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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

KAFIR

Shakeel Jaffery's poem - Yeh Kafir Hai
Reply-To: BAZMeQALAM@googlegroups.com

نازک خیالات کو بھرپور طنز میں گوندھ دیا گیا ہے ۔ ۔۔۔۔ مگر پتھر دلوں پر کوئی اثر نہیں
ایک دوسرے فورم پر شئیر کی گئی غزل 

یہ کافر ہے


جو ہم کہتے ہیں یہ بھی کیوں نہیں کہتایہ کافر ہے
ہمارا جبر یہ ہنس کر نہیں سہتایہ کافر ہے

یہ انسان کو مذاھب سے پرکھنے کا مخالف ہے
یہ نفرت کے قبیلوں میں نہیں رہتا ..یہ کافر ہے

بہت بے شرم ہے یہ ماں جو مزدوری کو نکلی ہے
یہ بچہ بھوک اک دن کی نہیں سہتا ..یہ کافر ہے

یہ بادل ایک رستے پر نہیں چلتے یہ باغی ہیں
یہ دریا اس طرف کو کیوں نہیں بہتا.. یہ کافر ہے

ہیں مشرک یہ ہوائیں روز یہ قبلہ بدلتی ہیں
گھنا جنگل انہیں کچھ بھی نہیں کہتا ..یہ کافر ہے

یہ تتلی فاحشہ ہے پھول کے بستر پہ سوتی ہے
یہ جگنو شب کے پردے میں نہیں رہتا ..یہ کافر ہے

شریعتا کسی کا گنگنانا بھی نہیں جائز
یہ بھنورا کیوں بھلا پھر چپ نہیں رھتا یہ کافر ہے

جڑا ہے ارتقا ،قدرت اور انساں کی مثلث سے
ہمارے دائرے میں کیوں نہیں رہتا یہ کافر ہے

اسے سنگسار کر دو جذبہ ایماں نہیں اس میں
کبھی کافر کو بھی کافر نہیں کہتا یہ کافر ہے

ستاروں پر کمندیں ڈالنے کا عزم رکھتا ہے
پہاڑوں اورغاروں میں نہیں رہتا یہ کافر ہے

شکیل جعفری

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COUNTER NARRATIVE 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baltit Rural Supporrt Organiation (BRSO)

BALTIT RURAL SUPPORT ORGANIZATION, FARMAN MARKET, KARIMABAD HUNZA POST
CODE 15700, DISTRICT HUNZA-NAGER

FOR ANNUAL REPORT 2013 CLICK THIS LINK.

Older RePORTS:
Oct 10, 2013
BRSO THIRD QUARTER REPORT (July-Sep 2013) 10/10/2013
REPORTING THE PROGRESS MADE TO HARNESS THE CAPACITIES OF MEMBER
INSTITUTIONS BY LINKAGE DEVELOPMENT WITH GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE
SECTOR STAKEHOLDERS


Background of BRSO Programme Area: KarimabadHunza. The historic Baltit Town has served as official capital for more than 800 years of former Hunza State, due to which the community of Baltit served as host to flourish tribal institutions and developed a self sustainable rural based mountain society until the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The Baltit Town is situated in the heart of Hunza Valley at a distance of 106 kilometers from Gilgit in the south and almost 100 kilometers from Sust (border town with China in the north). The community of Baltit having experience of establishing various institutions especially in Education, Health and culture etc. Baltit community were first to introduce Male Primary School in 1912 to spread basic and primary education to rural masses. The community of Baltit is divided in four distinct tribes, who are well organized under Village organizations and women organizations to accelerate socio-economic development since 1983. During May 2011, leadership of grass roots level Village and women organizations came forward to form Baltit Rural Support Organization. The organization now represents 24 VO/WO’s 1 youth organisation and 1 civil society organisation of Karimabad union council. Since its formation process and initiation of activities through voluntary leadership during 2011 to onward considerable progress made in diverse sectors, which ultimately convinced the AKDN institutions, NGOs INGOs and Government line departments to consider for initiating projects and programs with BRSO in UC Karimabad Hunza.

Progress Review of Second Quarter (July to September 2013)


1- In the first week of July BRSO in consultation with AFC arranged an exposure trip to Gulmit Gojal for adolescents for age group 14-19. More than 85 adolescents participated in this exposure visit. The main purpose of this exposure visit was to provide environment to the adolescents for discussion and enjoyment.
2- A one month training session for the AFCs Children’s was conducted from 15th July to 15th august. The session was distributed into three main parts:
• First part includes Poster completion for Early Adolescents that includes 9 to 13 age group
• Second part includes computer training for high energetic adolescents
• Third part includes English Language training for late adolescents. Approximately 300 adolescents got benefit from this training session. This training workshop gives an immense knowledge to the young generation that would be helpful in their future grooming.
3- The training was scheduled for community health educators, AFC Managers and caretakers from July 18 to 19 2013.During which different presenters were invited in a program to skillfully transfer their knowledge and expertise to the participants. In the session different topics were discussed like health and hygiene, effective communication skills, puberty changes, Peer education, Early Marriages and etc.
4- 14th August independence was celebrated with full zeal and zest by AFC in collaboration with BRSO. Nearly 300 participants attended the program. During the session different programs were arranged. The flag was hosted and all BRSO staff and AFC staff were present during the program. Hi- tea was served .BRSO manager gave an important speech on patriotism to country. Children sung different national songs and expressed their feelings of love to their country.
5- A five day training workshop on Apple Harvesting techniques was held in hill view hotel Islamabad from 12 August to 18 August 23, 2013. This Workshop was organized by JICA team in collaboration with agriculture department of Gilgit-Baltistan. Different participants from LSOs were present in the training seminar and gained advantage from this prospect. CMO and a member from board got benefit from the training.
6- BRSO Program manager attended 1 month young community leadership development program in Hunza embassy hotel from 20 August to 20 September 2013.
7- Following in the month of September CMO and General Secretary represented BRSO in EELY forum at Gilgit Serena Hotel where they have shared BRSO success story.
8- BRSO commenced three day training program on 11-13Sep 2013 in collaboration with Govt Agriculture department Hunza-Nagar in the premises of Karimabad Hunza for community VOs and WOs. The training was given by Mr. Javed Agricultural Officer DoA. 2nd day training was given by Miss Sadia, Miss Lal Shezadi, Miss Najma Mr. Ejaz Core farmer and Mr. Javed Agricultural Department. All concerning BODs and staff of BRSO and Agricultural department Deputy Director was also present. All the participants actively participated in training program and promised BRSO to conduct same training at their own V/WOs level. Deputy Director Agricultural department appreciated the greater participation of community WOs in training session.The training session was distributed into three main phases 1st day Making of jams, juices and squash 2nd day Making of MML and BSL Solutions 3rd day Making of Ketchup and Pickle and visit to Dorkhan Agricultural farmland Nearly 70 participants got benefit from this training session in which mostly female members from community WOs Participated and 10 female members participated from Altit Rural Support Organisation

B- Apple picking, grading and packing session 24th September 2013

BRSO in collaboration with Govt. Agricultural Department commenced 1 day training for community WOs and VOs on 24th September 2013 in local Orhard of a farmer in Karimabad Hunza. There were nearly 45 participants. Mr. Ajab Gul and Mr. Rahim trained experts of Apple delivered the modus operandi of apple picking, packing and processing on how to pick an apple and pack it. Furthermore, showed practical demonstration of apple picking, grading, and packing. In this way, participants themselves picked apples and packed 4 to 5 bags.

c.  WO Khurukushal Session


WO Khurukuskal led by Lal Shezadi commenced 3 day training program (for WO Khurukushal for the practical experimentation of making of MML, BSL Solutions and different organic products. In this training 40 members participated from Kurukushall Woman Organization, and got training of organic insecticide. BRSO invited AKRSP & FOCUS high officials in training closing ceremony. Chairman BRSO briefed the guest regarding the value added fruit development project of JICA in Gilgit-Baltistan and also briefed the guests about farmers’ trainings in Japan and Pakistan. AKRSP officials appreciated the project of JICA as well as unflinching efforts and initiatives of BRSO regarding successfully project implementation in its program area.

d.  Training of MML & BSL


Training of Apple & Apricot Jam, Juice, Squash and pickle 2nd & 3rd day of training, the trainer gave training of making Apple & Apricot Jam, Juice, Squash and pickle with modern methodology. In this training session, different products were produced and displayed in training hall. During training local retailers visited the training center and gave assurance to the training participants that they will purchase local made products and prefer to keep organic products in their shops.


On 30th September 2013 Mr. Arne Andreas Utermark Country representative from German Carits and Mrs Utermark visited Caritas funded Water channels in Karimabad. Mr. Arne Andreas Utermark formally inaugurated the Brateling irrigation water channel. More than 30 Concern VO Shanokushall members, community elders, LSO office bearers and management staff were also present in this inauguration ceremony. Mr. Noor Khan Chairman briefed the Donor about Caritas Project. He also shared the overall development progress of Baltit Rural Support Organisation with donor. Mr. Urne Andreas Utermark admired the work progress of channels and further promised community to work with them in near future.

