Saudia Arabia’s Strategic Blunder in Yemen – Fighting the Wrong Enemy

My perspective is that Saudi Arabia made a huge strategic and tactical blunder and miscalculation in getting involved in this several decades long Yemeni civil war.

And I also think it’s fighting the wrong enemy. Their real enemy is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and DAESH. Not the Houthies.

This civil war has been going in different forms since the 1960s after the Zaydi Imamate was overthrown and the country divided into the Communist North and Muslim South as two countries. North and South Yemen.

At that time the Saudis actively supported the Houthis against the communists who were supported by the Socialist Nasser and his Egyptian Army. Over the years the conflict has morphed taking tribal, factional, religious and sectarian forms. Between various tribes and factions,  Al Qaeda, Abdullah Saleh, Abd Rabo, the Zaydi Syeds and now a sub part of them, the Houthis.

So a real messy hell hole. And Saudi Arabia chooses to step into it. Again. Wow !!

Also for the first time in nearly 4 decades Iran finds itself in a relatively better geo political position than Riyadh. And If I may also say with very unsure factual underpinnings,  there may be a brief doing the rounds of the State Department and Pentagon that perhaps the end of the House of Saud is near and hence real politik demands a readjustment of alliances.

Bit far fetched I agree but not beyond the realms of possibility and probability.

So I believe that the Yemen conflict is really an internal Yemeni issue but with  huge impact on Saudi Arabias internal politics and the survival of the House of Saud. It could and likely will be a catalyst to destabilise the Peninsula. And this is really what scares the Al Saud. Their survival. More than 50% of the Saudi Army is of Yemeni descent. In fact if one goes back in history the entire population of The Peninsula originated from Yemen.

And at a tactical level the Houthies are advancing South to Aden, which they’ve just taken over and Saudi Arabia is to the North.

 In my opinion the battle the Saudis should be fighting is with the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP who the Houthis are also fighting. If anybody threatens Saudi Arabia and Mecca and Medina more its AQAP in its South in Yemen and DAESH on its East in Iraq and Syria.

So if there ever was a Shaikh Chilli cutting the branch on which I’m sitting stupidity by Saudi Arabia, this is perhaps right on top.

Currently,  Iran for long at the receiving end of “Saudi love and brotherhood”  has Saudi Arabia on the backfoot. It would like to see the demise of the Al Saud and replaced by a gentler government and therefore in all likelihood fully supporting the Houthis.

But I think while the House of Saud’s end is near, there is great danger that it may be replaced by much more radical groups more biased towards DAESH type of Islam and hence cause even greater havoc.

So Iran has to be very careful for what it wishes for. As the Chinese say it may just come true.

For us. We need to stay out.

House of Saud, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan and Iran

….. “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.

A possible Middle East in 10 years – 2025

This is a hazardous and controversial attempt to try and see how events can unfold in the Middle East in the next 10 years.

My reasons for these assessments are at the tail end of this post.

These are purely based on my pretensions to be a geo-political analyst and a psuedo historian. So please feel free to differ.

Thank you

1. House of Saud unlikely to last out the decade. Don’t see another King from the Abdul Aziz family. Or maybe perhaps just one more.

2. Sectarian strife in Eastern provinces of Now KSA. Likely join Bahrain.

3. ISIS/DAESH will take over some parts of the Arabian Peninsula. In some cases already has through the AQITP in the Yemen. This area will eventually fall to DAESH who are a much much greater threat to the House of Saud than the Houthies can ever be.

4. Bahrain will be ruled by its majority Shia citizenry.

5. Other Monarchies in Gulf will follow KSA. Demographics in these countries will exercise their natural and logical state.

6. Iran will emerge as the one of the biggest Regional powers in competition with India and Turkey. And have a strong working relationship with USA. Pakistan could be another serious contender for Middle Eastern and South Asian leadership with India and Iran See 9.

7. Egypt will undergo another huge change dominated by the Right. Remain unstable.

8. ISRAEL will come under serious pressure from the USA for a rapprochement with Palestinians. Some sort of a half baked two state agreement witll be reached.  Israel will side with any and all forces to dislodge Iran. Will not succeed.

9. Pakistan will become a game changer finally breaking it’s umbilical chord with current KSA. But with a dangerous possibility of a sectarian civil war. Unless there are serious political reforms and grass roots political engagement and governance the wood is dry and the flames plenty. If we do then we will be The Regional Power second only to India.

10. ISIS DAESH will take about a decade to die.

11. Syria will split into Shia and Sunni ruled parts with Daesh. Assad will be history.

12. Iraq will split into Shia, Sunni with Daesh and Kurd states.

13. Iranian clergy will lose its dominant role and liberals will actively share power.

14. China and not USA will dominate and influence the Region.

I say the above based on my assessment of the consequences of the Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the sectarian battles that have erupted, the Rise of ISIS and DAESH, the Arab spring, the assertiveness of the dispossessed and the socially and economically disadvantaged in the Middle Eastern countries

And very importantly the manner in which seemingly rock solid police states like Shah’s Iran, Qaddafi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq, Mubarak’s Egypt, Zin El Abedeine’s Tunisia, Saleh’s Yemen,  collapsed in months once these countries imploded through external and internal pressures.

Even the might of the Soviet Army and its dreaded KGB could not save the USSR from disintegrating. So what of these benign monarchies pretending to be Super Powers.

And for those holding a contrarian view…as my dear late departed father used to say, May Allah Bless His Soul….”enjoy the coffee my friend and lets talk in 10 years…” Insha Allah, if we are all around.

And a free coffee for every wrong deduction and assessment 🙂

And here’s an afterthought about Yemen not for me but from the Nation newspaper in Pakistan…worth reading to open the nostrils and smell the filth…. 

Col. S.G. Mehdi MC. The passing away of a Great Warrior

This article is my attempt to recount some aspects of our father’s career as a soldier, a leading Geo Political authority & expert and above all, a most passionate and patriotic Pakistani as well as some aspects of his personal life.

He was born on 24 December 1921 in Karnal,  East Punjab to Mir Khaslat Hussain and Ejaz Fatima. He was the eldest of 8 siblings. 4 brothers and 4 sisters. His given name was Mohammad Hussain and as was the culture in those days was also given another name, Syed Ghaffar Mehdi, by which he was and is known.

His family were part of the Sadaat e Baarha of Barsat and Bidoli in India, or the 12 Syeds. These Zaidi Syeds, through Abul Farha Wasthi, are directly descended from Hazrat Zaid Shaheed, hence the name Zaidi, the younger son of Imam Zainul Abedin, and grandson of Imam Hussain, the Holy Prophet’s Grandson, who was martyred at Karbala.

Everyone said he was a voracious reader devouring history books. As his sisters narrate he was also a sickly boy and one day got beaten bad at school by a Sikh class fellow.  He vowed to come back next year and take revenge.

As the story goes his father, our grandfather, engaged a professional wrestler for the grand sum of 5 Rs per month to tutor young Mehdi in the art and science of physical wrestling and to beef up his muscles. And but of course the poor little Sikh boy didn’t know what hit him when they next met!!! Such was his determination, his hallmark which has been his badge all his life.

His love for Pakistan pre dated Partition. As a young student in March 1940, he travelled with the Quaid e Azam from Ferozepur to Lahore hanging outside the Quaid’s train compartment along with his childhood friend and subsequently my father in law, the late Syed Nusrat Hussain Zaidi, as the Quaid making his way to Lahore for his historic 23rd March Address.

My late father in law, Bubba to all, the epitome of grace and silent brilliance, was one of those rare people who could stand up to Agha. Their friendship further strengthened by my marriage to his angelic daughter, my best friend and childhood sweetheart, Shaheena (Sheena).

Later Agha joined the army in 1941 and fought in the 2nd World War in Burma. On 14 August 1944 Agha wrote to the Quaid e Azam on his Regimental letter head, donating his 26 acres of  prime agricultural land to the Muslim League given to him in lieu of his Military Cross for Valor in Burma in the 2nd World War.

On 22nd December 1945, he again wrote to the Quaid-e-Azam, boldly on the Regimental letter head of his unit 1/15 Punjab Regiment, now 9 Punjab, excitedly describing to I am sure, a pretty bemused Quaid, about his first parachute jump.

The Quaid e Azam replied to his letters in “…emotional overtones rarely seen in his letters…” so quoted Khalid Shamsul Hassan saheb, son of Shamsul Hassan saheb, the Quaid’s Private Secretary,  from whose archives the Quaid’s reply was originally discovered by me through an incredibly chance encounter.

In 1982, while I was working for DAWN Newspaper after leaving the Army in 1981, I happened to visit the late Khalid Shamsul Hassan saheb, in his office in National Bank of Pakistan and being the curious questioner, enquired about a row of thick books on his bookshelf.

He said these were records of the Quaid’s correspondence with people, compiled from his father’s records. I told him how wistfully our father would tell us about the letters he had written to the Quaid and how the Quaid had replied. And his greatest regret in life was losing the Quaid’s letter to him during the move to Pakistan during Partition.

Upon hearing his name he looked up sharply, walked to the bookshelf. A minute or or two later he showed me two documents. The Quaid’s letter to a certain Lt. S.G. Mehdi as well a letter written in Urdu dated 14 August 1944 ( 3 years to the day before Independence) from the same person to the Quaid.

I immediately recognized Agha’s writing and excitedly requested a copy. The scene back in the house when I gave him these letters was completely unexpected. This hard as nails ex SSG COMMANDO just slumped in his sofa chair with silent tears rolling down his cheeks as he read and re read and re read the letters over and over again. My heart went out to him as I realized how excruciatingly painful and sad it must be for him to see the state of the country. This was 1982 with Zia’s terrible rule at its peak.

These letters, now with us, are perhaps our most cherished of our father’s legacies.

But in those days in 1944 this letter writing nearly got him court martialed for indulging in political activities by writing to the Quaid as a serving officer. But the unit Subedar Major informed the British Commanding Officer that the unit would revolt if Captain “Killer” Mehdi as he was fondly known, was court martialed.

He was a member of the boundary force transferring refugees between India and Pakistan and saved 1000’s on both sides from certain death. His bristling moustache, booming voice, one arm akimbo arrogantly on his waist the other holding his sten gun at the ready, on top of his jeep, and his troops were mostly enough to put the fear of God on both Muslim and Hindu marauding mobs. As a result not one of the trains and convoys he escorted suffered a single casualty.

He alongwith Col.Latif later Brigadier, Lt. Col later Lt. Gen. Attiqur Rehman, Maj later Maj. Gen. Abid Ali Bilgrami, Major later Lt. Gen Abdul Hamid Khan, Captain later Gen.Tikka Khan, and others formed the officer nucleus of the new Pakistan Military Academy.

Earlier when he was posted to the Indian Military Academy in 1946 the Commandant Brig. Iyappa told Lt. Col. Atiqur Rehman that ” Mehdi was a real find” !

In Pakistan Military Academy He was specially selected by the first Commandant Brig. Ingall to become its first adjutant. As adjutant, he famously did his rounds, not on foot but on his horse !!

This is where he married and brought his beautiful, most elegant and angelic life partner our dearest mother, Sultana Mehdi from the great and proud Qazilbash clan, part of which had settled in Lahore.  May Allah Bless her Dear Departed Soul. A partnership which continued through thick and thin till March 2010 when our dear mother passed away. Bibi as we and everybody addressed this wonderful graceful angelic lady, who never ever thought or said ill of anybody, always stood by him and was the balm that gave him solace in his darkest hours of professional loneliness.

Agha then became founder Company Commander of Qasim company in PMA. Many of Pakistan’s Army’s future generals were cadets who “passed out”, the Military’s strange way of saying, “graduated”, from the Academy under the stern gaze of “Killer” Mehdi. Lt. Gen Fazle Haque, later Governor of then NWFP , Lt. Gen Salahuddin Abbassi later Governor Sind, Lt. Gen Rahimuddin,  later Governor Baluchistan were among the few I can recall now.

One of his favourite cadets was the effervescent quick witted, wonderful gentleman, His Excellency the Wali of Swat, late Mian Gul Aurangzeb, then “GC” Aurangzeb or Gentleman Cadet Aurangzeb.  In later years when Miangul Aurangzeb was Governor, Baluchistan, he and his most elegant life partner, the beautiful Begum Naseem Aurangzeb, daughter of President Ayub Khan, an epitome of grace and beauty, hosted Agha on several occasions, which Agha cherished deeply, especially at a time when he was in the woods. This mutual love and respect is now reflected in my deep friendship and affection for Mian Gul Adnan Aurangzeb, his elder son, who exemplifies the sterling qualities of both his parents.

