Friday, August 15, 2014

Another long march in Pakistan; And Terror connection with ISIS Founder

Another long march in Pakistan; And Terror connection with ISIS Founder


There has been a peaceful transfer of power from Congress led coalition to BJP (which has a clear majority) led coalition in India .The newly minted PM Narendra Modi made a very forceful and quite inclusive down to earth speech on India's Independence Day highlighting some very crucial social and political issues .For all its faults, democracy is still the best form of government.


Not that US has real democracy .It is a plutocracy , ruled by bankers, military and other corporate interests  , who decide who should be the next president , he obeys the instructions of his corporate masters .


It is sad that democracy is not taking roots in Muslim states .Even the secular republic of Turkey. Fashioned out of the ashes of Ottoman Empire by Kemal Ataturk, is changing course under its autocratic leader, Erdogan, leaning more and more towards Islamisation of the polity.


Situation in Pakistan


US led west supported by petrodollar rich Saudi led Gulf and other Muslim countries since 1979 have destroyed the peace and stability of the state of Pakistan. Its leaders military and civilians have transferred huge funds abroad as future nest .The country is in turmoil again with two long marches on to Islamabad.


According to media reports clashes broke out on 15 August as tens of thousands of Pakistani protesters from two anti-government movements slowly converged on the capital, presenting the 15-month-old civilian government with its biggest challenge yet.


The unrest has raised questions over stability at a time when the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million is waging an offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants and the influence of anti-Western and sectarian groups is growing.


A stone-throwing mob attacked the convoy of former cricket star and opposition politician Imran Khan as he led supporters through the eastern city of Gujranwala. Men brandishing ruling-party posters attacked his convoy, throwing shoes and stones.


Khan's convoy was shot at but he was not injured, his spokeswoman said. The government insisted shots were not fired and promised an investigation into the incident.


"The Chief Minister of Punjab has ordered an inquiry and all those responsible for scuffle will be held accountable," the statement said. "There were absolutely no gunshots fired at his rally and such PTI-driven sensationalism is unfortunate."


Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party and supporters of populist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri are slowly heading towards Islamabad, where they plan to occupy main streets until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.


In the capital, authorities blocked main roads with shipping containers and barbed wire in an effort to control the marches.


Riot police were out in force but hundreds of protesters began to gather, banging drums, singing and dancing as they prepared to welcome their comrades approaching the city.


"We have come to save our country because of the call of our leader, Imran Khan," said 36-year-old Ajaz Khan in central Islamabad. "We will not leave from here until our leader tells us to go."

In the latest violence, 10 militants were killed and 13 members of the security forces were wounded in attacks on two air force bases in the city of Quetta late on Thursday, the third time since June airports had been targeted.


Some members of Sharif's party have suggested the protests are secretly backed by elements in the powerful military, which has had an uneasy relationship with Sharif.


How far Khan and Qadri succeed in destabilizing the government is likely to depend on the stance taken by a military, which has a long history of mounting coups.


Few people fear a coup but many officials think the threat of unrest will increase the military's hold over the government.


The military has been frustrated with the government, in particular over the prosecution of former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf for treason.

There has been disagreement too between the government and the army on how to handle the Taliban. The army favours military action but the government insists on peace talks.


The government is further struggling to overcome daily power shortages, high unemployment and spiralling crime - the legacy of decades of corruption and neglect.


Anger over the economy means the protests appeal to many disillusioned young Pakistanis.

Both protest leaders also command intense personal loyalty from their followers. Khan is a famed former international cricketer, known for his charity work, who now heads the third largest legislative bloc in the country.


Qadri, a cleric and political activist who usually lives in Canada, controls a large network of schools and Islamic charities. His followers intend to occupy Jinnah Avenue, Islamabad's main thoroughfare.

"We will not go back until Sharif resigns," said Qadri's spokesman, Shahid Mursaleen. "They killed our people, there is no way we can make a deal with them."


Qadri has accused police of killing 22 of his supporters during clashes in the eastern city of Lahore in June and this month. Police confirmed 11 deaths. About 2,000 of Qadri's supporters were also arrested this month, police said.


Khan is protesting against alleged electoral irregularities in last year's voting.

Most observers expect the military to play referee - to maintain security but not support action to force Sharif out.


"Imran will not get from the army what he was expecting," said an analyst close to the military.

