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    South Asia
     May 5, 2006
It's showdown time in Pakistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Across the jihadi world, there is a strong conviction that by the end of this year Taliban leader Mullah Omar will be back in power in Afghanistan, from where he was driven by US-led forces in 2001.

Realistically, eight months is likely to be too ambitious a time frame for a Taliban victory, if victory is achievable at all.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Taliban movement is poised to enhance its nuisance level significantly in the United States' strategic back yards in the region - notably Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Acutely aware of this, the US is leaning heavily on Pakistan, its

key ally in the "war on terror" in the region, to go on the offensive
against the strong Taliban foothold in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

What the US is asking for, in effect, is a Tora Bora-style aerial bombing of the area, similar to that undertaken in the mountains of that name in Afghanistan during the rout of the Taliban five years ago. (Incidentally, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora long before the bombs began to fall.)

The Taliban are integrated into the local population and there would be high civilian casualties. This is considered acceptable as civilians would be deemed Taliban sympathizers. 

According to highly placed officials who spoke to Asia Times Online, the Pakistani military has already drawn up a blueprint for such an attack, which could be implemented in the near future.

In response, the Taliban, along with al-Qaeda, have a counter-plan in which they will go on the offensive, and an extensive network is primed to launch attacks on the Pakistani establishment.

This is the first time since the fall of the Taliban that the al-Qaeda leadership has activated Pakistani jihadis all over the country for operations both inside and outside the country. 

The effect of this is illustrated by an incident in Kandahar, Afghanistan, recently in which three suicide bombers were arrested after they failed to detonate their devices because of technical problems.

All three were from the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Detailed investigations at the Kandahar military base by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed a network starting from a book shop in Karachi, going on to a contact in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan, and then on to Chaman in the same province. From there the three men launched their attack in Kandahar.

These arrests spotlight just one of many powerful networks established across Pakistan to carry out jihadi activities on a scale that has not existed since the fall of the Taliban.

This is reinforced by a recent broadcast by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's No 2, in which he called on Pakistanis to topple President General Pervez Musharraf, calling him "a bribe-taking, treacherous criminal". He especially asked the Pakistani army to mutiny against Musharraf.

Zawahiri made a similar broadcast in 2003, but a lot has changed since then. At that time, the Taliban were bruised and down, scattered and without central leadership. Al-Qaeda was also on the run, its network in a shambles, and survival was the only issue. Broadcasts by bin Laden and Zawahiri had only two purposes: to keep the morale of the jihadis high and to sow uncertainty in the ranks of the rival camp.

Both aims were achieved. Each message kept the jihadis spiritually connected with their leadership, and opponents were kept guessing about the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Soon after Zawahiri's call, a number of assassination attempts were made on Musharraf's life, with the complicity of sections within the armed forces.

In the meantime, al-Qaeda began to develop its "netwar" strategy - a complex organization of cells and groups. While Zawahiri continued his broadcasts, bin Laden disappeared from the scene.

To keep thousands of inactive jihadis in Pakistan involved and to bring them into al-Qaeda's net, various methods were used, including the distribution of training manuals, motivational compact discs and action clips of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

At the same time, al-Qaeda and the Taliban established a foothold in North Waziristan, renaming it the "Islamic State of North Waziristan" and seizing virtual control of the area. Jihadis were invited to the base, which has expanded to parts of South Waziristan and neighboring villages in Afghanistan.

This was in preparation for the Taliban's powerful spring offensive, which is now under way, directed toward Kabul as well as Islamabad.

The sudden emergence of bin Laden in a broadcast this month was a global message to the jihadi movement, urging them to come to the base (Waziristan) as a new "war" had begun, of which the spring offensive is the first major salvo.

This was followed by Zawahiri's call to do battle against Musharraf. Unlike in 2003, the jihadis are now much better organized to take on the Pakistani establishment.

The situation is now dangerously poised. Musharraf, under US pressure, is prepared for an all-out attack on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At the same time, the military rulers are well aware of the renewed strength of the jihadis, and are extremely reluctant to go for the "final solution" and all it would involve.

Asia Times Online contacts claim that in this explosive environment, some sort of a compromise deal, as in the past, might be worked out, with both sides agreeing to back off for the time being. In such an eventuality, the only winners would be the Taliban and al-Qaeda: they can only go from strength to strength, and they will not give up on their ultimate goal of toppling the administrations in Kabul and Islamabad.

Zawahiri's message for Pakistan
The following are translated excerpts from a broadcast by Ayman al-Zawahiri that was aired on Arabic television last weekend.

... As for the second thing I wish to talk to you about, it is the dark fate toward which the traitor Musharraf is pushing Pakistan. Without a doubt, Pakistan is one of the most important of the countries targeted by this new colonialist crusade which seeks to weaken Pakistan and fragment it into entities under the control of India, which is allied with the Americans and Jews.

