Pakistan And Extremism

General Pervez Musharraf[Via Raw Story] President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan claimed on Tuesday that terrorism and extremism had been brought to Pakistan by the West. According to the Daily Times of Pakistan, Musharraf blamed the West for bringing terrorists and extremists to the region and Pakistan as a result of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan:

President General Pervez Musharraf has blamed the West for breeding terrorism in his country by bringing in thousands of mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then leaving Pakistan alone a decade later to face the armed warriors.

Musharraf told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday that Pakistan was not the intolerant, extremist country often portrayed by the West, and terrorism and extremism were not inherent in Pakistani society. “Whatever extremism or terrorism is in Pakistan is a direct fallout of the 26 years of warfare and militancy around us. It gets back to 1979 when the West, the United States and Pakistan waged a war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,” Musharraf told EU lawmakers.

Musharraf apparently either does not know his history or was deliberately misleading the European Parliament. My guess is that Musharraf is pretty well versed in the history of extremism in Pakistan and was deliberately shifting blame to the West. No military man in Pakistan can ignore the intimate relationship between the Pakistani Army, the Pakistani Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and Islamist extremists in Pakistan – they have a long and troubled history together.

The nation of Pakistan has its roots in a form of Islamic fundamentalism known as Deobandi. The Deobandi movement began as a reformist movement in India against British oppression. Over time, part of the Deobandi movement coalesced around the idea of a Muslim state in the Muslim-majority parts of British India. From that movement, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, translated as "The Land of the Pure",  was born on August 14, 1947. According to journalist Bertil Lintner, the Deobandi movement in Pakistan "through its network of religious schools, or madrassas, developed into a breeding ground for Pakistan-centered Islamic fundamentalism. Over the years, the Deobandi brand of Islam has become almost synonymous with religious extremism and fanaticism." It is in the Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan that the Taliban movement has its beginnings.

Though originally opposed to the creation of Pakistan, the deobandi and Islamist political party in British India, Jamaat-e-Islami, eventually embraced the idea of Pakistan. Their original goal, to form a Islamic state in all of India, now became the creation of a strict Islamic state in Pakistan.  The Jamaat-e-Islami has been a breeding ground for extremism in Pakistan from early in its founding. In 1971, when war broke out between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami branch in East Pakistan joined the fighting on the side of the Pakistani army. The Jamaat-e-Islami were opposed to the secular nationalism of the Bengalis and therefore sided with the Pakistani military to try to preserve an Islamic state. The Jamaat-e-Islami took active part in the genocide of 3 million Bengalis in 1971. Jamaat formed notorious paramilitary units known as al-Badr and al-Shams to hunt down and execute secular Bengali intellectuals – most notably journalists, teachers, students, bureaucrats, scholars, doctors and poets. After the formation of Bangladesh at the end of the war in 1971, the Jamaat leadership in Bangladesh who had orchestrated the killings fled to Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist parties in Pakistan received a significant boost in 1977 when Pakistani strongman General Zia-ul-Haq seized power in a coup d’état. In 1979, Zia-ul-Haq instituted Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan by enforcing what is known as the Hudood Ordinance. Since 1979 the Pakistani military and intelligence services have relied on the Islamist forces in the country for support and legitimacy.

After the Afghan conflict the ISI actively financed and supported both the Taliban and the Kashmiri militants. The Pakistani ISI formed the Islamist terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a militant wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, to counter groups in Kashmir who are seeking independence. According to

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) is one of the largest terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and stands for the integration of J&K with Pakistan. Since its formation the HuM has also wanted the islamization of Kashmir.

The HM was formed in 1989 in the Kashmir Valley with Master Ahsan Dar as its chief. Dar was later arrested by security forces in mid-December 1993. It was reportedly formed as the militant wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) at the behest of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which had advocated complete independence of the State. Many of the early Hizb cadres were former JKLF members.

The HM is closely linked to the Jamaat-e-Islami, both in the Kashmir Valley and in Pakistan. Overseas, it is allegedly backed by Ghulam Nabi Fai’s Kashmir American Council and Ayub Thakur’s World Kashmir Freedom Movement in the USA. The HM had established contacts with Afghan Mujahideen groups such as Hizb-e-Islami, under which some of its cadre is alleged to have received arms training in the early 1990s.

The HM is reported to have a close association with the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence and the United Jehad Council, and other terrorist organizations operating out of Pakistan. Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin also heads the UJC.

The nexus of groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Pakistani military, and the ISI have nurtured and sustained terrorism and extremism in Pakistan since its inception. The 1979 Afghan war simply imported more militants into an already ripe and welcoming breeding ground.

