The “New” Saudi Arabia
– By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
(5 – 7 minute read)
Recently we saw an assertive Saudi Arabia slam Canada with a volley of diplomatic and economic punches which left Canada reeling and a trifle stunned.
They expelled the Canadian Ambassador, recalled their’s, ordered 15000 college and university students and 900 medical students and doctors to leave Canada by September.
They announced they won’t buy Canadian wheat and barley, and also stopped direct airline flights to Toronto.
But they stopped short of halting oil exports to Canada and cancelling a $15 Billion light armoured vehicles deal. Two actions which would have had far more serious economic impact on Saudi Arabia then the other actions they announced.
MBS may appear impetuous and reckless which he is, in my opinion, but he’s also pretty smart as well, when it comes to money!
The Saudis have demanded nothing short of a full and unqualified apology from Canada for “…..interfering in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia….”
And all this because of an ill thought through tweet by the Canadian Foreign office on the arrest of Samar Badawi, sister of the already arrested and convicted Saudi Blogger and human rights activist, Raif Badawi.
The world’s silence was deafening!
The so-called human rights leaders, the crocodile and hypocritical tear shedding USA and UK, asked Canada to clean up their own mess.
Germany and Sweden, still smarting from Saudi knuckle raps in 2015 and 2017, offered no comment. The EU requested “more information” which really means “Sorry, Saudis, we have to do it for the sake of form, but kindly ignore”
Egypt, UAE and Pakistan announced support.
Pakistan’s stance perhaps the most surprising, indicating the emerging influence Saudi Arabia has again begun to exercise on us, which had considerably waned given our neutral positions on Syria, Iran and Yemen. They likely arm twisted and demanded this statement, in exchange for financial favors to follow.
Pakistan readily obliged given our dire economic condition and our desperation for financial help.
This position, will, in my view, come to haunt us tomorrow when we condemn human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir or Assam or Myanmar or on Palestinians in Israeli occupied territories.
Smugly, I can then foresee India and Israel turning around and telling us to shut up and “stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.
Whatever our compulsions and whoever the architect, this was a stupid and ill thought through decision!
The three calls from King Salman and Crown Prince MBS to PM elect Imran Khan, and the invitation to visit Saudi Arabia, all within the space of a week are also unprecedented!
But this piece isn’t about the Canadian Saudi dispute but more trying to understand what’s happening in the Kingdom!
So what’s going on in Saudi Arabia?
Kamran Bokhari, Vice President at Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based research and policy think tank and author of Political Islam in the age of Democratization, believes that since MBS’s taking over as Crown Prince in 2017, and effectively the reins of Saudi Arabia, a massive sea change has taken place in their internal traditional power structures and their foreign policy.
For example the 90-year-old symbiotic and close relationship between the Saudi State and the Religious Clergy has ended.
He believes that the power and influence of the ultra conservative Wahabi Clergy was highly overrated to begin with, and today, MBS has easily managed to defang them by either buying them off, browbeating them into submission and in some cases putting the very few who didn’t toe his line, behind bars.
There’s also a common view amongst young Saudis, that MBS is as much a conservative Wahabi or traditional Muslim as is Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, an Iranian Shia!
MBS’s secular outlook is driving his desire to purge Saudi society of its centuries old baggage of religious conservatism and obscurantism and open it to modernization.
But, and here is where the problem lies, at the same time, he wants total and unquestionable power and autocratic control and absolutely no political dissent.
This approach of modernization and religious secularism endears him to a large segment of the 60% Saudi youth of both genders, his main constituency. Hence the widely welcomed curbs on the activities of the religious police, the limitations and restrictions on issuing religious Fatwas and the permission to women to drive cars.
But to retain total power, he realizes that the traditional power sharing structure with other members of the Royal family and power centers in the country would always pose an existential danger to his authority and writ!
Hence in one extremely risky but daring move, he imprisoned thousands of the very rich and powerful from within and without the Royal circle for several weeks, and defanged them by taking away their most lethal weapons, their wealth and their positions in government.
He must have surmised that as long they had wealth and political power, the Royals and other powerful people would continue to be a threat. By taking away their wealth and political clout, he believes he’s neutralized or minimised this threat.
Externally, he’s cleverly allied himself to Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel to forestall any serious external pressures and threats.
This alignment gave him the space to play havoc with hapless Yemen, launch a political and economic boycott of Qatar, kick Canada in the shins, and assert Saudi Arabia’s new-found independance of no longer being a USA appendage, but an emerging regional power and partner.
A partner which, he thinks, will look after US interests and by proxy, Israel interests, as a regional policeman, especially in the context of Iran, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Afghanistan.
The above makes sense to him, as the USA attempts to exit from very expensive operations in the Region, such as in Afghanistan, a $45 Billion hole. MBS believes this is the time to assert Saudi credentials as a regional power. The last more significant now given the serious disputes between Turkey and USA.
Easier said then done!
So who is MBS? This is how I read him!
He’s first and foremost a complete autocrat, wanting total and absolute power like a Kim Jong un of North Korea.
He’s secondly a Saudi, wanting to modernize the country but in his own way and style, much like the opening up of China by the Chinese Communist leadership and harshly stamping out any dissent by activists like Rauf and Samar Badawi, who can potentially snowball a tiny movement into a major political reform movement in which he is not a player!
Third, he’s an ambitious Arab nationalist, wanting to dominate the Region vying against Iranian or Turkish or even Pakistani, domination and influence.
And last and definitely the least, he’s a secular, indifferent Muslim who doesn’t really care a flying frog about religion or Muslim Unity or the so-called mirage of the Ummah, a daily dream of many simple Pakistanis!
So the big question is?
Will he succeed in his objectives in modernizing Saudi Arabia, becoming a dominant regional player and simultaneously retaining absolute and total control of the country?
I think he will partially succeed in opening up the country to modernization but not at the pace and manner he would want. A genie or movement once let loose no longer listens to its master and takes a life of their own. I don’t think he will be able to manage or control this “guided modernization”!
On becoming the Regional Policeman, the environment is even harsher!
His support from a more inward looking USA will no longer be a long-term guarantee. And may become even more questionable if Trump doesn’t win a second term.
The Turkish-USA divide, while seemingly an opportunity for MBS’s ambitions will create more instability as the battle heats up and as the big boys, Russia and China also step into the fray.
A post USA withdrawal Afghanistan conjures up several nightmare scenarios of the Warlordism of the 90’s or even Balkanization of the country but most likely the collapse of the Ghani government.
In any of these scenarious, Saudi Arabia has much less influence in Afghanistan then say, Pakistan and their arch-enemy, Iran.
So pretty much, no dice here.
And as we are seeing they will not be able to exercise any influence over an increasingly assertive Assad ruled Syria, now silently supported by the US, fearing a return of the Daesh phenomenon and their alliance with the Kurds, as well as a much more stable Iraq.
And finally closer to home in Pakistan.
Here we have a PM elect like Imran who unlike Nawaz, owes no personal loyalty or obligation to them, has no financial interests at stake in the Kingdom, and importantly has publicly stated to take a neutral policy in inter regional disputes and act as a mediator!
Given all this and their extremely limited military clout, despite their modern weaponry but poor training and small size, I don’t think his dream of being a regional Arab power will come true.
But he may get some short-term traction as he continues to exercise his economic clout, and for want of a better word, economic blackmail as used against Qatar and Canada, and silently against the Europeans and now becoming more visible in our case as well.
This clout becomes more potent given the recently imposed US sanctions on Iran and US tariffs on Turkey!
