Bin Laden, eco warrior

[The absurdity of the moronic mind-benders behind the dead bin Laden tapes.  SEE: ‘Bin Laden’ blames US for global warming]

Bin Laden, eco warrior

The global fight against climate change needs all the advocates it can find. Well, maybe not all

Marcus Brigstocke

Osama bin LadenClimate camper: al-Jazeera footage of Osama bin Laden, 2001, broadcasting from his low-emissions dwelling, somewhere near the Afghan-Pakistani border. Photograph: Maher Attar/Corbis

Well that’s just what the green movement needs: an endorsement from al-Qaida’s murderer in chief, Osama bin Laden. Don’t tell me al-Qaida do “grow your own” in the Tora Bora mountains. Quick, alert the Pakistani military – we’re looking for six allotment beds and a recent cave-side delivery of locally sourced organic vegetables. If AQ operatives share bath water I just don’t want to know. You try getting the picture of Osama and one of his generals going top to toe in a tub out of your head.

“Please, Osama – I went at the tap end yesterday.” “Whose organisation is this? Uh-uh! Which one of you left this rocket propelled grenade launcher on standby? What have I told you? Now, budge up, you’re sitting on my flannel.”

I’ll grant you that living in a cave probably has a very low carbon footprint, as long as they’ve draught-proofed the door; and it is possible that his barbaric acts of violence have put one or two people off flying, but I just don’t want Bin Laden to come out on our side.

It’s bad enough when greenies in hairshirts treat climate change as an excuse to discuss compulsory veganism. I shudder when semi-retired socialists use it as the latest wheeze to bring down capitalism. Anyone who’s been outgreened by a point-scoring eco bore will know how ugly it can get. But al-Qaida? Any attempt to claim green credentials on their part would be as laughable as oil companies putting pretty mountain-scapes in their adverts. Over population may be the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about sustainability, but no one wants to see Dumbo flown into a building as a solution.

In his latest recording Bin Laden reportedly says: “This is a message to the whole world about those responsible for climate change and its repercussions – whether intentionally or unintentionally – and about the action we must take.” Action? What’s he going to suggest? Rechargeable terror cells? Compostable suicide belts? “When buying weapons at an arms fair – do please remember to bring your own bags.” It’s only a matter of time before he claims that large-scale atrocities such as 9/11 present great opportunities to recycle.

In the “new” recording he mentions the Kyoto protocol and Bush junior’s failure to act. Catch up, beardy – it’s Obama and Copenhagen now. To be honest the whole statement’s a bit dated and makes me think that this tape may have been made some time ago. Perhaps he’s got the wrong wattage of eco bulbs in the cave and can’t read the latest stuff. I wonder if he even knows about the East Anglia email scandal. That seems to be reason enough to get otherwise logical people to doubt years of peer-reviewed work from thousands of scientists, so imagine what it might do to a loose cannon like him.

The main thrust of his proposals is to bring “the wheels of the American economy” to a halt. He obviously hasn’t heard that hubris, greed and massive bonuses have already taken care of that, and the US is still polluting faster than a grass-eating Clarkson. “Stop consuming American products” and “refrain from using the dollar”. With the exception of Apple stuff (praise be upon them) I wasn’t aware that anyone was still consuming anything much from the US. What about China? Why hasn’t he stuck it to them? From what I heard it was China that slowed the Copenhagen talks down to the pace of a glacier. It’s all only half thought through and I fear that his “bring down the mighty US Satan” rhetoric might be the only card in his deck. Lost the remote control? Destroy America. Kids won’t eat their vegetables? Bring down the Stars and Stripes. Overweight? OK, bad example. But taped from an underground layer or not the issues around climate change and solutions to it are nuanced (which is why so few of the papers ever discuss it properly).

I wait with bated breath for the weekend columns in the Mail, Express and Telegraph claiming that George Monbiot and Bin Laden are one and the same person. I’ve suspected it for years. Osama bin Laden: cave-bound eco warrior, saving the world, one atrocity at a time.

Fighting for US objectives

[This article from an Indian blog pretty much gets it right.  Washington is playing a very dangerous game, goading nuclear-armed mortal enemies into a violent confrontation will not solve America’s problems, unless destabilization and depopulation of the subcontinent is the solution.  Washington doesn’t care what the human toll of such a conflict would be, in fact, the more dead the better.  Remember the Kissinger depopulation plans, before you judge this harsh assessment wrong.]

