That the aborted May 1 bomb attempt at New York’s Times Square had an operational link with Pakistan’s Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been established with the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American. Faisal is also reported to have contacts with the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e Taiba, all notorious Pakistani terror outfits. In fact, there is now credible evidence that Shahzad, who originally hails from Peshawar and belongs to an affluent family, had undertaken military and bomb-making training in North Wasirstan, the bredding ground of the fundamentalist terror outfits, last year.
Reports sourced to Pakistani intelligence officials have claimed that Shahzad received training in a camp near Kohat, roughly 50 miles northeast of Waziristan. It is claimed that he was trained by militant commanders Tariq Afridi and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Afridi has ties to both JeM and the TTP and was believed responsible for a wave of terror attacks in Peshawar last fall. Bahadur, based in North Waziristan, has links with the TTP (indeed, he served as deputy head of the TTP in December 2007) but sat on the sidelines of the Pakistani military incursion into South Waziristan due to a ceasefire he negotiated with the government.
Be that as it may, it underscores once again how Pakistani teritory is being used to nurture global terror, whatever the Pakistani authorities do say to the contrary. Indian foreign minister was right to say during the the Rajya Sabha discussions on May 6 that Pakistan is fast emerging as the epicentre of all terrorist activities. “The nature of the development with reference to the particular incident in New York is only the vindication of what India has been conveying to the US government that the epicentre of all terrorist activities comes from only one country “, he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan.
Any careful recalling of the terrorist episodes in various parts of the world in recent years tells the story of the Pakistan factor. Pakistan has produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London.
As the Wall Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume points out, the list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. And this partial catalogue doesn’t include India, which tends to bear the brunt of its western neighbour’s love affair with violence.
In fact, Dhume raises a fundamental question: Why does Pakistan produce so many terrorists? His answer is that, and that makes enoromous sense, all this is essentially due to the very nature of Pakistan as a State. Let me quote him: “In attempting to explain why so many attacks abortive and successful can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan’s emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it’s important to go back further, to its creation.
“Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, the world’s first modern nation based solely on Islam. The country’s name means ‘Land of the Pure’. The capital city is Islamabad. The national flag carries the Islamic crescent and star. The cricket team wears green.
“From the start, the new country was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism. The Quranic scholar Muhammad Asadan Austrian Jew born Leopold Weiss became an early Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. The Egyptian Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, made Pakistan a second home of sorts and collaborated with Pakistan’s leading Islamist ideologue, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Abul Ala Maududi. In 1949, Pakistan established the world’s first transnational Islamic organisation, the World Muslim Congress. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the virulently anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed president.”
Readers may recall that in these columns two weeks ago, I had highlighted the dangerous minsets of leading Pakistanis and their hatred for India and non-Islamic world (incidentally, apart from India, the United States is the most hated country in Pakistan), all in the name of “Islam”. It is the Pakistani leader ZA Bhutto, who, despite having a Hindu mother, talked fanatically about “Islam” and “Islamic Bomb” even if “every Pakistani had to eat grass” in the process.
Of course, it could be argued that there is a danger of oversimplifying the matter. Because majority of Pakstanis are not religious fanatics and terrorists. But what about the minority of fanatics, particularly when they include elements from the politics, bureaucracy, academia, media and armed forces, systematically nurtured and promoted since the days of General Zia-ul Haq? The number of this minority faction is not small, given the fact that Pakistan has a population of more than 160 million.
Even otherwise, what has been the role of the majority of Pakstanis in raising their voice against the rise of militancy and fundamentalism in their country? Are they really bothered about the sinking image Pakistan in most parts of the world? Unfortunately, they have remained mostly silent. On the contrary, they have bought the loic of the fanatics that it is India and persons of Indian origin who are working overtime in various world capitals to present Pakistan and Pakistanis in poor light. See the way the Pakstani media has been highlighting the façade these days that India-born US Federal Attorney Preet Bharara is deliberately running after innocent Pakistanis.
Bharara, it may be noted, is spearheading the prosecution of 9/11 masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He has now to prosecute also Faisal Shahzad. But that is mainly because Bharara, who is one of the 93 US Attorneys appointed by the US President Barack Obama in May 2009, heads the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District in New York, which covers Manhattan, where the botched 9/11 bombing took place, and John F Kennedy International Airport, where terror suspect Shahzad was arrested at the last minute as he attempted to flee the United States to Pakistan. Bharara is doing a job given to him. Incidentally, he has not spared the Indian or Indian-origin people either. He is also currently handling the prosecution against the Galleon Group, one of America’s largest insiders trading scam where the defendants include Sri Lankan Raj Rajaratnam and Indian-Americans Anil Kumar and Rajiv Goel.
The moral of the story is that the silent majority of Pakistanis must introspect. They must replace their exclusive political and cultural outlooks.
By Prakash Nanda