COMMENT: 9/11 redux: made in Muridke —Dr Mohammad Taqi - Thursday, March 17, 2011

Source :\03\17\story_17-3-2011_pg3_2

A few writers have directly and indirectly claimed that because the TTP has been attacking targets inside Pakistan with impunity, it has, therefore, been penetrated by “hostile agencies”

On the eve — or is it the dawn — of General Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s second tenure extension, there have been assorted noises in sections of the media, especially two English contemporaries, about Pakistan’s deep state, ostensibly, having second thoughts about the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This would neither be the first time nor the last when the security establishment, and the commentators echoing its stance, are ambivalent about the jihadist proxies it has midwifed over the last several decades.

In a series of columns purporting to deal with the issue of the TTP’s real agenda, a few writers have directly and indirectly claimed that because the TTP has been attacking targets inside Pakistan with impunity, it has, therefore, been penetrated by “hostile agencies”. They argue that despite much thunder about liberating Afghanistan, the TTP does not operate inside Afghanistan (read: attack the US and NATO forces) and continues to attack Pakistan’s interests (read: security establishment-related targets) on the grounds that Pakistan is a US ally. These writers also lay the blame, through innuendo or manifestly, of the whole TTP enterprise lying at the doorstep of the Pashtuns.

While these columnists let the readers’ imaginations about the hostile agencies run wild, what they have said is nothing new. Remember the smoking gun? Well, maybe not exactly, but the army did recover Indian-made antibiotics from a TTP bunker in South Waziristan. After a cache of Ciprofloxacin is recovered, how dare one ask for more evidence? But even if one did not ask, the establishment has been volunteering real gems of information. One of the Pakistani officers who flew the body of Taliban commander Nek Muhammad Wazir, after he was killed in a US drone attack in 2004, gave me the undeniable proof that Wazir was an Indian agent. “Doctor sahib, woh Hindu tha (listen Doc, he was a Hindu),” confided the major. “And you know this how?” I asked. The response, which has since become an urban legend of sorts, was simple: “He was not circumcised!” My immediate question to major sahib was whether they had ever checked the circumcision status of these fine men when dispatching them to fight the infidel Soviets. Had they done so, they would have figured that, back in the day, the prevalence of such uncircumcised RAW agents among the mujahideen was pretty darned high.

An obvious distinction that these columnists have made is that the TTP, as against the Afghan Taliban, is focused on and attacks Pakistan and is therefore liable to retribution by the Pakistani security agencies. The implication would be that the Afghan Taliban, on the other hand, are focused on Afghanistan and the occupying US and NATO forces therein and thus are not Pakistan’s headache and must be allowed a free reign. This is a take very similar to General Pasha’s view of the Afghan Taliban, stated at the outset of his term as the director general ISI. In an interview published on January 6, 2009, he told Germany’s Der Spiegel: “Should they not be allowed to think and say what they please? They believe that jihad is their obligation. Is that not freedom of opinion?”

But were the TTP men too, not allowed similar ‘freedom of opinion’ under the watchful eye of the Pakistani security forces? It was not that long ago that Mullah Fazlullah’s FM radio service was giving Radio Free Europe a run for its money and Muslim Khan graced the screens of major channels through his mobile phone (that creating a radio-jammer or locating the mobile phone-user through GPS-tracker is literally child’s play is another story). More than that, was it not the same TTP — penetrated by the hostile agencies — to which the army capitulated its officers’ mess in Mingora, government guesthouse in Miandam and the Malam Jabba ski resort, before coercing the ANP-PPP coalition to ink a formal deal with them?

A cursory look at the history of the Pakistani establishment’s creation and handling of jihadist proxies reveals that this new ‘awareness’ about the TTP and its handlers from hostile agencies is really old wine in, oh well, old bottles. Remember the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and its umpteen pro-Pakistan and pro-independence versions? As they became too cumbersome to handle, too big for their size or threat to the establishment’s agenda, they were either cut loose or cut to size. And when that did not work, a whole crop of Kashmir-oriented jihadists was cultivated to defang and displace the JKLF.

On the western frontier, the experiment with the Afghan mujahideen is rather fresh in everyone’s memory. The mujahideen fought the Russians, they fought amongst themselves and, at times, fought their ISI handlers. The solution was to pick favourites in the Hekmatyar good-Massoud bad fashion, attempted truce courtesy the Saudi court and eventually to cut off money and arms. But, ultimately, the Afghan Taliban were raised to replace the unruly mujahideen.

Interestingly, missing from this so-called fresh perspective is any mention of the core jihadist outfits in the Pakistani heartland of Punjab. While categorising the jihadists as yours, mine and ours, it is conveniently forgotten that in every terrorist activity inside Punjab and Islamabad, the Punjabi Taliban of assorted varieties were leading or equal partners with the TTP. From providing safe haven to al Qaeda operatives to all major bombings and killings, the Punjabi Taliban of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Muhammad et al have a role that is second to none.

While space constraints here preclude a detailed discussion of the global designs of the Punjab-based jihadists, suffice it to recall that Hafiz Saeed had co-founded the Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad along with al Qaeda pioneer Abdullah Azzam. The ideological and operational overlap between the al Qaeda, Afghan, TTP, Punjabi and Kashmiri jihadists is not lost even on a casual observer. The results of the Mumbai attack/David Headley investigation point to a Punjab-based ideological hub, the spokes of which include numerous outfits with multiple global targets.

Exclusive focus on the TTP is an attempt to further blur the distinction between concentric layers of jihadist outfits sired by the Pakistani establishment and reflects the latter’s continued refusal to crack down on the Punjab-based jihadists. The world at large is not about to buy this fantasy that the TTP operates exclusive of the Punjabi Taliban or that both are unrelated to the Afghan and al Qaeda jihadists. The establishment and its hired pens can dupe themselves but the number one issue concerning security analysts elsewhere remains the possibility of the 9/11 redux that is made in Muridke and a befitting response to it.

The writer can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment