Taliban's call for jihad answered
in Pakistan By Syed Saleem
CHAMAN, Pakistan - The "Afghan"
market of Chaman in Balochistan province is within
walking distance of the checkpoint that marks the
border with Afghanistan's Spin Boldek area. Many
thousands of people criss-cross between the
countries every day. Electronic items such as
new and used video-disc players, old Pentium
laptop computers and second-hand digital cameras
are on sale for throwaway prices.
dusk settles, much of the main activity takes
place in small shops that rent laptop computers,
which attract teenage boys like magnets.
This correspondent entered one of the
shops, where an action movie with noisy background
songs was playing. The scene
some Middle Eastern-looking youths with long
beards surrounding a convoy and firing bullets and
rockets. They yelled
for an ambulance when one of
their colleagues was injured in crossfire.
"What are you watching?"
replied one of the kids.
"What?" (The reply
was not immediately comprehensible.)
"Jihad, jihad. Do not you understand
'jihad'?" asked the shopkeeper incredulously.
No word could better sum up the situation
in this volatile area than "jihad".
was not meant to be the case.
More than a
decade ago, the area was the back yard of the
Taliban movement, from where many of its
second-tier leaders emerged to bolster the
government in Kabul.
But as recently as a
year ago, after concerted efforts by the Pakistan
government as a partner in the US-led "war on
terror", the region was said to have been won
over, as was to serve as a hub for trade between
South and Central Asia.
dollars were poured into infrastructure, notably
highways, tunnels and railway tracks to connect
Chaman with Gwadar port on the Balochistan
coastline and Karachi port as the foundations for
an international trade grid.
town-planning blueprint was drawn up to transform
Chaman into a modern commercial city in
preparation for its new role as a gateway to
In one respect the plan
worked. There are definite signs of prosperity in
the town and its surrounds, manifested in flashy
cars, abundant markets and lavish houses.
And it has become a hub - a hub for
"All the districts near the
Afghan border, whether it is Chaman or Pashin,
have been heavily radicalized. We hear news every
other day in our villages or nearby villages that
the body of a youth has came back from
Afghanistan," Abdul Rahman, a resident of Pashin
who runs a non-governmental organization (NGO) for
HIV/AIDS awareness, told Asia Times Online.
"We wander from village to village in
Chaman and other districts and we see that youths
do not have any other passion in life but to go to
Afghanistan and kill Americans," Rahman said.
Asghar, a local trader, added: "Exactly
the same trend exists on the other side of the
border in Spin Boldek and Kandahar." Asghar, who
frequently travels to Kandahar and Spin Boldek,
continued: "It's the same tribes, the same people
on the both side of the divide."
surprise, therefore, that the favorite movies for
young males are Jung hi Jung ("War and War"
- a story of Taliban-led operations against the
Americans) and Kelai Jungi, the story of
the massacre of Taliban detainees in Mazar-i
Sharif in 2001.
Also popular are old-stock
videos of the Iraqi resistance and jihadi songs
and films. Stores also sell new movie releases,
whether they be Pashtu, Indian or Persian.
"All the CDs [compact discs] come from
Afghanistan. We just cut and paste from the CD
writer and make copies for sale," a store owner
said. They sell for about 50 US cents each.
NGO worker Rahman blames the
radicalization of the youths on the mullahs, who
he says deliberately whip up the fever of jihad so
that they can get their hands on the steady flow
of jihadist funds from abroad.
is not the case," said cricketer-turned-politician
Imran Khan. "This [radicalization] is [because of]
America's worldwide oppressive policies, which
generate this sort of reaction, and also what has
been done by the government of Pakistan.
"They killed hundreds in the name of the
'war on terror' and handed over hundreds to the
US. They carried out assaults in Waziristan
[Pakistani tribal area]," Imran Khan told Asia
Times Online in Quetta, the capital of
Balochistan. "Had I been a Waziristani, I would
have been doing the same that the Waziristanis are
doing against the Pakistani security forces."
Tellingly, the road from Quetta to Chaman
reveals fresh wall chalkings lauding the Amirul
Momineen ("commander of the faithful", Taliban
leader Mullah Omar) and Quaidul Mujahideen
("leader of the mujahideen", Osama bin Laden),
along with slogans wishing long life to the
Taliban movement and the mujahideen.
Jihad all over again As stated
above, the Pakistani border area with Afghanistan
was a fertile ground for the Taliban as it gained
strength and eventually took power in Kabul in
1996. The numerous madrassas (seminaries)
churned out thousands of sufficiently eager and
ideologically programmed students (both Pakistani
and Afghan) to join the movement.
feeling on the ground is that once again the
Pakistani border towns will fuel the Taliban fire.
Here, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) is the
major power broker.
The JUI is the most
influential component of the six-party opposition
religious grouping, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal
The JUI has two factions, one led
by Maulana Samiul Haq and the other by the leader
of the opposition in the national parliament,
Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Both factions were key
patrons of the Taliban in the mid-1990s.
However, despite being a part of the MMA,
Samiul Haq openly sides with Pakistani President
General Pervez Musharraf, while Rehman's JUI is
believed to have some arrangement with Musharraf's
government to allow it to dominate the provincial
governments in North West Frontier and Balochistan
As such, the factions
officially distance themselves from the Taliban
and claim they will boot out any members with such
However, it is not as simple
as that. The JUI's election success was based on
its unequivocal support for the mujahideen
struggle in Afghanistan against foreign invaders.