Later Agha became an instructor at the Staff College Quetta and also subsequently helped establish the War College under Maj. Gen. Sahibzada Yaqub and became its first Chief Instructor. Before and after he served on many key staff and command roles as Brigade Major, G2, G1, Col Staff, Commanding Officer and Group Commander SSG, as well as staff appointments at the GHQ.

He was the only officer till 1950 to have been given a Distinction in his Staff College Course in Camberley, England.

While one can recount countless tales of his incredibly colorful professional life, one incident when he was a Major and G2 Plans in the SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organisation) secretariat in the mid 1950s, is worth narrating.

SEATO was an international Defence pact of 8 countries lead by the USA to curtail communist expansion in South East Asia. The members were Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States.  This particular year, Pakistan was hosting the Foreign Ministers and of great importance was for them to present a forceful case of the Northwest threat from Afghanistan because the now famous late John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State was attending and military aid to Pakistan was high on the agenda.

Late Maj. Gen. Nawabzada Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, who headed the Pakistani defence delegation of which young Mehdi was a member as the Staff Planner, tried to convince the then Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr. Amjad Ali, to allow Gen. Sher Ali to speak when it came to the “military” part of the Minister’s presentation. FM Amjad Ali would have none of it and insisted he would present, much to Gen. Sher Ali’s acute displeasure and frustration. Reluctantly Sher Ali gave in. Major Mehdi was in the threesome as this was being hotly debated.
As FM Amjad Ali made his presentation and came to the military portion, I now narrate this incident as described by Air Marshal Asghar Khan in his book “The Lighter side of the Power Game” in the chapter titled ” A Major’s Coup” !!
“……. a ferocious looking army paratroop Major leapt from behind the Chairman’s dias. Unfolding a large map in front of the foreign minister and hiding him from view he clicked his heels and addressing the SEATO council said: “Gentlemen I will now brief you on the military threat from Afghanistan”.

“…..What is all this”? asked Amjad Ali in a whisper to the General seated next to him. “How should I know” was the reply. “I’m as surprised as you are”. Let’s see what he has to say”.

The Major had in the mean time started at high speed with a torrent of military jargon and terminology. His manner was so forceful and he appeared so determined that nothing could be done but to let him have his say.

…..The SEATO foreign ministers looked at each other in amazement and at the head of the Pakistani delegation as if to say ” what’s going on?” Amjad Ali had one more try at repairing the situation and asked the General to “stop him”. “How can I” said the General “I didn’t start it”.

Amjad Ali then slid back into his chair, gazing vacantly at the ceiling till the Major had said all he had to say which must have taken 10 to 15 minutes……..”

In later years Agha would recount this story to us amidst rip roaring laughter. But he never told us if this was pre-planned with Gen. Sher Ali or it was his own doing. I strongly suspect the latter, as Gen. Sher Ali was too much of a “proper” military person to have given such a go ahead.

Agha commanded two field units, 15 Punjab and then later the SSG.

He Commanded 15 Punjab also known as 33 Mohammadis, in Bannu and being the maverick that he was, bought a Horse Tonga in beautiful black and gold, and would drive it all over the Cantonment and to office, to the amazement and amusement of both civilians and military.

Once I vaguely recall as a terror stricken 3 year old, him averting a serious accident as the horse went wild and with the whole family sitting, dashed wildly out of control. All I recall in those fearful moments were his colorful phrases trying to control the panicked animal, which he eventually did.

The unit became the top battalion in the Division prompting his good friend and Brigade Commander Brig. Sharif later Gen Sharif to remark “Killer, leave some trophies for the other units!!”

His troops both loved him and feared him and so honored him in later years after his retirement by making him the Honorary Colonel of the Battalion.

Being Received by Lt. Gen Jehanzeb Arbab, then 5 Corps Comd- Dec 1976

Many people also don’t know that one of the reasons he was handpicked personally by Gen. Ayub to head the SSG was because of an earlier assignment the late President Ayub had personally given Agha.

This is 1962 – 63, Quetta. The Afghans were stirring trouble in Baluchistan directly and through the then Khan of Kalat. Col Mehdi then on a Staff assignment in Quetta was given the undercover task to operate inside Afghan territory and conduct clandestine operations. It was completely hush hush.  No military units were to be involved. Only the Corps Commander knew, other than the President and Col. Mehdi and perhaps two other people. It was a case of complete deniability should these guys ever be caught.

Agha got 100 or so top Mehsud marksman from Waziristan through his old Subedar Major of World War 2 days, had them trained in mining bridges etc and raiding small Afghan pickets. Over the next few months, these guys made life hell for Afghan military convoys and pickets and posts with no casualties on the Pakistan side. A few months later President Ayub came to Quetta. At the airport as Col. Mehdi saluted him in the reception line he gently put his hand on our father’s shoulder and said ever so softly. ” Call it off Mehdi…they’ve agreed to talk” and that was it.

No medals, no commendation. This was just pure duty and patriotism. The Mehsuds went back suitably enriched beyond their dreams. Clandestine operations pay well !!

His crowning glory at SSG was to transform the SSG from a Guerrilla outfit under the control of USA military advisers whose task was to launch insurgency operations against a possible future Chinese occupation of Pakistan with targets such as the Radio Pakistan, Ravi Bridge etc!. into a Commando outfit operating behind enemy lines and conducting Special Operations.

For reasons better known to them, the two previous commanders did not find anything amiss in keeping  SSG’s role confined to fighting the Chinese occupiers of Pakistan on behalf of the Americans. One was then Col. Mitha, later Maj.Gen and I forget the second. When Agha took over, his first request to GHQ was the removal of all American advisers and their families from Cherat, then the SSG Headquarters. The Americans strongly resisted and as a final threat refused to help establish the parachute training school if the GHQ acceded to Col. Mehdi’s request.

GHQ was in in a quandary, till he got onto a jeep, went down to Pindi and in his extremely logical manner convinced  and assured them that the Para School would go ahead without the Americans and that he had the necessary local Jump Masters to do the job. I’m not sure if that was true, but he would do anything to get rid of the Americans. So the USA military advisers left. And the Para school established. 1000 para commandos trained and ZERO casualties. The Americans had a 5% casualty rate documented as part of their SOP!!!

Plaque Below Col. S.G. Mehdi’s Phot at SSG HQ

At age 44,  he was the first jumper out of the plane of this first batch of Para commandos wholly trained by Pakistani instructors.

His last jump before that was in 1945, 19 years ago!! Earlier an incredulous instructor tried to dissuade him saying...Sir even the parachutes have changed now from your 2nd World War time...but he would have none of it…so he did two quick tower jumps and off he went to the plane.

Agha’s picture at SSG HQ 

He renamed Cherat as the Eagles Nest. Personally selected and oversaw the design of the SSG  para wing, it’s famous insignia of the Dagger and Lightening bolts, the selection of the distinctive Maroon beret and the label of SSG soldiers as Janbaz and not Jawan. The SSG officer and soldier was a “Mun Janbazum”. I am a Janbaz. Ever ready to lay down my life. He also had as their battle cry the stirring “Ya Ali” ! The last falling victim to sectarianism during Gen. Zia’s time.

His lasting legacy to SSG perhaps was the Angry Eagle exercise, considered one of the toughest military exercises in the world done over several months. Now I believe discontinued.

He was the ultimate commander and loved his troops and officers, always fought for them and supported them. He was also the ultimate disciplinarian  and detested cowardice. He embraced Courage with a capital C. Both Physical and Moral.

The former got him his Military Cross the latter cost him his career.

His Military Cross action is an interesting and bizarre episode with an aspect of humor which perhaps only the brutality of war can bring out.

One day in 1943, while leading a Jungle patrol in Burma his patrol suddenly came across a Japanese one. Both equally surprised to see the other!!

Both sides opened fire instantly and he hit the ground as he had been at the front of the Patrol. Soon the firing from his side subsided and he thought all his men had been killed.

The Japanese called out to him to surrender. Hidden in the bush he decided to fight it out. And as fate would have it he killed all 10 by surprising them from an unexpected side. He searched for the bodies of his own troops and couldn’t find any !!.

Meanwhile he collected “evidence” of his encounter too gruesome to describe here including the ceremonial Samurai sword of the Japanese officer leading the Japanese Patrol. He then headed back to his unit headquarters with his “booty” ….”his boots completely covered in blood up to his ankles….” as noted his MC citation, from the “booty collection”.

There he found his entire patrol all alive, describing to the others how valiantly “Captain saheb” had fought the Japanese before being gunned down to death. And how the Patrol had desperately tried to retrieve his body but couldn’t but in the process did kill quite a few Japanese.

What had actually happened was that the Patrol seeing him go down as the firing started deduced that he had been killed instantly. And discretion being the better part of Valor decided it was better to live and fight another day. What happened to them is another sad story of course.

The Ceremonial Samurai sword now decorates my house wherever I live. It is a source of great honour and inspiration to all of us of this great fearless, courageous man.

His tales are still recounted with glee and laughter and respect and inspiration in the officers messes, unit lines, in the corridors of military offices, training institutions and training grounds where ever he served this great Army and Pakistan.  

Finally retiring in December 1968 on his birthday as Station Commander Karachi. Even in this gentle assignment he made waves. While receiving Alexi Kosygin the then USSR Foreign Minister on a visit to Pakistan in 1967 he refused to lean forward even slightly to shake Kosygin’s hand and so the Russian foreign Minister had to do the bowing. The picture captures this event ever so vividly. Politely enquired ( by now no one messed with him, even the C in C) he said…” a soldier only bows when he falls to an enemy bullet…”

Receiving USSR FM Kosygin

He never suffered fools, always said what he thought was right and always stood by his values and convictions.

As Group Commander SSG in 1965 he strongly opposed the ill fated infiltration of Pakistani SSG Commandos into occupied Kashmir, called Operation Gibralter. This was the brainchild of Maj Gen Akhtar Malik, otherwise a brilliant soldier. Both respected  each others professional brilliance but this time were on opposite sides of a major operational decision. The plan was to infiltrate commandos and other troops inside occupied Kashmir, carry out hit and run raids, live of the land and give Pakistan a strategic advantage. Agha termed it a “Bay of Pigs” and said the operation would fail, similar to the ill fated USA attempt to land troops in Cuba. He said this because of its operational and tactical lack of preparedness and planning. Hence he refused to go along with the Army High Command.

In a famous encounter with Gen. Musa then the C-in-C, a decent man but a professionally challenged individual, Agha told him after Gen. Musa had heard both him and Gen. Akhtar Malik present their arguments for and against Gibralter “…Sir you’re the Commander in Chief so now tell us what do you think? ….

Gen. Musa remained silent. Col. Mehdi repeated the question again this time very forcefully. To which Gen.Musa replied...It’s always very interesting listening to you Col Mehdi saheb…” at this Agha saluted turned to Gen. Akhtar Malik and said…” You won’t get away with this…” and stormed out of the C-in C’s Operations Room.

He went back to SSG Headquarters and put his concerns in writing via a signal formally to GHQ. He was then told by GHQ to destroy his copy of his signal as they had done the same. He didn’t and years later his stance was vindicated by all and sundry.

Thus on 30th August 1965, he was sacked as Group Commander SSG. The Operation went ahead sending countless young men to certain death. Interestingly SSG records show him as the Commander right upto 21 September 1965.  Perhaps a ham handed effort to tag Operation Gibralter’s failure to his name in subsequent narration of history. Who knows. The record has to date not been corrected.

After the war Gen. Akhtar Malik and Agha reconciled and in 1966 both met in Quetta when Gen. Akhtar Malik was Commandant Staff College. Gen. Malik’s younger son Latif Malik and I were  class fellows and very close friends in Lawrence College and are still in contact. Gen Malik tragically died in a car accident along with his wife in Turkey in 1968.

But the SSG has always been Agha’s dear love and they have reciprocated in kind. They have honored him in life and in his transition much much beyond what one expected. His photograph occupies the central location at the SSG  HQ, the ultimate honour to its real founder and pioneer.

I have seen my father cry only four times in my entire life. Crying means silent tears.

1. At his mother’s passing away.

2. On hearing about the failure of Operation Gibralter and the casualty count of those young officers and Janbaz’s who he had nurtured like his own children.

3. On the fall of East Pakistan in December 1971.

4. And finally the day he re-read the letters he had written to the Quaid e Azam and the Quaid’s reply. His second letter to the Quaid was located by me from the Quaid e Azam archives in Islamabad, through the kind courtesy of late Dr. Zawwar Hussain Zaidi the then Director of the Archives. These letters are a source of great pride for our whole family.

