Monday, September 22, 2008

9/11 TO 9/19: BEADS ON A STRING THAT NEEDS TO BE CUT



Pakistan is imploding. Its Frankenstein has grown too big and too strong to be controlled. In fact, it now wants to seize control. And in a hurry. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is under siege; its leadership is losing control to the very terrorists it once created and nurtured with great care and effort as Jehadis.

September 19, 2008, was, according to some analysts, Pakistan’s 9/11. That evening, Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel, located a shout away from the residences of Pakistan’s top leaders, was destroyed in a fidayeen attack when a truck laden with 1000 kilograms of explosives blew up at its security check post. This daring attack, within hours of President Zardari’s address to Parliament, has shaken the nation like no other attack had till now.

Between 9/11 and 9/19, Islamic terrorists have been striking with almost monotonous regularity across parts of the world, particularly in India and lately in Pakistan. To the casual observer, these attacks may not appear to have much in common. But make no mistake: they are all beads on the same one Islamic string. And that string needs to be cut.

Let us face the one uncomfortable truth that has created this explosive string: Islam is in retreat. From the heights that it had reached when the Ottoman and Mughal Empires were at their peak, the Islamic world has lost most of its might over the last couple of centuries. Had it not been for the oil beneath the sand made valuable by the West, even the economic prosperity that has camouflaged the grievous loss of political power and dominance, would not have blessed many Muslim countries, particularly in the Gulf. Fortunately, oil wealth has made the Arab world more or less comfortable with the situation. They are agitated basically by the political marginalisation of the Palestinians and their oppression by the state of Israel.

The only one nation that has not been able to reconcile to the decline of the grandeur and power of Islam and has reacted to it is Pakistan, the Islamic state carved out of India in 1947. It mistakenly believes that it is the inheritor of the Mughal empire. Powerful sections of its establishment, if not all of them, have taken it upon themselves to reclaim that lost empire. From that desire has emerged the strategy of bleeding India to death by inflicting on it ‘a thousand cuts’. In the single minded pursuit of this strategy, Pakistan has hopelessly intertwined its politics with the legacy of the Mughals, the teachings of Islam and the concept of Jehad. The breaking away of Bangladesh in 1971 should have opened many Pakistani eyes, but it had the opposite effect.

The Quranic concept of Jehad was first distorted and exploited by Pakistan as a political tool to successfully throw the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The spectacular success that Pakistan achieved in Afghanistan, albeit with American help, against a super power, was just the heady tonic that its establishment needed to unleash Islamic terrorists against India with renewed vigour, initially in Kashmir and later in the rest of the country.

The success in Afghanistan also proved to be equally heady for radical Islamists for whom the battle was more than just political. For them it meant a return to ‘pure’ Islam and the way of life that was prevalent during the time of the Prophet, as interpreted by them. That is what they achieved in Afghanistan after throwing the Soviets out. That is also what attracted Arab millionaire Osama bin Laden to set up base in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Laden was unable to reconcile to the domination of Christian West over the Muslim world and the presence of American troops in the Holy Land. He also believed in the restoration of the Sharia and the rejection of all other ideologies and religions of the world. It was this rare confluence of ideology and beliefs that enabled Laden give concrete shape to his ambitions in this part of the world.

Osama bin Laden’s presence and vision helped Pakistan give global shape to its jehad which was, until his arrival, limited to India, notwithstanding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Laden believed that it was not just heretics, but America, Israel and even Shia Muslims who were the principal enemies of Islam. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni and had the same problems with Ahmediya Muslims. So, this explosive combination quickly converted Pakistan into the natural ideological home and the physical training ground of Islamic terror groups who earnestly believed that with the power of Allah with them, they would be able to defeat not just India, as the state of Pakistan wanted, but also the remaining super power, as Laden did, and then establish the rule of Islam over the whole world.

That is where the Pakistani establishment made a fatal mistake.

