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Books and Documents

War on Terror

Al-Qaeda emerged from a movement, not the imagination of one man. It represented a flowering, at a particular point in history, of a strain of Islamist thought that was enabled, among other things, by Saudi cash, and empowered by the United States' war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Though al-Qaeda itself has been destroyed by its decision to turn on its historic patrons, no real challenge exists to the ideological tide that it rode. This, in turn, is a consequence of the west's propping-up of authoritarian regimes in many of the regions where al-Qaeda affiliates have flourished. These regimes stamped out democratic political opposition and used competitive religious chauvinism to shore up legitimacy. ...

The bottom line: al-Qaeda might be on its knees, but there's no reason to believe the jihadist movement, of which it was even at its peak a small part, is anywhere near defeat. “History,” wrote Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden's mentor, “does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls; honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses.” Despite bin Laden's death, and the uncertain future of the jihadist project over which al-Zawahiri now presides, that foundation seems set to grow. -- Editorial in The Hindu, New Delhi

 

The November 1984 massacre of Sikhs provides a good illustration of how the institutionalised “riot system” works. Incendiary language against the victims is freely used. Women who are raped or sexually assaulted get no sympathy or assistance. When the riot victims form makeshift relief camps, the authorities harass them and try to make them leave. “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them”. How are policemen and officials able to get away with violating the Constitution in this manner? Because they know that neither the law nor their superiors will act against them. -- Siddharth Varadarajan

The trouble is, attempting to win back the affections of the rank and file and the admiration of the public at large in this way means pushing the US further away — but that comes at a great cost and in any case, the US has developed a few tricks of its own to hit back. Since May 2, the media has been used with great success by American officials to keep the squeeze on the army and prevent it from wriggling away. Soon, the North Waziristan bomb factories made their way into the news, ostensibly once again exposing the army’s perfidy and earning it a fresh round of criticism from the US. Now, we are told the local CIA spy network which helped capture OBL is in the army’s bad books — embarrassing the army by making it look petty and vindictive, or worse. Weak, stupid, vulnerable, secretive, duplicitous — with each successive media leak, the US is chipping away at the army’s self-belief, eroding the space for it to convincingly vilify the US while further vilifying the army in the minds of many who already regarded it with suspicion. -- Cyril Almeida

 

As the Obama administration nears a crucial decision on how rapidly to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan, high-ranking officials say that al-Qaeda's original network in the region has been crippled, providing a rationale for an accelerated reduction of troops.The military has been pressing for a plan under which only a few thousand troops out of the 1,00,000 currently in Afghanistan would come home immediately, with the bulk of the 30,000 troops sent last year remaining for another year or more. -- Mark Landler and Helene Cooper

 

In case you think taking down Cole was just a matter of the bad old days of the Bush administration, note that the journalist who revealed this little shocker, James Risen, is being hounded by the Obama administration.  He's been subpoenaed by federal authorities to testify against a CIA agent accused of leaking information to him (on a bungled CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program) for his book State of War.  It’s worth remembering that no administration, not even Bush’s, has been fiercer than Obama’s in going after government whistle blowers. -- Karen J. Greenberg

 

Increasing connectivity makes recruitment easier. Videotapes that promote jihad, and translations of Jihadist teachings from the Middle East that were previously passed hand to hand are now available online. The center works with youth leaders, Islamic boarding schools and Muslim organizations, as well as the Departments of Religious Affairs and Education. After three of the men executed for carrying out the 2002 Bali bombing were linked back to Bashir's Ngruki, some analysts turned a harsh eye on Indonesia's Islamic boarding schools, called pesantran. Wahyu Kusuma attended the Pondok Ngruki school briefly in the early 1990s when he was 15. He said he really hated non-Muslims at the time because the school's leader taught them that other religions were wrong, that they were the cause of so many problems. He was lucky that he did not attend fulltime, he said, so eventually he could make his own conclusions. -- Sara Schonhardt

 

The last words of Sarfaraz Shah uttered in pain get recorded in the camera and we could hear and see that the young boy struggled for life until last few moments of his life. He still had hope that the killers had shot not to kill him and he could be saved with some quick medical aid. The last few seconds of the video ends with his cries for mercy to take him at least to the hospital and then he collapses on the ground all filled with his blood… again it resembles a site of animal sacrificed who could still smell the stench of its own fresh blood and perhaps expects mercy from those who stands there and watch the show. -- Sonia Wahab (Photo: Pakistan Rangers in uniform killing Sarfraz Shah)

WASHINGTON, Jun 12, 2011 (IPS) - During his intensive initial round of media interviews as commander in Afghanistan in August 2010, Gen. David Petraeus released figures to the news media that claimed spectacular success for raids by Special Operations Forces: in a 90-day period from May through July, SOF units had captured 1,355 rank and file Taliban, killed another 1,031, and killed or captured 365 middle or high-ranking Taliban. The claims of huge numbers of Taliban captured and killed continued through the rest of 2010.

