January 18, 2008
Frontier Insurgency Spills Into Peshawar
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — For centuries, fighting and lawlessness have been part of the fabric of this frontier city. But in the past year, Pakistan’s war with Islamic militants has spilled right into its alleys and bazaars, its forts and armories, killing policemen and soldiers and scaring its famously tough citizens.
There is a sense of siege here, as the Islamic insurgency pours out of the adjacent tribal region into this city, one of Pakistan’s largest, and its surrounding districts.
The Taliban and their militant sympathizers now hold strategic pockets on the city’s outskirts, the police say, from where they strike at the military and the police, order schoolgirls to wear the burqa and blow up stores selling DVDs, among other acts of violence.
Suicide bombings, bomb explosions and missile attacks occurred an average of once a week here in 2007, according to a tally by the city’s police department. In 2006, while there were occasional grenade attacks and explosions, the authorities did not record a single suicide bombing or rocket attack inside the city.
The proximity of Peshawar to the tribal areas where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have regrouped in the past two years makes the city a feasible prize for the militants in Pakistan’s quickly escalating internal strife that pits the Islamic extremists against the American-backed government of President Pervez Musharraf.
Though few here believe that the Taliban will rule anytime soon, the police and residents say that by the standards of counterinsurgency warfare the extremists are doing well. They have undermined public faith in the government, sown distrust and made the police fearful for their lives. “People feel the insecurity is so high, no one can fix it,” said Humair Bilour, the sister-in-law of Malik Saad, a popular Peshawar police chief who was killed in a suicide bomb attack last year. “How can the government do anything when the government itself is involved in it?”
She said she and her friends were now afraid to go out. “People go to the bazaar and make jokes: ‘Is this going to be my last trip?’ ” she said.
The extremists have selected the police and the army, two important pillars of the Pakistani state, as particular targets.
Last week, rockets were fired at an army barracks in Warsak on the city’s perimeter, a warning of the power of the militants to strike from Mohmand, a district in the tribal areas adjacent to Peshawar, an area that a few months ago was considered free of the Taliban.
The army headquarters in the center of the city were struck last month by a bomber who was hiding explosives under her burqa that were set off by remote control. The assassination a year ago of the police chief, Mr. Saad, who was killed while on duty trying to control a religious procession in one of the bazaars, shook the city.
“It’s asymmetrical warfare against an established state,” said Muhammad Sulaman Khan, chief of operations for the Peshawar police and a close friend of Mr. Saad. “The terrorists only don’t have to lose it, we need to win it.”
At the core of the troubles here, many say, lie demands by the United States that the Pakistani military, generously financed by Washington, join in its campaign against terrorism, which means killing fellow Pakistanis in the tribal areas. Even if those Pakistanis are extremists, the people here say, they do not like a policy of killing fellow tribesmen, and fellow countrymen, particularly on behalf of the United States.
The Bush administration is convinced that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have gained new strength in the past two years, particularly in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan and Bajaur. It has said it is considering sending American forces to help the Pakistani soldiers in those areas. Mr. Musharraf has scoffed at the idea.
Any direct intervention by American forces would only strengthen the backlash now under way against soldiers and the police in Peshawar, said Farook Adam Khan, a lawyer here. That reaction spread last week to Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, where a suicide bomber killed almost two dozen policemen at a lawyers’ rally, he said.
“Pakistani soldiers never used to be targets,” Mr. Khan said. “Now we have the radicals antagonized by Musharraf and his politics of cozying up to the United States. The actions taken by the army in Waziristan and Bajaur and Swat are causing the problems here.” Swat is an area 100 miles north of Peshawar, where the Pakistani Army is currently battling a Pakistani Taliban insurgent group with mixed results.
The standing of the Pakistani military is being further harmed by an increasing awareness here that it is for the first time suffering significant numbers of defections, mostly among soldiers reluctant to fight in the tribal areas. The defections gain only scant mention in the press, but people talk about them.
