Friday, December 27, 2013

Benazir Bhutto Gave Birth to the Taliban Movement

It has been six years since the Pakistan People's Party leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto left us. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007 after addressing an election rally at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.  It is believed that her assassination was ordered by Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani wing of the Taliban called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mehsud was later killed in a US drone strike in 2009. His successor Hakimullah Mensud unleashed a reign of terror in Pakistan starting in 2009 and met the same fate earlier this year. The TTP is an offshoot of the Taliban movement that became a well-organized force beginning in 1993 during Ms Bhutto's second term as prime minister.

Few Pakistanis know that the Taliban movement was midwifed by Benazir Bhutto and her right-hand man and interior minister Naseerullah Babar during her term in office in 1993-1996. Benazir is often referred to as the Mother of the Taliban because of her role in giving birth to the Taliban movement. Once born and nurtured by Benazir and Babar, the Taliban quickly became a force to be reckoned with. The Taliban under Mulla Omar's leadership defeated the Afghan Mujahedeen who had fought against the Soviets and quickly took control of much of Afghanistan in just a few years. The Taliban became so confident that they resisted Pakistan's pressure and refused to agree to the Durand Line as international Pak-Afghan border when they were in power in Kabul in 1990s.

Benzair Bhutto's contribution to the birth and growth of the Taliban movement has been described in significant detail by Ahmed Rashid in his highly trusted and best-selling book "The Taliban: Islam, Oil and The New Great Game in Central Asia". Rashid is considered an authority on the Taliban movement. On page 90 of the book, the author explains at some length how Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F), joined the Pakistan Peoples Party coalition led by Benazir and used the opportunity to set up hundreds of madrassahs along the Afghan-Pakistan border, including Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, the mother of all the Pakistani madrassahs that produced the Taliban, led by Maulana Sami-ul Haq. Mullah Omar, the Taliban Chief, graduated from Madrassa Haqqania before starting his movement. Tens of thousands of others came out of Haqqania and other madrassas to swell the ranks of the Afghan Taliban in 1990s.

Before Benazir decided to help create the Taliban, the Pakistani establishment (Army and ISI) favored the Afghan Mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was aligned with the Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's main rival Islamic political party in Pakistan. Maulana Maudoodi, the founder of  Jamaat-e-Islami was considered a Kafir by many of Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's fellow Deobandis. Both Maulana Fazal and Benazir intensely disliked the Jamat-e-Islami leadership. Jamat-e-Islami had supported late Gen Zia ul Haq who executed Benazir's father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. Maulana Fazlur Rehman saw this as an opportunity to edge out Jamat-e-Islami by aligning himself with Benazir Bhutto to create and nurture the Taliban who opposed Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. Here's how Rashid describes Maulana Fazal's role in it:

"After the 1992 capture of Kabul by the Mujaheddin, the ISI continued to ignore the  (Maulana Fazal's) JUI's growing influence over the southern Pashtuns. The JUI was politically isolated at home, remaining in the opposition to the first Benazir Bhutto government (1988-90) and the first Nawaz Sharif government (1990-93). However in 1993 elections the JUI allied itself with the winning Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto, thus becoming a part of the ruling coalition. The JUI's access to the corridors of power for the first time allowed it to establish close links with the army, the ISI and the Interior Ministry under Naseerullah Babar. Babar was in search of a new Pashtun group which could revive the Pashtun fortunes in Afghanistan and give access to Pakistani trade with Central Asia through southern Afghanistan and the JUI offered him that opportunity. The JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was made Chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, a position that enabled him to have influence on foreign policy for the first time. He was to use his position to visit Washington and European capitals to lobby for the Taliban and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to enlist their financial support."

Ahmad Rashid is not alone in his assessment of Benazir Bhutto's critical role in creating the Taliban. In "Ghost Wars", author Steve Coll says "Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction (Taliban)."

Najam Sethi also agrees with it. In a 1995 piece he wrote on the situation in southern Afghanistan, Sethi dismissed denials by Bhutto's government of their involvement in building up the Taliban movement. Sethi wrote:

"The Taliban were nudged into action by General Babar last year when a Pakistani convoy to Turkmenistan was waylaid by rogue Mujahideen commanders in Kandahar. Since then, hundreds of “taliban” from north western Pakistan have made their way to Maulvi Mohammad Umar’s camps in Kandahar and beyond. How many among these tribals are actual Afghan “taliban” and how many are operating under their cover, we don’t know. But it would be naive to think that General Babar has withdrawn his “hand” from Taliban affairs. Nor can Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s “interest” in Taliban matters be fortuitous. Indeed, the maulana’s determination to play a role in the forthcoming Kabul negotiations would suggest that he has the blessings of Islamabad."

In a 2002 interview, Benazir Bhutto herself acknowledged her key role in creating the Taliban. She said, "Once I gave the go-ahead that they (Taliban) should get the money, I don't know how much money they were ultimately given ... I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche." Obviously, Benazir Bhutto could not have pulled it off on her own. She had to have the cooperation of  Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence service to do it. It was arranged by her interior minister Naseerullah Khan Babar, a retired general. But the fact remains that it was her policy that shifted Pakistan's support away from the Afghan Mujahedeen (led by Gulbudin Hekmatyar who fought the Soviets) to the Taliban (led by Mullah Omar) as Pakistan's proxies in Afghanistan.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, it's now easy to see in hindsight that Benazir Bhutto's alliance with Maulana Fazlur Rehman's JUI and their joint policy of creating and nurturing the Taliban was fatal not only to herself but also to hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis. It was a tragic policy error for which Pakistanis are continuing to pay a very high price. It seems that she learned nothing from the mistakes of her father who gave in to the demands of the religious right in 1970s only to be removed from power and hanged by them.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Ghost Wars By Steve Coll

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban By Ahmed Rashid

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 


Anonymous said...

