by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 3, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1434)
As Pakistanis go to the polls, there are far more serious issues facing the country, not least a grand foreign conspiracy to break it up.
With parliamentary elections (for national and provincial assemblies) due on May 11, the people of Pakistan have been swept by excitement generated by political rallies. There are heated discussions about which party would come out on top and whether Imran Khan, the cricket star-turned-politician, would gain enough seats to form the next government or enter into an electoral alliance with other parties to influence decision making. These are all interesting issues but Pakistanis face far more daunting challenges than the party that will form the next government.
Life for the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis has been a series of crises with car and suicide bombings becoming daily occurrences. The number of people killed in the first three months of this year is already close to the total killed in the entire year of 2012. This trend is worrying. There are, however, even bigger issues confronting the people if they care to pay close attention. Pakistan is under siege. The sectarian killings are part of this diabolical plot to destabilize and, therefore, destroy the country.
Some would argue that this is the result of ill-conceived policies pursued by successive regimes — military and civilian. There is definitely some truth in this assertion but the multiple external threats Pakistan faces cannot be dismissed lightly. In fact, there are so many external players involved in destabilizing Pakistan that it is surprising the country has managed to survive so far. This warfare is being waged against Pakistan both by its avowed enemies — India, Israel and Afghanistan — and by its so-called friends: the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. India has established a string of consulates in cities along the border with Pakistan. These are not meant to provide consular services to Indian citizens; there are not many Indians in Afghanistan. These “consulates” are essentially fronts for the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), whose members infest them and coordinate terrorist attacks against Pakistan. The Indian embassy in Kabul is similarly a den of spies, thanks to close cooperation between the Afghan intelligence agency and RAW.
If we consider the locales where the murderous campaigns are being waged in Pakistan, this would provide useful pointers to what is afoot. The provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtun-khwa (KP) as well as the city of Karachi, where terrorist attacks are common, are most severely affected. There are independent though interrelated reasons for the mayhem in each area. Baluchistan is the most serious challenge facing Pakistan and given its geostrategic and economic importance, external interference is intense. The KP is facing a blowback from Pakistan’s own Taliban — Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — as well as Afghan and Indian instigated attacks to destabilize the country.
There are multiple wars underway in Karachi, Pakistan’s industrial and commercial hub. First, there are Deobandi/ Taliban attacks on Shi‘is and Barelvis. The narrow-minded sectarian ideology nurtured in Deobandi madrasahs in Pakistan and India is financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Rich individuals as well as regime-linked institutions in the two Arabian countries finance these terrorist groups. The Deobandi/Taliban outfits also have links with some segments of the Pakistani security establishment and although these relations have soured in recent years, the fact that these outfits are not confronted with the necessary vigor and determination to control their nefarious activities is troubling.
Karachi has other fault lines as well: the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pathans struggle for power and control. Both groups resort to arms and have been killing each other’s supporters in tit-for-tat attacks. The MQM (formerly called Muhajir Qaumi Movement) considers Karachi its exclusive turf and refuses to allow others — whether Pathans from the north or Punjabis (to a lesser extent) to intrude. The MQM has gained notoriety for collecting bhatta (extortion money) from small and big business owners to finance its political and other activities. Most businessmen cough up for fear of being targeted. The Pathans that now dominate Karachi’s transport business refuse to pay. The MQM’s real beef against the Pathans is not their refusal to pay bhatta but the fact that the latter are now intruding on territory the MQM considers its exclusive preserve and becoming a political threat to its interests.
The MQM was created in the 1980s by General Zia ul-Haq who wanted to undermine the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in its home base of Sindh province. This was another of the military’s harebrained plans of interfering in politics that has gone awry.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the TTP have been targeting security personnel as well as politicians they consider their enemies. Attacks against civilians have declined somewhat in recent weeks but not because the TTP has realized the futility of killing civilians. There are many Taliban factions. The Swat Taliban that were driven from the region in 2009 are being sheltered in the adjoining Kunar province of Afghanistan from where they launch murderous attacks in Bajaur, Swat and the adjoining areas. Given the area’s lawlessness, criminal elements have also joined their ranks to terrorize people.
The Swat Taliban emerged in the aftermath of the former Pakistani dictator, General Pervez Musharraf’s attack on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007. More than 100 students — male and female — were killed in a commando attack that was completely unnecessary. It could have been resolved peacefully but Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans, had to prove his macho credentials to his masters and refused to take yes for an answer. Phosphorus bombs were used and most of the students were burnt alive. Many of these students belonged to poor families from Swat. The rise of the Swat Taliban and the mayhem that has since ensued is the direct result of this ill-conceived policy.
Zionist agents in conjunction with India’s RAW agents have been operating in Pakistan for decades. Three months ago, a Zionist agent of Pakistani origin was arrested in Lahore. Search of his laptop and computer revealed much information about his links with his Zionist masters. Recruited while incarcerated in the American gulag Guantanamo Bay, the Zionist agent admitted to recruiting scores of other Pakistanis. He also admitted to killing at least 200 Pakistani security personnel. While this Zionist ring has been smashed it would be unrealistic to assume that all Zionist agents in Pakistan have been eliminated. In fact, a strong nexus exists between the Zionists, Indians and Americans to undermine Pakistan.
