Tag Archive for 'jihad'

Pakistan and India: A rivalry that threatens the world

In The Economist:

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks.

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks. More

 

Post-uprisings depression

In The Economist, a review of Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (PublicAffairs; 558 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £30) and Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad by Bruce Riedel (Brookings Institution Press; 180 pages; $24.95):

IT IS a shame that these books should be published at a time when the world is riveted by events in the Middle East. Pakistan’s population is more than half the size of the entire Arab world; for most of the past three decades it has been involved in a war with a superpower, first against it, and now on the same side as it; it suffers from an Islamic insurgency that has killed 30,000 people over the past four years; it is regarded by students of geopolitics as the most likely location of nuclear conflict; and the reasons why it does not work as a country are many and fascinating.

The trouble with Pakistan’s story is that the country is one rather depressing stage on from the Middle East. Its people have risen up bravely against autocrats (three times over, if you count only the generals, or four if, like some Pakistanis, you count Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as well) and had several unsuccessful attempts at democracy. So it ricochets between military and civilian governments, with a state that does not work very well but has not collapsed, and an insurgency that is not turning into a civil war but won’t go away. Unlike the Middle East, it is not full of hope.

Yet for drama, colour and complexity, the place is hard to beat; and Anatol Lieven captures the richness of the place wonderfully. His book has the virtues of both journalism and scholarship—not surprising, since Mr Lieven used to be a reporter for the Times and is now at King’s College, London. He has travelled extensively and talked widely, to generals, shopkeepers, farmers, lawyers and bureaucrats. More:

Al-Qaeda’s beauty tips

Julius Cavendish from Kabul in The Independent:

The cover of Al-Shamikha magazine

Not content with launching an English-language magazine that debuted with a feature called “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom”, al Qa’ida’s media wing has followed up with a magazine for women, mixing beauty tips with lessons in jihad.

The 31-page glossy, Al-Shamikha, which translates loosely as “The Majestic Woman”, features a niqab-clad woman posing with a sub-machine gun on its cover.

Much like Elle or Cosmopolitan, it includes advice on finding the right man (“marrying a mujahideen”), how to achieve a perfect complexion (stay inside with your face covered), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette.

Alongside sisterly advice such as “not [to] go out except when necessary” and to always wear a niqab for protection from the sun, the magazine runs interviews with martyr’s wives and praises those who give their lives in the name of the editors’ interpretation of Islam. “From martyrdom, the believer will gain security, safety and happiness,” it says.

For those readers not quite ready for such a drastic step, it argues the pros and cons of honey facemasks and lobbies against “towelling too forcibly”. More:

An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

Over time, then, the country’s nuclear bayonet has gained more than just deterrence value; it is a dream instrument for any ruling oligarchy. Unlike Napoleon’s bayonet – painful to sit upon – nukes offer no such discomfort. Unsurprisingly, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf often referred to them as Pakistan’s “crown jewels”. One recalls that immediately after 9/11 he declared these “assets” were to be protected at all costs — even if this meant accepting American demands to dump the Taliban.

But can our nukes lose their magic? Be stolen, rendered impotent or lose the charm through which they bring in precious revenue? More fundamentally, how and when could they fail to deter?

A turning point could possibly come with Mumbai-II. This is no idle speculation. The military establishment’s reluctance to clamp down on anti-India jihadi groups, or to punish those who carried out Mumbai-I, makes a second Pakistan-based attack simply a matter of time. Although not officially assisted or sanctioned, it would create fury in India. What then? How would India respond?

There cannot, of course, be a definite answer. But it is instructive to analyse Operation Parakram, India’s response to the attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. This 10-month-long mobilisation of nearly half a million soldiers and deployment of troops along the LOC was launched to punish Pakistan for harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which, at least initially, had claimed responsibility for the attack. When Parakram fizzled out, Pakistan claimed victory and India was left licking its wounds.