It serves Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani military and the ISI quite well to try to bury the long and sordid history of collusion between the military and the extremists. However, we ignore this nexus at our peril. To a very large extent extremism and terrorism in South and Central Asia has its roots in the Islamist movement in Pakistan. The very enemy we fight, al Qaeda, breathed its first breathe in Pakistan and now finds sanctuary within its borders. While George W Bush keeps his myopic and confused gaze upon Iraq and his Vice President profusely praises Musharraf, the extremism that we are presumably combating continues to thrive in Pakistan.

Five years after 9/11/2001, it is perhaps time to ask the General in Pakistan some tougher questions and expect some more introspection from him.

This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Foreign Policy, General, International, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Pakistan And Extremism

  1. atunu says:

    I didn’t know dr strangelove had his ties in bangladesh :d

    Its nice to see the combination of one of my favourite blogging platforms and witty sqibbles at the same time.

    au revoir

  2. Zafa says:

    Parvez Musharraf is a self serving chauvinistic pig and an arrogant son of a bi***.
    It was laughable when U.S. sought Pak’s allegiance, then launched a war on Iraq because Saddam was a dictator. Didn’t Musharraf come to power through coup? Doesn’t he rule Pak just like a military dictator?

    To see an example of how Musharraf serves his people (the really needy ones) read this article about Mukhtar Mai. This girl from a remote village in Pak was gang raped at the encouragement of the village elders because her younger brother committed a misdemeanor. When this courageous girl fought back to bring the people to justice, it brought the world’s attention to the human right’s abuse in Pak. The Pak govt seized her passport so she couldn’t travel outside Pak and talk to foreign reporters.

    BTW, not all Jamatis fled to Pakistan following ’71 war, some of them stayed or came back at the patronage of Ziair Rahman to thrive in BD politics. Some of who are now MPs even ministers in Khaleda’s cabinet, e.g., Nizami (minister), Sayeedi (MP).
    Sayeedi recently had to flee London in the face of protests.
    More on this in the Drishtipat blogs:

  3. Mash says:

    atunu, Dr. Strangelove is born and bred in Bangladesh 🙂 Now that I am here in the US of A, I still like to add a little curry to my dishes for that authentic flavor! :d

    I try to write about Bangladesh whenever I can.

    Zafa, this post is one in a series that began with the previous post. My next post will be about Jamaat’s (Golam Azam and others) return to Bangladesh after Zia invited them back. And how that has led to a resurgence of extremism in secular Bangladesh. Thank you for the links – I will try to incorporate them. All through South Asia, there is a nexus between the military and the the Islamists. The US needs to address this as the root problem if we are to ever get anywhere against this form of extremism. So far, the US has given strong backing to the very forces that it claims to fight.

    Thanks also for bringing up Mukhtar Mai. Musharraf’s behavior regarding her case was atrocious. I wrote about her in one of my earliest posts here. She is a true hero in every sense of the word – I try to follow news about her whenever I can.

  4. Zafa says:

    Sorry, I’ve only started to follow your blog a week ago, and didn’t realize you already talked about everything I just dished out. I appreciate what you’re writing. We need to speak up as much as we can (thanks to hi-speed internet). 🙂

  5. shafiur says:

    Yes like Zafa I can’t believe I have not been following your blog.

    Two issues…this figure 3 million. I don’t have the links at hand but this is a confusion stemming from the use of this word lakh. I believe the appropriate “authorities” favour the figure of 300,000.

    Second, you rather skim over the “Afghan conflict.” The struggle against the red/aetheist forces generated a neat commonality of interests for the american right and the fundamentalists in the region. Sure it helps Pervez to emphasise this and exclude other explanatory factors in the emergence of extremism but to deny it altogether – like you seem to be doing – is going in the opposite direction.

  6. Mash says:

    shafiur, the 300,000 figure and the “confusion” argument has been floated and is included in the Wikipedia entry. However, most estimates have been between 1 million and 3 million. Just the rate of killing argues against the 300,000 figure. Within the first week, 30,000 people had been killed in Dhaka alone (here’s a < ah ref="">reference.)

    You are right, I do skim over the Afghan-Soviet war. I tried to do a broad survey of the history of extremism and did not dwell on any particular time too much. I hope to follow this up with detailed posts on the Zia-ul-Haq era, the 1971 war, post-1989 slide into extremism, etc. I wanted to however show in this post that extremism has a long history in Pakistan and is not an external force that was imported. The Afghan Arabs and the Taliban were schooled in Pakistan and became radicalized, not the other way around.

    I apologize for skimming over what was a crucial period in radicalization in both Afghanistan and Kashmir. I will focus more on it in a future post.

