Archive for May, 2012

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on May 5, 2012.  It was my first ever write-up to have been featured in any newspaper. I’m pleased to cross-post that article from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

The syndrome of religious fanaticism, intolerance and so-called moral evangelism is eroding the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst we have been hijacked by the might of radicalism, as a nation we have refused to budge over the gravity of the situation using different covers to hide under, therefore turning a blind eye to the severity of the repercussions of such plausible deniability. It is a lack of veracity most of us suffer from; it is an incurable version of dementia and selective amnesia, and on top of that, we are consistently smothering our willpower to recover from such a horrible state of affairs. Without offering significant resistance, we are fast sliding into the depths of chauvinism, hatred and intolerance.

The seeds of militancy that were planted in the land of the pure in the name of jihad back in the 1980s are bearing their own ‘fruits’ on a full fledged scale now. It is indispensable to learn that terrorism in Pakistan did not emerge after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 attacks invigorated the terrorist groups in Pakistan, which at that time were exclusively engaged in persecuting Shias and other minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, apart from launching a hate campaign against the aforementioned communities as a germane mission. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the cancer of extremism and sympathy with the Taliban has penetrated so deep in our people that it requires a major surgery to stand any chance of recovering from the deteriorating condition that, if not controlled, may cause anarchy in the restive land. On top of all this, the undeniable presence of the militant mindset in the midst of the very security agencies intended to eradicate it is indeed terrifying.

One cannot repudiate sharing of inside intelligence information and some tactical assistance in the suicide attack on a Special Services Group mess in September 2007 to the unprecedented attack by militants on the Central Jail, Bannu to free their comrades a few days back. At least 20 commandos were killed and another 25 injured in a suicide blast at an army officers’ mess almost five years ago, whereas in what is being described as the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central jail in Bannu and freed 384 inmates. Heavily armed insurgents appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside. A militant commander who helped plan the assault on the Bannu jail said his group had inside information. “We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” said the commander, a senior member of the Taliban. Needless to say, the police arrived at the scene when the militants had escaped after completing their mission successfully.

The astonishing developments in the aforementioned brazen attacks signify to what extent the Taliban and their sympathisers have penetrated into our security agencies and the imminent threat that it poses for us. The murder of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer by one of his security guards, an elite force personnel, last year in January is yet another warning of the potential repercussions when those intended to extirpate terrorism or protect others from the wrath of the terrorists instead join hands with them.

It is acknowledged that since the 1980s, the extremist groups, conspicuously the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat (a Salafi/Wahabi militant group), backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, made a conscious effort to induce radical elements in the law enforcing agencies and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a significant degree. It is evident that the penetration by terrorists into our security and administrative infrastructure goes quite deep. The state of Pakistan needs to devise a plan to conduct a purge, single out these abominable elements and oust them from the heart of our law enforcing agencies and other institutions before they strike again sitting from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage. Such elements should be served with exemplary punishments so that the trend to help these militants in the name of Islam/Shariah can be prevented to good effect.

War against the enemy within is not going to be easy. It requires a strong intent and a firm belief that despite the horrendous state of affairs, we can still win this war. Unless we do not internalise that the major threat to the stability of Pakistan is from within, we would be helping the cause of anti-state elements inevitably. Forget about the rhetoric of blaming the RA&W, the CIA and other foreign agencies for the time being, and try to ponder where those with sympathies for the Taliban, and an eagerness to act on their behest, lurk. That said, I am not ruling out the involvement of some foreign forces to destabilise Pakistan. However, we have to realise that at the end of the day, it is a bunch of hardcore militants, belonging to different sects, inside Pakistan, combined for one common agenda, who are carrying out all these terrorist activities not only internally, but are involved in cross-border terrorism as well. Vehement finger pointing at others is always easy, but battling the enemy within is definitely not a walk in the park.

Source: Daily Times http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C05%5C05%5Cstory_5-5-2012_pg3_4

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The general perception in Pakistan among many intelligencia is that Afghan Taliban are an ideological group of fighters fighting against outside oppression of, first the Soviets and now the NATO and ISAF. They started off as a mercenary group in 1991, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force. Mullah Omar started his movement with fewer than 50 armed madrassah students in his hometown of Kandahar. The most often-repeated story and the Taliban’s own story of how Mullah Omar first mobilized his followers is that in the spring of 1994, neighbors in Singesar told him that the local governor had abducted two teenage girls, shaved their heads, and taken them to a camp where they were raped. Less than 50 Taliban freed the girls, and hanged the governor to death. Later that year, two militia commanders killed civilians while fighting for the right to sodomize a young boy. This indeed was a good start. Justice should be swift.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is a group of people fighting to disrupt Pakistan’s infrastructure. Well to admit most part of the perception might even be true but difference of opinion is the right of the people.
They have one important thing in common and that is sharing the same idea about any other sect and religion contrary to theirs. They have their own interpretation of the Holy Quran and they do not want it to be questioned. They believe that any other human does not have the right to live if he/she has a view point contrary to theirs. The focus here will be on the Afghan Taliban.