If Machiavelli was alive today he would have been so proud.Now that's realpolitik right here. She reminds me of Golda Meir, how she and the Israeli establishment became overconfident due to six days war,confident that they can handle all their arab neighbours any given day, until yom kipur way. Same way Bhutto thought since pakistan play a role in kicking back soviet union it has the capacity to play kingmaker again. Heh its seems nations born in 1947 suffer from similar leadership problems, among other things.

Atiq said...

Najam Sethi agrees with your analysis..Zia and Nawaz favored Hikmatyar. BB's Babar cuddled from 1995:

...The evidence, however, would seem to suggest a more complex situation. The Taliban were nudged into action by General Babar last year when a Pakistani convoy to Turkmenistan was waylaid by rogue Mujahideen commanders in Kandahar. Since then, hundreds of “taliban” from north western Pakistan have made their way to Maulvi Mohammad Umar’s camps in Kandahar and beyond. How many among these tribals are actual Afghan “taliban” and how many are operating under their cover, we don’t know. But it would be naive to think that General Babar has withdrawn his “hand” from Taliban affairs. Nor can Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s “interest” in Taliban matters be fortuitous. Indeed, the maulana’s determination to play a role in the forthcoming Kabul negotiations would suggest that he has the blessings of Islamabad.

Mr Mistiri’s plans, too, have benefitted from the Taliban’s northward march to Kabul. By sending Mr Hekmatyar packing from Charasiab, the Taliban have given the UN leverage to enter into more “realistic” power-sharing negotiations with the stubborn Hizbe Islami. The same sort of fate awaits the Hizbe Wahdat, which finds itself squeezed between the forces of the Taliban and President Rabbani in south-west Kabul. It is therefore no coincidence that Mr Rabbani’s forces have opened their heavy guns on the Hizbe Wahdat on the eve of the transfer of power on March 21st in order to make the Shias more responsive to “reason”.

President Rabbani has also benefited from the rise of the Taliban. He was able to seek a postponement of the transfer of power last month by arguing that the Taliban should also participate in power-sharing. This way Mr Rabbani hopes to ensure that the share of the Royalists and the extremists in any future government will be diluted in his favour. That the Taliban are no longer insisting upon Mr Rabbani’s withdrawal from Kabul as a precondition to the transfer of power implies some sort of implicit “understanding” between these two forces.

That said, it is clear that the Taliban are increasingly beginning to acquire independence from outside forces and are in the process of formulating a political agenda of their own. Whether this eventually meets with the approval of President Rabbani, the UN and Pakistan remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, then we may expect more trouble ahead.

The Taliban are a Pushtun force largely derived from southern Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders also share the same Islamic philosophy as the Sunni Deobandis. In a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian country like Afghanistan, this doesn’t auger well. The predominant Tajiks and Uzbeks of northern Afghanistan are unlikely to allow the Taliban to impose their hegemony on Afghanistan. There are thus bound to be conflicting passions ahead.

More ominously, we need to pause and consider the potential “demonstration” effect of the Taliban on Pakistan. Many of the Deobandi madrassas which have supplied a chunk of the Taliban force are based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province where their students have been ideologically “trained” by Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI which still doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the birth of Pakistan. The JUI, in turn, is the party which gave birth to the extremist Deobandi organisation, the Sipah i Sahaba, which has wrought sectarian havoc in the Punjab. The “success” of the Taliban in Afghanistan, therefore, may lead to the dominance of the Deobandi militant school of thought in Pakistan. This development is likely to be more virulent for Pakistan’s body politic than an earlier aberration: Pakistan’s previous support of Mr Hekmatyar during the Zia ul Haq and Nawaz Sharif years has led to the strengthening of the Jamaat i Islami in the country..

Oostur said...

This was ridiculous exaggeration and engagement in hyperbole.
Certainly, did not expect it from Riaz.
Then again, this is Fox era.

Riaz Haq said...

Oostur: "This was ridiculous exaggeration and engagement in hyperbole.
Certainly, did not expect it from Riaz.
Then again, this is Fox era."

I know it challenges your pre-conceived notions. It's hard to accept it in spite of the evidence

Siraj said...

nearly all books on Taliban starts with BB and Gen nasseer ula babar s name.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report o the death of Naseerullah Babar:

