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Mother of All Evil

 Posted on: 6/3/2017 1

*Mother of All Evil*

Ever since the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded — or carved out of India — in August 1947, it has been in a precarious situation even in the best of times.

The creation of a new nationas a homeland for India's Muslims was Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s historic feat. Whenhe died in 1948, however, he had not succeeded in creating the nation'sidentity.

Millions of refugees pouredin from India after partition. They did not make themselves popular by quicklytaking over key positions in Pakistan's government, military andinfrastructure.

Many of them — currentPresident Pervez Musharraf's family included — came from Northern India, werebetter educated and had been in similar positions under the British already.

The "other"Pakistanis were simpler folks. Their field of expertise was in agriculture orbusiness — but not in administration. To add insult to injury, the newcomersquickly imposed Urdu as the national language on the reluctant speakers ofPunjabi or Sindhi.

Not that life was rosy forthe Punjabis or Sindhis before the arrival of the "Indians." Punjabilandlords always had an iron grip on their people. Bonded labor still exists inall but name — and a handful of powerful families have always controlled theprovince and its politics.

Sindh, on the other hand,has been marred by movements which want to see the province — which isPakistan's economic foundation — autonomous, if not independent.

Pakistan's first PrimeMinister Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. In 1958, President IskanderMirza suspended the constitution with the help of the army, only to be forcedinto exile 20 days later. General Mohammad Ayub Khan then became Pakistan's firstmilitary leader.

What followed was a bizarrealternation between military rulers and civilian governments peppered with theoccasional assassination, political murder and mysterious accident which havemade Pakistani politics so lively.

Benazir Bhutto, who becamethe country's first female prime minister and everybody's darling in the Westin 1988, turned out to be a major disappointment.

From the start, there wereallegations that she somehow had a hand in the death of her predecessor,military ruler Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who was killed in an airplane crash alongwith 28 senior military officers and the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.

Zia had been responsible forthe execution of Benazir's father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1979.Benazir herself now lives in exile in Great Britain and the United ArabEmirates. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari — nicknamed “Mr. Ten Percent” —languishes in jail in Pakistan.

He has been accused oftaking bribes, pocketing money from government contracts and for planning“extrajudicial killings” in Karachi, where Mrs. Bhutto’s rivals had been killedby police.

All this seemed poised for achange for the better when, ironically, yet another general — Pervez Musharraf— ousted Benazir Bhutto's successor Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — a Zia protege— in 1998. Pakistanis welcomed the bloodless coup and argued that ever sinceJinnah had died 50 years earlier, everything had gone downhill

The terrorist attacks,however, brought back to the surface what has plagued Pakistan since it wasfounded. An atmosphere which over 50 years ago first discouraged cohesion andnational identity subsequently encouraged corruption, lack of respect for anygovernment or its representatives, cronyism and hidden, uncontrollable powers.

The sad fact is that thearmy has been the only reasonably stable institution in Pakistan. The eventsfollowing the terrorist attacks, however, might even threaten this last vestigeof law and order in the country.

Mr. Musharraf’s previousshilly-shallying over Kashmir and his inability — or unwillingness — to riskcracking down on the militants, have emphasized the foul compromises ofPakistan's society even more.

Much of it became worseduring the time of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. In order to secure his grip on power,Zia introduced "Islamization" in the early 1980s.

This represented a U-turnaway from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had been accused of attempting to radicallywesternize Pakistan.

"Islamization" wasto become a watershed for the region. Why? Neighboring Afghanistan was fightingagainst Soviet occupation. The U.S. government at the time provided financialaid for Pakistan, which had to cope with millions of Afghani refugees.

At the same time, bothmilitary and financial help for Afghani resistance fighters was channeledthrough Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

In order to facilitatetraining, camps were built in the border region between Afghanistan andPakistan. Clandestine operations bolstered the role of Pakistan's Inter-ServiceIntelligence (ISI).

With official and unofficialbacking the ISI developed into a state within a state. So much so that afterZia's death in 1988, nobody could really figure out who was in charge.

This is now part of theproblem in Kashmir. Despite continuous denial by various Pakistani governments,it is almost certain that the ISI supports militants there on its own account.

Given the lack of control,the agency can easily orchestrate any kind of terror act against Indianauthorities without the knowledge of the Pakistani administration. On top ofthat, nobody has full control over the militants who often take matters intotheir own hands without consulting well-meaning ISI officers.

In addition, much of theperiod of "Islamization" contributed to the growth of religiousextremism. Madrassa is a form of religious schools which sprung up all over thecountry. Originally conceived as welfare set-ups, many went out of control.

Major funding came not onlyfrom Zia's "Islamization" schemes but also from abroad, notably fromSaudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

By now, it is estimated that10-15% of the 45,000 religious schools are affiliated with extremist religiousor political groups. During the occupation of Afghanistan, they served asrecruiting bases and training centes for fighters. Students also fought inconflicts in Kashmir and Chechnya.

Another worrying trend isthat up to 50% of students are thought to come from abroad — from as far awayas Indonesia and the Philippines. Once they return to their home countries,they often spread the extreme views taught in such schools.

Thus, the teaching of theQuran quickly went hand in hand with training in partisan warfare to beundertaken against the Soviet infidels in Afghanistan. After the Sovietwithdrawal, ties between Afghani Taliban fighters and Pakistan remained close.

So close, that Pakistan wasone of only a few countries ever to formally recognize the Taliban government.In fact, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had expressed his admiration for how lawand order had been restored in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

With much of Pakistan's oldNorth West Frontier virtually autonomous, it is no wonder then that localtribes are suspected of harboring old friends — al Qaeda fighters. Thesefighters have not gone into early retirement. Rather, they are prepared tocontinue their jihad everywhere.

Given the close proximity ofthe North West Frontier to Kashmir, it is little wonder that India isparticularly concerned about the potential new militant recruits. That is alsowhy it feels justified when it speaks of al Qaeda terrorism and its troubleswith Kashmir separatists in one breath.

This is where the wholestory comes full circle again. Pakistan’s current troubles have a long andcomplex history. The al Qaeda terrorist network was — and is — able to takeadvantage of the muddled situation. From India’s point of view, things arequite clear: the troubles started with the partition of mother India and thecreation of Pakistan — the “Mother of All Evil.”

By: David Jones

6/12/2024 5:22:51 PM