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The Naimisha Journal

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BEYOND BIN LADEN

 

N.S. Rajaram

 

 

PART I: PAKISTAN’S DOUBLE GAME

Pakistan is sabotaging the US war against terrorism by passing on crucial intelligence to AL QUAEDA and providing other help.  

 

Musharraf’s ménage de trois

            The US led war against terrorism has thrown up two unlikely icons— one a hero and the other a villain, the very personification of evil, at least as seen from the perspective of the US. The villain is of course Osama bin Laden. And strangely, the hero is a military dictator of a failing terrorist state, one General Pervez Mushrraf of Pakistan. Thanks to massive failures on the part of America’s intelligence establishment and the insularity of its policy makers and the academic community, this latest in a long line of tinhorn dictators has become the savior and the indispensable man of the moment for the American led war against terrorism. What we have in effect is a political ménage de trios, with Pakistan allied with the US against bin Laden but surreptitiously working with bin Laden’s network in his Jihad against America. And the media discussions, especially on television, display profound ignorance of the realities, in particular ignorance of the deep connections that bind together Pakistan and the worldwide Islamic terror network, whose main target is the United States.  

            Evidence is not wanting even now to show that America’s most important ally in the region is sabotaging the war effort. Where the US public is being told that Pakistan’s cooperation is ‘highly satisfactory,’ Pakistan is using it as an opportunity to undermine the war effort in Afghansitan by passing on crucial intelliegence to its Taliban allies in Afghanistan. More than 7000 Pakistani 'tribesmen' have made their way to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. These so-called tribesmen are carrying not bows and arrows, but automatic weapons, rocket launchers and shoulder fired missiles. Actually this is an old game-- to infiltrate heavily armed soldiers in the guise of tribesmen. This is exactly what Pakistan did in 1999 in Kargil also in an attempt to wrest Kashmir by force. As a result, ground troops from the US and the Northern Alliance will be facing thousands of these heavily armed 'tribesmen', trained and equipped by Pakistan—carrying mostly US made weapons.

 

Intelligence and logistics

            Since the bombings began, important anti-Taliban leaders like Abdul Haq and twenty of his associates have been caught and eliminated by the Taliban. This was soon followed by the elimination of nearly fifty supporters of the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah, including Abdul Haq’s nephew. Both the Gaurdian of Britain and Seymour Hersch in the The New Yorker reported that the elite American commando group Delta Force, when it raided Mulla Omar's residence, found that it had been completely evacuated. Also, they encountered a fierce surprise attack from the Taliban as they were trying to retreat. This again suggests that the Taliban had prior intelligence of the Delta Force mission. So US intelligence is definitely compromised.

All this shows that the Pakistan ISI, which works closely with the American CIA, is passing on crucial intelligence to the Taliban. More recently, the Pak Gaovernment has expelled two journalists working for The Sunday Telegraph for exposing the ISI-Taliban supply link. In this situation, with US intelligence compromised by Pakistan, Indian authorities would be well advised to be cautious in sharing intelligence data with the US, for this too may fall in the hands of the ISI and the Taliban. India is believed to have the best intelligence on Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, including the number and disposition of its warheads. Under no circumstances should this be allowed to fall into the hands of the Pakistanis.

There is a new wrinkle in the story. The Taliban Government of Afghansitan has granted Afghan citizenship to Osama bin Laden and his associates. In addition, Pakistan has deported British journalists for reporting that the Taliban forces are still receiving supplies from Pakistan. This means that while supposedly assisting the US, Pakistan is actually sustaining the Taliban regime by supplying both crucial intelliegence and logistics. In addition, with Osama bin Laden now an Afghan national—presumably a “moderate Taliban”—what will the shape of the post-war government in Afghanistan? Will it include bin Laden also? If the terrorist state of Paksitan can become the “frontline ally” in the war against terrorism, can bin Laden be far behind?

What is the best course of India? The first point to note is that the long-term interests of India and the US converge. But in the short term, for tactical reasons, US feels it is necessary to appease Musharraf, whose survival it considers vital for preserving stability in Pakistan. Instability in Pakistan poses dangers for India also, but inevitable in the long run. First and foremost India should seek assurance that this short term, tactical marriage of convenience between Musharraf and the US does not become a strategic doctrine as happened in the case of the late Zia ul Haq.