After being relieved of his command of the SSG for opposing Operation Gibralter he found himself as Col. Staff of 15 Div in Sialkot, under Brig Ismail (acting Maj. Gen). As Col. Staff he took it upon himself to deploy 15 Division in its battle positions on 4th September, well before the 6th September Indian Attack, which caught many other formations completely off guard. Subsequently Brig. Ismail was relieved of his command for some poor decisions, one being the blowing up of Jassar Bridge, much against Agha’s extremely forceful request, to not do so. But the Pakistani Brigade Commander, Brig. Muzaffaruddin, had cold feet and thought that the Indians had crossed over Ravi to our side and established a bridgehead and hence the need to destroy the bridge to stop Indian reinforcements and also to isolate the “phantom bridge head”.

After the bridge was blown up, the result was NO bridgehead and NO bridge!!  But for the brave valour of late Brig. later Lt. General Abdul Ali Malik, HJ, and his 24 Brigade it would have been a major disaster for Pakistan. Brig Abdul Ali Malik was the younger brother of Gen Akhtar Malik earlier mentioned with respect to Operation Gibralter. But such is this nation’s tragedy that Brig. “cold feet” Muzaffar went on to become a Major General.

Maj. Gen Tikka then took over command of the division,  Agha did not see eye to eye with his GOC on operational matters. In their final encounter Gen Tikka asked him to clear all correspondence with him before dispatch to GHQ. This happened as a result of an enquiry initiated by Agha on Indian troops operating behind Pakistani lines and killing people. This was Gen.Tikka’s view.

Agha’s view was that this was most likely friendly fire and frayed nerves causing own troops to fire in panic and therefore not cause further panic by issuing any operational order from the Div HQ. The inquiry and investigation affirmed Agha’s assessment, so he sent a cable to GHQ saying no Indian troops were operating behind enemy lines. When Tikka saw the office copy of the signal he asked Agha…always very respectfully… “Mehdi saheb who sent this signal“…. Agha in his usual terse manner more terse for senior officers he considered professional lightweights, Gen. Tikka being amongst them, answered…“Sir can’t you see who signed it?…”

 To which Tikka said that henceforth no signal would go to GHQ without his ok. At this, according to another Staff Officer, Agha stood up, drew himself up to his full height, walked up to Gen Tikka and said

..”Sir you don’t need a Colonel Staff but a stenographer wearing a Colonel Staff’s uniform, so kindly find yourself that unfortunate person….”

He then retired to his tent and despite Gen. Tikka’s pleadings did not come back. Perhaps Gen Tikka was nice not to have taken more serious action other than asking for Agha’s replacement. Perhaps because they also went back to IMA,  Indian Military Academy days before partition, and later PMA, where both were Captains and platoon commanders. Hence also Gen. Tikka’s great professional  respect for him, which was rarely reciprocated !

He would have reached much higher rank but perhaps at the doorstep of giving up what he stood for. His run in with Tikka was perhaps the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Despite his intellectual and professional brilliance and his tremendous moral courage he was superseded, having earlier received accelerated promotions most of his career.  The day he was superseded he donned his most formal Army Uniform and asked to be released from Service.

But till his last day, professionally in the army, and in this world, he remained a Soldier’s Soldier.

At one time, hailed as a future Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Army by none other then President Ayub Khan, in his address to officers of the Staff College Quetta in 1963, he left the army in 1968, deeply deeply hurt. A pain that never left him for the rest of his life. Not for not attaining higher rank but for the injustice he believed was done to him for speaking the truth.

He had four loves. Pakistan. Pakistan Army. SSG and his unit, 15 Punjab Regiment, to which I also had the proud privilege of belonging. His family, though very close to him, had a tough time competing with his 4 loves.

So while his undying love for the aforementioned four was lifelong, he was also the ultimate family patriarch. Throughout his life he was helper, mentor, advisor, supporter and chief guide not just to his own siblings but for the larger Mehdi and Raza clan on our mother’s side.

He was incredibly proud of his children and grandchildren. Naheed our eldest sister was his go to person for anything  our parents wanted done. And he turned to her in some of his most challenging times and she was always there for him. Naheed, Gul Baji to us was like a second mother to me and my younger brother Ali.

He was very proud of my other sister, Yasmeen’s, Jani Baji to us, achievements who inherited his determination and our mother’s patience. Yasmeen has made her mark as a renowned educationist and single handedly created outstanding educational institutions in Karachi.

With me he was both demanding and loving. We had common interests of military tradition, history and geo politics and therefore his expectations were high. He enjoyed my company as I cherished his right to the end.

He was also very close to Ali our youngest who looked after him in his final years with lot of love and care. Ali, the ultimate corporate leader and perhaps one of the finest human resource professionals of Pakistan, was a source of great pride for Agha and everyone was excitedly treated to Ali’s successes.

Naheed’s children Farhi, Maham and Shahrukh were also very close. Farhi being his first grandchild was very special to him. Maham was forever etched in him as one day she excitedly showed him her Urdu O levels test paper in which the students had to translate Quaid e Azam’s letter to Agha from English to Urdu.  Shahrukh was the proud and rare recipient of his fine collection of daggers and knives.

 Yasmeen’s children, the eldest Shazia who he and our mother looked after for nearly a year as my sister and her husband were overseas was also very close to him. He would closely follow the lives of Yasmeen’s other children Adnan, now a serious name in Pakistan TV and film, Sami, an investment banker in Canary Wharf and Natasha a brilliant home maker in Singapore.

My children, Sara was his Sara Munni, and he spoilt her no end. Shayaan was Shayaan the genuis and Shaan was Shaan Shaan Aalishaan who plans to continue the family military tradition.

And he was very attached to Ali’s children, Maham and Qublai. And my grand daughter Myesha was his “Princess” !

Amongst his siblings he was especially fond of his youngest sister, Najma, who was Ama Gul to us, who died early, a few years ago. Ama Gul, also considered him like a father and lived with us for a while as well, as did his youngest brother, Pervaiz Mehdi, who later on rose to become a very senior banker. Riffat Mehdi,was the brother younger to him, Amu Riffat to us, who in his own right was something of a legend and also rose to become a very senior banker and was known for his “Mehdi” style as well.  He was saved at partition from certain death, having being sentenced to death for killing a sikh leader, Master Tara Singh during the Hindu Muslim riots. The next in line, Zafar Mehdi, Amu Zafar, followed his footsteps and joined the Army. He retired as a much respected Maj. Gen and subsequently Ambassador. Amu Zafar, like all of Agha’s children, also had the honour of the full “Mehdi” treatment while also serving in 15 Punjab as a young subaltern, during Agha’s command. Amu Zafar later joined the SSG and left it asap after coming to know that Agha had been posted as group commander SSG in January 1964 !!.

His two late elder sisters, Mehr Sultan and Akhtar revered him as did his other younger sister Jehangir.  Also very special for him were my late father in law and late mother in law, both fondly called Mamujaan and Mumaani jan and all their children, Malika ( also my Chachi), Javed, Saleem, Surraiya, Shahid, Shaheena ( my best friend and wife), Rukhsana, and Naveed the youngest.

Agha was especially fond of Surraiya’s husband Dr. Sarwat Hussain, a world renowned Radiologist based in the USA. Not only did he trust Dr. Sarwat’s medical advice totally and unfailingly but and also enjoyed his company and conversations and looked forward to his visits and frequent telephone calls.

Agha greatly respected all his brothers and sisters and they in turn had the greatest respect for their ‘Bhaijan”.  To the rest he was this wonderful person, full of wisdom, history, character, charisma, a larger than life figure even when alive, but always Agha, a person to talk to and seek advice when they struggled with their own internal challenges and demons.  Agha’s greatest pleasure was hearing about the successes of his huge and extended family. He celebrated them as his own and totally genuinely !

On our mother’s side, he had a healthy relationship with her brothers, her being the only sister, Agha Askari Raza, Col. Agha Anwar Raza, Col. Agha Daud Raza, and the youngest Agha Ahmad Raza. His favourite was Agha Daud Raza, Mama Daudi to us, and this love got passed on to the next generations between his children and us.  His love and respect for him continued after his rather early departure. Every year on every Eid, after Eid prayers, his first port of call, always, was to visit our dearest Mami Sarwar, Mama Daudi’s widow, a wonderful most decent, gentle and soft lady.  Their children Shireen (Guria), Sehar (Munia), and Jawaad having a very special place in his heart. He also had  close relationships with our mother’s Mamu’s, all called Baba Khan’s by us. Nawabzada Agha Jan Raza, Nawabzada Agha Mustafa Raza, Maj. Gen. Nawabzada Agha Mohammad Raza and his most aristocratic wife, Auntie Salma. Gen Raza was the first Adjutant General of the Pakistan Army, and instrumental in our parent’s marriage. He was also Pakistan’s first Ambassador to China and subsequently to Italy, France and the USA. Col. Nawabzada Agha Hassan Raza and Auntie Santosh and then Brig Nawabzada Agha Raza and the stunningly beautiful “Ava Gardner” Auntie Begum.

Another person with whom he and our whole family, had a very close relationship with was our dear mother’s Aunt,  Mami Agha Begum, fondly called Agha Begum, who lived in Quetta in this most heavenly and beautiful place called 7 Springs. The visits to her house were and still remain one of the most memorable and enjoyable memories of my childhood.

He wrote extensively on Geo Politics, Military issues, especially on the Region: Afghanistan Iran, Pakistan, India. His writings are captured in a series of Books called “The Mehdi Papers” Three books in Urdu and one in English called the “The Politics of Surrender and the Conspiracy of Silence”. He was a great supporter and proponent of the Kashmiri and Palestinian movements for self determination and believed that eventually they will get their rights. He called for a Commission of enquiry into the Causes and conduct of both the 1965 and 1971 wars. He was the first writer who questioned and analysed the poor Pakistani military leadership in both wars. He was subsequently asked by the Hamood ur Rehman Commission enquiring into the East Pakistan debacle to become an Amicus Curaie. He was also asked to give his very detailed views on the debacle. This testimony to the commission is worth reading for people investigating the causes of Pakistan downfall.

His last book, The Politics of Surrender and Conspiracy of Silence, was published by Crescent International from Canada by his great friend and admirer Dr. Zafar Bangash, a most remarkable and brilliant intellectual, to whom we also owe a great debt of gratitude.

Gen. Musharraf was the first Army Chief who acknowledged publicly our father’s contribution to the Army, the SSG and Pakistan. Before this Agha was a persona non grata and military officers and establishments were ordered not to invite him because of his writings about the mercenary role of the Pakistan Army. For this we are forever grateful to Gen. Musharraf for this great honour he gave our father.

In December 1976, his and my unit 15 Punjab honored him with the honorary Colonel of the Battalion honour. I had just joined the Regiment in April that year and was the youngest and junior most officer in the unit. For a young green behind the years officer, just to be introduced to Generals was quite something but to be introduced to the going to be Honorary Colonel of the Battalion and former Group Commander of the SSG and that too my own father was enough to make my knees go all jelly. As he came down the line of officers being introduced and saluted to, as I had dreaded, I was suitably and loudly up braided by him for a “poor salute” and a “poor posture”. In later years, Gen Musharraf, later President, who was then the Brigade Major and his conducting officer, accompanying him on this visit, would always recount this episode with great glee to others, whenever I met him.

Not that it was. Knowing him,  I dared not give anything, but the perfect salute, finger on eye brow, quivering arm, chest out, ramrod straight. But then this was his style.

Earlier in 1972 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked him to train the People’s Guard and establish the Federal Security Force, which he refused citing that these forces would become ZAB’s personal security militias which they did.

The offer came through the late Gen. Akbar,  Bhutto’s National Security Adviser. I happened to be in Islamabad in the house in 1972, when Gen. Akbar came to make Agha this offer.

In 1969, very few people also know that Shaykh Zayed bin Sultan , the late founder of UAE, asked him to help train the UAE army which he also politely declined saying that the only Army he could and would train was the Pakistan Army. The offer, as one can imagine was incredibly generous.  But the Colonel said no.

It was only his Iranian friend and fellow course mate in Staff College, Camberley, General Fereidun Djem who had become the Iranian Supreme Commander who convinced him in 1970 come to Iran and help and advise the Iranians establish their War College and National Defence College.

He agreed to an advisory role but not for any financial reasons. Even though he was given the honoray rank of a General, he declined, in a letter to the Shah of Iran, to receive salary,  perks and privileges except housing and transport.

He stayed their for a little more than a year,  finally requesting to be released and return to Pakistan. Iran honored him with one of their highest civilian awards the Nishan e Hamkari  Shahansha e Iran, earlier given to only two recipients before him and both Iranians, one a former Prime Minister of Iran and the other the Chairman of the Iranian Planning Commission.