Most Pakistanis do not want their country to become an Islamic state of the kind that Afghanistan was before 9/11. They are aware that even the Mughal Empire was never an “Islamic state”. The creator of Pakistan, Jinnah, in fact actually visualised a liberal, secular state that had nothing to do with the personal matter of the religious beliefs of its citizens. But, tragically, his vision, which would have produced a mirror image of the India Pakistan had broken away from, and in time exposed the contrived concept behind its creation, was summarily dumped by other Pakistani leaders in favour of an increasingly Islamised state. That idea was given a firm one way ideological direction by General Zia-ul-Haq after he overthrew Bhutto to become the ruler of Pakistan.

It is against human nature to remain static mentally and physically. The world has changed drastically over the last thousand years, thanks to the undying spirit of enquiry and the ability of man to think not just adaptively but creatively. But for Laden and the Taliban, nothing short of a return to ‘pure’ Islam will do. They want to roll back time. Their war is rooted in and is inseparable from that ideology. For them, it is not a convenient political tool to be used dishonestly and then discarded.

That is why today Pakistan is under siege. It is having to confront within Pakistan the very ideology which it successfully used to virtually annex Afghanistan. The proponents of that ideology, having been routed in Afghanistan, can naturally not accept the fact that their mother state is now sleeping with the US and has become the frontline state of their enemy in its war against them. Even elements in the Pakistani establishment and the ISI cannot live with the humiliating defeat that has been inflicted on them by the Americans. They still believe that they can defeat the US like they did the Soviets, if the state of Pakistan continues to support them. Of course they don’t want to even remember that in their war in Afghanistan, the US was with them and now there is no USSR to back them.

The tactical decision of Musharraf to join up with the US after 9/11 to save the state of Pakistan has generated a lot of emotional anger among ordinary Pakistanis. That is because they do not know how deep in trouble their country is. They do not want their country to become another Afghanistan; yet they do not want it to be on the side of the US. Their rulers know better. That is why, notwithstanding whatever he had said earlier, Zardari did not take long after getting power to say that Pakistan faced a grave danger from Taliban and that the organisation should be banned. No wonder, then, that he has come under attack so soon.

9/19 has a clear and very ominous message for Pakistan’s rulers from their creation, the Taliban and their invited guest, Osama bin Laden: join us in our holy jehad against the US or join battle with us; we are going to get you, no matter where you are.

9/19 has also made it clear that Pakistan’s jehadis-turned-terrorists have the capability and the support required to strike terror at will wherever they wish to against those who oppose them. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was not an aberration. Nor was the hijacking of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid by radicals. The Al Qaida has already said that it will kill Musharraf.

The state of Pakistan has already lost all but nominal authority in nearly the whole of Pakistan save Punjab and Sind. Now, it is under siege in the very heart of the country. Some believe that 9/19 was actually meant to be an attack on Parliament when Zardari was addressing it, to take out almost the entire political Pakistani leadership in one huge blast.

After 9/11, the US moved swiftly and decisively against those who had carried out the attacks. It could do so because Americans were united in that fight against a clearly identifiable enemy. Pakistan too has to move like that if it wants to save itself. But, Pakistanis are deeply divided in that fight and the enemy is no one else but one of their own who was till yesterday their hero.

Will Pakistan and its military be able to decisively fight with and kill and defeat Pakistanis and other Muslims fighting the US in Afghanistan and in control of large parts of Pakistan? If the answer is yes, Pakistan might survive in its present shape as a country. Otherwise, it may soon find people looking for it in a few barely read pages of history books.

Notwithstanding what Pakistan does or not to face this challenge of its own making, the world needs to realise that unless the one common string that joins almost all terror attacks that have been carried out across the globe is cut decisively, innocent lives will continue to be lost and the world will continue to remain as unsafe as it is today.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Below is a 'must watch' dramatic CCTV footage of the minutes preceding the blowing up of the truck at the security gate of the hotel. Listen to the conversations too, if you can understand Hindi/Urdu.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Readers may also like to read:

1. Mumbai 11/26: wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning
2. Pakistan: dangers of the multi-ethnic Islamic state