Also, there are limits to India’s tolerance of terrorism in Kashmir, which the Western media invariably refers to as ‘disputed territory’. Terrorism does not become legitimate simply because someone ‘disputes’ some territory. Pak Occupied Kashmir is also ‘disputed territory,’ but India is not sending terrorists into POK for that reason. If there are are tensions in the region, it is only because of Pakistani terrorists in Indian Kashmir, not vice versa. This asymmetry in Pakistan’s behavior should be highlighted. As, a result, when the US appeals for “restraint,” it should make clear that it is Pakistan that needs to exercise restraint, not India. India cannot passively keep being the target of terrorism simply to help Musharraf survive. Would America keep exercising ‘restraint’ against a terrorist organization if it destroys a few more American targets like the US Congress or the Supreme Court? Or how about Disneyland? Allowing these to be targets would also help Musharraf survive. In the long run though, both India and the US must prepare for a post-Musharraf Pakistan.

Where does this leave Pakistan and bin Laden, now an Afghan national? I’ll discuss this in the second part of the article.

 

PART II: ISLAMIST AGENDA

America appears to have underestimated the breadth and the  resourcefulness of the al-Qaeda network and the depth of Pakistan’s involvement in it.

 

Intellectual quagmire

The United States has been placed in the unenviable position of having to rely on Pakistan thanks to blundering diplomats and insular thinkers, including academics. Robin Raphel (remember her?) even sees the present quagmire in Pakistan (and Afghanistan) as a God-given opportunity (by Allah no doubt) to bring lasting peace to the region. Perhaps some peace-loving person should be allowed to attack a few more American targets and give Ms. Raphel an even greater opportunity to bring peace to the whole world—from Bosnia to Indonesia. American academics are not far behind. Daniel Pipes, a leading expert on Islam recently pointed out: “Whoever paid attention to the American professors who specialize on the Middle East would have heard some surprising things before Sept. 11. For one, they dismissed militant Islamic terror as unworthy of their attention.” As example, Mr. Pipes cited Fawaz Gerges— “a well-known scholar whose credentials include connections to Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, …”

In his writings Professor Gerges “declared himself skeptical of the U.S. government's warnings about terrorism and criticized” anyone who cautioned  about terrorism for exaggerating "the terrorist threat to American citizens." He even accused terrorism specialists of perpetuating an "irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on farfetched horrible scenarios." Indeed! Incidentally the learned professor published this gem six months before the far-fetched attacks on the World  Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Pipes further notes that these American academics “as a whole so ignored the militant Islamic threat that not one of them got around to producing a single serious analysis of Osama bin Laden.”

The scene in India, despite with better access to the sources, is no better. The few writers (including this one) who raised their voices against the threat of Islamic terror were denounced as communalists both the the media and the intelligentsia—or at least what passes for it. Even worse, some including politicians of a certain variety, are coming out with hare-brained ideas like using a Gandhian approach in dealing with Osama bin Laden and his terror network. Actually this is camouflage. Secularists and Communists (practically one and the same) always raise up the ghost of Gandhi whenever they are on a course of appeasement of anti-national forces. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that some parties have the hidden agenda of derailing India’s efforts to fight terrorism. The Congress Party for one, seems more concerned about defending Sonia Gandhi than defending the country.

Bin Laden – Pakistan link

            While academics have by and large ignored the threat that Osama bin Laden and his network pose to the civilized world, several scholars outside the establishment have published major works on the subject. The most distinguished of these is probably Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America by Yossef Bodansky. It was published in 1999, i.e., two years before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That is to say it is not a ‘quickie,’ trying to capitalize on the tragedy, but a serious scholarly work. The book has two main messages: (1) Bin Laden is no raving blundering fanatic like Imam Bukhari but an outstandingly able organizer of campaigns and logistics with a formidable grasp of detail. (2) Pakistan has been at the center of activity that led to the building up of the worldwide Islamic terror network.