In Pakistan in 1973 he worked again without any salary or perks and privileges with Dr. Mubashar Hassan in Bhutto’s government as his Special Adviser on Northern Areas and left when Dr. Mubashar left the Economic Ministry despite being asked to stay on. Dr. Mubashar remained a good friend.

From the mid 70’s to end of the century Agha wrote extensively on military issues, geo politics and politics.

His articles were carried by all leading English and Urdu newspapers and periodicals.

He was a most active and sought after speaker inside and outside Pakistan on his areas of expertise and extensively delivered talks and lectures in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan,  UK, USA, Canada.

He was a great advocate of a people’s Army concept much like Israel of a small core of highly professional fighting unit and universal conscription in time of need and war.

He was completely against the Military’s involvement in politics and civil governance and wrote extensively on the subject especially during Zia’s rule.

He believed that by keeping a small standing army we could divert precious funds towards economic development, thereby making us even stronger. And with universal military conscription similar to Israel or USA we would also address our security concerns,  especially concerning India. He wrote a very powerful treatise on the subject titled “A Nation at Arms”. At a future date not too distant, By Allah’s Grace I will write his biography which is already in the works and share more of his life, especially his intellectual contributions.

In his later years he was extremely upset at the use of proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and on Zia’s death declared that the snake nest that Zia left behind would devour Pakistan! He was a great supporter of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and of Shia Sunni unity. This is what brought him close to Maulana Maududi the founder of the Jamaat e Islami.

He actively promoted this thought in his writings and talks and disseminated many of Imam Khomeini’s rulings urging Shias to minimise theological and practional differences. Such as methods of prayers, the Kalima, the Azan etc. For this he was supported by many leaders on both sides but also earned the ire of some very traditional Shia Ulema in Pakistan.

During a visit to a post Shah,  Revolutionary Iran, where invited to speak at a conference,  he was requested to meet the Iranian Military High Command.

So that evening the entire senior leadership of the Iranian Armed forces came to see him with one question. Should they continue the fight against Iraq or seek peace?

Agha looked around the room at their expectant faces and inquired why they asked. The response was that they had to submit a recommendation to Imam Khomeini on the subject.  Agha then gave the military balance of power between the two countries now in favor of Iraq and becoming stronger because of Iraq’s support by all Arab countries especially Saudi Arabia with its wealth.  Therefore his recommendation was to seek an end to hostilities.

 At this stage a senior general from the Baseej, the Revolutionary Guards expressed dismay and said that they have millions to fight and defeat Iraq. Agha’s answer was that while they could chose to do that, it would NOT result in Iraq’s defeat but only dramatically increase the size of Behishth e Zahra, the graveyard of the Iranian Shaheeds in Tehran!!

So better move towards truce and peace.Very soon after Imam Khomeini announced the acceptance of a ceasefire with Iraq.

When the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 December he predicted in an article published in the Pakistan Economist in January 1980 that “…..this was a war Russia cannot win and must not win……. and that after this war USSR would disintegrate……”. There was an interesting ending to this deduction.

Years later in 1989 he came to stay with us for several months  in Boston USA during my mid career MBA at Boston University. His reputation had preceded him and so one day he received an invitation from the President of Boston University to a luncheon to meet and talk to all the Deans of the University.  I tagged along. During the lunch Dean Matre, Dean of Communications, if I recall correctly,  a Ukrainian by origin, quizzed Agha on his prediction that the USSR would disintegrate into independent republics. Agha presented his rationale to which the Dean with his full academic arrogance said. “….but never Ukraine….” . Agha equally forcefully replied. “…..if no other Republic Dean Matre, but certainly Ukraine….” as the Dean began to marshal his response,  Agha followed it up by saying….”Dean it’s such a wonderful day in Boston,  exquisite food and I believe Nelson Mandela is also coming to Boston. …let’s talk again in a few years….”

Years later after the USSR disintegrated Dean Matre sent Agha a most generous letter acknowledging like a true gentleman Agha’s incredibly accurate conclusion.

One of Agha’s favourite sayings was that those who don’t learn from history were doomed to repeat it.

He predicted the Fall of East Pakistan in a lecture in Staff College Quetta in 1963 in the presence of then Commandant Staff College. Maj. General Sahibzada Yaqub who recognised his prescience years later.

He also told a visiting US general in 1963 while delivering a talk at the newly founded War College where he was the Chief Instructor that the USA would not be home by Christmas 1963 from Vietnam but will get bogged down in a war from where it will be very difficult for them to get out off. The wager was a carton of Rooh Afza. Not sure if the USA General was able to fulfill the wager.

While never a member of any political party the only person he actively supported was Air Marshal Asghar Khan and his Tehrik e Istiqlal of which I was also a card carrying member. The Air Marshal was also a great personal friend and Agha in his recent years would reach out to meet the good Air Marshal.

Amongst his and our mothers close friends from the Army were Late Gen Attiqur Rehman and late Auntie Farhat,  one of Pakistan’s finest soldiers. Gen Sahibzada Yaqub and Auntie Tooba, with whom he would have great intellectual jousts on military strategy. Late Lt. General Abdul Hamid Khan and Auntie Surraiya. Late Maj. General Abid Bilgrami and late Auntie Izzat. With late Gen. Sharif, then Brigadier, under whom he served as CO 15 Punjab, he had a long and close relationship. Also late Maj. Gen Ahsan ul Haque who later as Head of Zia’s enquiry commission unearthed the FIR filed by Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri which was to have such fateful consequences for Bhutto. He enjoyed the intellectual company of late Col Sarwar Malik, a fellow DS in Staff College and close friend. His son Malik Sarwar is now a Global Banker of great repute and also a close friend and well wisher.

Another close friend was the late Brigadier Asad Namazie and his wonderful wife Auntie Khateej Khanum, both iconic in their own right. Our two families also became very close from our childhood days and so are till today. Late Col. Irshad Rashid MC was also a respected friend who he admired and wrote a beautiful eulogy on Col. Irshad ‘s rather early transition.  Another close friend was the late Col. Maqbool Ilahi who he fondly called Murshed and Maujuddin saheb.

One very special friend was the late Raja Saheb of Mahmoodabad who also nearly became one of my sister’s father in law. The proposal from Raja saheb for his son for my sister, Yasmeen, came one day after our parents had accepted another!

Agha was also instrumental in dissuading Raja saheb in becoming an interim Prime Minister under Gen. Yahya.

He also developed very close intellectual relationships with Hakim Saeed saheb of Hamdard foundation, the late Prof. Karrar Hussain and Zia ul Hassan Zaidi saheb the last helped him publish his books in Urdu.  The late Admiral Ahsan, former Naval Chief & Governor of East Pakistan, another very rare moral and upright human being was another person with whom he had a wonderful relationship. Admiral Ahsan also wrote the foreword for one of his Mehdi papers serials as did Salman Ali saheb, a former foreign minister.

In his later years he and the late Ardeshir Cowasjee became really close. Perhaps because both had no time for hypocritical people and double speak.  Other people who he respected and whose company he enjoyed were DM Qureshi saheb former Chairman, State Life and Bankers Equity, Feroze Shah Gilani saheb, who helped him file a suit against Gen. Musa and the late Lt. Gen. Jehandad Khan, founder of the Shifa eye trust.

Other people he spent lot of time with in his writing years was the late Majid Nizami saheb of Nawai Waqt who would publish his articles word for word without any editing and his younger brother Arif Nizami saheb. Such was their respect for Agha. The legendary A T Chaudhri saheb of the Pakistan Times who first published his articles in English. Salahuddin saheb of Takbeer was also a frequent visitor to our house to pick Agha’s brains as were Zia Shahid and Altaf Hussain of Urdu Digest.

Another very special friend was Rashid saheb of Broadway Bakery, also one of Pakistan’s most renowned palmists, astrologer and psychic. The Who’s Who of Pakistan’s political, military and business leadership would line up to meet Rashid saheb to find out what Nature had in store for them. Perhaps another day I will recount the predictions of this most elegant intellectual. Together they would sit for hours merging their disciplines and drawing conclusions of current and future events with uncanny accuracy. In 1977 Gen. Zia requested Rashid saheb to meet him and foretell his future. So much for this so called religious man of God, Zia. These were early days and Zia was seeking advice on the fall out of a Bhutto hanging. Rashid saheb shook his head and said in his soft gentle manner. “…General you should hold election and power back to the civilians…and if you do not one thing I can predict. I don’t usually predict things like life and death because it’s all from Allah. But I see your life ending in a ball of fire !!!…later after this happened Jang published this prediction. Humayun Rashid his younger son is a very close friend and has been very helpful to me several times in my life.

Maj. Ikram ul Majeed Sehgal, Chairman of SMS WACKENHUT,  and a much celebrated author and geo political and defense expert in his own right has done much to let the world know about our father to which I and our family are greatly indebted. Agha had a special relationship and fondness for Ikram saheb and would have long discussions on National and international affairs, with him. Last year he specifically instructed me to deliver all his documents in original into Ikram saheb’s safe custody. He is our father’s rightful spiritual protégé and son.

In his personal life, Agha suffered one very deep personal tragedy from which he never truly recovered. The brutal and senseless assassination of his beloved elder son in law the iconic Shaukat Raza Mirza, then Managing Director of PSO and one of Pakistan’s greatest business Captains, married to my elder sister Naheed. It has been said that Dawn Newspaper carried the second highest volume of condolence messages on Shaukat Bhai’s departure. The highest was on the Quaid e Azam’s death !

Agha, from then on called him, Shaukat Shaheed and his lips would quiver every time he spoke of him.Shaukat bhai’s tragic passing away hit the whole family very very hard. Especially my sister, Naheed,  who suffered the most as her whole world disintegrated.  Being a woman of immense faith and courage has helped her tremendously. Their children, Farhi, Maham and Shahrukh, also devastated, have slowly picked up the pieces. All Masha Allah doing very well in life. Shaukat Bhai was such an incredibly angelic person that metaphorically speaking, even the gods shed tears  at his passing.

But I don’t think, we, as a family were ever the same again.

Agha’s memory was photographic. His knowledge, encyclopedic. His analysis, razor sharp. Despite having listened to him discoursing on history and current affairs for as long as I can remember, they always continued to marvel me. I would occasionally pick up one of his old articles or be given one again for the umpteenth time and yet every single time I would marvel at his intellectual brilliance, his clarity of thought, his masterful art of writing, and ability to marshal information so concisely and brilliantly and his …oh so accurate analysis and predictions on current events.  He was truly gifted by Allah. Everyone who was a part of part of his life, family, friends, colleagues, seniors, juniors, all had the same experience of awe and amazement. Masha Allah.

But with those unfortunate souls who crossed swords with him with limited information and or knowledge in his area of expertise, he was ruthless !!.The punishment was either a really really long lecture, to be listened to in complete silence followed by a curt recommendation to read this book and that book and then given photo copies of his articles and writings, some to be read in deathly silence right there and then !

The less fortunate, if lucky, were just treated to a silent cup of tea, if that, and sent post haste back to where they’d come from, rarely to return!

In his post military career, everything he touched turned to gold.  The military strategist was as successful in the world of commerce as he was in the field of battle. But all this “99 Counting” or “Ninaanway Ka Khel” as he disparagingly called it, never attracted him. So he gave up all his ventures and stuck to his writings, talks and speeches.  And Agha was also a genuine and extremely generous philanthropist, giving generously to individuals and organisations. And perhaps I would leave this here.

Sheena my wife, and our children, Syeda Sara Haider Faraaz, Syed Shayaan e Mohammad Mehdi and Syed Shaan e Ali Mehdi were privileged that he lived with us for many years and on a daily basis soaked in his tremendous wisdom and intellect. They would listen rapturously as he took them to distant battlefields and historical events in his amazingly easy to understand style, rattling of dates, names, events, weaving and linking an intricate mosaic in his magical style. In return the boys taught him the intricacies of Saeed Ajmal’s “doosra” and Sara sharing his love for history, researched for him. Sheena, also a wonderful artist, drew and designed the covers of 3 of his books, which everyone who got them, heard about !. Faraaz, my son in law, won his heart by presenting him a beautifully framed picture of the whole family, which till his last day, adorned center place in his room.

Agha drew his inspiration from the Prophet, Hazrat Ali, Allama Iqbal,  Quaid e Azam and Imam Khomeini. He was also a great admirer of Maulana Maududi and had interacted with him on many occasions. It was his tremendous faith and knowledge of the tragedies that befell the House of the Holy Prophet which gave him strength in his darkest hours of personal and professional tragedies!

Finally at 1036 am on Friday 13th March, 2015, this Great Pakistani, Warrior, Soldier , Beloved Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Brother, Uncle and above all Agha to all, breathed his last on the auspicious day of Jumma Mubarak to meet His Creator.