Further, the hard core of the JUI still
comprises former jihadi commanders who fought
alongside the Taliban during their rise to power.
Because of their immense popularity, they were
given tickets for national elections, in which
they scored sweeping victories.
for action Now, as the Taliban's spring
offensive gains unprecedented momentum, these
contradictions within the JUI are becoming sharp,
and forcing members to take a stand.
the latest reports of violence, news wires said
that 15 suspected militants, apparently including
a relative of Mullah Omar, were killed on Monday
by Afghan security forces. Further heavy
casualties were reported in clashes on Wednesday.
Over the past month, more than 550 people, mostly
militants, have been reported killed.
than 30,000 foreign troops will be in Afghanistan
within the next few months, bolstered by a large
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
presence, which is strengthening its position in
the south of the country, including 8,000 from
Hekmit Cetin, NATO's chief
civilian representative in Iraq, as quoted by Conn
Hallinan of Foreign Policy In Focus, said, "NATO
can't afford to fail in Afghanistan. If we don't
go to Afghanistan, Afghanistan will come to us, as
terrorists, as narcotics traffickers."
Taliban will be ready. Mullah Mohammed Kaseem
Faroqi, the Taliban commander in Helmand province,
recently told The Times of London, "My message to
[Prime Minister] Tony Blair and the whole of
Britain is, 'Do not send your children here. We
will kill them.'"
One of the voices calling for
the JUI to clarify its stance is that of Maulana
Noor Mohammed, a member of the National Assembly
in Islamabad from Quetta and a top leader of the
faction. He recently urged the
JUI to support the Taliban, no matter what the
Asia Times Online met Noor, who is
about 80, in his Quetta office. ATol:
You asked for complete support for the
Taliban. What is the rationale behind this? Do you
not think that this would be an intervention in
the affairs of a neighboring country?
Noor (Opening the constitution
of the JUI): The constitution of the JUI
clearly states that when Muslim traditions and
Muslim lands are under threat, the JUI must play a
role [he cited many clauses backing this up]. It
clearly speaks of supporting Muslim liberation
movements across the globe, that is why we support
Hamas [in Palestine], we support Bosnian Muslims.
When the US invaded Afghanistan we formed a
council for the defense of Pakistan and
Afghanistan, which we later converted into the
six-party religious alliance [MMA]. The Taliban
are still fighting against a foreign presence, and
we should support them.
Will such support not cost you and your
have to understand that the JUI is actually a
movement which has strong traditions and history.
Our first leader was Mujadid Alf-i-Thani [who
stood up against the Mughal emperor Akber when he
developed the religion Din-i-Illahi, which is a
mix of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism].
Waliullah Dehalvi [a renowned reformist during the
Mughal era who is still followed throughout South,
Central and Southwest Asia] was another one, and
then came Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi, who further
picked up the pace of the movement. [Noor then
gave a long list of JUI leaders over the years who
had resisted oppression.]
You can see the
whole legacy of our leaders is jihad, the fight
against oppression and support for Muslim
movements. This is what the JUI constitution
ATol: The whole
movement was just for the Indian subcontinent. It
did not go into other countries.
Noor (once again reading from
the JUI constitution): "To strive for the
[safeguarding] of Islam, Islamic tenets and the
center of Islam ... to provide support to Muslims
in occupied territories and to support Muslim
minorities in non-Muslim majority areas." Where is
it written that it has any territorial limits? It
is a global agenda.
Now I will again go
back to history.
When the British attacked
Afghanistan, we supported the Afghan rulers and
sent our leaders, like Ubaidullah Sindhi, who
stayed there for seven years, and worked for the
cause of the liberation of Afghanistan. The
Ulema-i-Deoband [who graduated from the Deoband
Islamic seminary in northern India] had a special
status in Afghanistan and was admired by Afghan
... Similarly, we had a role when
the former USSR invaded Afghanistan and our
leader, Maulana Mufti Mehmood [a former chief
minister of North West Frontier Province and
father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman], issued a
religious decree in favor of an Afghan jihad, and
even when the Taliban emerged we supported them.
So the question is, why not now, when
[President George W] Bush and his allies have
launched a wicked crusade on Muslims? Should we
not support the Taliban movement because a mean
General Musharraf is our ruler and he turned the
Pakistan army into a US force which caught 600
Muslim mujahideen and handed them over to the US?
And Musharraf proudly says this, and he killed
dozens of others and detained their families.
ATol: But the MMA rules in
two provinces and is not sure what to do in the
"war on terror".
MMA should adopt a clear policy about the Taliban.
Does it support the Taliban or not? When the
Americans threatened to invade Afghanistan ,
as I said, we formed the council for the defense
of Pakistan and Afghanistan. So what is the point
I spoke to the MMA leadership
and asked for a debate at an upcoming session of
the MMA. So why not announce clear support to
mujahideen all over the world, including the
The mujahideen are the opposition
force of the day against Bush and his allies.
Those who keep two opinions on the MMA's role,
other than [being with the mujahideen], are just