Musharraf begs forgiveness
at a news conference. Madrassa students and their plea (below)
General Musharraf's Commitment
to Wipe Out Jihadis Badly Exposed
July 31: While no religious seminary in Pakistan is ready to admit
that the three London suicide bombers ever visited them, the Pakistan
Government has itself declared that the three came to Pakistan
between November 2004 and February 2005.
Siddiq Khan and Shehzad Tanweer stayed in Lahore and Faisalabad
while Haseeb Hussain chose Karachi. Six months after their return
from Pakistan, they committed such bloody acts of terror that
it could change Europe much more than 9/11 changed America. The
tragedy highlights the superficiality of Pakistani President General
Pervez Musharraf’s rhetoric about changing the country’s
their stay at the seminaries, the bombers learnt to make explosives
from recovered Al-Qaeda manuals. The information provided to Islamabad
by the UK authorities show that Khan and Tanweer came to Pakistan
in mid-2004. After landing in Karachi, the two militants traveled
to Lahore from where they proceeded to Faisalabad. In the interregnum,
they were at the Jamia Manzurul Islamia, an extremist Sunni madrassa
situated in Lahore Cantonment. There, they lived with Osama Nazir
at Jamia Fatahul Rahemia, a religious school run by Qari Ahlullah
an extremist cleric, is considered close to outlawed Pakistani
militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, led by Maulana Masood Azhar.
Azhar was released by India at Kandahar in exchange for hijacked
passengers of flight IC-814. British-born Islamic militant Ahmed
Omar Saeed Sheikh, who has been sentenced to death for the killing
of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, was considered close to
intelligence agencies have already approached their Pakistani
counterparts to know whether the three were in touch with the
Al-Qaeda or other Islamic groups in Pakistan, or if there was
a Pakistan-based mastermind behind the London attacks. What the
British authorities specifically asked the Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI) to find out is how many more Muslim volunteers of Pakistani
origin present in the UK are ready to carry out suicide bombings
for their cause.
say British agencies have provided vital leads to their Pakistani
counterparts to track down other potential bombers who have returned
to Britain in the recent past. Sources say two of the four London
bombers had visited Pakistan and were being supervised by Al-Qaeda
managers based in Pakistan since then. British citizenship and
familial ties to Pakistan enabled them to travel freely between
the United Kingdom and the South Asian state.
bombers apparently followed a set route, though there were many
who used to believe that the terror highway of Pakistan had been
closed effectively after Musharraf’s oft-repeated claims
of having taken concrete steps to uproot extremist elements and
dismantle their Jihadi infrastructure.
a month before the blasts, the June 2005 arrests of two Pakistani-Americans
in the small Californian town of Lodi, and a confessional statement
by one of them of having been trained at an Al-Qaeda training
camp in Pakistan for six months till 2004 to carry out terrorist
attacks in the US, had questioned the actual commitment of America’s
most-trusted ally against terror — General Musharraf.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes that the arrests
would help bust the well-organised network of an Islamic militant
group in California whose fighters were being imparted military
training at a Rawalpindi camp run by leading Pakistani militant
outfit, Jamiatul Ansar (JUA), previously called the Harkat ul
Mujahideen (HUM) and formerly led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil.
of the men arrested, 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, is accused in an
FBI criminal complaint of undergoing training in an Al-Qaeda camp
in Pakistan to learn “how to kill Americans” and then
lying to FBI agents about it. His father, 47-year-old Umer Hayat,
is charged with lying about his son’s involvement and his
own financing of the camp. Hamid’s affidavit says that he
was preparing to attack hospitals and shopping centers. It describes
the investigation as beginning on May 29, 2005, when Hamid Hayat
was flying from Pakistan to San Francisco. He had flown to Islamabad
from San Francisco on April 19, 2003, and returned to the US on
May 29, 2005 after his wedding, the FBI affidavit states.
week after the two Pakistanis were arrested in Lodi, the visiting
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik
disclosed in Islamabad on June 13, 2005 that Federal Information
Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed used to run a training camp for Kashmiri
militants when the armed struggle in Jammu & Kashmir was at
declared: “Sheikh Rashid has played a great role for Kashmir’s
liberation. He used to support the frontline Jihadis from Kashmir,
and has the honor of having trained around 3,500 Jihadis. However,
a few know of his contributions.”
