Resistance is called ‘terrorism’

Resistance is called ‘terrorism’

By Linda S. Heard


Enshrined in the Israeli narrative is the “terrorist” designation of its enemies. For most ordinary people “terrorist” is a highly emotive label and when it’s prefixed with “Islamist,” it evokes images of hooded, anti-Western extremists lopping off heads or planting bombs in five-star hotels to fulfill the demands of a warped ideology masquerading as religion.

For Israel, the ‘war on terror’ has been a gift to its propaganda merchants. After all, what reasonable person can blame a country under ‘terrorist attack’ for extending its power to protect its citizens from crazed evildoers? Sadly, public perception isn’t generally nuanced enough to take account of a crucial fundamental: Israel is the occupier and the Palestinians its victims.

Conversely, genuine resistance groups struggling against the yoke of occupation have been hobbled by George W. Bush’s black-and-white rhetoric, as they have been tarred with the same brush as Al Qaida and its franchises. Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband slammed the ‘war on terror’ during a recent visit to Mumbai, calling it a “misleading and mistaken” doctrine inviting “invidious comparisons” between diverse organisations.

It just so happens that all resistance groups in the Arab world have been grouped under the umbrella of terrorism, which devalues their just causes. As far as the US and Britain were concerned, Iraqis who objected to their country being bombed, invaded and occupied and who took up arms were all “terrorists.”

Those Iraqi patriots who fought against the illegal invasion in the same way that the French resistance fought against the Nazis and their Vichy regime during the Second World War, should never have been called “terrorists.” Similarly, the Shiite Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, which was founded during 1982 in response to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, is officially deemed “terrorist” as is Hamas, the Sunni Palestinian faction which Israel initially welcomed as opposition to the “terrorist” Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Notwithstanding, both Hezbollah and Hamas are political organisations with massive popular support among their own people. Both are credited for implementing welfare programmes, including assisting the needy, constructing schools and maintaining hospitals. Both have military wings dedicated to pursuing freedom from occupation.

It seems, therefore, that any Arab who uses violent means to oust American, British or Israeli troops from his land is automatically labelled as “a terrorist.” How convenient! When wielded effectively, the term gets the aggressor off the hook and slanders the victim.

As the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, recently pointed out, during a special emergency meeting last week, the UN Charter encompasses the right of all peoples to self-determination. Moreover, the Nuremberg Tribunal established in 1945 set a precedent for the right of resistance under International Law as it confirmed that the anti-Nazi underground acted legitimately.

There is, however, no law that sanctions attacks on civilians. Furthermore, collective punishment is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. So it is undeniable that Hamas, for instance, has acted outside the law by launching rockets unable to discriminate between civilian and military targets. But here it gets murky because if we are to call Hamas “terrorist” then following the same logic, so is Israel.

For over three weeks, Israel has bombarded the most densely populated part of the world with a diverse arsenal. Israeli spokespeople invariably say Israel does not target civilians and uses surgical precision when striking just as it maintained in 2006 when Israel murdered 1,200 Lebanese civilians.

This would be laughable if the results weren’t so tragic. In Gaza, homes, schools, universities, hospitals, ambulances, a media centre and a UN warehouse, housing desperately needed food and medicines, have all been incinerated. More than 1,300 slaughtered; over 5,000 wounded. Almost half are women and children.

How can anyone in his right mind believe this massive death toll was accidental? This is as heinous as the actions of those who strap themselves with bombs before blowing themselves up in a crowded marketplace. Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai, who warned last year that Gaza faces an Israeli-inflicted shoah (holocaust) stuck to his word.

Terrorism, which robs innocents of their lives, is an abomination but so is the death and devastation wrought by states that misuse their military prowess. Television anchors may talk about the war in Gaza but this is a misnomer. It’s a massacre perpetrated to restore the myth of Israeli deterrence, cynically timed prior to an election. If Israel truly wants a war it should allow Hamas to be supplied with F16s, Apache helicopters, missiles and tanks& then go for it!

During the last throes of the Bush presidency, Israel and the US have signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding designed to strip Hamas and other resistance groups of their rearmament capability. Just as they wanted to destroy Hezbollah so they want to terminate Hamas; not because they are Islamist but because they resist their diktats and thwart their goal of cracking this region under their booted heel. In short, the enemies of the US and Israel are all “terrorists.”

Without the unswerving determination of Palestinians to resist over the past six decades there would be no cohesive Palestinian nation; only scattered refugees with no land, no national identity and no hope. And if Hezbollah had never existed, today, Lebanon would form part of a Greater Israel. Justice is the only weapon that can truly kill resistance. The international community should try it.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevines@yahoo.co.uk.