BRSO SECOND QUARTER REPORT (2013) | 7/20/2013

REPORTING THE PROGRESS MADE TO HARNESS THE CAPACITIES OF MEMBER
INSTITUTIONS BY LINKAGE DEVELOPMENT WITH GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE
SECTOR STAKEHOLDERS

BRSO SECOND QUARTER REPORT (2013) | 7/20/2013
Progress Review of Second Quarter (April to June 2013)


1- In the Month of April BRSO in consultation with UN-Habitat trainers commenced seminar on Disaster Risk Reduction. The topic of seminar was Earthquake Resistance Techniques. Mr. Qurban Ali TOT from UN-habitat briefed the contributors about earthquake resistance techniques and its aftermaths and how to build owned homes that would be resistant for threats in future.
2- The informal inaugural session of AFCs (BRSO ) was came to held in the second week of April 2013.Nearly 100 of male and female participants along with youth and parents were participants of the programme.The excellent preparation of the programme was organized by managers AFCs.
3- In the first week of May BRSO in consultation with Sihat foundation and Dr. Shereen Sultan Gynecologist commenced free medical camp for the natives of central Hunza. Nearly 1000 of Patients were given treatment and medication free of cost. Nearly 5 to 6 renowned specialists of Gilgit Baltistan were called for treating patients.


a- In the second week of May BRSO in consultation with JIACA commenced seminar in Hunza Embassy Hotel.The session was distributed into three main session’s .In the seminar different presenters presented their presentation on three main topics. The first session was on value added fruits and report of marketing training in Japan. There were three presenters who got training there at Japan last month. At first, Mr. Ejaz Ali from HRSO briefed the Ordains about their exposure visit to Japan, during his presentation he bewared participants about the international market products and their visit to various markets and orchards there in japan. He envisioned the participant to about how a product can be advertised in the market and how Japanese farmers use to process fruits and how they make products and sell their goods into market.
b- In second session Mr, Ijlal Hussain of Government Agricultural department briefed the session about Market value of local fruits mainly on apricots .He told the session about the sales spots of fruits and how those products got financial benefits. He also mentioned that the best product which is sold out in the market should be in clean way. He also entertained the session by giving some funny remarks
c- In the third session Mr, Ikeda JICA marketing expert presented the international marketing value of fruits and specially he focused on apricots and their market demand in down country and promised the participants to provide them with major training.
4- On 5th June International Environment Day was celebrated by AFC centre in which the children were given certain activities to do. Different Painting and color competitions were arranged through which children’s were entertained.
5- In the Second week of June KIU staff visited BRSO and offered to make training programs in near future. There were lecturers of KIU and few staff from AKRSP. They discussed main issues of community over here and asked BRSO to help out in strengthening the organization by giving training like activities.
6- BRSO arranged a huge session for the natives of central Hunza in which Dr, Khalique Ahmed Chairman Agriculture Department of KIU addressed the participants on pest disease and its preventive measures.
7- Following in the month of June BRSO team organized a research based orientation session in which various farms and orchards of central Hunza.
8- NARC in collaboration with KIU cultivated eight different varieties of lentil plants in 2 acres of soil in
Karimabad Hunza .The cultivated plants are further monitored by KIU.BRSO Played very active role in

defining the key area for cultivation. 
   BRSO FIRST QUARTER REPORT (JAN-MAR 2013) April 21, 2013
Authored by: AMIN JAN, PROGRAMME MANAGER  

A. Institutional Development & linkages with different Agencies of AKDN

Progress Review of First Quarter (January to March 2013)


1. Institutional Development: The BRSO Board after getting the MSF status from AKRSP, recruited professional and experienced staff in First Week of January 2013.

2. Completed Auditing of 5 WO’s and 2 VO’s during first quarter to ensure transparency at VO’s and WO’s, which was demanded by the members of the community to strengthen these grass root level community institutions, which were established.

3. Two Irrigation channels repair projects were planned through AKRSP’s Caritas Project completed all dialogues and work started at these channels during first Quarter (February and March) 2013 through community involvement:-

2.  
BRSO FIRST QUARTER REPORT (JAN-MAR 2013) | 4/21/2013

a. Dilbar Irrigation Channel Project work initiated through three VO’s involvement Barber VO, Aminabad VO and Barashal VO. BRSO Board and management mobilized the communities through different dialogues and meetings to form a joint project committee and developed a consensus through dialogues with other villages such as Hyderabad, Dour khan and Alyabad, who are willing to contribute for the construction of the Dilbar Irrigation channel as per past practice.
b. Barbar Irrigation Channel was assigned to Gharaberes Women Organization and VO Ulobasi, who formed a joint committee to implement the project at Barber irrigation channel project, which is supported by Caritas Swisse through AKRSP. (The project started in mid March 2013).

c. BRSO Board and management developed in 2nd Week of January 2013 concept note on Adolescent Early Youth Development Programme’s extension to Karmabad Union Council with good advocacy and social mobilization tools to motivate the AKRSP’s project team led by Dr. Muhammad Jan.

BRSO and AEYDP project team based at AKRSP Hunza after conducting capacity assessment of Baltit programme area, agreed to initiate dialogues with community leadership. During January and February 2013, all dialogues completed with success rate. Staff positions for AFC Managers were advertised through local cable service and through test and interview two talented youth (one male and one female) were selected on merit with involvement of AKRSP project team and AFC advisory committee being operational to implement one year project at Karimabad UC .

During March 2013, base line survey of Karmabad was undertaken to assess the real needs of the adolescence (9 to 19 years children) and to address their needs through this project. The community of Karmabad extended maximum co-operations to AFC managers in collection of primary data, which was shared with AKRSP project team.

The AKRSP project team after evaluating all preparations on behalf of community and BRSO Board, released first installment of the AEYDP in March to purchase equipments and to furnish the AFC centers both for male and female adolescence.

Presently, the two AFC managers have returned from intensive training at AKRSP Gilgit and registration process is underway to start operations of the two AFC Centers at Karmabad Hunza, which are expected to address child rights and adolescence related issues gradually and to prepare young minds for a healthy and balanced society.

BRSO FIRST QUARTER REPORT (
JAN-MAR 2013) |4/21/2013

B. Other Linkages & Development in other sectors:

1. BRSO developed strong linkages with local and national NGO’s during first Quarter KADO Hunza and HiMat Foundation through these linkages the BRSO Board and management abled to initiate, planned two sustainable projects

2. To address energy crisis in the area, BRSO ignited an innovative idea to plan a small hydel project at Ulter Glacier water and contacted AKRSP Engineering Section for detailed feasibility of the water Fall, through which came the final plan to approach a potential donor to install minimum capacity of 500 kilowatt electricity and during summer nearly 1 megawatt.

3. BRSO developed a joint proposal with KADO to forward it to USAID project at NRSP Islamabad. BRSO has not completed its annual audit, therefore, it forwarded its proposal with good offices of KADO as a joint project. USAID project have acknowledged the receipt of the proposal which is in pipeline for possible funding.

4. To encourage the rural community to adopt organic farming in the near future, BRSO abled to convince the Switzerland based experts during their visit in January 2013 to initiate a 3 years research on Perma culture, a special environment and Eco-friendly agriculture technology to produce agri products and forests without using artificial fertilizers etc, which are harmful for human lives on the long run. There are few countries on the planet who are shifting to perma culture and Karimabad Hunza got a unique chance to finalize the project with HiMat team and Switzerland land based agriculture and engineering team. To initiate the project, BRSO Board and management have convinced two local farmers to donate 8 Kanals of agriculture land and 8 kanals of barren land to start the 3 years research project. The experts from Switzerland will train local farmers how to replicate models developed in the research and HiMat foundation to invest in the acquired plots minimum Rs. 3 million during three years period.

• To address un-employment from the area and to promote agriculture income of the rural farmers, BRSO like other LSO’s have developed very strong linkages with Department of Agriculture GB and through them with JICA Japan team to produce good quality of apples though training in Japan. During March two workshop sessions were conducted at karimabad by JICA team and BRSO was consulted and young farmers who are related to apple production and marketing were trained in these workshops. One Farmer from Karmabad UC has returned from Japan after training in pruning and crafting of Apples trees, who gave practical demonstrations to local farmers at Karimabad and other villages during March 2013.

• A special Lecture session was organized for local farmers at Karimabad through utilizing the free services of a national experts Prof. Dr. Khalique Ahmed, who is serving as Advisor for Karakorum International University, Gilgit on its project to resolve apple tree diseases through natural healing. Dr. Sahib delivered a detailed presentation to local farmers how to analyze apple trees which is affected with diseases without harming the environment. He gave examples of his research projects undertaken in other parts of Pakistan. After 32 farmers (both senior citizens and young attended the lecture session at Barashal community Hall in March 2013.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fundamentalists Cant’ Live Together

Religious revival and highly charged conflicts in a shrinking world make it difficult for people of competing faiths to live together.
Fundamentalists of all creeds exhibit a striking commonality; an inability to think rationally.
Menachem Begin bombed the King Edward Hotel in Jerusalem 1945 , communal riots in Jabalpur, in India in 1961, religious riots in Beirut in 1983, Babri mosque riots in India in 1992, Bombing of US Embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, US warship 1993- 1997, 9/11, Gujarat,  India religious riots in 2002, and numerous bombings of  schools, hospitals, shrines and religious processions in Pakistan-the list goes on. Then there is state sponsored terrorism- India in Kashmir, Jews in Palestine, Russia in Chechnya, Indra and Sikhs, Tamils in Sri Lanka, US in Iraq and Iran, .
There is a common economic thread camouflaged as religion or democracy and human rights. It is a war over resources (water in the West Bank and Indian Kashmir), or conflict over land (Sri Lanka and Chechnya) or control over oil resources is (US in Iraq).
Fundamentalists exploit economically deprived parents and youth with the allure of sexually charged hereafter to recruit young men to their cause.
Since the fall of Berlin wall, Neo-imperialism has replaced Marxism, anti-colonialism and fascism with Fundamentalism.
Mullahs say, and most Muslims agree that all Muslims are, by definition fundamentalist. They believe in the unmediated and inerrant word of God, so the term is meaningless to distinguish militants from moderate Muslims. Among the Christians only protestant fundamentalists believe in biblical inerrancy. Higher Criticism of the bible established that The Book of Isaiah had more than one author and Moses did not write Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. Fundamentalist protested vehemently, but the critics remained Christian, while Muslims cannot do so by indulging in Higher Criticism of the Koran. Among the Jews, ultra orthodox Haredim do not recognize Israel while Gush Emunim (bloc of the faithful) is more attached to the land than toHalaka (Jewish law).
             Jay M Harris, “The word fundamentalism has come to imply an orientation…that is anti-intellectual, bigoted and intolerant… most particularly to those who would break down the barrier…between church and state and therefore deserve to be given ad hominem dismissal…” 
1. Liberals use it against any one who dares to challenge post enlightenment outlook. Fundamentalists repress the evolved version of religion which appeals to all aspects of human psyche. 
2 Believers attempt to use religion to preserve identity in face of modernity and secularization. They exist in all faiths and philosopher Ludwig Weinstein called it Family Resemblance. 
3. Among the renovators to challenge orthodoxy on the basis of Koran and Hadith  in Islam, Ibne Taymiyya (d 1326) is the most known and is very popular among the current militants. 
4. Most of the people do not realize that they are traditionalists and simply do not take alternative view in consideration. 
5. For most of 18 and 19th CAD, Bible was considered compatible with reason. Higher Criticism in Germany challenged understanding of the Bible. Sophisticated methods of analysis indicated the editorial changes and multiple authors of the Bible and that the concept of virgin birth was based on misinterpretation of original Greek text 
6. The fourth to ninth decade of the 20th century saw a steady encroachment of fundamentalists into schools, publishing, Radio, TV and direct mail.     

