A few years ago, a senior Egyptian editor who was puzzled by the reported explosion of jihadi-led anarchy in Pakistan, asked me about the state of Pakistan’s military. I told him then that unlike in Egypt, Pakistan’s military leaders had allowed the mullahs to move in and secure powerful positions in the services decades ago. This process led to the second step, namely the accommodation of jihadis who are keen to convert the entire military to the most orthodox form of Islamic tenet, by peaceful means or otherwise. Their mission is clear: if Pakistan’s military becomes wholly Islamic and accepts the establishment of a Caliphate as its goal, the chances of setting up the Ummah throughout the Islamic world increase greatly. Under pressure from within and eager to stay in power and accommodate, some of Pakistan’s professional military brass have begun to endorse the jihadis’ objectives as commensurate with the country’s national interest.
The Islamisation process began in the late 1970s, gaining momentum in the 1980s after the now-defunct Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979. It is widely known by now that the West and Saudi Arabia, among other Arabian nations, put their military and financial muscle together to defeat the “Godless” Bolsheviks. Thousands of hard-core criminals and Islamic zealots from Arabia, Maghreb, Africa and Britain were brought in to serve in Afghanistan. They were armed and trained with the help of the Pakistani military. It was a free-for-all time. Anyone who wanted to fight the Soviets was welcome.
It was during that period that Islamisation of the lower- and middle-level cadre within the military became Pakistan’s unspoken state policy. Because the world learns about Pakistan from what the Western media chooses to print and from the Pakistani English-language media, which is controlled by English-speaking locals who deliberately skirt the issue, the Islamisation process within the Pakistani military was never widely discussed. At the time, of course, it was against the Western nations’ interest to expose such a phenomenon since both London and Washington, two major promoters of Pakistan in the 1980s against the Soviet Union and its sympathisers, were busy using the Pakistani military to deliver a death blow to the communists. According to London and Washington, the primary goal during the Cold War days was to topple the “evil Soviet empire” and raising doubt about the religion, caste or creed of or respect for the rule of law among those who picked up weapons in support of the West was out of the question. In fact, Washington considered all who were actively engaged in bringing down the Soviet Union as “liberators” and had no interest in disturbing them or judging their other acts.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and currently a Senior Fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, described the White House’s dealings with Pakistani heads of state in those days in his latest book, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad. ”. . . Richard Nixon turned a blind eye to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis to keep his friends in Pakistan’s army in power, a strategy that ultimately failed,” Riedel writes. “Ronald Reagan entertained Zia-ul-Haq even as Zia was giving succour to the Arab jihadists who would become al-Qaeda. George W. Bush allowed Pervez Musharraf to give the Afghan Taliban a sanctuary from which to kill American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.”
At the same time, it is likely that some Pakistanis were aware of the Islamisation process. However, Pakistan’s English-medium newspapers and their editors, who stayed in a state of denial for decades and have just begun to emerge as critics of Islamisation, perhaps considered what was going on at the time to be merely a passing phase. Perhaps they believed that the United States and Britain, whom they saw as two of the strongest pillars of democracy in the world and hell-bent against theocratic states, would eventually put a stop to the Islamist takeover of the Pakistani military.
Meanwhile, tons of money had come in from Saudi Arabia with a distinct motive to spread the most orthodox form of Sunni Islam—Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia—and thus secure a permanent stake within the Pakistani military. Again, wittingly or unwittingly, the West turned a blind eye to this development and doggedly pursued its principal goal, the devolution of the Soviet Union. Naturally, very few observers outside of Pakistan could get an in-depth understanding of this slow but steady process.
THE THIN VENEER OF ISLAM
Following the birth of Pakistan in 1947, the Pakistani army, like the nation itself, had only a thin veneer of Islamic identity. As Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center in Washington, DC, points out in his article “Pakistan’s Army: Fighting the Wars Within,” although Pakistan came into being in 1947 as the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, “the debate over its national identity has neither been conducted democratically nor concluded. It has also yet to craft a stable political system that establishes the supremacy of the civil over the military, as envisioned by its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam. Although the Muslim way of life was a motive behind the call for Pakistan, its early political leadership did not give it an Islamic blueprint for its political development or goals. The reason for this was that the movement for Pakistan was less an Islamic movement and more a movement by Indian Muslims to seek greater social and economic opportunity for themselves.”
Nawaz, who was once with the New York Times and Pakistan Television’s news and current affairs division, continues, “The Pakistan Army, the largely Muslim rump of the British Indian Army, too, was saddled at birth with this paradoxical identity: the symbols of Islam but the substance of a colonial force, quite distant from the body politic of the fledgling state. It adopted, for instance, the number 786 for the identification of its General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. In Islamic numerology, 786 represents the Arabic Bismillah IrRahman IrRahim, the invocation that Muslims intone at the start of any action or venture of note. This numerical code was emblazoned on all gate posts and vehicles, as a reminder that this was the army of a Muslim country. And for its badge, it chose two crossed swords holding up an Islamic rising crescent and a five-pointed star against a green background.
“But the Islamic identity was at that stage only in name. The senior echelons of the Pakistan Army at its birth were still British officers who had opted to stay on, and they were succeeded by their native clones, men who saw the army as a unique institution, separate and apart from the rest of civil society and authority. This schism between the cantonment and the city pervaded the army’s thought processes and seemed to guide as well as bedevil the military’s relationship with the civilian sector in Pakistan.”
There is no evidence that Shuja Nawaz’s observations are anything but accurate. When, then, did the Islamisation of the Pakistani army begin in earnest? According to Stephen P. Cohen, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution, though Pakistan’s military shifted in an explicitly Islamic direction under Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the army actually began Islamising under Bhutto. “Zulfikar himself ordered alcohol removed from the mess,” Cohen says, “and one of the reasons that he picked Zia as the army’s chief of staff may have been that Zia was seen as a pious general.” It is also to be noted that in the preamble to Pakistan’s 1973 constitution, it was clearly stated that Islam would underwrite the law of the land. This was nothing less than a mandate for the state to instrumentalise Islam. This mandate was confirmed in Article 227, which categorically stated that all legislation would conform to Islamic injunctions. However, the actual infiltration of devout Islamists into the lower rungs of the armed forces began following the 1977 coup led by the Pakistani chief of armed services General Zia ul-Haq against the elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The arrival of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq at the helm of Pakistan as the chief martial law administrator (CMLA) was a watershed. A devout orthodox Muslim who belonged to a nonwealthy family, Zia set about quickly to exploit his religious piety to bring about a change within the military. Many of the Islamisation problems that Pakistan is encountering now grew out of the actions taken and alliances made by General Zia.