  7. Mash says:

    Shafiur, by the way, I just read some posts on your blog. I think I just found a keeper! \:d/

  8. shafiur says:

    If we assume a nine month killing spree, then that means well over 10,000 dead a day. Which war in recent history has produced such a rate…?

    Yes look I am not fond of this numbers thing. It diminishes the whole thing. Nevertheless there is an industry around this. There always is around victimhood. And it is most pernicious.

    Anyway, I did not want to blow up this issue over and above the other things you are discussing. You have provided sufficient links for people to explore should they want to.

  9. Mash says:

    Shafiur, there is no doubt an industry around pinning the number of dead from ’71 down. However, its not about numbers. There is nothing quaint about killing 300,000 people if the number were even that low. On one extreme there is the Commission in Pakistan which claims that 30,000 people died. That number is easily contradicted. US State department cables from the very first week of the conflict easily contradict that number.

    Yahya Khan himself famously said:

    “Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands.”

    I use the 3 million number largely as shorthand for his statement. However, no serious study has shown the number to be below 1 million.

    As for the rate of killing, it does surpass Rwanda. It was not a war until December 3, 1971. From March till December, it was wholesale massacre against an unarmed population. The first night alone, they were pulling female students from the dorms of Dhaka University and shooting them. There were bodies all over the country stuffed into wells. To this day, decades later, they are finding dead bodies in wells and in mass graves in Bangladesh. The Pakistani army went into almost every village in Bangladesh and killed all men of fighting age (14 to 50)they could find. Some anecdotal evidence:

    – In Comilla, students from my uncle’s school were pulled out and gunned down while one teacher managed to escape by scaling a wall.

    – 3 of my uncles were lined up in a firing squad as the army was stopping traffic on the roads in Chittagong and killing all young men. The only thing that saved them was a hefty bribe and that my grandfather, who was with them, had been to Hajj. The rest of the kids on the firing line were not so lucky and were gunned down.

    – They came for my father twice. Once in the village and finally al Badr came in the last three days of the war to our house in Dhaka. I am here today because our Pakistani Urdu speaking landlord lied to cover for us.

    – I have relatives and neighbors that are no longer here because they were dead in a ditch, floated on a river, or thrown into a well.

    – Every family has lost someone. I have a neighbor here who is from Bangladesh. If you go to their house you will see a framed black and white picture of a boy no more than 14 on the wall. That picture is of my neighbor’s younger brother, who in 1971 was taken away from his home by the Pakistan military to be shot. They have not yet recovered his body. It likely was floated onto the river like a lot of the dead bodies.

    – If you lived through 1971, you have most likely seen the dead bodies floating by constantly on the rivers, bodies lying on the sides of roads everywhere, the stench of corpses coming from the paddy fields in every village. These are from men of fighting age, some children for the fun of it, a lot of raped and murdered Bengali women who were shot at the nearest convenient location and dumped.

    There is an industry, as you say, that are apologists for the 1971 massacres. They use words like “victimhood” to minimize the atrocities. However, Pol Pot in Cambodia killed anywhere from 1.2 million to 3 million in a short span of time (better known as the Killing Fields). The Nazis killed up to 6 million jews (and yet today plenty of people continue to be apologists for the Nazis). Rwanda was over 800,000.

    Humans in the 20th century have shown themselves quite efficient at massacring large numbers of a defenseless population. So, maybe the exact numbers do not matter to some, but to those who died each number is a lost life. Any attempt to minimize the number should be resisted. In the late 1970s, there was an active effort by the military regime and the Jamaat in Bangladesh to start to minimize the killings in 1971. Its effects on a new generation of Bangladeshis is quite obvious. The fact that self-declared war criminals from 1971 now enjoy positions of power in Bangladesh is a national shame. But history is not so easily forgotten. Some of us will continue to resist selective amnesia.

  10. Mash says:

    To add to the previous comment here are some quotes and citations from the article on genocide in Bangladesh that I cited:

    They were: (1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids. (2) The Hindus — “We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them …” I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: “One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act” (Death By Government, p. 323)] (3) The Awami Leaguers — all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command. (4) The students — college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as “militant.” (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh [Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-17.)


    Two [Pakistani soldiers] went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order, and the bridegroom’s voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed. Then there was silence again, except for some muffled cries that soon subsided. In a few minutes one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned to his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all the six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string cot unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit. (Quoted in Brownmiller, Against Our Will, p. 82.)


    The number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66). As R.J. Rummel writes,

    The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel’s “death by government”] are much lower — one is of 300,000 dead — but most range from 1 million to 3 million. … The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)

    Just a sampling of the literature that is out there for those interested to read.