Fighting for US objectives

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
Does anyone recall a top American official publicly declaring that India would be justified in attacking Pakistan if terrorists struck Indian targets again?
I don’t. Which is why I believe more attention must be paid to what US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last week in India, when asked whether he had counselled restraint to New Delhi in the event of another terror strike.
Gates’ reply: “I told all of the Indian leaders that I met with that I thought that India had responded with great restraint and statesmanship after the first Mumbai attack. The ability of any state to continue that, were it to be attacked again, I think is in question…”
That was more of a threat against Pakistan than Washington has made before. Underlining that, Gates emphasised, “…it’s not unreasonable to assume that Indian patience would be limited, were there to be further (terrorist) attacks.”
At that point (in New Delhi, on January 20), it could legitimately be argued that Gates was double-dealing, as America frequently does, sweet-talking India in India before heading off to Pakistan to repudiate his statement. But, this time, in Islamabad the next day, Gates repeated to Pakistan TV almost exactly what he had said in New Delhi. His words: “I believe that after the tragic attack on Mumbai that India was restrained in its response. But no country, including the United States, is going to stand idly by if it’s being attacked by somebody.”
Interesting, especially the similar phraseology, pointing to a pre-formulated response! Was Washington merely waving the India stick to nudge Islamabad towards greater cooperation in the Af-Pak war? Or, is the US starting to believe that Islamabad is a lost cause, and that India can be used — not just politically and diplomatically, but its hard power as well — to deal with Pakistan.
Unthinkable? Remember that a government’s public positions usually lag, in both time and emphasis, what policymakers agree to behind closed doors. It would be reasonable to assume that Robert Gates, while meeting Dr Manmohan Singh, was even more forthright in signalling America’s tolerance for the use of Indian force.
America’s dwindling patience is evident from more than just Gates’ warning. At the same time that Gates visited Delhi, two former US officials — General Richard Myers, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and William Schneider, until recently the Pentagon’s head of technology — were in India, sounding out key opinion-makers and policy-makers about the possibility of a growing military role for India in Afghanistan.
The question at the heart of their discussions was: how best can Indian police organisations, e.g. the BSF, CRPF and CISF, take on a major role in training the Afghan National Police to look after security? Neither Myers nor Schneider seemed even slightly constrained by Pakistan’s entreaties to Washington to curb India’s role in Afghanistan.
Myers and Schneider, some might argue, are not from the US government; they merely represent an academic viewpoint! That distinction, however, is far less relevant in America. Washington works closely with its think-tanks, even outsourcing research that underpins key decisions: e.g. how best can the India card be played to ratchet up pressure on Pakistan? New Delhi’s mandarins must surely wonder if America — losing patience with Pakistan and calculating that US military action against Pakistan would be expensive, bloody, and the end of all influence in Islamabad — was signalling that if India wanted to do the dirty work, Washington would look away.
For Islamabad, though, Gates’ words will be nothing other than a stark threat. Superimposing the India stick on the traditional carrots of aid, weaponry and undying friendship, is a measure of Washington’s desperation in dealing with Pakistan’s reluctance to crack down on jihadi terrorism. Gates’ new stance will also highlight America’s shrinking interest in cultivating a benign image in Pakistan. Draining the abscess of radicalism is now a greater imperative.
Despite India’s satisfaction, Gates’ understanding is not an unalloyed blessing. Whenever the next major terrorist strike takes place — and Pakistan’s prime minister has declared that he cannot stop one — New Delhi will find its options dangerously narrowed. An inflamed public and a rampant media will challenge Indian policy-makers with the question: what now holds back India from retaliating against Pakistan? With international restraints loosened, Indian strikes on Pakistan’s territory would be a real option, and war not just an academic question.
But how ready for that challenge is the military? After the terrorist strikes on Parliament on December 13, 2001, and in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, the subcontinent stood poised on the brink of war. Despite General Padmanabhan’s brave statement, after the Parliament attack, that India would wage war with whatever equipment it possessed, the army asked the government for more time to prepare. With military modernisation remaining stalled for a quarter of a century, Mr Antony and his predecessors have set the scene for potential embarrassment.
India has done the diplomatic heavy-lifting for coercing Pakistan on terrorism. The military preparation, however, remains sadly lacking.