Israel Plans To Widen Economic Warfare on Palestinians, Using EU/Saudi Rebuilding Funds

Israel Seeks to Restore Fatah to Gaza – Via

Pocketbook

by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Those who feared that Israel might be trying to restore Gaza to Fatah control militarily, now fear that Israel might be trying to restore Gaza to Fatah control financially.

A “senior security source” in Jerusalem told correspondent Haggai Huberman that Israel is anxious to have the funding for the rehabilitation of Gaza funneled through the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, and not via Hamas. The reason: “In order to restore Mahmoud Abbas to power via the back door.”

The question of whether Hamas or Fatah will rebuild Gaza is on the table between Israel and the countries of the European Union, which have promised to help pay the expenses of war-ravaged Hamas-run Gaza.  Israeli diplomats, anxious to see a “partner” running Gaza, explain as follows:

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] does not have a military force strong enough to face Hamas, even when Hamas is the weakest and most humiliated it’s ever been.  Restoring him to power via an Israeli victory would have de-legitimized his regime. The only way to enable the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria to regain power in Gaza is for it to rehabilitate Gaza, which suffered tremendous damage during the 22 days of warfare.  This is why Israel is trying to have the international monies for Gaza funneled through the PA and not Hamas.”

“It’s better to have the Gazans receive the money from Abu Mazen and not from Iran,” the source said.

HaEtzni was Wrong – and Right
During the war, former MK Attorney Elyakim HaEtzni of Kiryat Arba warned that Israel and the international community were hoping to see Hamas destroyed so that a Fatah–run state could be established on its ruins.  He said the goal is to fulfill the principles of the Road Map and the Annapolis Summit by carving out a piece of the historic Jewish homeland for a state for ‘moderate’ Palestinians. “But as long as Gaza is controlled by ‘extremists,’” HaEtzni wrote, “such a state cannot be established. This is why Olmert, Livni and the others want to destroy Hamas – even though they deny it…”

Whether this was their goal or not, in fact it was not achieved.  HaEtzni explains, however, that both Hamas and Fatah have the same goal – the destruction of Israel: “They are different only in their tactics. Fatah believes in our liquidation via peaceful means, and is therefore considered ‘moderate,’ while Hamas likes its liquidations dripping with blood, and so is considered ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist.’”

The Tag: $2 Billion
The cost of rebuilding Gaza has been roughly estimated at two billion dollars.  Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has already offered to pay half this sum.  He made the offer during this week’s Arab summit in Kuwait.

Israel is supported by Egypt in its bid to strengthen Fatah at the expense of Hamas, and have Fatah distribute the money. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has already declared that he would not allow Iranian or Syrian money to pass through his country to Gaza.

The European Commissioner for External Relations and the European Neighborhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, announced on Tuesday that the European Union would not give money for rebuilding infrastructures in Gaza as long as Hamas still rules the region.  She said that money would be given for humanitarian aid, however.

Gazans Commandeer Aid Convoy
In a related item, Jordan reported that armed Arabs in Gaza had commandeered a Jordanian aid convoy on Monday and forced it to head to their own warehouses.  The number of trucks in the convoy was not reported.  The trucks arrived in Gaza at the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, and was headed for UNRWA warehouses – but armed men opened fire at the drivers and hijacked them to a different destination. UNRWA later asked the Jordanian transport company not to send additional aid convoys until the issue of the seized convoy is resolved.

Israeli military says complete withdrawal from Gaza “out of the question”

Israeli military says complete withdrawal from Gaza “out of the question”

By Julie Hyland

Israel continued to withdraw some of its troops from the Gaza Strip Tuesday, in moves timed to coincide with the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama.

Announcing an end to Operation Cast Lead early Sunday morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had said his government intended to remove its forces “at the greatest possible speed.” The Israeli army has confirmed, however, that a “complete withdrawal is out of the question” at this time.

A senior defence official stated Tuesday, “We are reducing the number of troops in the Gaza Strip, but the troops outside that territory remain on the alert so they can react rapidly if necessary.” Later unconfirmed reports said the Israeli navy had fired into Gaza in what was described as a “deterrent measure” and that a Palestinian was shot and wounded by Israeli gunfire near the Kissufim border crossing. No further details were available at the time of this writing.

An estimated 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s 22-day offensive and more than 5,000 injured.

The number of Palestinians dead and wounded is expected to rise as efforts begin to clear the rubble. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began a tour of Gaza, journalists finally allowed access to parts of the territory reported massive

damage.

“Entire neighbourhoods have disappeared,” the BBC reported. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said at least 4,100 homes have been totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged. About 1,500 factories and workshops, 20 mosques, 31 security installations and 10 water or sewage pipes were also damaged, it added.

An estimated 50,800 people are homeless and 100,000 people have been displaced. Some 400,000 people are without running water and electricity is available for less than 12 hours a day.

