By Brig Samson S Sharaf
We as Pakistanis should be in awe of the fact that US defence contracts have already floated a bid for increased jet fuel in Afghanistan till 2013, with the condition that it must not come through Pakistan. Does this imply that Pakistan may be under US attack from Bagram in 2012-13? Or does it mean that Pakistan would have plummeted to anarchy by that time.
Much before General Stanley McChrystal had resigned, ‘Obama’s Third Surge’ had already petered into nothingness. The operations failed to create intended effects in a highly destabilized, charged and violent region. McChrystal, the highly decorated specialist in covert operations and assassination squads of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) may have been brilliant and brutal tactical hit man, but a strategic failure nonetheless.
His resignation has come as no surprise to analysts following the tug of war between the US Defence and Political Establishment and how the third surge was identically conducted at the heels of the failed second surge. In both failed operations, CENTCOM conspicuously avoided Kandhar but why?
In my article, ‘The Wilting Obama Surge’ in the Nation, I had identified the fault lines within the US establishment. Even the UN envoy in Afghanistan had called it too military driven and doomed to failure. Nothing had worked as per the plan; neither the carrot, nor the stick nor stacks of cash for the breakaway Taliban. The contradictory statements of Gates, Halbrooke and the local military command spelled it all. The foreign press corps in Kabul, obscure from reality was making big news. Media was bubbling with optimism while efforts were at hand to find a scapegoat if the good news turned sour. This scapegoat is now General Stanley McChrystal.
It was indeed at the heels of this failure that USA decided to co-opt Pakistan in the Strategic Dialogue diplomacy. In a typical US media hype, much was made of the prowess of General Kayani as a brilliant military commander with an equally sharp eye on the long term vision. A leading Indian newspaper took the lead in portraying him as the man who was in charge. Guns and Roses were offered to win over Pakistan’s military establishment towards a US driven operation in the region. The entire political establishment of Pakistan was eclipsed. There may have been some tactical compromises, but as events proved, Pakistan resisted the trap. US could not have its way and a new strategy became inevitable. Time for a new plan had come.
This change of heart also caused a furore amongst the ‘Shock and Awe’ rightist who singled out Pakistan as part of the problem (Lisa and Nicholas). This same right saw McChyrstal as an upholder of US Absolutism and a Bush Strategy downgraded by the Democrats. It also set the template of the future US election debate between the Democrats and the Republicans.
Writing on Obama’s Third Surge, I had cautioned,
“The new AF-PAK strategy is a compromise with enough blank space for narratives to be filled later. It is these blank narratives that cause concern… What lies undisclosed is high intensity sting and covert intelligence operations conducted by CIA and the dreaded JSOC. The message is unambiguous. Pakistan will have to face a surge of expanded drone attacks (settled urban areas) by both JSOC and CIA, and a cruel spate of covertly sanctioned illegal assassinations, sting operations and anarchy generated by contractors with leaks capable of breaking hell in Pakistan”.
As an analyst, my biggest concern is to identify the blank spaces in the narratives that need to be filled in after the change of command in Afghanistan and what USA terms AF-PAK. This is a moot to be contended between the Pentagon and the White House in the coming months. In the interim, all ongoing operations in Afghanistan will lose their momentum and the operational pause give a much needed respite to the Afghan resistance to recoup and reorganise. The pause is also a blessing for Pakistan to put its house in order. However, given the ground realities, Pakistan’s politicians will continue to display their insensitivity to national sensibilities and allow the country to drift with only the military calling shots and determining the course of future events.
Much is also being made of the COIN Strategy cited as success in Iraq. Apparently this strategy had a socio economic pincer at the leading edge with dollars being used to buy off Sunni Muslims against hardcore militants linked to Al Qaida. Total economic destruction of Iraq had led to extreme poverty that was later exploited to trade loyalties for bread. This was a controversial US counter insurgency doctrine called COIN devised and implemented by U.S. Central Command Chief David Petraeus in Iraq.
Premised on ‘money talks’ all future operations in AF- PAK will witness a surge of monetary kickbacks as a corner stone to other factors related to combat, overt and covert violence, expanded role of drones (settled urban areas) and terrorising tactics in urban areas. A failing Pakistani economy is mandatory to the success of this strategy.
It is with this reason that my last ten articles on these pages have primarily focussed on the intrinsic link between the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s political economy. The focus of the primary threat to Pakistan shifted long ago from India to bad policy making and bad governance from within. In the worst case scenario, by the time US stabilises in Afghanistan, Pakistan would be a state vulnerable to a COIN Strategy.
Though the modality and command may have changed, we Pakistanis must realise that the American long, mid and short term designs and objectives in the region have not. This should also dispel any illusions that some Pakistanis may have on the benefits of the Pakistan-US Equation as a saviour.
We should rather be in awe of the fact that US defence contracts have already floated a bid for increased jet fuel in Afghanistan till 2013, with the condition that it must not come through Pakistan. Does this imply that Pakistan may be under US attack from Bagram in 2012-13? Or does it mean that Pakistan would have plummeted to anarchy by that time. Supply of jet fuel would start in 2011 about the time when new US operations would be peaking in the region.
Afghanistan is a country whose economy thrives in times of conflict. Already USA is indirectly funding the war against itself through its local contractors and efforts to buy off revolutionaries. The COIN may buy off the war lords but never the romantic revolutionaries. To the contrary, money is endemic to Pakistani Politics. It works wonders especially when it will be funnelled through methods that promote corruption and a black economy.
Under the new command, the next phase of US operations is not likely to commence before September 2010. This also coincides with the time when Pakistan army will be looking forward to a new military chief. Speculative options on the continuity of General Kayani as COAS are rife and so is the rumour and manipulation mill. Hence all rumours must be put to rest so that the military and country can concentrate on the US operations in the Kandhar region and its backwash on Balochistan in particular.
As an appropriate measure, the nation must agree to eat grass, least for the survival of its crowned jewels rather for its own national honour and pride.
If this preparation does not take place before the new surge, Pakistanis will have no option left but to look for a new social contract. I pray it comes peacefully and not through violence.
Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf retired from Pak Army in 2005. He is an infantry officer with considerable international exposure speaking at seminars and universities. He served for a long time in the Operations Branch of GHQ with substantial contribution in Nuclear Policy Making. Ever since he began writing in 1997, his views have been consistent and mostly prophetic as can be seen in his series of articles in his blog and www.Opinion-Maker.Org
|Upadated on: 05 Jul 10 01:57 PM|
HUB: The Balochistan government has threatened to cut water supply from Hub to Karachi if it does not give its rightful share of water to Balochistan, said sources Monday.
Irrigation Minister Sardar Aslam Bizenjo said that Balochistan’s share of water from Sindh is 2400 cusecs, but it is only getting 1400 cusecs.