The American mercenary outfit Blackwater, since renamed Xe-Services, is well known for its murderous rampage in Pakistan. On January 27, 2011, Raymond Davis, Xe-Service mercenary working undercover at the US consulate in Lahore, murdered two Pakistanis in broad daylight on a busy street in Lahore. The two Pakistanis, riding a motorbike, were shot in the back because Davis suspected them of following him. When people captured the American murderer before the police arrived, much information was retrieved from his multiple cell phones with contact details of scores of terrorists that he had been in touch with. Unfortunately, Davis was allowed to leave the country without facing murder charges because Pakistani rulers lacked the spine to stand up to American pressure. Imagine if a Pakistani had murdered Americans in broad daylight on a busy pedestrian thorougfare in New York City. Pakistani-born Faisal Shehzad, who tried to detonate a truck bomb in New York in 2010 (it did not go off), was given a long prison sentence. The American murderer was let go without a trial.
Unfortunately, America has recruited many Pakistanis for its dirty work in Pakistan. These include retired military officers as well as bureaucrats. Many journalists and politicians are also on Washington’s payroll. According to documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010, in one of its cables to the US State Department, the US embassy in Islamabad said Pakistani journalists could be bought for a mere invitation to the embassy. Retired military officers and bureaucrats are paid more; most salaries are way above Pakistani standards. The going rate is $10,000 per month plus a huge house with guards and servants as well as several vehicles. For the Americans, this is a pittance, but for the Pakistani mercenaries, such sums are a fortune. Additionally, they and their children get multiple entry visas to the US as well as education opportunities.
Pakistan, however, faces its most serious challenge in Baluchistan. There are multiple problems. The military is involved in fighting a separatist insurgency led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA). The Baluchistan government-in-exile has its headquarters in Israel — yes, the Zionist state of Israel. When Muslims point to Zionist criminal activities in Pakistan, apologists for the Zionist regime immediately accuse them of indulging in conspiracy theories. This is no conspiracy; it is a fact.
The US and its allies have targeted Baluchistan for decades. In June 2006, Colonel Ralph Peters, a retired American officer, wrote a piece in the American Army Journal, titled “Blood Borders.” In it, Peters discussed redrawing the borders of many countries but his special focus was Baluchistan. The province is important because of its strategic location and fossil fuel wealth. It borders Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and has the deepwater port at Gwadar that Pakistan just handed over to the Chinese to operate. Gwadar is located only 50 miles from the mouth of the Persian Gulf and can control oil tanker traffic from there. Additionally, Gwadar will act as an important transit point for goods into Central Asia.
The American-British-Zionist plan is to separate the Pakistani and Irani parts of Baluchistan to create a “Greater Baluchistan.” This would achieve a number of Western-Zionist objectives. Not only will nuclear-armed Muslim Pakistan be cut down to size (similar trimming of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province is planned) but the “Greater Baluchistan” project will undermine Iran as well and destabilize the entire region. At the same time, the US will succeed in encircling China, its main political and economic rival, by blocking its access to the Indian Ocean. China’s acquisition of Gwadar is seen by the US as a threat to its interests as is Pakistan’s agreement to purchase gas from Iran. Washington has threatened Pakistan with sanctions and while it has promised to provide alternative energy sources, this has not materialized. Energy-starved Pakistan — prolonged blackouts are routine — cannot afford to be without gas or electricity for too long. Pakistani industries have suffered grievously as a consequence.
Baluchistan is also extremely rich in minerals. There are gold and uranium deposits in addition to oil and gas. In 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari and a number of his cronies tried to sell one of the goldmines worth an estimated $40 billion to a Canadian and Chilean mining consortium for a mere $6 billion. The money was to be deposited into their bank accounts abroad. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had to intervene to prevent the sale that in any case was illegal since proper procedures were not followed in awarding the mine to outsiders.
The sectarian violence in which the Shi‘i Hazara community has been a special target is also part of the plot against Baluchistan. While it is well known that the terrorist group, Lashkar-e Jhangvi is involved in such crimes, the security establishment has taken little or no action against it. Lashkar-e Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for both attacks in Quetta (January and February) in which more than 200 people were killed. The aim of such attacks is to instigate Sunni-Shi‘i conflict. While most of the victims of sectarian violence are Shi‘is, it would be wrong to label it Sunni-Shi‘i conflict as such; the overwhelming majority of Sunnis do not support such crimes. True, the perpetrators claim to be “Sunnis” while the victims are Shi‘is, but if we were to accept this narrative, we would fall into the trap of the enemies of Islam.
What is needed, however, is for Sunnis — ‘ulama and political leaders alike — to come out openly in condemning such attacks and to demand proper protection for Shi‘i communities. Some Sunni ‘ulama have done so; others need to speak out. Additionally, in order to prove that Sunnis do not support such murderous attacks, they should set up a fund to help the victims of such crimes. Also, and most importantly, they must urge the security establishment to take effective measures against these murderous thugs. Their leaders are well known; they should not be allowed to continue to kill innocent people. The stakes for Pakistan are very high. It should be understood that the aim of such attacks is to create serious differences between Iran and Pakistan, a long-cherished policy of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Leaders of the Shi‘i community in Pakistan also have a grave responsibility. They must not allow these attacks to be presented as Sunni attacks on Shi‘is. As stated above, the overwhelming majority of Sunnis do not agree with or support such attacks. More crucially, accepting such interpretation would play into the hands of those who want to divide Shi‘is from Sunnis. What is needed is for sincere people from both sides to come together to confront this menace. Collectively, it can be defeated and Pakistan saved from destabilization and ultimate disintegration.