Families of Iraq war dead voice anger at ‘smirking’ Blair

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “ Families of Iraq war dead voice an…“, posted with vodpod

Families of Iraq war dead voice anger at ‘smirking’ Blair

Former prime minister accused of ‘not facing up to facts’ as he gives evidence to Chilcot inquiry

Highlights from Tony Blair’s evidence to the Iraq inquiry Link to this videoThe families of British military personnel killed in Iraq condemned Tony Blair‘s performance before the Chilcot inquiry today, accusing him of being disrespectful.

One, Theresea Evans, asked the former prime minister to look her in the eye and say sorry for the loss of her son.

Evans, from Llandudno, North Wales – whose 24-year-old son, Llywelyn, died in a Chinook helicopter crash in 2003 – said: “I would simply like Tony Blair to look me in the eye and say he was sorry. Instead, he is in there smirking.”

Anne Donnachie, from Reading, Berkshire, whose 18-year-old son, Paul, was killed by a sniper in 2006, said she blamed Blair for his death.

“From what I have heard this morning, he is just denying everything,” she said. “He will just not face up to the facts. I believe he made a massive mistake when he sent my son to Iraq.”

Sarah Chapman, from Cambridge, whose brother, Sergeant Bob O’Connor, died five years ago, said it would be better if Blair was facing the families rather than sitting with his back to them as witnesses are required to do.

“He is being very adamant about his views, as we expected, but it is clear he did not share all the papers before the invasion with the rest of his cabinet,” she said.

“I am disgusted by that. It is obvious he acted alone.”

Anti-war protesters outside the inquiry were denied a chance to direct their chants at the former prime minister in person when he used a side entrance to make his way into the inquiry.

When he began giving evidence inside the QEII Centre in Westminster, a building fortified with steel barriers and lines of police, campaigners stopped their chants of “war criminal”, turned their backs and began listening as the names of civilians and military personnel killed in the conflict were read out.

The crowds dissipated at the end of the morning, but numbers were expected to build again towards the end of the afternoon when the session ends and Blair leaves the inquiry.

For many, today will be the last in a line of protests against the Iraq war which began when up to two million people took to the streets to march against the invasion almost seven years ago.

“He [Blair] does not have the integrity to come and face the people,” Lindsey German, the convener of the Stop the War Coalition, said. “Sliding in by a back door entrance is typical of his lies, deceit and evasion.”

Andrew Murray, the chairman of the anti-war group, added: “This cowardly and deceitful entrance is typical of how the former prime minister sold the war to the country – behind the backs of the public.”

Scotland Yard said there were at least 250 protestors and reported that officers had made no arrests.

By 9am, around 300 mainly older activists had gathered by the building in the cold and rain.

One of the first to arrive, at 7am, was Noel Hamel, the 67-year-old chair of the Kingston Peace Council. He had woken in the early hours in order to get to central London by bus and tube.

A disenfranchised former Labour party member who campaigned for Blair in 1997, he said: “I was out there knocking on doors, proposing motions.

“I just couldn’t have imagined a Labour government taking us to a war of this kind while being so deceitful about it.”

As word spread that Blair had already entered the centre, chants of “Tony Blair, to the Hague” began.

Ruby Lescott, another ex-Labour supporter in her 60s, said her “deep-rooted, immovable rage” was not only directed at Blair but also at his closest ministers.

“The cabinet – most of them – were reluctant about [the war],” she added. “The Labour government has eroded the virtues of our parliamentary system.”

Among the few younger faces in the crowd, Lois Clifton, 19, and Emma Clewer, an 18-year-old fellow LSE university student, admitted their attempts to leaflet for the protest had been disappointing.

“We needed more people here,” Clewer said. “It’s a chance for people to show their anger.”

During the start of the invasion, both were in their early teens and recalled the marches.

“There were a lot of walkouts at school,” Clifton said. “I wasn’t as aware as I am now … but I knew what was happening was wrong.”

