Guest contribution: War on the Taliban

By Reuters Staff
May 12, 2009

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan 

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a vision of a modern, progressive and secular Pakistan. Yet some are trying to replace it with a Talibanised state in which schools are closed, heads chopped off, women flogged in public and a pagan religion takes over in the name of Islam that Allah the Most Merciful bequeathed to humankind through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to enlighten the darkened world.

Ever since its advent, Islam has been a religion of peace and compassion with no room for animosity for any other religion. Its fundamental tenet is Huququl Ibad – that is, you would not do unto others what you would not want to be done to you.
 
Not withstanding the ugly facts as to how we have come to the present tragic pass we must remember that the world is a stage where players play their part and fade away. However, when it comes to a leadership role, some leave indelible footprints on the sands of time. Others who play foul with the destiny of a nation are consigned to the dustbin of history or are acknowledged as unavoidable footnotes mentioned for their misdeeds.

While not condoning the questionable role of some of the civilian leaders of the past, members of the superior judiciary, civil bureaucracy and selective elite, the most devastating impact on Pakistan’s growth on sound democratic lines, in keeping with Mr Jinnah’s unequivocal emphasis that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state, was dealt by the constant direct extra-constitutional interventions by military dictators for over 31 years.

Indeed, had General Pervez Musharraf’s presidency lasted any more than it did, he would have surely led the funeral rites of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan. In his last days – having pushed Pakistan onto the road to Talibanisation – he had the audacity to declare publicly that he was foreseeing the sad demise of the Quaid’s Pakistan. Had martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and other democratic leaders not bulldozed through his bunkered existence and forced him to drop his uniform and hold elections, Pakistan would have had its swan song sung.

This government has been in power just a little over a year. It had not only inherited a bankrupt economy but found itself facing a civil-war like situation. Musharraf had left insurgency at its height in Baluchistan. Northern areas had been abdicated to the Taliban. Not only that, they were given a free hand to romp around the entire country brandishing their newly acquired AK-47s, rocket launchers, and well-mounted anti-aircraft guns on the latest four-wheel drives.
 
Suicide bombings, the chopping off of heads, the molestation of working women, the destruction of educational institutions and Sufi shrines, the execution of journalists and foreigners and rampant attacks on law-enforcers had become the order of the day. The establishment of the institution of the Red Mosque in the heart of the federal capital under the very nose of scores of intelligence and other agencies served as a role model of what was in store for rest of the country, along with the recovery of several tonnes of the latest weapons and pornographic material. All this was allowed to happen by Musharraf with a method in his madness – to tell the world it had the choice only between him or the Taliban – with control of nuclear weapons.

The new democratic government – while ushering in a peaceful and consensus-based transfer of power at the centre and in the provinces – had to save the country from being declared a bankrupt state and overcome the fall-out of sky-rocketing oil and food prices internationally. It had to carry out a flurry of economic and political diplomacy. The President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Federal Financial Advisor and other top functionaries have been personally taking the initiative. In his just concluded visit to the United States, President Asif Ali Zardari won crucial support from the U.S. for his democratic government, socio-economic development and the war on terror.

Every journey abroad taken by Pakistani leaders has taken them to pastures new, to attract investment and seek assistance for the rapid economic development to fulfil martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s vision of making Pakistan an egalitarian state. Never before in the history of Pakistan was so much mobilised in such a short time as now to pull the country out of the quagmire of socio-economic problems.
 
Billions of US dollars in aid committed to Pakistan by Washington, London, Japan, China and other Friends of Democratic Pakistan have plastered egg on the faces of those who wanted the nation to believe that frequent official tours abroad were merely pleasure trips. Indeed, they will soon know how sweet the pudding tastes once money pours in to power the wheels of industry left idle by the previous regime, leading to massive unemployment.

General Musharraf’s legacy was rapid Talibanisation in the country. While he spent most of the time flirting with them when the scourge could have been nipped in the bud, he left it as an Achilles heel for the democratic government.