"If there was any confusion earlier about whether the army would help Imran or rescue him or topple the government, there should be none now. There is no question of army intervention."


I am reproducing two articles by Kamal Ahmad on the long march and how extremists and terrorists from all over world have been allowed to make Pakistan ( and Afghanistan) their playground . The failed state and its overflow poses constant danger to India's security and well being.


Like in most authoritarian states including Turkey now and others , it is difficult to survive  for independent and outspoken journalists , so it is in Pakistan .If you upset the army or Extremists , you might be eliminated , as was Saleem Shahzad , I knew from Asia Times .Kamal Ahmad writes how by touching toes of these organisations he has survived in Pakistan.


K Gajendra Singh 15 August , 2014.


Touching foot in Pakistan

Khaled Ahmed | August 9, 2014



And another long march

Khaled Ahmed | August 14, 2014


As Imran Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri face off with Islamabad, will the past be repeated?


Pakistan is reeling under the good/ bad news of revolutions. I thought the only revolution possible here was that of the Taliban, which has pledged to establish "superior" Islamic order and has the power to bring it about through much slaughter. It has already accomplished part of this goal, which the victims, whose extremism matches that of the killers, would welcome as divinely ordained in the holy books.

I thought "revolution" was different from "change", but Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, currently on the warpath, seem to conflate the two. Change, I thought, was democracy, with its inbuilt period of change of government. And revolution was a sanguinary uprooting that comes after a long period of authoritarian oppression. The other "revolutionary" who wants to overthrow the "rotten system" — read democracy — is Tahir-ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, a fabulously rich cleric who lives in Canada but can mobilise global funds of untold quantity. Both are cult leaders backed by supporters willing to "face bullets".

In Pakistan, most politicians prefer to name their parties "tehreek", meaning "movement" rather than "party", because tehreek implies a spontaneous massing of people intent on achieving an objective — which is what a revolution looks like when it starts. The half-hidden intent behind each tehreek is violent change, while also implying the inspiration of a higher "cause", preferably mixed with religion.

What do the two cult leaders want? Khan says he wants a change of government through a "long march" on Islamabad, where an incumbent prime minister is wobbly — not because he is bad, but because Pakistan has been getting less and less governable over the past decade because of terrorism. The prime minister may have been guilty of unrealistically promis ing the moon but not of doing something deserving constitutional dismissal. All prime ministers will be wobbly for the foreseeable future in Pakistan and, therefore, vulnerable to "revolutionary" attacks from opposition parties posing as "movements".

I develop a moronic tic when such a moment is reached. An evil glint appears in my eyes as I predict "revolution" will come after the storming of Islamabad through a well-timed move by the Pakistan army. (Revolutions through such interventions have been pathetic hot air so far.) That is what has happened in the past, and it is accepted in Pakistan that the army is the only powerful institution in the state, running external policy and internal order. Hasn't Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offended the army by not letting General (retd) Pervez Musharraf duck a trial for treason and leave Pakistan to enjoy his wealth abroad?Khan may once have been the army's "candidate" for coronation as an anointed ruler of the country through the familiar interruption of a "corrupt" democratic order. But he may not be "anointed" today — he has opposed new army chief General Raheel Sharif's war against the Taliban, which has a soft corner for Khan, whose province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has nevertheless laid waste through bombings and extractions. Why should the general headquarters lend a hand if Khan is soft on the Taliban? Hence, one can say that both Khan and Sharif have offended the army.

That leaves Qadri — also called Sheikh-ul-Islam, a status probably stemming from a dream he once had in which the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) "chose" him as his deputy after rejecting all the other schools of thought in Pakistan's religious hierarchy — and his "movement" based on revolutionary pledges that would put India's Arvind Kejriwal to shame: employment for all, free education, free health, free housing and free food if someone goes hungry.

He says he doesn't want a mid-term election like Khan but will somehow take over the state after his march on Islamabad and "change the system". The problem is that the system he will bring about will not be acceptable to the people of Pakistan in the thrall of a brand of Islam opposed to Qadri — he is a Barelvi who offends other Barelvis by reinterpreting the infamous blasphemy law to spare its non-Muslim targets and makes the Deobandis, favoured by the state and feared by the people, bristle. The Taliban in Pakistan is expected to get him one of these days.