A heavy police presence, including officers from the Metropolitan police’s specialist Territorial Support Group, watched from behind barricades surrounding the centre.

As is common at protests, Forward Intelligence Team surveillance officers jotted down notes of what speakers were saying.

A Sign of Empire Pathology

A Sign of Empire Pathology

More US military personnel have taken their OWN lives than have died in action

by Finian Cunningham

Here is a shocking statistic that you won’t hear in most western news media: over the past nine years, more US military personnel have taken their own lives than have died in action in either the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. These are official figures from the US Department of Defence, yet somehow they have not been deemed newsworthy to report. Last year alone, more than 330 serving members of the US armed forces committed suicide – more than the 320 killed in Afghanistan and the 150 who fell in Iraq (see

Since 2001, when Washington launched its so-called war on terror, there has been a dramatic year-on-year increase in US military suicides, particularly in the army, which has borne the brunt of fighting abroad. Last year saw the highest total number since such records began in 1980. Prior to 2001, the suicide rate in the US military was lower than that for the general US population; now, it is nearly double the national average.

A growing number of these victims have been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. What these figures should tell us is that there is something fundamentally deranged about Washington’s “war on terror” – which is probably why western news media prefer to ignore the issue. How damning is it about such military campaigns that the number of US soldiers who take their own lives outnumber those killed by enemy combatants.

What is even more disturbing is that the official figures only count victims of suicide among serving personnel. Not included are the many more veterans – officially classed a civilians – who take their own lives.

Most likely, these deaths are reported in some small-town newspaper in “a brief” news item with no context or background as to what drove these individuals to take their own lives. It is estimated that the suicide rate among veterans demobbed from fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq is as high as four times the national average. The US Department of Veteran Affairs calculates that over 6,000 former service personnel commit suicide every year.

Many of these men have come home to a country they have fought for only to find no jobs, their homes repossessed by banks that have enjoyed trillion-dollar bailouts and broken relationships.

Meanwhile, President Obama – the erstwhile peace candidate – has taken on the role of Commander in Chief with gusto, telling his countrymen and women that they are fighting a “just war” to “defend American lives”. Only a year ago, he was campaigning for the presidency on a ticket to end such wars. Now, more than his predecessor, George W Bush, Obama is committing to wars without end. How soul-destroying is that for a grunt holed up in a bunker, with his young family back home probably telling him that they have just signed up for food stamps? In their guts, these US soldiers must know – as many other ordinary people around the world do – that these wars are nothing but a desperate, pathological bid by a dying power to salvage its crumbling empire – an empire that enriches a tiny elite and impoverishes the majority. Is it any wonder that many of them simply lose the will to live?

The Foundations of the U.S. Economy have been Destroyed

The Foundations of the U.S. Economy have been Destroyed

by The Economic Collapse

The vast majority of the talking heads on television are still speaking of the current economic collapse as if it is a temporary “recession” that will soon be over.  So far, the vast majority of the American people seem to believe this as well, although for many Americans there is a very deep gnawing in the pit of their stomachs that is telling them that there is something very, very wrong this time around.  The truth is that the foundations of the U.S. economy have been destroyed by an orgy of government, corporate and individual debt that has gone on for decades.  It was the greatest party in the history of the world, but now the party is over.

The following are 11 signs from just this past month that show that the U.S. economy is headed into the toilet and will not be recovering….

#1) When even Wal-Mart is closing stores you know things are bad.  Wal-Mart announced on Monday that it will close 10 money-losing Sam’s Club stores and will cut 1,500 jobs in order to reduce costs.  So if even Wal-Mart has to shut down stores, what chance do other retailers have?

#2) Americans are going broke at a staggering pace.  1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 – a 32 percent increase over 2008.

#3) American workers are working harder than ever and yet making less.  After adjusting for inflation, pay for production and non-supervisory workers (80 percent of the private workforce) is 9% lower than it was in 1973.  But those Americans who do still have jobs are the fortunate ones.

#4) Unemployment is absolutely exploding all over the United States.  Minority groups have been hit particularly hard.  For example, unemployment on many U.S. Indian reservations is over 80 percent.

#5) Unfortunately the employment situation is showing no signs of turning around.  December was actually the worst month for U.S. unemploymentsince the so-called ”Great Recession” began.