Coming from a democratic dispensation, the government had to weigh the pros and cons of all the options available including dialogue and direct military action. Having failed to show the Taliban pagans the right path, President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Army Chief General Ashfaque Pervez Kiani in consultation with other leaders and parliamentarians, have at long last launched the decisive battle to save Pakistan from Talibanisation. No doubt the cost of this operation has a gigantic enormity in collateral damage, the dislocation of hundreds and thousands – no price is big or small for protecting one’s motherland.

The bloodthirsty Taliban had left Pakistan no choice. It will be the Pakistani military’s finest hour when it successfully roots out for all time the Taliban scourge from the face of the country. They have to do it with full force not only to secure the country but to revive their image as one of the best fighting forces in the world – an image rusted by General Musharraf and his abuse of the institution.

Last but not the least, the government is carrying out on a war footing the relocation and relief of hundreds and thousands dislocated families. It is our national responsibility to ensure that those who have sacrificed their hearths and homes for the defence of the country are not only honoured but compensated and rehabilitated. All those who laid down their lives in the battle – whether soldiers or civilians – their families must be provided lifetime sustenance. And as soon the Taliban are driven out or eliminated, massive development work will have to be put into action to provide livelihoods, modern education and healthcare, and the local population made partners in the management of their affairs.

The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London.

Comments

quoting myself…”if the neocons’ goal is to limit chinese and indian access to energy, who benefits from stirring up so much trouble between india and pakistan that pipelines from the persian gulf to india, china and gwadar are impossible to build?”nobody can handle the question.good enough.

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Mauryan, you said:”Umair writes: “Pakistan had nothing to do with Mumbai. If those are non-state actors, you cannot blame the people of Pakistan for that incident”That’s right. WTC towers were not brought down by Al Qaeda either. The US never dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hitler never authorized the Nazi concentration camps. Pakistan never involved itself in Indian affairs. Kashmir is an alien territory. Taliban was created by the US. ISI is a charity organization. Red Cross is a terrorist group. East Pakistan genocide never happened. They agreed to separate amicably. India’s claims of victory is all false.If Mumbai attacks were done by non-state actors, it says that your ISI is one and it acts with no accountability to a government. Wait a minute, which is your government? Who is running Pakistan? The Military or the name sake civilian government that runs until the next general gets ready to take over? The mullahs? Looks like everyone is a non-state actor. The only state actor in Pakistan seems to be the USA.”You know I never be ceased to be amazed at the nature of the Pakistani psyche to believe in selectively fictional account of every event in Pakistan. They seem to believe in every conceivably absurd conspiracy theory and fear mongering possible.What is even more amazing, is that, if the rest of the world had the same mentally ill mindset, every human on earth would believe 1000% in the existence of Reptilian Green or Grey Aliens from beyond and that they are the cause of every problem known to man, every problem from the indigestion and gas I have to the ozone layer dissappearing, despite the fact that there is no evidence of them or at the very least that all evidence seems to strongly not suggest their existence.The world is wondering when Pakistani’s will begin to for once, think rationally and carefully for themselves. We beg you all, please, for once, quit believe the liar Punjabi’s Fauji’s in Rawalpind and Islamabad, they have lied to you and twisted your mind with propaganda and we also beg you, to use logic, rationality and humanity, outside of a religious context and lift the veils of deceit, lies, conspiracies, hate and mis-perceptions from your mind, please free it and you will see an entirely different type of world and the way you see yourself in the world will change as well, it is not that bad of a place, not everyone is out to get you.

