[In a prescient description of Pakistan’s sectarian issues and government multiplication of those divisions, written before 911, B. Raman describes Pakistan today. Read HERE]
Jan. 8, 2001
In their efforts to maintain law and order in Pakistan and weaken nationalist and religious elements and political parties disliked by the army, the ISI and the army followed a policy of divide and rule. After the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, to keep the Shias of Pakistan under control, the ISI encouraged the formation of ant-Shia Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba . When the Shias of Gilgit rose in revolt in 1988, Musharraf used bin Laden and his tribal hordes from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to suppress them brutally. When the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM—now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement) of Altaf Hussain rose in revolt in the late 1980s in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur in Sindh, the ISI armed sections of the Sindhi nationalist elements to kill the Mohajirs. It then created a split between Mohajirs of Uttar Pradesh origin (in Altaf Hussain’s MQM) and those of Bihar origin in the splinter anti-Altaf Hussain group called MQM (Haquiqi–meaning real). In Altaf Hussain’s MQM itself, the ISI unsuccessfully tried to create a wedge between the Sunni and Shia migrants from Uttar Pradesh.
Having failed in his efforts to weaken the PPP by taking advantage of the exile of Mrs.Benazir and faced with growing unity of action between Altaf Hussain’s MQM and sections of Sindhi nationalist elements, Musharraf has constituted a secret task force in the ISI headed by Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the DG, and consisting of Lt.Gen.(retd) Moinuddin Haider, Interior Minister, and Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, to break the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists.
This task force has encouraged not only religious political organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman etc, but also sectarian organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Riaz Basra, living under the protection of the Taliban and bin Laden in Kandahar in Afghanistan, to extend their activities to Sindh.
These organisations have now practically got out of the control of the ISI. Instead of attacking the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists and bringing them to heel as Musharraf had hoped they would, they have taken their anti-Shia jehad to Sindh and have been recruiting a large number of unemployed Sindhi rural youth for service with the Taliban. Sindh, which was known for its Sufi traditions of religious tolerance, has seen under Musharraf a resurgence of the street power of the JEI and the JUI, which had been practically driven out of the province in the 1980s, by the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, and has seen in recent months anti-Shia massacres of the kind used by Musharraf in Gilgit in 1988. Over 200 Shias have been gunned down, including 30 doctors of Karachi, and the latest victims of the sectarian Frankenstein let loose by Musharraf in Sindh have been Shaukat Mirza, the Managing Director of Pakistan State Oil, and Syed Zafar Hussain Zaidi, a Director in the Research Laboratories of the Ministry of Defence, located in Karachi, who were gunned down on July 28 and 30,2001, respectively. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for both these assassinations.
As a result of the policy of divide and rule followed in Sindh by the ISI under Musharraf, one is seeing in Pakistan for the first time sectarian violence inside the Sunni community between the Sunnis of the Deobandi faith belonging to the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Sunnis of the more tolerant Barelvi faith belonging to the Sunni Tehrik formed in the early 1990s to counter the growing Wahabi influence on Islam in Pakistan and the Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat formed in 1998 by Pir Afzal Qadri of Mararian Sharif in Gujrat, Punjab, to counter the activities of the Deobandi Army of Islam headed by Lt.Gen.Mohammed Aziz, Corps Commander, Lahore.
The Tanzeem has been criticising not only the Army of Islam for injecting what it considers the Wahabi poison into the Pakistan society, but also the army of the State headed by Musharraf for misleading the Sunni youth into joining the jehad against the Indian army in J & K and getting killed there in order to avoid the Pakistani army officers getting killed in the jehad for achieving its strategic objective. The ISI, which is afraid of a direct confrontation with the Barelvi organisations, has been inciting the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to counter their activities .
This has led to frequent armed clashes between rival Sunni groups in Sindh, the most sensational of the incidents being the gunning down of Maulana Salim Qadri of the Sunni Tehrik and five of his followers in Karachi on May, 18,2001, by the Sipah Sahaba, which led to a major break-down of law and order in certain areas of Karachi for some days.
Musharraf, the commando, believes in achieving his objective by hook or by crook without worrying about the means used. In his anxiety to bring Sindh under control and to weaken the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, he has, through the ISI, created new Frankensteins which might one day lead to the Talibanisation of Sindh, a province always known for its sufi traditions of religious tolerance and for its empathy with India.
Musharraf is under pressure from sections of senior army officers concerned over these developments to suppress the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He and Lt.Gen.Haider have been making the pretence of planning to do so. It is to be seen whether they really would and, even if they did, whether they would or could effectively enforce the ban on them.
In India, there is a point of view in some circles that the only way of effectively countering the ISI activities against India is to have an Indian version of the ISI, with extensive powers for clandestine intelligence collection, technology procurement and covert actions and that the proposed Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) should be patterned after Pakistan’s ISI rather than after the DIA of the US and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) of the UK, which are essentially agencies for the analysis and assessment of military intelligence in a holistic manner, with powers for clandestine collection only during times of war or when deployed in areas of conflict and with no powers for covert action.
The principle of civilian primacy in the intelligence community is widely accepted in all successful democracies and the discarding of this principle in Pakistan sowed the seeds for the present state of affairs there. In our anxiety for quick results against the ISI, we should not sacrifice time-tested principles as to how intelligence agencies should function in a democratic society.
In the 1970s,Indian policy-makers wisely decided that the Indian intelligence should not get involved in clandestine procurement of denied technologies since the exposure of any such procurement could damage the credibility and trustworthiness of the Indian scientific and technological community in the eyes of other countries.
This is what has happened to Pakistan. Its intelligence community did some spectacular work in clandestine procurement and theft of technologies abroad. But, once the details of this network were exposed, post-graduate students of Pakistan in scientific subjects, its academics, research scholars and scientists are looked upon with suspicion in Western countries and find it difficult to enter universities and research laboratories for higher studies and research and get jobs in establishments dealing in sensitive technologies and are less frequently invited to seminars etc than in the past. In its anxiety to catch up with India in the short term, Pakistan has damaged its long-term potential in science and technology.