RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it would ban all protests and marches after minority Shias staged small protests in the oil-producing eastern province. Security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the state television. The ban follows a series of protests by Saudi Shias in the kingdom’s east in the past weeks mainly to demand the release of prisoners they say are long held without trial. Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority mostly live in the east, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world’s top crude exporter and is near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi’ites against their Sunni rulers. Saudi Shias complain they struggle to get senior government jobs and other benefits like other citizens. The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges. Last week, King Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month medical absence and unveiled $37 billion in benefits for citizens in an apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from protests spreading in several Arab countries. reuters
This is to be read in continuation of my earlier articles:
In my despatch of February 16, 2004, from Israel (From Bad To Worse) I had stated as follows:
The Falluja raid has come at a time when there are reports of the infiltration of about 60 Yemeni, Yemeni-Balochi and Pakistani terrorists, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (al-Almi meaning international) and the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. They had gone to Saudi Arabia under the guise of Haj pilgrims. After the Haj was over, they crossed over into Iraq instead of returning to their country. Similar instances had taken place last year too. With their entry, the total number of foreign jihadi terrorists in Iraq is estimated at about 360 to 380.
To understand the anti-Shia massacres at Karbala and Baghdad in Iraq (about 180 fatal casualties) and at Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan (41 killed ) during the Muhurrum procession on March 2, 2004, one has to go back to the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
When Pakistan was formed in 1947, the Shias were amongst the major land-owners of Pakistan’s Punjab, its granary, and many of the Sunnis, who migrated to Pakistan from India’s Punjab, were largely poor landless farm workers, who had to earn their livelihood in their country of adoption by working in the farms of the Shias. The perceived exploitation of the Sunnis by the Shia landlords started the process of the polarisation of the two sects of Islam in Pakistan.
This sectarian polarisation largely due to economic reasons was given a religious twist by Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military dictator of the 1980s, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. To counter the growing political assertiveness of the Shias and their political party, the Tehrik-e-Jaffria (TEJ) Pakistan, which generally supported Mrs.Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), he encouraged and assisted Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).
With his blessings, the SSP challenged the right of a woman to come to political power and projected the Shias and Mrs.Nusrat Bhutto, the mother of Benazir, as the surrogates of Iran. The SSP also started calling for the declaration of the Shias as non-Muslims and for the proclamation of Pakistan as a Sunni State.
Even before Zia seized power in 1977, Pakistan used to see sectarian tension and clashes between the Sunnis and the Shias, but this violence took a virulent form in the 1980s. There were many targeted attacks on Shias in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and in the Northern Areas of Jammu & Kashmir (Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Shias are in a majority), which has been under Pakistani occupation since 1947-48.
The last years of the Zia regime saw the Shias of Gilgit come out with a demand for a separate Shia State consisting of Gilgit and the Shia majority areas of Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). They wanted the Shia state to be called the Karakoram Province and remain part of a confederation of Pakistan.
The Zia regime crushed the Shia movement ruthlessly. In August 1988, the Pakistan Army inducted a large Sunni tribal force from the NWFP and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), led by Osama bin Laden, into Gilgit and it massacred hundreds of Shias and crushed their revolt. The hatred of the Shias for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda dates from this period.
Shortly after this massacre, Zia died in a mysterious plane crash. Though the report of the enquiry commissaion has not been allowed to be released by the Army, it is generally believed by many in Pakistan that the crash of the aircraft was caused by a Shia airman on board the flight. In October, 1991, Lt.Gen. (retd) Fazle Haq, a close associate of Zia, was assassinated in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP, by Shia gunmen.
The virulent anti-Shia ideology of the SSP was also exploited by the intelligence agencies of the USA and Iraq in their attempts to destabilise Iran and have the Shia clergy ruling Teheran overthrown. As a result of the support from the Saddam Hussain regime, the SSP, which was an anti-Pakistani Shia and not an anti-Iran movement, started targeting the Iranians living in and visiting Pakistan too in the 1990s. There were many attacks on Iranian civilians, diplomats and military officers coming to Pakistan for training. The SSP was also used by the intelligence agencies of the USA and Iraq to instigate the Sunni Balochis of Iran to revolt against Teheran.