A seminar held in August 2003 in Delhi brought together senior Indian military leaders and top analysts to reflect on Parakram. To quote the main speaker, Major-General Ashok Mehta, the two countries hovered on the brink of war and India’s “coercive diplomacy failed due to the mismatch of India-US diplomacy and India’s failure to think through the end game”. The general gave several reasons for not going to war against Pakistan. These included a negative cost-benefit analysis, lack of enthusiasm in the Indian political establishment, complications arising from the Gujarat riots of 2002 and “a lack of courage”. That Parakram would have America’s unflinching support also turned out to be a false assumption. More:

Kashmir — lessons from a love story

Pradeep Thakur in The Times of India:

He was 22, tall and handsome. She was 27, bubbly, attractive and looking for a husband. When they first met — at their wedding in 1990 — Ashiq Hussain Faktoo was already one of Kashmir’s most wanted jihadis and a founder of the state’s largest militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen.

His bride, Asiya Andrabi, was also a household name. She headed the secessionist women’s group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat. Faktoo and Andrabi’s troubled union, scarred by almost continuous separation, might almost be the story of Kashmir’s turbulent relationship with India.

Andrabi became an activist in the cause of gender equality. She would exhort women to fight male domination by assembling at mosques — hitherto off-limits — for religious discourses. Then she changed course and began to fight for political, not gender “freedom”. Dukhtaran-e-Millat activists became undercover agents and a vital source of information for militants.

This was the moment Andrabi wanted to get married. There were many suitable boys, for she was attractive and wealthy and belonged to an upper-caste Saeed family. A biochemistry graduate from Kashmir University, Andrabi shelved plans for a postgraduate course at Dalhousie.

Faktoo was five years her junior and fascinated by tales of Andrabi’s exploits. From deep within his hiding place in the forests of north Kashmir, Faktoo proposed marriage. She agreed. She was keen to marry into the jihadi cause. The nikah was scheduled at a rented house in Baspora near Faktoo’s hideout. More:

By bread alone

Some Pakistanis have begun blaming Afghan immigrants for bringing “their” war into Pakistan—one Afghan baker’s story of harassment, corruption, and exile. J. Malcolm Garcia at Guernica:

The baker sits cross-legged on the flour-dusted floor. His store-front bakery overlooks a narrow pitted street where taxi drivers sleep. Their sandaled feet stick out open car windows, before they rouse themselves and drive into downtown Islamabad seeking fares.

Near the baker, a boy beats mounds of pasty dough into flat circles. Then he slaps the dough against the flame-seared walls of a clay-brick oven. He wipes his hands on stained aprons hanging on the wall. The aroma of baking bread rises invisibly around us lingering even as it must compete with odors already circulating on the awakening street: dew-damp garbage piles warming under the rising sun an hour past dawn, diesel exhaust from lumbering trucks jouncing down the pitted road, panicked chickens carried upside down by their legs and carried to a market by small barefoot boys.

I lean against the wall and watch the increasing commotion of the street. I have been in Islamabad for nearly four weeks on a freelance reporting assignment covering the rise in violence from jihadi groups opposed to the government’s alliance with the U.S. and its war on terror.

But every morning before I begin making my rounds to the various ministries for news updates and press conferences, before I once again negotiate the countless bureaucratic hurdles required to see minister so and so, I walk one block from my guest house to this bakery for bread and a cup of tea. An hour or so later, I return to my guest house, check my email for messages from my Washington-based editor and then wait for my driver. More:

Tales from the Taliban

For nearly five brutal years, Ijaz fought in the Pakistan Taliban. Under a pseudonym, the former militant tells Rebecca Conway in The National about his life as a Taliban fighter and what made him turn away from a harrowing life of radicalism and bloodshed. Here is his account.

I was involved with jihad for five years. When we started, we were trained to fight in the Kashmir struggle. We wanted to travel to Indian-held Kashmir and join the conflict. It is the duty of every Muslim and every Pakistani to attend military training. I believe it is not necessary to fight against all non-believers, but it is my duty to fight against the non-believers who threaten Islam and Pakistan.