            Europeans had fled the continents because of Church oppression and poverty. Roman Catholics arrived in the U.S  in 1830s and Jews in 19th CAD. U.S constitution enshrines separation of Church and State, but they still had a rough time.
In 1961, the Supreme Court extended protection to secularists. But the fundamentalist wing of Republican Party was successful in some states in re-institution of public prayers in schools, equal time for Creationism and Evolution and overturning of 1973 Roe vs. Wade. They worked with Jews, Roman Catholics and other groups and supported Global interest wars, suppression of HR and opposed the freedom of information laws. 7
First reference to Islamic fundamentalism was in a letter written by Sir Reader Bullard, British minister in Jeddah in May 1937. He stated that King Abd al Aziz ibn Saud “has been coming out strong as a fundamentalist” 8
The term Islamic Fundamentalism may have been coined by H.A.R. Gibbs, author of Mohammedanism later renamed Islam, with reference to Jamaluddin Afghani, a well known pan-Islamist. 9 Ibne Saud’s cohorts followed Ibne Hanbal, Ibne Taymiyya and Ibne Abdul Wahab and sought to return to 7th CAD scriptural roots. Unlike most clerics who were collaborators, Afghani tried to galvanize Muslim rulers against British imperialism.
The strongest link formed by Afghani was with Muhammad Abduh in Paris. They founded the “Salafiyya-pious ancestors movement and absorbed modernism. Among Shias of the 19th CAD, Usuli (literally followers of principles) believed in Ijtehad-reasoned innovation and Akhbaris who believed in traditions. Khomeini was Usuli and incorporated a lot of Marxism in his discourse.
           Like Arabic, Hebrew has no word for fundamentalism. Israeli papers call it Yamina-Dati “Religious Right”. Christian right regard the land grab since 1967 as a trust for the Messiah. 
            Fundamentalism is not exclusive to Abrahamic creeds. Sikhs killed Indra Gandhi in 1984 in revenge for assault on the Golden Temple. Hindus massacred Muslims after demolition of Babri mosque and Buddhist monks practiced genocide against Tamils, who pioneered suicide bombing a decade before the Lebanese and Palestinians took it up. Buddhist monks in Burma are practicing on fellow Burmese Muslims what their co-religionisst had done on Tamils. 
Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair turned the IMF into an Economic Fundamentalist organization -market liberalization, free trade and finance, capital markets, deregulation and suppression of trade unions. 10
When ideals confront the reality of power immense political energy is released. Pat Robertson compares forty three million abortions to Nazi Holocaust.
Evangelists, especially Christian and Muslim, believe that they have a divine mission to convert the world to their creed. Religious pluralism, that there are multiple paths to salvation, is a modern concept.
Fundamentalism is, in a way a response to Globalization; a fear of being swamped by norms of living other than their own.
The Egyptian historian Abd al Jabarti (1754-1822) equated French irreligion with Zindiqis (Manicheans). He was impressed by their science though “these are things that the minds of people like us can not grasp”. “Their females have no modesty…perform acts of nature …in full view of people…with out washing …private parts…” Al Jabarti-Napoleon in Egypt11
            Similar bitterness was found in Syed Qutub, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Nasser regime in 1966. He concluded that Muslim society had ceased to be Islamic, had in fact relapsed to Jahiliya-Muslim term for pre-Islamic times of “ignorance”
Crisis of Islam flows from the contradiction between collective triumphal memory and recent political failures especially in post-colonial phase, when physical occupation was replaced by control of abstract space. Reformists like Sir Syed and Muhammad Abduh had to ally with Europeans and contrary to Islamic thought and practice, accept de facto separation of state and church.
Secular Muslims tried to introduce Modernity in Islam. Underlying the Islamist (A new term coined for the extremist intolerant fringe allied with the Taliban, the Jamaat e Islami of Pakistan and similar groups all over the world) vision is the golden age of the prophet and the rightly guided caliphs, which in fact lasted all of fifty three years-twenty three during the prophet’s life time and thirty under the first four caliphs-but in collective memory lasted in a diluted form till pre-colonial times. 

           In Christianity conflict raged between fundamentalism and liberalism. American fundamentalists hark back to American Revolution, to small town America. Hindu fundamentalists venerate Ram Ra,j to restore which they demolished Babri mosque in 1992. Jewish ones look back to David and Solomon, who built the first temple and want to demolish the Dome of the Rock mosque.  Some of them, the Neturei Karta (guardians of the city) wear long frock coats, hats and ringlets, of the 18th CAD ghetto culture. Haredin believe that Israel will become a Jewish state only when the Messiah arrives so they are currently in exile inside Israel.
All fundamentalists reject pluralism of modern society.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
Blog syedehtisham.blogspot.com

Right Wing Islamic Activism in Service of Imperialism:
             
The U.S, other Western countries and Israel have overtly and at times openly,supported and funded Islamic activism conducted over six decades. They, after cynicallyusing the Mujahideen against the U.S.S.R, ditched them unceremoniously. A U.S. officialdisdainfully declared that there was no ‘social security’ in the job of an agent.They must accept the major share of responsibility for the emergence of Islamist terrorism.

Even 9/11 did not wake up the U.S.A to the realization that if you sow the wind,you reap the whirlwind. Post 9/11 and attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, have resulted in several fold increase in extremism, fundamentalism and fanaticism in the Indian sub-continent and Muslim countries.
For the West during the cold war, nationalism, humanism, secularism, and socialism were enemies. The USSR was only an emblem of the enemy of the capitalist society. Muslim fundamentalists collaborated with the West becausethey too were scared of progressive ideas.
The U.S believed that Muslims between Greece and China, ‘The Arc of Islam’would function as fire wall against the USSR and might even incite the restive Muslims inside the USSR to open rebellion. In Islam, religion and state are not separate. But the initial state followed an egalitarian policy. ‘Neoliberal’ Islamism is a more recent political creed and is in fact a perversion of the religious faith. The Muslim Brotherhood, Ayatollahs, Saudi Wahabis, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jihadibbs and Osama represent it.
In the 1950s the prime nationalist enemies were Nasser of Egypt and Mossadegh of Iran. The US and Britain used Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser, and funded Ayatollahs during the U.S. sponsored coup in Iran in 1953.
-2 In spite of all the effort of the imperialists and their satraps, Arab socialism and left wing nationalism grew during the 1960s. The U.S. forged an alliance with Saudi Arabia and with Wahabism, and joined
hands with the former in promotion of an Islamic bloc. Saudis founded The Islamic Center of Geneva (1961), The Muslim World League (1962) and The Organization of the Islamic congress (1969). At one time Saudis were funding 22,000 Madressahs in Pakistan alone.After the death of Nasser whose image had been tarnished by the 1967 war with Israel, the U.S. actively supported the ascension of Anwar Sadat to unchallenged authority in Egypt. The U.S. funded religious opposition of Bhutto in Pakistan. 

General Zia of Pakistan could not have gotten away with killing Bhutto with out U.S. connivance. Hasan Turabi of Sudan could not have risen to power with out the help of the U.S. ally, the Islamic Brotherhood.
The 1979 Iran revolution should have taught the U.S. and its allies that fighting against a nationalist tide was counter productive. But they went on to spend billions on Afghan jihad. The U.S. looked on, as Jordan and Israel aided terrorists in Syria, and Israel helped found HAMAS. The West connived in overthrow of Ghadafi and revolt against Asad spearheaded by Islamists.

The neo-cons even made a deal with Iran not to let the hostages go to undermine Carter’s bid for reelection. They again made secret deals with Iran in 1980s. 

3 With the U.S.S.R out of the way, the U.S. and its allies felt that they could sit on their
laurels. Political Islam was not regarded as an existential threat. But to keep their hand
in they favored the army crackdown in Algeria, instead of supporting democracy. Mubarak became very unpopular and unsustainable. . After Mubarak was ousted as a consequence of Arab spring, Islamists won the election. The US funded the demonstration against them, and once the regime started losing its grip, told the Egyptian army to stage a coup against them. 