“The Sindh Irrigation Department had said that the shortage of water in Kirthar Canal will be overcome by July 1, but that has not happened yet,” said Bizenjo. “The situation is worsening every day.”
He also said that agriculture is already on the road to destruction due to load shedding. The Sindh government is only adding to their woes.
“If Sindh does not give Balochistan its share of water from Kirthar canal, then it will cut off the water supply from Hub to Karachi,” he said. “The Sindh government will be responsible for the consequences.”
He also pointed out that Sindh government has not paid Rs 30 billion worth of outstanding bills to Hub dam either. SAMAA
RAWALPINDI: The Punjab Home Department has set up task forces comprising police officials at the district level to crack down against 17 banned organisations following the suicide attacks at the Data Darbar in Lahore.
The task forces will comprise officials from the CID, the Special Branch and the Anti-Terrorism Squad. They have also been advised to establish close contacts with intelligence officers in the districts to exchange information with regard to 17 banned organisations.
An official of the Punjab Home Department told the BBC Urdu Service that orders had been issued to launch crackdowns on secret hideouts of banned outfits and arrest those connected with them immediately.
The task forces have been asked to trace out those who had been financing the banned organisations and their other funding sources and take action under the Anti-Terrorist Act. Headed by District Police Officers (DPOs), the task forces will submit their reports to the Punjab Home Department.
The 17 outfits, which were banned by the Home Department, Punjab, include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah Sahaba Pakistan, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Tehrik-e-Jafriya Pakistan, Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi, Millat-e-Islamiya Pakistan, Khudamul Islam, Islami Tehrik Pakistan, Hizb-ut-Tehrir, Jamiat-ul-Ansar, Jamiat-ul-Furqan, Khair-un-Naas International Trust, Islamic Students Movement (ISM), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jamaat-ud-Daawa.
Besides, the Sunni Tehrik has been placed under observation. Among the banned outfits, nine belong to the Deobandi sect, three to Shia sect and three belong to the Ahle Hadith. The BLA is a nationalist organisation, while the ISM is a students’ organisation.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is not included in the list issued by the Punjab government while according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik,the TTP and al-Qaeda, in collaboration with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, were active in other parts of the country, especially in the Punjab.
A cold war is underway between the federal Interior Ministry and the Punjab government due to the failure of the organisation working under the ministry in providing information about the activities of the extremist organisations and both are accusing each other in this regard.
According to an official of the Punjab Home Department, the departments working under the Interior Ministry do not give any specific information about the possible extremist acts. He said the ministries usually provided general information about a possible extremist act in a city and specific information was very rarely imparted.
Concerning suicide attacks at the Data Darbar, the provincial Home Department said that it had not received any information in this regard from the federal Interior Ministry while the federal Interior Ministry said that it had issued a warning letter two days before the incident in which it was conveyed that the terrorists could target Imambargahs or the shrines in the province.
It is pertinent to mention that about 4,000 persons were kept under surveillance for their alleged links with the extremist organisations under the Anti-Terrorist Act Schedule-4 and these people were bound to inform their respective police stations about their movement.
K J M Varma
Beijing, Jul 5 (PTI) An increasing number of militants of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement fighting for separation of China’s Muslim majority Xinjiang province were “fleeing to Pakistan and settling down there for future plots,” a state-run newspaper reported today.
“According to latest reports, the ETIM has been in close collaboration with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden,” the China Daily said in its lead story on the first anniversary of the bloody riots in Xinjiang capital Urumqi in which an estimated 200 people were killed.
It said an ETIM leader is also reported to be hiding in Pakistan and there are also reports of a “Chinese battalion” made up of about 320 ETIM members in the Taliban forces.
It said a number of ETIM fighters were “fleeing to Pakistan and settling down there for future plots”.
“It is not hard for them (ETIM members) to hide in Pakistan.
[This is a sobering report, considering the situation that the US and Israel have created in the Persian Gulf, to support the planned fuel embargo of Iran. In addition, we learn from a Navy source that an amphibious carrier group (Nassau Amphibious Ready Group–NAS ARG) has joined the ships now setting-up the picket line in the Gulf.
USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, at sea (NNS) — The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) successfully completed a NATO Sea Sparrow Missile exercise at sea July 15 to certify that the ship’s missile system is sufficiently capable of warding off certain types of threats.
Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW) Harold Vernon said the exercise included two parts: the first being to hit an air target and the other to hit a surface target.
To simulate protecting the ship from an aerial threat, Sailors employed two drones, which approached the ship in a stream-raid flight pattern. On board Truman a missile was fired to intercept the drones, hitting both targets.
Another missile was fired to intercept a surface target the size of a sail boat moving at 10 knots. The purpose was to test a new camera sensor installed on the NATO Sea Sparrow launcher.
The cameras are designed to give improved range and the ability to visually identify any surface crafts in the area, said Vernon.
Sailors on board Truman endured a lot of hard work and preparation to ensure a successful evolution.
“It took approximately 70 hours of preparation from four NATO technicians and combat systems (CS-7) division in support to get this program done,” said Vernon. “They have been preparing for this missile shoot for the last month.”
“Teamwork is essential,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Clifford Maass. “There are certain steps in loading the missiles that require at least three people at a time. The whole evolution takes six people on deck to complete, and each person is vital.”
Safety was also an important issue in the missile exercise.
“We all have our ammo handling physical qualification, and we have to get ammo handling qualified, which gets done with the ordnance handling officer,” said Maass. “Once we are all qualified, we actually go to schools in Dam Neck, Va., to qualify ourselves on shore before we are allowed to do this on a ship.”
USS Harry S. Truman is currently conducting work-up evolutions in preparation for deployment later this year. With the recent completion of composite training unit exercise, Truman and its attached battle group are nearing certification as the Navy’s ready deployable carrier strike group.
(July, 15 2009) A RIM-7P NATO Sea Sparrow missile is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Truman is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications.
[When it becomes clear why all of those US and Israeli Navy vessels are where they now are, to enforce a naval blockade of gasoline going into Iran, and why US forces are stationed in a virtual ring around Iran, Ahmadinejad will have no choice but to act. It is doubtful that he will surrender on the nuclear issue, but it is very likely that Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, outside of the ring, will cause some sort of mayhem. Netanyahu is just waiting for a little mayhem to come his way. It's going to be an extremely "hot" summer!]
TEHRAN July 5 (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday that Germany, Britain and the United Arab Emirates were refusing to provide fuel to Iranian passenger planes following unilateral U.S. sanctions on the Islamic state, the ISNA news agency reported.
“Since last week, our planes have been refused fuel at airports in Britain, Germany and UAE because of the sanctions imposed by America,” Mehdi Aliyari, Secretary of Iranian Airlines Union, told ISNA news agency.