There is evidence that in the pre-Zia days, the Pakistani military did not have a smooth and seamless relationship with Pakistan’s Islamic parties. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross points out in his article “Fixing Our Pakistan Problem” (Journal for International Security Affairs, 7 July 2008) that General Mohammad Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military ruler, displayed hostility toward the religious parties. Ayub Khan wrote in his diary in 1967 that “[t]he mullah regards the educated Muslims as his deadliest enemy and the rival for power,” adding that “we have got to take on all those [mullahs] who are political mischief-makers.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who became prime minister in 1973 following the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan, inherited a military that had failed to keep Pakistan in one piece. Bhutto, who believed he was insulated from a military coup, seized the moment and broadened the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) branch by creating an internal wing. An ambitious politician, Bhutto was keen on bolstering his own political power, and his personal leadership had a paranoid strain. Gartenstein-Ross says Bhutto wanted the ISI to conduct surveillance on friends and foes alike and the agency kept dossiers on a range of figures. Ironically, the internal wing that Bhutto helped create later played a role in the military coup that toppled him from power in July 1977.
THE RISE OF ZIA UL-HAQ
That coup brought to power General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who quickly pushed Pakistani society, and the military, in a more religious direction. Zia’s devout Deobandi background and religious zeal translated into the adoption of overtly Muslim public policy positions, as well as the government’s imposition of Islamic norms and customs—changes that began immediately after the coup.
In his article, Gartenstein-Ross cites one observer who noted in early 1979 that a “general Islamic tone pervades everything.” According to this observer, “a state enterprise advertises for a manager ‘who should be a God-fearing and practicing Muslim.’ Floggings were common. Television was greatly changed — to the accompaniment of public protest in the letters-to-the-editor column of the newspapers. Total closure of eating and drinking places between sun-up and sunset marked Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and no tea was served in business establishments or offices, private or public. . . . On December 2 [of 1978] (the first of Musharram, the beginning of the Hijri year 1399) came the long-promised announcement of the first steps toward Islamisation of the laws on theft, drinking, adultery, and the protection of freedom of belief.” Zia’s government created Sharia courts to determine the religious legitimacy of all laws and invalidate those deemed improper. The government simultaneously tried to create an “Islamic economy” that was free of interest. Zia devoted particular attention to changing the culture of Pakistan’s military. His reforms went beyond Bhutto’s nascent changes in three major ways. First, military training came to include Islamic teachings. For example, officers were required to read S. K. Malik’s The Quranic Concept of War and a Directorate of Religious Instruction was created to oversee the Islamic education of the officer corps. Second, religious criteria were incorporated into the promotion requirements for officers and into their promotion exams. Many skilled officers with secular outlooks were passed over for promotion, while officers with conservative religious outlooks reached top levels of command. Third, Zia reinforced these policies by mandating formal obedience to Islamic rules within the military. He required not only that soldiers attend Friday congregational prayers at regimental mosques but also that the fighting units bring mullahs with them to the front lines.
At the same time that Zia was implementing these policies, the demographics of Pakistan’s officer corps were naturally shifting. The first generation of officers came from the country’s social elites, frequently educated in English-language schools, while the rank and file of the new junior officers came from Pakistan’s poorer northern districts. Journalist Zahid Hussain, in his book Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam (Columbia University Press, 2007) notes that “[t]he spirit of liberalism, common in the ‘old’ army, was practically unknown to them. They were products of a social class that, by its very nature, was conservative and easily influenced by Islamic fundamentalism.”
Gartenstein-Ross said that Zia’s policies, coupled with the demographic shift in the junior officer corps, moved the military toward a more religious and more fundamentalist, direction. This new direction was also aided by external circumstances. Soon after Zia came to power, the Soviet Union, ostensibly threatened by Islamic rebels in its own underbelly, invaded Afghanistan. This invasion would prove fateful for the Soviet Union and a bonanza for the Islamists within the Pakistani army. In addition to imposing great costs on the Soviet Union, that in the view of some analysts contributed directly to its collapse, the invasion spurred the U.S. and Pakistan to support anti-Soviet mujahideen. Thus, some of the changes to the organisational culture of Pakistan’s military pushed by Zia were put into practice on the battlefield. The ISI would grow exponentially during this period, and important relationships between Pakistani officials and Islamic militants would develop.
But Umer Farooq, in his article “Islam in the Garrison” in the 16 August 2011 edition of Dawn, argues that to designate Zia as the only one responsible for putting the military on the path of Islamisation would be too simplistic. “There were other forces influencing the military and shaping the minds of its troops. Analysts point out, for instance, that several army officers posted to the Arab states around the Persian Gulf in 1970s and 1980s came back heavily influenced by an orthodox interpretation of Islam. They invariably rose to occupy prominent positions in the military hierarchy under Zia. Many more officers came under religious influence as they worked directly with the Islamic-inspired mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet-backed communists. Analysts say that Afghan jihad became a source of inspiration for young army officers who saw it as a victory of Islam against an infidel superpower. Along with the 1979 revolution in Iran, which was led by religious leaders, these developments deepened religious influence among the Pakistan army’s officer corps.
“This coincided with another shift,” Farooq argues, citing Saeed Shafqat, an eminent analyst of civil-military relations in Pakistan. The urban middle classes replaced the so-called martial races of Punjab in the officer corps after the defeat in the 1971 war. By the mid-1980s, urban middle classes were dominating the army. The 1971 defeat had a heavy impact on the soldiers and officers, and it continued to resonate within the military’s educational and training institutions for many years afterwards. “The belief that we were defeated in the war because we were not good Muslims was widespread,” says Shafqat. “Islam started to dominate the training and educational activities in the military after 1971,” he adds.
“All this led to an upsurge in religious activities within the army,” writes Farooq. Individual officers were used to organise zikr meetings, and Zia’s immediate successor as army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, continued these policies according to Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based historian of civil-military relations in Pakistan. When General Asif Nawaz Janjua took over as the chief of army staff (COAS) in 1991, he tried to put an end to the official sponsorship of religious activities in garrisons. “He introduced changes in the functioning of the army. He spoke about reviving professionalism in the army,” says Rizvi. But those who followed Janjua made no serious attempt to revive professionalism.
ENCOURAGING SUNNI MILITANTS: THE RISE OF SHIA IRAN
There were still other factors in and around Pakistan that contributed to the transformations that Gartenstein-Ross addressed. For instance, the religious radicalisation of Shia Iran under the clerical leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini beginning in 1979 played a significant role in the Pakistani military’s Islamisation. As Dr. Hassan Abbas, a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, points out in his article “The Redefinition of Pakistan Under General Zia” (The Middle East Institute, Viewpoints: Islamization of Pakistan, 1979–2009): “Parallel to the religious transformation imposed on Pakistan by Zia, was the rise of Shi‘ism as a popular religious symbol in Iran under the inspirational leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who significantly influenced Pakistani Shi‘ites. Even some Sunni political forces, such as Jamaat-e Islami, initially supported the revolution in Iran, seeing in it a model for Pakistan and a role for themselves. In contrast, Pakistani Shi‘a initially were reluctant to take a clear position, because historically they had been supportive of the Shah of Iran and were more connected with the Iraqi Shi‘a clerical establishment, who believed in remaining aloof from the political arena. This began to change as the younger Shi‘a generation in Pakistan was galvanized. Young Pakistani Shi‘ites felt empowered by the rise of ‘Shi‘a’ Iran and attracted to the anti-imperialist and revolutionary tone of the movement in Iran.”