In December, Petraeus's command said a total of 4,100 Taliban rank and file had been captured in the previous six months and 2,000 had been killed. Those figures were critical to creating a new media narrative hailing the success of SOF operations as reversing what had been a losing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. But it turns out that more than 80 percent of those called captured Taliban fighters were released within days of having been picked up, because they were found to have been innocent civilians, according to official U.S. military data. -- Gareth Porter

 

On top of the list of ignored issues sits the primary issue of accountability and transparency of punitive action. Over the past years, many embarrassing events have taken place raising disturbing questions about the competence of the operation command of high-ranking officers, but no action has been initiated or punishment meted out. Whether it is the Parade Lane attack in Rawalpindi or the terrorists’ thrust into the army’s heartland, the GHQ, inquiries have been kept under wraps without anyone in the top ranks getting the sack for professional failure. Indeed the brazenness with which the military command has sidetracked culpability in Osama bin Laden’s presence and killing on the country’s soil is striking. No less shocking is the utterly ridiculous stand of the naval chief on the PNS Mehran attack that appeared to suggest there was no security lapse. Just as scandalous are Pakistan Air Force claims on radar failure to detect America’s deep intrusion. -- Syed Talat Hussain

It was also a chilling message, telling me in no uncertain terms that the much-feared Mother of All Agencies was watching all, and was in the know of my trespasses regarding the holy cow of Pakistan. It therefore came as no surprise to me when it was revealed, and then reinforced by a strong and unequivocal statement by the president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Hameed Haroon, that the brutally murdered Salim Shahzad had said in emails to him and to at least three others that he had been threatened by various ISI officers on at least three occasions in the past five years, the last threat coming from the ‘media managers’ in a meeting at the ISI headquarters which Saleem recorded in an email to Hameed Haroon on Oct 18, 2010. -- Kamran Shafi

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, the agency you head, is being accused of Saleem’s murder. You must also know that the ISI is widely reviled and dreaded at home. For an agency that was set up primarily for strategic intelligence, this is quite an achievement. It is accused of driving in its own lane, monitoring the media, kidnapping, torturing and sometimes killing dissenters, political and otherwise, determining, arbitrarily, what Pakistan’s national interest is and how best we should go about pursuing it. Whispers there always have been. But now much is being said aloud. -- Ejaz Haider

The senior intelligence official was “curious” to identify the source of Mr Shahzad’s story claiming it to be a “shame” that such a leak should occur from the offices of a high profile intelligence service. Mr Shahzad additionally stated that the rear-admiral offered him some information, ostensibly “as a favour “ in the following words: “We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, diaries and other materials during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name on the list I will certainly let you know.” Mr Shahzad subsequently confirmed to me in a conversation that he not only interpreted this conversation as a veiled threat to his person, he also informed me that he let an official from the ISI know soon thereafter that he intended to share the content of this threat with his colleagues. -- Hameed Haroon

 

The budget session which gets underway today represents the perfect occasion to start the long (and likely arduous) journey away from a militarised state towards a welfare state. Or maybe I am getting ahead of myself. It would be premature to assume that a significant number of members of parliament are actually committed to such a political project. What they should be willing to commit to unequivocally, however, is the supremacy of civilian institutions. A critical mass of ordinary citizens would fully back a unified parliamentary effort to subject defence expenditures to open scrutiny, and thus make clear that no state institution can remain unaccountable to the taxpaying public. -- Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

 

The fact that Shahzad’s torturers left his dead body out in the open instead of quietly burying it someplace provides a string of clues about their real motives. It is highly unlikely that they simply intended to extract a piece of information. It appears more plausible that they meant to make an “example” out of somebody who dared to know and communicate too much. Let’s make no mistake about it. We cannot afford to shirk responsibilities here. A diluted narrative which reduces the incident merely to an attack on free media or illegal abduction or even murder will amount to grave injustice. How we deal with this incident might as well seal our fate as conscientious moral agents. -- Adnan Sattar

 

This writer’s tryst with Shahzad’s columns started in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai. When much of the Indian reportage of 26/11 was mostly an amplification of the official line with little original investigation or reporting, it was interesting to note that Shahzad’s articles during December 2008 had revealed much on what we would learn only in late 2009 through the arrests in Chicago of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. For example Shahzad had in December 2008 laid out the contours of what we now call the ‘Karachi Project’ that saw elements within the ISI and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba collaborating with elements within Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Al Qaeda’s ‘313 Brigade’ and Karachi-based criminals of Indian origin. -- Shashi Shekhar

 

Perhaps a sense of media responsibility and proportion on releasing and analysing “sensitive” information on the basis of dubious sources may help to diffuse provocation and improve the situation. Pakistan is passing through a rough transition in state- nationhood. For the first time, the media is able and free to discuss complex issues and demand accountability of public servants and representatives. The civil- military paradigm is also coming under democratic scrutiny in an unprecedented manner with parliament desperately trying to impose a measure of oversight on the armed forces. A proliferation of enquiries focused on the role of the armed forces and security agencies in many areas of security and governance is creating tension in all the organs of the state. The situation calls for restraint and responsibility in equal measure. -- Najam Sethi

