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Attack on Hamid Saeed Kazmi and the Taliban inside Islamabad

Feeling insecure in Islamabad

The federal religious affairs minister, Mr Hamid Saeed Kazmi, escaped death at the hands of terrorists on Wednesday at Islamabad’s GPO chowk. He was driving out of his office without much security. His driver has been killed and his guard has sustained wounds. Mr Kazmi has received a bullet in his leg. What is shocking is that everyone knew that he was the target of the terrorists; he had told the government that he might be next in line after the assassination of Allama Naeemi of Lahore earlier in the year.

Let’s first look at why he was in the crosshairs, something which the government thought it could ignore. Despite his last name, Mr Kazmi is not a Shia; he is in fact more vulnerable than a Shia: he belongs to the majority Ahle Sunnat school of thought, also called Barelvi, whom the Taliban think culpable because the Barelvis don’t favour the apostatisation of Shias. More relevantly, he was targeted by the Taliban because he had organised a Pakistan-wide clerical consensus against suicide-bombings.

Mr Kazmi had asked for his security to be beefed-up after he received threats from quarters that he clearly identified with elements that work for the Taliban. He may even have known that these elements were located inside Islamabad. (SSP Islamabad has confirmed that the terrorists who attacked him with Kalashnikovs from their 125cc motorbike were from inside Islamabad and had not entered the capital city from outside.) The truth is that anyone located in Islamabad is a sitting duck because the Taliban are better represented here than any other city in Pakistan.

Pakistan first felt how it was besieged in the capital when the Lal Masjid crisis broke in 2007. The army was called out to evacuate the inmates of the madrassa after it was reported that terrorists were lodged inside it. What came as a shock was the support the Lal Masjid clerics received from the lower middle class and poor community living in its vicinity even after it had become clear to them that they would be defying the Pakistan Army. Once the government got bogged down, Lal Masjid clerics called out their mediators: Fazlur Rehman Khaleel of the banned Harkatul Mujahideen headquartered in Islamabad; Shah Abdul Aziz, recently on trial for beheading a Polish engineer; and Javed Ibrahim Paracha, known as the “Al Qaeda lawyer”.

General Musharraf and his regime were defeated on the issue of Lal Masjid by an errant media. Despite the fact that its clerics clearly betrayed their sectarian identity and declared their allegiance to the Taliban, the surviving head of the Masjid was let off by the Supreme Court. In 2008, the popular view manufactured by the media swung in favour of Lal Masjid even as the world identified it as the high-water mark of the dominance of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. For instance, in Holland when the Dutch protested against the building of a mosque, their placards read: “No more Lal Masjids!”

A year after the Lal Masjid incident, Islamabad had still not become fully alert to the “extra-territoriality” of the mosques in the city. One popular Karachi daily editorialised in September 2008: “We are forced to refer to the Lal Masjid affair because 70 new illegal mosques have come up in Islamabad, and the local administration and the Capital Development Authority have done nothing about it. Lal Masjid did not turn into a bastion for militants overnight. The Ghazi brothers gradually expanded the mosque under their control and built new structures, including living quarters for their families”.

Islamabad is not a secure city. Foreign diplomats who live here feel endangered. Many Pakistanis who seek honour in isolationism draw comfort from the fact that “foreigners” are uneasy coming to Islamabad. The truth is that the city has become “Talibanised” among the lower classes that outnumber the rest of its population. Anyone who has held a discussion among the lower middle class student community there would bear witness to this fact. Yet, those Pakistani circles that are endangered would rather focus on how the Americans and other foreigners have made Islamabad unsafe by beefing up their own security arrangements!

Sadly, the TV reporter is querulous in tone when he reports on the “hundreds of barriers” erected by Islamabad police to minimise incidents of terrorism in the city. The media message is: Islamabad is suffering because of the security barriers and the Americans. But this message goes in favour of the Taliban and Al Qaeda who would like nothing more than the removal of all obstacles in Islamabad.

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Abdul Nishapuri


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  • WASHINGTON DC, July 19, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 |

    A Madrassa near Peshawar, Capital of NWFP

    Top MMA Leader Tries to Convince Pentagon, NSC on Hardline Islamic Law

    Special SAT Report

    WASHINGTON, July 19: As the guest of a Christian organization which calls itself “a Think Tank with Legs”, the Chief Minister of Pakistan’s North-western Province, NWFP, Akram Khan Durrani, has used the legs of the think tank to reach the Pentagon and Washington’s thinking elite.

    And the Opposition religious coalition, Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), leader has been preaching the US decision-makers a word or two about the controversial Hasba Act, the recently passed law which, critics say, means Talibanization of Pakistan. It is being introduced by the Provincial Government to appeal to its conservative constituency in the backward province before the Local Government elections later this month.