I was interested in learning to fight, and the local messages from militant groups, and what we heard in the mosques and speeches during Friday prayers, made me want to join the jihad. They talked about the threat to Pakistan and the threats to Islam.

I did 45 days of training. There were 2,000 recruits in the camp from across Pakistan. There was no distinction in terms of where recruits came from. It was difficult training. Not everyone could complete it. But those who did were sent to fight jihad. More: More:

Taking on the Taliban

Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

The Taliban’s jihad, like rock and roll, has passed from youthful vigor into a maturity marked by the appearance of nostalgic memoirs. Back in the day, Abdul Salam Zaeef belonged to the search committee that recruited Mullah Omar as the movement’s commander; after the rebels took power in Kabul, he served as ambassador to Pakistan. “My Life with the Taliban,” published this winter, announces Zaeef’s début in militant letters. The volume contains many sources of fascination, but none are more timely than the author’s account of his high-level relations with Pakistani intelligence.

While in office, Zaeef found that he “couldn’t entirely avoid” the influence of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. Its officers volunteered money and political support. Late in 2001, as the United States prepared to attack Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the I.S.I.’s then commanding general, Mahmud Ahmad, visited Zaeef’s home in Islamabad, wept in solidarity, and promised, “We want to assure you that you will not be alone in this jihad against America. We will be with you.” And yet Zaeef never trusted his I.S.I. patrons. He sought to protect the Taliban’s independence: “I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, and not so bitter that I would be spat out.” More:

Unshakable faith

mumbai_terror

The Mumbai terrorist attacks killed two pilgrims from Virginia, but not their companions’ belief that everything, and everyone, is connected. April Witt in the Washington Post:

Naomi bent over the exotic, blood-red flower blossoms that flourished in the ashram garden and breathed in. It was a delicious moment of perfect peace: Naomi Scherr, just 13 years old, her shoulder-length strawberry-hued hair damp from the Indian heat, her face full of wonder at the beauty of a world she was just discovering. It was the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008.

Lingering in a sacred garden on the outskirts of the busy Indian port city of Mumbai was just one more blissful interlude on the 10th day of what had been a joyous spiritual journey for Naomi, her father, Alan Scherr, 58, and 23 fellow pilgrims with an international meditation group based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Inside the ashram, young monks chanted hauntingly beautiful prayers in Sanskrit for the spiritual tour group from the Synchronicity Foundation. “It was heaven,” recalled Helen Connolly, a yoga teacher from Toronto who was Naomi’s roommate on the trip. Afterward, as their giant tour bus threaded past the tiny motorcycle taxis called tuk-tuks that clog Mumbai’s streets, Helen had the dreamy sense of being inside an orca as it swam through schools of minnows.

Later that evening, in a rented hall in downtown Mumbai, the pilgrims sat meditating with the America guru who had led them to India: Master Charles Cannon. Indian locals wandered in to join them and greet the visiting guru, a trim, quietly charismatic 63-year-old mystic with a down-to-earth manner. Master Charles teaches a holistic view of the universe in which everyone and everything — sunlight and shadow — are one unified consciousness; and in which the events of this world, whatever they may be, are somehow meant to be. As Master Charles brought this night’s session to a close, pilgrims and locals spilled onto the dark streets, still relishing the blissed-out, almost opiated state that some longtime meditation practitioners achieve. Master Charles, however, sensed shadow. As the guru and his followers made their own way back to their five-star hotel, the Oberoi, Master Charles had the incongruous sense that something was about to happen. Be alert, he thought: Ah, it’s very close.