He was surrounded with love and prayers till his last breath by his four children, Naheed, Yasmeen, Haider and Ali.

From Child to Adult to Child and then back to Him. Such is the way of the Almighty!

The battle’s over,
The victory’s won.
A soldier makes his journey home.
He fought so hard,
He fought so long.
And now he sings a victor’s song.
It was not easy.
It was not slight.
But it was such a worthy fight.
The battle scars,
They tell the tale,
That war sometimes can be like Hell.
But he fought the fight,
Endured the pain,
For he knew just he would gain.
Medals, cheers,
Those things fade across the years.
But his gain would be
Much more than that–
A place where only few have sat.
An honored seat,
A place of call,
To sit before his General,
And hear the words
That come from Him,
“You fought the fight, now enter in!”

(Donnie Peeler  c1992) 

May Allah Grant His Dear Departed Soul Eternal Peace and Happiness in the Final Abode.


Pakistan’s Dukaandars, Thekadaars, Munshi and members of the Oldest Profession

Under the spineless leadership of Dukaandar Nawaz Sharif its been decided to take no action on three important and critical aspects of its Counter Terrorism NAP (National Action Plan).

1. No Action against banned and proscribed outfits.

2. No Registration of Madrassas and Seminaries.

3. No repatriation of Afghan Refugees.

Hence Abdul Aziz of the infamous Red Mosque spits in everyone’s face and publicly supports Daesh / ISIS.

ASWJ, a banned militant outfit gets police protection and is openly allowed to shout their invective and kill fellow Muslims.

So Dukaandar Nawaz Sharif and Thekadar Shahbaz Sharif and Munshi Ishaq Dar and their families are safe.

The label for Mr. A to Z is too inappropriate and embarrassing. Sufficeth that everything is for sale including self respect and character as is the won’t in the world’s oldest profession.  And this is our nation’s definition and description of Mr A to Z as one of Pakistan’s most “brilliant politician”.  Go Figure!!

If this isn’t enough reason to get rid of these vermin I don’t know what will shake and wake this nation of ours.

Unfortunately the fault lies in our meekness and cowardice.

Not more than 30 brave souls stood alongside the courageous Mohammad Jibran Nasir when he lead the protest against Abdul Aziz of Red Mosque. ..similarly when he rallied people against ASWJ.

We are cowards… spineless… gutless… and we deserve these Dukaandars,  Thekadaars,  Munshis and members of the oldest profession in the world masquerading as “Brilliant politicians” 

Why Muslim Youth in Europe are joining DAESH/ISIS

The European Jihadis joining ISIS are no different from the radical youth of the post war generation becoming communists. ..people unhappy with their identity both personal and public…people searching for that Holy Grail of “belongingness” which today the Muslim youth find neither at home nor outside…parents who don’t understand and barely able to communicate an external environment where they feel ostracized or out of place

Angry and aggressive and as somebody said …”with too much testosterone and too little brains”…this group is thus ripe to be radicalized…..

…earlier through violent extremist exclusivist Saudi funded Wahabi / Salafi controlled mosques and now by the allure and glamour of guns and combat…and a feeling of belonging ness.

So till Europe and North America doesn’t wrench the Muslim  mosques out of the hands of the Wahabis and Salafis..this factory will continue to produce the fodder for DAESH.

..the real snake head dear North Americans and European leaders is NOT IRAN….but slightly more West of it…and in the Region..

….so while this wonderful House of Saud lead you guys a wonderful merry go round and the fear of a radicalised nuclear Iran…they were nurturung the real snakes and poison in your own hearth and homes and backyards…

What of a Government of incompetent circus clowns….

What of a government that cannot try and hang Mumtaz Qadri in an open and shut case.

What of a Government that cannot try and punish Abdul Aziz not just for his current madness and brazen support of DAESH and open challenge and dare to the Government but also for the deaths of 14 brave army officers and soldiers who died in the Lal Masjid operation and for staging a mutiny against the state.

What of a Government that cannot arrest, try and punish Malik Ishaq for his own arrogant claim of having “personally killed over 100 Shias”.

What of a government which kills people in cold blood in Model Town and the Chief Minister of that province pleads innocence.

What of a government that fumbles like a pack of incompetent circus clowns landing on its backsides in all areas of governance.

What of a government that cannot manage its fuel supply chain which even a fresh business graduate can do better.

What of a government that cannot show anything and I mean anything for its nearly two years in power.

What of a Government that has as its priorities not fighting terrorism, fixing law and order, improving health care and education but an obscene Metro Bus Scheme and that too in the wrong city.

What of a GOVERNMENT where the PM is clueless about everything, has the temerity to appoint his daughter as the head of a crucial government scheme and finds nothing wrong in it.

What of a government where his brother and all his merry men and women are making obscene amounts of money in lucrative schemes.

What of a government where the Finance Minister has the unenviable reputation of a smooth talking slick con man famous for fudging figures and money laundering and building a real estate empire in Dubai.

What of a government where the interior minister is as clueless about handling terrorism as his naib qasid.

What of a government where the Minister of power is booed in his own constituency.

What of a government where the Minister responsible for the fuel crisis shamelessly says in public that he isn’t responsible for the crisis.

What of a government where the PM’s media Adviser is a TTP apologist.

What of a government where even its electoral mandate is highly suspect and likely stolen.

Why then this government. Why? Why? Why?

The time for getting rid of this set up has come.

No not the army but an an interim handpicked civilian set up of honest competent administrators some how through the Supreme Court declaring a state of emergency.

This fresh set up must be handpicked well and must immediately set itself the task of  electoral and governance reform.

Also hold local bodies elections so grass roots civilian political order is maintained.

Governance structures means Constitutional changes to create more administrative provinces, a Presidential system, majorality election victory and not first past the post system. Cabinet positions to be filled by technocrats and not necessarily legislators.

Most importantly All legislators,  public servants and administrative leaders both civilian and military, to only use Government educational institutions,  health care facilities and public transport for self and family.

And hold elections in 2018.

And let the stern eye of Raheel Sharif keep them in check.

Very sad for me to say this having left the uniform as a protest against Zia’s Martial Law.

The spineless Pakistani Nation and The Hypocrisy of France, the West & the Muslim World

The killings in France were tragic whoever the pepetrators.  Even more tragic and heartbreaking for us in Pakistan was the senseless mowing down of little children in their so neat little green and greys in Peshawar. Nobody has the right to take life.

Pakistan’s schizophrenia and public hypocrisy had never been so starkly contrasted till after the French incident. After the Peshawar tragedy there was no call for a national rally to show resolve against the terrorists. The person who had kept the nation on tenterhooks for nearly 130 days, the one and only Dharna Khan, capable of this call, whimpered and mumbled and APC’d as did other political leaders.

It’s now clear that on top of mind for Dharna Khan then were his nuptials as 130 mothers wept at their children’s graves.

Only the MQM called for a public rally. A few hundred brave souls lead by Jibran Nasir picketed Abdul Aziz and Lal Mosque.

The rest was a deafening silence from 200 million spineless souls except for a few safe twitters and facebook comments by armchair twitteratis like me.

Shame on us, Pakistan. Shame on all of us.

In contrast France rallied the nation and the globe around its so called liberty and managed to collect 40 leaders and 3 million people to defend a rag sheet.

While it has been shocking to see the servitude and insensitivity of the Pakistani nation it was even more shocking to see the crass hypocrisy at Public display in France not just in the 40 leaders who made up the spectacle but the millions who joined in support in Paris.

Many of these were Muslim leaders who, oh so, sombrely linked arms in the chain with Netanyahu, that great defender of Palestinian rights and freedom and free speech. One such Muslim leader was from the land of Nejd and Hejaz, freshly arrived from the flogging of a social media activist in his own country, to show his solidarity for a gutter rag publication. The publication which defiled the image of this man’s professed religion’s most revered and cherished figure.

Sickening and disgusting hypocrisy.

Little does one know that French comedian Dieudonné has been banned from public appearances in France because of his anti semetic jokes.

Pro Palestinian demonstrations are banned in France by law.

So while France can selectively choose to curb the civil liberties and free speech of some it continued to allow a rag of a newspaper to continously and deliberately and baitingly insult the sensitivities of a community in the name of liberty and free speech.

This publication has never chosen to insult Jews and or Prophet Musa despite the many opportunities, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians,  has provided it. And may it never insult  Prophet Musa, a deeply revered figure in Islam as well or for that matter any personage for which any community has sacred and reverential emotions and feelings.

While Western social orders get extremely upset if words like Nigger for African Americans or Nazis for Israeli soldiers, are used,  but it’s perfectly acceptable for these same societies to ridicule, insult, humiliate the Prophet of Islam, in the name of free speech.

So my issue is twofold.  A feeling of terrible sadness at the spineless servitude of the Pakistani Nation and it’s so called leaders especially Dharna Khan when our own were mowed down.

And the sickening hypocrisy of the West, France and our Muslim Countries in showing solidarity with a rag and its double standards.

The Roots of Global Terrorism and Militancy in Pakistan, the Middle East and the World- 4 Major Fundamentals and 24 Geo Political enablers

The Roots of Global Terrorism and Militancy in Pakistan, the Middle East and the World- 4 Major Fundamentals and 24 Geo Political enablers