But the rise of Shia Iran was a matter of concern to a large number of countries, including the West. Western support (especially from the United States and Britain) helped Zia to take on the increasingly aggressive Shias within Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, upset by the “Shia revolution” in Iran, helped to finance the anti-Soviet effort. As a result, the Afghan mujahideen received ample funds to wage their ultimately successful guerrilla war against Soviet forces and some funds were diverted to create murderous Sunni groups, such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who were organised to eliminate the Shia organisations within Pakistan.
In his article, Dr. Hassan Abbas says that with the outbreak of a Saudi-Iran proxy war in Pakistan, sectarian conflict intensified. Shia leaders and activists increasingly became victims of targeted killings, and in a few cases, Pakistani Shia responded in kind. Iranian diplomats in Pakistan also came under attack. The rise in 1985 of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (the army of the companions of the Prophet, or SSP), a rabidly anti-Shia militant group, added fuel to the fire.
The rise of Sipah-e-Sahaba, funded generously by Saudi Arabia, was in many ways a game-changer in Pakistan. General Zia’s role in the rise of SSP widened the sectarian divide and provided the momentum for strengthening the Wahhabi variety of Sunni Islam to become the dominant Islamic face within the country. The rise of the Sunni terrorist groups gave them some “political power.” As Tahir Kamran points out in his article on the SSP (The Middle East Institute, Viewpoints: Islamization of Pakistan, 1979–2009): “The local traders and bazaar merchants who had wealth but no political clout extended unequivocal support and funding to sectarian Sunni organizations such as Sipah-e Sahaba and its offshoot Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LJ).”
“Like most militant struggles,” Kamran says, “the anti-Shi‘a campaign of the SSP thrived on bloodshed. Sectarian killing began with the murders of Ehsan Ellahi Zaheer in 1987 and Tehreek Nifaz-e Fiqh Jafariya Pakistan (TNFJ) leader Allama Arif ul-Husseini in 1988. On February 22, 1990, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the SSP’s founder, was killed in a retaliatory bomb attack. Following Haq Nawaz’s death, his successors used the cult of the martyr — around which, ironically, Shi‘a theological discourse is structured — to enhance the SSP’s electoral standing and its renown. Scores of martyrs and ongoing sectarian strife afforded the SSP ‘functional utility’ that contributed immensely to perpetuating its hold.
“The SSP’s rhetoric always had been aggressive,” Kamran continues, “but following Haq Nawaz’s death, its deeds matched its words. In 1996, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi emerged as an armed offshoot of SSP. Militancy not only intimidated Shi‘ites, but also increased the SSP’s electoral support. From the outset, the SSP leadership sought influence in the National Assembly in order to amend the Constitution and create a Sunnification of the Pakistani state.
“The SSP expanded beyond its roots in sectarian rivalries and biraderi (brotherhood) politics in Jhang. It organized itself remarkably well at the district and tehsil level. According to one estimate, by the time that the SSP was outlawed in January 2002, it controlled 74 district- and 225 tehsil-level units. In addition, the SSP ran 17 foreign branches, in countries that included Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Canada, and the U.K. With its 6,000 trained and professional cadres and 100,000 registered workers, the SSP was the best-organized Islamic party in Pakistan after Jamaat-e Islami.
“The SSP’s growing influence was accompanied by an association with violence. While Jhang was the scene of many sectarian killings, they spread to other areas of Punjab and beyond. Although the SSP attempted to distance itself from the activities of its armed offshoot, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, this was never done convincingly. The LJ had links with ‘international terrorist’ movements, which led then-President Pervez Musharraf to ban it and the SSP. The ban merely drove supporters of the SSP and LJ underground.”
THE INDIA FACTOR: KEEPING KASHMIR IN FOCUS
There is yet another factor in the Islamisation process. And it is the existence of India. Once upon a time, decades ago, in order to wrest the helm of power, the Pakistani military went about ruthlessly undermining the nation’s nascent political system and staked its existence and future on the Kashmir dispute with India. From Ayub Khan in the 1950s to Pervez Musharraf in the post-9/11 days, Pakistan has followed the same refrain: the Pakistani military must remain in power instead of the untrustworthy Pakistani political leaders because it is dedicated to countering India’s inherent design to destroy Pakistan.
That argument suited both the Pakistani military and its foreign supporters, such as London and Riyadh, which wanted this dispute to continue in order to undermine India and control the weak Pakistani establishment. While the British objective was to create an independent Kashmir, independent of both India and Pakistan, the Saudi objective was to spread Wahhabism, the kingdom’s state religion. Through one military coup after another, the dispute over Kashmir was put forth by Islamabad to the hapless Pakistani citizenry as the compelling rationale for the unending military rule.
At the same time, following the resounding Pakistani military defeat in 1971–1972 in what is now Bangladesh, when more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers ended up in Indian POW camps, Islamabad came to realise that a military victory over India to gain control of disputed Kashmir was well-nigh impossible.
Years before the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan in 1989, and the subsequent American disengagement from that country, Pakistan’s president Zia ul-Haq had come to realise that an armed conflict with India to annex Kashmir was a nonstarter. After three wars with India, despite what London said or the amount of arms Washington sold to Pakistan, it finally dawned on Rawalpindi that the Indian military is fully capable of crippling its Pakistani counterpart. At that point, Zia concluded that the cheapest and the most convenient way to “bleed” India was to incite a resurgence of Islamist jihadis, especially in the Indian-held part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the mid-1980s, when the Soviet army was still in Afghanistan, it was General Zia ul-Haq, with the help of his Islamist military officers and various Sunni terrorist groups, who unleashed a well-organised operation to infiltrate India and promote religious extremism inside it. More important than annexing Kashmir, Zia’s aim was to reinvigorate “anti-India nationalism” in Pakistan. The first target was the Indian part of Punjab, bordering J&K, where the Khalistani movement was launched using Sikh religious fanatics and some disgruntled locals.
Meanwhile, though the violence in the India-held part of Jammu and Kashmir made the headlines, violence also occurred in the Pakistan-held part. The Pakistan side, which had been broken up into Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas, was largely inhabited by Shias. In 1948, Shias and Ismailis, two of the many branches of the Shiite hierarchy, constituted 95 percent of the population. Now, reports indicate that the Shias and Ismailis represent only 53 percent of the population there and that the Wahhabis now constitute 42 percent. In other words, to facilitate his operation to “bleed” India, Zia unleashed a violent anti-Shia movement on the Pakistani side to bring in the Sunnis, with their Wahhabi-like orthodoxy and their virulent anti-India zeal.