Major-General (retd) Naseerullah Babar, who was known for his role in the operation against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and widely seen as the brains behind the Taliban in Afghanistan, passed away on January 10 in Peshawar.
He reportedly had an attack of paralysis on Sunday and was admitted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar, where he died early on Monday. He was buried in his ancestral graveyard in Pirpai, Nowshera, on Monday afternoon. His funeral was attended by many prominent political and government functionaries.
He was 82 and is survived by his wife and daughter.
Born in 1928, Babar served in the Pakistan Army from 1948 to 1974 and joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the 1970s. He also served as inspector general of the Frontier Corps, as well as governor of the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) from 1975 to 1977.
He was considered to be extremely close to the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and served as interior minister during her second tenure. It was at this time that the government decided to launch an operation against the MQM, one that saw the streets of Karachi turn into a battlefield.
“Regardless of how grave the situation was, he would remain cool and unfazed. Even during the operation he would go out on the streets and visit affected areas himself,” one journalist recalled. “Benazir Bhutto treated him with a lot of respect and trusted him completely. She would always address him as Babar Sahib,” he said.
Senior PPP leader Taj Haider said Babar was “very brave and had a great deal of integrity.” In the years following the dismissal of Benazir’s second government, Babar remained close to the PPP leader. “He was very perturbed about her security when she returned in 2007,” Haider recalled.
Babar’s role in propping up and supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan was also pivotal. He made no bones about the fact that he was the father of the Taliban and commanded respect within the Taliban leadership. However, the sources say, Babar looked at Taliban as a ‘strategic and political ally’, not an organisation he was ideologically connected to, and believed a Taliban government could help Pakistan strategically.
Babar’s connection with Afghanistan spanned several decades. Several books, including Steve Coll’s Ghost Warsand Ahmed Rashid’s Descent into Chaos, mention that Babar trained Afghan leaders such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmed Shah Massoud in the 1970s to launch a guerrilla movement.
In his twilight years, Babar distanced himself from the PPP over the issue of the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance – of which he was a bitter critic – choosing to leave the party and formally end his political career.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Toronto Star piece on Benazir Bhutto's contribution to the creation of the Taliban:

In 1991, Pakistan's intelligence services stashed a massive cache of assault rifles and ammunition at a secret weapons dump in Spin Boldak, rushing armaments across the border as a (phony) deadline loomed for ending direct supply of their favoured combatants in Afghanistan's civil war.
Seventeen tunnels beneath the dump contained enough weaponry to arm thousands of soldiers.
Three years later, the Taliban broke the depot open and handed out rifles – still wrapped in plastic – to volunteers summoned from local madrassas, an incident documented in the authoritative book Ghost Wars.
Within 24 hours, the Taliban captured Kandahar, Mullah Omar took possession of the governor's headquarters, and the airport was seized – with its six MiG-21 fighter jets, four Mi-17 transport helicopters, fleet of tanks and armed personnel carriers.
The Taliban gutting of Afghanistan was on, nearly all opponents swept aside, Kabul falling with barely a whimper.
As Ghost Wars author Steve Coll so dryly put it: "Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction."
The late – twice – but no longer future prime minister of Pakistan was far, far from a stupid woman. The Taliban was a gamble she took, cunningly if not without considerable trepidation – and certainly at the behest of a powerful intelligence service, the ISI, she feared but had to accommodate, in the doomed hope of retaining office.
But make no mistake: The woman who is now being so widely mourned – assassinated last week, perhaps by the very elements she empowered more than a decade ago – was nurturing stepmother to terrorists incubated under her watch; the same Islamist fanatics she inveighed against during the election campaign that came to a screeching halt in the calamitous assault on her motorcade.
She was a brave woman, without question, but Bhutto was much to blame for the tinderbox that Pakistan became during her exile in Dubai and London – the toxic military entanglement with the Taliban – having helped to create a monster that not even the sponsoring ISI can control any longer.
For years, during her second tenure as PM, Bhutto lied brazenly to Washington about the extent to which Pakistan, with her approval, was covertly arming and funding the Taliban. As Bhutto admitted in a 2002 interview: "Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get the money, I don't know how much money they were ultimately given ... I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche."
For Bhutto, the objective was to keep a new Afghanistan yoked to Pakistan and out of India's orbit. (Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud was considered far too Delhi-friendly.) Out of this relationship would flow the riches of a Pakistan-controlled trucking industry circumventing Kabul – a modern Silk Road trade incorporating the markets of Central Asia – the never realized gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, and training camps, off the Pakistan reservation, for fighters deployed to Kashmir.
Bhutto had an economic and political vision for Pakistan, one that depended largely on creating a compliant client state next door. It all got away from her, as it did also from the ISI. Indeed.....

Suhail said...

If Benazir is the mother of Taliban, the father can be anyone of JUI(F), JUI(S), JI and others from shades of the Wahabi sect of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Benazir being a Shia, Taliban can thus be termed as the illegitimate offspring of Wahabi and Shia parentage.

Talpur said...

yes so its pretty much he said, she said. Not a slam dunk - etc

Riaz Haq said...

Talpur: "yes so its pretty much he said, she said. Not a slam dunk - etc"

No. In 2002, #BenazirBhutto said she approved #Taliban in 94. "Once I gave the was just carte blanche."

Talpur said...

sir, you make it sound like if she purposely "made" it-that is not correct analysis&no serious author endorses it

Riaz Haq said...

Talpur: "sir, you make it sound like if she purposely "made" it-that is not correct analysis&no serious author endorses it"

It was a tragic mistake by Benazir Bhutto. Regardless, Taliban remain part of her legacy that still bleeds Pakistan

Talpur said...

Taliban are a tragic mistake - there's no doubt of that.

Ras said...

Bilawal declares war against Taliban at start of political career - DAWN.COM

In a fiery speech to mark BB’s death anniversary, Bilawal Zardari indicated start of political careers of her heirs.

Ras said...

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari makes a fiery speech, declares war on Taliban, attacks "Buzdil Khan" for "morning Hakimullah Mehsud", says "tsunami can not be brought about by pouring water in four lotas"

Shams said...

Is there any proof that the TTP was a brainchild of Benazir's as Riaz noted in his "blah-g"

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: " Is there any proof that the TTP was a brainchild of Benazir's as Riaz noted in his "blah-g" "

TTP is an offshoot of the Taliban. If there were no Taliban movement which Benazir Bhutto created in 1993-1996, there would be no TTP today.