Four days earlier, on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 22, a small boat launched from the Pakistani coastal city of Karachi. Its passengers were 10 young men who had spent months training for this moment. Each carried a large rucksack stocked with Kalashnikov ammunition, two 9mm pistols, hand grenades, an Improvised Explosive Device and a cellphone. The young men, terrorists recruited from across Pakistan, journeyed into the Arabian Sea. They were headed more than 500 nautical miles south — to Mumbai. More:

The Taliban will ‘never be defeated’

‘Colonel Imam’, the Pakistani agent who trained Mullah Omar and the warlords to fight the Soviets, tells Christina Lamb in Rawalpindi the US must negotiate with its enemies. From the Sunday Times:

“I have worked with these people since the 1970s and I tell you they will never be defeated. Anyone who has come here has got stuck. The more you kill, the more they will expand.”

A tall, bearded figure, whose real name is Amir Sultan Tarar, he trained at Fort Bragg, the US army base where America’s special forces are stationed.

During the late 1970s and 1980s he controlled CIA-funded training camps for 95,000 Afghans and often accompanied his students on missions.

After the Soviet defeat and the collapse of communism, he was invited to the White House by the first President George Bush and was given a piece of the Berlin Wall with a brass plaque inscribed: “To the one who dealt the first blow.” More:

Zardari’s new zeal

David Pilling and Farhan Bokhari interview the Pakistan President. In the Financial Times:

zardariA visit to Asif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan, is not to be undertaken lightly. Four rings of security surround Islamabad, the leafy capital now scarred with sandbags and clogged with concrete roadblocks designed to deter suicide bombers. Then come six more checkpoints at which guards search vehicles, frisk the occupants and confiscate electronic devices.

Even inside the presidential palace, now 10 concentric circles of security from the violent world beyond, soldiers mill around with automatic weapons. Mr Zardari would be like a general in his labyrinth were he not a civilian president in a nation where military rule has been the norm.

The chamber where he receives his guests is more mausoleum than meeting room. Prominently displayed are photographs of Benazir Bhutto, his wife, whose assassination in December 2007 led to his appointment as president eight months later. Now, Mr Zardari has taken on the anti-jihadi battle that was to have been his wife’s. More than once during an interview with the Financial Times, he raises his eyes skywards and – dressed in a silver-grey suit rather more sparkling than his lowly, though improving, approval ratings – invokes the spirit of Benazir. More:

Click here to read the transcript of the FT interview:

Shah Rukh Khan has his say on 26/11

Shah Rukh Khan talks to journalist and editor Rajdeep Sardesai on being liberal, Muslim and an Indian [via Hindustan Times]

interview_srkRajdeep: These are tough times for Mumbai. How does 26/11 affect you as a Mumbaikar? If I can call you that today because you are very much a part of this city, this city has made you.

Shah Rukh: I am from Delhi. I have seen riots in Delhi and when I came to Mumbai in 1993 then there were these bomb blasts and now I have seen it through 26/11. More than as a Mumbaikar, I have started feeling even more Indian than I felt before and specifically also because I like to believe that I am an educated, liberal Muslim who has a Hindu wife and two kids. More I have seen these kinds of things over the years, more it makes me realise two things very-very clearly – one the vulnerability of life and the second part is that how important it is for me, I say a very small thing which I always think now that I need to spend time with my loved ones. When I think of my loved ones now, that circle is increasing. It is not got to do with only my wife, my children and couple of friends. It is now increasing, I want to spend time with all the people I thought that I can like or love and slowly I believe this is going to make everyone in the country do the same. We are going to spread this circle of love. I think tragedy has strange sense of uniting people so it is making me feel that I need to spend every living hour of my life, which can go off like this, with people who matter a lot.

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And he tells Barkha Dutt on NDTV that ‘constructive aggression’ is a good thing.