Many notorious Pakistani and Arab terrorists such as Ramzi Yousef, now in jail in the US for his involvement in the New York World Trade Centre explosion of February,1993, Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, started their career as terrorists as members of the SSP and participated in many of its anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.When al-Zarqawi, along with some other Jordanians, many of them of Chechen ancestry, came to Pakistan in the 1980s to join the Arab mercenary force trained and armed by the CIA and the ISI and used against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, his passport gave his name as Fadel al-Khalayleh, which is believed to be his real name.
On June 20,1994, Ramzi Yousef and al-Zarqawi, at the instigation of the Iraqi intelligence, caused an explosion at Mashad in the Iranian territory adjoining Pakistan which killed a large number of Shias.Zarqawi, along with the late Riaz Basra, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the SSP, helped the Taliban in the capture of Kabul in September, 1996.
The LEJ subsequently helped the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the massacre of the Hazaras (Shias ) of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden never liked Saddam, whom he looked upon as an apostate because of his secular and socialist policies, and the proximity of the LEJ and al-Zarqawi to Saddam’s intelligence agency created differences between them and bin Laden.
Despite this, the LEJ joined bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People after it was formed in 1998 and has remained loyal to bin Laden.Till 2002, the anti-Shia activities of the LEJ were confined to Punjab and Sindh. Balochistan remained largely free of anti-Shia incidents.
The situation changed after the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) by the Pakistani authorities at Rawalpindi in March, 2003, and his handing over to the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).It was reported that KSM had fled from Karachi to Quetta in September,2002, after the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh and from there shifted to Rawalpindi fearing betrayal by the Hazaras (Shias) of Balochistan, who were suspected of helping the US agencies in their hunt for bin Laden because of their anger over the massacre of the Hazaras of Afghanistan before 9/11.
It is this suspicion, which was behind two anti-Shia incidents in Quetta last year. In the first, Hazara policemen under training and, in the second in the first week of July, 53 Shia worshippers were killed. This suspicion against the Shias has increased in recent weeks in the wake of reports, contradicted by the Pakistani authorities, that President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to permit the US troops to comb for bin Laden in the FATA and the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan.
The massacre of the Shias in Quetta on March 2 was in reprisal partly for their suspected collaboration with the Americans in their hunt for bin Laden and partly for the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, the leader of the SSP, last year, allegedly by Shia extremists.
In a message disseminated by Al Jazeera TV before the invasion of Iraq by the coalition troops led by the US last year, bin Laden had called for a united struggle against the Americans by the Sunnis and Shias of Iraq forgetting their sectarian differences. While continuing to describe Saddam as apostate, he appealed to the Shias and Sunnis not to let their differences come in the way of a joint resistance against the Americans.
Even before the invasion, terrorist elements of the IIF started moving to Iraq via Saudi Arabia and Iran for starting a jihad against the Americans. The first group to go was from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM). They went to Saudi Arabia as Haj pilgrims and from there crossed over to Iraq. Subsequently, Arab-speaking volunteers of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the LEJ also started going to Iraq in small numbers. Many of the Arabs of Chechen ancestry, originally belonging to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who were in the South Waziristan area of the FATA, also joined them.
Neither the HUM nor the LET had in the past come to notice for indulging in anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan though some leaders of the HUM had originally been members of the SSP. Of those who have gone to Iraq from Pakistan, only the members of the LEJ had indulged in anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past and could be expected to indulge in similar massacres in Iraq without any hesitation. The Iraqi resistance fighters are unlikely to indulge in the kind of massacres carried out at Karbala and Baghdad on March 2. The needle of suspicion, therefore, strongly points to the LEJ.
Their action in targeting the Shias of Iraq arises partly from their deeply-ingrained anti-Shia reflexes and partly is a reprisal for the perceived collaboration of the Shia leaders of Iraq with the American troops. If al-Zarqawi wanted to promote a civil war in Iraq by instigating Shia-Sunni clashes, as alleged by US officials, the LEJ, with which he has had a history of association in the past and which would not hesitate to massacre Shias anywhere in the world, would be the ideal tool in his eyes.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.
KARACHI – Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Madani, leader defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and brother of slain party chief Maulana Azam Tariq, along with his son Abu Bakar was gunned down here in North Karachi on Saturday night.
According to reports, Maulana Madni, 56, and his son – Abu Bakar – were on their vehicle bearing registration number ED-4111, when armed men riding motorbikes intercepted them and sprayed the vehicle with bullets at Sector 5-J. Resultantly Maulana and his son sustained multiple bullet injuries. They were rushed to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where doctors pronounced them dead.