In an effort to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear activities, the U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on the Islamic state since 2006.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law far-reaching sanctions on Iran that aim to squeeze the Islamic Republic’s fuel imports and deepen its international isolation.
The European Union has also decided to implement additional measures. Although it is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, Iran lacks sufficient refining capacity which makes it potentially vulnerable to sanctions.
The United States and its European allies fear Iran is trying to build bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear programme. Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate power.
A lawmaker said Iran will retaliate.
“Iran will do the same to ships and planes of those countries that cause problems for us,” ISNA quoted Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh as saying. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Tehran newsroom, editing by Anthony Barker)
© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved
Clashes erupted between Han Chinese and Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region on July 5th last year. Hundreds of people were killed or injured in the violence. Today, reports from Xinjiang’s provincial capital say Urumqi feels like a city under siege. There’s heightened security, with a heavy armed police presence. Uighurs are the minority in Xinjiang, with ethnic Han Chinese making up around 70 percent of the population. On the weekend, members of China’s Uighur ethnic minority held rallies in Tokyo and Paris, with one protest leader in Japan saying many Uighurs are still missing one year on.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speakers: Tom Cliff, a PhD student at the Australian National University’s Contemporary China Centre, in Canberra
CLIFF: The first reaction, widespread initial reaction was outrage, indignation, as if there hadn’t been any tensions, if they were sort of unaware of the tensions between Han and Uighur. So that sort of sense of indignation,
ow dare they. Later on, there was more a sense of dismay among a significant minority I guess you would say the Han people there, who really felt that oh this is a terrible thing and it was bad implications for Xinjiang and ethnic elations in Xinjiang just down the line.
LAM: So was it more of a social issue or political issue or a mixture of both do you think?
CLIFF: You mean the riots themselves?
LAM: Yes, indeed and this kind of tension between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese?
CLIFF: I think it could be avoided by calling a social issue. I think that there are some people who like a separate Uighur state in Xinjiang, but I think that most Uighurs and I must stress that I am more knowledgeable about the Han. I get the feeling that they would accept a more reasonable sort of mode of governance and there would not be violence in this way if it was dealt with in a social way and economic way. A sort of more fair way of governing the whole population of Xinjiang.
LAM: And two days after the initial outburst of violence, there were reports of attacks by the Han Chinese, retaliatory attacks against the Uighurs. How was this viewed do you think?
CLIFF: There was still a great deal of anger about at that time and so the etaliatory attacks on July the 7th, Many Han had a sense of the Han have struck back, we are getting them back, we can fight back now, because there is enough Han in Xinjiang now to do that. It’s not a question we need the government to protect us anymore. We can hit back ourselves.
LAM: And Tom, the ethnic divide in Korla, where you lived was already deep even before the riots. Was this largely due to the wholesale migration of Han Chinese to local industries there?
CLIFF: Yeah, yeah, I guess so. Korla as a settlement was quite small before the
an Chinese came along and so, the Uighurs there have been obviously pushed out of their farms and pear orchards and stuff. But it’s not the same sort of level as in Urumqi where there is lots of Uighurs and they are getting displaced from everything. The Uighurs in Korla are much more getting displaced from land and a little bit of some opportunity and things like that, so slightly different the dynamics in Korla.
By HEATHER TIMMONS and HARI KUMAR
A group of protesters on motor bikes in Bangalore ride past tires set ablaze during a nationwide strike over fuel prices.
NEW DELHI — Protests against a recent hike in fuel prices shut down markets, schools, airports and businesses across India on Monday, and thousands of people were arrested as violence flared in some cities.
The impact of the demonstrations — spearheaded by political parties that oppose the ruling coalition led by the Indian National Congress government — far exceeded expectations, although no official estimates of crowds were immediately available. The vocal and sizable opposition to higher fuel prices may be an indication that the Congress party, elected by more votes than expected last year, is losing some support, political analysts and citizens affected by the strike said.
“This will create some sense of fear in the government,” predicted Vikas Sharma, 35, the owner of a cloth shop in Old Delhi, who was sitting idly outside his store. The “government will be forced to take some steps,” he said.
As it moves to eliminate subsidies on petroleum products, the Congress government said June 25 it would raise the price of gasoline by 3.5 rupees, or 7.5 cents, a liter. Diesel is being raised by two rupees a liter, and kerosene, which is makes up a large portion of the expenses for poor people, by 3 rupees.
India’s state-run fuel companies are forced to sell oil and gas at government-set rates, and will lose 530 billion rupees this fiscal year, the petroleum ministry said last month. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Sunday that the fuel price increases would not be rolled back, regardless of the scope of Monday’s protests.
The Congress government is paring market controls that keep prices of some goods artificially low in India. At the same time, it is investing in employment programs.
“The main thing they are trying to do is move away from subsidies to spend on development,” Nikhilesh Bhattacharyya, an economist with Moody’s economy.com. “It is a slow process, a very slow process,” he said.
Opposition parties, including the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, and the left-leaning Communist Party of India (Marxist), say the reforms are misguided and harmful to the average citizen.
“Wrong economic policies and bad governance is the basic reason for the price rise,” said Nitin Gadkari, president of the BJP, which is Congress’s main rival. The prime minister is “more worried about the financial condition of oil companies than the condition of poor people,” he said.
Fear of violence or transportation snarls kept some of India’s largest companies closed Monday, including the information technology giants Wipro and Infosys in Bangalore. Airports in Calcutta and Chennai were paralyzed and taxis stayed off the streets in major cities.
The strike cost India’s economy some 30 billion rupees, the Confederation of Indian Industry said. “The worst affected are daily wage earners and people dependent on small trade,” the trade group said in a statement.
About 1,000 people gathered at Chandi Chowk, Old Delhi’s main commercial hub, to protest the price hikes and listen to speeches by opposition politicians. Protesters carried three human-sized figures made of paper and sticks, with heads of demons. They yelled, “Sheila Dikshit, down, down” naming the chief minister of the capital region who is a member of the Congress party, before lighting the figures on fire.
“Inflation deflates the hopes of the common man, down with price rises,” read one signboard at the protest. “The poor man’s plate is empty and the government is clapping,” read another.
Many of the country’s citizens are not feeling the benefits of India’s fast-paced economic growth, which is expected to top 8 percent this year. India’s wholesale price index, a measure of inflation, rose 10.16 percent in May from a year before.
Inflation is driving up food prices, but salaries of low- and middle-income workers have not risen significantly, making basic commodities like lentils and milk much more expensive. Laborers on construction and road projects in New Delhi, for example, can be paid as little as 150 rupees a day, while a kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of the most commonly eaten lentils costs as much as 70 rupees
Poor monsoon rains in recent years mean that farmers, who make up more than half of India’s workers, have suffered. “It is a very poor country and that growth isn’t really broad based,” Mr. Bhattacharyya said. For the average farmer, eight percent growth “doesn’t mean much,” he said.