Pakistan has collapsed materially in the face of Taliban terror. It has also collapsed intellectually when you examine the political intent of the Khan/ Qadri duo. Both rely on angry statements. Their spittle-rich but empty-minded speeches convey a sense of outrage that puffs up their cult following and prompts violence. Subliminally, both expect their followers to get to Islamabad and clash with the police, which normally takes to its heels when not firing its defective British Raj rifles into the mob. Then, they hope, somehow Sharif will fall to his knees and concede to holding elections after a year in power.

Like Muslims elsewhere in the world, I feel mentally defective because, at some level, I accept all this as normal. Cretinous politicians mouthing new formulas of surrender to stupidity are about to fall into the Pakistani lunacy of repetitive behaviour. Don't blame me. I have been in Pakistan too long to be normal.

The pattern of downfall is like this. The now-besieged prime minister held his "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad in 2009 against the PPP government on the pretext of restoring the supreme court, which had been dismissed by Musharraf. He had reached halfway when the then army chief intervened and forced the government to reinstate the fired chief justice, who then proceeded to fire the prime minister, who had a majority in parliament, and allowed his son to become a billionaire through leveraged gouging of state contractors, while a low-IQ population led by semi-criminalised lawyers clapped thinking the judiciary had become "independent".

Sharif was prime minister in 1993 with a two-thirds majority in parliament when the opposition PPP, led by Benazir Bhutto, decided to tip him off his throne through long marches and a climactic address at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh — the venue where the Taliban finally killed her in 2007 — amid police violence that produced the needed scenario. "Revolution" defeated democracy and Sharif was kicked out with a little help from you know who. Ditto happened to Bhutto in 1996, when her own president fired her under an enabling "hara kiri" provision in the constitution.

Why does Pakistan behave the way it does? If it is a generic Muslim angst, it started much before it infected the Arabs. As a Pakistani, I am most likely to blame it on America, at whose side are two ominous entities, India and Israel, which I see in my daily "denial" nightmares. I can prove that India has done us in without doing much. The 1999 toppling of the Sharif government happened after our brave army chief, General Musharraf, tried to deliver the much-deserved trophy of Kargil and was forgivably defeated by India. Was Pakistan sad, reeling under a "victory hype" unleashed by the media, after Sharif was overthrown? Not at all. That day, I ate a lot of what, in the vocabulary of overthrows in Pakistan, is called "sweetmeat".

The writer is consulting editor, 'Newsweek Pakistan'


Terror connection

Khaled Ahmed | July 31, 2014 



Pakistan plays a role in the story of ISIS founder Abu Musaab al Zarqawi


The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has mutated into the Islamic State after capturing parts of Syria and Iraq. The historic Islamic term "Sham" is the name given by al-Qaeda to Syria, which the Syrians don't like because it means "left hand" and "shame", and instead use the pagan term, Suriya, based on the correct pronunciation of the Greek letter "y" in Syria.

The Islamic State is a Sunni terrorist organisation, linked to al-Qaeda in the past but now on its own. First formed by Abu Musaab al Zarqawi in 2003, it is led today by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, also known as Caliph Ibrahim. Baghdadi is supposed to have gone to Afghanistan in the late 1990s with Zarqawi, a Jordanian street fighter who died in Baghdad in June 2006 as an international terrorist with $25 million on his head.

Zarqawi went for jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He established a training camp there to prepare guerrillas against Jordan. He was jailed for seven years in Amman on his return but was soon back in Afghanistan training jihadists in Herat, and was also in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden in 2001. He got injured in Kandahar during the American invasion and was evacuated through Iran by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had good contacts in Tehran. He moved to Iraq after that, well in time to see the Americans invade the country, and joined the Kurd-led jihadi militia, Ansar al-Islam, there. Ansar al-Islam, recently revived, was founded as a terrorist group by one Mullah Krekar, who went to the International Islamic University (IIU) of Islamabad as a lecturer in the 1980s and later joined the jihad in Peshawar.

At the age of 23, Zarqawi went to Pakistan, only to find that the Soviet Union had already pulled out of Afghanistan. He began to frequent the inner circles of al-Qaeda, which had just been founded. He lived in Hayatabad, Peshawar, and met such jihadi leaders as the Palestinian intellectual Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, Pashtun warlord Hekmatyar and Tajik clerical leader Burhanuddin Rabbani. He also met for the first time another personality who had arrived there from Jordan, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.