The UN said that 50 of its facilities had been damaged and 21 medical facilities. Speaking in front of the ruins of the UN food warehouse destroyed by Israel’s bombardment, Ban described the attack as “outrageous” and reiterated his call for a full investigation into the assault and “to make those people responsible accountable.”

Statements supplied by Gaza residents to the human rights group B’Tselem told how the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) mowed down civilians attempting to surrender. According to one account, four members of the A-Najar family from the village of Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, were killed when they obeyed instructions from the IDF to evacuate their home. As they left in groups of two, waving white flags, soldiers opened fire, killing the family members.

There is further evidence of Israel’s use of white phosphorus, illegal in heavily populated areas. The Guardian ran film footage shot by the International Solidarity Movement in Khoza’a, in the south of the Gaza Strip, showing clumps of the chemical burning on the ground.

Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert for Amnesty International, said they have found “streets and alleyways littered with evidence, including still-burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army.” Hospital doctors reported treating many casualties with terrible burns consistent with phosphorus.

John Ging, director of the UN relief agency UNRWA, said it was now vital to get basic supplies, such as food, medicine and fuel, into the territory. “We have a big recovery operation ahead of us, reconstruction–none of it will be possible of course, on any scale, until we get crossing points open.”

Israel has allowed just 143 aid trucks into Gaza and has ruled out lifting its blockade for the foreseeable future. UN agencies have been told that they must “prove that material could not be used for arms, according to diplomats, that money would go directly to local contractors, and that Hamas would not be able to take credit for anything,” the Times of London reported.

EU and UN urge support for Abbas

Writing in the Guardian, Alastair Crooke, former security adviser to the European Union, complained of a “messy, ambiguous ‘end’” to hostilities.

The unilateral character of the ceasefire means Israel is beholden to little. Tel Aviv remains opposed to any discussions on the future of Gaza and the Palestinian people that involve Hamas. It is even regarded as having sidelined Egypt, the Arab state which had done the most to facilitate Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry official Hossam Zaki told the Jerusalem Post of his country’s disappointment that its mediation efforts were effectively bypassed by Israel. “We expected the Israeli side to behave in a different way,” he said. Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire was not taken “in consultation with Egypt, meaning that it did not choose to abide by the terms that we were able to negotiate with the Palestinians,” he complained.

The sole agreement concluded by Israel was with Washington–the memorandum of understanding agreed jointly on Friday, committing the US to provide greater information-sharing, technical assistance and the use of other “assets” to prevent arms entering Gaza.

While Israel is claiming victory, there is concern over the broader ramifications of its actions for the whole region. Throughout the three weeks of conflict, the Arab League was unable to agree on a unified stance on the offensive in Gaza, further discrediting it amongst the Arab masses.

It was, in part, an effort to shore up the credentials of more overtly pro-Western regimes which they fear have been dangerously undermined by the Israeli action that saw the heads of Europe’s major powers gather in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday.

The leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey attended the summit, hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, where they called for the opening of border crossings, pledged humanitarian assistance to rebuild Gaza and promised to aid in policing its borders.

In addition to boosting Mubarak in the face of popular hostility for his refusal to open Egypt’s borders with Gaza to fleeing refugees, the Financial Times said the summit “also provided an opportunity to try to shore up the credibility of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA),” who addressed the gathering.

To this end, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union’s external relations commissioner, emphasised that any aid was conditional on Gaza being ruled by leaders acceptable to the EU. While she did not explicitly rule out Hamas, she suggested strongly that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority must retake control of the territory.

Similarly, at an economic summit of the Arab League in Kuwait on Tuesday, Ban urged the 17 heads of state to rally “under the leadership of President Abbas.”

Concerns over “internationalising” the ceasefire

Israel has also ruled out any aid to Gaza while Hamas remains in power, and is said to be considering passing responsibility for reconstruction to the World Bank, UNRWA or the PA. “We are trying to figure out ways to reconstruct Gaza without Hamas,” an Israeli official said.

But behind apparent agreement vis-a-vis Hamas is the potential for future conflict going far beyond Israel/Palestine.

Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab countries in attendance at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on Sunday. And a closed-door session at the Arab Economic Summit on Tuesday failed to reach a common agreement on the ceasefire or even the setting up of an expected Gaza reconstruction fund. Kuwait’s official news agency KUNA blamed “the uncompromising stances taken by some countries,” while others spoke of the League fracturing between a “Doha-Syria axis” and an alliance led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Israel and the US were also absent from the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting. Subsequently Israel dismissed French proposals made at the gathering for an international conference “to create a Palestinian state.”

“France and Egypt have been pushing the idea of an international conference for years, but it is not going anywhere,” a senior Israeli diplomatic official, speaking anonymously, said.

Adding to concerns were the comments made by Charles Heyman, editor of Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. The Associated Press reported that Heyman had “been told by people with knowledge of the discussions that officials in Brussels are talking behind the scenes about the possibility of deploying an EU naval force to keep arms shipments out of Gaza.”