The strike also caused problems for poor people. “We are the worst victims of the price rise and we suffer in the closure as well,” said Kishen Dev, a 35 year old day laborer who was sitting on Chandi Chowk road. Mr. Dev said he is a father of four who generally earns 125 to 150 rupees a day, but on Monday he made nothing.
In Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, normally chock-a-block main roads were empty because most stores and offices were closed. Buses and commuter train services were running much less frequently than usual after protesters attacked some buses and blocked train tracks. Taxi drivers kept their cars off the road, making it hard for people without vehicles to move around the city.
On a main thoroughfare in central Mumbai, stores and banks were closed, though automatic teller machines were still operational. The country’s two main stock exchanges were open but trading was very light.
Vikas Bajaj contributed from Mumbai.
Normal life was disrupted in several parts of the country during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by a combined Opposition on Monday in protest against fuel price hike with the greatest impact felt in NDA and Left-ruled states and Maharashtra.
Sporadic incidents of violence in which buses and trains were targeted and clashes with police who baton charged the protestors were reported during the day-long nation-wide strike.
Several top NDA leaders including BJP president Nitin Gadkari, his colleagues Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav courted arrest while leading protest rallies in Delhi and Lucknow.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat and CPI’s top brass — A.B. Bardhan and D.Raja —also courted arrest during the bandh in a show of strength by the opposition trying to make common cause on the price rise issue to corner the Congress.
Security personnel were out in full strength to ensure there was no major law and order problem while hundreds of bandh suppoters were taken into preventive custody.
Banking operations largely remained unaffected.
Mr. Jaitley and CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat claimed the bandh was an “unprecedented success“.
“This protest has been widely supported by the average common man because he is really the target of the government’s policies,” Mr. Jaitley said.
Scores of flights were grounded in commercial airline hubs such as Mumbai and Kolkata while protesters attacked buses and trains, blocked roads with burning tyres and organised sit-down protests on key road intersections and inter-city railway links. Several trains were also forcibly stopped.
Schools, colleges and business establishments remained closed as groups of protestors hit streets trying to enforce the 12-hour bandh in some cities.
Life was thrown out of gear in NDA-ruled Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh while it was a shutdown in Left-ruled West Bengal and Kerala. There was also a disruption of road and rail traffic.
Several IT firms closed shop in Bangalore as a precautionary measure.
Normal life was also hit in Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra — mainly in Mumbai and Pune — while the bandh had a lukewarm response in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana where the UPA is in power.
The bandh did not evoke much response in the national capital barring in some areas where BJP and Left activists blocked road and rail traffic and forcibly shut shops.
Buses, autos and private vehicles were on the roads since morning while offices reported more than average attendance.
However, Metro commuters faced some hardships as BJP workers organised protests at some stations, including the busy Rajiv Chowk.
Services at the Inter-State Bus Terminals at Anand Vihar and Kashmere Gate here were also affected during the morning hours with BJP workers blocking its entrances.
“Wrong economic policies and bad governance of the government are the basic reasons of price rise,” Mr. Gadkari said addressing a rally at Chandni Chowk area here.
Lorries parked at EB Road in Tiruchi on Monday, as part of the nation-wide bandh called by opposition parties against fuel price hike. Photo: M. Moorthy
BJP activists squatting on the tracks as part of the Bharat Bandh in Nalgonda on Monday. Photo: Singam Venkataramana
Rashtriya Mahila Brigade activists sit on a railway track in protest against the rise in fuel prices during the Bharat Bandh in Patna. Photo: PTI
Paata Zakareishvili: “The report of Tagliavini-led fact-finding mission is not the start of the process. It is the end of it”.
by Natia Akhalaia
November 5, 2009
- The heated public debate sparked by the report of Tagliavini-led fact-finding mission seems to have calmed down. How do you think why each side was able to interpret the report in different ways? And on the whole, how do you assess the document in light of Georgia’s relations with the West?
- People had pinned high hopes on this report, but the result did not come to their expectations. It’s not a legally binding document. It’s not a verdict. It was never designed to perform such functions. It’s main objective was to reduce the “fever”, ease the tensions and enable the parties to interpret the mission’s findings in their own way. It was important for the European Union to find out how both sides would prefer to interpret the document. Figuratively speaking, the European Union allowed both Georgia and Russia to “tear at” the report in order to reveal their true colours. From this viewpoint, it is a rather ironic document, as it has revealed how primitive the Georgian and Russian societies are. Georgia used the report as a stick to beat Russia with. The Russians used the document to hit the Georgians.
- And why do you think that fever has abated?
- The parties calmed down because they were not accused of anything. The European Union told them that they both should accept responsibility for their part in what had happened. It means that European Union actually washed its hands of the issue. “You both showed your true colours and therefore it’s better to keep you at a distance” – that was the European Union’s message. Ask any EU country what it thinks of the August war and you’ll be invariably referred to the report of the Tagliavini Mission. It is their conclusion, which states unequivocally that both sides did nothing to avoid the war but instead made every effort to ignite the fighting. The report said quite clearly that the war could have been avoided. This view was later echoed in a public statement by the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, which drew a rather aggressive response from the ideological institute widely seen as a key pillar of the ruling National Movement. They did not dare to challenge Tagliavini but were “brave” enough to attack the Patriarch, having accused him of being a “Russian agent”. By the way, it was Saakashvili who assessed the report as a “fantastic document”. “I never expected such a conclusion” – he said.
Let’s return to Tagliavini Mission’s report. The Mission’s mandate is set by the European Union’s resolution dated 2nd December 2008. Under this mandate the Mission can only establish facts and assess mutual allegations of the parties against each other. But many facts have not been established yet.
- What kind of facts?
- Two important incidents preceded the start of hostilities on August 8: one was on July 3 and the other on August 7. On July 3 Sanakoyev’s motorcade was attacked on the Tsveriakho Road. A bit earlier a similar terrorist attack took place on the same road: a bus ferrying children to Tbilisi for a sightseeing trip was hit by a roadside bomb. No casualties were reported. The Georgian side used both incidents to unleash an extensive PR campaign. The attack on Sanakoyev was a constant theme of Saakashvili’s public statements till August 8. On August 7, in his historical statement about the unilateral declaration of cease-fire, he again highlighted the incident. In other words, it seems that this fact was very significant for him. By the way, the Georgian side destroyed all evidence during the attack and the case was never investigated. Peacekeepers and OSCE observers were banned to visit the scene. Against such a background the Georgian government blamed the attack on Ossetian militants. There were no witnesses, even though the incident happened in broad daylight. Georgian official sources claimed that the Ossetian militants infiltrated from Sarabuki Mountain, a strategic site that oversees Java and Ossetian side roads in the Zari area. The mountain was under Georgian control till the summer 2004. In October 2004, under an agreement signed by Zhvania and Kokoity, Georgia ceded many strategic positions. It seems that Georgia was anxious to regain its control. That is why it used the attack on Sanakoyev as an excuse for taking over the mountain again. On the whole, I think that events of 2008 (till August 7) can be conditionally codenamed as “Operation Sarabuki”. At that time “Sarabuki” was perhaps the most frequently used word in Georgian newspapers and at the website of the Rustavi-2 TV company. They kept repeating “Sarabuki, Sarabuki…” over and over virtually every day. Now Saakashvili and some Georgian politicians maintain that Georgia had no other choice but to use force because Georgian villages were under constant fire. My answer is “You should have not taken Sarabuki!” It was a clear mistake to break the Zhvania-Kokoity agreement. But the report says nothing about this aspect.
