Originally Published 2004-07-05 05:02:36 Published on Jul 05, 2004
When Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf speaks, he gets lots of attention in Washington DC and other capitals in the western world. For the past three years, he has been saying that he was determined to root out terrorism from the world. He was quickly dubbed as a staunch ally by the Bush administration.
Musharraf and his terrorism policy
When Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf speaks, he gets lots of attention in Washington DC and other capitals in the western world. For the past three years, he has been saying that he was determined to root out terrorism from the world. He was quickly dubbed as a staunch ally by the Bush administration. It is another matter that when George W. Bush Jr., during his first presidential press conference, asked about Pakistan, he called Musharraf `that General`. That can be excused as a genuine ignorance. 

It is therefore important that the world should listen to what President Musharraf is saying about terrorist networks. During a meeting Republican senators Don Nickles and Jeff Sessions early this week, the General said he was trying to dismantle the country's terrorist network for the sake of its own "national interest". This was later released as a press statement by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. "It was very much in Pakistan's national interest to dismantle the terror network and get rid of outsiders trying to misuse our territory," Musharraf was quoted as telling the US lawmakers.

This is an intriguing admission. President Musharraf has admitted, without any ambiguity, two things: First, there are terrorist networks in Pakistan. Second, he has failed to do anything about them.

Terrorist networks are not new to Pakistan. They have been in existence since the Afghan jihad days when the CIA funded, armed and inspired the ISI to create a band of Afghan mercenaries to counter the Soviet invasion. The ISI not only set up training camps within Pakistan and in areas bordering Afghanistan but also acted as a conduit for arms and dollars flowing from Langley, Virginia, USA. To give this terrorist network a religious acceptance, the ISI called the band of ruthless killers `jihadis` or the crusaders. It was a gross misnomer which, for reasons best known to western intelligentsia, has remained stuck to the marauding bands of killers whose concerns could, by any stretch of imagination, be called religious. No religion propagates killing. After the Soviets left Afghanistan, these bands of killers had no place to go but Pakistan where there were enough groups who were willing to give them shelter and job. The ISI had a job plan for them. They began sending them to Kashmir to train the local disgruntled youth who were tempted by illusions of grandeur. Another motivating factor for the Pakistan establishment to send these brigands to Kashmir was to prevent them from creating mayhem inside. That is what has happened over the years, in any case.

As the Indian security forces kept these terrorist groups on the run, it became difficult for Pakistan to keep them from coming back. Most of these groups returned to Pakistan and set up bases in Pak Occupied Kashmir (Syed Salahuddin's United Jehad Council),Karachi (Hijb and Harkat ul Mujahideen groups which later splintered and became Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-jihad-al Aslami) and areas bordering Afghanistan. With the dollar-pipeline drying up, it became difficult for these groups to survive without indulging in criminal activities like extortion, drug and arms smuggling, hired killings and robbery. Many of the so-called jihadis joined religious extremist groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and began taking part in petty crimes, especially in Karachi where criminal syndicates, even today, continue to rule the roost. Karachi's Binori mosque was, and continues to be, the hub of terrorists. Protected by the religious umbrella, these groups recouped and regained strength even while the successive governments in Pakistan continue to make noises about putting down extremist elements. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who now accuses President Musharraf of hiding Osama bin Laden, was the one who helped Laden with a network in Karachi. She allowed her chairman of senate foreign relations committee, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, to court Saudi royalty to fund the revival and expanse of terrorist networks, especially the one headed by Laden. Rehman is today the leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and nurses an ambition of becoming the Prime Minister sooner than later.

Switch to post 9/11. Some of the money which funded Mohammad Atta and his terror associates came from Pakistan. There is enough evidence to more than suggest the involvement of ISI and members of terrorist groups, especially Jaish-e-Mohammad's Syed Omar Sheikh, awaiting execution for the brutal assassination of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The US retribution that followed the WTC attack damaged, quite substantially the al Qaida and Taliban network (even Michael Moore should, howsoever grudgingly, admit that the Bush administration did manage to send the fear of bombs into the minds and souls of these killers). The result was many of the terrorist leaders and their cadre escaped to Pakistan, especially towards the tribal areas and Karachi. Even President Musharraf today admits to such an eventuality although he has been steadfastly denying it till now, terming it as an Indian propaganda. He now says that his troops were able to kill more than 100 al Qaida activists during the Wana operations. Some of the top al Qaida leaders like Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin-al Shibh and Khaled Mohammad Sheikh were caught from Pakistan. So this around, President Musharraf is right: Pakistan has become an epicenter of terrorism.

What he is not saying is: who is responsible? President Musharraf was quite aware of the people who were involved in the conspiracy and murder of Daniel Pearl; they were members of extremist and terrorist groups which were known to be associated with various covert activities of the ISI. He was also aware that these groups-Sipah and Lashkar-were also playing host to fleeing members of al Qaida and Taliban. One of the suspects in the Daniel Pearl murder case, Fazl Karim, confessed earlier during the investigation that terrorist groups were merging with extremist groups to form new networks of terror. He pointed out that al Qaida terrorists were involved in Pearl's killing. That was a clear indication of events happening on the ground. But President Musharraf deliberately ignored this fact and continued to claim that terrorism was under control in Pakistan. It was far from true as subsequent events showed. Karachi was struck by a series of suicidal bomb attacks on western targets, killing several people in the aftermath. Despite a series of high profile arrests of terrorist leaders and intelligence inputs from within and by US agencies, President Musharraf kept insisting that terrorism was just a figment of Indian imagination till suicide bombers attacked him, twice within a fortnight. As it was revealed subsequently, the attackers included members of his military and police, a fact which has today shaken him enough to claim that his nation was in the grip of terrorism.

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