At a seminar in New Delhi in 1999, Indian security analyst Major General Afsir Karim pointed out that the covert campaign to introduce fundamentalist Islam in Kashmir was designed to alienate Kashmiri Muslims and create a communal divide between Hindus and Muslims. Muslims were urged to overthrow the regime and demand separation from India. All material and military assistance was provided to Kashmiri militants by Pakistan. As a result, over the years, intimidated Kashmiri Hindus have left the valley en masse, making the valley almost 100 percent Muslim-inhabited today.
Under the influence of Pakistan’s only national institution—the army—the Pakistani elite tolerated this approach for a number of reasons. To begin with, the 1972 separation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, was widely acclaimed within Pakistan as the handiwork of India. Any effort to take over the Muslim-majority Kashmir from India is, therefore, considered a valid retaliatory action. In addition, democratic forces within Pakistan failed to gain traction and remained submissive to the armed forces because the raison d’être for the power of the Pakistani military was the projected threat from India to dismember the country. If Pakistan had abandoned its “bleed India” policy then and put a halt to supporting the anti-India terrorists and other dissidents, it is not altogether unlikely that India would have pulled a majority of its troops from the Pakistan border, thus reducing the threat of an Indian attack. That would, no doubt, have undermined the Pakistan army’s claim that it should be in control of Islamabad.
Over the years, the myth of a potential Indian invasion has been created through a sustained campaign and accepted as a self-evident truth by the Pakistani citizenry. In the forefront of the campaign is the Pakistan military, backed by London and Riyadh, and often by a few in Washington, as well. According to this myth, resolution of the Kashmir dispute is the only way to usher in a durable peace between India and Pakistan. The fact remains, however, that while a judicious resolution of the Kashmir dispute, brought about by Islamabad and New Delhi in collaboration with Kashmiris residing on both sides of the disputed Line of Control, would certainly help the Kashmiri Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists who have resided in J&K for decades, it would do little to improve India-Pakistan relations.
This is because the terrorist-fundamentalist projects nurtured by the Saudi-funded orthodox Sunni Pakistani military officers to “bleed” India and to wage sectarian war against the minority Shias, though ostensibly conducted to gain a tactical advantage in dealing with India and the region, have “blown back” on Pakistan itself in the form, among other things, of further Islamisation of the military and the creation of what is virtually a state of civil war within the country.
THE DIRECT SAUDI ROLE
Under the watchful eyes of both Britain and the United States, the Saudi-Pakistan transactional relationship goes back more than four decades. From the outset, the transactional part of the relationship revolved around Pakistan providing physical security to the Saudi royal household and the Emirates and, in return, oil-rich Riyadh supplying Pakistan with cash and cheaper oil. Later, the Saudis extended their part of the deal by financing new mosques and thousands of madrassas in Pakistan, where the Saudi Arabia’s national religion, Wahhabism, was spread.
By supporting this Saudi-Pakistan arrangement, both Britain and the United States were serving their own geopolitical interests. To begin with, both Britain and the United States maintained a strong form of hostility toward Shia Iran. Other than Saudi Arabia, no other nation was as appreciative of the Western nations’ animosity to Muslim Iran. Also, both Britain and the United States, among other Western nations, were hell-bent on dismantling the “Godless” Soviet Union. This obsession was exploited to the hilt by the Islamic nations, particularly Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The enormous international diplomatic boost that both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoyed in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was an indicator of the Saudi-Pakistan transactional relationship. Throughout the 1980s, when Pakistan was flooded by jihadis, criminals from Arabia, Maghreb Africa and elsewhere, arms from the West and money from Arabia flooded Pakistan. It was also the decade when professional Pakistani military officers began close working relations with the criminals and jihadis battling the Soviets to achieve what the Western countries, and some of the Islamic nations, wanted.
In an article “Wahabization-Salafization of Pakistan and the Muslim World,” posted on www.islamicsupremecounci.com on 23 October 2009, Abul Hasaan, gives a clear picture of the steady growth of the Salafis in Pakistan. Beginning in the early 1970s, a large number of Pakistanis started going to Saudi Arabia as contract labourers. However, during the reign of General Zia ul-Haq, Salafism/Wahhabism started penetrating the armed forces of Pakistan. At that time, the Afghan jihad had begun. With the American weapons and Saudi petrodollars, the Salafi/Wahhabi ideology indoctrinated the minds of hundreds of Muslims, Hasaan says.
There is a long history of security relations between Pakistan and several Arab countries. For instance, in 1969, a Pakistani military training mission was sent to Jordan to assess the state of Jordanian forces in the aftermath of their 1967 defeat in the war against Israel and train them. Pakistani military officers from different departments (e.g., infantry, armour and artillery) of the army and air force were part of this mission. While the Pakistani officers were training their Jordanian counterparts, simmering tensions between Jordanians and Palestinians broke open. This resulted in a September 1970 showdown when King Hussain ordered Jordanian forces to stop the Jordan-based Palestinians from overthrowing the Hashemite kingdom. There were reports circulated by Palestinian sympathisers indicating that Pakistani troops had helped Jordanian forces to quell that uprising.
At about the same time, a number of Pakistan army and air force personnel were deputed to several countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. A much smaller number of naval officers also served in the UAE, training local naval forces. The main role of the Pakistani officers was in training local security forces, although they also manned complicated equipment such as radars.
As Abul Hasaan points out, the Pakistani army and air force personnel had also trained Saudi forces in the 1970s and the 1980s. “The Iran-Iraq war changed the Saudi security environment, and both countries started to negotiate about limited Pakistani troop deployment. After prolonged negotiations, it was agreed to deploy a limited Pakistani contingent on Saudi soil. The delay in negotiations was partly due to differences among Saudi decision makers. Debate among Saudis was on the issues of a larger foreign contingent (about two-division strength), expansion of the Saudi army, and the balance between the army and the Saudi Arabian National Guards (SANG). Finally, a negotiated middle ground agreed on a much smaller foreign contingent that consisted of only a reinforced brigade-strength,” reports Hasaan.
“In 1982, a formal agreement was signed and the Saudi Pakistan Armed Forces Organization (SPAFO) headquarters was established at Riyadh. Pakistani troops were stationed at Tabuk and Khamis Mushayet. An armored brigade group was stationed at Tabuk from 1982 to 1988. It was a complete formation deputed for three years, and two brigades rotated in 1982-1985 and 1985-1988. Initially, Major General Shamsur Rahman Kallu (later Lieutenant General) was appointed to the SPFAO headquarters, but he never took charge, and the contingent was headed by a Brigadier-rank officer. The first commander was Brigadier Mehboob Alam (later Major General), who served from 1982-1985, and under him Colonel (later Brigadier) Saeed Ismat served as GSO-1Operations and Training. From 1985 to 1988, the Pakistani armored brigade was commanded by Brigadier Jahangir Karamat (later General and Pakistan army Chief).” By the time the 1990s rolled in, Hasaan notes, protection by Pakistani troops became redundant in view of the presence of a large number of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1993.
According to Hasaan, the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed a close relationship for more than two decades. During and in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the main focus of cooperation shifted to dealing with the Arab extremists and Saudi militants who shuttled between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But details of this cooperation were kept largely under wraps.