While technically possible, “it is a very difficult task,” Heyman said. “This is one of those desperate jobs where both sides will probably hate them for it.” The main danger for any EU force, he continued, “would be a breakdown in communications with the Israeli Navy.”

“They will have to work out between them very effective rules of engagement and lines of command or it could go drastically wrong,” he added.

Qazi accuses US of pitting Army against civilians

Qazi accuses US of pitting Army against civilians

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
By By our correspondent
Karachi

Outgoing Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Qazi Hussain Ahmed has alleged that the United States wanted the armed forces and the people of Pakistan to cross each other. He criticized the armed forces for their involvement in the tribal areas of the country, and was of the opinion that there should be dialogue between the government of Pakistan and the people of the tribal areas to resolve the issue amicably.

Ahmed was talking to the media on Tuesday at the residence of Anas Noorani, the son of late Shah Ahmed Noorani. He criticised both, the establishment and the Army, and said that the people of Pakistan had lost confidence in the armed forces due to infighting in the tribal areas. He termed the situation in the tribal areas as crucial, and added that it has affected the image of the armed forces.

He criticized the government of Pakistan for fighting a proxy war for the US in the tribal areas, and alleged that both the Army and the establishment were working on the behest of the US to forward the latter’s agenda.

Ahmed ruled out the possibility of any change in the US policy even after Barack Obama takes office. He stressed that a radical change was needed at the global level as all anti-Islamic forces wanted to crush the Muslim Ummah, while Islamic countries have adopted a silent posture. He asserted, however, that regardless of how dormant and pliant the actions of the rulers of Muslim countries, the citizenry of these countries “will stand united in defiance of all attempts to disintegrate the Muslim Ummah” and that the world would see a revolutionary change.

With regard to possibilities of change in the terrorism policy of the US, Ahmed said that the new US government would also treat Pakistan like the previous government and there would be no significant policy shift of the US for Pakistan. He emphasized the need for the government of Pakistan to change its stance and “convey to the powers of the world that we believe in peace and Islam also teaches us to avoid confrontation and promote harmony in the world.”

“We must not expect that Obama will defuse tension in the region,” Ahmed said. “Americans have always acted in accordance with their interests and benefits.” He exhorted that Muslims have to tackle their own problems and should not take US aid. In his view, the responsibility lies with the people of Pakistan to identify the root cause of terrorism and negotiate with all stakeholders to resolve the issue mutually.

Israel’s terrorism

Israel’s terrorism

In this ruthless world we repeatedly witness events which are too distressing to be described in words and clichés. Even in this enlightened era, sophisticated brutality frequently reigns over the trampled emblem of humanity as the civilized world turns deaf to the desperate calls of the oppressed. The harrowing pictures of the Gaza carnage everyday remind us of this unacceptable and yet inescapable axiom. It’s easy for political analysts to put responsibilities on several factions while seating in luxury cabins. World leaders, who have been silent for long, are now engaged in formulating complicated reconciliation schemes, instead of taking immediate pragmatic initiatives. The international community is engrossed in its pursuit of the hard facts while concrete actions are needed to end the gloomy misery of a confined race dying hopelessly. I guess today only the innocuous Palestinians who are being brutalized mercilessly can sense the concrete ‘hard facts’. The hard fact for them is that as the civilized world silently watches they have to count the bloodstained bodies of their infants and endure the merciless Zionist butchery.

The Israeli rationalization of this mayhem is utterly baseless as it’s understandably not possible to eliminate an organisation like Hamas by literally waging war against defenseless civilians who are trapped in the middle of a grim humanitarian crisis. Instead of subverting Hamas this impetuous offensive will actually help Hamas expand itself and make its causes more justifiable. The impracticality of the Israeli military objectives becomes apparent when we underscore the fact that the majority of the Palestinians killed by the military assault are harmless civilians who had no link whatsoever with Hamas. This actually manifests that the real objective of this brutal military mission is what it is actually achieving: namely, mass murder of civilians in order to consolidate the Zionist supremacy in the region, demonstration of Israel’s military strength and demoralizing the destitute Arab race so that their aspiration for a free homeland dies out forever. Furthermore, this military operation will eventually prove to be fatal for the rest of the world as this conflict will inexorably deteriorate the global terrorism situation and pave ways for fresh conflicts. In the past identical Israeli aggressions gave birth to hatred and belligerence in the Arab world that ultimately culminated in numerous terrorist activities. To a great extent, the ongoing Israeli aggression has put emphasis on the actual origin or the ‘root’ of global terrorism. America and the other world powers should understand the simple fact that ‘the war against terrorism’ will never be successful unless and until such ‘origins’ are carefully uprooted. When it comes to the rise of global terrorism the western leaders incessantly blame radical organisations like al-Qaeda and Hamas. And in the process they diplomatically remain oblivious of the terrorist nations like Israel and its impulsive actions that are responsible for unleashing the vicious monster of global terrorism. I’m not arguing in favour of the terrorist organisations or their extremist ideologies. However, we must understand the fact that in order to exterminate the inescapable curse of terrorism we must also formulate a ‘preventive approach’ alongside the popular ‘cure strategy’, which is only possible by internationally counteracting the destructive policies of terrorist nations like Israel that directly and indirectly stimulate extremism.