            Let me look at the with the second point, which has mode immediate ramifications. For more than a decade, through several governments from General Zia ul Haq to Musharraf, and including Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief, Pakistan and its officers have been the most influential and active figures in training terrorists. At the same time, the ISI has managed to keep its sponsor, the American CIA, in the dark about the details of its activities. This means that the US intelligence establishment and diplomats have failed dismally in safeguarding their country’s interests, by swallowing the Pakistani propaganda hook line and sinker. This includes Paksitan’s nuclear program. Throughout this decade and more Pakistan successfully maintained the pose of being a US ally while working with the Islamic terror network, whose main target is the United States. What the US hoped to get in sponsoring such a treacherous ally is unclear, but what it got is not in doubt— the September 11 attacks.

            The Islamic anti-American agenda was given concrete shape at the Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (PAIC) held in Khartoum in December 1993. Bodansky observes: “Pakistani input was the most important aspect of this conference. Islamabad left no doubt that it saw itself as an active and loyal member of the Islamic block… Pakistani officials in Khartoum stressed Islamabad’s conviction that Islamist policies were the wave of the future and that Islamabad was determined to be an active particpant. Islamabad committed itself to the pursuit of these Islamist strategies not because of Bhutto’s ideological convictions… but from pragmatic considerations about Pakistan’s best interests in view of the megatrends in the Hub of Islam, China’s changing strategic posture, and Pakistan’s own growing domestic problems.”

            It is worth noting that Pakistan’s Government at the time was headed by Benazir Bhutto who is now posing as a liberal. At the Khartoum Conference, Pakistan was applauded for its nuclear program despite international pressure, including the United States, Pakistan in return was promised “continuing support from the Muslim world for Pakistan’s endeavor to continue and expand its nuclear program.”

            What is most interesting is that Pakistan made clear to the delegates that it would be following a double game. “The Pakistani delegates stressed that Pakistan might have to pretend to suppress Arab Islamists [like bin Laden and his associates] or to curb the infrastructure for international terrorism so that access to sophisticated technologies could be secured despite mounting Western pressure. But this would be only for show, and genuine support for militant Islamist causes would actually expand.” It might be added that US diplomats and the CIA made it easy for Pakistan by turning a blind eye to to its activities.

            In 1993 itself Pakistan drastically upgraded its facilities for training terrorists in Afghanistan. Instructors were mostly from the ISI. They were most active in four camps in Eatern Afghansitan where the recruits from various countries “were taught advanced weapons-handling techniques and tactics, and sophisticated bomb and booby-trap making, and ways to carry out martyrdom (suicide) operations.” About one hundred Pakistani and thirty Arab instructors were training 400 to 500 Mujahideens every year. These were professionally run military academies—like Dehra Dun or West Point—with fitness, psychological and academic tests. While a great deal has been written about the ‘Jihad factories’ or the madrasas, these military academies have largely escaped media attention. They turn out the officer corps while the Jihad factories produce jihadis to serve as cannon fodder.

            True to its character, while benefiting massively from its closeness to the United States, Pakistan (through the ISI) was organizing and training networks of Harkat ul-Ansar and Markaz al-Dawat al-Arshad whose main target was the US. A 1995 recruitment document stated that it was training mujahideens for activities not only in Kashmir but also the United States and Europe. “Markat al Dawat al-Arshad commanders emphasized that some of these mujahideen were already operating in the United States, Western Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya.” This was in 1995. So Pakistan had kept its promise made at the Khartoum Conference that it would pretend to be cooperating with the US while actually advancing the Islamist agenda.

            This was confirmed by discoveries at the al Qaeda hideouts that were abandoned by Pakistanis and other foreign terrorists when Kabul fell to Northern Alliance forces. (Al Queda is the international terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden.) US intelligence officers and journalists found several documents linking the Pakistani army to al Qaeda planners. It also confirmed that the Pakistani army was an active participant in the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft to Taliban controlled Kandahar. The following report in the New York Times December 6, 2001) is self explanatory:

 

Dec ember 6, 2001

In a Desolate House, Vestiges of a Violent 1999 Hijacking

By DAVID ROHDE

K        

ABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 4 — The tiny piece of paper is inscribed with the names, ages and nationalities of the hostages. Four Spaniards at first. Then an American. A 71- year-old Frenchman wrote his name and his wife's, the last name in capital letters, the first name in cursive. One captor, for some reason, kept this reminder of the lives he once held in his hands.

This scrap of paper from an Indian Airlines hijacking in 1999 was one item among scores of documents including terrorist training manuals found here Sunday in a house neighbors said was a headquarters for Pakistani militants.