Internally, he will continue his path to modernization, which is quite the Catch-22 for him!
The more he modernizes Saudi society and “we are open for business” the stronger will be the demand by people for even more reform and more rights, especially given the large number of Saudis educated in Western Universities and the vibrant and extensive use of social media, especially Twitter in the Kingdom.
This will, in my opinion, set in motion harsher repressive measures by him to stamp out such activism and here is where I fear, the proverbial tipping point will happen.
Either towards a much more open society or leading towards an internal implosion.
If the former than its great for everybody, except MBS, unless he morphs his role into a Constitutional Monarchy. This seems unlikely given his style and character and autocratism!
The latter is a very real possibility given the presence of a large number of highly militant elements of the DAESH ilk stepping in and taking advantage of the chaos.
This, in my opinion, will be a far more serious nightmare scenario than any we have seen unfolding in the Middle East, thus far!
Young MBS must remember that controlled change or controlled chaos, has never succeeded! He will become a victim of his own change! And there’s no turning back now, as he rides the Saudi Tiger!
While we must retain our close ties and relations with the Saudi state, we must closely and privately work with MBS to ensure he takes measures which don’t implode Saudi society, resulting in its horrifying consequences for the Region and Pakistan.
We must caution and advise him against any further foolhardy military adventurism in the region, or exacerbate existing ones. More importantly, urge him to pull back and stop where they are involved, such as Yemen. It’s here where we can play a very effective mediation role!
We must not take or be seen taking sides and or partisan positions in regional disputes or get drawn into major military arrangements with Saudi Arabia or any other country in exchange for money.
And it will truly be a crowning glory for Pakistan if we can bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and to the negotiating table!
As the current Army Chief, General Bajwa stated in a conference in Germany in February 2018, with reference to regional conflicts:
“……… the Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979…..”
Let not any myopic policies be adopted today!
Imran and Pakistan have to walk a very tight rope with great care, keeping our long-term national interests, paramount!
The three calls from the King and the Crown Prince and those from the Iranian President must be seen in this context as well !
Pakistan must not punch above its weight, but work for peace all around, including with India!
More later, on options with India!
Salaams and Prayers
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
Disclaimer: This is a perspective based on some unsubstantiated claims, some circumstantial evidence and some deductions.
Apparently the only NRO offered to The Sharif’s by the Saudis stands for “No Refunds Offered”.
From what I’ve heard and been told, unsubstantiated of course as no one’s privy to the discussions, but based on current circumstantial evidence and some whispers, the Sharifs are being questioned about their wealth in Saudi Arabia and it’s source.
This follows a similar pattern, apparently earlier done with former PM of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia, who has allegedly signed over several billion dollars of her wealth to the Saudi Exchequer, because she was unable to substantiate the source of her wealth and assets she had in Saudi Arabia.
The Sharifs, as is now fairly well known, have been using Saudi Arabia as their “money laundering clearing house” for quite some time.
Most of their ill gotten funds, plundered from Pakistan were routed to Saudi Arabia from other Gulf countries, especially UAE and Qatar and channeled into their accounts in Saudi Arabia. From there, as the story goes, these funds made their way to the UK and whenever required, routed back to Pakistan as gift transfers by his sons to him.
This was a really neat and tidy operation till things started to unravel. The biggest loss was the death of King Abdullah, their patron in chief and the subsequent coming into power of MBS who was unencumbered by any past relationships with or obligations to the Sharifs.
If anything MBS, as I’ve been told, has a very poor opinion of them, and is also terribly displeased with Nawaz, in particular, for NOT delivering on his commitment to provide troops for MBS’s Yemen misadventure, scuttled by the Army’s refusal to do so.
Qatar is also a factor. A substantial part of the Sharifs wealth in recent years has originated by awarding contracts to Qatari companies fronted by the effervescent Saif ur Rahman and Qatari Prince Jassem, the author of the two infamous Qatari letters showing Nawaz’s money trail during his hearing by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama case.
The Saudis and especially MBS would love to squeeze this particular portion of the Sharifs wealth.
So Nawaz was the brother who was “summoned” to explain the sources and means of the Sharifs wealth in Saudi Arabia. Apparently he got cold feet, given the recent arrest and incarceration of several hundred princes, including Prince Waleed Bin Talal, who has reportedly signed over 95% of his wealth to the Saudi Exchequer.
So the younger Sharif was sent, Nawaz excusing himself due to some very “important political commitments” in Pakistan. Some say the meeting between the NSA with Nawaz Sharif was also in the same context, apparently to discuss eventualities. Unsubstantiated though!
After being given an all clear by Shahbaz he’s also flown to Saudi Arabia to explain his wealth. The apparent inevitable end is that he will be signing off a substantial if not his entire wealth to the Saudis.
Now this is one heck of a story, if true.
And if it’s our standard NRO then boy oh boy are we in trouble and is the Army in even bigger trouble for allowing or facilitating this.
If Gen. Bajwa by any stretch of expediency or compromise does this, he would have signed a death knell for Pakistan and himself and his institution. So beware!
– Haider Mehdi
….. “Nawaz Sharif, specifically, is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan,” Mr. Alwaleed says….(Prince Waleed’s interview with the Wall Street Journal)
.this is the most direct reference by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz on how the Saudis exercise control in Pakistan through “their man” Nawaz Sharif and their “gifts”…..another leading European Geo Political analyst calls Nawaz Sharif ….”the Saudi ruling family’s “Shoeshine” boy ready to do their bidding at the drop of the hat….”
So the Saudi ruling family wants Nawaz Sharif to send “Sunni” Pakistani troops to help them fight a loosely confederated rag tag bunch of Yemeni tribes and Zaidi Houthis who’ve been fighting anybody and everybody forever.
These guys are as trigger happy as our own local Houthis called the FATA PATHANS! ! And in the 1960s they caused 20,000 Egyptian troops to reach the Maker quicker than they expected. So beware.
But what I say now, comes from a very senior serving 3 star horse’s mouth, who has told me that he would publicly deny if I quoted his name. So no names.
Some time ago in a conversation with then Prince Salman now King Salman, the Prince says to this 3 star ..” why don’t you Pakistanis get rid of the Shias of Pakistan”….. this was then repeated by a senior ranking Saudi General also a member of the royal family….
Well they may not be able to get rid of the Shias of Pakistan, but if we did participate in this so called Iran Saudi proxy war, it will open the floodgates of sectarian strife and civil war in Pakistan, where our Militancy in FATA will look like walk in the park.
It will also be another black scar on our conscience the other being the “massacre of 1000’s of Palestinians by King Hussein of Jordan ably supported by a certain Brig. Zia ul Haque in Jordan in 1970”.
…in the words of Moshe Dayan…. “Pakistanis and King Hussein killed more Palestinians in eleven days than Israel could kill in twenty years.”
The end of the House of Saud is on the cards. Another cliché. Writings on the wall. We don’t want to get sucked in this quicksand.
The Saud have done enough damage to Islam and Muslims since that terrible pact between Mohammad Ibn Wahab and Abdul Aziz in 1744.
Let nature’s nemesis take its course and let them get their just desserts ! (enough clichés)
And then ever so often people question my sectarian bias and asked if I was against the House of Saud, or the Yemen invasion aor Saudi Wahabiism.
So here’s my answer.
First, I think I will change my name to Mohammad Ramzan so people dont get thrown away by my so Shia sounding name and immediately label me a “Shia Sectarian Iranian agent”.
Second. I am vehemently, openly and inequivocally against all three.
Against Al Saud.
Against intervention in Yemen and against Saudi Wahabiism.