***The ineffectiveness of the UN was clearly demonstrated in its failure to prevent Israel from carrying out its heinous attacks on Palestinian civilians (with the death toll crossing 1000).The silence of Arab countries(with some mere rhetoric from some countries) is not surprising since Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are basically being run by US backed governments. In addition, the EU countries have also not acted swiftly enough with only recently the EU humanitarian chief condemning the violence. Israel’s motive is clear. Since they already have a greater control of West Bank, their obvious target is now to entirely capture Gaza or weaken Hamas so that they will no longer be a force to reckon with. Hamas’ rocket firing into Israel is basically being used as a pretext to carry out massive genocide on Palestinian people.

The incoming Obama administration now has a role to play. The world is waiting for Obama to end this violence. But as far as the US foreign policy is concerned, it is hard to expect Obama’s administration to be belligerent towards Israel. But if Obama really represents “change”, then he must act in the way we all expect him to. While the US does not waste time in condemning Iran, North Korea and Cuba for their violation of human rights, their support for Israel basically indicates their “doublespeak.”

Wasif Wahed , Old DOHS, Dhaka

***With thousands of Palestinians killed in recent Israel’s Gaza offensive, the world leaders are still keeping quite, despite knowing the consequences of it. Every now and then we found Palestinians wailing in both print and electronic media over loss of lives or habitats.

From my very childhood I have been witnessing this situation but I couldn’t realize why Israel was committing this genocide, or who were backing them up. Thousands of people were killed in a sequel to the crisis between the two countries. People became and still are becoming homeless due to this long conflict.

Innocent children who know nothing about politics are becoming the worst victims of this conflict. As far as the recent reports are concerned one third of the Palestinians killed recently in air attacks carried out by Israel were children. These children, however, lead uncertain lives with no basic rights provided for them.

It is high time for the world leaders to come to the same platform to help rescue the people of Palestine from this dreadful situation.

Sarwar Hussain, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Chittagong

New Army Strategy to Deal With American-Wahabbi Terrorists

Amid rising TTP gains, Army adopts new strategy

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

By Amir Mir

LAHORE: As the situation in Swat continues to be a major concern, a Pakistan Army spokesman has revealed a new strategy to establish the government’s writ and to contain the rising influence of the Taliban militants in the valley — once considered a haven for tourists in the country.

An ISPR spokesman told The News the military has recently begun to implement the new strategy, which would focus more on consolidating and securing the main supply routes and urban and rural centres by putting more boots on the ground. “The Army presently has four brigades in Swat, including one from Rawalpindi overseen by a General Officer Commanding. We have recently made some adjustments and to begin with, the security forces are gearing up to secure Mingora and its outer-parameters,” he added.

According to the spokesman at the Swat Media Centre (SMC), no credible figures were available about the civilian casualties in the military operation so far. However, he said since Oct 2007, around 15,000 military and paramilitary troops had killed 784 militants in Swat, while the number of troops martyred during the same period stood at 189.

“Of the security forces people killed in the operation, 80 belonged to the Army, 61 were policemen, 35 staffers of the Frontier Constabulary while the remaining seven belonged to the Frontier Corps.” The spokesman said the militants in Swat had carried out 165 bomb attacks against the security forces since 2007, which included 17 suicide and 148 remote-controlled attacks.

The spokesman added since the start of the military operation in the valley, the militants have destroyed 20 bridges, besides setting ablaze 165 girls schools, 80 video shops and 22 barber shops. He conceded up to a third of Swat’s 1.5 million people have left the area since the launch of the ‘Operation Rah-i-Haq.

Asked to comment on the media reports that the Swat valley has fallen to the fighters and the military operation has failed to produce the desired results, the ISPR spokesman said the Pakistan Army troops were fully capable of swiftly evicting and killing miscreants but they were giving peace a chance to avoid civilian casualties in the wake of requests from the provincial government as well as the local elders in touch with the rebels.

He referred to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s Jan 19, 2009 statement on the floor of the National Assembly, saying: “The use of force or military action is not the only solution to everything and we will have to adopt a political strategy to deal with the situation in Swat.”

The spokesman said the military operation in Swat was still ongoing, the troops were still deployed in the valley and only some pockets have fallen to the militants. It is, therefore, wrong to say that the militants have taken control of the Swat district”, he added.

