[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 GlobalSecurity.org:
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.