And all three are closely connected and stem from the same evil root. The unholy satanic alliance between Mohammd Ibn Wahab and the son of Saud, Abbul Aziz in 1744.
The sectarian fissures in Pakistan are thanks to the Saudis, and no not the Iranians, unfortunately, far more stark then they were in 1980 and in 1993 during the Afghan civil war between the Saudi / Pakistani backed Hekmatyar and Haqqani and Irani backed Ahmad Shah Massoud.
And now on the Government’s decision whether to send Pakistan Army to prop up the Al Saud, participate in their dirty war and clean their crap.
Even during Gen Zia ul Haque’s time he flatly refused any Shia Sunni distinction.
And the Saudis now ask for a “Sunni” Pakistani Army!!!. Better ask for an Israeli contingent as well.
Gen. Raheel please be warned you’ll destroy Pakistan if you allow this Saudi Shoeshine boy, Nawaz Sharif to send our boys to clean their diapers.
If anyone is genuinely interested on the role Saudi Arabia has played in fuelling terrorism and militancy, please read my thoughts on the roots of militancy in Islam and see how they start from Ahmed ibn Hanbal in the 9th Century to Ibn Tayemmiah on the 12th Century, to Mohammed Ibn Wahab in the 18th Century to Syed Qutub, Mohammed Faraj, Abdullah Azzam, Ayman Al Zwahiri, Osama Bin Laden in the 20th Century and now Abu Bakr Baghdadi in the 21st Century. The link is at the end of this article.
And unfortunately whether we like it or not, historically it has been the Saudi Wahabi brand of Islam which was, is and will continue to be the basis of the terrible belief system of the ISIS / DAESH and the TTP and the Sectarian terrorists outfit in Pakistan such as the ASWJ, the Sipah e Sahaba and the Lashkare Jhangvi.
For the naysayers and the uninitiated a simple comparison of Sunni doctors, professors, intellectuals, government servants been killed Vs Shias will answer this question of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Pakistan.
And pray how many by these extreme Sunni terrorist organisations in Pakistan compared to Shias?
Sir. This was not a proxy war between Saudi and Iran in Pakistan. It was a Saudi funded genocide of fellow Muslims, the Shias in Pakistan.
As plain and as simple as that.
Over 70% of Deobandi mosques in Pakistan are funded directly or indirectly by Saudis.
Over 300 Million Dollars, as estimated by the USA government, of annual funding to TTP originated from sources within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.
36 Billion dollars were given to Saddam by Saudi Arabia to start the war against Iran which lasted 9 years from 1980 to 1989 and killed over a million people.
Over 100 Billion Dollars have been spent by the Saudi Government to propagate Wahabiism across the Globe subverting Schools, Colleges, Universities, Madrassahs, Political parties, political leaders. Nawaz Sharif being one most prominent. Terrorist organisations like the DAESH, TTP, the ASWJ, The Sipah e Sahaba and the Lashkare Jhnagvi. Government’s like Pakistan, Mubarak’s and Sisi’s Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq before he invaded Kuwait and the list is endless.
15 of the 19, 9/11 Hijackers were Saudis. 20,000 Saudis came to Afghanistan to fight and created the terrible mess we are in.
These guys really deserve no mercy. They’ve destroyed whatever there was of Muslim unity.
So when people talk about Iran meddling in other countries, my question is what would you do if your entire neighbourhood, overnight, after the Shah of Iran was overthrown, became your enemy including the entire West and the World’s biggesst Superpower?.
Would you sit pretty and twiddle your thumbs and let the Saudis and their proxies walk over you and bring about a regime change or would you fight for your survival?
Simple answer. Fight for your survival.
So I’m not an apologist for Iran and I’m sure they’ve done their bag of dirty tricks but nowhere near the terrible terrible chaos that the House of Saud has perpetrated in the Region and in Pakistan.
Here’s another thing to think about. Forget sects. Just look at Governance.
Iran has had 11 Presidential and parliamentary elections since their revolution in 1979.
It has a working parliament, a system that can imprison former ministers and or relatives of Presidents.
Yes the clergy still has power beyond what they should but it is waning. The recent nuclear deal with USA is a battle that the conservative clergy lost.
Saudi is a Monarchy and a terrible one at that. No human rights, no right to vote, no nothing.
A police state like Stalinist Russia.
They treat us Pakistanis like animals. A Saudi is forbidden to marry a Pakistani. That’s your Ummah for you.
In fact they treat everybody like animals, except the Americans and the Europeans.
Finally sir. Iran is a neighbour with a long border with us. Not Saudi Arabia. We want a friend on our border not an enemy.
The House of Saud’s end has come whether people like it or not. Its as plain as the blue sky.
How and when? I dont know. But surely sooner than people think and expect.
Many people comment on the relationship between Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah and Iran when one points out the nexus between Saudi Arabia and DAESH.
To me its comical. So steeped in prejudiced hatred are the Al Bakistani supporters of Al Saud that they will run down an organisation like Hezbollah which has single handedly taken on Israel and fought the Israeli army to a standstill, as if its something terribly “evil”.
It’s crazy what prejudice and hypocrisy can throw up!!
Lets be clear. Hasan Nasrallah is in an open alliance with Iran.
Hezbollah is fighting DAESH in Iraq. Hezbollahs enemies are not Yemen or Iraq or Syria or even Saudi Arabia but ISRAEL.
But for Hezbollah, Lebanon today would have been like the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A Ghetto.
But I’m not sure what’s their point?
Are they saying that Hezbollah and Iran are aligned.? Yes. Absolutely. Openly. Brazenly and Bravely.
Is it a bad. No. Absolutely not.
And then really the big question.
What have the Saudis ever ever ever practically done to help the Palestinians?
They let King Hussein of Jordan kill 25000 Palestinians in 1970 thanks to Pakistan and Brig. Zia ul Haque.
And surprise surprise, they sided with the Shia Houthis against the leftist Yemeni President in the 60’s.
They have a tacit unwritten agreement with Israel to allow Israeli planes to use Saudi air space to attack Iran.
Has Israel ever uttered one word even in anger against the Saudis in recent years?.
Who do you think wants a weak Iran other than Saudi Arabia and the USA? Israel!.
Why did the Saudis fund the overthrow of the first and only legitimately elected Egyptian government of President Morsi, in over 5 decades?
Why are they so paranoid?
Because they know their time is up.
It would have been in their and everybody’s interest including Pakistan to befriend Iran.
But being the Americans shoeshine boys they wanted to become the local badmash and strongman after the Shah of Iran, so they created this Iranian bogeyman out to destabilize the Middle East and fanned the fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But, In my opinion, I think, finally the Saudis have run out of rope.
Let them now hang themselves.
Here’s the link on how Saudis have fuelled militancy and terrorism.
The Roots of Global Terrorism and Militancy in Pakistan, the Middle East and the World- 4 Major Fundamentals and 24 Geo Political enablers
- Polytheism (associating others with God in worship)
- Using mediators for God (for example, praying to saints)
- Doubting that non-Muslims are disbelievers
- Judging by non-Islamic laws and believing these are superior to divine law
- Hating anything the Prophet Mohammed practiced (The Hadith literature already suspect as explained earlier has been roundly abused to support the militant views)
- Mocking Islam or the Prophet Mohammed
- Using or supporting magic
- Supporting or helping non-believers against Muslims (hence Pakistan is a Kufr State)
- Believing that someone has the right to stop practicing Islam
- Turning away from Islam by not studying or practicing it
- The enemy has purposefully killed Muslim civilians*
- Civilians have assisted the enemy in “deed, word, or mind”*
- Islamic fighters cannot distinguish between combatants and non-combatants
- There is a need to burn enemy strongholds or fields where there are civilians
- Heavy weaponry needs to be used
- The enemy uses civilians as human shields
- The enemy violates a treaty with the Muslims and civilians must be killed as a lesson*
- The Oil Crisis of 1973 which quadrupled Saudi Arabia’s wealth and gave them the financial clout to export Wahabiism from 1975 onwards.