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Spiralling violence targets minorities15 May 2009, 0032 hrs IST, APKARACHI: Fauzia Abrar had finally gotten her crying baby to sleep when screaming men pounded on the steel doors of her home in the mostly Christianslum in Karachi.Suddenly she heard shots, and the screaming grew louder: “Long live Taliban! Death to infidels!’’ The men forced their way into her house, hurled loose tiles and a glass at her and fired a shot. She fainted.As the Taliban gains a stronger foothold in Pakistan, increasingly violent assaults against religious minorities are further evidence of its growing power and influence. While the Taliban does not carry out all of the attacks, extremist elements inspired by the group will sometimes act in its name.In dozens of interviews from Karachi to Peshawar, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus told of attacks and threats. “In Pakistan today there is a lot of feeling of fear by all the minorities,’’ said the revend Richard D’Souza of St Jude Church in Karachi. “We feel we have no protection.’’Religious minorities represent about 5% of Pakistan’s 160 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook.

 

@I am not sure I trust our planning acumen or alertness. Our military was caught napping when Musharraf sent his soldiers dressed as Mujahideen on to the peaks of Kargill.-Mauryan@We are not good with intelligence and we have not formed an organization that deals with such situations yet. The same with our nuclear command structure. Pakistan is more advanced than India in this regard and they got kudos for that.-MauryanMauryan: I was talking only about Nuke policy of India to defend any notion anyone around here has that a nuclear warhead will find India napping. Or do you think so? Have little confidence in Indian Army. Overall India has defended herself well–except for Chinese 1962. Terrorism is a whole new ball game. I don’t want India to become an Israel in tackling terrorism—that’s self-imposed house arrest. We are better and have many positives to show among failures. Non-Nuke issues are routine situations. Have you forgotten, it was advantage India in 1965 against much praised Pakistan who took at least 2 yrs for planning the war. mauryan it is easy to attack than to defend. India can do the same and catch many napping. But India is not an aggressor. For all the notoriety of ISI, what’s happening inside Pakistan now? Many Pakistanis blame ISI incompetence for Lal Masjid situtation–That was not a small thing in the middle of Islamabad.@Mumbai/Isreal: Israel blamed the Germans the same way about Isreal players hostage situation in Munich Olympics. You think Isrealis have not messed up?–they have killed their own guys in commando situation. Agreed they have successes to show and are better than India in hostage handling, but we cannot listen to Israeli crap that Indian commandos killed Jewish.

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Rajeev writes: “I was talking only about Nuke policy of India to defend any notion anyone around here has that a nuclear warhead will find India napping. Or do you think so? Have little confidence in Indian Army.”I have complete faith in the Indian military’s capability. It is one of the best militaries in the world, very professional and excellently trained. I am not so sure of our intelligence and emergency response for internal issues. Plane hijacks, Mumbai style attacks are not military’s domain. We need to improve our internal defense systems. In Rediff I read a few days ago where there was an article mentioning about India’s inadequacy in regards to internal security.I am completely in the dark about our nuclear command structure and how well things are protected.

 

@Rajeev, Mauryan,Despite India, its many problems and some social divisions and communal friction, which is going to happen, time to time, given that 1.2 billion people live there, India has not forgotten its past and never will. The Moghul Genocides are among the most bloodiest slaughters that mankind has ever seen. India has paid its past bad Karmas in full, slaugher within and slaughter at the hands of the British and Moghuls, now India will reap only goodness, progression, success, safety and security. When it comes to some common core ideals, all Indians, regardless of caste, religion, culture are all on the same page and Indian Unity is mightier than ever. India has every right to maintain high vigilance, high security and a military deterent, many miles higher than any of its neighbours.If Mumbai, 1971, 1965 are any indication, India will continue to be the financial, moral and ethical model of achievement in democracy, technology, political openness and equality for all, as per the law and its consitution.But let’s be very clear, the inertia of 7000 years of splendour will alway be tested. We have our share of problems, but Our foundations are rock solid, our existence is justified and true, we have aggressed no body, stolen from no body and hurt no body, through hard work and creativity, we have risen from nothing.All this needs a vast and superior overwhelming military deterrent, overwhelming relative to all its neighbours.India shall never be the aggressor, but if it is aggressed, if all options are exhausted, it should crush its opponents with finality.