#6) So just how bad are things when compared to past recessions?  During the 2001 recession, the U.S. economy lost 2% of its jobs and it took four years to get them back. This time the U.S. economy has lost more than 5% of its jobs and there is no sign that the bleeding of jobs will stop any time soon.

#7) Can you imagine trying to get your first job in this economic climate?  Our young men and women either can’t get work or have given up on work altogether.  The percentage of Americans 16 to 24 who have jobs is 13 percent lower than ten years ago.

#8) So where did all the jobs go?  Over the past few decades we have allowed the corporate giants to ship mountains of American jobs overseas, and there are signs that this trend is only going to get worse.  In fact, Princeton University economist Alan S. Blinder estimates that 22% to 29% of all current U.S. jobs will be offshorable within two decades.  So get ready for even more of our jobs to be shipped off to Mexico, China and India.

#9) All of these job losses are leading to defaults on mortgages.  Over the past couple of years we have seen the American Dream in reverse.  According to a report that was just released, delinquent home loans at government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac surged 20 percent from July through September.

#10) But that is nothing compared to what is coming.  A massive “second wave” of mortgage defaults is getting ready to hit the U.S. economy starting in 2010.  In fact, this “second wave” is so frightening  that even 60 Minutes is reporting on it.

#11) Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has announced that it made a record profit of $46.1 billion in 2009.  Apparently during this economic crisis it is a very good time to be a bankster.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Second Wave Of Mortgage Defaults Part 1“, posted with vodpod

Obama’s Fake of the Union Address

Obama’s Fake of the Union Address

Dr. Rec, The Rec Report

Michael D. Rectenwald, Ph.D.

Few doubt that Barack Obama is a masterful speaker. But too often his speaking ability is considered a national asset, especially as it is supposed to inspire the American public, persuade his political opponents, and favorably represent the national interests to the world. Yet Obama’s rhetorical mastery is the most dangerous weapon that his financial masters have used against the majority of late. Rather than persuading Congress or the American public to support policies and politics that benefit the majority, Obama has used his oratorical gifts to delude the people, representing his allegiance to the corporate oligarchy as a boon to the American public.

The State of the Union Address was an occasion for Obama to reboot his presidency by reinstalling and rerunning his campaign rhetoric. At the same time, he would have to reconcile the same with a yearlong record of betrayals. Thus, his support and enactment of massive corporate bailouts, his health care cuts crafted behind closed doors and presented as “reform,” his extension of imperialist wars, his proposed cuts in social spending, his proposed deepened tax cuts and incentives for business (as opposed to direct spending on millions losing their homes and jobs)-were all presented as a gift to a singular “American people.”

Despite a Democratic majority in both houses and a presidency with a massive mandate for “change,” the abject failures of his first year were blamed on his political “opponents.” Obama blamed the Republicans for the failure to enact health care reform. The proffered bill promises to penalize workers by taxing “Cadillac” plans and levying fines or imprisonment on those who fail to buy “coverage” from corporate insurers. Thanks to their defeat of the Democrat in the special senatorial election in Massachusetts, the Republicans are now expected to filibuster the unpopular health care bill. The choice of a Republican over Obama’s proxy in an overwhelmingly Democratic state indicates the extent to which Obama’s policies are generally opposed. Yet the Republicans were the whipping boys of the night. If the Republicans didn’t exist, one isn’t far off in saying, the Democrats would be sure to invent them. So great is the Democrats’ need for an alibi.

One of Obama’s most remarkable talents is his ability to feign righteous indignation. The grimaces of Supreme Court members tongue-lashed by the candidate of record Wall Street bundled funding were discomfiting to all but the most hypocritical Democratic sympathizers. Meanwhile, the ruling gives the green light to Obama’s paymasters to reward his party for its faithful service.

While acknowledging an election won on the basis of antiwar sentiment, the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan barely merited mention. Obama promised the removal of troops from Iraq, but said nothing about the fact that the time-table was set during his predecessor’s tenure, or that his military and intelligence policies mirror his predecessor’s to the letter. These policies include the Patriot Act, the secret renditions, the funding of renegade mercenaries, the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. He said nothing of the record number of troops killed in Afghanistan in 2009. And of course no mention was made of unmanned drones that repeatedly bomb and kill civilians in Pakistan. And Obama slid seamlessly over the fact that the gargantuan military budget will grow unchecked.

