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Second Opinion: The Al Qaeda empire in Pakistan

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion

Submitted by Khaled Ahmed (India), Aug 24, 2007 at 09:57

We are in denial about the presence of Al Qaeda in Pakistan but the march of events is revealing what we don't wish to acknowledge. Some of it is of course owing to the information blackout under which the state had forced the people of Pakistan to liveWhile our religious leaders deny that there is such a thing as Al Qaeda existing on the face of the earth, and that the Americans had created it to be able to attack Muslim sovereign states, the empire of Al Qaeda keeps unfolding in Pakistan. The government troops are fighting Al Qaeda foreigners and the local warriors aligned with them in the tribal areas and the major cities of the country. What is coming to light is the astounding depth of Al Qaeda's penetration of Pakistan. One is compelled to realise that the state itself was cooperating with the elements that planned to take over Pakistan on behalf of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Reported in ‘Khabrain' (10 July 2002), FBI and Pakistani intelligence agencies arrested an Egyptian Arab Hisham al-Wahid from Saudi Arabia and brought him to Pakistan. He guided the agencies to Gaggar Phatak in Karachi where behind the police station in a garage three activists of Jaish Muhammad and two of Lashkar Jhangvi were arrested. These activists belonged to Sargodha and had been trained in the Akora Khattak seminary of Maulana Samiul Haq. These activists then guided the police to Gulshan Hadeed in Steel Town where in a bungalow, the police arrested one Iraqi and two Yemeni Arabs. All of them belonged to Al Qaeda and were working in a poultry farm owned by a man from Nazimabad. The three Arabs spoke fluent Urdu, Balochi and Pushto. From them the police recovered three satellite phones, two laptop computers, four ordinary computers, four mobile phones, four sub-machine guns along with six magazines. The police also searched Mujahid Colony Nazimabad and arrested Rafeequl Islam of Sipah Sahaba. It recovered cassettes showing Mullah Umar and Osama bin Laden and books on jehad from Nazimabad. Rafeequl Islam acted as a communications man for the jehadi network in Karachi. Daily ‘Din' described Rafeeq as a ‘companion of Osama bin Laden. The same day the police discovered a large cache of arms and rocket launchers of Russian make from Kachra Mandi behind UBL Sports Complex.

When America and Pakistan inducted the Arabs into Afghanistan to fight the Soviet troops, the Afghan society reacted to it negatively. Later the financial power of these Arabs tamed the war-impoverished population. This power extended over Pakistan through the Deobandi and Wahhabi warriors who took training in Afghanistan prior to infiltrating into Kashmir. The state midwifed this process and became linked to the Arabs through its operatives. In 1995 the first attempt was made to take over the state by major-general Zaheerul Islam Abbasi. One individual involved in this unsuccessful coup was Saifullah Akhtar of Harkatul Jehad Islami who saved his skin by turning state witness and escaping to Kandahar where he became close to Mulla Umar and Osama bin Laden, taking his Punjabi Taliban into Central Asia and Chechnya. Sipah Sahaba offshoots Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harkatul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Muhammad sent their warriors for training to camps in Afghanistan funded by Osama bin Laden. When sectarian killings started, the killers of the Shia were sheltered by Osama in Afghanistan, while the Shia killers of Sunnis were sheltered by Iran. (Pakistan has recently given a list of wanted killers to Iran; a similar list was given to Mulla Umar in the past).

The state of Pakistan allowed the centralisation of jehad in Karachi at the Banuri Mosque Complex whose founder Maulana Yusuf Banuri was empowered through induction into the Council of Islamic Ideology in 1977 by General Zia. It was in Banuri Mosque that Osama bin Laden and Mulla Umar reportedly met for the first time during the Afghan war. The above report from Karachi makes clear the connection of Al Qaeda with the Pakistan's jehad movement. The Ahle Hadith connection with Osama was revealed when Osama bin Laden himself (possibly) and his lieutenant Abu Zubaida took shelter in Faisalabad. That in all the big cases of terrorism an official of the state agencies was also caught along with the jehadi terrorists points to the lingering connection of the state with Al Qaeda.

According to Khabrain (11 July 2002), Hafiz Hussain Ahmad of JUI(F) said that Dr Mehmood Ghazi had resigned from the ministry of religious affairs after being cursed by religious circles. But the resignation had come too late. Had he resigned earlier, he would have been ‘ghazi' (victorious) or ‘shaheed' (martyr), but now he was nothing.

Dr Mehmood Ghazi is a scholar of Islam in the orthodox tradition, which means that he cannot completely agree with the Musharraf government in its ‘pragmatic' governance because of his firmly held beliefs. As an apolitical intellectual, however, he cannot find acceptance also with the orthodox religious parties who ‘instrumentalise' Islam for political purposes. He may disagree with the Musharraf government over the abolition of ‘riba' (bank interest) but his views on Blasphemy Law, based on genuinely orthodox sources, are equally unacceptable to the clergy. This is the dilemma of all Muslim intellectuals. They cannot agree to rational governance because of their orthodox faith; they are equally unacceptable to politicised Islam because of their research-based views.

Speaking to Khabrain (12 July 2002), Afghanistan returnee prisoners said that they had not known about the real situation in Afghanistan but had been seduced into going there to fight the Americans by the maulvis. They said they were let down by the rout of the Taliban. They said they had gone under the umbrella of Jaish-e-Muhammad.

This is just a glimpse of the process of disenchantment. But this process will be quickly suppressed. The returnees will be silent in the time to come or they will be reabsorbed into the campaign for overthrowing an erring Pakistani state. Such disenchanted Pakistanis returned from Kuwait in 1991 with a negative view of Iraq but lapsed into silence when faced with the national reaction in favour of Saddam Hussein led by our clergy and army chief Aslam Beg.

According to daily Pakistan (12 July 2002) Punjab information and health minister, medical doctor Dr Mehmood Ahmad Chaudhry, broke down with emotion when talking about jehad. He said a Muslim could never turn his face away from jehad. He said he himself took part in jehad in 1965 and was wounded on the Lahore border with India.

Dr Chaudhry is a worldly-wise man whom the city knows quite well as a career-seeker. The device was used by him to establish emotional contact with his audience. This is the basis of acceptance sought by most politicians in Pakistan in varying degrees. But the subterfuge in it is very clearly visible.


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