Despite claims of the spokesman, 15 months after the launching of the military operation in the lush-green valley to dismantle the militants’ network of Maulana Fazlullah, a major part of the mountainous region seems to have fallen to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The major tourist attraction apparently lives under the Fazlullah’s brand of Shariah.

Not too long ago, the idyllic valley, with its rolling hills, gushing streams and vistas, was described as Pakistan’s Switzerland. But ever since the beginning of the military operation in 2007, the security situation has gone from bad to worse, converting this paradise on earth into a valley of death and destruction.

Around 10,000 TTP militants have been pitted against 15,000 Army troops since Oct 22, 2007, when the operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan Army is Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcasts, still operational despite being banned by the NWFP government, the firebrand keeps inspiring his followers to implement Shariah, fight the Army and establish his authority in the area.

Military authorities have repeatedly alleged that Fazlullah, who has thousands of armed supporters ready to challenge the security forces on his command, has close links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The cleric has already become a household name in Swat, as his Shaheen Commando Force is destroying and occupying government buildings, blowing up police stations, bridges, basic health units and hotels and burning girls’ schools.

Extending the sphere of their activities aimed at enforcing Shariah, Fazlullah’s acolytes have directed local prayer leaders only to focus on the attributes of Jihad in their Friday sermons. They have also banned female education in Swat, besides asking parents of grown-up girls to marry them to militants. He had issued an edict in Dec 2008 to close hundreds of schools by Jan 15.

While following in the footsteps of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the militants led by Fazlullah were also pursuing an agenda of rigid religious beliefs, based on a violent Jihadi doctrine. Barbers in Swat and adjoining districts have been ordered not to shave beards and shops selling CDs and music cassettes asked to close down. In some places, just a handful of militants control a village since they rule by fear — beheading government sympathisers, blowing up bridges and asking women to wear all-encompassing burqas.

Similarly, the Army is manning several police stations in Swat because the police force there had been decimated by desertions and killings. The gravity of the law and order situation can be gauged from the fact that one of the busiest squares in Mingora has been renamed by the shopkeepers as ‘Khooni Chowk’ because every morning, as they come to shops, they would find four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or trees.

Hundreds of Army jawans as well as civilians have been killed in the ongoing military operation, as a result of suicide attacks and roadside bombings. Under these circumstances, the state writ has shrunk from Swat’s 5,337 square kilometres to the limits of its regional Mingora headquarters, which is a city of just 36 square kilometres.

Some recent media reports say nearly 800 policemen, half of the total sanctioned strength of police in Swat, have either deserted or proceeded on long leave on one pretext or the other. Therefore, the private army raised by Fazlullah literally rules the roost in most parts of the valley, which is witnessing a dominance of the Wahabi doctrine as most of his supporters belong to the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi.

The Wahabi followers of Fazlullah are making a state within a state in Swat, having already established their own administration on the pattern of the Saudi monarchs, besides creating a private army, equipped with the latest weapons and controlled by the militant leader’s trusted and loyal commanders. Besides establishing a parallel judicial system across the valley dealing with the cases of different nature, Fazlullah has also established a Baitul Maal, for which his commanders collect Ushr.

Contributing further to the already grim situation is the growing negative public perception about the military operation, which they believe has killed more civilians than militants. While no credible data is available about the civilian casualties in the military operation, the Police Data Centre in Swat estimates the figure ran into hundreds.

The rise of Maulana Fazlullah, the man ruling Swat, has been like a roller-coaster ride. Fazlullah, a resident of the Imam Dheri area, was born to Biladar Khan, a Pakhtun of Babakarkhel clan of the Yousufzai tribe of the district. Biladar Khan was highly inspired by the TNSM and thus became one of the right-hand men of Maulana Sufi Mohammad.

Finding himself even more devoted to the enforcement of Shariah, the motto of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM), he sent his son, the then Fazal Hayat, now Fazlullah, to his Madrassa at Qambar in Dir district. This long and equally close association between Sufi and Fazal eventually turned into matrimonial relationship when the young son of Biladar became the son-in-law of the TNSM chief.

After Sufi Mohammad (who had actually formed the TNSM in 1992 after leaving the Jamaat-e-Islami) was awarded life imprisonment in 2002 by an anti-terrorism court on charges of inciting youngsters to illegally cross the Pak-Afghan border to wage a Jihad against the US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan, Fazlullah made his native village Imam Dheri as TNSM headquarter and got it shifted from Qambar in Dir.

Generally referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, primarily to distinguish itself from the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, the TNSM (Movement for Enforcement of Islamic Laws) is a militant Wahabi organisation which has fast emerged in the Malakand division and in the Bajaur Agency as a private army to reckon with.