Image result for bacha khan university attack

This is the result of some research on The roots of Global Terrorism and Militancy in Islam, Pakistan the the Region and what fuels it. It is also an effort to synthesize and analyse a host of interrelated factors and forces which have impacted, influenced and tragically strengthened the forces of Terrorism and Militancy in the world.
The recent attack by terrorists on unarmed students and teachers of the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Pakistan on 19th January 2015 and the horrific 16th December 2014 tragedy of the massacre of 142 students and teachers in Peshawar, Pakistan,  show’s how strong this evil still is in Pakistan. Globally it has morphed into Daesh fuelled and funded by the Wahhabi doctrine, spearheaded by the Al Saud monarchy of Saudi Arabia.
As the TTP (Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan) claimed responsibility for these cruel and inhuman act of killing innocent defenseless children and women, one asked, what drives these people? What kind of thought feeds this madness?
This is what I discovered.
Historically the ability and effectiveness of militant movements fighting against a State or an established order, such as that of the TTP against Pakistan and Al Qaeda and the DAESH in Syria and Iraq, is driven by 4 fundamental foundations.  The more powerful these foundations and the more enabling the Socio – Geo – Political environment, the greater the havoc such militants wreak on their enemies. The equivalent of a political nuclear explosion.
The 4 are.
A brief explanation of each and how they have fed and fueled and driven this monster of Terrorism in Pakistan and across the Region.
These are the Religious, Moral, Social, Economic, Political thought and belief systems which drives these movements.
In our current context, this primary Thought is based on Religious doctrine. It drives Terrorism in Pakistan and the actions of the Al Qaeda, TTP, Lashkare Jhangvi, Sipah e Sahaba, Punjabi Taliban, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, DAESH in Iraq and Syria and other similar organisations like Boko Haram in Nigeria.
This thought also influences the religious discourse of relatively softer counterparts in Pakistan such as JUI of Fazlur Rehman and Sami Ul Haq, Jamaat Ahle Hadith of Zaheer, and even militant right wing elements in the Jamaat e Islami, Imran Khan’s PTI and the ruling PMLN party of Nawaz Sharif.
To understand this religious thought which stems from the Hanbali theological framework of Imam Hanbal the 8th Century Sunni Muslim Scholar and Theologian who wanted the Muslims to revert to what he believed to be the fundamentals of original Islam, we must also look at the causes leading to the first divergence and differences in Islamic thoughts and beliefs.
Especially important is to understand the causes of Shia – Sunni divergence, today manifested in the Saudi – Iranian rivalry and the rabid hatred of the Shias by the TTP, DAESH, and the anti Shia militant groups in Pakistan mentioned above.
It was first Imam Hanbal who considered many practices and beliefs of certain Muslim sects, chiefly the Shias as “un Islamic” and therefore outside the pale of Islam.  He also believed that the Sunnis who also transgressed, beyond his laid down boundaries, were also to be considered infidels.
The basis of his thinking stemmed from the Hadith literature which defined the Holy Prophets Sunnah (MPBUH – May Peace Be Upon Him) or the Way of the Prophet. It was this Hadith literature which had and has increasingly today, become the source of theological divergence between Sunnis and Shias, and also within the Sunnis and Shias and their sub sects.
Each sect or sub sect has laid claim to the “Authentic Hadiths” and hence the “Authentic Sunnah” of the Holy Prophet MPBUH, as defined, documented and interpreted by their own scholars and clerics.
To understand this divergence between Shias and Sunnis, a brief review and understanding of some some key events after the Holy Prophet PBUH are important.
This originally started as a political and in some ways a spiritual rivalry, whereby the Shias espoused the cause of The Holy Prophet’s PBUH Son- in Law, Imam Ali, as the Holy Prophet’s MPBUH, rightful Spiritual and Temporal heir, and the rightful First Caliph instead of Caliph Abu Bakr.
They based this on several Prophetic Ahadith in which, according to the Shias, the Holy Prophet had clearly indicated and designated Ali as his successor. They therefore also did not consider the second and third Caliphs, Caliph Omar and Caliph Osman to be the rightful Caliphs.
Conversely the Sunnis did not and do not consider that Imam Ali had been so designated and have their version of the Prophetic Ahadith stating otherwise.
However all Sunnis considered and consider the First four Caliphs of Islam, Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman and Ali as The four Rightfully Guided Caliphs and hold them in very high esteem.
This political rivalry then tragically and very sadly, became irreconcilable due to three major historical events.  Two during the time of Imam Ali’s caliphate and the third a little after his death.
The Battle of the Camel / Jamal between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Ayesha
The first was the Battle of Jamal or Camel, in 656,  between Imam Ali, now the fourth Caliph and Hazrat Ayesha, the Holy Prophet’s MPBUH, youngest wife and daughter of the first Caliph Abu Bakr, following the murder of the third Caliph Osman.
Both Shias and Sunnis have different versions of the causes leading to this Battle where Imam Ali and Hazrat Ayesha were arrayed against each other. The battle was won by Imam Ali after Hazrat Ayesha’s camel was brought down, hence the name of the Battle.
Hazrat Ali had his sons Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain escort Hazrat Ayesha back to Medina, with full honours and respect.
It is said that such was Hazrat Ayesha’s remorse at the way things had materialized that she completely disappeared from public view and rarely ever appeared in public till her death 20 years later.
Sufficeth to say that it was this battle which initiated the schism which has forever divided Islam into its two primary sects. For it was this battle which pitted Ali, the Prophets first cousin, his son in law and his heir, according to the Shias, against his favorite wife, Hazrat Ayesha.
The Muslims would henceforth be forever divided!!
Supporting her in this battle against Ali was Muawiyyah ibn Abu Sufian, deeply revered by the Sunnis and not so by the Shias. And also the cause of the next civil war.
Muawiyyah Ibn Abu Sufiyan was the son of Abu Sufiyan bin Harb, the Prophet Mohammed’s arch enemy and foe and leader of the pagan Qureish, who battled against the Prophet Mohammed MPBUH for nearly 20 years from the start of the Prophet’s public proclamation of his Prophethood to just two years before his passing away.
It is said that Abu Sufiyan finally converted to Islam, because of the inevitability of events following the peaceful takeover of Mecca in 630 by the Prophet Mohammad.
Many historians including Tabari in his Tarikh e Tabari claims that this battle between the House of Mohammed and the House of Abu Sufiyan however  continued through Muawwiyah his son, who was later to become Caliph after Imam Ali, in 661 and founded the Umayyad dynasty which lasted 87 years from 661 to 750 AD. It further continued through his son Yazid and all the subsequent Umayyad Caliphs.
The Muslims had for the first time fought a civil war and that too between too very close members of the Holy Prophet’s MPBUH household !
The Battle of Siffin 657 AD between Hazrat Ali and Muawiyya ibn Abu Sufiyan
The second civil war, was the Battle of Siffin in 657 AD, between Imam Ali, who was still the Caliph and Muawiyyah who had earlier fought against Ali in the aforementioned Battle of Jamal, which further split the Muslims into now two distinct camps called the Shiane-Ali or Partisans of Ali and the Shiane Muawiyyah or the Partisans of Muawiyyah.
The Supporters of Ali retained their shortened nomenclature of SHIAS whereas the Shiane Muawiyyah label was dropped and replaced by another label called the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.
The faith framework now included the Prophet’s Sunnah and that of his companions. It was this addition of the companions as another source of the teachings of the Faith which further exacerbated the schism.  For included in these Companions were those like Talha and Zubair who while had been Companions of the Prophet, but had subsequently and sadly fought against Imam Ali in the Battle of Jamal.  The list also included many others like Amr Bin Al Aas, who had sided with Muawiyyah against Imam Ali in the Battle of Siffin.
Many people who were subsequently classified as Companions of the Prophet, were those who converted to Islam just prior to or after the peaceful occupation of Mecca by the Prophet in 630, some just two years prior to his death.
Many independent and objective historians conclude that this addition of the label of “companions” was done to elevate the stature of such companions or contemporaries of the Prophet who had fought against Imam Ali in the Battles of Jamal and Siffin and subsequently those who sided with the brutal Yazid ibn Muawiyyah, son of Caliph Muawiyyah in the massacre of the Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussain Ibn e Ali.
The political battle lines had been starkly drawn. The seeds of theological divergence had been sown and the terrible violence was to come later.
The battle ended inconclusively with Imam Ali and Muawiyyah retaining their respective territories. Imam Ali in Kufa and Muawiyyah in Damascus.
To the Shias the Prophet’s companions were now classified into two categories. Those who sided with Imam Ali and his son Imam Hussain and those who opposed them, which according to the Shias was akin to opposing Prophet’s as per his sayings, the most famous on the occasion of Ghadeer.
To the Sunnis accepting this distinction was accepting that those who politically and militarily opposed Imam Ali were in the wrong and misguided. This was clearly impossible because it were these very companions that the Sunnis deeply revered and who had lead the camp opposed to Imam Ali.
Thus were born the Shia and Sunni sects.
Muawiyyah was deeply anti Shia, because of his family history and animosity with Imam Ali. So were all subsequent Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, deeply afraid of the leadership challenge to their authority both spiritual and temporal, from the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad.
Consequently all members of the Prophet’s direct descendants from Imam Ali were persecuted, imprisoned and killed.
The mantle of Arabian leadership which had been taken away from the Qureish Merchants of Mecca symbolised in the person of Abu Sufiyan, by the Prophet had now returned to them under Abu Sufiyan’s son, Caliph Muawiyya after the death of Imam Ali
The Tragedy of Karbala and the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain
The third event which perhaps destroyed forever any possibility of rapprochement or reconciliation between the two groups was the tragic martyrdom of Imam Hussain Ibn e Ali, the Holy Prophet’s MPBUH beloved grandson and Imam Ali’s son. Imam Hussain’s entourage comprised his family and followers, a few very old companions of the Holy Prophet MPBUH.
It was a tiny group of 72 men, women and children.
At Karbala in 680 AD, this tiny helpless group was martyred at the hands of the army of Yazid Ibn e Muawiyyah, who had inherited the Caliphate from his father, Caliph Muawiyya.
For Yazid, Imam Hussain Ibn e Ali,  symbolised all that he was not and most importantly a threat to his power and throne.
This merciless slaughter, subsequent mistreatment and imprisonment of the Holy Prophets family on the plains of Karbala, by fellow Muslims, still echoes and reverberates the entire Muslim world as emotionally and violently as it did 14 centuries ago.
It was thereafter that a theological war commenced to prove which sect was and is “right” and closer to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet MPBUH.
The Shias source the Prophet’s Sunnah from Imam Ali and his descendants. They believe that none knew the Prophet and his Sunnah better than Ali who was his closest companion having lived with him since he was 6 or 8 years old till the Prophet’s death, 28 years later. He also married the Prophet’s beloved daughter, Fatima and continued to live with the Prophet in the same house even after marriage.
Ali never left the Prophet’s side, except for some military expeditions, till his death, finally lowering him into his grave in 632 AD.
So for the Shias, if any person knew the Prophet most intimately and for the longest period, it was Ali and hence the authentic Sunnah is what has come through Ali.
The Sunnis base their version of the Prophet’s Sunnah on other people such as Abu Hurrairah, a late convert to Islam in the last years of the Prophet’s life.
According to the Shias, Abu Hurrairah was actively promoted to document Prophetic Ahadith by Caliph Muawiyya, especially those that showed him and his family in a positive light, especially because of the history of Abu Sufiyan’s enmity with the Prophet Mohammad and his own two Battles of Jamal and Siffin with Imam Ali. Hence they disagree with most of Abu Hurrairah’s Ahadith,  except those that are in line with their own sources from Imam Ali.
The Sunnis however consider Abu Hurrairah and others such as Abdullah ibn Umar, Anas Ibn Malik, Jabir ibn Abdullah, Abu Said Al Khudri and Hazrat Ayesha, The Prophet’s wife, as authentic sources though none were as close to the Prophet as Imam Ali.
Except for Hazrat Ayesha, his wife, none others mentioned earlier had close or intimate contact with the Prophet. Hazrat Ayesha was the only person who spent 9 years as the Prophet’s wife when he was 53 till his death at age 62. Various muslim historians put her age during her marriage to the Prophet from 12 to 18 at the start of the marriage to 21 to 30 at the time of the Prophet’s death.
So many Hadith scholars both Sunni and Shia have questioned the veracity of Ahadith attributed to her given her young age and on aspects of the Prophet’s life where she could not have been personally present.
The Shias also claim that a significant number of Ahadith attributed to her were actually not hers but so done to give them an air of authenticity. The Sunnis allege the same about Ahadith atributed to Imam Ali.
Hence for the Shias, Imam Ali as the source of the Prophetic Sunnah is far more authentic Than the sources claimed by the Sunnis.
It is this fundamental disagreement on the Source of the Authentic Sunnah and its interpretation, which divides the Shias and the Sunnis.
The Rise of Hadith Literature
Over the next three centuries this rivalry thus gave rise to a copious body of Hadith Literature, with each side trying to prove, amongst other things, through their respective versions of these Prophetic sayings, the “Rightness” of their respective Causes.
The biggest loser in this theological war was the TRUTH !!
Over time it became increasingly difficult to determine the authentic Prophetic traditions from those which were either distorted or completely cooked up, to support a particular belief. This despite the many so called methods associated with the “Science of Hadith” which has in many ways overtaken the Teachings of the Quran as the source of the Islamic faith, and are quoted in abandon to prove a theological point.
In case of interest please read this very insightful piece on the use and abuse of Hadith by Dr. Mohammed Omar Farooq Islamic Law & The Use & Abuse of Hadith
Imam Hanbal’s Doctrine
It was in the succeeding period of Abbasid rule after the Umayyads in which the Shia – Sunni theological wars had reached very serious proportions, that Imam Hanbal lived.
Imam Hanbal was a literalist and rejected Ijtihad or reasoning.
His guiding principle was that the Quran and Sunnah are the only sources of jurisprudence, of equal authority and should be interpreted literally
Being a Sunni and an avid student of Hadith literature as the source of Sunnah, he derived much of his doctrine from the existing Hadith Literature.  Given the history where Sunni Caliphate were dominant, this literature was hence also dominated by Clerics and Scholars of the anti Shia Umayyad rulers and the subsequent anti Shia Abbasid rulers and heavily biased towards the Sunni cause and virulently anti Shia.
Hence it is plausible to conclude that this may perhaps have been a major reason behind the extreme nature of Imam Hanbal’s anti Shia views, beliefs and ideas which permeated his doctrine.
And because his ideas were so extreme and exclusivist as compared to those of the other three mainstream Imams of Sunni Islam, Imams Malik, Abu Hanifa and Shafeie, that the Hanbali school of thought, did not attract much following and for several centuries remained a small and fringe group.
However in the 13th and 14th Century, Ibn Tayymiah, another renowned theologian and scholar of the Hanbali doctrine actively wrote and promoted this doctrine and also included in his teachings and writings, not just the Prophet Mohammad’s MPBUH, Sunnah, by now the subject of significantly varying Hadith’s of the two main sects as the source of Islamic teachings, but also the practices and sayings of the first three generations of Muslims, called the “Salaf” (ancestors), from where the word “Salafi” comes from.
This added even more confusion and fuel to the already existing situation, as now it was not just the Quran and the Sunnah but a host of other people from whom religious doctrine was being derived !
So from “Hanbali” the doctrine had now acquired another name “Salafi”, which is how the TTP and the DAESH, and others, describe themselves.
Mohammed Ibn Wahab and the First Saudi State – 1744 – 1818
But it was in the late 18th Century that the Hanbali / Salafi doctrine finally manifested itself in a more violent and militant form and took its present shape through the teachings of Mohammad Ibn Wahab, the founder of what is called Wahabiism now mostly found in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE. Ibn Wahab based his puritanical and violent discourse on Ibn Tayymiah and hence Wahabiism was born.
In 1744, Ibn Wahab and his supporters called the Ikhwan joined hands with Mohammed Ibn Saud, a tribal chieftain, a pact cemented by marriage between Mohammed bin Saud’s son Abdul Aziz and Ibn Wahab’s daughter and established what is now known as the First Saudi State from 1744 to 1818.
In this period of 72 years they captured Mecca, Medina and the Shia city of Karbala and let loose any orgy of mass killing and murder against the Shias and those Sunnis they considered heretics.
In 1818, they were finally defeated by the Ottomans under an Egyptian Army.
Abdullah bin Saud, the last ruler and the founder’s great grandson was captured and subsequently executed in Constantinople by the Ottomans.
However in these 72 years of Saud’s family rule, the Wahhabi creed had been propagated extensively with violent overtones, with the Wahabi Ikhwan sweeping across the peninsula, destroying symbols of what they thought were innovations in Islam.
This included the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, because they considered praying at the Prophets tomb, which was part of the Mosque, also an “innovation”. The mosque was extensively damaged with intent to demolish, before they were stopped.
But they managed to destroy the tombs and mosques surrounding the tomb of Imam Husayn, the Prophet’s grandson, martyred in Karbala by Yazid ibn Muawiyyah, the son of the 5th Caliph, Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan and the tomb of Imam Ali.
For Shias these two were deeply venerated shrines, only after the Holy Kaabah in Mecca and Holy Prophet’s PBUH  Mosque in Medina. The schism had now acquired the shape of a centuries old tribal feud.
The Second Saudi State – 1824 – 1891
The Second Saudi State was established in 1824 by Turki bin Abdullah bin Saud, son of the last ruler of the first Saudi State, with Dariyah and then Riyadh as their capital and but this time it was restricted to the Nejd region. This state lasted till 1891 till the Al Saud were defeated by the Al Rashid. But again for nearly 70 years the Wahhabi creed was ascendant in the areas under the control of the Al Saud till their defeat.
The Third Saudi State and Modern Saudi Arabia – 1930 – to date
Finally it was in 1930 that this brand of Islam, now called Wahabiism, though not formally called as such, became the official Islamic Creed of the present Saudi state formed by King Abdul Aziz with the support of the British and his Wahhabi Ikhwan, after defeating Sharif Hussain of Mecca in 1925. It was first called the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz before getting getting its current name of Saudi Arabia in 1932, so named after Saud, the father of the first ruler of the first Saudi State, Mohammed bin Saud.
Two things happened as a consequence.
First was the elimination of theWahhabii Ikhwan as a fighting group, by their own partner, King Abdul Aziz, to stop them from attacking Jordan, Iraq and Syria, now British protectorates.  This was because of the Ikhwan’s desire to wage Jihad against them, establish their suzerainty and an Islamic Caliphate.
The British gave a stern warning to Abdul Aziz to reign in his warriors. The last thing the wily chieftain wanted was the British as his enemy and destroy all that he had achieved. But the Ikhwan did not pay heed to his call for restraint. So he had his former partners, the Ikhwan mercilessly machine gunned down in 1929 in what is known as the Battle of Sabilla.
Those that survived or surrendered were either imprisoned or welcomed back into Abdul Aziz’s security forces and administration.  These people became what is today known as the National Guard in Saudi Arabia. Many Ikhwan considered this a betrayal by Saud and decades later found voice and violence in the 1979 Siege of Makkah by the descendants of these same Ikhwan.
Secondly as a consequence of this civil war, both parties agreed to a pact whereby each agreed to stick to their domains. The Saud Family would henceforth have complete control over affairs of the State and the Ikhwan and Abdul Wahab’s descendants the Al Sheikh family, over all affairs of religion where they would have full autonomy and authority.
This arrangement would have serious and violent consequences for the Region and the World, when the Saudi state decided in 1975 to aggressively propagate its version of Islam, outside its borders, using the might of its petro dollars. It is estimated fairly accurately that over a 100 Billion Dollars were spent in this global propagation of the violent Wahabi Salafist Jihadist creed.
Mohammed Ibn Wahab’s 10 conditions to declare a Muslim a Non Muslim
This allowed the Wahabi religious establishment to propagate their version of Islam across the Muslim World, especially Pakistan driven by Ibn Wahab’s 10 rules under which a Muslim could be declared a non muslim.
This was thus the message which has set off the horrendous orgy of events in the 20th and 21st Centuries where Muslims butchered fellow Muslims enmasse, after declaring them Non Muslims.
These Ten Wahabi conditions listed hereunder have been freely and liberally used by Wahabis & Salafists in declaring other Muslim sects as Kafirs or Non Muslims, chiefly amongst them being the Shias.
  1. Polytheism (associating others with God in worship)
  2. Using mediators for God (for example, praying to saints)
  3. Doubting that non-Muslims are disbelievers
  4. Judging by non-Islamic laws and believing these are superior to divine law
  5. Hating anything the Prophet Mohammed practiced (The Hadith literature already suspect as explained earlier has been roundly abused to support the militant views)
  6. Mocking Islam or the Prophet Mohammed
  7. Using or supporting magic
  8. Supporting or helping non-believers against Muslims (hence Pakistan is a Kufr State)
  9. Believing that someone has the right to stop practicing Islam
  10. Turning away from Islam by not studying or practicing it