These facts do not accord well with the rhetoric of “change you can believe in.” Rather, given the Obama effect of silencing the so-called antiwar “left,” they speak volumes about the Democratic antiwar belief you can change.

Watching the speech and its reportage from the “left-right” angles of the U.S. corporate media, one might be led to believe that the divisions between the rival parties are real and deep. The grudge-match is treated like an epic battle between bitter enemies. Sean Hannity, of Fox ‘News,’ is an overpaid party hack who functions to obscure the fact that his real opponents are not even on the field of play.

The real battle is fought off-screen. The opponents are the corporate oligarchy and their political managers in Washington, lined up against a public faced with job losses, housing foreclosures, runaway debt, and extortion. Obama, the front man, was commissioned precisely because his allegiance to the corporate oligarchy seemed unlikely. He posed as a plausible candidate of change because his identity and oratorical style fit the bill for many. But after only a year, the majority has been disabused of this fiction. Most see him for the fraud that he is. His most valuable asset is fast becoming recognized as the face of deceit.
Permanent URL for this article:

Indo-Pak tension worst in 20 yrs

Indo-Pak tension worst in 20 yrs: Zahid Hussain


In his book `Frontline Pakistan’, Zahid Hussain highlighted the challenges Pakistan faced from jihadi extremism. In India as part of the `Aman ki Asha’ literary series, Hussain spoke to TOI about how the reality in Pakistan had changed but that without better ties with India, there would always be some support for jihadi groups.
Q: To what extent does rhetoric between India and Pakistan threaten or affect the reality?
A: Rhetoric certainly does affect reality. But reality changes so fast, as we have seen in the past few years that relations between the two countries had become cordial. In 2002, the two countries put a million men eyeball-to-eyeball and the atmosphere was tense. We were close to war. In 2004, Vajpayee came to Islamabad and suddenly everything changed. But the tension was not reflected in the media, though we had no relations. It was significant. After 2004, the atmosphere changed. This time, the tension is greater on both sides, after Mumbai attack. Perhaps because of the magnitude of the attack and the number of people killed.
Initially, in Pakistan, the general sentiment was one of sympathy. Then suddenly, the rhetoric became more aggressive there. Then the media group (Geo TV) which was most aggressive did an investigative report about Kasab’s village, they went there. The tension is not generated or whipped up by the media in Pakistan. But one cannot take refuge in the media or public opinion regarding dialogue. Generally, there is a feeling both countries need to normalise relations.
The tension I have seen in the past year is the worst I’ve seen in 20 years. At this point, nobody is talking. Even in 2002, when we were close to war, there was some activity in the background to normalise or end the standoff. In the past one-and-a-half years, the atmosphere has changed and that is quite alarming.
Q: But diplomatic relations continue now…
A: In Pakistan, there has been a significant development. Pakistan has admitted for the first time that the people who had done the attack had gone from Pakistan and people have been arrested. Maybe there should be more. I have seen the investigative report myself in Pakistan. They have gone beyond what the Indians have provided. They have given details of how those people were trained.
Q: Was this what was given to the anti-terror court on Wednesday?
A: Yes, that’s right. I’ve written about it. While the media can whip up sentiment, there is also the other side. Media has also played a big role in bringing the two sides together and minimise tension. In Pakistan, the political parties have a general consensus on policy to India.
Q: What is that policy?
A: The government is conciliatory. If you consider the overall statements… even Nawaz Sharif has taken a conciliatory position. The mainstream parties — PPP, PML(N), MQM and ANP — say that Pak-India relations should improve. So that is a positive development. When it comes to foreign and defence policies, Pakistan media is very open. If you have been following it, you will see Pakistan media is actually critical of many things. You must realise Pakistan media has grown up as a resistance media. Under long periods of military rule, most of Pakistan media has been in chains, not like in India, which has been a democratic set-up and Press has been free. We have fought for these rights.
Q: Wasn’t growth of the Pakistan media greatest during the Musharraf years?