3 a. In Afghanistan they watched unconcerned as the relatively liberal factions were wiped out by the Taliban supported by Pakistan..Post 9/11 Bush panicked. His handlers held his hand and told him that Al-Qaida, which the U.S. had nurtured, could be taken care of easily. World public opinion was with the U.S.
The window of opportunity thus opened up had potential.The US had implicitly given Saddam the go ahead to capture Kuwait. His Arab allies had gone back on their word to fund the aftermath of the disastrous war with Iran 

4. That gave the U.S. an excuse to bloody Iraq’s nose.Iraq was sitting on vast oil reserves... If only an excuse to invade the country could be found. It had a secular government so an Al-Qaida link would not be credible. WMDs had to be invented and the support of the Islamic right and Iraqi Shias, who were supported by Iran, had to be garnered. Iraq would be an easy victory (Bush’s mission accomplished). Iran would be made more vulnerable and an easy nest prey. The USA had actually started casting covetous glances on the Mid-East Post WW I, when the Ottoman Empire had finally crumbled. In 1945, FDR went east in search of oil, and met with the king of Saudi Arabia, Ibne Saud on board his ship which was denuded
of all females for the encounter. That started a long lasting relationship. The US academia started launching departments and centers for Middle Eastern studies. Americans believed that the religious fanaticism of Arabs would make them natural enemies of atheistic communism. Islam seemed a better bet than secularism. But it never dawned on them that the Islamists were qualitatively different from the comprador clerical establishment. The advent of the cold war and founding of the state of Israel empowered the Zionists in the U.S. establishment and Middle East scholars found themselves  stranded. The US was deprived of the insight the scholars could offer. In the late 1970s, Timothy LaHaye formed California Alliance of Churches and with Jerry Falwell launched ‘Moral Majority’, the two dominated the discourse in the Council on National Policy, the Christian Coalition. Pat Robertson’s broadcast empire and James Dobson’s Focus on Family reinforced the emergence of the religious right as a potent force. Texas and Midwest oil barons lavished funds on the Christian Right. Islam had been a dominant force for a thousand years. Though there were dissenting voices like Ibne Tammayya, the religious establishment collaborated with the ruling class. Wahhab was a voice in wilderness, accepted only by a tribe on the fringe. Wahhabists joined hands with the British and French agents sent out to undermine the Ottoman Empire. Looking for ways to revive the fortune of Islam, Jamal al-Afghani had created the Pan-Islamic movement in the late 1880s. Hassan al-Banna in 1928 and Maududi in 1940 respectively founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamat e Islami
in India. The Nasserist wind of change was blowing hard across the whole Arab world. It was an existential threat to the Arab rulers. Oil satrapies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf opened their coffers to the Muslim Right. They were deemed natural partners by the Right Wing in the USA. The partnership matured in Reagan years. Blinded to irrationality by their hate of secular nationalism, the fundamentalist Christian Right and fanatic Zionists happily threw their wholehearted support behind the fanatic Taliban in Afghanistan. All religious zealots share an absolute certainty about their beliefs. They hate separation of religion and politics and can not abide a difference of opinion. They believe that apostates, unbelievers and freethinkers should be killed. They have blind faith.The threat to the security of main land America is highly overblown. The threat to
U.S. bases the world over is, however, real. But the biggest hazard is the regression of Muslims, especially the younger individuals, not only in all Muslim countries but also among the Muslim population all over the world. They are highly vulnerable to the lure of the fantasy land of an after life surrounded by blooming gardens, with springs of wine, masses of delectable food and seventy two nubile virgins. Women are not offered an equivalent deal. But the scarcity of suicide bombers in the gender is not just due to their pleasure being restricted to husbands. They are treated as little more than serfs in the tribal-feudal mode prevalent in Muslimcountries.
The reaction of the US to 9/11 in Afghanistan was fast, effective and widely applauded. But it morphed into an agenda of colonization of abstract space, encirclement of Iran, control over the oil in the Mid-East and the former Asian Soviet Republics and keeping a close eye on China. Ideas can be combated only with ideas. The term war on terror is a misnomer.
It is akin to the British conquering all of India because a few of its soldiers had been killed in an ambush. War in Iraq was akin to FDR attacking Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor. Terror is a product of conflict of ideology and a profound feeling of victimization. Continued War (in the twelfth year end of 2013) in Afghanistan did not destroy Al-Qaida or the Taliban. It only weakened the government, left the general
populace at the mercy of marauders of all kinds. They have little choice but to support the resurgent Taliban.
The adventures have dealt a severe blow to the US economy. The Afghan and Iraq wars were tailor made for the Bush policy of empire building and pre-emptive war, and allowed the administration to construct a huge political-military enterprise from East Africa to Pakistan.
Unless the Islamic right is stopped, Al-Qaida, HAMAS, Hezbollah and other extremist groups will continue to grow. They draw financial, theological and legions of recruits from the fundamentalist groups.
The US must deal with grievances that push angry Muslims to such organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood. US must join the U.N.O, EU and Russia to help settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two state solution and by withdrawal of Israelis from illegally held lands to pre-1967 borders. That would pull the rug from
underneath the feet of the Islamic right.
The US must abandon its imperial pretensions, withdraw from Iraq and 

Afghanistan, dismantle its bases in mid-East and else where (at the last count some 9,000) sharply cut training mission and visibility of its navy and arms sales. The US must refrain from imposing its preferences on the region. Its call for democracy is taken as (and is) a pretext for greater US involvement in the region.
The countries have to find a political system they can live with. The US must stop propping up satrapies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.The US must give up its tendency to make bellicose threats to nations such asIran and Sudan. The true emancipation of the Mid-East will only come from secular and liberal forces, which will offer education, freedom of expression and religion and modernization.
Fundamentalism of whatever variety-Islamic, Christian evangelists or Jewish fanatical settlers is always a reactionary force.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
Blog syedehtisham.blogspot.com

Monday, July 22, 2013

US-Saudi Nexus Behind most Terrorism and Destruction

Threat In Chitral
US-Saudi Nexus Behind most Terrorism and Destruction 

In Syria it is basically a West-versus- Russia strategic struggle converted into a Sunni-Shia war, in which the Sunnis i.e. Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt (up to a point) and much of north Africa – have aligned themselves against the Shias – the Iranians, the Alawites, Hezbollah, and a minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia. No one talks of the oppressed Shia majority in Bahrain under a Sunni ruler. Sunni Uighurs and Sunni Chechens are now getting on the job training and experience in terrorism in Syria. So are many European Muslims. Use of terror and terrorists was all planned and executed seriously from 1979. Let us roll back our memories.When questioned if he had any regrets in supporting Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan during 1980s, Zbigniew Brzezinski in a January 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, replied, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?


Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” “Nonsense −” responded Brzezinski when asked “If Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.” Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser.

To Le Nouvel Observateur’s query, “When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?” Brzezinski replied, “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?

"The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Brzezinski admitted that on July 3, 1979, unknown to the public and the Congress President Carter secretly authorized $500 million to create an international terrorist movement that would spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia to destabilize the Soviet Union. This was called ‘Operation Cyclone’.

“Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means.” − Patrick J. Buchanan“The United States has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly,” and is thus “partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon.” − Robert Drefuss.

Hugely wealthy and petrodollar rich Saudi Arabia’s clout under an upstart and medieval Saud dynasty aligned with most obscure and backward Wahabism can be felt everywhere. Its wealth and religious support owing to its being the Guardians of holy cities of Mecca and Medina to US led West in Afghanistan helped unravel the Soviet Union. Pakistan and most Sunni Muslim states depend on its largesse and suffer from collateral damage from its evil designs. Pakistan is now a failed state under the guns of terrorists and opium addiction (which has penetrated India’s Punjab too). Over more than two decades, Saudi Arabia has lavished around $100 billion or even more on the worldwide promotion of the violent, intolerant and crudely puritanical Wahhabist sect of Islam that the ruling royal family promotes abroad. No one dare criticize it. Vancouver Sun recently reported “The Saudis began exporting Wahhabism in the early 1970s when the country’s oil wealth began growing at an ever-increasing rate. The amount the Saudi royal family, both by government donations and the generosity of individual princes, now lavishes on Wahhabist schools, colleges, mosques, Islamic centers and the missionary work of fundamentalist imams around the world is extraordinary. In 2003, a United States Senate committee on terrorism heard testimony that in the previous 20 years Saudi Arabia had spent $87 billion on promoting Wahhabism worldwide. This included financing 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges and 2,000 madrassas (religious schools). Various estimates put the amount the Saudi government spends on these missionary institutions as up to $3 billion a year. This money smothers the voices of moderate Muslims and the poison flows into every Muslim community worldwide. Key figures in the September 2001 attacks on the United States were radicalized at mosques in Germany.Britain is now reckoned by some to be the worst breeding ground anywhere for violent Muslim fundamentalists.

Indian newspapers recently reported Saudi Arabia has a massive $35-billion program to build mosques and religious schools across South Asia, where there are major Muslim communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the divided territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Indian police and Central Intelligence officers were quoted as saying their information came from American intelligence agencies There are unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia and members of the royal family have donated millions of dollars to fund mosques and Islamic centers in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Quebec. The money, and the emphasis on Wahhabist teaching that comes with it, has caused sharp divisions among Canadian Muslims.” Saudis and other Gulf states, protected by USA, Saudis since Roosevelt’s commitment in 1930s waste money on arms (in 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait, no defense was put up; the Kuwaiti ruling elite got into their automobiles and crossed over into Saudi Arabia). Samir Amin talked to Ahram Online (April 2013) on future of Egypt’s revolution. (Samir, now 80, is a leftist intellectual, who lives in Dakar (Senegal); whom the author met a few times during his assignment there, 1978-81). On real income growth in the Arab region, Samir said; “At the start, it is important to realize that per capita real income growth in the Arab region in the 70s and 80s was zero, according to statistics published by the World Bank, while in comparison it was seven percent in East Asia, five percent in Southern Asia, and 3.5 percent in South America,” states Amin, contextualizing Egypt’s revolution two years on. Only Sub-Saharan Africa had similar zero growth in this period. “Real per capita growth in the Arab region remained by far the lowest in the world in the 90s and during the past 10 years, and this includes economic performance in oil rich countries like Iraq, Algeria, Libya and even Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.” Indeed, during this period the region ranked below Sub-Saharan Africa. The “social disaster” that resulted from this situation, according to Amin, was primarily the result of Arab adoption of neoliberal economic policies (privatization, reduction of state subsidies, trade liberalization, monopoly of multinationals, deregulation of the financial market, etc.). “The uprising in the region was no coincidence, then,” Amin asserts. “These developments were not due to dictatorship but [were primarily a reaction] to the neoliberal logic implemented over the years,” Amin says. The uprisings, however, both in Egypt and Tunisia, did not manage to change these policies, and thus did not bring about an actual change in the regime, at least yet. (My Note; How Allah bestowed oil wealth has been criminally wasted and has only benefitted the Western nations and miniscule local ruling Arab dynasties and elites.