The Key Players Syed Qutb, Mohammed Qutb, Mohammed Faraj, Abdullah Azzam, AlQaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri and Baghdadi
Syed Qutb / Mohammed Qutb.
But the 1950’s and 1960’s were catalytic decades in the evolution of Wahabi / Salafi thought.  The first person in the modern age to fundamentally redefine the concept of Jihad was Syed Qutb, the Eqyptian Islamist, who drew his inspiration from Ibn Taymiyyah and the founder of the Pakistani religious political party, Maulana Maududi.
Syed Qutb’s contention, like Taymiyyah, was that Jihad was not to be confined to Jihad al Nafs or the inner Jihad or just defensive Jihad against an aggressor but also against a Muslim state and a Muslim ruler to achieve the dream of an Islamic State. it was for the first time that Quranic verses and Prophetic Ahadith had been grossly misinterpreted to define Jihad being allowed against a Muslim ruler as well as against another Muslim state.
His inspiration from Maulana Maududi’s comparison of the pre pre Islamic period of ignorance called Jahiliyya, with the current conditions of the Muslim and Non Muslim Countries, who were under the Rule of Man and not under the Rule of Allah and therefore considered Jihad against all such societies as theologically valid.
However where Maududi advocated a peaceful and political approach to change,  Syed Qutb advocated open and militant Jihad at the individual and state level, even against a Muslim ruler or a Muslim state.
Syed Qutb was executed by Egyptian President Nasser, a secularist,  and his brother Mohammed Qutb along with thousands of very militant mainstream Salafist ideologues then fled to Saudi Arabia where they were welcomed and given refuge by the Saudi State. Many if not most became teachers in schools and Universities and propagated the now highly militant Salafi philosophy to young Saudi minds. Mohammed Qutb also continued to propagate Syed Qutb’s violent Jihadist philosophy as a University teacher and in later years had a young Osama Bin Ladin as his student.
Thus was Osama first initiated into the violent world of militancy in Islam.
Mohammed Faraj, Abdullah Azzam, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin and Abu Bakr Baghdadi
Mohammed Faraj, the founder member of Islamic Jihad in Egypt, was also greatly inspired by Syed Qutb. Faraj actively propagated in his book “The Neglected Duty” and in complete contradiction contrary to mainstream Islamic belief, that Jihad was the most central of Islamic beliefs second only to belief in the One Allah and above the other major tenets of Salat (Prayer), Fasting, Haj ( The Piligrimage) and Zakat ( charity) and that it must be resurrected. Thus Jihad even if it meant violence, aggression and militancy must be undertaken if one was a Muslim.
This serious deviation from mainstream Islamic belief was to have very serious consequences in years to come.
This was the same line adapted by Ayman Al Zawahiri who considered Qutb a great Sheikh and hence his highly militant approach in the propagation of Islam and the creation of an Islamic state in the manner that Al Qaeda advocated and advocates. This was the same thought which permeated Abdullah Azzam the founder of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
Al Qaeda then formulated its own rules and justifications to wage war not just against military forces but against civilians, as well as children and women.
All these deviant interpretations were completely contrary to mainstream Islamic belief and thought but gave them the justification for the 9/11 attack as well as the orgy of blood they’ve let loose in Pakistan through their proxy the TTP and now by DAESH in Syria and Iraq.
 Al Qaeda’s Conditions for killing civilians.
According to Al Qaeda the following 7 conditions allows for the killing of non combatants, civilians, children, old people and women (only one condition is necessary)
  1. The enemy has purposefully killed Muslim civilians*
  2. Civilians have assisted the enemy in “deed, word, or mind”*
  3. Islamic fighters cannot distinguish between combatants and non-combatants
  4. There is a need to burn enemy strongholds or fields where there are civilians
  5. Heavy weaponry needs to be used
  6. The enemy uses civilians as human shields
  7. The enemy violates a treaty with the Muslims and civilians must be killed as a lesson*
*These are the most often cited conditions.
It was but natural that Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi ( there is much discussion today whether he is actually real or just a creation by either the USA or even Al Qaeda). But going by conventional thought, he was an active Al Qaeda member and leader and is now the leader of DAESH, a terrible, brutal, merciless organisation murdering and butchering in the name of Islam.
And it was then but natural that the TTP would then mercilessly cut down 142 people in cold blood in Peshawar on 16th December.
The Impact of this Doctrine   
Hence this is how today we find the Hanbali / Salafi / Wahabi, doctrine transforming from a fringe and small group in the 8th Century eventually mushrooming to what it is today, all across the Muslim World in Asia, North America, Europe and Africa, and wherever Muslims reside.
This is how Mosques and Madrassahs, teaching this doctrine, have multiplied across Pakistan and Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, and became the breeding ground of recruits fueling the TTP, Al Qaeda and DAESH.
In simple terms, Jihad according to them can now also be declared against People who called themselves Muslims, as Ibn Taymiyyah had advised the Caliph to do so against the Mongols, who had by then become, Sunni Muslims. It would henceforth be no longer restricted for defensive purposes only, but also as a means of aggression and to subjugate others and establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Therefore that is how this exclusivist doctrine is used by Al Qaeda, the TTP, DAESH, to declare Shias and other Sunni groups who do not conform to their doctrine, Kafirs or Non Muslims, and subject to the same conditions as non Muslims, when captured in a Jihad or a religious war.
An increasing number of Sunni Muslims, are discovering, even those who secretly harbor a soft corner for the TTP and DAESH, and or also clandestinely support them with money and other resources, under an apparently misguided and misplaced sense of religiosity, that eventually they too will be offered only three choices, if they come under the control of these groups.
1. Become Muslim according to the beliefs of the TTP or DAESH.
2. Be declared non Muslims and pay Jizya. This the tax payable by non Muslims to the Muslim State.
3. Or be killed.
These references to the historical context was essential to understand how this thought evolved which may perhaps lead to a better comprehension of the barbaric acts of these groups and its justification to themselves, and to others, that what they do is in conformity to Islamic tenets.
Therefore the merciless and tragic Peshawar massacre, to them, is perfectly legitimate and having religious sanction.
And it is this same religious doctrine of extremely suspect dogmas which allows the TTP and DAESH, justify the “taking of women and children” of the “enemy” as the “Spoils of War” to be used and enslaved.
The “enemy”,  as thousands of unfortunate souls found out in Iraq and Syria, both Sunni and Shia sects when they were declared Non Muslims, through a Fatwa by their Emirs and Clerics.
These same Fatwas are the source of the merciless slaughter of Shias and Sunnis alike and Christians by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
The vast majority of Muslims both Sunnis and Shias of course do not subscribe to such extreme views, beliefs and theological frameworks, interpreted in the manner as stated by these radical groups.
1973 – 1979. & key events that forever changed the Muslim World
In Pakistan, the country which has suffered the most, this thought finally took roots, well before 9/11 following the confluence of 7 key events between 1973 and 1979. While we will address them in some detail   later, a brief review is in order as under.
  1. The Oil Crisis of 1973 which quadrupled Saudi Arabia’s wealth and gave them the financial clout to export Wahabiism from 1975 onwards.
  2. 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.
  3. The start of  Saudi export of Wahabi Islam in 1975.
  4. The military coup of 1977 in Pakistan bringing Gen. Zia to power.
  5. The Siege of the Holy Ka’bah by extremist Saudi Wahabis in 1979.
  6. The Russian Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
  7. The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. 
Over the next two decades before 9/11 all these events, directly and indirectly contributed in transforming the vast majority of Sunnis in Pakistan following a gentle, soft, mystical and Sufi version of Sunni Islam to its current militant, violent, narrow, harsh intolerant version of Hanbali/ Wahabi / Salafi  Islam, with most people not even realizing it.
It is estimated that prior to 1973 only 10% of Sunni Muslims in Pakistan were adherents of the Hanbali / Wahabi / Salafi sect. In Pakistan the religious political party, Jamaat Ahle Hadith of Prof. Sajid Mir and Ebtesam Elahi Zaheer  belong to this Hanbali Sunni Mazhab.
But as a consequence of the Saudi Wahhabi onslaught the two Hanafi sub sects the Deobandis and Barelvis also split further apart.  The Deobandis getting closer to the Wahhabis and the Barelvis to the Shias. As a result, today the Hanbali / Salafi / Wahabis now joined by the Hanafi Deobandis are estimated at nearly 40% to 50% of the Sunni population.
The sectarian landscape in Pakistan has been completely transformed !!
It was then a short walk to even further radicalization, as a consequence of the Two Afghan Jihads of 1980 and 2001, post  9/11 and a host of internal events to be discussed later.
Hence we must now clearly understand how this THOUGHT came about and it is this THOUGHT which is the source of all this terrible bloodshed.
Unless this THOUGHT is mercilessly rooted out and or contained and limited to people’s belief systems without imposing their harsh views on others violently, the mass scale genocide will continue.  Hence it is this factor which has to be addressed most effectively.
This is the stated VISION and discernible end game objective which unites the group towards achieving this common goal.
The CAUSE driving these militant and terrorist forces is the establishment of an Islamic State / Caliphate according to their theological beliefs. This is not restricted to the Muslim Countries only. Afghanistan and Pakistan were and still are important targets. But their ultimate aim is to establish their version of the “Kingdom of God” across the entire globe.
This desire for an Islamic Caliphate, based on the Wahhabi faith is a very attractive proposition.  This became even more powerful, especially after its adherents with the help of USA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, had successfully driven GODLESS COMMUNISM out of Afghanistan, and eventually resulting in the establishment of the Islamic Emirate  under Mullah Omar from 1996 to 2001.
This was followed by their subsequent successes in the FATA territories of Pakistan.  But what has given them a new lease of life is their rapid success in Syria and Iraq which took everybody by surprise.  The latter as a result of three reasons.
  1. The terrible treatment meted out to the Iraqi Sunnis by then PM Noor Al Maliki and their enmasse joining with DAESH.  
  2. The similar treatment of Sunni majority by Bashar Al Assad in Syria.
  3. 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.
So clearly they, especially the hard core amongst them, will not stop their terrorism and fighting, murdering, pillaging till the establishment of their Wahabi Caliphate or till they are totally eliminated.  These groups are not willing to enter into any sort of negotiations with others, especially who they now consider Infidels, such as the Pakistani State or even the country from where their thought emanated and which recently extend all out support to them, Saudi Arabia, for a longer term peace agreement.
If they negotiate, it will only be as a tactic or a ploy to regroup, refresh and replenish.
This CAUSE has been significantly strengthened by a whole host of geopolitical factors and it is important to identify and understand for arriving at possible approaches and solutions.  These factors, about 24 are addressed subsequently in this paper.
This is the physical space, the geography which allows living space to these groups from where they can move out and carry out their activities and which becomes their launching pad. This also gives them a “State Identity” with its own government, and socio economic and political order and hence acts as beacon for their existing and potential adherents and supporters. DAESH today has now acquired this form and thus gains it’s strength now from its perceived “Statehood” by its supporters.
Thus as a first step and at any cost this space must be taken away from these groups.
In recent years the Jaffna Peninsula provided the physical space to the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.  In Pakistan the TTP had the run of the 7 FATA agencies, Bajaur, Khyber, Khurram, Mohmand, North and South Waziristan and Orakzai bordering Afghanistan and the Afghanistan’s eastern border not under the control of the Afghan government.  Both areas are very mountainous, rugged, heavily forested and used for centuries by nomadic Pakhtun tribes to cross into either country. This territory allowed the TTP and it’s allies to establish a mini state within the state, with its own economy, police, judiciary and  maintain and increase its war making machine and conduct full scale battles against the might of the Pakistan Army.
The Pakistan Armed forces, which in the initial years struggled to transform itself from a conventional fighting force to a counter insurgency one, and having successfully done so now has over the last decade been able to finally best them through multiple operations leading to the latest successful military operation Zarb e Azb, named after the Sword of the Holy Prophet PBUH.
Perhaps and it is a big perhaps, given the conditions then, but a very considered school of thought even amongst the senior military leadership of Pakistan, maintains that Pakistan lost many opportunities in the past to take this space back from the militants and the TTP.
Had this happened then perhaps the problem would not have been so grave.
The first opportunity was in 2004 when the first military operations were launched in the tribal areas. Then another opportunity arose in 2007 when Mullah Fazaullah, the current head of the TTP, had been driven out of Swat, to return a year later and wage a full scale war against the Army.  The third was in the immediate period following the Swat Operation when the Army failed to go all out and eliminate them.  Finally the last opportunity was in 2012 when General Kayani the then Army Chief refused to launch a military operation in North Waziristan, fearing an urban backlash.
Many blame the former army chief, Gen. Kayani for this lack of action and resolve. Some even term it cowardice. However and in fairness to Gen. Kayani, it was the lack of unity and resolve amongst Pakistan’s political leadership and its people that also contributed greatly to his ambivalent approach to the Problem.
Should Pakistan fight or negotiate?
It was and is this dichotomy of approach by the Pakistani establishment and the Government between Military action or negotiations, which in the opinion of most experts and serious observers, allowed the TTP and AL QAEDA to become as strong as they did.
This debate had and has for years also politically divided Pakistan. Political leaders like Imran Khan who had till very recently, publicly and contemptuously dismissive of the benefits of fighting the TTP for 10 years without a positive outcome. This view also has many supporters in other mainstream political parties and leaders like Fazlur Rehman and Sami Ul Haque, of the Jamat Ulema Islam and Munawar Hasan of the Jamaat e Islami as well as the current ruling party the PMLN of Prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
However subsequent events proved all these people wrong and it is now clear that the military operations by the Pakistan army have reduced this space possessed by the TTP and Al Qaeda in most of the 7 FATA agencies to now practically zero, following the most recent and on going military Operation Zarb e Azb.
This elimination of Space has been the single biggest victory and success in the war against these terrorists and militants.
The People, Equipment, Money or the 3M of militancy. Men, Material and Money, which funds, arms, sustains all aspects of the movement, such as the military machine and its associated social, doctrinal, board, lodging, employment, health care etc aspects.
A lot of this funding came both from internal and external sources.
It is estimated that over the last decade between 100 Million to 300 million dollars annually came to these groups, from citizens and charities, likely not with official or government sanction, belonging to our “friendly” middle eastern countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE.
In addition, a substantial amount comes from within Pakistan, again through personal donations, mosques, charities and other political organisations allied to these groups.
Criminal activities such as looting banks and kidnapping for ransom are another source. The last two more symptomatic of the fact that the external funding is under stress. So while terrible, the more banks that are looted and the more people kidnapped for ransom, the more it tells us that these groups are short of funding.
So does this mean that the Terrorists are on the run.
Perhaps for now.
But to understand the full dimension of the critical sickness we need to perhaps identify the key events which shaped this movement.
Listed below are a list of 24 Geo Political factors in Pakistan, the Region and the Middle East, which have greatly strengthened, contributed, supported and tragically enhanced the THOUGHT, CAUSE, SPACE and RESOURCE factors driving Terrorism and Militancy in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Many are now historical, many current and if not stopped will continue to fuel the problem.
I have attempted to list them in some sort of rudimentary chronological order, and not in order of importance and or impact. But occasionally many merge into each other because of the causal interrelationships.
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.  
  6. 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.. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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.
  11. 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. 
  12. 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.  
  13. 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.
  14. 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. 
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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 !!  
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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. 
  21. 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. 
  22. 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.
  23. 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 !
  24. 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.
SO WHAT DO WE DO? and what does this all mean? It means it’s a terribly complex issue AND we all know that.
It also means that we have to address all four fundamentals at the same time. We know that too.
But we all want quick fixes and unfortunately a Thought and a Cause that’s been around for nearly 1200 years in various forms and shapes is not going to go away just by hanging the guilty, which is essential, and purely military operations, which are critical and also essential.
Thought and Cause are far more dangerous, than Space and Resources, because they are not visible and deeply entrenched and rooted in faith and belief systems hence much more difficult to identify, to eliminate, to remove, to degrade and overcome, overnight.
And it is this thought, so deep rooted and entrenched which is the major driver of this militancy and terrorism.
While many of the factors listed above are historical many are still current and influencing and impacting the four factors of THOUGHT, CAUSE, SPACE and RESOURCES.  These factors need to be addressed simultaneously while also limiting the current enabling geo political forces.
So what do we do?
In the short term
  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Disassociate any and all links, if still remaining, with these groups by the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus and organisations.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Engage with both Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop this fratricidal battle for regional hegemony using religion as their prime drivers.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
We must continue to deny the TTP and their supporters the GEOGRAPHY AND PHYSICAL SPACE. This has been a very effective outcome of the military options exercised so far, especially Zarb e Azb and must be relentlessly pursued.
Also the denial or limiting of space to these elements by Afghanistan has been a very welcome and new development courtesy President Ashraf Ghani the newly elected President of Afghanistan.
In him we finally have someone who is sane and realistic. A far cry from the schizophrenic Karzai, medically diagnosed to be suffering from megalomania and multiple personality disorder and a gift of the USA to that unfortunate country.
So we must NOT give the TTP and their associates any SPACE to plan and execute their military and terrorist operations.
And because their war making capability and machinery has been significantly degraded they will now strike back as they did in that dastardly and most cowardly attack in Peshawar, on softer targets to emotionally browbeat the State into some sort of negotiations and the slow down of military operations, to gain time and space. We must not lose our resolve.
In the long term.
  1. 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.  
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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
It is then we can hope to transform Pakistan into a Muslim majority country where all its citizens of any race, sect, creed are equal in all respects.
Where Universal Islamic principles drive public and private conduct. Where Faith, Religion and Belief are private contracts between the believer and The Creator and Pakistan becomes in the words of the Quaid- e – Azam, a country where
…………. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”. ……….
……………”We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”
Nawaz Sharif has for once declared unequivocally his administration’s determination to pursue the battle in all its dimensions to its bitter and victorious end.
He must begin to govern well, effectively and fearlessly.
He must for the sake of Pakistan immediately institute electoral reforms and if need be, give up the reins of the country to those who can govern better and more effectively.
It is critical for Pakistan’s survival that its people and its political and military leadership must be united and committed.
They must be unequivocal and unqualified  in their approach to address all four factors of Thought, Cause, Space and Resources to give the country a fighting chance.
The Pakistan Army can only address Space and to some extent Resources through military actions and operations. The Nation has to do the rest.
Pakistan’s political leadership and its citizens must step up to the plate!
For the world, especially the “West” to realize that the source of this madness stems from the Wahhabi brand espoused and exported by the Al Saud, and their adherents, with billions of petrodollars.  And till they are not removed from the scene this world will not find peace