A: Exactly. We fought during Zia’s period. The criticism of Pakistan’s policies — be it regarding India, Afghanistan or anything else — is most by the Pakistan media. And openly. If you see the literature in Pakistan over the past few years… Ahmed Rashid, Ayesha Siddiqua, Amir Rana and others. This is an examination and analysis of why we are where we are, more in-depth discussion, etc.
Q: In the context of today’s Pakistan, independent of India, where is Pakistan going and where should it go?
A: There is a lot of gloom about Pakistan, it is the main centre of terrorism. From the outside, it seems Pakistan is falling apart under the weight of jihadi extremism. But I see it differently. The clash has come to the surface. Militancy has been growing in Pakistan for many years, but there was no clash with society or the state. That I feel is more dangerous.
Q: Like a creeping acceptance…
A: Exactly. There was deniability, a feeling that they are fighting for us, not against us. But now, this has come to a head. The violence has increased, certainly, but it also means the war has come to a head. I call it the battle for the soul of Pakistan. At one point, people thought the jihadis were about to take over the country. But no more. They are on the defensive, they have been defeated in many places. For the first time, public opinion has turned hugely against militancy and extremism.
Q: Does that reflect in government action?
A: Swat was a turning point. There is no acceptability of jihadi extremism. There are no two views on the fact that extremism poses the biggest threat to Pakistani society. That is the realisation, even among many right-wing Islamist parties.
Q: You have written that the jihadis are a powerful force in Pakistan. Who do you think is more powerful now? Jihadi generals, militancy over the years, how officers have changed over the years…
A: That was what was happening in Pakistan. But 2007 was the turning point in Pakistan. That’s the theme of my next book. Lal Masjid was a complete rupture between jihadis and the state. The separation had started after Musharraf turned around after 9/11, but there was no divorce. 2007 was a complete break. Because Islamic militants declared war on the Pakistani state.
Earlier, only two individuals had been attacked by jihadis — Musharraf in 2003 and a corps commander of Karachi — otherwise there was no violence. Lal Masjid was different. More than 200 bomb attacks have taken place in Pakistan after July 2007. Almost all in the big cities, targeting Pakistan security installations. More Pakistani soldiers have been killed in these attacks, including 56 ISI officers. More than a dozen attacks have been against ISI buildings — Lahore, Peshawar and Rawalpindi.
There’s war. This was also the period when they developed a Pakistani agenda. Al Qaida was part of it and it was no more fighting in Afghanistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was formed in December 2007, with a clear agenda of taking over these areas. A sporadic Taliban movement had started, but Baitullah Mehsud was made chief of a formal organisation three weeks before Benazir died.
Q: When should Pakistan take on Al Qaida in Quetta Shura?
A: Quetta Shura is not Al Qaida and Al Qaida is not in Balochistan. Al Qaida is in eastern Afghanistan, the areas around Waziristan, Khost, Paktia and Paktika. South Afghanistan is not Al Qaida. Al Qaida is concentrated in northwestern Pakistan.
Quetta Shura is Taliban. Taliban fighting in southern Afghanistan has nothing to do with Al Qaida. The linkages with Al Qaida are greater with Pakistani Taliban and Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, like Sirajuddin Haqqani. In Balochistan, there is no Pakistani Taliban. Personally, I feel Quetta Shura doesn’t exist. They’re more hype.
In Afghanistan, the war has gone wrong. After eight years, the situation is worse there. US generals also see it as worse than Iraq now. For 4-5 years, Americans did not understand what was happening and they had no presence in southern Afghanistan.
Insurgency cannot take root if the leadership is outside. They’re saying Mullah Omar is in Quetta. I’ve worked on this, and I don’t believe this is correct. Mullah Omar is the kind of leader who has never left Afghanistan. Even during the Soviet days, he was there, he came only once when his eye needed treatment. When his government was in Kabul, he did not go to Kabul.
It may happen that they go and come, also the refugee camps in Balochistan have become a hub of recruitment, as well as the madrasa. The real centre of insurgency is in Afghanistan. The Americans had 1,300 troops when they went to Tora Bora. They gave the contract to Afghan warlords, who were taking money from both sides.
Q: Indian public opinion has hardened after 26/11. We feel Pakistan may be targeting the people against Pakistan, but not the groups affecting India. Do you think this ambivalence continues, and if it does, how can Pakistan fight different wars?
