Editorial: DAILY TIMES
National ‘mind damage’ by Taliban

The NWFP Senior Minister, Mr Bashir Ahmed Bilour, has revealed that 200 “completely brainwashed” children of ages 6 to 13 years have been recovered from Malakand, ready to act as suicide-bombers for the Taliban. Further details are quite unsettling: the children are so completely transformed by their trainers that they refuse to reintegrate into normal society and even threaten their parents with death because they are “non-believers”.

We know that children were increasingly being used by the Taliban for their terrorist attacks in recent times. The pattern even contained the message that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were finding it increasingly difficult to train grown-up individuals to do the job. We also know that a child from Karachi is being prosecuted for being a part of the plot that took the life of Ms Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in 2007. But new details about the use of suicide-bombing coming to light establish a pattern of employing children rather than men.

Our troops discovered suicide-factories in South Waziristan where children brought in from all over Pakistan were kept and “trained” by men who had become famous for their expertise at “converting” the boys in “half an hour”. A cleric from South Punjab was actually caught as he returned from South Waziristan after delivering the latest batch of child bombs to Baitullah Mehsud. This is the worst mind damage that the Taliban movement has done to Pakistan. It has nothing to do with Islam directly but Islam is certainly being misused as an instrument of brainwash.

The 200 child suicide-bombers now in army custody should be handled with great care. They have to be put through a debriefing with a psychologist who should grade them in accordance with the intensity of their alienation from society. They should not be let out into society after a “corrective” sermon from a cleric. That will not work, as shown again and again by men who suffered punishment in prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, and then went right back to practising terrorism once they were released.

Generally speaking, Pakistani children are ripe for the plucking. Poor and deprived, they are primed with religious instruction, as embodied in our syllabi, and succumb to Taliban trainers willingly because of the orthodox views inculcated in them by our school system. While the instruction in state-owned schools is completely benign, some of its elements are selectively employed by the trainers to fashion a suicide-bomber out of the boy. The idea of “shahadat” and the attainment of paradise are misapplied, and the Muslims that he is supposed to kill through his suicide are first apostatised into kafirs.

Unfortunately, a concordance between the orthodox clergy and the Taliban trainers helps the evil process. For instance, the condemnation of suicide-bombing through a collective fatwa issued by the ulema of Pakistan recognises the phenomenon of suicide-bombers as “fedayeen” and outlaws suicide-bombing only when it targets “innocent Muslims”. From this legal base, the boys are easily convinced that they are dying in the cause of Islam by killing those who have rendered themselves non-believers by their acts.

The national consensus against the Taliban, and effective military operations against them, have turned the tide of grown-up suicide bombers. The conduct of the state too has helped in this. For instance, Jamil and Khalique who tried to kill President Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in 2003 by ramming their explosive-laden car into his cavalcade, were Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives who once fought the covert war against India and were caught fighting against the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan. Thinking they would change their ways, the agencies let them off, which was a mistake.

Now, of course, the illusions of covert war have been more or less eliminated and the army is fighting against the jihadis that once were its extended front rank. This has changed the trend. The jihadis offer themselves less and less as suicide-bombers; and if they do, they have proved less and less reliable. The new trend is to get caught and start spilling the beans on their patrons, which is actually a measure of success of the army in its war against the Taliban. Ajmal Kasab had the option of suicide; he did not take it. And he has spilled a lot of beans.

The “mind damage” at the national level is being gradually healed as “intimidation” under the control of Taliban is less and less possible. But those who have been roped into becoming suicide-bombers are a special case. And if they are children they should be kept in quarantine and reintegrated into a society that they should view as benign.