- The declaration of Ahmadis as non Muslims, in Pakistan, by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974 opening a pandoras box for other sects to be so declared in the future.
- The start of Saudi export of Wahabi Islam in 1975.
- The military coup of 1977 in Pakistan bringing Gen. Zia to power.
- The Siege of the Holy Ka’bah by extremist Saudi Wahabis in 1979.
- The Russian Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
- The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.
- The terrible treatment meted out to the Iraqi Sunnis by then PM Noor Al Maliki and their enmasse joining with DAESH.
- The similar treatment of Sunni majority by Bashar Al Assad in Syria.
- And the mass scale funding, training and support of all anti Bashar Al Assad forces by Saudi Arabia, USA, Turkey, Qatar, resulting in DAESH acquiring money and equipment.
- Israeli – Palestine conflict. This never ending on going painful saga has been the prime reason in recent years in instigating a sense of outrage in Muslims against the real and perceived atrocities by Israel and Indirectly the USA on the weak and defenseless Palestinians. This has been a major rallying cry by the Militant groups to free Palestine from Israeli Zionist occupation and take back Islam’s second holiest shrine. The Al Aqsa mosque. It continues to rally emotional Muslim youth to their cause with daily images of innocent children and women being killed or brutalized by Israeli armed forces.
- Misrule and Dictatorships in Muslim Countries; The misrule and exploitation of the people in post-colonial Muslim countries by Dictators like Hosni Mubarak, Saddam, Qaddafi, Bashar AL Assad and his father Hafez Al Assad resulted in extreme anger and dissatisfaction against the rampant corruption and exploitation of and by the rulers. This disenfranchisement of the Muslim people by their own rulers has been effectively used by Islamist militants to gather support, recruits and resources.
- 1973 Oil Crisis and boom leading to Saudi efforts to spread their brand of Islam to Muslim countries. Many credible analysts estimate that between 1975 and now, more than 100 to 120 Billion Dollars have been spent by Saudi Arabia to promote its brand of Islam through Universities, Colleges, Schools, Madrassas, Mosques, Khateebs, Mosque Imams, publishing, and supporting and funding religious and political groups. This is not to run them down, or present an anti Saudi bias, far from it, but to simply state a fact. Iran did likewise but was not as successful as Saudi Arabia and neither had the kind of money or the support of a Super power such as the USA to back it. On the contrary Iran was the USA’s biggest enemy in the Region. The major recipient of this Saudi Wahhabi largesse was again Pakistan.
- 1974 declaration of Ahmadis as Non Muslims by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan and their further disenfranchisement by Gen. Zia in 1984. This was the first time that a modern Muslim country had taken the unprecedented step to declare a Muslim sect, Non Muslim. There are several theories behind Bhutto’s action. One was a quid pro quo with then King Faisal of Saudi Arabia to fund Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program and move away from the Iranian camp towards Saudi Arabia. The second was the understanding with the religious parties to extend political support to him in the next elections. This backfired as it was the same religious backed movement which eventually lead to Bhutto’s downfall and hanging and Gen. Zia’s take over of Pakistan. This event had huge portends for Pakistan’s Islamisation and the Ahmadiyya community. In 1984 Gen. Zia disallowed the Ahmadiyya community from even using Islamic terminology and symbols
- 1977 Military Coup by General Zia in Pakistan; In 1977, Gen. Zia through a military coup against Bhutto, became the President / Dictator of Pakistan and remained in power till 1988. Driven by Gen. Zia’s extremely conservative Islamic beliefs and mindset, Pakistan and its Army underwent massive indoctrination of a Jihadi mindset. School and college curriculum was significantly changed to reflect this ideology. Military curriculum likewise underwent a Jihadist makeover. Political parties and militant groups subscribing to Zia’s and the Saudi version of Islam were actively supported by the State. His presence at the helm of affairs in Pakistan was the main reason behind Pakistan being used as the base to provide full support to arm and train these militants, undertaken by the USA / CIA and Pakistan ISI and funded by Saudi and USA dollars when the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
- 1979 Russian Invasion of Afghanistan: As mentioned earlier this Russian Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was perhaps the single biggest rallying point and cause for the militants to pour into Pakistan and Afghanistan from all across the Muslim world. They all landed in the space provided by Pakistan in the territory of FATA adjacent to the Afghanistan border to provide them the launching grounds for attacks on the Russian and Afghan Communist government forces..
- 1979 – 2015 – Iranian Islamic Revolution and the Iran – Saudi conflict. In early 1979 after the fall of the Shah, Islamic fundamentalists took over the reigns of Government in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini. This was the frst time in post colonial history that a Muslim religious sect, Shia or Sunni had acquired manstream political power and control of a country. Iranian Shia Muslims, imbued with a religious fervor and zeal, commenced the export of their version of Islam outside their borders to counter the Saudi Wahabi narrative which had commenced in 1975. The neighboring countries especially Northern Afghanistan, which was predominantly Shia and Pakistan, with a large Shia population, estimated between 25 to 30 % of the population, were attractive destinations. This event, combined with other historical factors, such as the Russian Invasion of Afghanistan and Gen Zia’s rule over Pakistan, greatly accelerated the Saudi – Iranian proxy war for Regional domination with Pakistan finding itself again at its center. In 1980 at Saudi Arabia’s urging and 37 billion dollar funding, Saddam Hussain launched a fratricidal war against the fledgling Iranian revolutionary regime. The objective was to bring about regime change and destroy any possible of “copycat” attempts by religious segment in Saudi Arabia to overthrow the Saudi Monarchy as had happened in Iran. The second theatre was Afghanistan where both countries actively supported, financed and armed their relative sectarian allies. Pakistan sided with Saudi Arabia in supporting the orthodox Sunni Afghans against their Shia countrymen. This forced a beleaguered Iran surrounded by enemies, Saddam’s Iraq, now a hostile Pakistan and the entire Muslim middle east, to react. It shored up its relationship with Syria, it’s only ally in the Middle East and strengthened it’s presence in Lebanon. It also actively pursued regime change to overthrow the minority Sunni Bahraini monarchy and activated support in the Eastern provinces oil heartland of Saudi Arabia. When Saddam fell a pro Iranian Shia government took over giving some respite to Iran. The third major battlefield between the two countries is Syria. Following the Arab Spring, many Syrians also called for the overthrow of Bashar Al Assad and his minority Alawite regime, a sub sect of the Shias, ruling over a Sunni majority. This was perceived very differently by the two antagonists. For Iran it meant the removal of the only Arab country which was an ally and hence serious consequences for it. For Saudi Arabia it was a golden opportunity to bring down an Iranian ally and break the so called “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iran, Iraq, Syria to Lebanon. The USA and Israel actively supported this Saudi strategy and financed and armed groups against the Bashar regime. The so called Free Syrian Army which represented groups with secular and democratic credentials was just a label to receive funds, arms and volunteers. The actually recipients were Wahabi Jihadist outfits initially lead by Al Qaeda. Later Daesh who separated from the Al Qaeda mothership became the pre dominant group and the rest is history. But the Bashar regime bolstered by Iran proved much more resilient and withstood attacks. Saudi Arabia poured more and more money into financing these groups till there were so many that it became difficult to figure out who was fighting whom. The Saudi strategy had failed. And strangely it no formally supported the Al Qaeda militant groups in Syria. The Army of Conquest, The Army of Islam, Ahrar Al Sham, The Army of Syria. Finally Yemen became another battleground. This was more a result of Saudi paranoia than reality. The Houthis, Zaydi Shias with strong Sunni theological underpinnings as well ousted the Saudi supported Yemen regime and aligned with the previous Dictator Abdullah Saleh took over the capital and large parts of the country. The Saudi believed that Iran was behind this and hence resorted to indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment of its southern neighbor which also happened to be the poorest Arab country. The last and final manifestation of this conflict was the murder of a Saudi Shia Cleric Sheikh Nimr on trumped up charges of sedition, foreign meddling etc. This resulted in the storming and ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Iran and the termination of diplomatic ties. A more detailed perspective on this event is at The Murder of Sheikh Nimr An early conclusion to this piece is that till the Saudi monarchy is in power it will continue on this path to preserve it’s position and be seen as a leader of Arabs and Sunni Islam against an “Ajmi” Shia and belligerent Iran. It will also continue to fuel and fund it’s Wahabi faith both inside and outside Saudi Arabia. And the snake head which needs to be removed is the Saudi Monarchy and replaced with a more representative and less violent governance structure in that country if we are to see the beginning of an end to the finding and the thought which drives groups like DAESH.