In addition, many Pakistanis, among other foreigners, served in Bahrain’s police, National Guard and armed forces. Recently in Bahrain, when large-scale protests against the ruling Sunni dynasty in a Shia-majority nation broke open, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, approved the dispatch of some 4,000 soldiers, mostly from Saudi Arabia, to Bahrain. Bahraini foreign minister, Khalid Bin Ahmed al Khalifa, visited Islamabad in March 2011, and the commander of Bahrain’s National Guards, Lieutenant General Sheikh Mohammad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, visited Pakistan in December 2010 and June 2011. Defence cooperation between the two countries was the main subject during the talks. According to Abul Hasaan, no exact data is available, but some estimate that a few thousand Pakistanis are now serving in Bahrain’s police, National Guards and armed forces. A small Pakistani contingent (about the strength of a battalion) was already serving in Bahrain long before the protests started.
Beyond the security cooperation, Hasaan provides a picture of the growing impact of Saudi money in changing the religious/social face of Pakistan. Until the late 1970s, in Sind, Punjab and Azad Kashmir, 70 percent of the mosques belonged to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t (Sufis), 21 percent belonged to the Deobandi sect, 7 percent belonged to the Shias, and just 1 percent belonged to the Salafis. The rest were of other Islamic sects. In Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, 52 percent of the mosques belonged to the Deobandi sect, 40 percent belonged to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 6 percent belonged to the Shias, 1 percent belonged to the Salafis, and the rest belonged to other sects.
“The demography of mosques within Pakistan has changed significantly since then,” Hasaan explains. “Currently, in Sind, Punjab, and Azad Kashmir, more than 55 percent of the mosques belong to the Deobandi, 30 percent belong to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 6 percent belong to Salafis, and 8 percent belong to the Shi’a. In the Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, 60 percent of the mosques belong to the Deobandi, 20 percent belong to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 10 percent belong to Salafis, 8 percent belong to Shi’a and the rest belong to others.
“Until the late 1970s, the mosques located at the armed forces bases (i.e., Army, Air Force and Navy) were 90 percent Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t (Sufi), 8 percent Deobandi, and 0 percent Salafi. Currently, 85 percent of the mosques are Deobandi or Salafi, and less than 10 percent are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t,” states Hasaan. “This dramatic shift in mosque affiliations occurred due to the huge financial backing by the Wahhabi/Salafi organizations, the Government of Saudi Arabia and escalated propaganda by the Saudi government institutions against the beliefs of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t. When Muslims go to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage, they are brainwashed by the employees of the Saudi government, who openly preach and force Wahhabi/Salafi beliefs on pilgrims. They spend millions of dollars on the distribution of Salafi/Wahhabi literature around the globe.”
BRINGING THE TALIBAN TO POWER
By conducting a proxy-war on behalf of the Western nations and Saudi Arabia against the Soviet military, Pakistan morphed into a central hub that attracted a multitude of Islamists from Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, China and Indonesia. But “Jihadistan,” as Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics who teaches in Lahore and Islamabad, described it in “Pakistan’s Army: Divided It Stands” (Viewpoint Online, 2 September 2011), is now a hugely messy place, not the bastion of anticommunism and antiatheism that it once was. Even those workers who helped to create it—like the famous Colonel Imam and Major Khalid Khwaja—ended up losing their lives, he points out.
These developments, laid out in depth by Abul Hasaan, were a major ingredient in bringing the Taliban, indoctrinated with the Wahhabi version of Islam, to power in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. During the 1980s, the United States and Saudi Arabia reportedly poured $7.2 billion of covert aid into the jihad against the Soviets, the vast majority of which was channelled by the ISI to the most radical religious elements. After the Soviets withdrew, returning commanders, mujahideen groups and common criminals fought for control of Afghanistan.
In 1994, when it had become evident to Islamabad and the ISI that the anarchy in Afghanistan was counter-productive to their design to secure Afghanistan as “strategic depth,” they formed the Taliban. During the Afghan-Soviet war, a network of madrassas funded by Saudi Arabia sprang up near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. These schools served a strategic purpose: students were indoctrinated with a militant religious ideology designed to make them more fervent in the fight against the Soviets. It was in this network of schools that the Taliban was born.
ISI supported the Taliban largely because the government in Kabul had historically been hostile to Pakistan and Pakistan wanted its northern neighbour to be an ally. The Taliban’s fundamentalist religious ideology was a primary factor in convincing Pakistani planners that the group could serve as their proxy, thus providing the sought-for “strategic depth.” At the same time, the ideological reasons for the ISI’s support for the Taliban were also significant: militant Islamic ideology within Pakistan’s military and ISI had increased significantly over time.
The Taliban’s power grew rapidly in Afghanistan because they were effective fighters and they promised an alternative, albeit a ruthless one, to the prevailing lawlessness. Within two years of the group’s founding, it captured both Kandahar and Kabul. In doing so, the Taliban was aided by the Pakistan army and the ISI. “The ISI helped the Taliban take the key cities of Jalalabad and the capital, Kabul,” the Christian Science Monitor reported (Marquand and Baldauf, “Will Spies Who Know Tell the U.S.?” 3 October 2001), “and continued to back them as they secured about 95 percent of Afghanistan.” U.S. News and World Report (Schaffer, “The Unseen Power,” 4 November 2001) further explained the close working relationship between the ISI and the Taliban: “ISI operatives permeated the regime, helping uneducated Taliban leaders with everything from fighting the opposition Northern Alliance to more mundane tasks like translating international documents.”
Beginning from a minor local movement in Kandahar Province in 1994 that had few weapons and little money, with the help of massive covert Pakistani financial and military support, the Taliban rose to power and took over Kabul in 1996. By then hosting Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, the Taliban became an integral part of the Sunni fundamentalist establishment and its international networks, and Afghanistan became a place where extremists from around the world could meet safely, share ideas, develop strategies and receive training. Moreover, Pakistani extremist groups functioned as umbrella organisations for other international terror groups that sought shelter in Afghanistan.
In “China, Pakistan, and the ‘Taliban Syndrome’”(Asian Survey 40, no. 4, July–August 2000), analyst M. Ehsan Ahrari calls this phenomenon the “Taliban syndrome”—the movement to create an Islamic order in Afghanistan based on a blend of strict observance of Islam from Saudi Arabia’s salafiyya (puritanical) tradition. The Islamic forces of Pakistan created and nurtured this syndrome in the madrassas where the Taliban (“students” in Farsi) from Afghanistan received their education. Since the chief thrust of this education is on Islam and the need for jihad (holy war) to establish an Islamic government, the Taliban members become firm believers and fervent practitioners of this training. The “Taliban syndrome” also refers to the role of radical Islamists in the domestic and foreign policy of Pakistan and other contiguous states. Since this syndrome recognises no borders, it zealously seeks to establish an Islamic form of government anywhere in the region, Ansari notes.