Scores of activists of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) reached the hospital and shouted slogans against the target killings of their leaders, workers and supporters. “Maulana Madni stopped the vehicle to pick up someone when assailants resorted to firing at him,” said DSP Altaf Hussain, adding they trapped him by calling him at the site.
Maulana Madni was the chief cleric of Jamia Muhammadia Trust, Buffer Zone. He was the former president of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Karachi division.
Earlier, in 2005, he was injured and his younger son – Abdullah – was killed in a firing attack near Buffer Zone. The incident flared panic in North Karachi, New Karachi, Nagan Chowrangi and various parts of the city while the law enforcement agencies were ordered to keep high alert to avoid any further untoward incident.
Meanwhile, an alleged terrorist of a separatist movement was killed and two others got wounded in a deadly blast took place in a house located in the remits of Ibrahim Hyderi Police Station.
According to the reports, the blast took place in house located in slum area of Jumma Goth where activists of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) were busy making the bomb for upcoming strike on March 7. The bomb exploded with a big bang and destroyed the house and nearby buildings. A suspected militant was killed while two others got injured in the incident.
Following the blast heavy contingents of law enforcers and other rescue services reached the spot.
Police arrested some for suspects including two wounded persons Sadar-ud-din Allah Dino and Ismail Abubaker from the site.
IGP Sindh Fayyaz Laghari, when contacted, said that the explosive caught fire when an operative of the outfit lit a cigarette. He said that terrorists were making a bomb to blow up the railway tracks.
The IGP Sindh further said that police arrested five militants including three injured from the house.
SP CID Mazhar Mashwani said that the literature recovered from the house showed that the terrorists had links with Shafi Burfat group of Sindh Liberation Army, known as Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz. He added that the terrorists have been using this house since last three months. They were using it as JSQM Karachi headquarters.
SP Mashwani said that the initial investigations revealed that the suspected terrorists were making crackers to blow up railway tracks on Monday (March 7).
“Explosive material was similar to the explosive used in the previous attacks,” the DIG explained. He said that the group was also behind the attacks on railway tracks throughout the province and the blast in Shah Latif, Bin Qasim Town.
Bomb disposal squad also reached the site and collected the evidences from the blast site. About 1.5-kg explosive was used in the blast, it said.
Police shifted the dead body and the injured persons to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. Those who were arrested while fleeing after the explosion were identified as Faisal and Mobin Ahmed.
Monitoring Desk adds: A policeman was killed and four others injured in an attack on Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi on Saturday night, reported a private TV channel.
ISLAMABAD: Incensed over the `shock revelation` about growing network of CIA spies in Pakistan, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is trying to redefine its terms of engagement with the American spy agency before any settlement of the row over immunity for Raymond Davis, the jailed US operative.
In an indication that Pakistan and the US were actively considering a review of parameters of their cooperation, the chief of the Office of (US) Defence Representative in Pakistan, Vice Admiral Michael LeFever for the first time attended monthly White House Af-Pak meeting recently through video teleconferencing.
The meeting reportedly discussed various options on the table for getting out of the stalemate, which has serious implications for the bilateral strategic relationship.
LeFever`s first appearance at the monthly White House meeting indicated that the Davis issue was now being handled mainly by the two militaries, even though American officials emphasise that it was strictly an issue for State Department to handle.
In Pakistan`s context, they broadly use the term `Government of Pakistan` while some others say `political reality is there` _ an indication that the Army was their main interlocutor.
US Ambassador Cameron Munter and LeFever have both been intensely involved in dealing with the diplomatic crisis after Davis`s arrest.
The Lahore High Court will resume its proceedings on March 14 for deciding the issue of immunity for Davis, where the government is expected to testify on his diplomatic status. But, sources suggest, the hearing will be preceded by a lot of `give and take` between the two sides and negotiations to that effect were already under way.
American sources also confirmed that communication was taking place at different levels to sort out different contentious issues, which although simmering for quite some time, have gained urgency following the Davis saga.
According to an official privy to the ongoing negotiations, the Davis issue, although still primary for the US, has been overtaken by other matters pertaining to working of the CIA in Pakistan, the operational freedom it (CIA) had been enjoying and more specifically its ties with the ISI. Davis`s fate, a source said, hinged to a large extent on the outcome of this CIA-ISI dialogue.