- 1979 Siege of the Holy Ka’bah by Saudi Wahabi Extremists. The simmering anger of the Wahhabi Ikhwan against the House of Saud had been lying dormant but alive since 1930 when they had been mercilessly eliminated by King Abdul Aziz. In early 1979 a group of extremist Wahabis took over the Holy Kaaba and called for the removal of the House of Saud, a return to what they defined as original Islam. They echoed the same Hanbali, Salafi, Wahabi doctrine, and a rejection of western influence, no education for women, elimination of TV and a host of other extremely strict rules. They claimed that the Mahdi had arrived in the shape of their leader. Many analysts believe that it was the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the establishment of an Islamic State in Iran, which prompted these groups to act as they did. To them it was difficult to digest that the Shias, a heretical sect in their eyes, were able to establish an Islamic State, whereas they, the “true believers” living in the heartland of the faith, had not done so. After they had been captured and put to death by the Saudi authorities, the shaken House of Saud discovered that substantial sections of Saudi society, especially the very conservative, supported the cause of these people. This lead to a major change in schools and university education. To prove to the population that the ruling family was not a western puppet, Jihadist thought was made part of the curriculum and it was this extreme indoctrination that resulted in nearly 20,000 Saudis making their way to Afghanistan to fight the Russians from 1979 to 1989.
- 1979 to 1989 First Afghan “Jihad” against the Russians. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan lead to what is known as the First Afghan Jihad from 1979 to 1989 when the Russians finally withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, leaving a weak and fledgling Communist regime which also fell to the Mujaheddin forces in 1992. An estimated 50,000 foreign fighter came to fight the Russians and the Communist Afghan regime, of which 15000 to 25000 were from Saudi Arabia. All these fully trained and armed fighters then settled all along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, ready for their next Jihad which was just around the corner as the squabbling Mujaheddin groups let loose an orgy of war lordism, lawlessness and complete anarchy after taking over Kabul from the Communist Afghan government in 1992. The USA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia extended total support to the Mujaheddin in their fight against the Russians and the Afghan Communist regime. All these Mujaheddin groups such as Gulbadin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Afghani, the father of Sirajuddin Haqqani of the so called infamous Haqqani network, USA’s current bete noir, were actively sponsored by the USA in their fight against the Russians, This involvement of the USA, Pakistan, ISI, CIA, Saudi Arabia in driving supporting these groups with men material and money, the 3M of militancy was what created these monsters to outgrow their Masters. Each supported them for their own reasons and benefits. USA to defeat the Russians. Pakistan to ensure a friendly pro Pakistan Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia to promote its brand of Islam and gain more influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan to counter the Iranians. This sponsorship of these militant groups by the Pakistani establishment to ostensibly safeguard Pakistani strategic interests in Afghanistan had created a Monster which had now turned on its Master. A policy gone horribly wrong.
- 1989 – 1992 The First Afghan Civil war between the Communist Afghan Government and the Mujaheddin. After the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan the Mujaheddin then continued their war against the now relatively weak Afghan communist government. But this government managed to stay in power for another 3 years because of its extensive weapon systems, fighter aircrafts and huge missile stockpiles, the support of General Dostum and his 50,000 Uzbek fighters, and the infighting between the visionary Ahmad Shah Massoud and the wily Gulbedin Hekmatyar in the opposing camp. It was only when the Russians stopped all aid to the Afghan government, already weakened by intense infighting between their own Parcham and Khalqi communist factions and the desertion of Gen, Dostum to the Mujaheddin cause was the Afghan communist government finally overthrown. Kabul was captured by the Mujaheddin. But this was not a takeover by a unified Mujaheddin army but opposing factions backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and others by Iran. Hikmatyar by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Massoud by Iran. This lead to what would become the horror of civil war in post Communist Afghanistan. Unspeakable butchery and fighting. By now the sectarian contours had also become deeply entrenched and it was this sectarian extremism that would later morph into even more radical and extreme forms to haunt Pakistan.
- 1992 – 1996 The Mujaheddin rule over Afghanistan and the Second Afghan civil war: The fall of the Communist Regime in Afghanistan and the take over by the Mujaheddin in 1992 / 1993 resulted in mass retribution, war mongering, internal strife inside Afghanistan between the warring factions, chiefly between Ahmad Shah Massoud and Gulbeddin Hekmatyar. This civil war and complete anarchy inside Afghanistan alarmed Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that the country may fall to the Iranian backed Massoud. This lead to the birth of the Taliban, together midwifed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to oust from power those groups who they thought were inimical to their interests and to be replaced by elements supportive of Pakistan and the Saudi brand of Islam. It was at this juncture that the Talibans, initially young students, trained and indoctrinated in Madrassas in Pakistan, espousing the same exclusivist and militant theological ideology of Ibn Wahab and funded by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, actively supported by the Pakistani ISI and the military establishment, were let loose in Afghanistan. They were joined in this free for all by the foreign Jihadis, primarily Saudis, Chechens, Uzbeks, all adherents of the same Wahabi doctrine impregnated for more than a decade and emerging in full force. Since 1980 to 1992, all these fighters, jihadists, militants, call them by any name, were still not officially declared terrorists. That was to come after 9/11. These militants had by now made Pakistan and Afghanistan their home, intermarrying with the local population, rearing families and settled in the FATA agencies of Pakistan and the eastern borders of Afghanistan’s. And now waiting for the next Jihad.
- 1996 Sharia Law in Malakand, Pakistan. One internal and significant consequence of the Taliban takeover of Kabul and parts of Afghanistan was the demand of Sharia law in Pakistan in 1996, by a cleric called Soofi Mohammad, of the Tehrik Nifaz E Shariati Mohammadi or TNSM for short. He was also the father in law of the infamous, Mullah Fazalullah, the current head of the TTP. While many think that the USA invasion of Afghanistan in 9/11 was the cause belli but it was really the First Afghan Jihad, the Civil war which followed and the subsequent Taliban takeover of Kabul that these militants found voice in Pakistan. So strong was their pressure that the Pakistani state, now under Nawaz Sharif, acceded, some say quite willingly, and implemented a version of Sharia in Malakand Division. Nawaz Sharif had been midwifed by Zia ul Haque and had the same doctrinal leanings, though personally he wasn’t much of a religiously devout person, paying public lip service, as did most of Pakistan’s merchants, who “bought” their way to Allah through ostentatious displays of ritual religiosity. This was the first visible and state sanctioned inroad of Sharia rule in the settled areas of Pakistan.