Ahmad Rashid is not alone in his assessment of Benazir Bhutto's critical role in creating the Taliban. In "Ghost Wars", author Steve Coll says "Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction (Taliban)." Najam Sethi also agrees with it. In a 2002 interview, Benazir Bhutto herself acknowledged her role in creating the Taliban. She said, "Once I gave the go-ahead that they (Taliban) should get the money, I don't know how much money they were ultimately given ... I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story on Haqqani's book "Magnificent Delusions":

ISLAMABAD: Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to US, has claimed in his latest book — Magnificent Delusions — that Benazir Bhutto during her visit to the United States in 1989 as the Prime Minister of Pakistan committed to Washington that Islamabad would not produce an atomic bomb.
Haqqani said the nuclear programme continued and the country was enriching uranium in violation of Pakistan’s commitment to the US, as the then tough opposition of Nawaz Sharif distracted Benazir Bhutto.

He wrote: “The United States had also learned that Pakistan was enriching uranium in violation of Zia’s promise of capping enrichment at 5 percent, and Bhutto was unable to promise that enrichment would be capped. Bush agreed to certify one last time that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons in return for Bhutto’s commitment that Pakistan would not produce an atomic bomb, but while the tough opposition that Sharif put up at home distracted her, Pakistan violated that commitment without her full knowledge.”
He added that Benazir Bhutto asserted later that she was told about Pakistan’s nuclear enrichment programme but not informed of the exact level of enrichment.
Haqqani said during her state visit to Washington in June 1989 Bhutto received a warm welcome at the White House. She also became the only Pakistani prime minister to be invited to address a joint session of the Congress.
“The US media recognised Bhutto’s “claim on American backing” on the ground of her adherence to democracy and moderation in the Islamic world. But in private talks with US officials she realised that the Americans did not think she was fully in control, and they could not offer her any help in asserting authority.”
Later the CIA analysts had concluded that Pakistan had taken the final step toward “possession” of a nuclear weapon by machining uranium metal into bomb cores.
Washington was certain that “Pakistan had crossed the line.” But the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the then Army Chief General Mirza Aslam Beg told the visiting Robert Gates that Pakistan’s nuclear capability had not advanced.
“Unless Pakistan melted down the bomb cores that it had produced, Gates warned, ‘Bush would not be able to issue the Pressler Amendment certification needed to permit the continued flow of military and economic aid.’ When the Pakistanis denied that they had ‘crossed the line,’ Gates commented, ‘If it waddles like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then maybe it is a duck.’”
Then Husain Haqqani in his book ruled: “The Pakistanis had lied to Gates on both issues he raised in Islamabad. Although Bhutto was the best disposed toward the United States among Pakistan’s major power players, she did not control the levers of power. The State Department and the CIA did not see any advantage in trying to secure the Pakistan military’s subordination to an elected civilian; instead, they effectively leaned in the military’s favour by directly discussing major issues with Beg and other generals, assuming that the military could deliver on key issues of US interest—Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, and security in South Asia.”

Riaz Haq said...

Testimony: Security in-charge blames Benazir #Bhutto for her own death. Opened sunroof against advice. #Pakistan #PPP

RAWALPINDI: The security in-charge of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said that had the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader not opened the sunroof of her bullet-proof vehicle to wave to party workers, her death on December 27, 2007 could have been avoided.

Former SSP Major (retd) Imtiaz Hussain gave the statement during cross-examination by the defence lawyer in the special anti-terrorism court in Adiala Jail hearing the ex-premier’s murder case.

His statement appears an about-turn from his previous stance when he had criticized the lack of security for Benazir at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi, the venue of her rally at the day of her assassination.

In his statement, the ex-SSP said that on the day of her assassination, Benazir left Zardari House in Islamabad at 1:30pm for Liaquat Bagh to address a political rally. “I was sitting in the front next to the driver [Javaidur Rehman] and the former premier was in the back seat with PPP leaders Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Nahid Khan.”

Senator Safdar Abbasi, security guard Khalid Shahanshah and Benazir’s personal servant Raziq were in the backmost seat, he added.

As soon as the vehicle left the rally venue and entered Liaquat Road party workers gathered around the car and started chanting slogans in party’s favour, explained Hussain.

He recalled that as Benazir opened the vehicle’s sunroof and began waving to party workers and supporters, gunshots were heard followed by a blast which injured her and she slumped into the seat.

The vehicle’s passengers told the driver to rush to a hospital which he did, but they were forced to change cars on Murree Road after the driver said the vehicle could no longer be driven owing to the blast impact. They then moved into PPP leader Sherry Rehman’s vehicle which was following them and rushed to General Hospital. He said doctors tried to tend to the former prime minister but could not save her.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s tale reflects clashing agendas of #America and #Pakistan in #Afghanistan

In early 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confronted the president of Pakistan with a disturbing piece of intelligence. The spy agency had learned that ­Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader who had become one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was being treated at a hospital in southern Pakistan.

The American spy chief even identified the facility — the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi — and said the CIA had “some raw intelligence on this” that would soon be shared with its Pakistani counterpart, according to diplomatic files that summarize the exchange.

U.S. intelligence officials now think that Omar probably died two years later, in 2013, and Afghan officials said this week that he succumbed while being treated for a serious illness in a Karachi hospital, just as those earlier intelligence reports had indicated.

[Mullah Omar, the one-eyed zealot who led the Taliban, has died]

The belated disclosure this week of Omar’s death has added to the legend of the ghostlike Taliban chief, a figure so elusive that it appears to have taken U.S. spy agencies two years to determine that one of their top targets after 9/11 was no longer alive.

