Page 1 of 2 THE ROVING EYE
Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad
By Pepe Escobar
Arif Jamal is arguably the leading Pakistani expert on the jihad in Kashmir. He
is the author of Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir , a
groundbreaking, gripping account of the interminable, key conflict between
India and Pakistan, based on interviews with hundreds of militants over the
The book is essential reading for understanding, among other issues, how the
United States-friendly Pakistani army trained nearly half a million jihadis;
how United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) money ended up financing
the jihad in Kashmir; and how closely interconnected is the situation in
Kashmir with the endless turmoil in Afghanistan and the global jihad.
Along with other foreign correspondents from the US, France and
Canada, this correspondent recently shared Jamal's knowledge on the ground - in
Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as well as in the Pashtun tribal areas of
Pakistan. Lately, Jamal has been a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights
Policy at Harvard University and is currently associated with New York
In an extensive interview, Jamal discusses the origins of jihad, evolving from
subversion to guerrilla war and to "privatization"; and how Pakistan's army
kept supporting jihadis in Kashmir and the Taliban in Afghanistan even after
September 11, 2001, attack s on the US. He sheds light on what really happened
in the recent Swat Valley operations in Pakistan against militants - which
captured global headlines; on the "Pakistani chapters" of al-Qaeda; and draws a
sharp distinction between "historic" al-Qaeda and the new, Pakistani-dominated
Jihad International Inc.
He also examines the crucial, myriad links - and ominous implications -
involving Afghanistan and Kashmir, rarely addressed by Western media ("the two
jihads have always been two sides of the same coin"). His analysis is
guaranteed to provide US President Barack Obama's AfPak planners countless
Pepe Escobar: Pakistan's army leaders have been masters of the
double game since the 1980s. Could you briefly describe how they deploy their
Arif Jamal: Actually, the strategy of playing a double game is as
old as the country. When British India was partitioned into two dominions in
1947, Pakistan faced an enemy in India which was several times bigger, more
populated, resourceful and most importantly militarily more powerful. It was
not good sense to take on a far more powerful enemy in a conventional military
Pakistani military strategist Colonel Akbar Khan conceived the concept of jihad
to offset the lack of military balance between the two emerging enemies. Akbar
Khan's concept of jihad was no more than subversion in the enemy country, but
it was couched in jihadi terms. He himself took over the grand-sounding name of
a Muslim conqueror as his nom de guerre.
From that time onwards, the Pakistani military leaders kept inciting the local
Muslim population in the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to
subversion and turning subversion into a guerrilla war until 1980, when they
decided to wage a real jihad in Afghanistan [against the Soviets]. At the same
time, Pakistan never abandoned the diplomatic option of resolving its conflicts
with India. The Pakistan army supported a full-scale anti-Soviet jihad or
subversive guerrilla war in Afghanistan. Publicly, Pakistan denied any support
to the Afghan mujahideen. The only time Pakistan claimed responsibility for
subversion in a neighboring country was when the Soviets withdrew from
Afghanistan [in 1989]. It was a victory for the jihad policy.
Pakistan intensified its military and financial support to Kashmiri jihadis at
the end of the 1980s and kept supporting the Afghan mujahideen even after the
withdrawal of the Soviets, but never admitted doing so. Pakistan continued the
same policy even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks [in the US]. On the one hand,
it joined the US-led anti-terror coalition and on the other hand it kept
supporting the jihadis in Kashmir and the Taliban in Afghanistan. At best,
under [President] General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's actions against
terrorists were selective.
PE: Was the operation in Swat Valley [this year] nothing but a
big show put up by the army for the benefit of Washington - of course, with the
"collateral damage" of displacing 3.4 million people?
AJ: It appears so more and more with the passage of time. In the
beginning, it appeared they were serious in eliminating the terrorists there.
However, knowingly or unknowingly, they gave enough time to top terrorists like
Sufi Mohammad and Maulana Fazlullah and their followers to escape. As a result,
the terrorists disappeared from Swat Valley but re-emerged elsewhere.