- Because the authors of the report were cautious to avoid irritating people and fuelling unnecessary tensions. The Russians alleged that the attack on Sanakoyev was in fact staged by Georgian security services. But the incident was never investigated and, therefore, there is no way to confirm either the Russian or the Georgian version of events. Under such circumstances, the Tagliavini Report could have shed some light but it preferred to discard the issue. In this case I give Tagliavini “poor” mark. Politically, though, it is the “excellent” mark. The Mission made it clear that it deliberately avoided investigating the incident. But this fact is so serious that it is apparently begging to be investigated. However, everybody turns a blind eye. Here is another fact not mentioned in the report: at 18:30 on August 7 the president Saakashvili declared unilateral cease-fire. “We are fed up with this shelling. The Russians are trying to drag us into provocation. That is why I ordered our servicemen that they must under no circumstances return fire” – the president said with just hours left before the war. At 23:30 Georgian forces launched an offensive and quickly took control of the Ossetian villages in the vicinity of Tskhinvali. There is no hard evidence as to whether Georgian villages came under fire from Ossetian positions in the period between 18:30 and 23:30. We can rely only on eyewitnesses’ accounts. I interviewed several residents of Kekhvi, Kurta and Tamarasheni and asked them whether their villages were bombed. They said that nobody fired at their homes, though they heard gunfire. They could not confirm that their villages were subjected to particularly fierce bombing on that day. “We have no idea what was going on in other villages” – they said. I also don’t know what was happening there. But there is a big difference between Paata Zakareishvili’s capabilities and the Mission’s resources. So why did events of August 7 arouse so many suspicions? Some OSCE observers, UK nationals, lived in Tskhinvali at that time. They said clearly in November that Georgian villages were not bombed, the night was calm, and the Georgian army’s assault on Tskhinvali was unprovoked. However, once the British officers made their testimony the Georgian government accused them of being bribed with “Gazprom money”. It was the first reference to Gazprom. Judging from further allegations, the whole world must have been bribed by Gazprom.
As early as on August 10 I had a meeting with two European journalists. With a lot of worry in their voice they told me that they had just attended a closed-door meeting between the OSCE British observers and foreign diplomats and journalists. The observers stated unequivocally that the Georgian villages had not been bombed. The journalists asked my comments about this issue but I could not say anything because it was a complete surprise for me. Afterwards, in September and October, in my interviews with newspapers I emphasised that the British officers’ testimony would be vitally important. In November they spoke out on this issue publicly and actually reiterated what they said behind closed doors on August 10. So, there are different interpretations of the same event. That is why Tagliavini Mission must have investigated these facts.
It is also noteworthy that in the Mission’s report the August conflict does not have any specific name. Saakashvili keeps claiming that it was a Russian-Georgian conflict. In his words, there is no such thing as a Georgian-Ossetian conflict. But this term is not used in the document. In other words, the report spared both Georgia and Russia. The Mission’s message is clear – Europe is well aware that both the Georgians and the Russians are to blame for the war. It is important to understand that the report is not the start of the process. It is the end of it. Some may think that there will be certain follow-up from Europe. But in reality there will be no further action. Europe has completed its assessment of what happened on the Georgian territory in August 2008.
- You said earlier that you gave Tagliavini “poor” and “excellent” marks at the same time. Don’t you think that it is a contradiction in terms?
- No, it’s quite logical. It’s a European Union’s document, isn’t it? Neither Georgia nor Russia is a European Union member. Tagliavini Mission was created without Georgia’s or Russia’s involvement and carried out its task without Georgian or Russian funding. Both Georgia and Russia only agreed to cooperate with the mission. It would have been a big mistake on their part not to agree. European Union created this document for internal use. It’s not binding for any country, especially non-EU members like Georgia and Russia. This document was created by Europe for Europe. It was written by people with European mentality. If a person is unable to understand its true meaning, it means that this person’s mentality is anything but European. The Russians do not claim that they are a European nation. But we do. And we read only what pleased us in the report and ignored uncomfortable truths. That is why the document is a really brilliant piece of work. In a sense, it’s like a mirror reflecting what we do, and who we are: it’s your problem whether you chose to look at the reflection or prefer to turn a blind eye.
[The new democratic Georgian opposition movement that is being launched simultaneously with Hillary Clinton's visit seems to have a pro-Moscow slant (see bottom article). From all visible evidence available to us, it seems to reflect the spirit of the "new detente," Russia is allowed to be the torch-bearer for the new "Third Way" democracy of Clinton and Obama in the Caucasus, as well as in Kyrgyzstan. It has become nearly impossible to distinguish between Russian and American policies, under the new political regime, wherever the interests of both powers come into play.
According to Subari, the Georgian statehood should be built on three foundations: maintenance of originality, care for security and involvement in modern progress.
‘8-member organizational group will be set up at first, which will organize and coordinate convention of greater group’, Subari said.
‘It will be a great movement, which will try to find a place for Georgia in the modern universe’, Subari said.
Apart from the members of the Protect Georgia, the new movement will include Erosi Kitsmarishvili, experts, right defenders and media representatives.
We are offering Levan Gachechiladze’s comment without any change: ‘I have repeatedly said I am ready to leave for Moscow and meet representatives of political or business circles in the interests of my country; lately I had a chance to pay a visit to Moscow, though I was unable to leave. However, I am ready for a visit to Russia in the future’, Gachechiladze said.
InterpressNews learnt on Thursday from the reliable source that Levan Gachechiladze planned to pay visit to Russia and meet leader of movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli. According to the source, Noghaideli would organize meetings between Levan Gachechiladze and the Russian political circles. Sozar Subari and Koka Guntsadze state they know nothing about it.
Zurab Noghaideli paid his 8th visit to Moscow on 28 June and plans to return to Georgia by the end of the week. The party’s press service informs that Noghaideli has meetings with ‘Edinaia Rossia’ and Georgian Diaspora representatives.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) shakes hands with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in the White House in Washington on June 24, 2010. AFP photo
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to eastern Europe and the troubled Caucasus region Thursday on a mission to allay the concerns of regional allies over newly invigorated U.S.-Russian ties.