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GW,India is now poised to go on a path of prosperity. I am so delighted to see the latest election results. The voters have chosen what they desire – peace, stability, maturity and progress. Right now, only Congress under Man Mohan Singh can deliver that. This election has proved every pundit wrong. This is very good news.I was worried about who would get to form a government at the center. A coalition of rag tag political parties with opposing ideologies would have led us towards some kind of an instability. At this time, having a stable government is very crucial and on top of that, I wanted to see someone mature and respectable. My prayer has been answered.India will only be approached with respect by world powers for what its people have accomplished. Those who call us as a regional bully, should look at our democratic system and learn how to run their countries peacefully.Pakistan and its allies would have like to see a reactionary party at the center, like the BJP. That would have worked in their favor if they prodded India with terrorist strikes. Now they will be forced to cleanse their morally corrupt system that believed in wars and insurgency. This is good for us and it is good for them as well.

 

Today’s Indian election result is great news for India & all Indians. Now, with a decisive mandate, the Congress lead Government can fearlessly move ahead with reforms without being black-mailed by the leftist parties or other regional parties. India-US relations will also get stronger & India’s reputation in the global comity will get even better. I had no doubt that the Indian population will reject the polarizing & communal forces and give mandate to secular & progressive forces. It’s a happy day for Indians & people of Indian origin, all over the world.

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Those who delude themselves feeling safe in a nation made for Muslims should note what India has demonstrated – A Sikh Prime Minister on his second term, supported by an Italian immigrant of Christian faith, to be sworn in by a woman President. And no one voted on religious lines – Hindus or Muslims. Everyone voted for secularism and stability. BJP lost the elections because of what Varun Gandhi said and Narendra Modi was projected as the stand in PM. Secularism is demonstrated by the vote and not by those who get to power. Learn from us. Get rid off militancy, get rid off radical Islam and become secular. Compete with us on progress and constructive things. Do not compete with us on war terms. You are trying to put down a fire you had grown for us. Embrace democracy and throw out the military generals and feudal lords. We have shown you by example. This is the real big brother.

 

GW, Mauryan and Mortal:Great to hear about Indian election result. Like Mccain, Advani is out of the race for the highest office. From rath yatra to this result. Good ridance. Like Republicans in US have been learning lessons by including diversity and using a different approach, BJP has to shed its Hindutva slogan. It has failed them. Many Indian bloggers on other sites have been asking for Modi/Advani as the saviour PM after Mumbai attack. All this has not worked for BJP. Congress UPA is back but we do need a strong, sane and progressive alternative party to not Congress sit in an easy chair. I am not sure how BJP will do in future. Bajpai helped them in the past and that;s why they were in power. Hopefully they learn something.Mauryan, No question that India’s internal security system needs big changes. “Chalta hai” “ho jayga” attitude is not a match for these terrorists. Intelligence and swift security reponse is needed. Police commandos, paramilitary commandos should be trained with all the modern weapons. There are young people out there who have all the fire to do this job. I have seen in PUnjab how KPS Gill changed a demoralized Punjab Police to a competent police. he has written a lot on reltaed issues on “South Asia Terrorism Portal”. I find it ridicuolus that India/Pak are spending fortune on planes/missiles but completely ignore the internal security.GW: I agree With you. Despite all the negatives, a majority of Indians do not think about religion as the dividing force. while we tackle radical Islamic terrorism, India needs to pay special attention to rising Hindu fudamentalism before we get into some situation where we have take drastic steps. Rule of law has to be applied more forcefully.

