Through the smokescreen
For four years now, I have argued repeatedly that the footprint of every major act of international terrorism passes inexorably through Pakistan, and I had an extended list compiled of hundreds of incidents that confirm this thesis, which was widely circulated. Many Pakistani commentators and sympathisers attacked this evidence as "Indian propaganda". But in his address to the nation on July 21, 2005, spurred by the second series of terrorist attacks in London in two weeks, Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, finally conceded, "Wherever these extremist or terrorist incidents occur in the world, a direct or indirect connection is established with this country (Pakistan)."
Of course, the admission was merely tactical, in keeping with his past record. Every time there is a major incident of terrorism, particularly in the West, and the linkages to Pakistan emerge, there is a flurry of ostensible activity – some arrests are made, the President makes another speech declaring unstinting support to the ‘global war against terror’ and the need for ‘enlightened moderation’, a handful of supposed ‘al Qaeda terrorists’ are killed off in some remote hinterland in Waziristan – to convince the ‘international community’ that he is the bulwark they need against the tide of extremism in Pakistan.
This is a smokescreen and in his speech on the evening of the second attack on London’s public transport system, the admission was quickly followed by an assertion: in his ‘message to Prime Minister Tony Blair’, he declaimed, "Aspersions are being cast in the media on Pakistan. We certainly have a problem, which we are trying to address. Britain also has a problem that needs to be addressed." He argued that, while three persons of Pakistani origin were involved in the 7/7 London attacks, the fourth was a Jamaican; if the Pakistanis were indoctrinated in Pakistan, where did the Jamaican get indoctrinated? He declared, further, that several extremist organisations operated with impunity in England, and this – not the training camps in Pakistan – was the source of Britain’s troubles. He noted, moreover, that the ‘Pakistanis’ involved in the 7/7 incidents were "born and bred and educated" in Britain.
How precisely specious these arguments are can easily be seen through a quick review of just the more significant among the long and dispersed incidence of the Pakistani ‘footprint of terror’ in the very recent past [an extensive and updated list can be freely accessed at "Pakistan: The Footprints of Terror" at www.satp.org]:
July 11: Afghan authorities arrested five men, including a Pakistani national, and foiled a series of planned bombings across the country. On the same day, police arrested a man armed with weapons and explosives. He had studied at two Pakistani religious schools and planned to bomb electoral centres and offices as part of a five-man team, the other members of which escaped.
July 7: At least three of the bombers who carried out the terrorist attacks in London were British males of Pakistani origin, had recently visited Pakistan and are believed to have linkages with the terrorist infrastructure there.
June 29: Five Pakistanis suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the south of Afghanistan were arrested.
June 24: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow that terrorists from Afghanistan and Pakistan were training for attacks against Russia and the former Soviet Central Asia and they periodically cross into Central Asian territory.
June 20: Afghan intelligence officials foiled a plot to assassinate the former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and arrested three Pakistanis armed with rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles.
June 18: United States Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was hiding in Pakistan and criticised Islamabad’s failure to act against Taliban leaders.
June 16: A Pakistani and two Frenchmen were awarded prison sentences by a Paris court which found them guilty of aiding convicted "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up a Paris-Miami flight on December 22, 2001.
June 10: An investigation into an Islamist extremist cell in the US city of Lodi, California, in which five persons were arrested, revealed that at least one of them had received training in a terrorist camp near Rawalpindi in 2003-2004.
And we have still only gone through a little over a month this year!
Indeed, across the world, major acts of international Islamist terrorism – irrespective of where their perpetrators were "born, bred and educated" – have all been linked in some way or another, to Pakistan.
Nevertheless, on the occasion of each new incident of terrorism that agitates the Western world, we see the same bogus expressions of sympathy and solidarity emanating from Pakistan, quickly followed up with accusations against the West and sweeping generalizations regarding the failure to address "root causes" and "outstanding disputes" such as Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya... But do Muslim grievances alone have root causes? And are these the only outstanding disputes in the world? Why then this floodtide of hatred and terror? And why is its fountainhead and source located in Pakistan?
You cannot build a nation on hatred alone – but this has been the essential Pakistani enterprise. It needs reiteration here that, while much is made of the Al Qaeda and its Arab origins, the fact is that the Al Qaeda is essentially a Pakistani creation, as are the large number of other jihadi organizations that were raised during the anti-Soviet campaigns in Afghanistan, and continued to proliferate thereafter, including the Taliban. General Pervez Musharraf has been directly involved in the creation and support of at least some of these groups, and Pakistani sources concede that it is difficult to find many in the current establishment who were not, at some time or another, involved in the training, funding and direction of these terrorist forces, or in organizing their many camps and centres.
Under US and international pressure, today, Musharraf vacillates between dual loyalties. Even as he boasts of his anti-terrorist credentials and operations against the Al Qaeda in Waziristan, evidence – backed by Pakistani open sources – swells regarding the reactivation of terrorist camps, as in Mansehra, and of the open activities of the Taliban and other terrorist and extremist organizations. But in his attempts to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, Musharraf can only lead his country to disaster.
Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the Khalistanis had tried to build a movement out of hatred and violence. It was rejected by the large mass of Sikhs, who recognized how completely terrorism was in conflict with the tenets of their Faith, and the movement collapsed and is, today, an object of derision and contempt in Punjab.
This will be the eventual outcome of the Pakistan-backed movement of extremist Islamist hatred, violence and denigration of other Faiths. Regrettably, it is being artificially kept alive at present by massive and continuing state support, by the cynical exploitation of false sociologies of ‘root causes’ and by a range of ‘human rights’ organizations that have accepted the role of the handmaidens and fellow travelers of terrorism. Nor indeed, has a sufficient rejection of and resistance to this pernicious ideological movement been generated within the larger Islamic community. And it is only when such a rejection is openly and forcefully manifested that this perversion of Islam will eventually be defeated.
It is the world’s duty to create the conditions for the articulation of the ideas of the silent majority of Muslims, who are as oppressed by extremist Islam as are the non-Muslim victims of Islamist terror. This is a scourge that must be faced with courage and determination, and that must be stamped out with all the force at our command.
(Published in The Pioneer, July 27, 2005)