A top item on Clinton’s agenda will be to explain warmer relations between Washington and Moscow to countries in the region which once chafed under Soviet control.
President Barack Obama has been less aggressive than his predecessor, George W. Bush, in pursuing two major irritants for Moscow: missile defense plans in eastern Europe, and the expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia, on Russia’s borders.
Phil Gordon, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said that U.S. allies in the region should not worry about stronger US-Russian ties.
“We don’t think that anybody should have any concerns,” said Gordon. “To the extent that anyone has any concern about our Russia policy, we’re happy to discuss it with them.”
Clinton was also set to help seek a resolution for Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenian forces since the end of a six-year conflict that left about 30,000 people dead and displaced 1 million prior to a 1994 truce.
Tensions have risen there amid stalled talks over the status of the region.
Clinton is scheduled to arrive Friday in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and she wraps up her trip Monday in Tbilisi, with stops in Krakow, Baku and Yerevan.
In Kiev Clinton is to open the U.S.-Ukrainian Strategic Partnership Commission, which provides for increased cooperation on a range of issues including energy and trade, security and defense, and cultural exchanges.
She will meet with President Viktor Yanukovych and Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, as well as members of non-governmental groups and independent media leaders, said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
Clinton will then head to Krakow for celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Community of Democracies, which U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and her counterpart Bronislaw Geremek initiated in 2000.
She also will hold talks with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.
Her travels will then take her to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia for meetings with government officials and civil society leaders to discuss bilateral issues, as well as issues related to regional peace and stability.
Gordon said Clinton remains “dissatisfied” with relations following the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, which was supported by Washington.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili this week said Tbilisi was ready for talks with Russia on normalizing ties which were severed after the conflict.
2. Accept the international, impartial inquiry and its conclusion
3. Give up ties with Turkey
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. AFP photo
A week after top Turkish and Israeli officials held a “secret meeting” over the flotilla crisis, Turkey has renewed its warning to Israel that ties between the once-allies would be cut if Tel Aviv does not apologize.
“Israelis have three options: They will either apologize or acknowledge an international-impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review early Sunday in an interview on his plane returning from Kyrgyzstan.
Davutoğlu held a secret meeting with Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week in Brussels and repeated Turkey’s expectations from Tel Aviv over Israel’s raid on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Eight Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish descent were killed during the raid, which triggered a crisis between Turkey and Israel, once regional allies. Turkey recalled its envoy to Tel Aviv, canceled joint military drills and banned some Israeli military flights from using Turkish airspace. Israel refused to participate in an international inquiry commission but instead launched its own investigation into the raid.
“We showed them an exit road. If they apologize as a result of their own investigation’s conclusion, that would be fine for us. But of course we first have to see it,” he said.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel would neither apologize to Turkey nor compensate the victims of the Mavi Marmara. “Then the ties will never be repaired,” Davutoğlu said in response to Netanyahu’s remarks.
“They are aware of our demands. If they do not want to apologize, then they should accept an international investigation,” he said, adding that Turkey would not wait for Israel’s decision indefinitely.
Turkey is now awaiting the creation of a United Nations-backed fact-finding commission for the raid. “We’ll arrange our road map according to the development there,” he said.
“We also want to give a chance to the countries who value mending the ties between Turkey and Israel,” Davutoğlu said, referring to the United States. Netanyahu will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, and Davutoğlu said this would be an important meeting for the future of Turkish-Israeli ties.
“But,” he said, “there should be no confusion. Our meeting with Ben-Eliezer was not brokered by the U.S. We informed Obama of the meeting during the G-20 summit in Toronto.” The foreign minister also said he met with Ben-Eliezer as “Netanyahu’s special envoy: “Otherwise, why would I speak with Israel’s infrastructure minister?”
Airspace fully banned
If Israel does not meet Ankara’s expectations, the Turkish government has drafted a road map that includes measures to be taken against the country. One of the measures, however, was taken shortly after the flotilla raid, Davutoğlu said.
“Turkey’s airspace is fully closed to Israeli military planes. The ban is not implemented case-by-case. It’s a blanket ban,” he said, adding that the decision was made one week after the incident occurred and with the participation of the Turkish military. When asked, he said the ban could also be expanded to include civilian aircraft.
“If steps are not taken [by Israel], the process of isolation will continue,” the minister said. “We know what we want. We are right in all means. We will strictly follow [this path] until our demands are met.”
Psychological pressure on Turkey
Davutoğlu also discussed claims that Turkish foreign policy was experiencing a “shift in axis.”
“The purpose is clear. The purpose of [launching] such claims are to establish psychological pressure on Turkey. Suppressing its foreign policy and confining it to a more defensive position. While we are trying to be the subject, they are trying to keep us as an object in international relations,” he said.
Emphasizing that Turkey was sure of its motivation and direction, Davutoğlu said: “We do not have to convince anybody about our diplomatic initiatives. If we are doing something, it’s for Turkey’s interests.”
Summer of 2010 concerns FM
When asked for his assessment of developments in the region, what Davutoğlu depicted was not a very optimistic situation, especially in the Caucasus and Middle East. “The ground in these regions is very slippery. This concerns me,” he said.
“None of these regions is witnessing a functioning mechanism to solve disputes. There are no healthy dialogues among the relevant parties,” he said, without giving details.
In the Caucasus, major conflicts remain between Georgia and Russia over the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh problem also remains unsolved. In the Middle East, the situation is more complicated. Processes for mediating between Israel and Palestine or Israel and Syria seem to be dead.
“We have to be careful. It is only Turkey that can contribute to resolving these problems,” he said, adding that the Tehran Agreement brokered by Turkey and Iran was in fact aiming to stop the further deterioration of the situation in the region. “That was not understood by the international community.”
Source: Sri Lanka Guardian
An unidentified Barelvi group of Pakistan has disseminated the following through the Internet after the twin suicide explosions in the Data Darbar sufi shrine of Lahore on the evening of July 1,2010, resulting in the death of 42 worshippers, the majority of them reportedly followers of the tolerant Barelvi sect which believes in Sufism [LUBP editor's correction: B. Raman has mistakenly attributed the following paragraph taken from an LUBP article to an unidentified Barelvi group]:
“Extremist Deobandis of the Sipah-e-Sahaba have once again attacked the Data Di Nagri (Data’s city), Lahore.This time their target was the sacred shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri, a Persian Sufi and scholar during the 11th century who significantly contributed to the spreading of Islam in South Asia. According to puritanical beliefs of extremist Deobandis and Wahhabis of the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Taliban, ordinary Sunni Muslims of the Barelvi belief are considered as polytheists (mushrik) because of their devotion to a peace loving Sufi (mystic) tradition of Islam. Therefore, narrow minded supporters of the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba consider Barelvi / Sufi Muslims as grave worshippers and inferior Muslims. In the past, the Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba alliance have attacked a number of shrines in various parts of Pakistan, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA (Federally-Administered Tribal Areas). In March 2009, the Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba militants detonated the shrine of Rehman Baba, a 17th Century Sufi poet of the Pashtun language. In March 2010, terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Eid Milad-un-Nabi processions in Faisalabad and D.I. Khan killing at least seven people. Only last week, in June 2010, the Deobandi terrorists of the Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked and blew up the shrine of Mian Umar Baba in the jurisdiction of Chamkani police station.”