An act stinking foul
This act of the ANP-led Frontier government stinks repulsively foul, as its arrest drama of TNSM’s Sufi Mohammad raises more questions than it answers. Too slim is the official version put out by Mian Iftikhar, the ANP man bossing over this provincial government’s information activity. Buy this would not even truckers parking their lorries in this ANP Goebbels’ truck adda, so riddled it is with holes. He says the Sufi was arrested as he was planning to destroy the restored peace in Malakand. But why was this old witch roaming free, in the first place? Wasn’t his act as satanic as his thuggish son-in law Fazlullah’s in pushing Malakand to the precipice, to pull the region back from where have cost so many precious lives, such a massive painful displacement of civilian populace and such a colossal human suffering? So why had he been left at large, and that too, yet more intriguingly, to live as a free man in the very provincial metropolis of Peshawar under the very noses of Frontier’s top official hierarchy and its ANP-led political leadership? What kind of an underground could it be that Iftikhar talks of the old hag having slipped into to evade arrest? And when was a hunt launched, by the way, to catch him when Iftikhar himself contradictorily asserts that because of the provincial administration’s preoccupation with relief of the IDPs had “restrained us from his arrest”? Even his very contention of preoccupation with the IDPs is all fraught. The ANP-led administration, at best, showed itself an enumerator of the displaced, and that too of doubtful credentials. Not as a relief provider. On this score, it drew wholesale flak from all around for its unfeeling unconcern for the displaced. In fact, the Punjab government earned much appreciation for relief effort, not a patch which could this ANP-dominated administration muster, so dismal was its performance on this humanitarian front. It badly let down its own people who were cared for more by others. So Iftikhar has trotted out all excuses for not nabbing Sufi earlier, none of which can hold. His versions’ inconvincibility brings to the fore more intriguingly as to where and why was this devilish character ensconced and at whose behest. And this wears on a sinisterly mysterious airs, given the fact that ANP bigwigs were such staunch admirers of this demonstrably wicked man. So much so, they acted his stout apologists when he blurted out unacceptable rebellious refrains and struck patently anti-state postures. Intrinsically innocent and simple man they said he was when the old trickster has his track record replete with abominable wickedness. Yet the ANP bigwigs projected him as a man of peace and partner of peace. And when the people cried they were propping up a Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in-the-making, they denounced the critics as the enemies of peace and of the people of Swat. And if they are now decrying him, there has to be a method to their madness. But if the Islamabad security establishment keeps sitting idly by, it will simply only be further shooting itself in the foot. For pretty lone, it has been maligned for allegedly having soft corner for Swati extremists, by the ANP hierarchy, most of all. This establishment, for its own credibility, has to bust this contrivance once and for all. It must get actively involved in investigating this cunning Sufi, at least to hold him to account for the murder of its four personnel, including an army captain, at his orders. People want to know the truth about him. But this truth will surely not be told from Peshawar; it will have to be found out by Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Editorial: What to do with Sufi Muhammad?

Daily Times
The chief of the banned Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Muhammad, has been picked up from a Peshawar house by the “security agencies” and taken to an unknown place. He was arrested along with his two sons. He lost one son during the Swat operation by the Pakistan Army and has one youngest son still living in Peshawar. His son-in-law, Fazlullah, is on the run with the Pakistan Army in hot pursuit, with the blood of hundreds of innocent people on his hands, swearing that he will battle on till the “sharia” of Sufi Muhammad is enforced.

The Sufi disappeared when things got rough in Lower Dir to which he had escaped, and he sensed that his sainthood would not save him if he remained in the midst of terrorists. The safest place for him was finally Peshawar, a city not long ago dominated by the Taliban and their disreputable allies among the criminal gangs. The NWFP government seemed unready to analyse what his presence in the city would finally lead to, in a way showing itself willing to share power with him in time to come.

During the days when his whereabouts were unknown — he was probably somewhere in Punjab — the NWFP government was not very perturbed, happy as long as he did not show up somewhere uncomfortably near. It must have known that the Sufi had lodged himself in Peshawar — some sources say he was in the city for the past three weeks — but it pretended that he was not important enough anymore to bother anyone. Now that it has owned up his arrest, it should revamp its views on what Sufi Muhammad stands for and how dangerous he could be.

Letting the saintly-looking agents of chaos go is a pattern of state behaviour. One can hardly forget the example of the cleric of Lal Masjid because the national view, as projected by the media unfortunately, is overwhelmingly in his favour. But popularity should not divert the state from making a cold-blooded assessment of what such people mean to state security. Sufi Muhammad’s case is relevant because his strategy in Swat unfolded in the glare of media publicity and finally created a national consensus against the Taliban when he failed to make it stick.