The ISI believes that it had been betrayed by the CIA. Although their complex relationship was always marred by mutual distrust, the ISI officials this time look particularly perturbed over the CIA reportedly developing its own network of undeclared spies and disregarding their institution and sacrifices of their colleagues â€“ 300 of whom have been killed during the war on terror.
“There have been seven or eight major attacks on the ISI, whereas there has been only one on a CIA post in Khost,” an official said while comparing the brunt borne by the two spy outfits.
One of Pakistan`s demands at the talks between military and intelligence officials is a categorical assurance from the American spy agency for ending its undeclared activities and being transparent in its dealings with the ISI.
There were unconfirmed claims that the CIA in its bid to pacify the situation, which is deteriorating fast, has already started withdrawing into shell by removing some of its men from Pakistan and cutting certain questionable activities.
A senior military commander, speaking on background, however, said it was premature for him to say whether or not there was some forward movement.
Even as Pakistani officials claim that they were caught unawares about the CIA developing its network of spies and mounting undeclared operations, the Americans insist that Pakistanis were fully aware of the activities now being questioned.
Davis, revelation of whose CIA affiliation apparently caused the furore in Pakistani intelligence quarters, was declared by the US embassy as affiliated with Regional Affairs Office (RAO) in the registration request with the Foreign Office filed last year. The fact that the RAO is widely known to be linked to the CIA, therefore, raises questions as to why Pakistani security agencies couldn`t know who he was before the January 27 shooting incident in Lahore.
The lingering dispute, which has turned uglier with the public spat between the intelligence agencies of both countries, has started affecting their counter-terror cooperation.
A Pakistani general said the row had definitely impacted the Pak-US military-to-military relationship, because the ISI was a services intelligence agency and an extension of military. But, the brighter side, he maintained was that both sides continued to engage each other for resolving their disputes.
A senior American official seconded his view saying: “we are walking with the pebble in the shoe”.
Other sources, while trying to give an impression that military ties remained unhurt, pointed towards recent disbursement of $633 million in the Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan and delivery of long demanded night vision goggles. “We are now working on CSF disbursements for third and fourth quarter of 2010,” a source added.
While much of the media focus has been on the CIA and ISI washing their linen in public, sources say, disclosure about growing CIA network in Pakistan has further frayed civil-military ties in the country.
Military and officials are now questioning the grant of visas to some 450 Americans without any scrutiny allowing CIA spies to enter the country in great numbers.
At the same time, the ISI has also done a bit of soul-searching to find how they lost track of the CIA spies. This was followed by an internal reshuffle to express displeasure of the top brass, if not as part of fixing responsibility on the changed officials.
LAHORE: Police on Sunday arrested three suspects in Lahore and also seized two suicide jackets and numerous mobile phone SIMS from their possession, DawnNews reported.
On a tip-off from security agencies, the raid was inducted in Makkah Colony and the suspects belong to Waziristan and reported to be members of the banned organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban.
Apart from the 18 mobile SIMS and suicide jackets, two pistols have also been recovered from the suspects.
[The “Punjabi Taliban” are no different than their rural cousins, the TTP; in fact, it was the addition of their expertise in organizational and military tactics of individual “Taliban” from the Punjab, which made Hakeemullah and Baitullah Mehsud such dangerous criminal terrorists. “Punjabi,” like “Taliban,” are just labels, which are used to hide the outfit’s origins. Each time a militant outfit is exposed or banned, they rename themselves and pretend to be a new organization. This turns research into the Taliban into a series of dead-ends, each label leading down a cul de sac, making exploration of their roots a near impossibility, one of tangent, leading to tangent. All of these various groups, from “mujahedeen,” to “al-Qaeda,” to Punjabi Taliban, are all actually just the Lashkar e-Jhangvi, Sipah e-Sahaba, renamed over and over. Through it all, its grass-roots supporters around Lahore have remained the same.]