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has strongly denied any responsibility for the attack on the Sufi shrine which has caused considerable anger among the common people of Pakistan. In the past, anger over terrorist attacks used to be largely confined to the urban elite. For the first time, there is now widespread anger among large sections of the common people in Pakistan. In view of this, no organisation in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the suicide blasts. On the contrary, the TTP and the various jihadi organisations of Punjab, which are often referred to as the Punjabi Taliban, have taken care to deny responsibility.
Among the organisations which have maintained a silence are the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba (SES) and its off-shoot the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, both of which closely collaborate with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda and have hide-outs in South and North Waziristan. It is generally believed by Pakistani police officers that Qari Hussain Mehsud, who runs the suicide bomber training school of the TTP, started his career as a jihadi in the SES and now trains the volunteers for suicide missions belonging to the LEJ too in addition to training those of the TTP. The TTP projects the so-called martyrs of the LEJ, who die in suicide missions or in encounters with the security forces, as its own “martyrs”.
Qari Mohammad Zafar, described as the head of the LEJ was reported to have been killed by a US drone air strike in North Waziristan on February 24 last. He was reportedly succeeded by one Mufti Abuzar Khanjari.Zafar was wanted by US and Pakistani authorities over a March 2006 attack near the US consulate in Karachi shortly before the visit of the then US President, Mr.George Bush to Pakistan from India.The US had offered a $5m (£3.3m) reward for information leading to his arrest or capture. It was reported that he had been given shelter in South Waziristan by the TTP.
Even though the US authorities did not issue a statement authenticating the reports of his death in a Drone attack, a statement attributed to the TTP on this subject was disseminated in the tribal areas of Pakistan in March. The statement described him as a “martyr” of the TTP without mentioning his LEJ origin and threatened that the TTP “will soon take revenge for his killing from the Government of Pakistan anywhere in the country.” The warning added: “The Government of Pakistan is responsible for the killing (of militant commanders) in Drone strikes and the arrest of Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Baradar, Mullah Kabir, Mullah Abdul Salam, ( Iran Jundullah chief) Abdul Malik Rigi and Afia Siddiqi, a Pakistani doctor now in the custody of the US.”
Despite the TTP’s denial of responsibility for the attacks on the Sufi shrine, reliable Barelvi sources are convinced that the LEJ carried out the recent mass casualty attacks in Lahore on Ahmedia worshippers as well as on the followers of the Sufi saint in Data Darbar and that the LEJ must have carried out the attacks with the prior knowledge and approval of the TTP.
There are two Deobandi-Wahabi terrorist combines operating in Pakistan—the first consisting largely of Pashtuns belonging to the TTP and the so-called Ghazi force made up of surviving ex-students and teachers of the two madrasas attached to the Lal Masjid in Islamabad which was raided by the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army in July 2007 and the second consisting largely of Punjabi recruits belonging to the SES, the LEJ, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri of HUJI origin, who are referred to as the Punjabi Taliban.
The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister, are not prepared to admit the presence and activities of the second combine in Punjab. In the past, many leaders of the PML (N) have had contacts with the SES and the LEJ and had taken the help of their cadres during election campaigns. They also hesitate to come out strongly against the two Wahabi-Deobandi combines in order to placate Saudi princes and charity organizations, which have been the main sources of funding for the Punjabi Taliban. The result has been a lack of effective action against the hide-outs of the jihadi organizations in Punjab—particularly in Southern Punjab—- by the Punjab Police.
After the suicide blasts of July 1, there has been a slanging match between Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister,of Mr.Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who accuses the Punjabi Taliban of being responsible for the terrorism in Punjab and Mr.Shabaz Sharif, the brother of Mr.Nawaz, who is the Chief Minister of Punjab. Mr.Shabaz denies that there is any Punjabi Taliban operating from sanctuaries in southern Punjab and accuses Mr.Malik of not co-operating with the Punjab Police and of withholding intelligence from the Punjab Government.
The Army has maintained a studied silence on this subject and has refrained from involvement in operations in Southern Punjab—particularly against the SES and the LEJ. There have been instances in the past of deserters from the Army and para-military forces joining the TTP, the SSP and the LEJ, but there have been no confirmed instances of the Deobandi-Wahabi vs Barelvi and the Deobandi-Wahabi vs Shias viruses affecting serving personnel of the Armed Forces. The Army wants to keep the serving soldiers immunized against these sectarian viruses. It fears that its active involvement in operations against sectarian terrorists could damage the unity of the armed forces
“Every militant organisation that exists in Pakistan or was deployed during the Afghan war was Deobandi in orientation.”
Supporters of Sunni Ithad Council chant slogan during a rally to condemn the twin suicide attacks on the shrine of Sufi Data Ganj Baksh. -AP Photo – Source: Dawn.com
Source: Daily Times
The Deoband philosophy is a rejectionist philosophy, which rejected modernity and saw the British as the embodiment of western irreligious thought and materialism
The attack on Hazrat Ali Hajvery’s shrine has struck at the root of Lahore’s religious and cultural ethos. For 1,000 years, this city has been sustained by the cultural openness and tolerance that Ali Hajvery, or as he is known to the people of Lahore, Data, gave us. Indeed, Lahore is famously called Data Ki Nagri for the Data was, in a way, the famed Afghan warrior-plunderer, Mahmud of Ghazni’s most lasting bequeath to the subcontinent. For 1,000 years, Hajvery’s shrine has fed Lahore’s hungry, clothed its naked and given shelter to the shelter-less. All that was brought to a halt when the night jackals in straitjackets struck like the cowards they are. It was Ahmedis last month, sufis now and Shias probably next. Pakistan’s Islamic pluralism is now the target.
The purpose was not to create fear. The purpose was to target the soft traditions of Sufism and Barelviism — traditions that have informed Punjab’s social milieu for centuries. This popular Islam is the reason why there is a Muslim majority in Pakistan. It may be pointed out that this same Sufi-Barelvi Islam was invoked by the Muslim League in Punjab in the 1946 elections to counter the high-strung ulema and Islamic clerics of Deoband who had thrown their lot against Pakistan’s creation. Ironically, what was a low church project was hijacked by the high church.
