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July 17, 1999


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Pakistan army's Islamisation began early, says intelligence document

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Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi

The Indian army is cautiously watching the complete Islamisation of the Pakistani army and its fallout on India and South Asia. A confidential document prepared by the Indian Military Intelligence recently, and which was made available to, details the changes taking place within the Pakistani army. This Islamisation process did not begin from the time of General Zia-ul-Haq as many wrongly believe -- though Gen Zia encouraged the process -- but since the time of General Yahya Khan in 1968.

The secret document notes that it was during Gen Yahya Khan's time that the Quran Kwani was introduced in the armed forces. Pakistan military leaders then and now frequently quote from the Quran and Sunnah to urge their Muslim troops fight the anti-Islamic Kafir (non-believer) army.

Nevertheless, during Gen Yahya Khan's time, the Islamisation process had a limited impact. Most of the top officers had started their careers in what was the then British Indian army with its tradition of secularism. The top officers had often been colleagues with their Indian counterparts during the pre-Independence years, but such officers were slowly fading from the scene.

The report noted that in the 1980s, two events pushed the Islamic element further into the Pakistani army. First was the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, which was seen as an Islamic war against the godless communist. The Inter-Services Intelligence whipped up Islamic fanaticism among the Mujahideen who were battling the Soviet army but, in the process, became fanaticised itself.

The ISI also built up links with fundamentalist parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and its offshoots, the Tablegh Jamaat and Markaz Dawa-wal Ishad to serve the ISI's anti-India cause. Certain Pakistani officers, notably Hamid Gul and Javed Nasir, both of who headed the ISI, also helped focus the Pakistani army towards the same goal. Thus today, the ISI and the Pakistani army are two sides of the same coin with the same mission, same leadership and common funding, the confidential document notes.

However, it was under Gen Zia-ul-Haq that the Pakistani army got the greatest thrust towards Islamisation. Thanks to Gen Zia, today most major generals and below are radical fundamentalists, the military intelligence document notes. New recruits swear oath on the Shariat, which is then followed up by periodic motivation on the basis of Islam. Such steady indoctrination also provided a fertile ground to Islamic fundamentalist parties in Pakistan to extend their influence over the armed forces personnel.

Besides, Pakistani troops are regularly subjected to religious tests, which are based on the tenets of Islam as perceived by the majority Sunnis. These tests are intended to raise the level of religious awareness among Pakistan troops and ensure indoctrination.

The report points out that the Pakistan army has also played a pan-Islamic role with its personnel taking part in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. Gen Zia offered to send troops to Syria in 1982 and Pakistan's offer to serve in conflict situations like Somalia and Bosnia, under United Nations auspices, is because these are perceived as Muslim causes.

Besides Islamisation, the Pakistani army is also involved in exporting terrorism.

It was Che Guevara who propounded the 'foco' theory on terrorism and revolution. Focoism is based on the premise that a passive population could be aroused to revolutionary fervour by the armed struggle of mercenaries. Notwithstanding the failure of the idea of exporting revolution, Pakistan has taken up the responsibility.

The Pakistani army has trained about 25,000 terrorists/militants from eight different nationalities and organised them into various tanzeems. These terrorists/militants pose a threat not only to India but to the neighbouring countries as well, the confidential document states.

Pakistan has been busy sponsoring terrorism and separatist subversives over the decades. Since the 1970s, it trained members of Sikh and other separatist organisations, as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's strategy for forward strategic depth. The thrust of Sikh fundamentalism increased after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and some Sikhs were reportedly killed in Soviet raids in Paktia, the army document claims.

In 1985, the ISI completed a vast training infrastructure for the Afghan resistance. Afghan militants, trained by a foreign intelligence agency, were smuggled into India for the purpose of organising acts of terrorism against members of the Indian government. Then came the thrust towards Kashmir on the premise that Islam was in danger.

The military intelligence report further states that the rise of Islamist ideology to predominance throughout Kashmir facilitated the emergence of a tight link between Kashmir insurgents, their supporters and Islamabad. Kashmiri Muslims now sought ideological sustenance from a transnational Islam, while simultaneously basking in the guaranteed patronage from across the border.

The document points out that ISI political chief Brigadier Imtiaz had developed a long-term programme for Kashmir and the Punjab called K2. In this programme, Kashmiri, Sikh and other Muslim fundamentalists were trained and motivated to destabilise India's border states besides intensifying acts of violence in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh.

The document mentions a paper presented on behalf of General Aslam Beg, former chief of Pakistani army staff, at New Delhi in January 1999. General Beg had said: "The Afghanistan war experience provides strength to the Kashmiri freedom fighter in the wider dimension of the conflict. And should peace come to Afghanistan, the Mujahideen would like to pay back the gratitude they owe to their Kashmiri brothers for joining them in their struggle against the Soviet aggressor."

The report concludes by stating that while Islamising the army is a method to motivate its troops, sending out the regular soldiers along with fundamentalist militants, as was done in the Kargil conflict, can only erode the discipline and ethos of the Pakistan army in the long run.

The Kargil Crisis

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