A vivid ac­count of a macabre tra­jec­tory that Pak­istan has opted for

The Financial Express - - FRONT PAGE - C Uday Bhaskar

THE POST-Uri mood in In­dia of anger and an­guish at the killing of 18 sol­diers by a group of ter­ror­ists pro­vides the ap­pro­pri­ate con­text to the book un­der re­view. The longish ti­tle en­com­passes the seem­ingly in­tractable sit­u­a­tion that Pak­istan has ‘sleep­walked’ into— the pro­gres­sive sur­ren­der of state and so­ci­ety to the per­pe­tra­tors of ji­hadi ter­ror­ism.

In a per­sua­sive sur­vey of over 400 pages, Khaled Ahmed, one of Pak­istan’s most re­spected and in­sight­ful jour­nal­ists, pro­vides a vivid ac­count of a macabre and mur­der­ous tra­jec­tory that the Pak­istani rul­ing elite opted for by in­vest­ing in ide­o­log­i­cally-mo­ti­vated ter­ror, with tragic con­se­quences for it­self and the ex­tended re­gion.

Mum­bai 2008 and Uri, which is the lat­est ter­ror at­tack on In­dia, have a his­tory that can be traced back to early 1990 in its cur­rent vari­ant. The more dili­gent his­tory buff can per­haps link the pen­chant for ter­ror among the same elite to Au­gust 1946 and the or­gan­ised killings in then Cal­cutta. And In­dia is not the only tar­get of such mur­der­ous at­ten­tion. Afghanistan has been sub­jected to sim­i­lar trauma over the past two decades and the linkage of many global ter­ror-re­lated in­ci­dents to the cru­cible in Pak­istan is fa­mil­iar litany.

The mas­sacre of school chil­dren in Pe­shawar in De­cem­ber 2014 is the more vis­i­ble and heart-rend­ing of nu­mer­ous ter­ror at­tacks that have tar­geted Pak­istani state and so­ci­ety over the past three decades. Ahmed doc­u­ments the man­ner in which the ecosys­tem for nur­tur­ing such foot sol­diers has been as­sid­u­ously cre­ated and, in the open­ing sec­tion, draws at­ten­tion to the root of this scourge. “If you think you im­prove a Mus­lim through ed­u­ca­tion, then take a look at the cur­ric­ula in Pak­istan. Any at­tempt to tone down ref­er­ences to war as a way of life by the pro­vin­cial au­thor­ity is at­tacked by the clergy, af­ter which the me­dia starts growl­ing, send­ing the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter scur­ry­ing back to texts man­dat­ing ji­had for all Mus­lims. This is a state that has de­famed it­self through proxy wars it used to call ji­had.”

Di­vided into 32 es­says, this book is a com­pi­la­tion of the op-ed and an­a­lyt­i­cal ar­ti­cles writ­ten by Ahmed in the pe­riod 2013 to 2015 for two pub­li­ca­tions—Newsweek Pak­istan and The Indian Ex­press. How­ever, the value of the book is that it is not just a cut­paste-and-pub­lish ef­fort (which, alas, is be­com­ing more pro­nounced), but a more re­flec­tive tenor has been added with end notes and valu­able per­sonal ob­ser­va­tions.

The sub­jects cov­ered are ex­ten­sive and fol­low the ma­jor de­vel­op­ments of the past three years. The most re­cent es­say is from Oc­to­ber 2015. Ahmed has a wry turn of phrase and his deep wa­ter ta­ble of the turpi­tude and machi­na­tions of the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, and the ISI in par­tic­u­lar, add to the ‘must-read’ in­dex of this book.

Re­call­ing a mid-1990s ISI at­tempt to in­fil­trate and shape the pol­i­tics of the coun­try, Ahmed writes of a Ma­jor Amir, who was pro-Nawaz Sharif and feared that the Be­nazir-led PPP was soft on In­dia .“Patent ly non-in­tel­lec­tual, here pre­sented the ide­o­log­i­cal na­ture of the army where no in­tel­lect is re­quired to be­come an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer.”

