RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR AND THE FALLACY OF SUBSERVIENT PROXIES
When state controlled militancy evolved into jihad and militants into Mujahids, that was the day the monster of religious terrorism broke its state imposed shackles to blight the word
The topic is too complex to be put up in one blog entry but an attempt is made to present the evolution of militancy into terrorism using example of one terror organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba
PAKISTAN – a state built out of hate and intolerance used religion as justification for its birth and continued existence. It was a misbegotten child born too soon, with too much blood shed & genocidal loss of lives. As a result Pakistan was cursed with an immature political class made up of Mohajirs & old feudal Zamindars who slipped into the role of local/national leaders. They were at best reluctant politicians who had no heart or vision to rule the new nation. Contrast to the immaturity of its political class, its army (a vestige of British Raj) was well developed and had the same disdain for the uncultured masses as their Gora Sahibs. This skewed the balance of power towards the army. To further buttress its claim as the sole guarantor of Pakistan, the army used as patsy, its so called all weather enemy – India. Since its inception, Pakistan’s leaders have used religion as an instrument to strengthen Pakistan’s identity as a nation. The ostensibly pro western, modernist rulers (military/civilian) used the hoax of Indian aggression to justify their existence as a nation state and their indispensability to the Pakistan.
Before moving ahead let us take a look at the origin of Pakistan’s fascination with use of proxies for its use of Jihad as tool of foreign policy.
Three things happened nearly consecutively that fueled Pakistan’s Jihad fetish
The 1970’s was a momentous decade in the history of the world and more specifically that of India and Pakistan. Start of the decade saw a calamitous war (for Pakistan) that saw its dismemberment and birth of a new nation called Bangladesh. The defeat was possibly the biggest ever that saw Pakistan’s vaunted military defeated in just 9 days, surrender of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers while the superpowers US & USSR faced off each other in the Bay of Bengal. This defeat shook the very foundation on which Pakistan was created – The Two Nation Theory. This defeat is like a ‘nasoor’ on their national psyche and made them realize that they cannot defeat India in a direct war.
The cold war saw increasing Russian interference in Asia. Most pronounced were its moves in Afghanistan and Iran. In Iran the pro west Shah was deposed by the religious fanatic Ayatollah Khomeini. USSR made its most daring move in Afghanistan. Throughout the 1970’s Russia kept on increasing its footprint in Afghanistan – from indirect influence to regime change to finally
McCarthyism drove the US policy towards rabid anti communism. The US’s policy was to counter, tooth and nail, the spread of Communism in the world. Even if it meant using unscrupulous, unsavory means. Americans readily accepted Pak dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s idea of using Afghan refugees as Mujahidins (Holy Warriors) to fight a dirty war with the Russians. It was afterall a war that did not need american boots on the ground, was cheap than an actual war and there was a ready supply of devout muslims ready to find Jannah as reward for their Jihad against the kaffir Rusis.
Pakistani rulers have always tried to “manage” militant Islamism in an attempt to calibrate it such that it serves Pakistan’s nation building function without destabilizing internal politics or relations with western countries. Use of proxies was first witnessed in 1947-48 invasion of Kashmir. Led by Pak army officers & Kashmiri deserters, it was dressed up as Tribal Invasion. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used proxies against Afghan government. In 1970’s many Pashtuns and Pathans ethnic groups had taken refuge in Pakistan, including tribal leaders like Ahmad Shah Masud & Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. They were encouraged by Bhutto to destabilize Afghan government. But it was his successor Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator who used Islam to legitimize his rule and use of terror proxies as an extension of state policy.
When Russian tanks rolled into Afghanistan on 26 December, 1979 it offered Zia a golden opportunity to leverage his large Afghan refugee population. Zia offered to the Americans, the afghan refugees for use against Soviet Russia. To encourage the Afghan refugees to fight the Russians, Islamic concept of Jihad was used as a tool. In return the US reset its relations with Pakistan and offered money, weapons and diplomatic protection to Pakistan. Upto now proxies were used covertly but Zia mainstreamed their use by the state to wage war.
