaper, the Charlie Wilson Chair prompted several professors to send a letter to the dean questioning the naming of the chair. And the Pakistanis? The liberal arts development office at the university said that it “has not heard any concerns from the Pakistani community about the naming of the chair.”
Well if that’s the case, count me as the first. There’s no need to go back in history to find this choice outrageous. Wilson’s legacy remains omnipresent in Pakistan. Inspired by the success of its neighbors, Pakistan now has their very own Taliban (thank you, Charlie), and the ISI continues to exert its might over the country in a distinctly undemocratic way.
Before 2008 was over, Wilson’s boys, the Taliban, had trickled from Pakistan’s northern tribal borders into the heart of the country. They took over Peshawar, once a garden city known for its Buddhist heritage, and in December attacked the Peshawar Model School. The school, which offers co-education to approximately 12,000 of the city’s underprivileged girls and boys, had twelve of its school buses set afire, and a tightly packed set of dynamite detonated in the principal’s office. Several groundskeepers and staff were critically wounded by the explosion and the school was forced to shut down for several days.
But that’s nothing compared to the militants’ hold on the northern city of Swat, the site of a violent civil war that the militants are considered to have won over the past year. The Taliban has set a January 15 deadline in Swat for girls to stop attending school. The choice given to Swat’s parents: take your girls out of school voluntarily, or face Taliban-style justice. Young schoolgirls have already been attacked, a warning of what’s to come should the city continue with its dastardly plan to educate girls.
Wilson’s other pet project, Pakistan’s powerful ISI, also remains a newsmaker. India has been pushing Pakistan to admit that the recent Mumbai attacks were linked to a militant group that was supported by the ISI for years – an accusation Pakistan has not yet accepted, though militants captured in raids earlier this month have supported India’s suspicions. And the Pakistan government would like to hush up the fact that its predecessor, Benazir Bhutto’s administration, aided the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan in 1996, and was one of only three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban government, the others being Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Bhutto’s minister of the interior, Naserullah Babar, a ruthless man who carried a cane walking stick, publicly called the Taliban “my boys.”
My father, an elected member of parliament, was killed while my aunt was prime minister of Pakistan (by her police force, no less). I was always vocally critical of her government’s extra-judicial killings, rife in Karachi at the time. And I spoke out against her corruption and her nepotistically guided politics, which she didn’t like very much. But it’s her role in recognizing the Taliban that is the gift that truly keeps on giving to me.
See, my email address is public—Google it if you’d like—and I get hundreds of emails a day from Pakistanis. Most are kind and supportive, written by frustrated fellow citizens appalled at the state of our country, seeking someone to commiserate with and debate with. But some are from complete loons, fundamentalist types: “Shame on you,” read one recent email. “Yr a disgrace to the veeson (sic) of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She has supported the Muslim brothers in Afghanistan and given the blessing of Pakistan to the fighting sons of the mujahideen…Yr a disgrace to our women, your hairs are uncovered and your arms are bare, dressing in western clothes. You’ll see wat we’ll do to you when inshallah we are the powerful. Cover yr breasts.”
It was a charming email, a sign of how far Charlie Wilson’s Taliban has come in Pakistan.
Senator John McCain, unable to focus on what should be a not-so-early retirement, is busy swinging back and forth between India and Pakistan, coddling one country and scolding the other, all the while warning us all that Pakistan is within an inch of being aerially attacked by India. Maybe the Pakistani diplomatic mission can get cracking on funding a chair of Pakistan Studies named after McCain and Condi Rice, who very kindly eased tensions between India and Pakistan and dropped discreet hints that Pakistan may want to rein in Wilson’s chums at the ISI.
So, why not? Maybe one Charlie Wilson Chair of Pakistan Studies simply isn’t enough. Maybe Pakistani diplomatic missions the world over can corral their efforts and set up a whole Charlie Wilson syllabus: Funding Fundamentalists 101; Intro to Training Third-World Secret Services; Right-Wing Dictatorships: Where Have They Gone?
I’d love to sign up for a few classes. Too bad I’m a girl.
Fatima Bhutto is a graduate of Columbia University and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She is currently at work on a book to be published by Jonathan Cape in 2010 and writes regularly for the New Statesman among other publications. Fatima lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan.

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