Rashid considers himself to be among Musharraf’s closest
hands. As information minister, he happens to be the public face
of the Pakistani Cabinet, as well as the launcher of the General’s
political weather-balloons. Terrorism experts, therefore, say
these revelations highlight the threat posed by the second-generation
Pakistani militants and the persistent presence of terrorist bases
in a country which is the alleged hideout of the Al-Qaeda chief,
Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri.
At the same time, contrary to Musharraf’s claims, the pattern
of treatment being meted out to leaders of the four major Jihadi
groups he had banned in January 2002 shows that his intelligence
establishment continues to maintain its long alliance with the
former, primarily because of the fact that both share a common
agenda: the liberation of ‘Occupied Jammu & Kashmir’.
present, sources say, hundreds of militants are undergoing advanced
training at camps in Bagh, Rawalkot, Kotli, Gulpur, Aliabad, Halanshumali,
Padhar, Halan, Kaliar, Forwad Kahuta and Kacharban across Poonch
district in Jammu & Kashmir.
the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan, militant
circles concede that several training camps along the Line of
Control (LOC) were reactivated in April 2005, facilitated by the
melting of snow. They also say that hundreds of militants had
gathered at various points along the LOC after rigorous training
in cutting and penetrating the fence erected by India.
Musharraf insists that he is determined to end all forms of terrorism,
there seems hardly any evidence that his Government has tried
to dismantle the Jihadi network from Pakistani soil. The authenticity
of his claims can be gauged from the record of his administration’s
handling of the Jihadi kingpins as none of them has either been
prosecuted on terrorism charges, despite the fact that all four
are wanted either by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigations
(CBI) or by the FBI.
things stand, the four major groups — Lashkar-e-Tayyaba
(LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Harkat ul Mujahideen (HUM) and
Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) — resurfaced and regrouped to run
their networks as openly as before, though under different names.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, Maulana Fazlur Rehman
Khalil and Syed Salahuddin — the leaders of the four outfits
— are once again on the loose. While JEM and HUM have been
renamed Khudamul Islam and Jamiatul Ansar respectively, Lashkar
and Hizbul have not camouflaged their identities.
soft treatment these outfits enjoy in the Musharraf administration
shows that they are being kept on the leash to wage a controlled
Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir, whenever needed. As the political
will to dismantle extremist groups that are not on the FBI’s
‘most wanted’ list seems to be absent, most of the
Jihadi groups continue to pursue their agenda. Musharraf, by his
own admission, no longer controls the Jihadis that the state had
long supported, and the ‘holy warriors’ are far from
ready to call it quits.
the Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen, both active in J&K, have
been seemingly allowed by the administration to resume training
at their camps in the country. As the camps reopen, trained militants
as well as aspirants are flocking to enlist for the holy war.
Interestingly, a significant portion of the crowd constitutes
trained militants called in for refresher courses.
years since Musharraf’s January 2002 announcement, the so-called
modernization campaign has largely failed, and hardly a few cosmetic
changes could be introduced in the madrassa system. The Federal
Government’s plan for madrassa reform is a classic example
of the one-step forward, two-steps backwards approach.
rhetoric to modernize the country’s 10,000 seminaries has
met with little success mainly due to his administration’s
failure to enforce the Madrassa Registration and Regulation Ordinance
2002, which was meant to reform seminaries by bringing them into
the mainstream. Most of these madrassas were self-financed but
they are now being funded by the Government also for modernizing
textbooks, including secular subjects and introducing computers
into the classroom.