There are rumors of courts-martial, although the information is tightly held by the army, former officers said. Morale among the police in Peshawar has plummeted amid a series of police killings, making the city far from the glamorous posting it once was, when the police were fighting smugglers and other outlaws.
Terrorist activities around Peshawar began to increase, Mr. Khan said, after a major attack on a madrasa in Bajaur in October 2006, in which 82 people, including 12 teenagers, were killed. The Pakistani Army said intelligence had shown that the madrasa was used as a training base by Al Qaeda. Local residents said the killings were the work of an American remotely piloted drone, a charge that Washington denied.
A few months later, government schools for girls around Peshawar began to receive threats that they would be blown up if the students did not wear burqas.
At one such school, in Shah Dhand Baba, a town on the northern fringes of Peshawar, the principal, Gul Bahar Begum, said she received a handwritten letter in the mail last February demanding that the students cover up or the school would be blown up.
Ms. Begum, who wears lipstick and lightly covers her hair with a scarf, and whose office is filled with sports trophies won by her students, said that about 70 percent of the girls now wore burqas when they stepped outside the school.
“It is the Islamic way to cover,” she said of her instructions to the girls to cover up. “So the militants were right, but the way they imposed their decision was not.”
The students, dressed in loose white pants and long shirts, suggested that they accepted the demands because they had to, not because they believed it was a religious necessity.
Maryam Sultan, 16, who wore a denim jacket over her uniform, said she and her friends came to school in burqas “for security.” Ms. Sultan, who was more interested in talking about her desire to become a doctor, said there was little choice but to cover up.
The outward bravura at the school masked a deeper problem: the inability of the police or any other authorities to deter the militants. At another school where a threatening letter was received, the principal protested.
She made contact with the militants, saying that burqas were too expensive for some of the girls. The militants replied, saying, “If the girls can afford makeup, they can afford burqas,” according to officials in the district. Days later, the girls were in burqas.
Himayat Mayar, the local mayor, blamed the government for the threats against the girls.
He said that during the five years that Mr. Musharraf and his allies in a coalition of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, had governed the North-West Frontier Province, they had allowed madrasas for young Islamic jihadists to flourish.
“There are so many madrasas run by mullahs that train jihadis and get funds from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,” Mr. Mayar said. “These jihadists know only jihad. They should be brought into the mainstream.” If it wanted to, he added, the government could easily provide teachers and computers to the madrasas, and register them.
Peshawar’s booming business in illicit Western and Indian DVDs has been another target of the militants. Many of the city’s myriad retail outlets have closed after being bombed, or threatened with violence.
At the Bilal DVD Parlor, the owners, Bilal Javed and Akhtar Ali, said their sales — ranging from “Pride and Prejudice” to “Die Hard 4.0,” to the latest Bollywood films and old Bruce Lee movies — had fallen by 90 percent. Their decade-old wholesale business in the tribal region was finished, they said.
On a recent day, their modern retail store, fitted with polished chrome, was packed floor to ceiling with DVDs. There were no customers. They said people had been afraid to shop there since a bomb hidden in a water cooler exploded at a DVD store across the street last year, killing five people, including a 7-year-old boy who wanted to buy a computer mouse.
“The police chief said, ‘We can’t secure ourselves, how can we secure you?’ ” Mr. Javed said.


The Growing Power of Petro-Islam
In Saudi Arabia, Bush encounters a force more powerful than democracy.
By Michael Hirsh
A day after George W. Bush gave his big democracy speech and declared the opening of "a great new era … founded on the equality of all people"—a line he delivered at the astonishingly opulent Emirates Palace hotel, where most of the $2,450-a-night suites are reserved for visiting royals—the president flew to Saudi Arabia on Monday. There he planned to spend a day with King Abdullah at his ranch, where the monarch keeps 150 Arabian stallions for his pleasure, and thousands of goats and sheep "bred to feed the guests at the King's royal banquets," as the White House put it in the "press kit" it handed out to reporters on the eve of the president's eight-day Mideast tour. Bush was also expected to take time out to meet with a group of "Saudi entrepreneurs."