Maqdisi was violent, attacking Western modernism, particularly its liberal democracy. Eighteen of his articles were found in the personal effects of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the Hamburg Cell, who attacked the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. He was close to Azzam, who taught at the IIU. The two were seen eating at restaurants in Islamabad. Maqdisi's second close friend in Pakistan was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the man who planned the 9/11 strikes.

Zarqawi remained in Peshawar and Afghanistan till 1993. While working at a magazine run by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad's brother in Peshawar — which first announced the founding of al-Qaeda under Azzam — he got his three sisters married off to the jihadists. While at the magazine, Zarqawi made his way to the Sada camp of the Wahhabi Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in Afghanistan, to be in the company of Ramzi Yousef, al-Qaeda's first bomber who is now in an American prison, and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.

In Hayatabad, Zarqawi was welcomed by the Pakistani Wafa Humanitarian Organisation, later banned by the UN, which provided funds for al-Qaeda and false passports for jihadists. Finally, many of the important al-Qaeda terrorists, including Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the man who had planned the attack on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, were arrested from Hayatabad in 2004.

One of Zarqawi's sisters was already living in Peshawar, married to a religious scholar. Zarqawi's mother came up to Peshawar to see her son in 1999 and stayed there for a month. Soon his wife and children too joined him. That year, the international community became impatient with Pakistan. From 1994 to 1999, almost 1,00,000 Pakistanis had been trained in the Afghan camps run by al-Qaeda, and the clerics of Pakistan had begun to sense monetary and military advantage in aligning themselves with Osama bin Laden.

On Jordan's request, Zarqawi was arrested and sent to jail. He was released after a week although he was listed as a terrorist in Jordan. With an exit permit in his hand, Zarqawi left for Karachi first, then went to Kabul to be one of the trainers of terrorists. In Kabul, he was given a house before being sent to Herat as a trainer. He called his family over from Hayatabad, but not before he had married a young girl, aged about 13, in Kabul after falling in love with her. He was to marry yet another girl of 16 in Iraq.

By 2000, Zarqawi had succeeded in becoming an important mid-level leader in al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda papers found in Jalalabad after 2001 refer to him. Later letters sent by al-Qaeda to Abu Qatada, the radical cleric in the United Kingdom, speak well of Zarqawi as a leader in charge of the camps in Herat. Then Zarqawi returned to the battlefield in Kandahar, where he was wounded, and was treated in Karachi — by two Pakistani al-Qaeda doctors who later fled to North Waziristan. After this he decided to fight the Americans in Iraq and made his way to Kurdistan in northern Iraq through the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Ironically, Iran helped him pass through its territory on the request of Hekmatyar, not knowing that he would give birth to the most effective Shia-killing machine in the annals of sectarian history. Iran's favours also included safe haven for Osama bin Laden's son, Saad, through the intercession of the same Hekmatyar.

Zarqawi was in Iraq in 2001, two years before the Americans invaded it after then US secretary of state Colin Powell's public statement about Saddam Hussein's terrorist connections. Powell also named Zarqawi, wrongly, as a Palestinian terrorist. Zarqawi struck back in April 2004, when he captured and personally beheaded the American hostage, Nicholas Berg.

Leaning on the sectarian writings of the great 18th century Indian scholar, Shah Abdul Aziz, he killed Shias in Nasiriyah, Baghdad and Karbala, which culminated in his murder of 50 Iraqi National Guards at a training camp in Kirkuk. His most decisive act, which unleashed the sectarian war in Iraq, was the 2006 destruction of the tomb of Imam Askari in Samarra.

Al-Qaeda tried to ditch Zarqawi but couldn't because of the support and funding he was receiving from Muslims in UK. He was killed in an American bombing raid in Baghdad in 2006. Today, ISIS is once again at odds with al-Qaeda. But, once again, all auguries point to a reconciliation which may see Ayman al-Zawahiri taking a backseat to al-Baghdadi.

As reported in the Daily Jang (June 10, 2006), Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the old Lashkar-e-Toiba) carried out a funeral prayer in absentia for Zarqawi in Lahore and condemned the foreign office for saying that the death of the Shia-killer in Iraq was an achievement in the war against terrorism. The congregation that blessed Zarqawi kept weeping loudly for the great shaheed. In the Pakistan National Assembly, the clerical alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, demanded fateha prayers for Zarqawi but was denied by the speaker.

The writer is consulting editor, 'Newsweek Pakistan'