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A breath-taking view of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Its most evident examples came when the Massacre at Mazar-Sharif took place in August of 1998. Name it whatever you like it. But it was indeed cold blooded murder of the people of the city having contrary beliefs to them, the “Shia” Belief. Even the shrine present in the city was targeted. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban’s capture of the city in August 1998 marked “one of the single worst examples of the killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s 20-year war”.  Witnesses described the first day of the occupation of Mazar-e-Sharif as a “killing frenzy” as the Taliban “shot at anything that moved”, killing hundreds of civilians. The killing of the civilians is never justified. The Taliban instigated a house-to-house search to round up male Hazara’s, a Persian-speaking Shia Muslim minority, for summary execution, Human Rights Watch says. According to statistics the Hazara population of the Afghanistan account for 10% of total population. Within days, the city’s new governor, Mullah Manon Niazi, reportedly made speeches in Mazar-Sharif’s mosques describing Hazaras as “infidels” and calling them to convert to the Sunni Muslim faith or be killed. Apart from the executions, men taken prisoner by the Taliban died of suffocation or heat exhaustion inside metal lorry containers. The US-based rights organisation added that farmers from the Sunni Muslim Pashtun community and nomads were allowed to take land around Mazar-Sharif that had belonged to the communities persecuted by the Taliban. In a few days more civilians were killed – and murdered and raped – than at any time in the previous 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Taking Mazar-Sharif gave the Taliban control of every major city and important territory in northern and central Afghanistan. Taliban soldiers killed 4,000 people, many of them found in house-to-house searches. Others were cut down indiscriminately on the streets and at markets. Taliban soldiers sought out male members of the ethnic Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek communities. The Persian-speaking, Shia Hazaras were the prime targets, as the Taliban consider Hazaras infidels. Soldiers and civilians were killed, their bodies dropped in wells. Others were loaded into container trucks, driven to the desert and left to die in the sun.

As Ahmad Rashid writes in Taliban, the best book on the subject: “What followed was another brutal massacre, genocidal in its ferocity, as the Taliban took revenge on their losses the previous year. A Taliban commander later said that Mullah Omar had given them permission to kill for two hours, but they had killed for two days. The Taliban went on a killing frenzy, driving their pick-ups up and down the narrow streets of Mazar-Sharif shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved — shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys. Contrary to all injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, bodies were left to rot on the streets. ‘They were shooting without warning at everybody who happened to be on the street, without discriminating between men, women and children. Soon the streets were covered with dead bodies and blood. No one was allowed to bury the corpses for the first six days. Dogs were eating human flesh and going mad and soon the smell became intolerable,’ said a male Tajik who managed to escape the massacre.”

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A heart wrenching site: Cemetery of Martyrs of Mazar Sharif

The capture of the city also included 10 Iranian Diplomats. Iran assumed the Taliban had murdered them, and mobilized its army, deploying men along the border with Afghanistan. By the middle of September there were 250,000 Iranian personal ready to fight on the border. Pakistan mediated and the bodies were returned to Tehran towards the end of the month. The killings of the Diplomats had been allegedly carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Pakistani Sunni group, famous for its anti-Shia sentiments. Moreover late in the 2011, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Taliban’s former Ambassador to Pakistan, showing no regret whatsoever, said that cruel behaviour under and by the Taliban had been “necessary”.

People may say that they did some things right and this is only half of the picture. Yes this is the other half of the picture. Killing innocent civilians only because they do not agree to your version of Islam, these have never been the teachings of Islam. The Talibans knew only one way to gain control of the power in a diverse sectarian and multicultural state and that was by force, killing everything that opposes them or stands against them. Islam is and always will be a religion of tolerance. Even the Holy Quran states that there is no compulsion in the religion and the choice of the religion. But this does not mean that one is allowed to change the contexts, contents and interpret the religion according to one’s own will. The religion is complete and a complete code of conduct for the Muslims all over the world. There is no room for anyone to devise their own meanings into the religion.

The Afghani Taliban are hence no saints and should not be thought of as liberation fighters. They are pursuing their own agenda and that is to take control of Afghanistan by HOOK or by CROOK, from foreign oppression or internal aggression.

Written by Muhammad Ajwad Ali

The writer is a telecommunication engineer by profession. He tweets @m_ajwad and can be reached at majwad@gmail.com