How­ever, it is not just the dis­parag­ing jab that is rel­e­vant. In the same sec­tion, Ahmed el­lip­ti­cally an­swers a ques­tion that is of­ten asked in In­dia: what is Nawaz Sharif ’s re­la­tion­ship with the right-wing clergy and the army? Is he a hap­less civil­ian PM re­peat­edly in­tim­i­dated and bul­lied by suc­ces­sive ar my chiefs—from Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf (who ousted him in a coup), to his name­sake Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif now?

Ahmed pro­vides use­ful con­tex­tual de­tail. “Pak­istan has a ‘po­lit­i­cal mid­dle’ that can me­di­ate between Is­lamists and liberals rep­re­sented by Nawaz Sharif ’s Mus­lim League. It has a nexus with an in­tensely right-wing army and will lend ear to the plaints of the religious par­ties as­pir­ing to a pre-mod­ern utopia with an um­bil­i­cal con­nec­tion with the Tal­iban and al-Qaeda.”

The nexus between the ISI and dif­fer­ent ter­ror groups is dis­ag­gre­gated in re­ward­ing de­tail. Ahmed writes of a for­mer Pak­istan air force of­fi­cer, Khalid Kh­waja, who was work­ing with the pro-al-Qaeda and Tal­iban fac­tion within the ISI, and his 2010 con­fes­sion on cam­era: “The top ji­hadi com­man­ders are the ISI’s prox­ies and are given a free hand to collect funds.” And who are these com­man­ders? They in­clude Maulana Fa­zlur Rehman Khalil, who laid the foun­da­tions of the In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Front with Osama bin Laden in 1998, and Maulana Ma­sood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mmed.

An added bonus of the book is that it is a ver­i­ta­ble bib­li­og­ra­phy of the more im­por­tant books and ar­ti­cles rel­e­vant to an un­der­stand­ing of Pak­istan and its ad­dic­tion to ter­ror. Of note is Riaz Muham­mad Khan, a for­mer Pak­istan for­eign sec­re­tary and well-re­garded high com­mis­sioner to In­dia, and his book, Afghanistan and Pak­istan: Con­flict, Ex­trem­ism, and Re­sis­tance to Moder­nity. Ahmed com­mends Khan for his can­dour in ex­pos­ing the truth about Pak­istan’s devious for­eign pol­icy ori­en­ta­tion and notes that the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary “put things on record that no other diplo­mat had (even) dared to talk about”.

In his book, Khan drew pointed at­ten­tion to the “be­sieged men­tal­ity verg­ing on a per­se­cu­tion com­plex” that had been in­ter nalised by the Pak­istani rul­ing elite, and his con­ver­sa­tion with Gen­eral Mushar­raf is in­struc­tive. Here, the no­ta­tion by Ahmed is the value ad­di­tion that I found very in­sight­ful. To quote from him: “Khan knew that ISI’s sup­port of the ‘charis­matic’ mu­jahideen was based not on any strate­gic analysis but on ‘re­verse in­doc­tri­na­tion’, some­thing that haunts the GHQ in Rawalpindi where the army chief may at times be scared of his own of­fi­cers.” Ahmed goes on to add that army chiefs in Pak­istan are pet­ri­fied that if they try to get rid of non-state ac­tors who have turned ter­ror­ists, they could be killed them­selves.

And then this ref­er­ence to the Khan-Mushar­raf in­ter­ac­tion and the quote is from the for­mer’s book: “In April 2000, I had oc­ca­sion to raise the is­sue of sup­port to ji­hadi groups with Gen­eral Mushar­raf on the oc­ca­sion of the Ha­vana G77 sum­mit.” And Khan goes on to reveal that his rec­om­men­da­tion that Pak­istan de­sist sup­port­ing ter­ror groups to pro­tect its own eco­nomic agenda was re­buffed by Mushar­raf. “When I per­sisted, he lit­er­ally closed the ar­gu­ment with a re­mark that what I was sug­gest­ing could bring an end to his gover nment.”