THE JIHADI PRESENCE TODAY
The evidence of a significant jihadi presence in the Pakistan military is widespread. Some recent evidence of Pakistani military officers’ involvement with jihadis has been documented by Tufail Ahmad, director of the Middle East Media Research Institute’s South Asia Studies Project, in the Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 727, “Pakistani Military Officers’ Links with Jihadist Organizations,” issued in August 2011. The following are some highlights from that report.
Two former officers of the Pakistan military’s ISI, Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam—who nurtured a generation of the Taliban—were kidnapped and killed by the Taliban in 2010 and 2011, denoting the emergence of an ideologically committed and younger generation of militants who no longer accept instructions from the ISI.
The ISI, which has come under international scrutiny for its longstanding role in creating and nurturing militant groups, does not officially admit any wrongdoing by its agents. However, its role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks became the subject of court investigations in two cases in the U.S.—the Chicago plot led by David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana and a case brought before a New York court by relatives of U.S. citizens killed in the Mumbai attacks.
In a rare instance, the current ISI chief, Lieutenant General Shuja Ahmed Pasha, who was summoned by the New York court, admitted during a conversation with the then CIA director Michael Hayden that at least two “former” Pakistan army officers with links to the ISI were involved in the 26 November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, according to journalist Bob Woodward in his book Obama’s Wars (Simon and Schuster, 2010).
In mid-August 2011, Pakistani media reports revealed that a military court sentenced to death a “former” soldier over the 10 October 2009 terror attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan army in Rawalpindi. The soldier was identified as Mohammad Aqeel, aka Dr. Usman, who served in the medical corps of the Pakistan army. Imran Siddiq, another member of the Pakistan military, was jailed for life, along with others. Dr. Usman was reported to have links with terrorist groups Jaish-e-Muhammad and Harkat-ul-Ansar.
In June 2011, in perhaps the first such case, the Pakistan army confirmed the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan, one of its brigadiers posted at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Over his alleged ties with Hizbut Tahrir, Ali was arrested on 6 May, just four days after the 2 May 2011 killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Hizbut Tahrir has been proactively seeking to recruit Pakistani soldiers in its mission to engineer a Pakistani military-led Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
After the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan, the Pakistan army also arrested four military officers. Major General Athar Abbas, spokesman of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department, confirmed their arrests, stating that four army majors were detained for their links with Hizbut Tahrir. The four majors were not believed to be deployed at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Later, a former military official, Brigadier (retd.) Shaukat Qadir, told a journalist that the Pakistan military was undecided on whether to commit Brigadier Ali Khan and the four majors to a military trial or dismiss them from service.
In May 2011, Pakistan detained a former commando of the Pakistan navy and his brother in connection with the 22 May 2011 terror attack on PNS Mehran, the main airbase of the Pakistan navy in Karachi. The former commando was identified as Kamran Ahmed, who had reportedly been sacked from the Pakistan navy 10 years ago.
In August 2011, a Pakistani newspaper reported that three officers of the Pakistan navy were to be tried by a military court in connection with the PNS Mehran terror attack, reportedly for their negligence. The three were identified as PNS Mehran base commander Commodore Raja Tahir and his subordinates.
In May 2011, whistleblower website WikiLeaks revealed a March 2006 cable sent by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad to Washington, which quoted Pakistan’s then deputy chief of Air Staff for Operations Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry as saying that airmen of the Pakistan air force (PAF) were sabotaging Pakistani F-16s deployed in security operations against the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal region.
Generally, F-16 aircraft are used in wars, not in counter-terrorism operations. But the same U.S. embassy cable confirmed that Pakistan does use the F-16s in counter-terrorism operations in the Pakistani tribal region. According to the cable, Air Vice Marshal Chaudhry claimed “to receive reports monthly of acts of petty sabotage, which he interpreted as an effort by Islamists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent PAF aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations . . .”
In May 2010, Air Vice Marshal (retd.) Baharul Haq was taken into preventive custody by the intelligence agencies in Pakistan, just days after his son Faisal Shahzad carried out a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square. The inference is not that Baharul Haq had links with terrorist organisations but that his detention in the town of Hasan Abdal, carried out reportedly to prevent him from speaking to the media, reveals the reach of Pakistani militants to the highest levels in the Pakistani military.
Ahsanul Haq, a former major of the Pakistan army, who trained militants for war in Afghanistan and Kashmir, was arrested over alleged links to the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad but was later released. Haq told a journalist that during his arrest for five months in 2007, he was “treated like a VIP” by the ISI. A Pakistani police report on the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team found that Haq “gave logistical support to unspecified Taliban and other fighters.”
Senior police investigator Zulfikar Hameed said that the police force reported its suspicions to the ISI, which told him that the major was not involved in the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers and that, therefore, Haq was no longer wanted by the police. Haq is now aligned with the Tablighi Jamaat, a revivalist Islamist movement.
In the months after the 2003 assassination attempts on Pakistan army chief and president General Pervez Musharraf, at least 57 employees of the PAF were arrested by Pakistani authorities on charges of contact with terrorists and involvement in antistate activities.
The website of the Pakistani daily The Nation noted that six Pakistani military officials were sentenced to death, adding: “Six officials, including Khalid Mehmood, Karam Din, Nawazish, Niaz, Adnan, and Nasrullah were sentenced to death, while 24 were arrested and dismissed from service for opposing [anti-terror] policies of the then-President [Pervez] Musharraf and his government.”
“The arrested, accused, and the convicts had been working at various airbases, including Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, Minhas Airbase, Sargodha Airbase, Lahore Airbase, Faisal Airbase, and Mianwali Airbase,” the report said, adding that 26 of the 57 officials were sentenced to 3 to 17 years of imprisonment by a military court.
David Headley and Tahawwur Husain Rana—who are jailed in the U.S. over an international terror plot involving Denmark and the 26 November 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai—are both graduates of a military academy based in the Pakistani town of Hasan Abdal. David Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani, is a Pakistani American and Tahawwur Husain Rana is a Pakistani Canadian.
After the arrest of Headley and Rana in Chicago, pressure mounted on Pakistan over the involvement of the Pakistani military’s ISI in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In the summer of 2009, the Pakistan military reportedly arrested five people, including “some former or current Pakistani military officials.” The former Pakistani military graduates were also accused in the U.S. prosecution complaints of reporting to Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda commander.
In July 2010, based on the information revealed by David Headley to the U.S. authorities in Chicago, a court in New Delhi issued nonbailable arrest warrants against two serving officers of the Pakistan army and three LeT commanders. The two Pakistan army officers were identified as Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali. The arrest warrants were sought for Interpol to issue red corner notices for their arrest in connection with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks case. The Indian government has named at least five “serving” members of the Pakistani armed forces—Major Sajid Majid, Major Iqbal, Major Sameer Ali, Sayed Abdul Rehman (aka Pasha), and Abu Hamza—for their role in the Mumbai terror attacks.