    It is the Law against which the Federal Government of General Pervez Musharraf has petitioned the Supreme Court of Pakistan claiming it was against the Constitution and should be declared null and void. The MMA says it will contest forcibly in the SC.

    “Yes I visited the Pentagon and gave them a copy of the Hasba Act,” Durrani (above) told the South Asia Tribune on Saturday night, explaining that it was not at all odd that he was trying to convince Washington that the Act was not meant to Talibanize the Pakistani society.

    Durrani has been in Washington from July 9-19 as guest of Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) which, according to its web site, was “created to develop sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide, and to inspire and equip emerging leaders with faith-based methodologies of engagement.”

    Founded by Robert A. Seiple, the first-ever US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, “IGE uniquely combines strategic analysis with an operational component that seeks solutions to complex political and religious problems in difficult parts of the world.”

    “In this age of widespread religious conflict, pluralism, and change, finding such solutions requires a deep understanding of geopolitical realities as well as an approach that is “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves,” the web site of IGE says.

    To meet this challenge, IGE partners with governments, religious organizations, scholars, practitioners, and international advocacy groups to take on innovative projects that strike at the root of religious intolerance and educate emerging leaders to take religion seriously in their consideration of international affairs.

    “We’re a “think tank with legs,” or if you’re feeling less poetic, a “think-and-do-tank.” What does that mean? We recognize that thinking is simply our initial step. We’re also committed to praying and acting on the basis of our thought and research,” the IGE web site explains.

    Chief Minister Durrani has been in Washington with his three sons, one Principal Officer and an Interpreter, all hosted by IGE for 11 days in the US capital and New York. “I had a wonderful trip, my children also saw America and we had good meetings with National Security Council and Pentagon officials. I gave every one a copy of the Hasba Act,” Durrani told the South Asia Tribune.

    The religious leader from the radically Islamized province has been trying in all his meetings to convince the Americans that his party was not as radical as perceived and they could do business with the Americans on the same terms as any one else.

    But as a slip of his tongue in one of the TV interviews, Durrani claimed that after he explained the provisions of the Hasba Act to Pentagon officials, they almost approved it and gave a green light to go ahead. But he quickly stopped making the remark to other media channels and when he was specifically asked by South Asia Tribune whether he was able to convince the Pentagon, he was non-committal and said it was for Pentagon to give their opinion.

    He was asked whether the Hasba Act, now in the Supreme Court of Pakistan after it was challenged by the Federal Government as violative of the Constitution, would still be pursued if the Court ruled against the MMA, and whether MMA would accept the Court decision, Durrani was a little uncomfortable answering the question saying “Let us think positively as our legal brains have studied the Act in detail and they can successfully argue that it does not come into conflict with the Constitution.”

    Durrani was, however, almost sure after his round of meetings with think tanks and NSC/Pentagon officials in Washington that his Government in NWFP would not be dismissed by General Musharraf because of the Hasba Act.

    “I did say that we will wreak havoc if Governor’s Rule was imposed, but I am sure that stage would never be reached as we have worked with the Center on many sensitive issues in the past and reached a mutually acceptable solution,” he said.

    But Durrani could not convincingly respond to the question that by bringing up the Hasba issue at this stage, the Opposition MMA had actually played into the hands of the Musharraf Government and diverted the focus of national politics from the up-coming unity talks and a possible alliance between the MMA, PPP and PML-N on the more basic issue of getting rid of a military dictator.

    “We are talking to the Opposition parties for a joint struggle at the Federal level but provinces can legislate and opposition to local laws does not mean we would stop talking to each other at all levels,” he said.

    Yet the fact is that MMA has hijacked the national agenda by introducing and passing the Hasba Act in a hurry which prompted other major parties including PPP to sharply attack the MMA and condemn it. No one would have been happier than General Musharraf with this political move.

    And MMA itself is almost in a win-win situation because if the Hasba Act is enforced, they will have a new Islamic Police at their command which can ultimately be used politically against the Center and other political opponents.

    On the other hand, if the Act is not allowed by the Supreme Court or if the NWFP Assembly is dismissed, MMA would emerge as “martyrs of Islam” and would be able to recruit more supporters for its hardline policies.

