Published in Daily Times
“The lowest form of popular culture — lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives — has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage” — Carl Bernstein, US journalist.
Perhaps ordinary Pakistanis are not much better off either. But it is not just the journalists embedded with the jihadists who are peddling nonsense. Among the politicians, Mr Imran Khan keeps outdoing himself in the craft of black propaganda. He has been stuffing people with this Goebbels-speak for years and, unfortunately, the western print media is one such avenue he uses to push his outlandish assertions.
While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman, Muslim Khan, had the dubious courage to clearly own up to the savagery of his outfit, Mr Imran Khan, who is the head and de facto chief spokesman of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stoops to the lowest levels of skulduggery in defending Taliban atrocities. Sheer disinformation, misinformation, contempt for truth, and an utter disregard for the realities of people’s lives, particularly of the Pashtuns, are what Mr Khan’s spoken and written words are all about.
He seems to have perfected the art of repeating half-truths and quite often just plain lies over and over again. In his article ‘Don’t blame Pakistan for the failure of the war’ (The Times, UK, July 27, 2010), he has some real gems to share. He writes: “Before the West invaded Afghanistan, my country had no suicide bombers, no jihad and no Talibanisation.”
Perhaps Mr Khan had been too busy playing cricket to take note of al Qaeda’s activities in the early 1990s at Abdullah Azzam’s Maktab-al-Khidmat — a base camp in Peshawar for Arab jihadists. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden met each other in Peshawar courtesy Professor Azzam. Suicide bombings were not a norm then, but Azzam himself was killed in a car bombing in November 1989, allegedly orchestrated by his more extremist friends. He disagreed with their concept of takfir, i.e. declaring people who did not meet their definition of Muslim as infidels, who they believed deserved to be murdered. Benazir Bhutto, Dr Najibullah, several Arab rulers and Muslim minorities were placed in this category.
The early 1990s were the formative years of world jihadism and these men in Peshawar were not confined to just Afghanistan. The Afghan-Arabs, as they became known, worked hand in glove with all varieties of Pakistani jihadists and after 1992, Afghan territory was used for their cause. For example, training and sanctuary were provided at the Al-Badr camp in Khost to terrorists who unleashed havoc in Pakistan and around the world.
Mr Khan has completely glossed over the terrorist acts of the jihadists trained in the Pak-Afghan border regions. Riaz Basra of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was one such figure who was involved in over 300 acts of terror on Pakistani soil, including an attempt on Mian Nawaz Sharif’s life, way before the US forces had set foot in Afghanistan. Along with Akram Lahori and Malik Ishaq, Basra had used the training facilities in Sarobi (near Jalalabad). This was the beginning of Talibanisation in Pakistan.
While the terrorist cadres were trained in Afghanistan, their leadership was groomed at various madrassas in Pakistan. However, Mr Imran Khan is either ignorant of this fact or is protecting such nefarious characters when he writes, “Until that point [army action in FATA in 2004], we had no militant Taliban in Pakistan. We had militant groups, but our own military establishment was able to control them. We had madrassas, but none of them produced militants intent on jihad until we became a frontline state in the war on terror.”
Only two entities from what is literally the Ivy League of the jihadist network need a mention to refute Mr Khan’s claim. Karachi’s Jamia Islamia aka Binori Mosque has produced hundreds of jihadist leaders that include Maulana Azam Tariq of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, the leaders of Harkatul Jihad Al-Islami, and the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar. The association of this madrassa’s patron (Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai) with the Afghan Taliban, especially Mullah Omar, is well known.
It might not have dawned on Mr Imran Khan but Jalaluddin Haqqani carries the title Haqqani for a reason — he had spent six years at Darul-Uloom Haqqaniah in Akora Khattak. Among the top 32 officials in Mullah Omar’s government, 11 — including six top ministers — were educated in madrassas in Pakistan. Out of these 11, seven were students at the Haqqaniah seminary. The US was nowhere in the picture when the alumni of these madrassas were on a killing spree in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mr Khan betters himself still when he claims, “After the WikiLeaks revelations yesterday, reports are being floated that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is aiding the Afghan militancy. The fact is that the ISI is not that powerful, but certainly in an environment of chaos and uncertainty Pakistan will need to protect its interests through all means necessary.” Even the ISI may take serious offence to this, as it is positioning itself as the power that can deliver the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, provided the new set-up in Kabul is to its liking.
These assertions by Mr Khan might even be amusing if he was not capable of even worse assertions. Blaming the US for all ills is one thing, but he has as easily blamed the victims of terrorism. Writing about the Karsaz bombing in
‘Benazir Bhutto has only herself to blame’ (The Telegraph, UK, October 21, 2007), he noted, “I am sorry to say this, but the bombing of Benazir Bhutto’s cavalcade as she paraded through Karachi on Thursday night was a tragedy almost waiting to happen. You could argue it was inevitable…it is different for me campaigning in public, even in the frontier region, because I am not perceived as an American stooge, or a supporter of the war on terror.” Benazir and not the takfiris were to be blamed as per Mr Khan’s views!
The PTI and its leader are perhaps politically insignificant, but conceding space to such Ziaist propaganda has the potential to radicalise the nation, especially our youth. Fortunately, Mr Khan is not perceived as an American stooge — he is seen as a Taliban apologist.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com