US Led Wars on Afghanistan and Iraq 

After the collapse of the Berlin War and the dismantling of USSR and the Soviet empire in East Europe and influence elsewhere, puffed up by military hardware testosterone and hubris Washington first bombed and invaded Afghanistan without UN sanction and then invaded Iraq in 2003 in spite of UN opposition. The result in cold figures is below; According to http://www.informat ionclearinghouse .info/

Number of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq 1,455,590 Number of U.S. Military Personnel Occupation of Iraq 4,801 (It is estimated that up to 80,000 US troops suffer from the ill effects of the war stress and need treatment. Suicide deaths among former GIs is now larger than on the battlefield) Number of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered in Afghanistan: 3,348 Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan $1,455,259,200, 645

However after the disaster in Iraq war at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony − Zbigniew Brzezinski said on February 1, 2007 “It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:
1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.
2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

See how the military power mad Brzezinski has changed his tune after US and allied forces have been forced to scurry for cover and exit from Afghanistan, the grave yard of another imperial power and the quagmire in Iraq. The author has written profusely, predicting accurately the outcome of the US led illegal war and brutal occupation since August 2002. The author feels that in the inability of US ground forces to defeat the resistance in Iraq and the fatalities and treasure wasted its killing field can be compared to sacrifices of the Soviet Union which destroyed 80% of Nazi war machine in WWII. US now did not dare put its boots in Libya earlier and Syria now. Like cowards it can only bomb from the safety of the missiles, jets, helicopters and drones. Who and how will US hold the ground. It may be noted that it were the troops of the northern Alliance which entered Kabul in end 2001. Most Taliban had crossed into the safety of Pakistan, where its
leadership resides in Quetta. Before NATO led aerial destruction began over Libya, reportedly 10,000 people had been killed in the rebellion against Qaddafi, but after the misinterpretation and abuse of the UNSC resolution 1973, the number of Libyans killed has reached 100,000 not including US Amb Stevens and other US operatives. The country has been destroyed, divided and chaos reigns. Before the crude bully USA (never mind the color of the nominal US ruler controlled by military-Industry Complex, Banksters and other corporate interests) took over from the British following WWII, London created Muslim League in India and Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, later Hamas was created by Israel in Occupied Palestine, to counter nationalist and socialist movements and parties which had struggled to eliminate colonialism and exploitation.

For details on US-Saudi Axis please read The US-Saudi-Wahabi Nexus! Some extracts; When the powerful US Vice-President Dick Cheney made a rare long haul to Riyadh in November, reportedly it was to create against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a new US led Sunni alliance in the region, composed of the six Gulf Co-operation Council states, pro-US Arab governments in Cairo and Amman and willing NATO allies with covert support from Israel. On 12 December the New York Times claimed that according to US and Arab diplomats, Cheney was told that Riyadh might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shias if the United States pulled out its troops. The Saudi King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to any diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran and demanded that Washington encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Saudi position reflected fears among USA’s Sunni Arab allies at Tehran’s increasing influence in Iraq with its ally the Lebanese Hezbollah getting the better of Israeli ground forces coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. King Abdullah II of Jordan had earlier expressed concern about the rising Shia influence and warned of the emergence of a Shia crescent from Iran via Syria to Lebanon. Riyadh also warned of the prospect of a Shia dominated Iraq government using its troops against the Sunni population. Saudi Arabia supports a Government of unity in Baghdad. The New York Times added that the Saudi King told Cheney: “if you retreat and it comes to an ethnic cleaning against the Sunnis, we will feel like we are being dragged into the war”. The long and bloody 1980-88 Iraq- Iran war was basically a Sunni Shia conflict, in which Saddam Hussein was encouraged, supported, financed by all Sunni Arab governments (except Syria), specially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Emirates and Western powers to neutralize the awesome rising Shia power and its aspirations to transform the Islamic world in the wake of the 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini led revolution in Iran. Millions of Iraqi and Iranian Muslims were killed in that war. Compared to that war, the coming Shia-Sunni conflagration, which could be encouraged by a desperate US led West would be a veritable holocaust for the region and Muslims. And Washington could even succeed but it would be a catastrophe for the world including the energy dependent West.

US-Ibn Saud family–Wahabi nexus;

The Saudi state, proclaimed by Abdulaziz in 1932 was in fact the third al-Saud Kingdom. The first Saudi “state” was founded in 1744 by the first great al-Saud leader Muhammad ibn Saud who made the historic alliance with the religious reformer Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, the founder of “Wahabism”. After its defeat by Egyptian forces in 1818, it rose anew in 1822 and survived as the dominant power in central Arabia. Of 14 successions within the al-Saud dynasty between 1744 and 1891, only three were peaceful. The transfer of power now-a-days is more peaceful. Abdul Aziz was encouraged by the British to take over Mecca and Medina as Sharif Hussain the ruler of Mecca, great grandfather of King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, was not so pliable to the British demands and interests. Remember the Arab revolt led by Sharif Hussein and his sons, Emirs Faisal and Abdullah, as depicted in film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, which helped the British forces under Gen Allenby to defeat the Ottoman forces in the region. So much for the British gratitude! Of course when Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate, Sharif Hussain offered to take over the mantle.

Massive Saudi Arms Purchases;

During 1990 to 2004, Saudi Arabia spent a whopping $268.6 billion dollars on Arms (United Arab Emirates; $38.6 billion with population of 2.6 million.) The Saudi arsenal has more than 1015 Tanks including 315 high quality M1A2s, over 5000+ APCs/ AFVs, 780 artillery pieces, over 2000 anti-tank missile launchers, over 340 high quality combat aircrafts including F15S/C/Ds and Tornados, with 48 Typhoons (Euro-fighter) to be delivered in 2008. On top of this they own over 228 helicopters, 160 training and liaison aircrafts and 51 transport aircrafts. Saudi navy operates over 27 major combat vessels including missile frigates and missile corvette.

Threats from Within

Actually the threat to Saudi Arabia emanates from within with many attacks by Al Qaeda with large segments of a conservative population sympathetic to its cause. And the threat does not come only from the Jihadists. There are other sources of threat from within the general population. There were rebellions against the House of Saud by various Saudi groups in 1969, 1972, and 1979. Only approved loyal tribes can enter the military. Until late 1980s Pakistan provided a protection force of 11000 to 15000 troops to the Saudi government. After the relocation of US troops from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and elsewhere, the Saudis are again looking to Pakistan for troops as reported in the Financial Times. The military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is old and broad based. Majority of planes and other equipment is kept in order by Pakistani personnel with whom the Kingdom has very close defense relations. There have been many reports of Pak Saudi cooperation in the nuclear bomb technology. If Sunni Pakistani metallurgist Dr. AQ Khan could peddle nuclear bombs know-how to Libya and Shia Iran − among others − then why not to Saudi Arabia! There have been many such reports in the German media. It was expected and logical for an imperial power to create divisions, which US has done successfully.

Civil war in Syria

In Syria it is basically a West-versus- Russia conflict converted into a Sunni-Shia struggle, in which the Sunni – the Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt (up to a point) and much of north Africa– have aligned themselves against the Shia – the Iranians, the Alawites, Hezbollah, and a minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia. No one talks of the oppressed Shia majority in Bahrain under a Sunni ruler. Sunni Uighurs and Sunni Chechens are getting on the job training in terrorism in Syria. Of course the schism in Islam is as almost old as itself when Prophet Mohammad lay dead and squabbling began to succeed him as Caliph. We will come to the west ignited and supported Shia–Sunni civil war in Syria, which has divided the Ummah in two groups. But just to give you an example. When the “brave and courageous US armed forces” (US defense annual expenditure was US$ 600 billion while Iraq could spare only a few billions and its defenses had been
weakened if not destroyed by so called operation Provide Comfort with Turkish acquisition. Some brave awe and shock victory? US intelligence had collected addresses of all prominent Iraqi Baath leaders mostly Sunni and handed them over to Iraq’s Shia groups to take revenge (The Hindu Muslim conflict was also ignited and supported by the departing British colonial power and creating a division of Hindustan in 1947. The enmity created still persists). What Russian President Vladimir Putin told Obama, Britain’s David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande face-to-face at the recent Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland is nothing less than gripping? Examples: Putin addressing the table: “You want President Bashar al-Assad to step down? Look at the leaders you’ve made in the Middle East in the course of what you have dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’.” Putin addressing Obama, Cameron and Hollande: “You want Russia to abandon Assad and his regime and go along with an opposition whose leaders don't know anything except issuing fatwas declaring people heretics, and whose members - who come from a bunch of different countries and have multiple orientations – don’t know anything except how to slaughter people and eat human flesh.” Putin addressing Obama directly: “Your country sent its army to Afghanistan in the year 2001 on the excuse that you are fighting the Taliban and the al-Qaeda organization and other fundamentalist terrorists whom your government accused of carrying out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. And here you are today making an alliance with them in Syria. And you and your allies are declaring your desire to send them weapons. And here you have Qatar in which you [the US] have your biggest base in the region and in the territory of that country the Taliban are opening a representative office.” The best part is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel then corroborated Putin’s every word. And Chinese President Xi Jinping certainly would have done the same.