Five men carried out the hijacking: four ticket stubs from the flight, two boarding passes and an Indian Airlines Airbus 300 safety procedure card were among the souvenirs left behind in the house along with the handwritten list of hostages' names.

The house was also filled with scattered documents — business cards, boxes of cassette tape labels, sheets of blank stationery, recruitment literature and fliers — bearing the name of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a Kashmiri Islamic extremist group that American officials believe has long been supported by Pakistan. It has been on the State Department's terrorist organizations list since 1997.

The group was accused in the hijacking, but denied involvement. Its presence here suggests why a Taliban-run Afghanistan was of such strategic importance to Pakistan over many years: the country provided a haven for Islamic militants who could later be deployed to fight Indian rule of mainly Muslim Kashmir. Successive Pakistani governments have attached great importance to this campaign.

Along with the Harkat ul-Mujahedeen literature were more than a dozen small green artillery instruction booklets with "Al Qaeda" printed on their front cover. There also was an Arabic-language guide to making weapons that was dedicated to Osama bin Laden.

An examination of thousands of pages of documents left behind in seven houses and what appeared to be a training camp suggests that terrorists in training lived or worked in the houses.

Northern Alliance officials say there are scores of houses here like this one, abandoned since the fall of Kabul but once inhabited by Arab, Chechen, Pakistani and other militant foreigners.

American officials said they had removed chemical samples from 40 Al Qaeda sites and training bases here. This reporter visited one of those houses along with six other houses and the camp, all of which contained documents of various militant groups.

This house, like others, was pointed out to Northern Alliance officials by neighbors who were canvassed. They said they had noticed many Pakistanis and other foreigners using the house during the Taliban rule.

Some of the houses were open and could be entered. Others were guarded by alliance soldiers who allowed journalists to enter them. All the houses had been entered by Northern Alliance officials or soldiers or civilians living in Kabul. Many appeared to have been ransacked, some appear to have been cleaned out in part before they were abandoned, and in most there was evidence of some papers having been burned. It is not clear who might have been in the houses since the fall of the Taliban; nor is it clear whether anybody may have tampered with or left the documents during this time.

The Central Intelligence Agency has examined documents left in houses in Kabul, according to an American intelligence official. While the government has found some materials that show that Al Qaeda had an interest in weapons of mass destruction and was collecting materials on the subject, the official said nothing found was considered sensitive.

The array of materials found in the seven houses include forged visas, altered passports, listings of flight schools in Florida and registration papers for a flight simulator.

The groups seem to have been highly organized and appeared to share research sources and other materials. The same standardized terrorism textbooks, religious booklets and military manuals were in several houses this reporter visited.

The occupants kept detailed records, listing expenses on ledgers, using computers, setting up complex course schedules and grading their pupils as they progressed.

Books and materials found in the houses made mention of nuclear weapons, anthrax and other biological weapons, sarin gas and poisons like ricin.

There is also a lack of sophistication to the training materials and documents. While the groups may have dreamed of weapons of mass destruction, no evidence has emerged here of their actually having obtained any. Many of the texts in the houses are outdated and the plans sketched out in notebooks are crude.

But the house here and the Indian Airlines hijacking suggest that a combination of crude tactics, luck and determination can succeed, as they did on Sept. 11.

On Dec. 24, 1999, the five hijackers armed with knives and guns seized control of the flight from Katmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi with 155 people on board. The hijackers directed it from India to Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates and finally, on Dec. 25, to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

During the stopover in Dubai, the hijackers called a group of strong- looking men to the front of the plane and made an example of one, Ripen Katyal, a 25-year-old newlywed. As the men watched, the hijackers slashed Mr. Katyal's throat and let him bleed to death.

Over the next week of negotiations, one hijacker seemed to befriend the hostages, leading them in singing games and joke contests. When talks broke down on the seventh day, he threw open the doors of the plane, woke up the passengers and told them to pray. In 30 minutes, he said, they would be shot one by one.

The next morning, everyone was freed in exchange for three jailed members of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, which opposed Indian rule in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The five hijackers were allowed to escape with them.

Taliban officials gave the hijackers 10 hours to leave the country and won international praise for their role in ending the standoff.