In May 2009, Colonel Shahid Bashir, commanding officer of the Shamsi air force base in Baluchistan, was arrested by military police for his links with Hizbut Tahrir. Along with him, two others arrested included retired Pakistan air force fighter pilot squadron leader turned lawyer Nadeem Ahmad Shah and a U.S.-educated mechanical engineer and visa holder, Awais Ali Khan. According to a Pakistani media report, Colonel Shahid Bashir was court-martialed on charges of spying and provoking Pakistani armed forces personnel to get involved in terrorist acts.
In July 2010, Pakistan’s independent television channel Dawn TV broadcast an investigative report revealing that Jundallah, a Sunni jihadist organisation, was formed in 2000 by two officers of the Pakistan army at a military camp in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. Dawn TV reported: “Two [Pakistan] Army junior officers laid the foundation of the terrorist organization named Jundallah within the military, in February 2000 at the Quetta military camp. After the foundation of Jundallah, i.e. ‘the Army of Allah,’ the two officials declared jihad to be their organization’s prime objective, and also started propagating their militant ideology. “According to Dawn News investigations, 30 officers from different Pakistani Army units based in the Quetta military camp soon joined Jundallah, after being impressed by the jihad ideology. Written orders, with preparations for jihad at the top, were circulated to the members of the organization after they took an oath for jihad on the Holy Koran. Meanwhile, the work of collecting donations from different units [of the Pakistan Army] was also taken up, for various necessities and for publishing jihadist literature. Parts of these donations were being provided to the Afghan Taliban. To spread the activities of Jundallah throughout other departments of the army, some army officers who were members of the group allied with junior officials of the [Pakistan] Air Force deployed at the PAF Base Samungli (near Quetta). This group planned assassination attempts on two occasions against Gen. (Ret.) Pervez Musharraf, along with the 2003 attack at Jacobabad Airbase.”
Ilyas Kashmiri, whose death in a 2011 U.S. missile attack still remains to be confirmed, founded Brigade 313, later an operational arm of al-Qaeda, within his jihadist organisation Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI). After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Ilyas Kashmiri formed a new terror group called Lashkar-e-Osama to avenge the death of the al-Qaeda leader. Ilyas Kashmiri was a commando of Pakistan’s Special Service Group (SSG) and was once rewarded by General Pervez Musharraf as a hero for a terror attack in Indian Kashmir.
In October 2006, the Pakistan military foiled a coup attempt against Pakistani president and army chief General Pervez Musharraf, resulting in the arrest of 40 people. Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad reported: “Most of those arrested are mid-ranking Pakistan Air Force officers, while civilian arrests include the son of a serving brigadier in the army. All of those arrested are Islamists . . .”
In August 2003, a Lahore-based newspaper revealed that 12 Pakistan army officers and lower-ranked noncommissioned personnel were detained for their links with the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami militants. Those arrested while waging jihad in Afghanistan included a Pakistan army major and his three subordinates. The Pakistani soldiers were arrested in 2003 in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, a hub of terror activities by the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami. Following their arrests, they were handed over to the FBI in the United States. The FBI officers later brought them to the Shahbaz airbase in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, where the Pakistani soldiers were handed over to the Pakistan army.
In September 2006, a full bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the death sentence for 12 people found guilty of involvement in two assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf in 2003. The 12 convicts were Khalid Mehmood, Nawazish Ali, Niaz Muhammad and Adnan Rasheed (personnel of the PAF); Arshad Hussain (lance naik); and Rashid Qureshi, Ikhlas Ahmad, Ghulam Sarwar Bhatti, Zubair Ahmad, Rana Naveed Ahmad, Aamir Suhail and Mushtaq Ahmad (civilians).
On November 19, 2008, Major General (retd.) Ameer Faisal Alavi, who had served in the SSG of the Pakistan army, was shot dead in Islamabad by unidentified gunmen for opposing the Pakistan army’s peace agreements with the Taliban.
British journalist Carey Schofield reported: “The brother-in-law [Ameer Faisal Alavi] of VS Naipaul, the British novelist and Nobel laureate, was murdered . . . after threatening to expose Pakistani army generals who had made deals with Taliban militants. Major General Faisal Alavi, a former head of Pakistan’s Special Forces, whose sister Nadira is Lady Naipaul, named two generals in a letter to the head of the army. He warned that he would ‘furnish all relevant proof.’ Aware that he was risking his life, he gave a copy to me and asked me to publish it if he was killed.”
In 2011, Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 investigated the penetration of al-Qaeda inside the Pakistan military, noting that Captain Khurram Ashiq of the Pakistan army and his brother Major Haroon Ashiq and their special forces colleague Major Abdul Rahman were key al-Qaeda players. Captain Khurram Ashiq, who was an assault commander of the SSG, his brother Major Haroon Ashiq and later Major Abdul Rahman quit service and joined LeT.
The book by Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was later picked up allegedly by Pakistani intelligence agents and killed, also revealed that Major Haroon Ashiq developed a “mortar gun of a type available only to some of the world’s most advanced military forces” when fighting alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal region. He also developed a silencer for the AK-47, which “became an essential component of Al-Qaeda’s special guerrilla operations.”
According to the book, Major Haroon Ashiq later visited China to procure night-vision goggles. Shahzad writes: “The biggest task was to clear them through the customs in Pakistan. Haroon called on his friend Captain Farooq, who was President Musharraf’s security officer. Farooq went to the airport in the president’s official car and received Haroon at the immigration counter. In the presence of Farooq, nobody dared touch Haroon’s luggage, and the night vision glasses arrived in Pakistan without any hassle.” Captain Farooq was a member of Hizbut Tahrir, a fact discovered by Pakistani intelligence nine months after his posting as General Musharraf’s security officer, the book notes.
A report dated 28 January 2002 and written by American investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh, noted that Pakistani soldiers were detained in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province while waging jihad against U.S. troops. On 25 November 2001, when Kunduz fell to the anti-Taliban forces, nearly 4,000 militants were captured, among them Pakistan army officers, intelligence advisers and volunteers who were fighting alongside the Taliban. According to the report, the White House authorised the U.S. military to establish air corridors at the request of the Pakistan military for Pakistani aircraft to rescue the soldiers, among them two Pakistani generals.
In 2002, a Pakistan army officer took leave and went to wage jihad in Afghanistan according to a Pakistani media report. The Friday Times (Lahore) reported “the case of a serving officer who had taken leave and gone to Afghanistan to fight the jihad.” This officer was reported to have said that there were also other officers in Afghanistan who had chosen to fight alongside the Taliban.
In September 1995, a couple of Pakistan army officers, including a major general and a brigadier, were arrested for planning a takeover of army headquarters and the civilian government to establish a strict Islamic political system in Pakistan, according to a report in the newspaper Daily Times. The Lahore-based newspaper added: “Some Islamic parties supported their cause when they were put on trial and convicted, accusing the government of targeting Islamic elements in the army.”
ARMY-ONE AND ARMY-TWO?