What could not be found on Bush's schedule was one Saudi dissident or political activist, much less a democrat. Just a day after his speech in Abu Dhabi—and three years after declaring in his second inaugural address that "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture"—the president made time for a tour of Saudi Arabia's National History Museum but not for a meeting with Fouad al-Farhan. Farhan, Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, was arrested in Jidda last month for daring to defend a group of Saudis who wanted to form a civil rights group.
OK, you get my point. Bush's words were, for the most part, seen as empty here. Especially since there was no follow-up. This is a part of the world where tribal sheikdoms have scarcely modified their medievalism, much less embraced democracy—even as their petro-dollars bring in Frank Gehry and other famous names, wrapping their Potemkin city-states in 21st-century glamour. I understand that Bush must engage in some realpolitik at the moment. This is no time to undermine the Arab regimes. It's important to rally them against Iran's nuclear program and to enlist them in supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In addition, the worrisome rise of oil prices to around $100 a barrel has given the big producers even more leverage.
But if that's so, then don't plan a major democracy speech when you know you're not going to act on it, with not even a symbolic move of any kind to accompany it. There's a word for this kind of thing. It's called hypocrisy.
The president seemed to know he wasn't exactly calling for democratic revolution in the Mideast. His underwhelming speech—touted before the trip as a high point—was a kind of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too address. So as not to upset the emirs and other Arab royalty too much, Bush told them they can probably keep their various monarchies even if they do democratize. He compared his vision for bringing democratic governance to the Arab world to what the United States did in Asia after World War II, beginning with occupied Japan. "The results are now in," he said. "Today the people of Japan have both a working democracy and a hereditary emperor." (Never mind that Akihito has no power.) When Steve Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, was asked what the emirs' response was to the president's "freedom agenda," he responded with an image as underwhelming as the president's speech. "Heads nod. Heads nod," Hadley said. This was true: a number of audience members in Abu Dhabi were nodding off as Bush spoke.
But the picture is far more pathological than you think, especially here in Saudi Arabia. We need to have an honest discussion about the nature of this strange state, which contains as much as 20 percent of the world's oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has always been a nation run by a family, the vast network of Saud princes who operate in a manner more reminiscent of the Sopranos than a modern, relatively transparent government, says a former senior CIA and FBI official with long experience in the country. The Saud family's legitimacy is built not on law but on an extremist brand of Islam, Wahhabism, in which Osama bin Laden was schooled, much as Tony Soprano's power is based on violence. (Remember when people used to talk about forcing the Saudis to change their radical Islamist views after 9/11? Didn't happen. Instead we invaded somewhat secular Iraq—at least it was next door to the real problem—and found ourselves preoccupied.) Imagine if Tony S. ran much of the world's oil supply and used the vast profits to fund more Bada-Bing fronts for organized crime all over the world? Don't you think governments would band together to stop it? Well, that's not unlike what's happening today, with Saudi Arabia's financing of anti-Western sentiment—but no one's doing anything about it, starting with George Bush. Simply because it's the Saudi government. Our "friends."
Clearly King Abdullah and other senior members of his government are not unfriendly to Washington. But many other Saudis are. This is what some experts have called petro-Islam. The Saudis have used their vast profits to fund not Bada-Bing clubs but Wahhabist mosques around the world, even in the United States. Wahhabists—or Salafists, as members of the broader movement are called—believe in a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and a pure, self-contained Islamic state. Many also embrace the idea that integration into the West—or American society—is profane. This never represented mainstream Islam. In fact, the creator of Wahhabism, the 18th-century thinker Mohammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, was notorious among Muslims of his time for being something of an extremist himself. He vandalized shrines, and he was denounced by many Islamic theologians for his "doctrinal mediocrity and illegitimacy," as the scholar Abdelwahab Meddeb notes in "Islam and Its Discontents." The upshot is that Western consumers are paying hundreds of billions of dollars in oil profits to help educate and fund their own potential murderers.