We are Ashamed of letting Down Pakistan, the Quaid e Azam and the Millions who sacrificed all for this Country

Here’s an open apology to Pakistan. and a salute to Jibran Nasir……
…….What a man, what a man,  what a man,
Dear PAKISTAN and Quaid e Azam, I am so ashamed of myself and of our generation…
We failed you, our Country, our children and the millions who sacrificed their all for Pakistan.
In 1977 when my generation should have stood up to that that terrible terrible man Zia ul Haq we all looked the other way, busy making money, climbing the corporate ladder.
In 1972 we let ZAB unleash his fascist goons on the poor people who thought and some still do, that he was their Messiah.
From 1988 to now we let BB, Nawaz and Asif Zardari and their political goons, family and friends, loot plunder and pillage this country and we looked the other way and or kept silent.
In 1999 we thought Musharraf would cleanse this mess and when he faltered we let him rule on.
WE are the DAMNED generation of Pakistan who had seen a pluralistic, much more tolerant, softer gentler Pakistan before Zia took over in 1977 and yet we didn’t do anything to preserve it or fight for it.
I am particularly ashamed of myself to have left the country when perhaps it needed me most.
I am a coward and admit it with great shame.
Its people like Jibran who make one realize how terribly terribly indifferent, cowardly and selfish we were.
We all owe Pakistan an apology and perhaps in the twilight of our lives we may in some small way atone for our sins of commission and omission.
Dear Pakistan….my generation and in particular, I have failed you.

WE are very sorry and deeply ashamed !!