Over the years, the Pakistan army had been regarded as a well-disciplined and well-trained outfit that relied entirely on voluntary recruitment. Pakistani citizens have shown great respect, even admiration, for its soldiers and officers. A large number of young men used to sign up routinely for service in the army as officers or soldiers, following family or tribal traditions. Since the Pakistani military has been in power for most of that nation’s existence, a military career also ensured upward social and economic mobility. The adversities that the Pakistani military has encountered in various battles were attributed to the failure of its leaders, and not to the lack of professionalism or skill of the soldiers.
A recent article ”Pakistan’s General Problem,” in the magazine Open (10 June 2011), tells a typical story: “In 1999, two days after the Pakistan Army embarked on its Kargil misadventure, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed gave a ‘crisp and to the point’ briefing to a group of senior Army and Air Force officers. Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail, who attended the meeting, later wrote that they were told that it was nothing more than a defensive manoeuvre and the Indian Air Force will not get involved at any stage. ‘Come October, we shall walk into Siachen — to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,’ General Mahmud told the meeting. Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Commodore Abid Rao to famously quip, ‘After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!’ as we walked out of the briefing room,’ Air Commodore Tufail recalled in an essay.’”
Hanif explains, “The infiltration of jihadis, who are unprofessional and other-directed, will pose a serious challenge in the military itself. The military has developed other problems. It works hand-in-glove with the Americans and NATO troops in warding off the jihadis, but at the same time, they cater to the needs of these jihadis. This has pitched a section of the military against its own people, and that creates a serious dilemma within the rank and file. There are also reports that the army is much more poorly trained and equipped than it was decades ago.”
As Hanif also points out, the Pakistan military’s “biggest folly has been that under Zia it started outsourcing its basic job — soldiering — to these freelance militants. By blurring the line between a professional soldier — who, at least in theory, is always required to obey his officer, who in turn is governed by a set of law — and a mujahid, who can pick and choose his cause and his commander depending on his mood, the Pakistan Army has caused immense confusion in its own ranks. Our soldiers are taught to shout ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ when mocking an attack. In real life, they are ambushed by enemies who shout ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ even louder. Can we blame them if they dither in their response? When the Pakistan Navy’s main aviation base in Karachi, PNS Mehran, was attacked, Navy Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir told us that the attackers were ‘very well trained.’ We weren’t sure if he was giving us a lazy excuse or admiring the creation of his institution. When naval officials told journalists that the attackers were ‘as good as our own commandoes,’ were they giving themselves a backhanded compliment?”
Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist, who believes the army is getting weaker, attributes the weakening to the rise of jihadis within the armed forces and other drawbacks. His observations are trenchant and worth quoting at length: “The problem is not the lack of materiel — guns, bombs, men, and money. These have relatively easy fixes. Instead it is the military’s diminished moral power and authority, absence of charismatic leadership, and visibly evident accumulation of property and wealth. More than anything else, the Army has sought to please both the Americans as well as their enemies. Recent revelations have brought this contradiction into stark relief.
“Officially, the Army condemns drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which became no-go areas shortly after 9/11 after a massive cross-border influx of Mullah Omar’s Taliban. But ordinary Pakistanis have long suspected the sincerity of these routine condemnations. Drone bases are located at many places inside Pakistan, like Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan. UAV’s are slow-moving targets, easily destroyed by supersonic fighter aircraft, or perhaps by ground-to-air missiles if supplied secretly to the Taliban. Their unhindered operation smelled of collusion and complicity. WikiLeaked documents, recently obtained by Dawn newspaper, confirmed this.
“Islam created Pakistan, but it now divides Pakistan. Fuelled by ideological passions, diverse social and religious Muslim formations have developed in different parts of the country. They often have divergent goals, and are often pathologically violent. Some target the American empire, and are hence attractive for Al-Qaeda–type groups. Others have less ambitious goals. Several focus on ‘liberating’ Kashmir. Still others, such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, would like to eliminate the Pakistani Shias. The Khatm-e-Nabuhat declares that it will physically exterminate the Qadianis, a sect that it considers heretical. Pakistan’s Christian, Hindu, and other religious minorities cower in fear. The rich among them have mostly fled the country.
“Religion deeply divides the Pakistan military. Perhaps it might be more accurate to think of it as two militaries. The first is headed by Gen. Kayani. It seeks to maintain the status quo and the Army’s pre-eminence in making national decisions. The second is Allah’s army. This awaits a leader even as it launches attacks on Pakistani military installations, bases, top-level officers, soldiers, public places, mosques, and police stations. Soldiers have been encouraged to turn their guns on to their colleagues, troops have been tricked into ambushes, and high-level officers have been assassinated. Allah’s army hopes to launch its final blitzkrieg once the state of Pakistan has been sufficiently weakened by such attacks.
“What separates Army-One and ISI-One from Army-Two and ISI-Two? This may not be immediately evident. Both were reared on the Two-Nation Theory, the belief of Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah that Hindus and Muslims could never live together in peace. Both are thoroughly steeped in anti-Indianism since their early days in army cadet colleges at Petaro and Hasan Abdal. They also share a deep-rooted contempt for Pakistani civilians. This attitude has resulted in roughly half of Pakistan’s history being that of direct military rule.
“Still, they are not the same. The One’ers are ‘soft Islamists’ who are satisfied with a fuzzy belief that Islam provides solutions to everything, that occasional prayers and ritual fasting in Ramzan is sufficient, and that Sufis and Shias are bonafide Muslims rather than mushriks or apostates. They are not particularly interested in defending the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, or the GCC. But should a lucrative overseas posting come the way of an individual soldier or officer, well, that may be another matter. While having a dislike of U.S. policies, they are not militantly anti-U.S.
“Army-Two and ISI-Two, on the other hand, are soldier ideologues who have traveled further down the road of Islamism. Large numbers of them regularly travel to Raiwind, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, a supposedly non-political religious organization which has a global proselytizing mission and whose preachers are allowed open access into the army. The Two’ers are stricter in matters of religious rituals; they insist that officers and their wives be segregated at army functions. They keep an eye out for officers who secretly drink alcohol, and how often they pray. Their political philosophy is that Islam and the state should be inseparable. Inspired by Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, who preached that 7th-century Arab Islam provides a complete blueprint for society and politics, they see capturing state power as a means toward creating the ideal society along the lines of the medieval Medina state. Many Two’ers are beardless, hence hard to detect. They are fundamentally anti-science, but computer-savvy. For them, modern technology is a tool of battle.
“Like the proverbial ostrich, the One’ers fiercely defend the myth of army unity. They dismiss mutineers as isolated individuals. Mumtaz Qadri, the renegade bodyguard who murdered Punjab Governor Salman Taseer out of religious passion, is an inconvenient aberration to be dismissed from consideration. Today’s religious terrorism is trivialized as a passing threat notwithstanding the fact that it has claimed more Pakistani lives than lost in all wars with India. Instead, anger is reserved for those who state the obvious truth that Pakistan is in a state of civil war.”