- 1996 – 2001 The Taliban rule over Afghanistan. The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban was the first time a huge physical space, in fact an actual country was made available to these militant groups. It was but natural that Osama Bin Ladin, who had been with the Mujaheddin would henceforth exercise tremendous influence in this country and establish Al Qaeda. This was for him, the base, hence the name Al Qaeda, from which he would launch his worldwide Wahabi Jihad to take over the Region and then the World. The morale was high. They had defeated first the Russians after a 10 year battle, then the Communist Afghan government, and were now fighting those Mujaheddin groups who were against them, such as Ahmad Shah Massoud. This civil war now attracted even more foreign militants supportive of the extremist Wahabi doctrine to Afghanistan to fight for the establishment of the Wahabi Islamic Caliphate across the Globe. After Afghanistan it was next door Pakistan which was now the target. And that is how the battle came to Pakistan.
- The Kashmir Jihad 1987 – 2004: Kashmir, like the Palestine issue, has been one of recent history’s most intractable political international problems and feuds. Both Pakistan and India have fought three wars over it and neither side was and is willing to give up its position. So either party will advance their cause, should an opportunity arise. In 1987 such an opportunity came Pakistan’s way. The Indian government rigged election in Indian occupied Kashmir in favor of Farooq Abdullah who had entered into a political alliance with the Congress party. This caused much unrest and lead to an armed uprising by those who felt cheated and started what is now known as the Kashmiri Jihad or Insurgency, depending on whose cause you support. This provided a great opportunity to Pakistan to support these elements and use many of the militant groups progressively being freed from the Afghan fighting to support this insurgency in occupied Kashmir. These operations lead to a further strengthening of the relationship between the Pakistani military establishment and these groups. This relationship was to prove extremely detrimental to the State, when subsequently many of these groups such as the Jaish e Mohammad of Maulana Azhar, allied themselves with the TTP against the Pakistani state, yet still clandestinely supported by their “handlers” within the military establishment, many themselves indoctrinated to their cause. Eventually as always happens these groups would become bigger and powerful and difficult to control. They in fact became the controllers of the so called “establishment” in many ways and furthered their hold over Pakistani institutions and mainstream politics and politicians. Today we see this manifested in the way they have infiltrated mainstream political parties, like the PML N, the PTI, Jamaat e Islami, JUI, Jamat e Ahle Hadith, mainstream electronic media, law enforcement agencies and the superior judiciary. The extent of their ingress into echelons of higher judiciary of Pakistan is manifested in the elevation to the High Court of Islamabad, a person who publicly garlanded and kissed the murderer of Governor Salman Taseer. The support of the Pakistani military, intelligence, administrative, judicial and law enforcement establishments, allowed these groups to extend their influence and support into all aspects of Pakistani society and not be prosecuted and punished for their acts. Eventually it was General Musharraf who realised the uselessness of this strategy and in 2004 called it off. He then initiated the first serious attempt to come to a mutually acceptable understanding with India over Kashmir. Sadly it failed over too much suspicion and lack of credibility on either side.
- 1999 – 2008 General Musharraf and the Second Afghan “Jihad” – 2001 – till date. In 1999 General Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif in a military coup and became President. His 9 year rule of Pakistan had huge internal and external repercussions and impact following 9/11, the subsequent USA Invasion of Afghanistan and the Second Afghan Jihad from 2001 till date . All these interrelated events brought terrorism and militancy right into Pakistan’s heartland and made what had been so far a battle confined to Afghanistan now Pakistan’s own war against the terrorists. The Jihadists by now formally designated Terrorists, by the USA, now had another cause. To fight another invader, the USA, who this time was not a sponsor and a friend but an enemy. Old friends who had been feted and dined and perhaps secretly wined in the White House were now designated bandits and terrorists. These groups would again, as in the past, use Pakistani territory as the launching pad to attack the US and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan, as they had done two decades earlier against the invading Russian and communist Afghan forces. It has been fashionable to blame Gen. Musharraf for his perceived instant capitulation to the USA to support them in their fight against the Taliban. The USA was in no mood to discuss or negotiate. They considered the Afghan Taliban government responsible for the rise of Osama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda, who they considered the perpetrators of the 9/11 tragedy. As many accounts now confirm, despite the USA’s strong message and the proverbial “bomb you to the stone age” threat by the USA, Gen. Musharraf did consult his military comrades and his government. The key decision to support the USA was formally communicated to the USA 5 days after their request and not the “one phone call” as is generally believed. There was common consensus amongst the military and civilian leadership in Pakistan that the Afghan Taliban had far exceeded their support of Osama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda and that any terrorist acts like 9/11 could not be supported. Hence the decision to support the USA. But Gen. Musharraf had a problem. While he committed and gave full support to USA in their invasion of Afghanistan he could not or would not or was not allowed to by his military establishment, to cut ties with the militant groups which had been nurtured by the Pakistani establishment since 1979, over a period of 22 years. Gen. Musharraf himself as Army Chief & before he took over, had been extensively involved in supporting the Taliban in the Afghan Civil war against Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Northern Alliance. So many groups, especially the Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar were given safe haven in Pakistan. These also included elements of the Pakistani Taliban under militant commanders like Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Nek Mohammed etc. Thus was born the Good Taliban. The Bad Taliban were to come later as unbeknownst to many, these Jihadists, Al Qaeda lead and now supported by sectarian anti Shia outfits in Pakistan such as the Sipah e Sahaba and the Lashkar E Jhangvi were working on an agenda, to take over Pakistan and transform it into a Sunni Wahhabi Islamic Caliphate. In the subsequent years till 2007 these groups upgraded their political and military machines, gaining strength and support from the Pakistani establishment because of their past relationships and connections. But Gen. Musharraf realizing that the monster was getting out of hand, and also under pressure from the USA moved selectively against them, banning these sectarian outfits and launched an army operation against them in 2004 in North Waziristan, the first time the Pakistan Army had entered the FATA territories. This provoked a huge backlash against him and the army, branded as fighting “America’s war” and traitors to Islam. Three events, two of which were extensively supported and financed by right wing religious extremists and mainstream right wing political and the third by a broad political spectrum, caused Gen. Musharraf’s exit. These were the Lal Masjid, Afia Siddiqui and the lawyers movement. The first two are discussed below.