But the emerging details of Omar’s death may also help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan.

Current and former U.S. ­officials said that despite intermittent intelligence on Omar’s whereabouts, there was never a concerted push to find him that remotely approached the scale of the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

At the same time, the one-eyed Taliban leader’s apparent ability to get medical treatment in the port city of Karachi has bolstered long-standing suspicions that Omar was being sheltered by Pakistan.

Milt Bearden, a former CIA operative in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that “it is beyond puzzling” that Omar’s death could go unconfirmed for so long, especially given the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of the United States.


Pakistan also repeatedly rebuffed requests by the CIA to send drones over Quetta, the city where Taliban leaders were based after fleeing Afghanistan in 2001. When a senior Taliban figure was detained in 2010, it was only by accident. U.S. officials said Pakistan didn’t know Abdul Ghani Baradar was present at a Karachi compound when he was arrested, and he was released in 2013.

A former Pakistani official said parts of the government may have sought to keep Omar’s death secret out of fear that Taliban factions would splinter without him and damage Islamabad’s ability to influence peace talks with Afghanistan.

The former official said there was even internal deception. The former official said the ISI told Pakistani leaders in March this year “that Mullah Omar is seriously ill and his condition is deteriorating.”

Riaz Haq said...

Bhuttos relations with Taliban go back to 1974 when ZAB used Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in response to Afghanistan's Dawood Khan's use of militants against Pakistan.

In 1974, Daoud signed one of two economic packages that would enable Afghanistan to have a far more capable military because of increasing fears of lacking an up-to-date modern army when compared to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan. Daoud hosted General Secretary of the National Awami Party led by Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak,and others like Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch guerriallas etc. and started training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs and was sending them to Pakistan for sabotage and militancy. So much so that one of Bhutto's senior members, minister of interior and head of provincial party, Hayat Mohammad Sherpao, was killed and the relations with Pakistan further dipped. As a response Pakistan also started the same. By 1975, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been engaged in promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan. Some of those trained and supported by Pakistan were Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Ref: The Gem Hunter: True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan
By Gary W. Bowersox

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic, but one ventures to respectfully disagree, slightly, sir.

The story begins after the Peshawar accord 1992. Hikmatyar was the only one who didn't sign it and launched attacks on kabul and killed thousands and he was backed by the Nawaz govt and the military establishment and he 'failed'. This started a civil war in which the proxy war of KSA and Iran also openly manifested itself in this region.

So, hikmatyar wasn't exactly a democrat. While Benazir govt has to be blamed, there is no doubt about that, it is conveniently ignored that the Afghan Taliban policy carried on despite the power play between Benazir and nawaz shareef and their changing govts.

The only constant force that remained and backed the taliban was in fact the establishment. They did not change that policy and even could have backed some others less violent groups. Even when taliban hosted OBL,and massacred a great deal of people, pakistan establishment continued to recognize afghan taliban and support them.

Even when Afghan taliban harbored Lej operatives who wreaked havoc, their support continued. Gen (r) Moinuddin haider is on record of having meeting the leaders of taliban to discuss it who refused.

This could be described as a strategic move and not a moral one; however, the emotional involvement with the Afghan taliban's way of islam and their continuing support in the pakistan society and power circles, suggests that they would have been supported eventually whether there was benazir or nawaz shareef.

A sad reality.

Riaz Haq said...

it's worth reading about Bhutto because he represents a type - the unprincipled, populist, Middle Eastern leader seeking power as an end in itself. Bhutto resembles such Muslim leaders as Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh, Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi of Libya, Saddam Husayn of Iraq, and the PLO's Yasir 'Arafat. But he most closely resembles Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, the man who dominated Middle East politics for the decade after 1956, and whose legacy remains alive among Arabs somewhat as Bhutto's does among Pakistanis. These two leaders shared a striking number of features.

Snatching victory from defeat: Nasser led the Arabs to defeat at Suez in 1956 yet emerged from the incident as the most popular leader in the Arabic-speaking countries. (He also recovered from an even more disastrous defeat in 1967 without much damage to his popularity.) Similarly, Bhutto masterminded Pakistan's defeats of 1965 and 1971 but profited from both.
Emotion-laden nationalist rhetoric: Both men made their mark through the force of their oratory, tapping deep responses among their countrymen. Bhutto's explanation of the 1965 loss reflected, accorded to Wolpert, "the suspicious, prejudices, and fears deep in countless Pakistani hearts and minds." His defiant words ("We will wage a war for a thousand years") had the intended effect, thrilling "every Pakistani who heard it, especially the men back home, who knew they had lost the war but whose dream of victory was being kept alive by [Bhutto's] words." In fact, "The more outrageous his rhetoric became . . . the more heroic Zulfi Bhutto appeared to Pakistani audiences." Nasser dazzled his audiences in like manner.
Political chameleons: Both politicians represented no ideas beyond their own power. They turned opportunism - the bobbing and weaving for short-term advantage - into an art. They adopted to the moment and to the audience. Ideologies and ideals mattered little to them. They saw arguments as but words, to be changed with circumstance. The politician serves as a vessel for others' interests. Bhutto and Nasser avoided taking a clear political position; why make enemies gratuitously? Accordingly, their followers came from many points on the political spectrum, from fundamentalist Muslims to pro-Soviet leftists.
Identifying self with country: Nasser and Bhutto mystically believed it their destiny to save their peoples. Wolpert notes that Bhutto fused "his own battered, defeated, and unappreciated feelings, dreams, ambitions, and desires with those of the people of Pakistan."
Seeing the world through conspiracy theories: When Egypt lost to Israel, the Western powers got blamed; and they (as well as the Soviet Union) got similarly accused when Pakistan lost to India.
Further, both Nasser and Bhutto applied socialist principles and created expectations they could not fulfill. Abroad, they espoused transnational ideologies (Pan-Arab nationalism, Third Worldism), meddled militarily (in Yemen, Bangladesh), and played Americans off against Russians.