Beware; USA & Allies Stoking Shia-Sunni Divide


President George Bush in his State of Union address. “We could expect an epic battle between Shi'ite extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country [Iraq] - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.”“From inside Pakistan' s border to the Mediterranean, almost every land (Muslim) is in crisis. Suddenly, all the Western talk of a Sunni-Shia war looks troublingly real”. (One of the many options now on the table.)

Extracts

US led western talk of a Shia-Sunni war looks troublingly real, although the option is now on slow backburner. The policy of divide and rule is as old as the Roman Empire – a constant guide to the Christian West and implemented ruthlessly during its colonial onslaught on the rest of the world. Evolution of Western nationalism based on a narrow definition of shared religion, ethnicity, language, culture or history after centuries of religious and ethnic wars was then employed to divide multi religious and pluralistic empires and kingdoms in the East and South during its crusade of colonial wars and expansion, masked as ‘civilizing mission’ or ‘white man’s burden’ or ‘saving the soul’ by converting natives to Christianity. Europe and Orthodox Russia became self-proclaimed ‘Guardians of Christians’ or nationalities like Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians and others to divide and break up the far flung Ottoman empire which had reached right up to the gates of Vienna. Religious ‘millets’ had full freedom of faith and Christians and Jews dominated trade and industry in the Ottoman empire. So from the very beginning as Scott Ritter, a former UN Chief Weapons Inspector for Iraq, revealed after occupying Baghdad and N. Iraq (Kurdistan in any case has been a US protectorate since the end of 1991 Gulf War), US and allied special forces provided information on dethroned ruling Sunni elite for taking revenge, to the Iraqi exiles like Ahmet Chelabi, a convicted embezzler, Iyad Allawi, both intelligence assets of CIA , MIV and others, Shia outfits like SCIRI and Badr corps nurtured, nursed and financed by Iran, opportunists, carpetbaggers and others who rode into Baghdad on US tanks, helicopters and F-16s. Scott Ritter also revealed that the Baathist regime under President Saddam Hussein was quite realistic about West's objectives and had planned Iraqi resistance much before the invasion. Later, Washington, London and Tel Aviv also looked at the option of dividing Iraq into Iraqi Kurdistan, with almost half of Iraqi oil wealth, which being weak would remain subservient to the West. Its oil can be easily sent to the Mediterranean via the Kirkuk Ceyhan pipe line. Perhaps even a defense alliance could be signed with the Kurds. Washington had in fact planned to have an air base in north Iraq on the pretext of saving Kurds from Saddam's forces in 1991, so an anxious Ankara offered its Incirlik airbase for US-UK jets to patrol over Iraq and bomb it at will. Of course the grateful Shias of South Iraq, masters of the remaining oil wealth would fall in line. The disenfranchised Sunni rump without any oil as yet, could stew in its own anger. It was most surprising that, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others were surprised by the Iraqi resistance, which they first tried to wish away as composed of dead Enders, disgruntled remnants of the old regime and in its last throes in Dick Cheney’s famous words. Only if they had read long Iraqi resistance to the British colonial rule in 1920s and 30s who finally got rid of the British and killed the Hashemite ruler foisted on Iraq. The continued divisions in and exploitation of the Arabs and Kurdish problems in the region are the consequences of British policy of divide and rule after the First world war, now being pursued by USA. Like the British then, now George Bush never tires of bringing liberty and democracy to the Arabs. Pentagon even called US led illegal naked ‘shock and awe’ invasion of Iraq as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ - some cheek. Whose intelligence are they insulting? Their own as no one believed them except the info-challenged Americans. And even they have wised up.

Established to cut into the profitable East Indies trade on silk rotes controlled by Arabs and Turks, the British East India company (and others in Europe), having explored new sea routes, first nibbled at the decrepit Moghul empire piece meal and after the Indian war of independence against the English company forces in 1957, most of the Moghul empire passed on to the British crown. In the wake of the rebellion and resistance the citizens of Delhi, especially Muslims, were treated like those of Fallujah, Tel Afar and Haditha, as in Iraq now. It must be remembered that Marathas, Rajputs, Jats and other Hindu kings, who ruled almost independent fiefs accepted the Moghul emperor in Delhi as their sovereign, before he was exiled by the British. British historians and colonial rulers then successfully sold the theory to Brahmin and other upper castes Hindus that all their problems could be traced to the rule of Muslims. At least like Hindu Aryans and
others from central Asia earlier, Muslims from Turkestan and elsewhere made Hindustan their home. When the European traders arrived in the subcontinent, Hindustan’s share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent (in 1750) and after the British had done with India, the sub-continent’s share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of Britain had increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - [Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy]. In these bald figures lie buried multiple famines and deaths of tens of millions of impoverished Indians, when the British exported food even in times of scarcity. It left the people of Hindustan degraded with deficit not only in calories but proteins and physically dwarfed. After 60 years of freedom and no famines Indians have partially recovered their physical well-being and are surging ahead economically and intellectually. (How they dominate the Silicon valley in USA?) After the Second World War, the British realized that there was no option but to quit the subcontinent. But India being a vital strategic asset, “a base for Britain to continue their domination of the Indian Ocean and the oil-rich Persian Gulf with its wells of power,” it was partitioned, as Mahatma Gandhi opposed to violence and war in principle and Jawaharlal Nehru with his idealism and vision of spreading friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of Asia, Africa, Middle east and elsewhere, would not join Western military pacts. The aim was to retain parts in the North and West of India, “for defensive and offensive action against the USSR in any future dispensation in the sub-continent”. Britain achieved its objective by using Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a tool to create a weak and hence a willing and subservient allied Pakistan bordering Iran, Afghanistan and Sinkiang, just below the Soviet underbelly. (The Americans would love to do something similar in north Iraq). A retired Indian diplomat has brought to light these British machinations, based on records in London in his book, ‘The Shadow of the Great Game: the Untold Story of India's Partition.’ The author also traces the roots of the present Kashmir imbroglio and how the matter was distorted in the UN to help Western ally Pakistan. (Like UN resolutions now against Iran for its enrichment of nuclear power fuel!) But Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Islamabad now hover between the deep sea and the devil i.e. threat to be bombed back to stone age or a civil war between its troops and Pushtoons and other fierce tribes in its north west region and Afghanistan, if they do not obey US dictates.

Following the Second World War President Marshal Joseph Tito created a composite secular and socialist state of southern Slavs and others in Yugoslavia, with natural affinity to Orthodox Russian Slavs, but after his death and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multilingual state was broken apart by West Europe and USA, by sheer aggression. The last word in this bloody dissolution is yet to be written, now centered in Kosovo, where north European diplomats have ruled as in old colonial era. When the fulcrum of imperialism shifted from London to Washington and New York after the Second World War, exploitation of the East and South was continued through IMF, IBRD and now after the fall of the Berlin Wall by Globalization and WTO, with struggle over control over energy pipelines instead of over sea trade routes earlier. Western troops would now guard the energy pipelines, like the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan one.


Middle East Quagmire! No wonder Patrick Cockburn said in Counterpunch last month, “The U.S. has a very weird policy − the Shia and Iran are the enemy, suddenly. But the government of Iraq is Shia – it’s led by the Shia and the Kurds. Bush seems to be trying to create a common front of Sunni states − Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan − against the Shia and Iran.” A fascinating revelation concerns the ‘disappearance’ of billions of US dollars in Iraq to create “pots of black money” for covert purposes - with echoes of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan presidency in the 1980s. And even help Fuad Siniora’s beleaguered pro-western government in Beirut “to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shia (Hezbollah and Amal) influence” by funding Sunni radical groups with ideological ties to al-Qaeda. Walid Jumblatt, the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Druze leader, was quoted telling Cheney to support the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and undermine the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus. Seymour Hersh revealed last month that US military and special operations teams have escalated activities in Iran, entering from Iraq to gather intelligence etc., confirming allegations made by Tehran. Iran has accused the US, Britain and Israel of fomenting separatist attacks in Arab-majority Khuzestan in the south-west of Iran, in Baluchi province bordering Pakistan and in Azeri and Kurdish border regions. In Riyadh, the emergence of a “Shia crescent” from Tehran to Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon (and Hamas in Palestine) raises the nightmare of a shift in the balance of power not only in the Arab world but also in the Middle East and beyond “That Iran should control Lebanon through Hezbollah is a red line that Arabia cannot accept,” say Saudi officials. This was also echoed by Hashemite King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the time of the Israeli/Hezbollah war last year. Hezbollah’s victory and crescendo of popularity for Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah and Mahmud Ahmedineijad caused fears of Arab Street turning against the conservative and unpopular Sunni rulers in the region.

The Sunni-Shia Divide


It is necessary to look at the historic Shia-Sunni divide in depth to comprehend the problem and the inherent dangers. Not only Christians, even many Sunnis know little about Shias and their history. The fissures in Islam are almost as old as the faith itself. In the Muslim community (Ummah) of over a billion faithfuls spread almost all around the world nearly 12 % are Shias. Majority of Shias are Twelvers – believers in 12 Imams (as in Iran, in a majority), but there are others too, like the Ismailis (of Agha Khans, Mohammed Ali Jinnah), from whom emerged the ‘Assassins’ in early 2nd millennium, Alevis in Turkey (around 15%), ruling Alawite elite (12%) in Syria, Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon (over 40%), and Bahrain (a majority), Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. In Iraq nearly 60% of its population are Shias, the rest are mostly Sunnis. There are some very extremist groups too, spread all over the Islamic world. India has a large Shia
population of about 25 million in a total Muslim population of 130 million, making it perhaps the 2nd largest Shia community in the world after Iran. After the US attacks in Najaf in 2004, Muslims of Lucknow (India ), a big Shia center, had declared that Americans were not welcome there.

