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The Rediff Special
The grand pan-Islamic plan
The concluding part of the US Task Force Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare report, which indicates that Pakistan is sponsoring Islamic movements not only in India, but also in China and the Central Asian republics. With this intent in mind, Pakistan, despite protestations of peace, has established -- and is consolidating -- an Afghanistan dominated by itself, the report claims.
Despite official protestations, ISI-sponsored Islamist terrorism has been in integral policy of every Pakistani government since 1947. In fact, even Nawaz Sharief now acknowledges that the Taliban are a creation of the Benazir administration.
Islamabad has never considered the Taliban a permanent fixture in the Afghan power structure. After all, the initial rise to power of the Taliban was the result of the ISI's misuse of large sums of money provided by Saudis for the apprehension and extradition of Saudi Islamic terrorists hiding in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Instead, the ISI arranged for the buy up of local Mujahedin commanders in Kandahar, Herat, Jalalabad, and Kabul -- just as they would later attempt to do with General Abdul Malik.
And there are objective reasons why the ISI leadership has had misgivings about the Taliban from the very beginning. The Taliban are essentially a Pushtun organisation, built from elements of the fiercely independent Afghan tribes.
As the ISI knows very well from decades of manipulation, these tribes switch loyalties from time to time to serve their interest or the whims of the tribal chieftains.
The Pushtuns lack any sense of obligations or loyalties. However, given their near-total dependence on Pakistan, the Taliban have proven an excellent instrument for the destruction of the Rabbani government.
Islamabad has always been anxious to secure a docile Pushtun-dominated government in Kabul. A Pakistani-dominated Afghanistan would then constitute a forward strategic depth on Pakistan's western flank. Meanwhile, Islamabad is eager to open trade routes to, as well as the natural gas pipeline from, Central Asia. Currently, the most important national project for Pakistan is the construction of a pipeline from Central Asian Republics, skirting around Iran and via Afghanistan and Pakistan, to an oil and exporting terminal on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The unstable Taliban cannot be trusted to provide long-term control for the strategic pipeline and road system across Afghanistan.
Indeed, already in April 1997, at the very same time Nawaz Sharief's Islamabad became committed to the Taliban's northward surge, the ISI was instructed to begin preparing an alternative for the Taliban -- a "third force" to rule Afghanistan. The key to the ISI's design is the revival of an alliance between the former Mujahedin leader turned Afghan prime minister, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and the former Khalqi (Communist) defence minister General Shahnawaz Tanai. Both Tanai and Hekmatyar have been controlled by the ISI.
Ahmad Shah Masoud stressed that although the Taliban are "a creation of Pakistan", Islamabad does not trust them fully. Hence, the ISI has created what Masoud labels "the so-called third force" as a contingency in anticipation for the Taliban's ultimate failure to hold to power in Afghanistan," explained a close aide to Masoud. The key to such a switch of power lies in the hands of the many Khalqi officers and ISI agents incorporated into the ranks of the Taliban, and who would change sides when Islamabad gave the order. "Tanai and Hekmatyar are types who would like to grab power from the inside, as in a coup," the Masoud aide said. The ISI will make it happen when conditions are ripe.
The involvement of Tanai and Hekmatyar is crucial because they are the prime instruments for the ISI's hold over Taliban. The core of the Taliban trained forces are the ISI's Afghan forces made of former Hizb-I-Islami Mujahedin. Following his defection to Pakistan, Tanai acted under ISI control when he provided the Taliban a skilled cadre of Khalqi military officers.
Indeed, the induction into Taliban ranks of several thousand Communist officers made them into an army. Tanai's people now constitute the command and technical cadres in the Taliban's artillery, armour, communications, intelligence and the air force. The ISI has effectively prevented the Taliban from developing an alternate military machine, thus ensuring their continued dependency on the Khalqi technical specialists and their Pakistani masters.
Currently confronted with the series of Taliban setbacks despite the heavy Pakistani assistance, Islamabad seems to be moving toward the possible replacement of the Taliban. In early June, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar was sent to Teheran to convince the Iranians to support the "compromise" government in Kabul. This is going to be "a provisional non-coalition government to lead the country for a year," Hekmatyar explained.
"We have tried all kinds of alliances and coalition governments and it has proved a failure. There must therefore be a search for new solutions. "The ISI delivered a similar message to VEVAK via Usamah bin Ladin, and that was accepted positively That both Hekmatyar and Tanai were acquired by the ISI under Zia-ul Haq and his protege Nawaz Sharief, now the Pakistani prime minister, makes this changes of power in Kabul a tempting option.
Meanwhile, ISI activities in Afghanistan are also of growing importance to Pakistan's ability to deter and contain India through the escalation of Islamic terrorism and subversion. It has been the cornerstone of Islamabad's strategic design that it would be next to impossible for an India, preoccupied with domestic instability and terrorism, to launch a war against Pakistan, or even react to major provocation's. Islamabad is convinced that a spate of ISI-sponsored terrorism and subversion along the Indo-Pak border -- from Kashmir to Punjab -- will make the swift launching of a surprise attack by India virtually impossible.