As far as the TNSM organisational structure is concerned, Fazlullah is assisted by two Shuras, or councils. One is the Ulema Shura with several Swati clerics who advise him on religious policies of the group. Another Shura, which is also called the executive body, is the highest policy-making organ of the TNSM, which has a large number of ex-servicemen, including retired commissioned officers, as its members.

Always wearing black turbans, the followers of Fazlullah are also called Black Turbans. He has never had his photograph taken, believing Islam forbids taking pictures of human beings lest it becomes the first step to idol worship. The essence of his agenda is in the motto: “Shariah ya Shahadat (Islamic laws or martyrdom)”.

During the July 2007 Lal Masjid operation against the fanatic Ghazi brothers, Fazlullah came into action against the government forces to avenge the military action. A large number of people armed with rifles, Kalashnikovs and small arms started gathering at his Madrassa as he announced it was time to go to war. His announcement that thousands of militants were ready to avenge the attack was followed by a series of suicide assaults on the security forces. As many students belonging to the Red Mosque-linked seminaries were from this area, the Army action generated a wave of sympathy for Fazlullah’s cause. Most of the anti-government rallies and demonstrations against the Lal Masjid operation were held in this region.

Soon after the Lal Masjid operation, Fazlullah decided to join hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, led by Commander Baitullah Mehsud, in a bid to provide an umbrella to all insurgent movements operating in several tribal agencies and settled areas of the NWFP.

Since then, Fazlullah and his followers are toeing Baitullah’s line, whether they are issuing a decree, signing a peace deal with the government or scrapping the same. Therefore, it appears by all accounts that the Fazlullah-led militants are working in the same mould as the fire-spewing clerics of Lal Masjid did: to make Swat hostage to its rigid vision of militant Islam. And remember, the valley is hardly 160 kilometres from Islamabad.

American-Wahabbi Efforts to Destabilize Pakistan

Has Swat fallen to the Taliban?

Wednesday 21 January 2009
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LAHORE: Fifteen months after the launching of a military operation in the lush-green picturesque valley of Swat by the Pakistan army to dismantle the militant network of Maulana Fazalullah, a major part of the mountainous region seems to have fallen to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Swat apparently lives under the Sharia of Fazalullah.

Not too long ago, the idyll Swat valley, with its rolling hills, gushing streams and scenic vistas, was described as Pakistan’s Switzerland. However, ever since the beginning of the military operation in 2007 the law and order situation in Swat has gone from bad to worse, converting this paradise on earth into a valley of death and destruction. Around 10,000 militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban have been pitted against 15,000 Pakistan army troops since October 22, 2007 when the operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan army is Maulana Fazalullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcast that is still operational despite being banned by the NWFP government, Fazalullah keeps inspiring his followers to implement Islamic Shariat, fight the Pakistan army, and establish his authority in the area.

The Pakistani military authorities have repeatedly alleged that Fazalullah, who has thousands of armed followers ready to challenge the security forces on his command, has close links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. Fazalullah has already become a house hold name in Swat as his Shaheen Commando Force is either destroying or occupying government buildings, blowing up police stations, bridges, basic health units and hotels and setting ablaze girls schools unchecked. Extending the sphere of their activities aimed at enforcing Islamic Shariah, the followers of Fazalullah have directed the local prayer leaders only to focus on the attributes of jehad in their Friday sermons. They have also banned female education in Swat besides asking the parents of grown up girls to marry them to the militants. Fazalullah had issued an edict in December 2008 to close hundreds of schools by January 15.

While following in the footsteps of the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan, the militants of Fazalullah are also pursuing a rigid agenda of religious beliefs which is based on a violent jehadi doctrine. Barbers in Swat and its adjoining districts under have been ordered not to shave beards and shops selling CDs and music cassettes ordered to close down. In some places, just a handful of the militants control a village since they rule by fear – beheading government sympathizers, blowing up bridges and asking women to wear all-encompassing burqas. Similarly, the army is manning several police stations in Swat because the police force there had been decimated by desertions and militant killings. The gravity of the law and order situation can be gauged from the fact that one of the busiest squares in Mingora has been renamed by the shopkeepers as ’Khooni Chowk’ because every morning, as they come to their shops, they would find four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or the trees.

Hundreds of the army jawans as well as civilians have been killed in the ongoing military operation as a result of suicide attacks and roadside bombings. Under these circumstances, the state writ has shrunk from Swat’s 5337square kilometer area to the limits of its regional Mingora headquarters, which is a city of just 36 square kilometers. Some recent media reports say nearly 800 policemen, half of the total sanctioned strength of police in Swat, have either deserted or proceeded on long leave on one pretext or the other. Therefore, the private army raised by Fazalullah literally rules the roost in most parts of the valley which is witnessing a dominance of the Wahabi doctrine as most of his supporters actually belong to the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi.