As a long-time stu­dent of the in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics of Pak­istan and its dis­tinc­tive strate­gic cul­ture where the ‘deep state’ has tena­ciously trapped it­self in the ji­had-ter­ror sim­u­lacrum, I found the sec­tions deal­ing with top Pak­istani army gen­er­als and their cer­ti­tude about Is­lam and the sword both re­veal­ing and dis­turb­ing.

Ahmed’s por­trayal of the late Ma­jor Gen­eral Hamid Gul, a for­mer ISI chief, and Gen­eral Shahid Aziz (a rel­a­tive of Mushar­raf), and their in­flex­i­ble the­o­log­i­cal be­liefs may be the tip of a much deeper DNA trait about the Pak­istani fauj.

The Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment is per­haps in the last stages of its fi­nal sur­ren­der to ji­hadi ter­ror, as Ahmed warns, and while this is alarm­ingly toxic for the hap­less cit­i­zens of that state—for the re­gion and the world at large—the ji­hadi sword now has a men­ac­ing nu­clear tip.

Ahmed is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of one constituency, al­beit fee­ble, in Pak­istan that makes an im­pas­sioned plea for a cer­tain de­gree of ra­tio­nal­ity and rec­ti­tude in the ‘In­dia-is-THE-en­emy’ ori­en­ta­tion that the Pak­istani GHQ has im­posed on the state.

In his most re­cent col­umn (The Indian Ex­press, Septem­ber 23, 2016), Ahmed again high­lights the voice of re­straint and rea­son by quot­ing four emi­nent Pak­ista­nis who wrote a joint op-ed in Dawn (Septem­ber 20). The au­thors in­clude Inam ul Haque, Riaz Hus­sain Khokhar and Riaz Mo­ham­mad Khan, all for­mer for­eign sec­re­taries, and Ma­jor Gen­eral Mah­mud Durrani (retd), a for­mer am­bas­sador to the US and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

They cau­tion: “The per­cep­tion of Pak­istan’s erst­while sup­port to ex­trem­ist mil­i­tancy in Kash­mir in the 1990s and our as­so­ci­a­tion with the Tal­iban have hurt Pak­istan’s in­ter­na­tional im­age. Of late, the de­lay in prose­cut­ing es­pe­cially those im­pli­cated in the Mum­bai ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent has been mis­con­strued as weak Pak­istani com­mit­ment to fight­ing ter­ror­ism, the neme­sis of all mod­ern so­ci­eties. This un­der­mines Pak­istan’s abil­ity to force­fully ad­vo­cate the Kash­mir cause. Noth­ing will help In­dia more than an ev­i­dence of out­side mil­i­tant el­e­ments blend­ing with the in­dige­nous Kash­miri up­ris­ing to jus­tify its ex­treme vi­o­lence in In­di­a­held Kash­mir and its ag­gres­sive pos­ture against Pak­istan. We should be open to co­op­er­at­ing with any in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Uri at­tack.”

Maybe this will be part of the next book by the gifted Ahmed, and the ti­tle could well be Post-Uri: The Turn­ing Point. Whether the tur n will be for the bet­ter or worse re­mains moot. C Uday Bhaskar is di­rec­tor, So­ci­ety for Pol­icy Stud­ies, New Delhi

The Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment is per­haps in the last stages of its fi­nal sur­ren­der to ji­hadi ter­ror, as the au­thor warns, and while this is alarm­ingly toxic for the hap­less cit­i­zens of that state—for the re­gion and the world at large—the ji­hadi sword now has a men­ac­ing nu­clear tip

Sol­diers stand guard out­side the army base which was at­tacked re­cently by ter­ror­ists in Uri, Jammu & Kash­mir


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