Moreover, Benazir Bhutto's Islamabad considered the escalation of Islamic terrorism in Central Asia, and even the PRC's Xinjiang province, the most expedient instrument to ensure Pakistan enduring centrality in an evolving regional strategic dynamics in which Pakistan would have otherwise been marginalised, if not outright ignored. Although the Nawaz Sharief government promised to contain some of these activities, Islamabad is yet to implement these promises.
However with a growing international pressure on Islamabad, primarily from the PRC and Pakistan's Arab allies, to cease the sponsorship of Islamic terrorism, the ISI has accelerated the transfer of its camps to Afghanistan. The importance of this terrorist infrastructure was best demonstrated at the height of the fighting north of Kabul. Even as fighters were badly needed on the Kabul front line to replace the Taliban's heavy casualties, and while volunteers were being recruited as far away as in Karachi, the highly-trained terrorists were not permitted to leave their camps south-east of Kabul for the front.
These terrorists are too important to be risked in the fight for Kabul or ever northern Afghanistan. Currently, the rapidly expanding terrorist training system in Afghanistan is fully integrated with the system of madarssas in Pakistan. The graduates are dispatched not just to Kashmir, by now a declared high priority of the Taliban, but also to the rest of Central Asia and Xinjiang.
After all, the Taliban's ideology stresses that the Islamic Ummah-I-Wahidah -- one, unified, organic whole -- that recognises no boundaries. The importance of Islamic subversion for Islamabad is reflected in the growing numbers of Afghan and Pakistani expert terrorists being infiltrated into Kashmir and Tajikistan (where ISI-sponsored terrorists sabotage the negotiated peace agreement mediated by Russia and Iran).
In recent weeks, Indian and Russian forces killed and captured several armed Pakistanis attempting to cross the border. In Tajikistan, the Russians retrieved documents that identified the killed Pakistanis as "commando officers".
Meanwhile, the spectre of escalation in Kashmir continues to loom high despite repeated discussions about the resumption of high-level negotiations and a new rapprochement between New Delhi and Islamabad. In mid-June, the Pakistani analyst Brigadier (retired) A R Siddiqi raised the possibility that "the Taliban jihad in Afghanistan, besides influencing the regional geo-political environment generally may, at some stage, sooner or later, act as a role model for the Kashmir Mujahedin and a catalyst for the escalation of their freedom struggle."
The Afghan envoy to a Karachi seminar had no doubt that the "Taliban will extend support to Kashmiris only in jihad and not in the political arena." Syed Mahmoodullah, the Taliban envoy in Karachi, stressed that "jihad being a continuous process against apostasy and other anti-Islamic forces, could not stop at a certain point of time and space within or beyond one's borders."
Taliban officials left no doubt that "the Taliban would be ready and willing to go to the aid of the Kashmiri Mujahedin once they stabilised and carried their own jihad to a grand climax."
"They just cannot and shall not leave their Kashmir brethren alone in their jihad against the Indian usurpers and oppressors," observed Brigadier (retired) A R Siddiqi. Meanwhile, the Pakistani sponsorship system for international terrorism continues expanding preparing expert terrorists not only for regional objectives but also against numerous Arab states, especially in Persian Gulf, and once again against the PRC in Xinjiang.
Training, organisation and preparations take place on both sides of the virtually non-existing Durand Line. In Pakistan, the Pab refugee camp near Jallozai, some 40 km east of Peshawar, is one of the main operational bases of the Arab 'Afghans' in the Peshawar area. Smaller bases can be found in the Warsak, Miram Chah and Saada camps. All the leading radical Muslims of Afghanistan -- Muhammed Umar's Taliban, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-I-Islami, and Abdurab Rasul Sayyafs Ittihad-I-Islami -- have their representatives in these camps, all closely co-operating with the ISI.
On the Afghanistan side of the border, the Badr 1 and Badr 2 camps quality training for international cadres. In addition to numerous Arabs, there are also many Kashmiri mujahedin who plan and execute attacks against the Indian army, Tajiks who strike at forces of the Dushanbe government, as well as Turkomans, Filipinos and Uyghurs from China, in these two Badr camps.
The main Arab 'Afghan' camps, where preparations for the jihad throughout the Arab world take place, are located in the suburbs of Jalalabad and in the Khunar valley, both insulated spots, and in former training facilities of Soviet and DRA special forces. The core of these Arab 'Afghan' forces are several humoured Mujahedin, mainly Saudi and Palestinian, but also from Egypt, Algeria and numerous Gulf states, who are fiercely loyal to Usamah bin Ladin. Altogether, there are over 2,500 mujahedin in bin Ladin's camps alone.
Ultimately, Islamabad's true power over these radical movements and organisations can be discerned from the on-going functioning of the elite madarssas in Pakistan. The Binnori Town mosque in the New Town district in central Karachi serves as a good example. Inside the mosques's complex is the Deeni madarassa.