  11. Zafa says:

    My point is: does it make the crime any less gruesome even if the actual death toll was less than 30 lakh??
    Shafiur bhai, I’m so disappointed with you…tsk..tsk…

  12. Ingrid says:

    Mash, it is good to read your posts again. Hope you had some good catching up with your family. As for your post, what would we write about if everyone all of the sudden became enlightened and tried to do well by his fellow wo/man?? Pakistan has quite the interesting history, and to blame the West for exporting extremism is a joke indeed. But…he has to say something for his home crowd doesn’t he?

  13. shafiur says:

    Zafa, of course not. I said as much. I repeat: the numbers thing diminishes the whole thing. That does not mean to say one has a license to use any number does it?

    And I am sorry Mash, I am not at all impressed by personal anecdotes. Lets not make this number some kind of touchstone which is off limits to historical inquiry. And I am not doing an Irving here. And yes we all have tales to tell about that period and we are continually finding those tales. And for your information I am even involved – albeit marginally at the mo – in the presentation of oral histories for the Liberation War Musuem in Dhaka.

    There may be an attempt to downwardly revise that figure but even more pernicious is the attempt to forget that entire history of genocide. Successive governments have tried to erase even the name of the enemy. I would recommend Yvette Claire Rosser’s 2004 monograph Indoctrinating Minds, A Case Study of Bangladesh.

    The industry I refer to is that which would use 1971 to continue a politics of exclusion. They claim a moral high ground and from there lead the country into further conflict.

  14. Mash says:

    shafiur, I am confused by your position on this. I think there is plenty of research that states that the number killed is above 1 million at the minimum. I dont see this as “off limits” to historicial inquiry. However, stating that the number is 300,000 because someone heard someone who cant quite be cited because someone’s memory is weak does not exactly smack of “historical inquiry”.

    As for discussion of this number, I wrote a post on Pakistan where I presented this issue as part of a larger picture of extremism in Pakistan. However, you have zeroed in on this as a point of argument. I am happy to offer references and I have done so. Anything beyond that is just two fools arguing over nothing. I am quite sure you did not count all the dead bodies and neither did I. I have only research by historians and scholars to go by and I trust their numbers unless you are able to give me something more than a “hunch” to say otherwise.

    As for anecdotal evidence, your response that you are not “impressed” by them is odd in light of your statement that you are involved with gathering an oral history of the 1971 war. I am not sure why you would work to gather ancedotal, that is “oral”, recollections on 1971 if you are not “impressed” by it.

    When it comes to genocide, after the historical research has been done, the anecdotal or oral recollections of those that have lived through it is what gives the event its texture and poignancy. I have met plenty of people who try to minimize the events of 1971 by trying to relegate it to just some “thing” that happened rather that some “thing” that happened to people. These people always have some hint of an apologist within them under the guise of “historical inquiry”. From holocaust denial to claiming Pol Pot’s killing fields really were not that bad to saying Bengalis really weren’t massacred, raped and tortured, these people have a common thread amongst them.

    I can argue this point with you until the cows come home. But I think I have really shot my wad here. Feel free to present serious research that debunks the numbers quoted by those who have researched the events of 1971. In the absence of such evidence, I am simply not going to take your word for it just because you sense there is an “industry” of “victimhood” who are trying to stake out a higher “moral” ground. I think I have lived long enough to recognize the smell of bullshit when it is flung at me.

  15. Mash says:

    Ingrid, thanks. I am still catching up with my daugther. But, the coolest part is seeing her get ready to catch the school bus to go to kindergarten! How fast they grow up.:)

    Musharraf follows a long line of leaders in that part of the world who exploit “colonial angst” to divert blame. Musharraf’s regime is now following a similar trajectory as Zia-ul-Haq’s. Fascists and dictators always seem to know what is best for their nation – arrogance seems to bend all facts to the dictator’s advantage.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic

  16. Robbie says:

    Mash, I am stunned by all of this information. We cannot let anything like this take place here in America, nor let Musarraf forget past history.

  17. sonia says:

    yeah interesting. and now the jamaat-e-islami thanks to their alliance with the BNP are in power.. How disgusting.

  18. NAU says:

    He [Sir Stafford Cripps] has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.SirWinstonChurchillSir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965

  19. NAU says:

    The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.AlbertEinsteinAlbert Einstein

  20. Iraq War says:

    Perfectionism is the enemy of creation, as extreme self-solitude is the enemy of well-being.JohnUpdikeJohn Updike

  21. Iran War says:

    No judge must give judgment between two people when he is angry.TheProphetMohammadThe Prophet Mohammad

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