There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement. There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world. -- Noam Chomsky

The new feature of Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul lay in his good wishes for Afghanistan's “process of national reconciliation,” code for negotiations with the Taliban. He stressed India's commitment to seeing Afghanistan at peace with its neighbours. This is the most authoritative and explicit statement to date that India will accept a negotiating process in which Taliban participate. The Prime Minister's declaration that Osama's death created a “new situation” further evidenced India's interest in helping shape a peaceful future with Afghanistan. The United States, trying to rescue a working relationship with Pakistan from the wreckage of the Davis and Osama episodes, received Manmohan Singh's Kabul message warmly. Washington has long supported India's economic contribution to Afghanistan. Now, Washington is looking more warmly on India's broader training offers — not just for new parliamentarians and the Afghan election commission, but also in the more sensitive area of policing. The U.S. is gingerly moving toward a greater consciousness of the regional dimension in shaping Afghanistan's future. -- Teresita and Howard Schaffer

First of all it is not clear who they want to talk to in the Taliban. Do the people, who claim to be Taliban negotiators, really represent those who are engaged in acts of violence against innocent civilians, the Afghan government and the coalition forces? Do they believe that talking to the so- called Taliban, who are engaged in talks for some years now, really help in bringing down the graph of insurgency? Is the real Taliban, which is associated with the al- Qaeda and conducting massive destruction, ready to talk with the US? And what about those who suffered at the hands of the Taliban and were opposed to its way of life? Surprisingly, the Afghan government seems to be sharing a sentiment similar to that of the US and the UK (to get the Taliban to the discussion table). This despite the fact that in the past one year, since the Peace Jirga had passed a resolution backing a peace deal with the Taliban, data shows there has been an increase in terrorist activities by the outfit. -- Dr Hussain Yasa

 

The `war on terror` defined America`s policies for nearly a decade. Under President Obama`s administration, it was quietly dropped from the official lexicon. If Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany, was watching the world from beyond the grave in the post-9/11 era, he would have been delighted to see his theories bear such copious fruit once again. Whatever else he was, Goebbels understood how the media can be fed, manipulated and used to indoctrinate the people. He understood how effective propaganda works. “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly — it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over,” he advised. “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”-- Hajrah Mumtaz

Today, our neighbor India has high respect in the world and the world also listens to India not because India has good relations with its neighbors or India is really shining but because India is the largest democracy in the world. Their armed forces are under control of their civil government. Their army and civil system respect rule of civil laws and liberties. In about 10 years of Gen. Musharraf's army rule and now three years of army-backed government, Pakistani forces, ISI and the government lied to the nation about the access the US forces have. They had denied that drone attacks were being launched from Pakistani sites. And now as the stories unfold it is very much clear that Pakistani government has given full access to the United States. The government has issued thousands of visas to US personnel and who knows who these people are and what they are doing in Pakistan. -- SYED ATIQ UL HASAN

…patriotism in Pakistan would henceforth be defined as a belief in the power to kill millions. Since that day, a large section of Pakistanis have dutifully worshipped their bomb, imagining in its capacity to destroy, a safety that would insulate them from incursions by nosy neighbors and meddling powers, from wars that would chip off territory and skirmishes that would disrespect borders The bomb will save us, they believed, it will sustain us in these trying times (we cannot be backward if we have the bomb) and save us from trying too hard (who needs a super economy if you have a super bomb?). In times of trouble and fear, when watching the bombing elsewhere — a punished Baghdad amidst its dusty ruins, a desolate Kabul with its bombed-out streets — these Pakistanis turned to the bomb for comfort, however elusive. -- Rafia Zakaria

To have his followers kill nearly 3,000 people in a single blow on September 11, 2001, and then taunt the US to catch him if they can required a kind of madness with a messianic touch. That is what became al-Qaeda's motto: "We love death more than we love life.'' His appeal in radical circles only grew as it appeared that all the armies in the world were unable to counter such a manner of warfare. In fact, it is young people at the heart of the Arab revolt who are rebelling not for jihad but for freedom and democracy. We should not forget that bin Laden's failure to win support in the Arab world, despite 30 years of trying, has led to the near total rejection of the idea of global jihad by his fellow Muslims. -- Ahmed Rashid

 

Bitter wrangling will not solve very much. What we need is a plan. The militants in the north have to be pursued; they have to be chased after with full force and vigour. The nexus between security agencies and the militants needs to be dismantled.  This task is tied in with many other factors which involve regional realities. These too will need to be tackled on an urgent basis. Without doing this, nothing can be solved. -- Kamila Hyat

The world must now seriously worry about the security of Pakistan's rapidly growing nuclear arsenal. The message from Mehran is clear: If Pakistani terrorists can raid a top-security naval airbase in Pakistan, they can attack a nuclear weapons facility too. Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal and a delivery system which may soon acquire continental reach. What happens if fundamentalist Islamists allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda take it over or attack a nuclear silo and escape with a couple of warheads? The world needs to ponder. -- Hiranmay Karlekar

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