By Dr Mohammad Taqi
November 14, 2013
It is for the security establishment to reflect over and revisit its association with unsavoury characters from both sides of the Durand Line
A tiff has erupted between the Pakistan army and its best men of several decades’ standing. The emir of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Mr Syed Munawar Hasan, ruffled quite a few feathers with his callous remarks about martyrdom last week. Mr Hasan not only called the slain Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ringleader Hakeemullah Mehsud a Shaheed — a martyr in the divine sense of the word — but also impugned the martyrdom status of the armed forces men who laid down their lives fighting the TTP and its ilk. The military shot back, quite understandably, with a statement castigating the JI chief and demanded an apology. The ISPR press release, however, did qualify its criticism of Mr Munawar Hasan with an unqualified exhortation for the JI’s founding emir, the late Maulana Syed Abul Aala Maududi. Interestingly, the military ruler, General Ayub Khan, had imprisoned Maulana Maududi twice in the 1960s. But the military had consorted with the Islamists before and continued to do so after Ayub Khan.
The military establishment, under General Yahya Khan, a man not exactly known for religious observance, groomed the Islamist political parties like the JI and Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) as a policy. Mr Shuja Nawaz notes in his book Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within that these two parties “received assistance from (General) Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, who found an ally in Major General Ghulam Umar, the newly promoted executive head of the National Security Council.” The idea was to actively upend the popular political forces like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the National Awami Party (NAP) with pliable political elements. In his work Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, the former ambassador Professor Husain Haqqani describes this strategy as the “Sher Ali Formula”, which “required behind-the-scenes manipulation of the political process, to increase the number of political contenders, as well as identification of ‘patriotic factions’ against ‘unpatriotic’ ones.” The alliance matured when the JI mercenaries fought alongside the army in the botched but brutal attempt to crush the 1971 Bengali nationalist struggle.
It was ultimately the third military dictator General Ziaul Haq, who after dislodging the PPP government, directly shared political power with the JI and the JUI. The overtly religious General Zia inducted three ministers from the JI and two from the JUI, along with five Muslim Leaguers in his cabinet on July 5, 1978. The Zia-JUI fling was short-lived but he shared a deep ideological affinity with the JI and a personal connection with the then emir of JI, Mian Tufail Muhammad who, like General Zia, hailed from East Punjab. The Zia-JI union flourished till the general’s death did them part. Along with his intelligence chief, the so-called Khamosh Mujahid (silent holy warrior) General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, General Zia unleashed the JI hordes on Afghanistan. The JI and its Afghan counterparts, a la Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, remained the major beneficiaries of Saudi money and the US weapons channelled courtesy the Pakistani security establishment till the gravy train stopped circa 1989-90. On the domestic front, abstract themes like the ‘glory of Islam’ and as yet undefined ‘ideology of Pakistan’ became endemic as General Zia went on his ‘Islamisation’ spree to establish with the help of his clergy cohorts what he called the ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ or the governance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Zakat and Ushr Ordinance to collect Islamic charity on behalf of the state and the Nizam-e-Salaat mandating prayers in schools and government offices were the direct consequence of the Zia-JI liaison. The armed forces wore an ideological rather than a professional look and developed significant pockets of support for Islamist causes, which exists to date.
While the military under General Zia sought to use the JI and its ilk to legitimise their rule on religio-political grounds, the JI wanted to push their fanatical agenda through the junta. But just like the security establishment presumed that it could somehow turn off the field jihadists’ switch once the job is done, it also misread the intentions and zeal of its JI-type allies. The jihadists and their political fronts like the JI are in it for the long haul. They do not operate on a 9-5 clock and take the weekends off. The security establishment’s à la carte approach to jihadism is what the TTP and the JI both are livid about. The former ISPR chief pinning the JI for harbouring al Qaeda operatives is interesting, but it would take more than a few retaliatory words to roll back the jihadist project his parent outfit had sired together with the political clergy. The military and the mullahs have co-authored the hyper-nationalist narrative prevalent in Pakistan. Even under the ‘enlightened moderate’ General Pervez Musharraf, the electoral mandate was manipulated to hand power to the mullahs in two provinces. The mullahs have kept their end of the bargain. They do not like the change of rules in midgame. That the security establishment continues to consort with the chosen jihadists is also not lost on the JI and the TTP.
The latest example of the Pakistani security establishment turning a blind eye to, if not facilitating, the Afghan jihadists is the murder of the Haqqani terrorist network (HQN) top financier Nasiruddin Haqqani just outside Islamabad. Nasiruddin was son of Jalaluddin Haqqani from an Arab wife, and full brother of the HQN’s de facto chief, Sirajuddin. It has been an open secret for several years that Nasiruddin and his uncles Ibrahim and Khalil have operated in Islamabad’s vicinity. Nasiruddin leveraged his Arab connections to raise funds for attacks inside Afghanistan while his uncles have been known to induce, personally and through enforcers working out of Rawalpindi, ostensible peace deals such as the 2011 Khurram accord. Sirajuddin Haqqani had played a decisive role in the selection of the TTP chiefs in the past, and possibly in Mullah Fazlullah’s recent ascent as the terror group’s ringleader as well. It is unlikely that the Pakistani establishment has not been aware of the al Qaeda-affiliated HQN’s activities near the federal capital.
Syed Munawar Hasan and indeed JUI’s Maulana Fazl ur Rehman’s crass remarks have made even the worst critics of the army queasy. It is for the security establishment to reflect over and revisit its association with unsavoury characters from both sides of the Durand Line. But it would be naïve to assume that decades of damage can be undone with one statement. Peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires a policy overhaul on the part of the security establishment, not just a knee-jerk reaction only when its toes are stepped on.