Sufi Muhammad was a known quantity because of his anarchic adventures in the 1990s but was overlooked because everyone and his uncle was for implementing, on trust, his qazi-based sharia in Malakand, including the people of the region living under the terror of his son-in-law’s routine intimidatory beheadings. Under the agreement signed with the NWFP government, he claimed he would also appoint the qazis of his choice while pretending that he could persuade his son-in-law to stop killing innocent people. But when the crunch came, he denounced the Pakistani Constitution and disclosed his true colours.

By denouncing the Supreme Court of Pakistan and democracy as a system of kufr, Sufi Muhammad cut himself off from the powerful Deobandi consensus too, proving once again that the Deobandis obeyed the Taliban not vice versa. It recalled Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid in 2007 when he began to reject his Deobandi backers because of what he claimed was their passivity in the face of the challenge to enforce sharia in Islamabad. Do we want to see Sufi Muhammad too winning like Maulana Aziz and making the Deobandi confederacy of madrassas do an about-turn? Or should we bring charges against him based on his culpability in the loss of life and property in Malakand?

Pakistan has been brought back from the brink of state-failure by the national consensus that developed against the Taliban in the wake of Sufi Muhammad’s misdeeds. The military operation is succeeding on all fronts and terrorists are now being caught before they can carry out their attacks. We simply cannot afford to roll back these achievements and allow Sufi Muhammad to restart his campaign from Peshawar where, before long, he would have been surrounded by his armed devotees, rendering his house a no-go area for the police. Taking him out of the DI Khan jail and bestowing on him a status he never deserved has let the country down. That mistake should not be made again.

Stop targeting China’s political system

No matter how differently Western media outlets reported the March 14 incident in Tibet last year and the recent riots in Urumqi, their comments shared the same judgment toward the Chinese government. China’s political system was often the single target attacked quickly and easily.“One party dictatorship,” “China’s Communist leadership” and “the continued rule of the Communist party” are terms the Western media liked to use while underreporting the severity of the riots and the brutal attacks on innocent people.This stereotypical thinking shows Western media outlets always feel the political system of their particular country is absolutely superior to China’s.Once something bad happens in China, they simply blame China’s political system. In their eyes, it is inevitable for such a “backward and flawed” political system to have problems. With no change in the system, China and its government can never solve these problems.However, every country is distinct and complex. There must be many factors that lead to the occurrence of social and ethnic problems, instead of just one. It is unwise and irresponsible to blame everything on China’s political system.For example, the imbalance of development and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor are universal problems in China’s transition from planned economy to market economy. This problem becomes entangled with ethnic issues in areas where ethnic minorities live.As a result, many Western media outlets criticize China’s problems with its policy toward ethnic minority groups and further attack China’s political system. But these problems have nothing to do with the system.Actually, China’s current political system, in the past decades, has made remarkable achievements in developing the economy, improving the well-being of the Chinese people of all 56 ethnic groups, and promoting the country’s role in the international community. China’s governmental system was the practical choice of the Chinese people and revolutionaries after a long search and struggle.History and reality have proved it to be the right choice, one in keeping with China’s characteristics.The Western media’s prejudice toward and ignorance of China’s political system’s achievements stem from deep-rooted distrust of the system’s capability to survive and to succeed.
Any country, including Western countries, cannot be free of social and ethnic problems in its development. Serious social problems such as racial issues and the high rate of crime are rife in the US and other Western countries.In recent years, social and racial unrests of various scales happened in Western countries such as the US, France and Germany.If Chinese media simply attribute all this to the US’ political system, it will be “nonsense” to Western media and do nothing good to build mutual understanding between the two countries and the two peoples.It is time for the Western media to take an objective approach toward understanding and explaining China’s problems and changes, one which is less simplistic and more open-minded.
Only in this way can they tell the truth and achieve mutual trust.