Shah Rukh Khan has finally come out to speak his heart out against the Mumbai terror attacks and its aftermath. In an interview with Barkha Dutt on NDTV, the Bollywood superstar gave his views on the attacks, the importance of using anger in a constructive way. He also spoke on Islam as a practising Muslim, India’s handling of Pakistan and about changing the system.
Shah Rukh Khan has finally come out to speak his heart out against the Mumbai terror attacks and its aftermath. In an interview with Barkha Dutt on NDTV, the Bollywood superstar gave his views on the attacks, the importance of using anger in a constructive way. He also spoke on Islam as a practising Muslim, India’s handling of Pakistan and about changing the system.
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The terror message in an email

What, does the email sent out by the so-called Indian Mujahideen on the Ahmedabad blasts tell us about the terror strikes, the terrorists behind the blasts, the role of investigating agencies, and the possible involvement of Muslims? Kashif -ul-Huda, editor of news website Two Circles, asks these questions, and more, in Mint
Recent terror strikes in Bangalore and Ahmedabad point to the fact that anti-terrorism conferences, fatwas and community efforts are not working. One reason can be that a vast majority of Indian Muslims are not convinced the terrorists could be one of them. It is not a denial by Indian Muslims, but a failure on the part of the investigating agencies to produce convincing proof of who is behind these terror acts. The emails sent by the group calling itself Indian Mujahideen is our only way to guess who can be behind these attacks.
By the time you reach the warning on Page 7 of the email that bombs would explode in the next five minutes, it would have been too late. Of course, the aim was not to warn but to convincingly establish the fact that the author of the terror letter is the one who is responsible for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad. The letter, “The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat”, was sent to various Indian media organizations a few minutes before the bomb blast.

Allah vs God

Using English to seperate the two has become a dangerous practice, writes Rabih Alameddine in the LA  Times

All living languages are promiscuous. We promiscuous speakers shamelessly shoplift words, plucking bons mots and phrases from any tempting language. We wear these words when we wish to be more formal, more elegant, more mysterious, worldly, precise, vague. They flash on our fingers like gaudy rings, adorn our hair, warm our necks like rich foreign scarves. They become our favorite trousers, the shoes we cannot live without, our way of describing illness to our doctors, declaring love to our lovers, formulating policies, doing business. We believe we own them and are frequently astonished to discover their original roots in another language.

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The jihadi next door

How does a law-abiding young man become a terrorist? Aryn Baker in TIME reviews ‘Leaderless Jihad‘ by  forensic psychiatrist Marc  Sageman:

jihadbook.jpgAhmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was the kind of guy you could have taken home to Mom. Smart and friendly, he once jumped in front of a train in a London tube station to rescue a fallen commuter. But he also, in the name of the Islamist cause, gleefully threatened a hostage with decapitation in 1994. That hostage survived, but Danny Pearl, the Wall Street Journal Pakistan correspondent whom Sheikh is charged with kidnapping in January 2002, did not. The video of Pearl’s beheading can still be found on the Internet (though the identity of the actual knife wielder remains unknown). How does someone like Sheikh–”the kindest, most gentle person you could meet,” according to his brother–turn terrorist?

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Musharraf: ‘Pakistanis know I can be tough’

Newsweek

Fareed Zakaria talks to President Pervez Musharraf

Since Benazir Bhutto‘s assassination weeks ago, Pakistan has been plunged into one of the worst crises in its history. President Pervez Musharraf, having recently given up control of the nation’s army, remains firmly in charge and as reluctant as ever to share power, despite a rising tide of criticism. He spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zakaria from his camp office in Rawalpindi. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What do you make of reports that the United States is thinking about launching CIA operations in Pakistan with or without Pakistan’s approval?
Pervez Musharraf:
We are totally in cooperation on the intelligence side. But we are totally against [a military operation]. We are a sovereign country. We will ask for assistance from outsiders. They won’t impose their will on us.

How do you take Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that the United States and Britain help Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons?
Does she know how secure [the weapons] are and what we are doing to keep them so? They are very secure. We will ask if we need assistance. Nobody should tell us what to do. And I’d ask anyone who says such things, do you know how our strategic assets are handled, stored and developed—do you know it?

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