Tangled Sunni-Shia history

The Shias emerged out of seeds of disunity in the embryonic Muslim Ummah, sown as soon as Prophet Mohammed lay dead in Medina. While his cousin and son in law Ali and the family were preparing the body for the burial, another clan of the Quraysh tribe elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph i.e. Prophet’s deputy, countering also the claims of Ansars of Medina, who had welcomed the Prophet (in Hijra). Abu Bakr’s supporters claimed that he was closer to Mohammed, one of the very first converts to Islam and was from Mecca's Quraysh tribe. His daughter A’isha was wedded to the Prophet. According to Shias, Prophet Mohammed had given enough indications for Ali to be his successor and cite many hadiths in support of this claim. The Prophet had lived with his uncle Abu Talib, Ali’s father and Mohammed’s only child Fatimah was married to Ali. Ali also became Muslim before Abu Bakr and had decoyed for the Prophet when he escaped from Mecca. Ali was perhaps his most trusted and the closest companion, even though he was much younger than the Prophet. Ali’s election as the Caliph would have denied a chance to the older generation of power brokers, so they played politics and got their way. Ali was overlooked twice with Omar and Uthman succeeding Abu Bakr in cleverly manipulated successions to keep Ali out. As a result Ali mostly kept to himself and stayed aloof. Following the murder of Uthman, Ali was invited by the Muslims of Medina to accept the Caliphate; reluctantly, he agreed but only after long hesitation. His brief reign was marked by problems of inheriting a corrupt state, as the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed had been neglected. Ali based his rule on the Islamic ideals of social justice and equality which clashed with the interests of the Quraysh aristocracy of Mecca grown rich through the Muslim conquests. A rebellion was instigated against him. Ali was victorious in many wars, but was trapped into arbitration. He was assassinated by a Kharijite and Mu’awiya of the Umayyads established the dynasty at Damascus.

Ali was a devout Muslim with an outstanding reputation for justice, unlike Uthman or the Umayyad dynasty that followed him, mired in nepotism with worldly and autocratic ways. Many Muslims feel this way about the Umayyad Caliphs except for Omar II. To many it was a betrayal of the Quran, which enjoins creation of a just and equal society as the first duty of Muslims. Those opposed to Umayyads called themselves the Shia’t-Ali (partisans of Ali) and developed a doctrine of piety and protest, refusing to accept the Umayyad Caliphs, and regarded Ali’s descendants as the true leaders of the Muslim community. This schism became an unbridgeable chasm and remains so, when in 680, Shias of Kufa called for the rule by Ali’s second son Hussein and invited him. Hussein set out for Iraq with a small band of relatives and followers (72 armed men and women and children) in the belief that the spectacle of the Prophet’s family, marching to confront the Caliph, would remind the regime of its social responsibility. But Umayyad Caliph Yazid dispatched his army, which slaughtered Hussein and most of his followers on the plain of Karbala with Imam Hussein being the last to die, holding his infant son in his arms. This event is now commemorated as Muharram. Both Karbala and Najaf, where Imam Ali is buried are very holy places especially for Shias. For Shias, the Karbala tragedy symbolizes the chronic injustice that pervades human life. Shia Islam provides spiritual solace and shelter for the poorest and the deprived among the Muslims, as in as- Sadr city in Baghdad and elsewhere in the Muslim world. In almost all Sunni majority countries Shias are ill-treated and persecuted. Imagery and this Shia passion informed Khomeini’s Iranian revolution, which many experienced as a re-enactment of Karbala - with the Shah Reza Pehlavi cast as a latter day Yazid.

There is no agreement among Muslims on the Caliphs. Shias do not recognize the first three and in many places curse them. For them Ali is the first rightful Caliph and the Imam. For Sunnis, Imam is only a prayer leader and could be any one. But for Shias, he is a spiritual leader with the divine spark and juris-consult (Vilayet-el- Faqih). The sacred Islamic law Sharia enacted under different situations and times has many schools among Sunnis, who unlike the Shias have closed ijtihad, independent reasoning in Islamic Law to meet new situations. The Shia Iranians (Aryans) perhaps created the office of Imam (like Shankaracharya among Indo–Aryan Brahmins) as only an Arab from the Quraysh tribe could become a Caliph. Later the Turks, who came as slaves or warriors to the Arab lands, captured power by the sword and raised the minor office of the Sultan to a powerful one, by now protector of a hapless Caliph. Then Turkish Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul appropriated the title of Caliph for themselves. After the first dynastic Umayyad Caliphate based in Damascus ended, another branch of Quraysh tribe, Abbasids took over and shifted to Iraq in 750, but after having made false promises of installing the Prophet’s family as the Caliph. Muslim Ummah’s unity under the Sunni Caliph was finally broken when Fatimids anointed their own Caliph first in Tunisia, then in Egypt in 10th century. So an Umayyad prince in Cordoba too declared himself the third Caliph.

Evolution of Shi’ism


There are two things to note. First, political Shi’ism indicates a belief that members of the Hashim clan in the Quraysh tribe are the people most worthy of holding political authority in the Islamic community, but has no belief in any particular religious position for the family. As for religious Shi’ism, it is about the belief that some particular members of the house of Hashim were in receipt of divine inspiration and are thus the channel of God's guidance to men whether or not they hold any defacto political authority. This view was augmented by the Iranians who believe in the tradition that the mother of fourth Imam Zaynul-Abdin was Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sasanian King of Iran. From the very beginning all the Shia Imams, descendants of Ali, every single one was imprisoned, exiled or executed or poisoned by the Caliphs, who could not tolerate an alternative center to their rule. So by 8th century, most Shias held aloof from politics and concentrated on the mystical interpretation of the scriptures. Says scholar Karen Armstrong “Long before western philosophers called for the separation of church and state, Shias had privatized faith, convinced that it was impossible to integrate the religious imperative with the grim world of politics that seemed murderously antagonistic to it.” “The separation of religion and politics remains deeply embedded in the Shia psyche. It springs not simply from malaise, but from a divine discontent with the state of the Muslim community. Even in Iran, which became a Shia country in the early 16th century, the ulema (the religious scholars) refused public office, adopted an oppositional stance to the state, and formed an alternative establishment that - implicitly or explicitly - challenged the Shahs on behalf of the people.

The picture of early Shi’ism was created (as not much is available from records) from the point of view of Twelver Shias, ignoring the Ismailis, Mutazilites or orthodox Sunnis. Modern scholars believe that this picture was retrospectively imposed over the facts by historians of 3rd and 4th Islamic century for doctrinal reasons. It is only after 6th Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (died 765) that there is any firm evidence that any kind of religious leadership was being claimed for Twelver Imams. He was a well-known and influential figure in the Islamic world. Several of his students later became prominent jurists and traditionalists even among non-Shia Muslims. Jafar as-Sadiq did not make an open claim to religious leadership, but his circle of students evidently looked to him as Imam, including some leading figures such as Abu’l-Khattab, who held beliefs of a ghuluww (extremist) nature regarding him, indicating that as-Sadiq was a focus of religious speculation and leadership in his own time.

Evolution of Islam into Shia and other forms 


The number of ghulat groups, increased dramatically especially in Kufa during as-Sadiq’s lifetime. It is therefore useful to consider the origin of the ghulat. When the Arabs arrived in the Fertile Crescent, they encountered ancient civilizations with sophisticated religious systems. Iraq was already the centre of intense religious ferment with the ancient Babylonian religious systems, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Manichaeism, Judaism and various forms of Christianity contributing to a kaleidoscope of religious view points, debates and speculation. Islam by comparison was as yet simple and undeveloped. And with the Prophet already dead, there was no one to whom the Muslims could turn for an authoritative ruling on sophisticated religious speculations being posed by the ancient civilizations. There arose a ferment of discussion around some of the concepts introduced by these older religions and philosophical systems. In the initial years the Arabs lived in their military camp cities and avoided intermingling with the native populations and their disturbing religious speculations but as more of the native populations embraced Islam, such discussions increased. In this spiritual and religious ferment ideas were injected into the Muslim community and intensively discussed by people interested in such matters which could be considered by the majority of Muslims heterodox concepts and called ghulat or extremists. Among the ideas injected were such concepts as tanasukh (transmigration of souls), ghayba (occultation) , raj’a (return), hulul (descent of the Spirit of God into man), imama (Imamate, divinely-inspired leadership and guidance), tashbih (anthropomorphism with respect to God), tafwid (delegation of God's powers to other than God), and bada (alteration in God's will). But the ghulat needed a priest - god figure onto which to project their ideas of hulul, ghayba, etc., a role admirably suited to the persona of Ali. While the ghulat adopted Ali and his family as the embodiment of their religious speculation the Shias of' Ali always looked on the ghulat with a certain amount of suspicion. However, the martyrdom of Hussein and the pathos of this event gave the family of Ali a cultic significance. It bestowed on Shias, earlier primarily a political party, a thrust into a religious orientation directing it firmly towards the ghulat, and giving the ghulat milieu a hero-martyr and a priestly family with which they could associate much of their speculations.

Only the hubris laden arrogance of military power US which spends as much as the rest of the world put together on defense, now mostly financed by trade deficit, made the crazy Neo-cons and former scheming and manipulative CEOs like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld believe in their being received with flowers in Baghdad. What does Washington mean when it demands that Tehran and Damascus must help stabilize Iraq i.e. get US out of Iraqi quagmire, so that US can then bring about regime changes there!

I wrote in my article ‘Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey’ of 7 January, 2004, that “while formulating foreign policy options, political leaders also look to history for guidance. Unfortunately, the United States’ history is only two centuries old, and to meet the challenge of terrorism, Frankenstein monsters partly of its own creation, the mujahideen, jihadis, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the US can only recall a long genocidal war against its Native Americans.