IT is difficult to say who is guilty of hurting the Punjabi sensibility and compromising Punjab`s security more. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has warned Interior Minister Rehman Malik against using the term `Punjabi Taliban`. The federal minister initially gave the impression that he was ready to take on Mr Sharif over the issue, going so far as to declare he was not a subordinate of the chief minister. But then he capitulated in the manner his party, the PPP, seems to have perfected. Mr Malik has promised Mr Sharif an explanation; however, others may not share the interior minister`s compulsion and would be more tempted to raise the critical question of what is so irritating about the term `Punjabi Taliban` that has made the chief minister livid. His angry response — time and again — to the `Punjabi` tagging of terrorists betrays a lack of understanding that does not quite suit the head of a provincial government. There is no insinuation that the Taliban enjoy the active support of the entire population of a province. It is only Mr Sharif`s interpretation that appears to give that sinister, all-encompassing meaning to a term a set of terrorists — many of whom have received training in Waziristan — have boasted of in recent times.
Rather than taking it as an attack meant to be countered forcefully, the mention of the Punjabi Taliban should lead to a bit of searching of the soul and territory at Mr Sharif`s command. There have been far too many allegations for him to continue to ignore the issue. The pamphlet left at the site of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti`s murder in Islamabad recently had the Taliban from Punjab claiming responsibility for the dastardly act.
If this is not the right time and the right sign for Punjab to act, there never will be. A lack of action on the part of the provincial government will only add to the impression that it, or some of its members, had a soft corner for terrorists on a killing spree. Their victims include people from all ethnic groups and a number of politicians and political activists belonging mainly to the PPP and the Awami National Party. During his attacks on Mr Malik, the chief minister has once again, and rightly so, pointed out that it was irrelevant as to which ethnic group a terrorist belonged to. He would be doing Punjab, and coincidentally Pakistan, a great service if he could move beyond simply cleaning up the Pathan areas in Lahore in his attempt to pre-empt terror strikes. He must look deeper and must not discriminate.
It was not long ago when some Indian Muslim leaders had gathered in Lahore and had adopted a resolution at their meeting to demand a brand new country in the name of religion. They systematically created a mass frenzy in the support of their demand and finally achieved what they wanted – ‘a brand new country in the religion’. It was born in a pool of blood and accompanied the misery and the mass migration on a scale never seen before that in the Sub-Continent.
But creating hysteria and dividing population in the name of religion was easy compared to running and managing a new country. The leadership failed at all levels – and in all sections of the society. The rot started early. They couldn’t bring the country to the people. Couldn’t keep it together. Couldn’t agree on a Constitution or a form of government. First it was Mullahs, feudals and bureaucrats. They were soon joined by the military, which lost no time to enslave everybody else. It became the ‘powers that be’ and the ‘establishment’. The military became the ultimate master of the destiny of the country.
To stop the people from getting their due rights, the establishment created a fake ‘ideology of Pakistan’. When pressed to accept demands of the people, especially from the eastern wing, it first created One Unit and then encouraged the rightists to fight the progressive elements and the people of various nationalities demanding their rights. The religious right and the establishment would readily dub them unpatriotic, anti-state, anti-Islam and enemies of the country.
What was the result? They lost half of the country in just 24 years. They still didn’t learn. Created some more monsters in the name of religion and ethnicity. Today everything seems out of control. The rightist groups, which were supported in the name of religion to fight the nationalist and progressive elements in the country and to wage proxy wars on the borders and in India and Afghanistan, have started working on their own agenda. They now think they are in a position to claim the whole pie – ‘why settle for less’?
These groups have made the governance impossible and the country is fast moving to complete anarchy. The establishment still seems to be oblivious of where these groups may take the country and what havoc they may create. It still supports part of these groups considering them as its ‘strategic assets’.
Along with the establishment, some in media and other sections of the society have also developed soft corner for the rightist groups. They think that country could be brought together in the name of religion, which can actually never happen. Religion as it is today can only further divide an already divided country. It may create some more fissures and chaos. Most of the religious groups and parties are at loggerheads with each other and frequently issue edicts dubbing the followers of rival sects as infidels and liable to be eliminated.
Country is clearly on a path to self-destruction. Many of the people would still not realize the seriousness of the situation. They are in the constant state of denial and blame every misfortune either on America or India. Well, the two may have some blame to share but considering them responsible for everything, distracts us from the malaise that may be afflicting us from within. It also keeps us from focusing on other countries, which are pouring money into the seminaries producing the suicide bombers and murderers. More we close our eyes to them, closer we get to our destruction.
If the situation is not checked very quickly, someone may soon write an epitaph: ‘Here lies a country, which was created in the name of religion and was destroyed in the name of religion’.