Every militant organisation that exists in Pakistan or was deployed during the Afghan war was Deobandi in orientation. The notorious Jamaat-ud-Dawa is Deobandi. All so-called freedom fighting groups, trained for Kashmir, are Deobandi — ironic for a movement that had doggedly opposed partition because the underlying rationale is the same. The Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — two of the most vile sectarian bodies — are Deobandi and, while the third such body, the Tehreek-e-Khatme-Nabuwat, which calls itself non-violent, claims to represent both Deobandis and Barelvis, it is entirely dominated by Deobandi clerics. Recently, PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif was on the receiving end of this last organisation’s bigotry. But then Mian sahib has only himself to blame. In his last government, Mian sahib had placed, in Pakistan’s presidency, Rafiq Ahmed Tarar, a student and follower of Maulana Ataullah Shah Bukhari, a firebrand Deobandi scholar and orator who also coined the term ‘Kafir-e-Azam’ (the great infidel) for Pakistan’s founding father.
It goes without saying that there exists not even a single Barelvi terrorist organisation in Pakistan. And yet, another complication of this is the potent mixture of Pashtun nationalism with Deobandi Islam. Mix Pashtun nationalism with Deobandi Islam and you get Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the most important terrorist leader from North Waziristan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the direct descendant of Faqir of Ipi, whose claim to fame was that he raised the banner of violent jihad against the newly formed dominion of Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan has faced a war against militant Islam since the first day it was created. The world discovered the Taliban a decade ago but Pakistan has been forced to reckon with them since its inception. And they were called the Taliban even in the time of Lord Curzon where a religious fanatic, Mullah Pawinda, had challenged British rule.
I do not wish to insinuate that all Deobandis and Salafis are terrorists or extremists, but my point is this: all terrorists in Pakistan are Deobandis. No doubt, a majority of Deobandis are good, hardworking people who just wish to live according to their own beliefs. However, there is something intrinsic to the very nature of the Deobandi doctrine, which makes it amenable to violence. It is perhaps the conditions under which the Deobandi movement in Islam emerged. It was a reaction to colonialism and was fiercely anti-imperialist in its moorings. The Deoband philosophy is also a rejectionist philosophy, which rejected modernity and saw the British as the embodiment of western irreligious thought and materialism. Their hatred for foreign rulers was thus rooted in a carefully constructed religious dogma that presented all Europeans as monsters out to destroy Islam.
This is why the Deobandis, despite their strict version of Islam, were closely allied with the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress during the independence movement, instead of the Muslim League which was seen as leaning towards the British and was in any event dominated by the westernised Muslim classes who were not Deobandi. Today in India, Darululoom-Deoband seems to have ensconced itself above all else as the supreme fatwa generating body for Indian Muslims. Consider the latest fatwas that have come out from there: banking is forbidden upon Muslims as a profession and also that women are not allowed to work. Whereas in India it is an attempt to exert clerical control over a hapless and insecure minority, in Pakistan, Deobandi extremists have tried to seize the state itself. They came very close under the military dictatorship of usurper General Ziaul Haq who supported them and nurtured them through Pakistan’s ISI for jihad against the Soviet Union. Needless to say, all this happened with the US’s approval. Things seemed to be going in that direction again in 1999 when Nawaz Sharif, who should have known better, made a decisive move to establish a caliphate in Pakistan. The Deobandi extremist movement in Pakistan is actually the officially anointed clergy’s war on the people’s Islam.
The question is, where do you take a stand? Where do you begin? The Punjab government’s denials of the existence of Taliban strongholds in South Punjab and elsewhere are disconcerting. In the longer run, it will threaten the PML-N itself. There is remarkable convergence today between the GT-Road’s middle class towns and the poverty stricken Seraiki belt, which have turned terrorist out of desperation, and the Taliban networks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, connected by a massive road network. The PML-N is, at heart, a party of shopkeepers and small city businessmen. The ultimate victim in this negligence is going to be the PML-N. Therefore, the Punjab government needs to take stock of the situation. About 10 years ago, only some 15 percent of Sunni Muslims would have described themselves as Deobandi. Today, this number has nearly doubled. This has everything to do with the unchecked growth of Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan. While still only a minority of Sunnis associate themselves with this school of thought, more than 60 percent of all seminaries in Pakistan are associated with Deoband. How does that make any logical sense? The state is obviously too weak to try and counter this. And so we continue this slide down our slippery slope.
Author: Sarah Khan
LORALAI: The Government of Balochistan has refused to provide any land to the governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom to establish consulates in the province, said a top government minister on Saturday.
Maulana Abdul Wasay, the senior provincial minister who belongs to the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazal), told a press conference in Loralai district that the Balochistan government had refused to allot any land to the US and UK governments to establish consulates in the southwestern province which shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan.
Iran had previously expressed its concerns that the US consulate in Quetta maybe used against it, a charge that was vehemently denied and ruled out by Balochistan chief minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani.
“There is no Taliabn Shura or the presence of Al-Qaeda leadership in Quetta,” said the senior minister, “this is simply a pretext to make Quetta a dumping point of weapons.”
He said his party, the JUI, would not let the “conspiracies against Pakistan” succeed under which the US, Israel and some other western countries wanted to dismember Pakistan by the year 2015.
The JUI has been strongly resenting the US plan to establish a “small consulate” in Balochistan which was announced by the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, during her last visit to the province. The JUI believes that the establishment of a US consulate would lead to further instability in the region as it would allegedly be used for Black Water activities inside Balochistan, fan the feelings of hatred among different ethnic communities and strengthen separatist views against Pakistan.
It was the first time that such a top level government official made a disclosure about denial of land to the US authorities to establish a consulate in Balochistan. Nonetheless, no official statement or handout has been issued to officially confirm the government position (of refusing to provide space to the US government for setting up a consulate in Quetta).
Some sources said that the US authorities were still waiting for formal approval from the ministry of foreign affairs to set up a consulate in Balochistan.
Meanwhile, there were no prior reports made public about similar interests by the British government to establish a consulate in Balochistan until the disclosure of the news by the senior minister in his press conference of Saturday.
While the progressive people in Balochistan had widely welcomed the US official decision to establish a consulate in Balochistan, the religious right wing, which is supportive to Taliban, used the recent Facebook controversy to muster enormous anti-US feelings during its protests against the popular social network to link the caricature row with the setting up of a US consulate in Quetta.
Likewise, the provincial chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Abdul Matheen Akhwanzada has also opposed the construction of a US consulate in Balochistan saying that a consulate was not needed in Balochistan. It would, he charged, be used to promote the activities of Black Water for which several vacant homes have been rented across Pakistan.
He said in a press conference the other day that the US government wanted to manage and monitor operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan, through its proposed consulate being established in Quetta.