And here I wish to clarify an extremely important point, which is that the anti-Islamic American/Crusader/Zionist plan has no place for the presence of Pakistan as a strong, powerful, able state in South Asia, because this plan doesn't forgive Pakistan for separating from India in the name of Islam, and doesn't forgive it for including the largest Islamic schools with wide influence among the Muslims of South and Central Asia, and doesn't forgive it for the flourishing of the popular jihadi movements in it against the Indians in Kashmir and first the Russians and then the Americans in Afghanistan, and doesn't forgive it the favorable response of its people, scholars, students, mujahideen and tribes to the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan - since its founding and to this very day - and to its amir the lion of Islam, Mullah Mohammed Omar, may Allah protect him, and doesn't forgive it its overwhelming public sympathy for the call of Sheikh Osama bin Ladin for jihad to expel the Americans and Jews from the holy places of the Muslims and their homes.

In this context, India appears to be the best candidate to implement the Zionist/Crusader plan to humiliate Pakistan and weaken it and tear it apart. And [President George W] Bush's recent visit to Pakistan at the beginning of March was one of the biggest pieces of evidence of that, as he gave a strong push to India's nuclear program, while handing out orders and instructions in Pakistan. And I will review with you in brief just a few of the many woes and misfortunes which Musharraf and his supporters have brought on Pakistan.

The first of these woes is Musharraf's combating of Islam in Pakistan. With an order from the Crusaders, he provided all the backing needed to expel the Islamic emirate from Kabul. And he has made war on the Islamic schools, and is seeking to review the Hudood Act related to rape], in addition to inventing - with Crusader guidance - a new Qadiani creed which invites the people to an Islam without jihad and without enjoining of good and prohibition of evil and without observation of the rules of the sharia, which he calls "Enlightened Moderation".

The second of these woes is Musharraf's threat to Pakistani national security. Musharraf was the primary backer of the ouster of the Islamic emirate from Kabul, and was the primary reason for the establishment of a government in Kabul allied to America and India and hostile to Pakistan. And as a result of Musharraf's betrayal, Indian intelligence has crept close to the Pakistani-Afghan border and opened its consulates in the cities adjacent to Pakistan. And the Pakistani army, with the exit of the Taliban government from Kabul, became a double loser: first, the Pakistani army lost the strategic depth which Afghanistan, with its highlands and mountains, can offer it in any Pakistani-Indian confrontation. And second, the Pakistani army's back became exposed to a regime hostile to it and allied with its enemies. And if you add to this India's success in exploiting air bases in Tajikistan and its seeking military cooperation with the Central Asian states, you will realize the extent of the predicament which the Pakistani army has gotten itself into.

And Musharraf is the one who placed the Pakistani nuclear program under American - and hence Jewish and Indian - supervision. Musharraf exploited America's accusation of Abdul Qadeer Khan [father of Pakistan's nuclear program] to impose its surveillance on the Pakistani nuclear program. And then is it credible that Abdul Qadeer Khan was outside the surveillance of Pakistani military intelligence? Thus the first ones who should be brought to trial in the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan are the leaders of the Pakistani army and intelligence. But Abdul Qadeer Khan was used as a scapegoat to please America.

And Musharraf is the one who is fanning the flames of civil war in Pakistan on behalf of America, in Waziristan and Balochistan, in a bloody conflict whose losses have no end, and which will only rebound on Pakistan with the worst of damages. The worst thing any army in the world could wish for is that it be assigned to defend the borders of its country at a time when it is embroiled in an internal civil war. Pakistani memory has yet to forget the catastrophe caused by the civil war in East Pakistan [that led to the creation of Bangladesh]. And what Musharraf has done in Bajaur, Waziristan and Balochistan he will repeat in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, and indeed, any place the Americans request him to strike.

And Musharraf is the one who is seeking to change the combat doctrine of the Pakistani army by repeating that the real danger to Pakistan is from within and not foreign: ie, he is inciting the Pakistani army to fight its people and brothers and turn a blind eye to the Indian threat. And if the combat doctrine of any army becomes corrupted, and its fighting turns into fighting for the sake of salary and position alone, then this army will run away from the battlefield whenever fighting breaks out.

And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending Islam when he is the one who enabled the Americans to kill tens of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, and enabled them to oust the Islamic emirate from Kabul? And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending the sanctity of Pakistanis when his commanders order him to kill women and children in his own country? And how is it possible for the Pakistani officer or soldier to be persuaded that he is defending the honor and dignity of Pakistan when he sees his leaders order him to carry out a new slaughter every time they are visited by a high-ranking American official?