None of this would have happened had it not been for the petro-dollar. The Saudis would have stayed obscure Bedouins and Wahhabism little more than a cult. But because of their oil wealth, the Saudis were able to spread Wahhabism's seed worldwide, making it far more mainstream than it would have been otherwise. As one Egyptian intellectual described it me, "It's as if Jimmy Swaggart had come into hundreds of billions of dollars and taken over most of Christianity."
Saudi Arabia was always the problem, and not just because 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. It is because of the rise of petro-Islam in this troubled land. And as oil climbs in value, and research lags on alternative energy sources, this pathological family concern known as Saudi Arabia only grows. Even now no one is really doing anything about this critical problem. Bush was right when he said in his second inaugural address, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." If only he had taken himself seriously on this trip. Perhaps next time he ought to insist on seeing a few dissidents.


Benazir: The legend
M Waqar USA
I was shocked, disheartened and saddened by awful news of Benazir Bhutto’s murder and with her of many others. Benazir wanted freedom for her country and democracy, freedom to choose the leader of Jinnah’ s Pakistan. Democracy is the important part of freedom and letting the people to choose their leader, whom they want to represent them. Ms Bhutto’s murder shows that she was close to cutting the ties that the terrorist held against nation wanting democracy and freedom of its people. The murder of this great lady shows how coward these terrorists really are. They run and hide like dogs with their tails between their legs. Hide in rat holes and hide their faces, In the name of Allah terrorists do terrible things that Allah is actually against. The Quran is the word of the Lord of the Worlds, which Allah revealed to His Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), to bring mankind forth from darkness into light.” I think Ms Bhutto was doing that herself, bringing people out of the darkness into the light of a free world where basic needs should be met, plenty of food, warm shelter and clean water to drink. She was an extraordinary lady. We need to salute the extraordinary courage, determination and fortitude exhibited by Benazir Bhutto in the face of overwhelming odds. Human beings of lesser endowments would have long since taken to safer avenues. She faced all the tribulations following her father’s hanging with determination, and had only Pakistan’s interest on her mind. Benazir Bhutto’s tragic assassination has brutally highlighted the growing influence of inhuman terrorists in Pakistan. Let us be clear that these extremists are a clear and present danger to not just Pakistan, but the whole world. These cowards will be judged not just in the afterlife, but also in this world. While Ms Bhutto will live on in the hearts and minds of millions, these terrorists will be cursed forever. Her death is a sad indicator of how dangerous it has become in this country to be a liberal and a moderate. Religious extremism that leads to such blatant violence. She was killed by fierce, brutal, cruel ,ignorant person. These barbaric practices of Al-qaeda are unacceptable in civilized world. She was a brave woman, who did not hide in rat holes like Osama, mullah omar and his cronies, she had courage and like her father was not afraid of death. Benazir Bhutto was a sign of hope not only for the country but also for the women who saw in her a saviour. If we look at paki history, non of paki leaders enjoyed respect, the ones who were real, sincere, people of principles. There are stories about the death of Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Z A Bhutto and now his daughter, Benazir murdered in cold blood, her entire family wiped out by two generals. The story of Bhutto family can be compared to Kennedys of America and Gandhis of India. Its a conspiracy against Bhutto family. Benazir was champion of progressive politics. None of paki politicians can match her and Z A Bhutto charisma, talent and quality of leadership. Taliban, the Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have achieved their target to Talibanise Pakistan by killing Benazir. Today in Pakistan, educated, moderate class is ignoring this danger, leaders of progressive parties are just watching events unfolding from their drawing rooms, they even don’t have courage to say something, they are afraid of death, the Death Benazir welcomed. She