As the cold war progressed, the Afghan war too took its toll and soon it needed radicalized Pakistanis to enter the Afghan quagmire. Most important of the non afghan Pak proxies was the Markaz-Dawa-ul-Irshad (Center for Preaching – MDI). It was founded in 1987 by a highly radicalized Pakistani Hafeez Saeed. The purpose of MDI was to wage jihad against Soviet Russia and to purge Pakistan of the corrupting influence of Hinduism. MDI followed the highly radicalized Wahabi Ahl-e-Hadith orthodox school of sunni thought. MDI was funded by CIA & deployed by ISI. They achieved some success in Afghanistan but after the withdrawal of the Russians, MDI was abandoned by the Americans. Soon MDI with its large cadre of radicalized veteran warriors was unemployed and these warriors posed a direct challenge to Zia’s rule. So the MDI was renamed Lashkar-e-Taiba and deployed against India. Funds started coming from the Pakistani public who donated generously to LeT to wage Jihad against the kaffir Hindustan. During its earlier avatar as MDI, they had developed close contact with the Saudis, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Their close relations are testified by the 10 million rupees donation by Osama Bin Laden to LeT for construction of a Mosque complex in Muridke – MDI/LeT’s HQ.
This alliance between well funded Saudi donor, terror masterminds like Osama & well trained mujahidin (Holy Warriors) of LeT opened up a pipeline for free flow of money, weapons, manpower and infrastructure for Pakistan’s militant proxies. These terror proxies fought against Russians during late 1980’s (1987-88). But by 1994 LeThad been deployed to attack Indian assets in Kashmir. However one thing that set them apart from other organizations was its close toes with Osama. This enabled them to tap into international militant veterans – Uzbeks, Tajiks, Azebaijanis, Afghans etc to wage war against India. These militants were highly radicalized and were motivated more by establishing Islamic rule than any other geopolitical considerations.
2001 was another landmark year that led to the start of a global war on terror led by the United States with a clear cut – “You are either with us or against us” policy
These two events marks the transformation of militant proxies into hardcore terror organizations. This year also saw these terror proxies break away from the control of the Pakistani establishment (ISI, Army)
By October 2001, US had banned LeT and forced military dictator of Pakistan General Musharraf to ban LeT. Musharraf banned LeT, seized its assets and even imprison Hafeez Saeed. Before the dust settled Indian Parliament was attacked by LeT & JeM terrorists. After the December attack, the 2 nations came very near to total war. This forced Musharraf to impose greater sanctions on its proxies. One would have assumed that the sanctions & bans would have reined in these organizations. It turned them against their erstwhile masters, the Pakistani state. They attacked Musharraf, various military assets, they fueled sectarian violence within Pakistan & used their Saudi money and US weapons to wage war against Pakistan.
These organizations operated out of mosques and used madarsas to brainwash and train a new crop of recruits for their cause. ISI had trained them well in using religion to justify their inhumane barbarity. They used religion to reach out of Pakistan’s boundaries and into Central Asian muslim nations. Saudi dollars & middle east continued to provide them with money, recruits & contacts with religious seminaries.
However even as they continue to retain an umbilical connection with ISI, they (LeT etc) have started spreading their wings in national politics. Today LeT owns properties, businesses all over the world and attracts recruits from Europe and America. Even in India LeT & other Pak based terror organizations have established their contacts within India. But ISI doesn’t control them.
LeT’s initial focus was on Kashmir but it has now developed a more radical regional agenda and is using Kashmir as a beacon to attract recruits and money. Evidence suggests that LeT seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate of all muslim majority states neighboring Pakistan. It is active in Chechnya, central Asia, Europe, middle East and is global supplier of militant training, terror tactics and ecruits from its seminaries in Pakistan
Today LeT loyal operatives have setup terror organizations like SIMI, which after ban by GOI, evolved into PFI & SDPI etc. Even in the West, LeT has a credible cadre base through seminaries run by its front organizations. Its quite obvious any terror activity i Europe or America has no benefits to Pakistan. But terror attacks in Paris, France, UK, etc are testimony to the increasing independence of terror organizations like LeT, who gain with every attack on western nations.
But the ISI do not have any direct control over them as it is religious supremacist ideals that motivate them to wage war against India and the world. Instead ISI does the next best thing. They piggyback on the wild tiger that they have let loose on the world.
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