- 2007 – The Lal Masjid But it was in 2007 with the Lal Masjid military action, that the “Bad Taliban” emerged. The Pakistan ARMY and the State of Pakistan, were henceforth declared Kafirs and military jihad against them permissible. Hence forth all actions against civilians and innocent children living in Pakistan became valid and permitted by Islam because of the sanction of a religious fatwa of Jihad against a Kafir state – Pakistan. This was followed by suicide bombings on civilian and military targets, horrifying atrocities against captured Pakistan Army personnel and Shias. It was therefore a short walk to the terrible tragedy of Peshawar. Emboldend by their actions the “Bad Taliban” occupied the Lal (Red) Mosque in Islamabad, invited by its radical cleric. These militants managed to get inside the mosque in the heart of Islamabad with Rocket launchers, machine guns, land mines, recoilless rifles, right under the nose of the headquarters of the famous ISI, a few hundred yards away. The government asked the militants to surrender which they did not and a military operation was launched against them. All students of an associated madrassa were however allowed to leave and each student was handed over to their parents or guardians till all had been accounted for. Only the terrorists, and the mosque cleric and his brother and the latter’s wife chose to remain and fight. In the ensuing operation all terrorists numbering a few hundred, the cleric and his brother’s wife were killed. The brother called Abdul Aziz was caught fleeing wearing a women’s Burqa ! Also martyred were 14 personnel of the Pakistan Army, such was the intensity of the fighting. This episode, assumed the proportions of an epic tragedy, in which “hundreds of young students, boys and girls” were “mercilessly killed” by the Pakistan Army and “buried in mass graves” inside the mosque. This blatant fabrication, fueled by their supporters in main stream electronic TV media, was then used by the militant groups and their sympathizers to gain sympathy and support. Subsequent investigations, after Musharraf resigned, actively lead by a very rabidly anti Musharraf Supreme court, and his sworn enemy, the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who had been earlier dismissed by Musharraf on corruption and abuse of power charges, could not find a single incident of killing of a student or mass graves. No parent or guardian of any student had ever approached any court of law seeking whereabouts of their wards. But such was the power of this fabricated narrative that it rallied many more recruits to the militants leading to a huge anti-army and anti-Musharraf sentiment and the formal establishment of the TTP as a militant organization. For many the role of TTP apologists in mainstream media had been a major factor in perpetuating this myth. The cleric who escaped is now back in the Lal Mosque openly supportive of the TTP and DAESH, defiant and unrelenting. The state is seemingly powerless to try and convict this person for fighting the State in 2007 or for his now open and public support of the TTP and the DAESH. So much for the writ of the state in its own Capital, Islamabad.
- 2007 – The TTP. Thus it was in 2007 that the TTP was formally established as a militant group to fight the Pakistani state and the Pakistani Army. The combination of Jihadi narrative, revenge for the Lal Masjid action, playing on the marginalization of the Pakhtuns of FATA, TTP became AL Qaeda’s front line to initiate the Jihad against the State of Pakistan. The stage was now set for a heavily armed trained group of terrorist militants to wage war on Pakistan and form a Wahabi Sunni Caliphate. Their take over of the SWAT valley and the subsequent SWAT military operation by the Pakistan Army made the world realize how strong they had become. It was a regular combat between two face to face belligerents, with entrenched physical positions and regular military combat. The war had finally come to Pakistan. Many observers believe that India has also used the TTP to destabilize Pakistan and pay Pakistan back in its own coin as a tit for tat response to Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri Jihad. While it is difficult to support this with concrete evidence but there is significant and substantial circumstantial evidence of behind the scene Indian involvement, several layers removed. Of course as most people know, every intelligence operation is masked behind layers and layers of handlers and the front executioners of suicide attacks and ambushes have no idea of the identity of the real behind the scene masterminds and orchestrators. The Israeli infiltration of virtually every apparatus of Palestinian military and intelligence is a case in point. Some even point fingers at the Israeli role in facilitating the DAESH phenomenon to weaken the anti Israel Muslim states such as Syria. Difficult to comment. But as we so often discover, intelligence operations are stranger than fiction as we found out after the Iran Contra affair !!
- Afia Siddiqui. 2003 – 2008 Another hugely emotional event which added fuel to the already raging fire was the capture, trial and incarceration of Afia Siddiqui, a confirmed Al Qaeda sympathizer and active supporter. While there is much mystery about the events surrounding her disappearance in 2003 and subsequent capture in Afghanistan in 2008, one thing is evident. She was a committed Al Qaeda supporter and had played an active part in providing her house and position and resources to the terrorists in many cases acting as a spotter for Pakistani military and civilians targets. Her arrest, injury, trial, and incarceration by the USA was again used by the TTP and their supporters both militant and in mainstream Pakistani Media, especially media anchors and the Jamaat e Islami, whose member she was, to inflame anti- Musharraf, anti-army sentiments and gain support for the TTP. This significantly impacted and influenced the urban white collar silent Islamist in supporting these militant causes.
- Drone Attacks by the CIA to take out militant Taliban leaders in Pakistan resulting in the killing of innocent children and women, including the families of the TTP terrorists was a public relations disaster for Pakistan and provided even more recruits to the TTP. These attacks further aggravated the already angry Pakhtun population and reinforcement of Pakistan fighting AMERICA’S WAR ON TERROR.
- Exploitation of FATA: A deep rooted social and economic factor was and is the marginalization of the Pakhtuns of FATA and their terrible political, economic and social deprivation. These hapless souls had been left to the mercies of the cruel and exploitative governance system of Tribal Maliks and the colonial style Political Agent system. This factor though often talked about but has never been genuinely addressed. It has been a very effective argument by the militants to gather support by providing jobs, imposing harsh punishment and bringing quick and speedy justice, as had the Taliban in Afghanistan. A major political re-engineering of FATA is required to bring them into mainstream political spectrum and remove the centuries of neglect and misrule which lead to its becoming a fertile breeding ground for extremist thought.
- Support for TTP and other militant group by mainstream groups in Pakistan: In the current Pakistan political environment the tragic, apologist and indirect supportive stance of political parties like the PTI, The Jamaat e Islami, the JUI groups, the Jamaat Ahle Hadith and the ruling PMLN, has further emboldened these Terrorists. This has been further aggravated by the inability of the Pakistani state to crack down on local Jihadi groups such as Lashkar e Jhangvi, Jaish e Mohammad, Sipah e Sahaba, now morphed into the ASWJ, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat of Malik Ishaq, who publicly claims to have personally killed over 100 Shias and the Punjabi Taliban etc and political parties supporting them such as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the renamed Sipah e Sahaba. This same Malik Ishaq is very close to the ruling PMLN of Nawaz Sharif through Rana Sanaullah the Punjab Law Minister. This allowed these groups to gain strength and spread their message, gain recruits and support and financing from mainstream urban Pakistan.
- 2003 USA Invasion of Iraq, the mass scale Iraqi slaughter, the terrible post war mismanagement first by the Americans and then the Shia dominated government of Noor Al Maliki and the victimization of the Sunnis destroyed any hopes of a peaceful Iraq. These factors were the major reason that the Sunnis of Iraq welcomed and joined the DAESH en mass. This included Sunnis serving members of the Iraqi army, police and Para military forces, complete with all their weapons and equipment to fight against the much hated, Noor Al Maliki the then Iraqi PM. Iran which could have influenced Noor Al Maliki’s removal and the stoppage of Sunni killing, could not or did not. For this they must be held responsible for the rise of DAESH in Iraq.
- Syrian uprising against Bashar Al Assad: The rise of DAESH is directly linked to the Syrian uprising by a restive Sunni Majority choking under the decades of misrule by Hafiz al Assad and now his son Bashar Al Assad. This lead to the support of the anti Syrian forces by USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and Turkey, to overthrow Basher Al Assad ultimately leading to the unintended and horrifying consequences of the establishment and rise of DAESH. In its efforts to counter Iranian influence and bring down the Assad regime, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States of UAE Qatar and Kuwait and Turkey all collaborated to support the anti Assad forces with money, equipment, training and manpower This support was given to all the groups fighting the Assad regime from the secular Free Syrian Army to the rabidly dogmatic Al Nusra and everybody in between. Eventually all other groups were either eliminated in the infighting that followed between the warring factions or they joined/ merged into what emerged as IS or DAESH. DAESH also became the rallying group for, as Alistair Crooke says, of the marginalized Muslim youth of Europe, with too little sense, and too much testosterone !