A: There was ambivalence earlier. There were grounds for that ambivalence. Things started to change after the attack on Musharraf in December 2003. He realised these guys were a threat to Pakistan, but he also believed he could not take them on fully until relations with India improved. That was the reason why in 2004, after Vajpayee’s visit, everything changed, and Musharraf actually went after these groups.
Back channel diplomacy progressed very fast. Musharraf showed a lot of flexibility and I don’t think there will be another leader who will do the same in the near future. He also thought of out-of-the-box solutions. At a speech that I attended, Musharraf said India will never accept changing of the boundary, and we see it as a problem. So let’s meet midway. Soften the borders, regional autonomy, and demilitarisation. It was the biggest concession Pakistan could have given. Infiltration had also come down. Unless the relationship with India improves, some kind of ambivalence will always be there.
Q: Manmohan Singh says he has no one to talk to. Who should India talk to?
A: To the civilian government. When you refuse to talk, whom are you strengthening? Can’t you pick up the thread where it was left off? This may be a weak government, but if India could have done Sir Creek or Siachen, this government would have been strengthened. Even Nawaz Sharif, leader of Punjab, is for better relations with India. If these two countries want to fight terrorism, they need to move forward in their relationship. There are some elements that don’t want better relations.
If another attack happens in India, then what? My view is nobody can guarantee that there will not be another attack. The same people who are attacking Pakistan are also attacking India.
The Mumbai story is not yet complete. More will come out. It was a syndicated attack. There is a huge global network involved. The support was everywhere. There was an Al Qaida imprint. When they were banned, they splintered into many cells. Twenty-two cells became autonomous and linked up with Al Qaida. If India-Pakistan tensions continue, there is another danger. There is a global aspect of jihadis. Inside Pakistan, some of the planners are middle-class, educated, who are influenced by global issues. It’s a whole different game.
Q: What about Lashkar-e-Toiba?
A: Look at Lashkar-e-Toiba. It’s not that Pakistan is not alarmed by them. LeT has not joined the Taliban, they have not attacked Pakistan. But also the state is incapable of taking them on and opening another front. If they join the insurgents, the militancy Pakistan is facing will become much greater.
I know India says Pakistan is not taking these fellows on. I know Robert Gates said there was a threat from Al Qaida-linked militant groups, but I don’t agree with that at all. He is lumping all the groups together but that is not correct.
Q: Hasn’t LeT become linked with Al Qaida?
A: No. LeT was more influenced by Saudi Wahhabism. It’s the only rigid Wahhabi organisation, with a huge connection with the Saudi establishment. Sure, even Osama is pitted against the Saudi establishment. LeT certainly has a global role, though their basic target is India and Kashmir. The groups involved in 26/11 were a part of LeT but Al Qaida used it, there’s no doubt about that. Much has come out after Headley’s arrest (but he was also a double agent). But more will come out.
Q: If this is the battle for Pakistan’s soul, and these groups are recruiting from Punjab, is Punjab in danger from jihadism? And how will the state tackle this?
A: Punjab is in no danger. There was no resistance against this recruitment, so yes, they were recruited from Punjab. The militant organisations in Pakistan never had much support among the masses, despite the recruitment from these areas. But no political roots.
Radical Islamic parties in the Middle East have deep roots in the people. Here they are recruited for certain purposes. In the frontier, the recruitment is directly linked to Afghanistan. But in Punjab, the most popular political party is the PPP. There is also no Taliban movement there. There are militant organisations and they are recruiting, but many of these organisations are sitting in Waziristan. The major commanders are in Waziristan.
Q: Musharraf made the first break with the jihadis?
A: The January 12, 2002 speech by Musharraf was a huge shift. For any Pakistan leader, a complete break from militant groups is difficult. Because of India. But after 2001, the support by Pakistan’s establishment for these groups had begun to wane. But there was ambivalence. But in 2007, the same military raided a mosque to flush them out. They are now branded as enemies of Pakistan. The environment has changed. They have declared jihad. The international and regional environments have changed. The reality of Pakistan has changed. Three-four hundred soldiers were killed in Swat, and they were beheaded. How can the army go back to shake their hands now?