“Those who resisted were called “terrorists” for defending their native land and way of life against foreign invaders. There are Hollywood films galore that depict the “American Indians” as savages to be hunted down by the US cavalry. The same cavalry units now force Iraqis daily to lie face down in the land of their ancestors and describe those fighting to free their country from the occupying forces as “terrorists”. The Iraqis, other Arabs and Iranians are the new “American Indians”, and those who collaborate with the Bush administration are like the good Indians who helped the Americans fight and defeat bad Indians.” In my article of 15 July, 2003 “Iraq’s history already written” I said “US chief administrator L Paul Bremer unveiled Iraq’s 25-member governing council in Baghdad on Sunday. It now looks like the beginnings of the rule by the British Governor Sir Percy Cox in the 1920s, after the British had carved out three provinces of the Ottoman Empire after its collapse in World War I. After a long national resistance, King Feisel II - of a British-appointed dynasty - and his prime minister, Nuri-as Said, were overthrown and killed in a 1958 military takeover”.

Ambassador Peter Galbraith revealed that in January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq, Bush had not yet heard of the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.

"Today the world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude, who may well plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant, and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth. The problem is that his name is George W. Bush, and he is our president”, said Yale Law Prof Jack M. Balkin, on September 22, 2002. The new first time Black president in US history is a product of Chicago Jewish political machine and is no different than others. Only the hubris of wars has brought US to its decline and fall. 
16-Jul-2013
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham


WikiLeaks: Saudi-Financed Madrassas More Widespread in Pakistan Than Thought

Islamabad’s inaction on extremism is a recurring theme in many of the WikiLeaked cables emanating from the U.S. embassy in Pakistan.
By Michael Busch, May 26, 2011.
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We’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the fifty-sixth in the series.
It’s hardly a secret that rich Saudi Arabians, including those running the government, have used their considerable oil wealth to spread political and ideological influence throughout the world. One need look no further than the close-knit relationship between the House of Saud and the Bush family to understand Saudi’s powerful reach across the globe. In Muslim countries, though, its presence is more pointed and explicitly ideological. Indeed, following the 9/11 it has become increasingly clear that Saudi money frequently makes its way into the hands of Islamic extremists.
In an astonishing cable published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, however, it would seem that significant sums of Saudi money are fostering religious radicalism in previously moderate regions of Pakistan.
The cable, dating from late 2008, paints an unsettling picture of wealth’s powerful influence in those underdeveloped areas of Central Asia in need of the most attention. Bryan Hunt, then-principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore, reported a string of troubling findings on his forays into southern Punjab, where he “was repeatedly told that a sophisticated jihadi recruitment network had been developed in the Multan, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions.”
The network reportedly exploited worsening poverty in these areas of the province to recruit children into the divisions’ growing Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith madrassa network from which they were indoctrinated into jihadi philosophy, deployed to regional training/indoctrination centers, and ultimately sent to terrorist training camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Locals believed that charitable activities being carried out by Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organizations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jaish-e-Mohammad were further strengthening reliance on extremist groups and minimizing the importance of traditionally moderate Sufi religious leaders in these communities.
The cable reports that Hunt’s discussions with civil society, political and religious figures were “dominated” by concerns that “recruitment activities by extremist religious organizations, particularly among young men between the ages of 8 and 15, had increased dramatically over the last year.” The exponential spread of recruitment efforts was chalked up by locals to the efforts of “pseudo-religious organizations” who had appeared suddenly, along with countless other aid organizations, in response to the devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005.
Hunt noted the widespread belief amongst locals that significant sums of foreign aid donations were
siphoned to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in southern and western Punjab in order to expand these sects’ presence in a traditionally hostile, but potentially fruitful, recruiting ground. The initial success of establishing madrassas and mosques in these areas led to subsequent annual “donations” to these same clerics, originating in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
While exact totals of money pouring into these projects were unavailable, the staggering estimates of “most interlocutors” put the total “in the region of $100 million annually.”
The cable describes ways in which recruiters
generally exploit families with multiple children, particularly those facing severe financial difficulties in light of inflation, poor crop yields, and growing unemployment in both urban and rural areas in the southern and western Punjab. Oftentimes, these families are identified and initially approached/assisted by ostensibly “charitable” organizations including Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a front for designated foreign terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Tayyaba), the Al-Khidmat Foundation (linked to religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami), or Jaish-e-Mohammad (a charitable front for the designated foreign terrorist organization of the same name).
If true, the narrative of exploitation by recruiters of the local population is revolting. Locals claim that the
Deobandi or Ahl-e-Hadith maulana will generally be introduced to the family through these organizations. He will work to convince the parents that their poverty is a direct result of their family’s deviation from “the true path of Islam” through “idolatrous” worship at local Sufi shrines and/or with local Sufi Peers. The maulana suggests that the quickest way to return to “favor” would be to devote the lives of one or two of their sons to Islam. The maulana will offer to educate these children at his madrassa and to find them employment in the service of Islam. The concept of “martyrdom” is often discussed and the family is promised that if their sons are “martyred” both the sons and the family will attain “salvation” and the family will obtain God’s favor in this life, as well. An immediate cash payment is finally made to the parents to compensate the family for its “sacrifice” to Islam.
In exchange, families receive upwards of $6,500 per son. While some clerics were reportedly recruiting young girls as well, it is not known how much families receive in exchange for their daughters.
The cable goes on to explain that
the path following recruitment depends upon the age of the child involved. Younger children (between 8 and 12) seem to be favored. These children are sent to a comparatively small, extremist Deobandi or Ahl-e-Hadith madrassa in southern or western Punjab generally several hours from their family home.
While Hunt was unable to ascertain roughly how many of these madrassas were currently in operations, he estimated from his various discussions that it was likely in the neighborhood of a couple hundred.
These madrassas are generally in isolated areas and are kept small enough (under 100 students) so as not to draw significant attention. At these madrassas, children are denied contact with the outside world and taught sectarian extremism, hatred for non-Muslims, and anti-Western/anti-Pakistan government philosophy. Contact between students and families is forbidden, although the recruiting maulana periodically visits the families with reports full of praise for their sons’ progress.
From there, “graduates” of the madrassas are supposedly either retained as teachers for the next generation of recruits, or are sent to a sort-of postgraduate school for jihadi training. “Teachers at the madrassa appear to make the decision,” of where the students go next, “based on their read of the child’s willingness to engage in violence and acceptance of jihadi culture versus his utility as an effective proponent of Deobandi or Ahl-e-Hadith ideology/recruiter.”
While the number and locations of the madrassas were largely a matter of speculation, most everyone Hunt spoke with agreed that the jihadist camps were easily identifiable.
Locals identified three centers reportedly used for this purpose. The most prominent of these is a large complex that ostensibly has been built at Khitarjee (sp?)…The second complex is a newly built “madrassa” on the outskirts of Bahawalpur…The third complex is an Ahl-e-Hadith site on the outskirts of Dera Ghazi Khan city about which very limited information was available. Locals…claimed that following several months of indoctrination at these centers youth were generally sent on to more established training camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and then on to jihad either in FATA, NWFP, or as suicide bombers in settled areas.
Despite the apparently widespread-knowledge of militant activities in the region, the cable clearly registers local dissatisfaction with the government’s inadequate response. “Interlocutors repeatedly chastised the government for its failure to act decisively against indoctrination centers, extremist madrassas, or known prominent leaders.”
Government inaction reflects both Islamabad’s inability and unwillingness to tackle the challenges of rising extremism within its borders, a persistent theme in many of the embassy cables originating in the country. On the one hand, noted a member of the provincial assembly, “direct confrontation was considered ‘too dangerous,’” by the government. On the other, “Federal Minister for Relgious Affairs, and a noted Brailvi/Sufi scholar in his own right, Allama Qasmi blamed government intransigence on a culture that rewarded political deals with religious extremists. He stressed that even if political will could be found, the bureaucracy… repeatedly blocked…efforts to push policy in a different direction.”
Faced with deficits in political will and capacity to fight the corrosive influence of local exploitation by religious radicals, Hunt reports that locals “repeatedly requested USG assistance for the southern and western Punjab, believing that an influx of western funds could counter the influence of Deobandi/Ahl-e-Hadith clerics.” Because Wahhabi extremism is historically alien to the Punjabi heartland, its “increasing prominence was directly attributed” by locals “to poverty and external funding.” Civil society leaders pressed the importance of recognizing “that socio-economic development programs, particularly in education, agriculture, and employment generation, would have a direct, long-term impact in minimizing receptivity to extremist movements.”
Hunt agreed.
“In post’s view short-term,” he concluded, “quick impact programs are required which focus on: (1) immediate relief in the form of food aid and microcredit, (2) cash for work and community-based, quick-impact infrastructure development programs focusing on irrigation systems, schools, and other critical infrastructure, and (3) strategic communication programs designed to educate on the dangers of the terrorist recruiting networks and to support counter-terrorist, counter-extremist messages.
In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s assassination, however, bipartisan calls for cutting aid to Pakistan, not increasing it, reflect the national mood. Just last Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) stated publicly that “there is a real problem with continuing financial support with Pakistan” when they fail to tackle head-on groups associated with the Taliban. And thus, the apparent paradox of Pakistani politics. If the United States continues to provide financial aid flows to Islamabad, it will be recognized as acceptance of the untenable status quo allowing militant Islamists to flourish in Pakistan’s northwestern frontier. But if the United States turns the money tap off, it’s clear that Pakistani territory will be increasingly ceded to these same antagonistic elements.
But then again, perhaps the paradox is not as impossibly puzzling as we’ve been led to believe. As the Center for Global Development’s Nancy Birdsall has recently pointed out, the question does not present a zero-sum game. “US aid to Pakistan is not a reward for good behavior,” she argued recently in favor of the very targeted programs outlined by Hunt. “We have to think about aid as an investment in the future of U.S. security. If you keep in mind the proposed $1.5 billion a year represents less than what we spend in Afghanistan in a week, than you get the point.”