- Misrule and Misgovernance in Pakistan: The terrible misrule and mis-governance in Pakistan which have denied her people, especially her youth, equitable, economic, social, cultural, political opportunities to their citizens. A system where Education, Employment, Health Care, Justice, Political participation, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights are only for the privileged few or for none except the elite.This was enough to motivate the underprivileged and the disenfranchised to join these groups. It so easy to rally people to such thoughts and causes if they are already marginalized and see no hope in the current putrid system. It also gave rise to the mushrooming of Madrassas from less than 200 at the time of partition to over 40000 today. Most teaching it’s young impressionable minds the violent brand of Wahabi Islam and providing the foot soldiers to these terrorists.
- Establishment of a unified Organisation similar to the Homeland Security of the USA. For a very clear articulation on this subject please read Mr. Ikram Sehgal’s article on Setting up a Homeland Security Command on the subject, recently published in the Express Tribune of 26th June 2014.Setting up a Homeland Security Command
- We start by denying access of this terrible mindset to others to stop them from getting more allies, supporters. This especially means Mosques, Madrassas and schools run by them. And if it means many to be physically taken over and monitored on a day to day basis, so be it.
- So an initial list of the top 1000 or so of these mosques, Madrassas and schools must be made. Going by the 80 / 20 rule. 20% of Mosques and Madrassas have been responsible for this terrible situation
- List of the 1000 top leaders of political and religious organisations who espouse the cause of the TTP must be made and serious legal action taken to stop them. To show resolve. Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid and Malik Ishaq of former Lashkar E Jhangvi and now Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, must be on top of that list, taken to task, tried and punished.
- Disband all those political and religious organisations who subscribe to the TTP belief and mindset and prohibit them from operating freely, propagating their cause and disseminating their literature. For a few years Pakistan may perhaps have to become a draconian police state. Sad but perhaps essential if it to survive.
- Disassociate any and all links, if still remaining, with these groups by the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus and organisations.
- Immediately remove from positions of authority and influence any officers in senior, middle and junior ranks who may still continue to conduct clandestine and rogue support using the power of their organisations, such as the ISI.
- Deny mainstream media access and, if required, close down TV stations. I know my liberal friends will be appalled but we are on the verge of a major catastrophe which calls for serious, harsh and immediate punitive actions to control widespread dissemination of this thought.
- Prohibit media anchors and or talk show hosts who overtly or latently support this THOUGHT and CAUSE from appearing on TV and charge and prosecute them for acts of treason against the state. Yes it could turn into a witch hunt in the hands of an unscrupulous government and administration, who can and may misuse this to its own advantage BUT then this is the PRICE we pay for having a weak and ineffective Nawaz Sharif as PM. What can one expect of PM Nawaz Sharif, when his own Special Media Adviser, Irfan Siddiqi, is a TTP apologist and supporter.
- Engage with both Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop this fratricidal battle for regional hegemony using religion as their prime drivers.
- Especially engage with serious and equal intent with Saudi Arabia since the theological roots of these terrorists and militants go back to those practiced in and emanating from Saudi Arabia and other countries like Kuwait, Qatar and UAE. We must also tell Iran to stop its funding of Shia groups. We must categorically tell these countries, to control and choke the financial funding of these groups by their citizens and private organisations.
- Also request them to immediately cease the official and above the line funding for Religious organisations Mosques, Madrassas, Schools, Charities and Relief Organisations in Pakistan. This same message must be sent to Iran as well.
- Let these 5 Countries, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, along with Pakistan hold a Head of State summit in Pakistan, accompanied by their Military Chiefs, and announce in Public that these groups are not to be supported and that these countries will stop, and close any and all sources of funding for these groups from their soil. Sadly I must admit that if this funding is not stopped, curtailed, minimized, every country in this Region, including Saudi Arabia and the others, will eventually face the full wrath and madness of these terrorists in their own hearth and homes and sooner than they think and expect.
- We must engage with the USA to tell them to stop playing with fire based on very limited knowledge and understanding of the Religious, Political. Social, Cultural contours of the issues. They must also be asked to use their influence and muscle to stop the funding and tacit or indirect support of these elements by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Countries and INDIA.
- We must engage with India to make them realise that if Pakistan were to implode as a consequence of their pettiness and desire to hurt Pakistan by remote controlling the TTP, the Laskar e Jhangvi, the ASWJ, the Punjabi Taliban and the outwardly softer political face of militancy such as JUI and JAH and JI and PTI, without these organisations being conscious of it, then this whole issue will explode in their face and India will be engulfed in this fire as well. For India it’s no longer a question of keeping Pakistan on the back foot. It’s actually a question of India’s survival as a country in the form and shape they now have.
- Major electoral and governance reform with grass roots local government to deliver a much more equitable system of administration and governance. Much more on this on my blog Governance and Electoral Reform. Electoral & Governance Reform in Pakistan But briefly. Grass roots Local Government. More administrative provinces. Between 25 to 30. USA has 50. Afghanistan has 34. India has 36. Canada has 13. Germany has 16. Tiny Bahrain has 5. Cambodia has 25. Iran has 31. Iraq has 19. The point is that Pakistan’s current administrative structure of 7 administrative units comprising the 4 provinces. FATA. Federal territory of Islamabad and Gilgit Baltistan are too few for effective and people centric governance. We also need a directly elected Presidential and Governorate system. And a 50% minimum vote to win a seat and not first past the post for these and legislative elections along with proportional representation so that every vote counts. Cabinet ministers not necessarily elected parliamentarians so subject experts and technocrats can occupy positions of policy making and hence more effective use of resources and better governance. FATA integrated into mainstream political spectrum by creating 4 provinces out of the existing 7 agencies. In simple terms we need to create a more just society which provides equitable access and opportunities of Healthcare, Education, Employment, Political participation, safety and security of life and property and an effective system of justice. This will significantly eliminate anger amongst the youth and the potential to be radicalized and recruited to these causes.
- We must initiate a serious, open, ongoing and regular dialogue and discussion between the various sects of all Sunni and Shia denominations to allow better understanding of each others views without and not necessarily acceptance of such contrarian views. My more detailed thoughts on my blog on RECONSTRUCTION OF MUSLIM THOUGHT. Reconstruction of Muslim Thought We cannot any longer brush the harsh realities of the source of this menace. In this dialogue we can no longer ignore the theological divergence and underpinnings behind these thoughts and irrespective of belief, formally, publicly and openly, disavow the classification of Muslims into non Muslims by any sect or government. Radical clerics of any sect must be contained and more inclusive narratives actively promoted in schools colleges and madrassahs.
- We should remove the classification of Ahmadis in Pakistan into non Muslims. This genie must be put back. For no country and or state can and should have the right to declare anybody a non Muslim, irrespective of ones personal beliefs and views or the religious views of the majority. It has been this intolerance and exclusivist thought which has caused the TTP and the DAESH to declare the vast majority of Sunni Muslims and the Shias, Non Muslims.
- We must no longer be afraid of facing up to our “friends” Saudi Arabia,UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and ask them to stop the flow of funds and religious indoctrination of our people and especially our youth. For their own sake and for Pakistan this funding which acts as the lifeblood of Wahabi extremist thought must be completely stopped.
- Pakistan must play a mediating role between Iran and Saudi Arabia to bring down the level of belligerence between these two. Ultimately Pakistan’s security and safety and of the world lies in the replacement of the Saudi monarchy by a more representative government of less radical people to stop the theological and financial onslaught which funds this terror! Read more at All Terrorism leads to the Al Saud