was a legend. She could stay in London, New York and Dubai, she gained more respect and honour on foreign soils, she was not a fashion show model, movie star, singer but was a woman, who cared about her country, who knew the miseries of her people, she knew people in her country have no rights, education, freedom. She was invited to deliver lectures in USA and Europe, was not that an honour for Pakistan? During my 21 year stay in USA ,I never seen anyone so disgusted and sad about the murder of Benazir. New York is a place where you can meet anyone from any part of the world, from asia to Africa to Europe, its amazing that people in USA were glued to tv news and watching coverage of this horrible crime committed by Musharraf security agencies through talibans and al-qeada. If anyone finds out, you are from Pakistan, there first question is why this happened? why they killed Benazir? Does women have no rights in Pakistan? is it OK to kill women in Pakistan? that’s what Islam teach? She was killed because muslims don’t like women in power? These are the questions Pakistanis are trying to answer all over the world in free societies. Does anyone not believe that Musharraf’s security forces are secretly supporting al-Qaeda in Pakistan? Does anyone not believe that Musharraf wanted Bhutto dead, and saw her as a threat to his own dictatorship? Bhutto symbolizes the freedom that every woman in the Islamic World strives to achieve, a freedom from male dominated Talibanistic tyrants like Musharraf who is trying to play both sides of the fence to preserve his own dictatorship. It's a coward and a barbarian who stalks and kills someone who thinks differently. It is not a brave martyr, but a coward. Musharraf did not conduct investigations of last attempt on her life in Karachi. Benazir openly said that Ch. Wajahat Hussain and Ch. Pervez Elhi and intelligence agency were behind her assassination attempt. Musharraf refused to accept her demand of bringing investigators from US. Musharraf knows killers, Ijazul-Haq and his Al-qeada buddies are mastermind of this murder. International news agencies are reporting that SSG Commandos killed PPP Chief Benazir Bhutto, What was the crime of Bhutto family??? Z A BHUTTO’s crime was to make Pakistan a nuclear power, to unite muslim world, what was the crime of Benazir ??? The attack at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. Al-qeada is a ‘’B ’’ team of Musharraf, he can’t be trusted, that’s the reason I wrote an article published in Frontier Post earlier this year (Deal or No Deal), I knew Benazir was trapped by generals. This general is taking billions of dollars from USA and is also negotiating and shaking hands with Taliban. Who knows if Osama and his cronies are hiding somewhere. Lets look at this murder from another point of view, as we know Mush-regime is getting billions of dollars from USA to fight against Al-qeada, we know where that money is going and this regime was afraid of that if Benazir gets power she might disclose to the world how Mush and his cronies used that money, to hide Mush regime crimes and Choudries of Punjab’s corruption. Benazir Bhutto was fearful for her life that she tried to hire British and American security experts to protect her, according to The Sunday Telegraph. But the plans collapsed because Musharraf refused to allow the foreign contractors to operate in Pakistan, when there are terrorist threats, security paraphernalia prevents leaders from mixing with their followers. Pakistani authorities have pressured the medical personnel who tried to save Benazir Bhutto's life to remain silent about what happened in her final hour and have removed records of her treatment from the facility, so this clearly shows that Mush is involved in her murder, doctors who were at Bhutto's side at Rawalpindi General Hospital said they were under extreme pressure not to share details about the nature of the injuries that the opposition leader suffered in an attack here Dec. 27. Pindi is a city that serves as headquarters of the Pakistani military and if citizens and important public figures can be killed in that sensitive city then what that tells u???? Only a professional person can murder someone like this, trained by military. The truth is, Mush regime is not doing any investigation as it did not when she was attacked in October. Ms Bhutto was a brave leader who gave priority to meeting people at the cost of security risks, and paid a heavy price for this.
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Dated: January 02 , 2008 Wednesday 22 Zil Hajj 1428 A.H