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All in the name of Peace:WASHINGTON, May 18: A special death squad assassinated Pakistans former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on the orders of former US vice-president Dick Cheney, claims an American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.Mr Hersh, a Washington-based journalist who writes for the New Yorker magazine and other prominent media outlets, also claims that the former vice-president was running an “executive assassination ring” throughout the Bush years. The cell reported directly to Mr Cheney.In an interview to an Arab television channel, Mr Hersh indicated that the same unit killed Ms Bhutto because in an interview with Al Jazeera TV on Nov 2, 2007, she had said she believed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was already dead. She said she believed Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Al Qaeda activist imprisoned in Pakistan for killing US journalist Daniel Pearl had murdered Bin Laden.But the interviewer, veteran British journalist David Frost, deleted her claim from the interview, Mr Hersh said.The controversial US journalist told Gulf News on May 12 he believed Ms Bhutto was assassinated because the US leadership did not want Bin Laden to be declared dead.The Bush administration wanted to keep Bin Laden alive to justify the presence of US army in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban, Mr Hersh said.The Pulitzer prize-winning American journalist claimed that the unit also killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of that country.Mr Hariri and the Lebanese army chief were murdered for not safeguarding US interests and refusing to allow US to set up military bases in Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, the then prime minister of Israel, was also a key man in the plot, Mr Hersh said.According to Mr Hersh, Lt-Gen Stanley McChrystal who was last week named the new commander in charge of US forces in Afghanistan, ran the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence.Gen McChrystal, a West Point graduate and a Green Beret, is currently director of Staff at the Pentagon, the executive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.A media report noted that most of what Gen. McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the JSOC.On July 22, 2006, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled ‘No blood, no foul’ about American torture practices at three facilities in Iraq. One of them was Camp Nama, which was operated by JSOC, under the direction of then Major Gen. McChrystal.Gen McChrystal was officially based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but he was a frequent visitor to Camp Nama and other Special Forces bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where forces under his command were based.An interrogator at Camp Nama known as Jeff described locking prisoners in shipping containers for 24 hours at a time in extreme heat; exposing them to extreme cold with periodic soaking in cold water; bombardment with bright lights and loud music; sleep deprivation; and severe beatings.When he and other interrogators went to the colonel in charge and expressed concern that this kind of treatment was not legal, and that they might be investigated by the military’s Criminal Investigation Division or the International Committee of the Red Cross, the colonel told them he had “this directly from Gen McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in”.On March 11, Mr Hersh told a seminar at the University of Minnesota that the unit Mr Cheney headed was very deeply involved in extra-legal operations.“It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently,” he explained. “They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office … Congress has no oversight of it … It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.”Mr Hersh said: “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”Although Mr Cheney had ignored such allegations in the past, recently he began responding to these charges, making counter-allegations against the Obama administration.Last week in particular, Mr Cheney appeared almost daily on popular talk shows and also delivered a formal address at the American Enterprise Institute on the importance of interrogation techniques widely considered to be torture. Once known for his reticence and low profile, Mr Cheney has now become his party’s most audible voice.Media commentators, however, attribute his sudden exuberance to the fear that if he did not defend himself, he might be prosecuted for authorising torture.“Mr Cheney knew, when he began his media assault, that the worst of the horrors inflicted upon detainees at his specific command are not yet widely known,” said one commentator. “If the real stuff comes into full public light, he feared the general outrage will be so furious and all-encompassing that the Obama administration will have no choice but to … seek prosecutions of those Bush-era officials who specifically demanded those barbaric acts be inflicted upon prisoners.”One blogger wrote that Mr Cheney not only authorised water-boarding, putting prisoners in confined spaces, pushing them, slapping them, putting bugs on them or demeaning them and their religious faith.He quoted former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as telling a congressional panel in July of 2004 that if pictures of such acts were “released to the public, obviously it’s going to make matters worse”.Mr Hersh recently gave a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union making the charge that children were sodomised in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon had tape of it.

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Dear Mr Hasan,May your thoughts be true. May Allah lead your country to realisation of the vision you share with us.May you, and the likes of you, grow in strength and the ability to lead your people along the path of Sufi Islam, democracy, economic development and humanistic values.May your people evolve spiritually, without being parochial or bigoted, and your nation espouse secular values across the entire spectrum of public life.

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