By G Parthasarathy
June 22, 2011
Gen Zia planted the poison seed, the tree is now bearing toxic fruit. The Army and the ISI will ensure that Pakistan never gives up terrorism as state policy.
While promoting terrorism abroad has been the trademark of Pakistan’s military establishment, new skeletons are tumbling out of the ISI’s cupboard, revealing the horrors perpetrated by its torture and assassination networks within the country. The ‘tell-all’ book titled Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, written by journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, widely believed (even within Pakistan) to have been bumped off by the ISI, has been banned in that country.
Shahzad made some startling revelations to an American television network virtually hours before he was abducted. He revealed that even before the 9/11 terrorist strikes, there were formal agreements between the ISI on the one hand and the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the other. Moreover, just after 9/11, the then Director-General of the ISI, Lieutenant General Mehmood Ahmed, assured both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in Kandahar that Pakistan would neither mount operations against their organisations nor would it arrest them.
Given these assurances, it is not surprising that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and their supporters and armed cadre crossed the Durand Line and were given haven in Pakistan. Some second ranking Al Qaeda leaders were, however, targeted when they were suspected of involvement in attempts to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. Shahzad asserts that the “Pakistani Army has always been closely allied with Islamist forces”, adding that mutinies from within the Army’s ranks were always possible in the event of major operations in future against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries.
While the Islamist propensities of significant sections the Pakistani Army establishment are well known, what is now emerging is that support for Islamic extremism is also significantly prevalent in the Pakistani Air Force and Navy. The recent attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, during which US-supplied reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed, has revealed the extent to which radical Islamist elements have infiltrated the Pakistani Navy.
Even more widespread has been the infiltration of radical Islamist elements into the Pakistani Air Force, including into the Chaklala air base near Rawalpindi where US-supplied transport aircraft are based. Airmen from this base were involved in an attempt to assassinate Gen Musharraf in 2003. The links of the Pakistani Air Force with Al Qaeda go back to 1996 when a senior PAF officer, Mushaf Al Mir, known to be close to Islamist elements in the ISI, entered into a pact with Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayada, promising the supply of arms.
Interestingly, while elements from Saudi Arabia were evidently supportive of this deal, Mushaf Ali Mir, who later became the chief of Pakistan’s Air Force, died in a mysterious air crash while on official duty in a PAF aircraft on February 20, 2003. Three Saudi Princes associated with Air Chief Marshal Mir’s 1996 deal with Al Qaeda died in similarly mysterious circumstances shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the mysterious deaths of Mir and the Saudi Princes occurred after both Gen Musharraf and the Saudi monarchy had become averse to Al Qaeda influence in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The malaise of Islamic radicalism has also spread to Pakistan’s nuclear establishment. AQ Khan, infamous for his rabid references to “Hindu treachery”, was a major player in moves to transfer nuclear weapons capabilities to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Bhutto himself described Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons as his country’s contribution to “Islamic civilisation”. These sentiments are shared by senior Pakistani nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood who, along with his colleague Abdul Majeed, was detained shortly after the terrorist strikes of 9/11 for helping Al Qaeda to obtain nuclear and biological weapons capabilities.
Mehmood openly voiced support for the Taliban and publicly advocated transfer of nuclear weapons to the whole ummah (Muslim community worldwide). Two other Pakistani scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al Mukhtar, wanted for questioning about suspected links with Osama bin Laden, disappeared in Myanmar. The million dollar question is: Did they disappear into the territory of Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ and partner in proliferation, China? The malaise of Islamic radicalism runs deep across Pakistan’s entire security establishment — civilian and military.
The roots of this radicalisation can be traced back to the days when the US and other Western countries backed Pakistani military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq to the hilt. It was Gen Zia who ushered in a new era of Islamisation, bigotry and blasphemy laws targeting minorities, together with nurturing radical, armed Islamic groups, bent on waging jihad across the world. Officers recruited in his era are today three-star Generals and the Army is largely motivated by the ideology of the “Quranic Concept of War” articulated by his protégé Brigadier (later Major General) SK Malik. Describing anyone who stands in the way of jihad as an “aggressor”, he held that “the aggressor is always met and destroyed in his own country”.
Maj Gen Malik also had a unique view of the concept of ‘terror’. According to him, “Terror struck into the heart of the enemy is not only a means. It is an end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. Terror is not a means of imposing a decision upon the enemy, it is the decision we wish to impose on him. It is a point where the means and end merge”. This is precisely what was sought to be ‘imposed’ on the ill-fated people killed in Mumbai on 26/11.
Despite evidence that the ISI recently passed on operational intelligence received from the CIA to terrorist groups, both the US and the UK are making conscious efforts to gloss over the ISI-terrorist nexus. The British are realising that in their desire to be pro-active across the world as America’s most “loyal ally”, they have been punching above their weight. Moreover, the greatest threat to internal security in the UK comes from nationals of Pakistani origin, motivated and trained in terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Britain seeks to appease Pakistan to facilitate an early withdrawal from Afghanistan and secure ISI cooperation for internal security.
The Americans evidently believe that Pakistan has to be kept in reasonably good humour, at least for the present, to achieve larger strategic objectives. In these circumstances, India has to shed illusions that the Pakistani military establishment can be persuaded to discard the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy by sweet words and ‘composite dialogue’
Source: The Pioneer, New Delhi