Over 8,000 students -- Taliban in Urdu -- from all over the Muslim world receive intense Islamic education -- from taligh (the propagation of Islam) to tajweed (the correct pronunciation of the Koran). It is here that the high command for the Islamic jihad is being moulded, and their commitment to, and solidarity with, worldwide jihads are instilled.
Thus, the impact of the Deeni madarssa on the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan should suggest the extent of their commitment to global causes. At least three members of Mullah Umar's six-members Shura (Council) studied at the madarssa in Binnori Town.
Some of the Taliban's top military commanders had also studied in the Binnori Town madarssa before moving on to receive military training from the ISI pending their deployment to Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Deeni madarssa is but one element in a tight network of an affiliated madarssas situated all over Pakistan who keep feeding the jihad with highly dedicated and disciplined mujahedin.
All this time, Nawaz Sharief's Islamabad continues to argue that Pakistan has committed itself to new policies. There has been a complete disengagement from Bhutto's past policies, Pakistani officials insist. Activities on the ground are yet to match their words. There are two possible explanations to this apparent contradiction: Either Islamabad is disingenuous, or Islamabad cannot control the Pakistan security forces. Neither option bodes well for Pakistan and the rest of the region.
Ultimately, however, the real reason for the ISI's continued sponsorship of Islamic terrorism matters little. Terrorism and subversion at the level of intensity made possible only through State-sponsorship tend to evolve into a strategic dynamics of their own.
No State affixed by such terrorism and subversion can be expected to abandon its own citizenry to victimisation by interest are beholden to violence. Hence, one cannot expect India and Tajikistan, as well as such less afflicted states as Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the PRC, to patiently endure the escalation of Islamic terrorism and subversion on their own soil and against their own people while Nawaz Sharief's Islamabad has the time to implement the new policies it is advocating, assuming that Islamabad is indeed committed to the containment of the Islamic terrorism currently sponsored by the ISI.
Furthermore, given Islamabad's already declared staunch commitment to such 'sacred causes' as the liberation of Kashmir and the establishment of a Pakistan-dominated Afghanistan, it is more likely that Nawaz Sharief's Islamabad will raise the ante rather than suppress the ISI.
Hence, Pakistan can be expected to threaten a major war, including raising the nuclear option, in case India or other countries move to suppress the Islamic terrorism and subversion used against their own citizens.
And merely contemplating the providing of such a nuclear umbrella for the Kashmiri jihad should be considered a clear manifestation of the real commitment by the uppermost echelons in Islamabad.
These strategic designs, now being implemented in Afghanistan, testify to the real objectives and priorities of Nawaz Sharief's Pakistan.
Indeed, Pakistani Islamic politicians already declare openly what Nawaz Sharief's coterie is still pretending to deny. "Jamaat-I-Islami participated in the jihad of Afghanistan for upholding the word of Allah," Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Amir Jammat-I-Islami, Pakistan and a close ally of Nawaz Sharief, declared on May 31. He warned that "if the strife among mujahedin continued and they failed to strike unity, the West would conspire to impose a secular and Westernised government in Afghanistan." This can prove detrimental to the entire region.
Qazi Ahmad pointed out that Pakistan's national poet, Allama Iqbal, described Afghanistan as "the great gateway to Asia" and emphasised that this concept serves as the foundations of Islamabad's approach to the subject. "Peace in Afghanistan was a prerequisite for peace in Asia," he explained and the Taliban must ensure peace." Toward this end, he urged the Taliban to "defeat the conspiracy to divide Afghanistan on the basis of ethnicity and sectarianism. The real test had started now." Indeed, given "the ploys" of foreign forces, the Taliban and their allies must defeat to survive.
Qazi Ahmad can only anticipate the jihad will expand and escalate in the foreseeable future. Discussing the Kashmir issue later that day, he observed that "Kashmir shall go on bleeding until Kashmiris are given right to decide their future", namely to establish an Islamic State.
He stressed the regional strategic context and ramifications of the on-going fighting in Afghanistan, and the region as a whole, for the establishment of Islamic regimes. "Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are abundant in every type of resources, and if the Muslims of this region pool their resources they could emerge as a big power." Only Islam can deliver unity and salvation.
Fearing the dire ramification of a Muslim regional power. Qazi Ahmad explained, "the satanic forces of the West were creating disorder and confusion in this region. The West fears the access of Islamic movements to the corridors of power in the Muslim world and they proclaim it as a big danger."
Hence, the only way to confront the West and ensure the rise of the Ummat-I-Wahidah as a political-economic power is for Pakistan to spearhead and lead the Islamic jihad throughout the region -- beginning with control over "the great gateway to Asia", that is Afghanistan.
And while Nawaz Sharief, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, or Brigadier Ashraf Afridi may consider this policy a pursuit of its sacred destiny, to the Western world it is outright sponsorship of Islamic terrorism.
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