The Wahabi followers of Fazalullah are making a state within a state in Swat, having already established his own administration on the pattern of the Saudi monarchs besides creating a private army, equipped with the latest weapons and controlled by his trusted and loyal commanders. Besides establishing a parallel judicial system across the valley dealing with cases of numerous natures, Fazalullah has also established a Baitul Maal for which his commanders collect Ushr. Contributing further to the already grim scenario is the growing negative public perception of the military operation which they believe has killed more civilians than militants. While no credible data is available about the civilian casualties in the military operation, the Police Data Centre in Swat estimates the figure ran into hundreds.

According to an army spokesman at the Swat Media Centre (SMC), no credible figures are available about the civilian casualities in the military operation so far. However, he said since October 2007, around 15,000 military and paramilitary troops had killed 784 militants in Swat, while the number of the troops martyred during the same period stood at 189. “Of the security forces people killed in the operation, 80 belonged to the Army, 61 were policemen, 35 were the staffers of the Frontier Constabulary while the remaining seven belonged to the Frontier Corps”. The SMC spokesman said that the militants in Swat had carried out 165 bomb attacks against the security forces since 2007, which included 17 suicide and 148 remote controlled attacks. The spokesman further told, since the start of the military operation in the valley, the militants have destroyed 20 bridges besides setting ablaze 165 girls schools, 80 video shops and 22 barber shops. He conceded that up to a third of Swat’s 1.5 million people have left the area since the launch of the ’Operation Rah-e-Haq’.

Asked to comment on the media reports saying that the Swat valley has fallen to the militants and the military operation has simply failed to produce the desired results, an ISPR spokesman said that the Pakistan army troops were fully capable to swiftly evict and kill militants in Swat but they were giving peace a chance to avoid civilian casualties in the wake of requests from the provincial government as well as the local elders who are in touch with the militants to ensure peace. He referred to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s January 19, 2009 statement on the floor of the National Assembly, saying: “The use of force or military action is not the only solution to everything and we will have to adopt a political strategy to deal with the situation in Swat.”

The spokesman said the military operation in Swat was still on, the troops were still deployed in the valley and only some pockets have fallen to the militants. It is therefore wrong to say that the militants have taken the control of the Swat district”, he added. Asked about the military strategy to maintain the writ of the state and to contain the rising influence of the Taliban militants in Swat, the ISPR spokesman said the military has recently begun to implement the new strategy which would focus more on consolidating and securing the main supply routes and urban and rural centres by putting more boots on the ground. “The army presently has four brigades in Swat including one from Rawalpindi overseen by a General Officer Commanding. We have recently made some adjustments and to begin with, the security forces are gearing up to secure Mingora and its outer-parameters”, he added.

The rise of Maulana Fazalullah, the man ruling the Swat valley, has been like a roller-coaster ride. Fazalullah is a resident of the Mamderai area who was born to Biladar Khan, a Pukhtun of Babukarkhel clan of the Yusufzai tribe of the Swat district. Biladar Khan was highly inspired by the TNSM and thus became one of the right-hand men of Maulana Sufi Mohammad. Finding himself even more devoted for the enforcement of Shariah, which had been the motto of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), he sent his son, the then Fazal Hayat, now Fazalullah, to his madrassa at Kumbar in Dir district. This long and equally close association between Sufi and Fazal eventually turned into matrimonial relationship when the young son of Biladar became the son in law of the TNSM chief.

After Sufi Mohammad [who had actually formed the TNSM in 1992 after leaving the Jamaat-e-Islami] was awarded life imprisonment in 2002 by an anti-terrorism court on charges of inciting youngsters to illegally cross the Pak-Afghan border to wage jehad against the US-led Allied Forces which had invaded Afghanistan, Fazalullah made his native village Mamderai as headquarter of the TNSM and got it shifted from Kumbar, Dir to Mamderai, Swat. Generally referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, primarily to distinguish itself from the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi or the Movement for Enforcement of Islamic Laws, is a militant Wahabi organization which has fast emerged in the Malakand Division of the NWFP and in the Bajaur Agency of the FATA as a private army to reckon with.

As far as the TNSM organizational structure is concerned, Fazalullah is assisted by the two shuras, or councils. One is the Ulema Shura with several Swati clerics who advise him about the religious policies of the group. Another shura, which is also called the executive body, is the highest policy making organ of the TNSM which has a large number of ex-servicemen, including retired Commissioned Officers, as its members. Always sporting a black turban, the followers of Fazalullah are also called Black Turbans. He has never had his photograph taken, believing that Islam forbids taking pictures of human beings lest it becomes the first step to idol worship. The essence of his agenda is in the motto: “Shariah ya Shahadat (Islamic laws or martyrdom)”.

During the July 2007 Lal Masjid operation against the fanatic Ghazi brothers in Islamabad,

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