  • Fazl keeps regular contact with US embassy, says cable By Ansar Abbasi Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    ISLAMABAD: Against his public perception of being an anti-American, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is reflected in a cable released by WikiLeaks as a frequent and cooperative American interlocutor, who professes his support for cooperation with the United States. The JUI-F leader has been described in the secret US cable as “more politician than mulla”, and “a frequent and cooperative interlocutor” with the post (US Embassy Islamabad). The Maulana is also shown as professing his “support for cooperation with the United States.” US embassy’s CDA Peter Bodde wrote in his April 3, 2008 cable, released by WikiLeaks, that Rehman, more politician than mulla, has been a prominent and legitimate figure in Pakistani politics since the 1980s. He “has publicly denounced terrorist attacks, but prefers to use negotiations rather than military force against militants. Although he is known to have contacts with Taliban and their sympathisers, he has negotiated with religious militants on the government’s behalf, garnering him criticism from the more hard-line religious sectors.”

    The primary purpose of the message was to request the FBI to recall information about Fazlur Rehman, which indicated that an individual “Fasilur Rehman” believed to be associated with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is behind the March 2008 bombing in Islamabad. The cable said that the information suggests that Fasilur Rehman refers to political party leader Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F. The embassy “requests that FBI recall this information from all hardcopy and database records due to discrepancies and errors in the report.” It noted that prominent Pakistan politician Fazlur Rehman is not associated with the JI, but instead leads his own political party, the JUI-F. From 2002-2007, the two parties allied with other religious parties in the coalition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). However, the JUI-F and JI retained separate leadership structures as well as separate political objectives and methods, it said.

    The cable said that Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F is a conservative Deobandi religious party that has recently joined the new Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led government. The JI is a religious party that appeals to a narrow sector of the educated, conservative urban middle class. JI, which has a vibrant student wing, began as a movement for social change based on Sharia. “The JI party policy does not support violence as a means to achieve their political agenda, however, the party quietly has supported Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir by providing recruits from their student corps. The party does not support violence perpetuated within Pakistan, such as the recent attack on the restaurant in Islamabad. In addition, Fasilur Rehman and Fazlur Rehman are extremely common Pakistani names, making it impossible to accurately identify the individual with the prominent JUI-F politician.” In an earlier cable, the WikiLeaks showed the Maulana approaching the then US Ambassador Anne Patterson to become the Prime Minister. It was revealed that the leader of the country’s most fiercely pro-Taliban religious party, hosted a jovial dinner for Patterson at which the Maulana sought her backing to become prime minister and expressed a desire to visit America. Maulana-like Maulana’s lieutenant Abdul Ghafoor Haideri acknowledged that “All important parties in Pakistan had to get the approval of the US (to get power).”

  • Partymen stunned: ‘Fazl in land scam’ By Our Staff Reporter Monday, 03 Nov, 2008

    LAHORE, Nov 2: The JUI-F leaders and activists are stunned at the land scam reported against their chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, as elders of other politico-religious parties are avoiding to directly comment on it. The opposition leader in the previous National Assembly, Maulana Fazl allegedly got allotted hundreds of kanals of army land in Dera Ismail Khan, NWFP, to play the role of a friendly opposition. The land was reportedly transferred to the name of his personal assistant and brother Lutfur Rehman’s secretary in January 2005. Former president Pervez Musharraf had promised to take off his uniform by Dec 31, 2004 in return of the help by the six-party MMA, of which the Maulana was the secretary general, in indemnifying the army ruler’s action of staging a coup against the PML-N’s elected government in 1999. When contacted, former JUI-F secretary-general Hafiz Husain Ahmad instead of commenting on the scandal said he was seeing intensifying of a tussle between party’s Balochistan leaders — Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani and MNA Rehmatullah Kakar. Central vice-president Syed Amir Husain Gilani said: “Allah knows better about the veracity of the scandal”. Information Secretary Maulana Amjad Khan sees it as a malicious campaign to disrepute the JUI-F leader for presenting Taliban’s point of view in parliament about the ongoing war on terror. The naib amir of Jamaat-i-Islami, the second largest component of the MMA, Liaquat Baloch says his party is ignorant of the issue, though it has been part of the alliance’s five-year rule in the NWFP. He suggests that as the JUI-F still has representation in parliament and provincial assemblies, its MPs should bring the issue to their respective houses for a clarification and proving the allegation false. He also proposes a foolproof mechanism at the national level for investigating such scandals and bringing to fore the facts. According to him, the Awami National Party (ANP), which is currently ruling the NWFP, also owes the responsibility to probe the issue and ‘misappropriation’ of the province’s lands. ‘Defunct’ MMA’s vice-president Senator Sajid Mir terms the allegation unfortunate. “If the allegation is true then it is deplorable.” Asked if the allegation would be considered while establishing any alliance of the religious parties, he said the issue would be discussed when the stakeholders (of the proposed alliance) would sit together in the founding session.