Consider this: Shakespeare’s tragic romance Romeo Juliet is on. The auditorium of Peshawar University is the venue, and the university’s English literary society is the organiser. All of a sudden, during one of the high points of the play, an emotional Romeo takes Juliet in arms and hugs her. Only a few conservatives among the audience wink in disapproval, while the rest rise in applause for the spontaneity of the scene, among them “Juliet’s” father as well (eyewitness account by a university veteran).

This was in early 1965.

Fast forward to 2002-2007: (Peshawar reels under the bigots of the opportunistic Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal)
Females cannot appear in billboards. No picture or female depiction in public places. Nishtar Hall, which used to host stage plays and musical concerts, is shut down and famed singers like Gulzar Alam are either in hiding or lie low in profile or leave the city for fear of religious zealots.
Whether the decline in Peshawar, or Malakand’s siege by Taliban zealots, the MMA also carries a great part of the responsibility and owes an apology to the Frontier’s people. It was the MMA that looked the other way and kept silent as Mangal Bagh, Mufti Munir Shakir, Haji Naamdar, and Maulana Fazlullah established their fiefdoms around Peshawar and Swat.
And now comes July 2009: “Baba, will we be able to play in the street and buy ice cream from the market without fear,” one of my nephews asks his father, when told the family is moving to Oman for a new posting.
The fears that Dr Mazhar saw in the eyes of his son and the uncertainty that accompanied the query on ice cream epitomised the socio-political decline that the city has undergone in the past three decades, beginning with the Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan.
The city has virtually turned into a microcosm of the consequences of a disastrous policy pursued by the ruling establishment – personified first by Gen Ziaul Haq and then Gen Pervez Musharraf, equally assisted by the mutual animosity of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in the 1990s.
Foreign airlines have suspended to and from the city. Ever more bunkers and road blocks are appearing on vital link roads. The murders of a USAID worker in March and a UNHCR worker on July 16 have more volatility to the socio-political environment, thus creating an air of fear. That most of the markets have lost their teeming crowds is also a direct consequence of the Peshawarites today live in fear and uncertainty, unnerved by a multitude of factors.
Firstly, the string of abductions – mostly of influential and wealthy people – haunts almost every resident of this city that has seen a dramatic surge in criminal activities. Professional criminal gangs, which in many cases enjoy political patronage, operate all around the city, often taking cover of various Taliban groups. The latest surge actually began with the plunder and torching of NATO-cargo parked at various terminals in the periphery of the city in December 2008.
Those attacks and abductions – close to 150 in the first four months of this year – injected fear and uncertainty into the hearts and minds of the locals.
Secondly, an extremely corrupt and arduous judicial system compounded by a thoroughly dishonest police has added to the plight of the hapless people, who every now and then hear of news of justice being dispensed by Mangal Bagh Afridi’s Islamic courts.
Afridi’s associates simply send for people (even living in the city) against whom affectees lodge complaints and seek justice for the simple reason that the existing system doesn’t provide justice to the majority of Pakistanis.
The courts are suffering from insufficient staff, resulting in high pendency which again is complicated by the endemic corruption within a system which at times doesn’t provide justice even to very senior government officials.
Thirdly, the bunkered leadership of the coalition comprising the ANP and the PPP has done little to assuage people’s fears or address fundamental issues of governance. Roads in the city remain potholed, utility services inefficient, and long power outages continue to fuel people’s frustrations. Adding to the outrage are the news and rumours of corruption within the ruling coalition – as valid a perception as was during the MMA government. And certain phrases, attributed to people in the seat of power by word of mouth, are visible on rickshaws or other means of public transport. One of them, for instance, says, “Don’t talk of Easy Load, it annoys baba”. This relates to an important person in the province, who is rumoured to be involved in all lucrative deals and appointments.
Fourthly, the absence of respect for the rule of law among politicians and the bureaucrats as well as the division of administrative powers – governor, chief minister, the corps commander, intelligence outfits – has resulted in insensitivity even to public issues of urgent importance.
Despite being represented in the local government, the provincial assembly and parliament, most people feel disenfranchised just because the contact between the voters and their leaders is minimal. Once voted into power, most MPs launch themselves into the pursuit of lucrative political and financial business. The MMA government did the same. The result; Peshawar, my city, today lives in fear, frustration with the socio-economic structures crumbling in the face of rising crime and the invisible nexus that exists between the world of politics and crime – all under the cover of insurgency.