In these many ways, Bhutto represents the unhappy politics of his region. To know him as Stanley Wolpert makes possible, is to live vicariously the pains of Pakistan and the countries to its west.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmed Rashid on Unocal deal with Taliban

Unocal, backed by US, was in talks with the Taliban to build an oil pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan through Afghanistan in late 1990s before 911 attacks.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s problem is moderation, not extremism. #Taliban #corrupt #elite …

by Ayaz Amir
Extremism, hate speech and sectarianism – the ills we are familiar with – are products of Pakistani moderation. The maulvi, the cleric, the doctor of the faith did not create the mess Pakistan is in. The maulvi was never in command of politics and power. He was always, and still is, a figure on the sidelines…a nuisance at best, the creator of too much noise, the specialist with the loudspeaker, but he never was the driving force behind national policies.
That was the prerogative, the monopoly, not of the maulvi, not of the Tableeghi Jamaat, but of the English-speaking classes, the real rulers of Pakistan. Who runs Pakistan even today? The army, the civil service, the political class, the enterprising seth, the sharp-eyed real-estate tycoon. Where is the Islamic warrior in this distinguished coalition?
The Kakul-trained and Quetta Staff College-perfected army command gave us the fruits of jihadi Islam. They pushed the nation into the Afghan cauldron. Even today you can come across generals and bright diplomats who will swear that Pakistan’s leading role in that evangelism, sustained by Saudi riyals and American dollars, was essential because after Afghanistan would have come Pakistan’s turn, the Soviets with their eyes transfixed on the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.
It was on the back of such nonsense that Pakistan’s then generals, oblivious to Pakistan’s own problems, set about the liberation of Afghanistan. The maulvi and the seminary student were the foot-soldiers in that venture. They did not frame the policy or set out the larger goals. The guns, the cash and the Stinger missiles came from elsewhere. The foot-soldiers of jihad were fortified by the belief that they were marching to heaven.
Eminent divines spoke in favour of the Objectives Resolution but they were not its authors. That was the work of the enlightened Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly, led by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, who tore out their lungs in praise of that resolution, paying little heed to the plaintive cries of the Hindu members that this was not what Muhammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned or promised them in his famous August 11 speech.
Incidentally, the most learned and eloquent speech in favour of the Resolution came from the foreign minister, Sir Zafrulla Khan, an Ahmadi by faith. Shouldn’t this be grounds for calling for an annulment of the Objectives Resolution?
Maulvis or religious leaders did not lead us into Seato and Cento, the American-inspired defence pacts of which Pakistan became such an eager member. India phobia – and it is a phobia, let’s be clear about this – was not made part and parcel of the thinking of the new state by the clerical establishment. That was the work of the most educated, cultured and enlightened sections of the intelligentsia and the ruling classes who had migrated from India.

What has the maulvi or the seminary student to do with any of this?
Pakistan needs a transformation of state and society. How long can it live with plundering robber barons who have democracy on their lips and exploitation in their hearts? This transformation can only come from a strong and radically-inclined leadership, with the strength and outlook to clean the national stables, knock heads together, lessen some of the hypocrisy which is the republic’s leading currency and change the Pakistani landscape for the better.
The extremism of the Taliban is primitive extremism, the product of narrow minds. Pakistan needs the extremism of the pathfinder, the pioneer, the searcher of the depths, the climber of the highest mountains. Of quaking moderation, belting out empty slogans and mouthing empty promises, it has had enough. Seventy years is a long enough time to test any experiment. It is time to give that a decent burial.

Riaz Haq said...

Perhaps, the most precise assessment of ZAB has been summed up by Sir Morrice James, Britain’s High Commissioner in Islamabad during 1960’s, in his Pakistan Chronicle:

*“Bhutto certainly had the right qualities for reaching the heights – drive, charm, imagination, a quick and penetrating mind, zest for life, eloquence, energy, a strong constitution, a sense of humour and a thick skin.*

Such a blend is rare anywhere, and Bhutto deserved his swift rise to power. From the end of 1962 onwards, I worked closely with him and it was a pleasure to deal with someone so quick-witted and articulate. We got on remarkably well… *“But there was — how shall I put it? — the rank odour of hellfire about him. It was a case of corruptio optimi pessima. He was a Lucifer, a fallen angel. I believe that at heart he lacked a sense of the dignity and value of other people; his own self was what counted. I sensed in him a ruthlessness and a capacity for ill-doing which went far beyond what is natural. Except at university abroad, he was mostly surrounded by mediocrities, and all his life, for want of competition, his triumphs came to him too easily for his own good. Lacking humility, he thus came to believe himself infallible, even when yawning gaps in his own experience (e.g. of military matters) laid him — as over the 1965 war — wide open to disastrous error.*

“Despite his gifts, I judged that one day Bhutto would destroy himself — when and how I could not tell. In 1965, I so reported in one my last dispatches from Pakistan as British high commissioner.

