Pakistan's Terror: Looking Through the Smoke-Screen

Pakistan's Terror: Looking Through the Smoke-Screen

by Sudarshan Khandige - Jan 4, 2015 12:45 AM +05:30 IST
Pakistan's Terror: Looking Through the Smoke-Screen

Constant turmoil, within and without, reassures the Pakistani state that its strategic objectives are seemingly being met.

Since the election of Narendra Modi in May 2014, the Pakistanis have been increasingly restless and insecure vis-à-vis their singular focus and reason for existence — India. One has been witness to the media commentary, be it in print or on TV, with the usual, predictable scenario of belligerent Pakistani talking heads and the feeble responses of defensive Indians. The recent slaughter of school-going children in Peshawar has led to an exponential increase in such debates and commentary. The Pakistanis always sneer and take refuge in the fact that, given their long standing troubled mutual relationship and history, the Indians have an obvious bias in their seemingly exaggerated portrayal of Pakistani terror.

What is usually missing in the Indian argument though is the extent to which the Pakistani state has been a willing, global terror machine, even if we take into account only non-India specific events. This predates the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — Pakistan in fact even helped cause it — to the present times. As these events are independent of India, it becomes quite apparent to even a neutral observer that the so called “Kashmir freedom” cause of the Pakistani state is yet another political manifestation of that country’s terror machine rather than being an unbiased outcome of humane consideration for liberty. What follows is a primer on the Pakistani terror machine, independent of India or Indian events.

The common narrative for the Pakistanis and what has increasingly become the common opinion for analysts around the world, is that the Pakistanis unwittingly became a part of the cold-war tussle between the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However reality portrays a different story. After the overthrow of king Mohammed Zahir Shah by his cousin Daoud Khan, a republic was established in 1973 with Daoud Khan as the president. Daoud’s rule was popular with the general populace and even attempted a moderate socialist government. But by 1975 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with the help of the ISI, started promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan. At the same time the ISI also trained Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the now infamous and notorious, Haqqani network, to wage proxy war in Afghanistan during Daoud’s regime.


Subsequently Bhutto helped and abetted the Saur revolution which assassinated and overthrew Daoud’s government in a coup, and helped bring the PDPA govt to power, with Nur Muhhammad Taraki as Premier, Babrak Karmal as his deputy; and Hafizullah Amin as Foreign Affairs Minister. That this happened under a so called democratic Pakistani dispensation is a clue to understand the machinations of the Pakistani rogue state and how it has historically adapted to terror as an instrument of state policy.

The Taraki regime again, though communist, again attempted to steer Afghanistan to a fledgling modern socialist nation. This was counter to the religious and cultural structures inherent in Afghanistan and yet again the Pakistanis, now under Zia ul Haq gave support to Islamist Afghans. The ISI now helped the radical Islamist group Hezb-i-Islami, arming them heavily, to undermine and overthrow the PDPA govt. Subsequent weakening of the PDPA and the threat of radical Islam taking over in Afghanistan as had happened in neighbouring Iran, prompted the Soviet invasion in 1979. Contrary to the Pakistanis being innocent victims caught in the cross-fire of a cold war, they were actually instrumental to the Soviet takeover. Stability within itself or in its neighbours is something which the Pakistani state has historically found unsettling. Instead a constant churn and ongoing violent turmoil is reassurance that its strategic objectives are seemingly being met.

A Global Network of Terror

Among events occurring all across the world in the past decade, German security fortunately foiled massive attacks planned against U.S. installations located in Germany. The attacks were supposed to have been planned for the 6th anniversary of 9/11.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring to plant explosives at the 34th Street subway station near Madison Square Garden, where the Republican National convention took place, according to the Justice Department.

British authorities arrested 24 suspects in a plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger jets leaving Britain for the United States. Rashid Rauf, the mastermind of the plot, a British citizen, was arrested in his country of allegiance and later released in December 2006 as not guilty. Most of the culprits had origins from one particular country.

Guess what is the common country in all the above incidents? It is not Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, or Libya, nor even the much vilified Afghanistan. It is Pakistan.

From Ramzi Yousef’s failed  1993 World Trade Center bombing, through the successful inception of the Taliban in Pakistan’s Deobandi madrassahs, followed by Benazir Bhutto’s supporting and nurturing of the Taliban, the 9/11 attacks, to the plotting of the assassination of the Danish cartoonist by David Headley, the common theme internationally is Pakistan. The Pakistani international terror connection even goes as far as to seemingly remote California in the US. Hamid Hayat of Lodi in California, was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison. In the words of Federal Judge Garland Burrell Jr, Hayat had re-entered the US “ready and willing to wage violent jihad”. He was trained in a terrorist camp in Balakot in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

Terrorist activities with global reach have for long been nurtured in the Pakistani mainland itself and not just in the fringe, lawless areas, as is normally packaged and presented. The Afghani Taliban militia that caused 9/11 were tutored in their stone age, Shariat version of Islam in the Binori Mosque in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi. The Lal Masjid mosque which had housed militants for a long time and was later raided by the Pakistani army, triggered the formation of Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan. The Lal Masjid is right in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. Also, as is now commonly known, Osama bin Laden himself was found safely ensconced in the military HQ of Abbotabad. These are all in the heart of Pakistan and not in that mysterious place called the FATA or Federally Administered Tribal Area which is almost always mentioned synonymously whenever Pakistan’s name comes up for various diabolical events, conveniently serving as an alibi for Pakistani terror.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan has sunk in almost unnoticed, into international consciousness and commentary as that elusive, seemingly hands-off out of reach place, while it happens to be an integral part of Pakistan. If Pakistan cannot take care of its own territory, as a result of which the rest of the civilized world has to suffer, would it not be the global community’s responsibility to secure that area on behalf of Pakistan? However it is to the Obama government’s credit that the US did not hesitate to launch successful drone attacks in this area of Pakistan.

As recounted above, it is not just India that has a problem with Pakistani terror. While its obsession with de-stabilising India and a desire to define itself as India’s antithesis is Pakistan’s raison d’être, it is obvious that global terror and violence to achieve political ends is second nature to it. While this may startle and shock us, Pakistan is seemingly at ease with this bloodlust.

If the Indian political class, chatterati or the common Indian is to frame an appropriate response to Pakistan, it is important to review history in its entirety and understand the Pakistani state’s mindset.

Sudarshan Khandige is a technologist and a contrarian. Sees the world as a mosaic rather than a mono-culture. Bangalore and Bay Area
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