2001-02, Rs 1,654,000 was distributed among the madrassas. As
the number of students is 1,065,277, this comes to Rs 1.55 per
student per year (2.5 US cents). An additional aid of Rs 30.5
million was released for computers and changing the syllabi in
2003-04, which comes to Rs 28.6 per student (50 US cents). But
since all madrassas do not accept aid, the money need not be distributed
as evenly. The madrassas generally do not charge tuition fees
and attract poor students.
believe that the Musharraf regime’s failure in reforming
the seminaries and in cracking down on Jihadi networks has resulted
in the resurgence of extremism and sectarian violence in the country.
The Pakistani dictator’s priority has never been eradicating
Islamic extremism, but rather the legitimization and consolidation
of his dictatorial rule, for which he seems dependent on the clergy.
clergy is hand-in-glove with the ISI and the Jihadis The nexus
comes into play at the madrassas itself where young students are
indoctrinated. These recruits are then picked up by the agencies
or local militant outfits and trained.
the Afghan Jihad, it was the ISI that hired indoctrinated youth
from the seminaries of the NWFP and Balochistan who were then
trained and sent into Afghanistan. The same was the case with
those who were busy on the Kashmir front. The Pakistani military
and intelligence establishments, the country’s religious
leadership and the militants share a common belief in the country’s
rightful claim over Kashmir.
is amid all these developments over the last two decades that
the tentacles of the July 7 blasts have reached Pakistan. As the
biggest-ever probe launched in Britain explores possible Pakistani
links to the blasts, it has become clear that no one could have
damaged Muslims in Britain more than the suicide bombers. London’s
7/7 brings Muslims across the world back to the situation they
faced after 9/11.
7/7 bombings and the involvement of the British nationals of Pakistani
origin also proves that just as the West has failed in winning
its war against terrorism, the Musharraf administration has been
unsuccessful in winning its war against extremists and individuals.
The bombings have led to increased pressure on Pakistan. As always,
Musharraf has ordered a countrywide crackdown. As scores are picked
up from seminaries, one cannot help but wonder why the cleansing
had stopped after the initial rush of blood.
have described Musharraf’s July 21 address to the nation
as an updated version of his January 2002 televised speech. The
new administrative measures for combating terrorism are similar
to those announced in the past. This raises two questions. What
happened to the first campaign
against terror? If these measures did not produce desired results
in the past, how will they do a better job this time?
say given the military background of the Musharraf regime, the
counter-terrorism policy was confined to administrative measures
pursued through the civil administration, police and intelligence
agencies. The narrow strategy comprised police raids on seminaries
and arrests of some activists of militant outfits. However, this
policy didn’t offer a sustainable solution because the Government
priorities shifted and the arrested Jihadis were released later.
problem that adversely affected the 2002 campaign against terrorism
was the divided official opinion about the role of militant groups
in the insurgency in Kashmir. This is why for a long time after
September 2001, Pakistan’s officials insisted on distinguishing
between terrorism and wars of liberation. Some groups involved
in Kashmir were advised by Pakistani intelligence agencies to
keep a low profile. The underlying assumption was that if needed,
these groups could be reactivated to pursue the official agenda
the state patronage of Islamic orthodoxy and militancy during
1979-2001 allowed a large number of people to internalize these
values. Some of them continue to serve in the bureaucracy, police
and intelligence agencies and sympathize with militants and the
religious orthodoxy. They quietly soften administrative action
against these groups.
all, analysts opine, the fate of Musharraf’s counter-terrorism
policy and the efforts to promote Islamic moderation depends on
its relations with the six-party religious alliance, Muttahida
Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). If the MMA is to be appeased to cope with
the expediencies of power, the latest campaign against terrorism
cannot be pursued to its logical conclusion.
real problem seems to be that there is sympathy for Islamic extremists
in Pakistan’s military and intelligence circles. At the
same time, there is a widespread feeling that Pakistan is actually
fighting the war for the West. Therefore, analysts believe that
unless Pakistan makes the war on terror its own war, it cannot
writer is a senior and a courageous journalist of Pakistan who
has been continuously harassed by the military regime of General