*"I wrote by way of clinching that point that Bhutto was born to be hanged. I did not intend this comment as a precise prophecy of what was going to happen to him, but 14 years later that was what it turned out to be.”*

Riaz Haq said...

Resignation of Ambassador General Gul Hasan sent to Premier Bhutto.

Most Immediate
14 April 1977
Prime Minister House

From Ambassador for Prime Minister

The sooner you realise that you have miserably failed people of Pakistan the better. You have precipitated calamitous conditions in country resulting in wanton killings, destruction of property and violation of human rights only to perpetuate yourself in office. Agitation against you is growing rather than subsiding as you had probably envisaged because of forces of terror you have let loose in country in which you allegedly claim to have ushered in democracy on assuming office on 20th December 71. Indeed you have exploited nation to build up your own image and for self-aggrandisement. Soon after assuming office in 71 it transpired that you were chief architect in dismemberment of country and I pray to God that your intentions which seem similar to those you harboured in 71 do not materialise as it would leave 70 million of our people with no homeland - which was achieved after endless sacrifices whilst you were still in Bombay still desperately trying to secure Indian citizenship.

Opposition leaders and people have demanded your resignation and holding of fresh elections under Army's supervision which is only way to rid country of the crisis for which you are solely responsible. Whereas you desire a dialogue with opposition leaders, let me tell you in no uncertain terms that fact is that you have no credibility left in what you say and do. So unless you meet the opposition demands loss of life and property will continue. You appear to be under erroneous impression that Army will come to your rescue. Recent events in country should convince you that our Armed Forces did not support the regimes of Ayub Khan and later Yahya Khan both of whom belonged to its ranks. As far as your relations with Army are concerned they are superficial because you have missed no opportunity to make every effort covert and overt to malign Army ever since you took reigns of power in December 71 and because of which I had to resign as Commander in Chief of Army. Armed Forces have always acted in best interests of country and not to prop up an unpopular and unwanted authoritarian dictator like of which has never been inflicted on our nation.

In view of this I find it incompatible with my conscience to serve a government headed by you any longer. Do not misread this as an opportunistic political venture on my part as I have only taken this step in hope that this gesture of mine will add some weight to those of millions of our nationals who have just about had enough of your government which can be rightly termed as of Bhutto, by Bhutto and for Bhutto and which in your terminology is "Democracy."

Gul Hassan

Tazeen Hasan said...

Have you ever considered reading Abdus Salam Zaeef "My life with Taliban". He rejects Ahmad Rashid's theories about the formation of Afghan Taliban. His account myst be considered more authentic though rude and naive!! but without any diplomatic twisting of statements. What he saw, felt and believed he told. He rejects any claims of ISI involvement. He has even bashed ISI and Pakistani officers.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s civil–military imbalance is misunderstood
14 June 2018
Author: Hussain Nadim, University of Sydney

The reality is a lot more complicated than this Eurocentric view of Pakistan’s civil–military relations, which tends to reinforce a perception of Pakistan that serves Western powers and interests. At the core of this Eurocentrism is a tendency to view Pakistan’s civil–military relations through a foreign policy lens, while almost entirely neglecting the domestic political and structural issues at play. Western commentary also tends to treat civilian political leaders as passive actors, overlooking their role in the imbalance.

The civilian and military leadership in Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to foreign and security policies. Disagreements are only over the right methods for achieving these foreign policy goals, and reflect an internal power struggle rather than an ideological difference between civilian and military factions.

For instance, after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif took power at the 2013 elections, he was interested in bold steps to move quickly on peace with India — often even going beyond state protocol and opening backdoor channels. The Pakistan Army was not disinterested in peace with India. Military leaders just wanted to mend relations in a systematic way that would not compromise Pakistan’s interests and that would make peace last beyond rhetoric.

Military leaders advised caution and small steps to achieving sustainable peace with India — advice which Sharif ignored. After several months of futile attempts to court Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pressed hard on Pakistan after his rise to power, Sharif faced an embarrassing situation. He accepted that his strategy had been a failure and allowed the military to devise a new strategy to engage India.

Civilian and military leaders were similarly split over issues of method when it came to tackling terrorist safe havens inside the country. In 2013, the then new government under Sharif was not interested in launching operations inside the country against the Taliban and other extremist actors. The government instead began peace talks with the terrorist outfits despite repeated advice from the Pakistan Army to the contrary.

The Pakistan army pushed the view that terrorist outfits use ‘peace talks’ as a pretence to regroup, develop credibility and then launch attacks again when the government is vulnerable. Months later, when the terrorists continued their attacks on Pakistan and US forces despite the ongoing negotiations with the Pakistani government, Sharif again was sheepish in front of Pakistan’s security establishment and allowed the military to launch an operation.

When it comes to Pakistan’s current foreign policy posture, there appears to be no rupture in civil–military relations. Both civilian and military leaders support deep ties with China, opening up to Russia, balancing the Middle East, defying the United States and finding a sustainable peace with India and Afghanistan. Even the ‘Dawn leaks’ controversy was less a matter of disagreement over foreign policy than a case of the civilian government trying to embarrass the military establishment.

While civil and military leaders in Pakistan are locked in a power struggle, they are on the same page in terms of foreign and security policy — which is why Pakistan has seen much policy continuity over the past four decades. Civilian leaders pitch this domestic power struggle to international audiences as a matter of ‘foreign policy’ and a ‘fight for democracy’ for the purposes of seeking international endorsements that can be leveraged in the local power tussle.