Jihad and the state

Dawn Editorial
Twice this week President Zardari has spoken about the root of Pakistan’s problems with religious extremism and militancy. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the president said that the military’s erstwhile ‘strategic assets’ were the ones against whom military operations were now required. And in a meeting with retired senior bureaucrats in Islamabad on Tuesday, Mr Zardari was reported in this paper to have said that ‘militants and extremists had been deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives’.

The president is right, and we would add the policy was wrong then and it is wrong now. It cannot be any other way. How is it possible to rationally explain to the people of Pakistan that the heroes of yesteryear are the arch-enemies of today? The militants’ religious justifications remain the same; what’s changed is that the militants were fighting the state’s ‘enemies’ yesterday but have turned their guns on the state and its allies today.

Perhaps more than anything else impeding the defeat of the militants today is the inability of the security establishment to revisit the strategic choices it made in the past and hold up its hand and admit candidly that grave mistakes were made. Should we have ever used jihadi proxies to fight the Russians in Afghanistan? Should we have ever supported the idea of armed jihad in Kashmir? Should we have ever sought to retain our influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban? If any of those choices ever made sense, then we should have no complaints about the rise of Talibanisation in Pakistan because we created the climate and opportunity for them to run amok.

Blaming the US’s invasion of Afghanistan is no good — the first and foremost responsibility of the state is to ensure the security of Pakistan, and allowing an internal threat to create a space for itself is anathema to that idea. Whatever the catalyst, the fact remains that it was because a jihadi network was allowed to flourish inside the country that we were left exposed to its eventual wrath against us.

The fault is of course not ours alone. The US, obsessed with the Soviet enemy, happily colluded in the creation of Muslim warriors. Our Middle Eastern and Gulf allies were happy to create a Sunni army to counter the ‘threat’ from post-revolution Shia Iran. But, at the end of the day, it was Pakistani soil on which they were primarily nurtured. Because they were raised in our midst we should have always been wary of the extreme blowback we are now confronted with.

India's unwise military moves


In the last few days, India has dispatched roughly 60,000 troops to its border with China, the scene of enduring territorial disputes between the two countries.

J.J. Singh, the Indian governor of the controversial area, said the move was intended to "meet future security challenges" from China. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed, despite cooperative India-China relations, his government would make no concessions to China on territorial disputes.

The tough posture Singh's new government has taken may win some applause among India's domestic nationalists. But it is dangerous if it is based on a false anticipation that China will cave in.

India has long held contradictory views on China. Another big Asian country, India is frustrated that China's rise has captured much of the world's attention. Proud of its "advanced political system," India feels superior to China. However, it faces a disappointing domestic situation which is unstable compared with China's.

India likes to brag about its sustainable development, but worries that it is being left behind by China. China is seen in India as both a potential threat and a competitor to surpass.

But India can't actually compete with China in a number of areas, like international influence, overall national power and economic scale. India apparently has not yet realized this.

Indian politicians these days seem to think their country would be doing China a huge favor simply by not joining the "ring around China" established by the US and Japan.
India's growing power would have a significant impact on the balance of this quation, which has led India to think that fear and gratitude for its restraint will cause China to defer to it on territorial disputes.

But this is wishful thinking, as China won't make any compromises in its border disputes with India. And while China wishes to coexist peacefully with India, this desire isn't born out of fear.

India's current course can only lead to a rivalry between the two countries. India needs

to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China. It should also be asking itself why it hasn't forged the stable and friendly relationship with China that China enjoys with many of India's neighbors, like Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Any aggressive moves will certainly not aid the development of good relations with China. India should examine its attitude and preconceptions; it will need to adjust if it hopes to cooperate with China and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.