American and Indian officials demanded that Pakistan shut down the group, but Pakistani officials refused, saying that could spark violent protests. Maulana Masood Azhar, a militant leader freed from prison in India as a result of the hijacking held public rallies in Pakistan and started an even more militant sister group, Jaish-e-Muhammad. The hijackers were believed to have re-entered Pakistan and disappeared.

Numerous documents related to the hijacking were found in the house in the upper-class Wasir Akbar Khan neighborhood near the embassy district. They included a receipt from the purchase of one hijacker's ticket, that hijacker's fake Indian identity card, airport departure fee receipts and train passes two hijackers used while living in India planning the attack.

The business cards of Harkat's general secretary, blank stationery, enrollment forms and letters to leaders of the group were found in the same room as the hijacker's tickets. Letters of introduction from Jaish-e- Muhammad, ask Harkat officials to enrol young men arriving in Afghanistan "in school."

The documents could prove embarrassing to the Pakistani military, which American officials believe has covertly supported Harkat for years.

Other documents show close ties to the Taliban. One paper listed the units and commanders of Taliban forces on the front lines near Kabul and their code names.

Neighbors said the house served as a military headquarters, with scores of Pakistanis arriving there to receive orders about deployment.

The house, which is being guarded by alliance soldiers but apparently has not been inspected by American intelligence officials, includes a list of trainees' names, home addresses and code names. There were also several copies of publications by American extremist groups that described poisons, espionage, disappearing ink and exploding pens.

Conclusion: Don't expect a leopard to change its spots

            The basic point to note is this report is that the Pakistani army is not a professional army but a terrorist outfit. No self respecting soldier or officer would indulge in such activities as hijacking and plotting the massacre of civilians in places like Kashmir and New York. Further, the Pakistan-al Qaeda terror outfit continues to practice terrorism and diplomatic duplicity in the name of religion. This allows the 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' to indulge in behavior that cannot be justified on rational grounds in the name of Islam. This is a purely theocratic enterprise that uses religion as a cover for achieving political goals through terrorism. So, terrorism as policy is given a holy color by invoking religion. This is undoubtedly the greatest fraud in the history of mankind.

             It can safely be said that without Pakistan at the center of the training hub, the world Islamic terrorist organizations would have been hard pressed to carry out their agenda of world wide terror that culminated in the September 11 outrages. The question is, with such an extensive network in place, spread all over the world and spanning more than a decade, can Pakistan be weaned away from it with promise of bribes to Musharraf? This has now acquired an extra dimension with Osama bin Laden as an Afghan national thanks to the generosity (and the strategy) of the Pak sponsored Taliban Government in Kabul. He is now in a position to be the ‘moderate Taliban’ heading the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan as desired by Pakistan. This would be the culmination of Pakistan’s Islamist strategy. Of course Taliban has failed, but the claim can be revived if there should be a reversal of fortunes on the ground, or even if the 'moderate Taliban' were to infiltrate a future Afghan Government. They are still many in Afghanistan and Pakistan who idolize bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban as holy warriors who will lead them to an Islamic utopia.

            This is borne out by the meager results of the US led alliance in Kandahar and the Torabora Mountains. Where thousands of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were surrounded in the northern cities of Mazar e Sharif and Kunduz, a few dozen have been captured in Kandahar and the northeast. And many of them are escaping into Pakistan without any hindrance from the border guards. There is no sight of Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar, both of who seem to have escaped to Pakistan.

            Ultimately, the battle is against a state of mind rather than men and material. And this is rooted in Islamic fundamentalism that admits no purely secular solutions. As David Frawley points out in an article in this issue, what the world is faced with is tamas of the deepest who, which sees sattva—or enlightenment as its greatest enemy. It loves darkness. It is a denizen of the dark that wants to plunge the world into a Dark Age. In this battle, Pakistan and al Qaeda are one. So are the Musharrafs and bin Ladens. The present Musharraf may pose as a secular hero to fool the world, especially the Americans, but the climate will produce many more Musharrafs that are simply clean shaven bin Ladens in smart clothes. Where bin Laden and his ilk appeal to the Islamic world, the likes of Musharraf present an appearance that is acceptable to the West.

            All this is for appearance, for their hearts beat as one. A leopard doesn't change its spots. Nor does it become a pussycat.

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