Parts of Swat Valley and other areas where the TNSM [the banned pro-Taliban
Tehrik-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi - Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic
Laws] had established its control may have fallen back to the military, but the
terrorists can always come back. Swat Valley is not in the tribal areas. It
would have made a lot of sense if they had quietly encircled Swat Valley before
the operation so that nobody could escape.
The Swat operation has created such a huge refugee problem that it may defeat
every sincere effort to smash terrorism. I do not know whether the military
created this crisis knowingly as part of their double game or because of a bad
counter-terrorism strategy. If they let that happen unknowingly, it is still
more dangerous. This would mean that they are not capable of carrying out
anti-terrorist operations even if they are willing to.
PE: Can you expand on the strategic importance of Swat as a
corridor linking Pakistani Kashmir and Afghanistan?
AJ: Swat's strategic importance is that it lies somewhere between
the borders of Afghanistan and Kashmir. If the "Taliban" get entrenched here,
they can spread from there in every direction, ultimately linking Afghanistan
and Kashmir through one or more corridors. The terrorists from Kashmir and
Afghanistan would be able to freely move between the two. The differences
between the jihadis in Afghanistan and those in Kashmir would go and they would
unite under one jihadi command. Muslim extremists would emerge a lot stronger
as a result. The Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan would establish new
sanctuaries in the Himalayas from where they would carry out attacks on Western
forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It would be a lot more difficult to fight
and dislodge them from the Himalayas than from Afghanistan.
PE: Whoever was responsible for the recent bombing in Lahore of
an Inter-Services Intelligence facility had very good on-the-ground intel on
the ISI - not surprisingly, considering the Taliban were "invented" by the ISI
in the first part of the 1990s. It has been speculated that the bombing was
planned and financed by al-Qaeda, with logistical support by Kashmiri
guerrillas and with Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's TTP
[Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan] group contributing with suicide bombers. Sounds
like a CIA fantasy scenario. Any truth to it?
AJ: We do not know and probably will never know for sure who
carried out the recent bombing in Lahore in which an important Brelvi cleric,
Sarfraz Naeemi, died. The investigating agencies in Pakistan rarely finish the
investigations in such cases. One or more Pakistani chapters of al-Qaeda may
have been behind it. The Pakistani chapters of al-Qaeda such as the
Jaish-i-Mohammad and different factions of the former Harakatul Ansaar have
operated in Pakistan freely even after 9/11.
General Musharraf's regime never took any action against them under the false
pretext that they were not fighting in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the West
also did not consider them part of al-Qaeda because they were primarily engaged
in the jihad in Kashmir. The reality was that the Pakistani Deobandi jihadis,
such as Maulana Masood Azhar and Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, were the human
links between the jihad in Kashmir and the jihad in Afghanistan. The two jihads
have always been two sides of the same coin.
PE: Baitullah Mehsud seems to have been converted into the new
Osama bin Laden. What's fact and fiction? Is he really the new emir of
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA]? Is he really the top
"al-Qaeda facilitator", according to CIA spin? What sort of "Kashmiris" are
collaborating with him? What does he really want?
AJ: Jihad International Inc continuously needs a figurehead.
Baitullah Mehsud was catapulted into the new Bin Laden role a couple of years
ago because Jihad International Inc appeared to be losing the war in the
absence of a figurehead such as Bin Laden. The ISI had fielded him to counter
the growing influence of Abdullah Mehsud, who was spinning out of ISI control.
Abdullah Mehsud had deviated from the given script by kidnapping Chinese
citizens in Pakistan.
Now, Baitullah Mehsud also seems to have spun out of their control. Hence, he
also has to be eliminated, and be replaced. Baitullah Mehsud won the first
battle against the ISI by having another terrorist, Qari Zainuddin, murdered,
who had been propped up by the ISI to take the place of Baitullah Mehsud. This
is a flawed policy. Every terrorist has the tendency to spin out of control. If
Qari Zainuddin had succeeded, he would have emerged a more dreaded terrorist
and would have spun out of his handlers' control. To answer the last part of
your question, I would say that many Pakistani jihadi groups have joined
Baitullah Mehsud and others have established links with his organization.
PE: Is al-Qaeda using Kashmiris in FATA and North-West Frontier