This absence of nuance in Western academic writing and commentaries on Pakistan is not just a blind spot. It is deliberate neglect whereby the dominant characterisation of Pakistan’s civil–military relations is constructed to suit Western political interests that include aligning Pakistan’s national security policies with that of the West, and having a strong check on its nuclear program.

Riaz Haq said...

Genesis of the Taliban in #Afghanistan: Thread.

King Zahir Shah was the Monarch and absolute ruler of Flag of Afghanistan from 8 November 1933 to 17 July 1973. His rule was underlined by peace and stability on #Afghanistan's borders and within. He left for medical treatment in Italy in 1973...

While the King was getting medical treatment, his cousin Muhammad Daud Khan plotted to overthrow him. On 17th July 1973, Daud Khan backed by elements of Afghan Army and Communist leaning People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, He mounted a successful Coup and took over Flag of Afghanistan.

Daoud hosted General Secretary of National Awami Party Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch militants, and others. Khan's government and forces also commenced training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs to conduct militant action and terrorism in Pakistan.

Between 27th - 28th of April 1978, communist sleeper cells inside Afghan Army were activated by PDPA leader Hafizullah Amin who had been under house arrest on Daud's orders. In "Saur Revolution" coup that followed, Daud Khan along with most members of his family were massacred.

On 30th April 1978, communist leader Nur Muhammad Taraki took over the Presidency and the control of the communist party. He quickly developed feud with fellow communist Hafizullah Amin who plotted to overthrow him because of disagreement over the power sharing formula.

On 14th September 1979 as Taraki returned from his Moscow trip, he was imprisoned on Hafizullah Amin's orders, who had him executed by suffocation while in captivity - and formally took over the Presidency.

Between 14th Sept to 27th December 1979, Hafizullah Amin tried to hang on to power, but he quickly lost confidence of his KGB handlers. KGB believed him to be a double agent of CIA due to his overtures to Washington, a mistake that would prove to be fatal.

By early 1979, 25 out of Afghanistan's 28 provinces were unstable because of armed resistance against the Amin regime. On 29th of March 1979, the Herat uprising began; the uprising turned the revolt into an open war between the Mujahideen and the communist Afghan government.

By 1979, the KGB had lost patience with Amin & KGB Gen Yuri Drozdov approved plans to have him assassinated. 2 attempts were made on his life by the KGB's which failed, so they decided to have him executed in a bloody coup to take place at Tajbeg Palace.

By early-to-mid December 1979, the Soviet leadership had established an alliance with Babrak Karmal, who was to take over after Amin had been assassinated. On 27th Dec 1979, Amin and most of his family were massacred by KGB, Spetsnaz in an operation codenamed: Storm-333.

Babrak Karmal enjoyed complete backing of the USSR when he took over the Presidency on the same day Hafizullah Amin was executed by KGB. For the next 6 years he would oversee the scorched earth campaign of the 40th red Army in his own country, killing over 2m Afghans.

As the Soviet 40th Army intensified its brutal campaign in #Afghanistan, a joint "Operation Cyclone" was launched by the CIA and the ISI. Over the next 6 years, the Mujahideen would bring the 40th red Army to its knees along with its communist Afghan military allies.

As the war in #Afghanistan turned into "Soviet Vietnam", the KGB recommended overthrow of their blue eyed Babrak Karmal and replace him with the Chief of Afghan Intelligence KHAD, Major Gen Mohammad Najibullah, who deposed Babrak in a bloodless party coup and finally took over;

The Presidency on 30th Sept 1987. Najibullah was a bona fide KGB agent and enjoyed full confidence of KGB Chief Yuri Andropov. As the head of KHAD, Najibullah oversaw the industrial scale torture and murder of Afghan prisoners. KGB saw him as a "strongman" they needed.

Riaz Haq said...

Genesis of the Taliban in #Afghanistan: Thread.

King Zahir Shah was the Monarch and absolute ruler of Flag of Afghanistan from 8 November 1933 to 17 July 1973. His rule was underlined by peace and stability on #Afghanistan's borders and within. He left for medical treatment in Italy in 1973...

14 April 1988 the Afghan and Pakistani governments signed the Geneva Accords, requiring the Soviet 40th Army to retreat from #Afghanistan by 15th February 1989, marking the end to a brutal civil war in the country. The future of Najibullah's communist regime became uncertain.

After the Soviet 40th Army retreated, and the disintegration process of the USSR began by 1992, all military aid to Najibullah's 300,000 strong military dried up. The Afghan Army Generals started to defect, Major cities were lost to Mujahideen and on 14th April he resigned.

Najibullah requested political asylum from India but the Indian Govt refused despite Najibullah being a long time partner of New Delhi against Pakistan. He took refuge at the UN compound until 26th of September 1996, when a new insurgent group defeated Ahmed Shah Massoud..

In the battle of Kabul and took control of the UN compound, where they arrested Najibullah and his brother, who were later executed with their bodies displayed publicly, while his wife had already fled to India. This little known group was called the "Taliban".

Personal note: The genesis of the Taliban has to be understood in the convoluted historic context of the Cold War Era politics in Afghanistan. The Communists who took over the reigns of power in an illegal coup introduced a reign of terror in Afghanistan that killed millions..

Riaz Haq said...

Ex RAW official Rana Banerji to Karan Thapar: "Taliban was formed in the 90’s from a madrasah near Kandahar to counter growing criminal behaviour/rapes due to the vacuum left after Soviet withdrawal & US Pakistanis were involved at this stage.

Taliban were initially funded by President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistanis were later aided/funded by Pakistan ISI in 1994-95.