The third of these woes is Musharraf's squandering of the issue of Kashmir and his painstaking effort to dispose of it at any cost. Musharraf is the one who strangled the jihadi resistance against India, which led it to increase its savagery and draw up the borders. And Musharraf is the one who made and continues to make one concession after another in the Kashmir issue, even as India hasn't budged one step from its stance. And Musharraf is the one who seeks to deceive the Muslim ummah [community] in Pakistan by pretending to them that the problem with India will be resolved with confidence-building measures, in order to neutralize the effort to liberate Kashmir, which is the real problem between Pakistan and India.

And Musharraf is the one who wars against the Arab mujahideen and their brothers from all corners of the Islamic world, who represent one of the most important weapons in the liberation of Kashmir, in the same way that they contributed before to the liberation of Afghanistan from the Russians. And Musharraf is the one who brought American military and intelligence forces to Kashmir under the pretext of helping the victims of the earthquake. They came in under this cover and commenced to strengthen their defenses and fortifications in order to establish permanent Crusader bases on the Pakistani-Indian border.

The fourth of these woes is Musharraf's recognition of Israel, to prepare the Pakistanis psychologically to recognize a Hindu state in Kashmir. The fifth of these woes is his affront to Pakistani dignity and sovereignty when he gave free reign to American intelligence and investigative agencies in Pakistan, and turned Pakistan's army and security services into hunting dogs at the service of the Crusaders.

The sixth of these woes is his corruption of political life in Pakistan. Through bribery and election fraud, Musharraf declared himself president and formed a party of bribe-takers and opportunists which he provided with a parliamentary majority, and distributed to them and the rest of his supporters the country's treasures, which he had seized, even though he is the same one who claimed at the beginning of his rule that he came to combat fiscal corruption in Pakistan.

And the West, which claims to defend democracy, was hostile to Musharraf at the outset of his rule, but later did a U-turn in admiration of him and his treachery, and indeed, today encourages him to stay in power by any means, after he demonstrated his aptitude for killing Muslims. Musharraf's real problem is bribery. And Musharraf reckons that his success in procuring wealth will only be achieved by betraying Pakistan and appeasing America and throwing himself at its feet.

But he forgets the other half of the reality, which is that America tosses its agents into the rubbish bin when there is no longer any need for them. And were he to look across his western borders, he would see the fate of the shah [of Iran] bearing witness to that, when they ordered him to leave Iran, and then deprived him of asylum and indeed, even medical treatment, which he only found with his friend the bribe-taker Anwar Sadat [of Egypt].

And in keeping with Musharraf's worship of wealth and his mad dash for bribes, he tries to persuade the Pakistani people that they must take care of their interests without paying attention to any moral or religious considerations. This is the same logic of drug dealers, white-slavery gangs, spies and traitors, and the outcome of this attitude is the loss of this world and the next. Allah the Exalted says, "Satan threatens you with poverty and bids you to immorality, while Allah promises you His forgiveness and bounties, and Allah cares for all and He knows all things." - Al-Baqarah 2:268.

I address the Pakistani people, to call on them to stand today in the ranks of Islam against the Zionist/Crusader assault on the Islamic ummah and on Pakistan, and I call on them to strive in earnest to topple this bribe-taking, treacherous criminal, and to back their brothers the mujahideen in Afghanistan with everything they have until they defeat the plan of the Crusaders and Zionists allied with India.

I also call the Pakistani army's attention to the dismal fate which awaits them in this life and the other, for the Pakistani army has turned into forces aligned under Bush's cross in his crusade against Islam and Muslims, just as it has become a tool in the destruction and tearing apart of Pakistan. Let every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army know that Allah has threatened anyone who allies himself with the infidels against the Muslims with a painful punishment. Allah the Exalted says, "To the hypocrites give the good tidings that there is for them a grievous chastisement; those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: Is it honor they seek among them? Nay, all honor is with Allah." - Al-Nisa 4:138-139.

And let every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army know that Musharraf is throwing them into the burner of civil war in exchange for the bribes which he took from the Americans, and that he doesn't care if 10,000 or 20,000 Pakistani troops are killed, as long as his pockets are full of bribes. And let them know that Musharraf has made preparations to flee abroad - where he has his secret accounts - on the victory of the popular revolution.

For this reason, I call on every officer and soldier in the Pakistani army to disobey the orders of his commanders to kill Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or otherwise he will be confronted by the mujahideen who repelled the British and Russians before. The Truth - Exalted is He - says, "Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease [from disbelief], their past will be forgiven. But if they return [thereto], then the examples of those [punished] before them have already preceded [as a warning]. And fight them until there is no more fitnah [disbelief and polytheism] and the religion will all be for Allah alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease [worshipping others besides Allah], then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do. And if they turn away, then know that Allah is your maula [patron, lord, protector and supporter] - [what] an excellent maula, and [what] an excellent helper." - Al-Anfal 8:38-39.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.
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Fighting talk from Osama and the Taliban (Apr 25, '06) 

A rush to the Taliban's call (Apr 13, '06)


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