Taliban for Peace?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Supreme Leader Signals Willingness To Talk Peace

By Stephen Grey in Kandahar

AFGHANISTAN/

Taliban fighters pose in front of a burning German military vehicle in Isaa Khail village of Char Dara district of the northern Kunduz Province April 3, 2010. Three German soldiers were killed and five others seriously injured in fighting in Kunduz, the German Army Command in Potsdam said on Friday.

REUTERS/Wahdat

April 18, 2010 “The Times” — The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“All the mujaheddin seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution. We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

The interview was conducted by a reputable Afghan journalist employed by The Sunday Times with two members of the shura that directs Taliban activity across the whole of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces. It was arranged through a well established contact with the Taliban’s supreme leadership.

Looking back on five years in government until they were ousted after the attacks in America on September 11, 2001, the Taliban leaders said their movement had become too closely involved in politics.

Abdul Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went. We lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out. We will leave politics to civil society and return to our madrasahs [religious schools].”

The Taliban’s position emerged as an American official said colleagues in Washington were discussing whether President Barack Obama could reverse a long-standing US policy and permit direct American talks with the Taliban.

If the Taliban’s military aims no longer included a takeover of the Afghan government, this would represent “a major and important shift”, the US official said.

The Taliban objectives specified on their website had already shifted, Nato officials said, from the overthrow of the “puppet government” to the more moderate goal of establishing a government wanted by the Afghan people.

In the interview, the two leaders insisted that reports of contact between the Taliban and the Kabul government were a “fraud” and stemmed from claims made by “charlatans”. Up to now, no officially sanctioned talks have taken place, they said.

They laid down no preconditions for substantive negotiations, saying simply that the Taliban were ready for “honest dialogue”. Another Taliban source with close links to the Quetta shura said the movement was willing to talk directly to “credible” western politicians, including Americans, but not to intelligence agencies such as the CIA.

This source said that although the Taliban’s unwavering objective remained the withdrawal of all foreign troops, their preconditions for talks might now be limited to guarantees of security for their delegates and a Nato ceasefire.

According to a Nato intelligence source, Taliban representatives have established direct contact with several ministers in President Hamid Karzai’s government. But they refuse to have any direct contact with Karzai, whom they regard as an “illegitimate puppet”.

During an interview that lasted for several hours and was interrupted only by the coming and going of messengers on motorbikes, our reporter heard nothing from the Taliban leaders to suggest that the movement was weary of war, as some western analysts have claimed.

Instead, he was told that the Taliban believe they are winning and are able to negotiate from a position of strength. Asked about a forthcoming Nato offensive in the Kandahar region, a local Taliban commander who sat alongside the two scholars boasted: “We’re ready for this. We’re going to break the Americans’ teeth.”

The Taliban leaders said that lessons had been learnt from Nato’s last big offensive in the Marjah area of Helmand province earlier this year. When Nato gave advance notice of the operation, the Taliban were lured into sending too many fighters to the area, some of whom died.

The leaders said that in Kandahar a plan to counter Nato had already been prepared.

“There will be no surprise there,” said Abdul Rashid. “We have our people inside all positions in the city, in the government and the security forces.”

He added that America already had enough problems “to haunt her” and fighting in Kandahar would only turn more people against it.

“People don’t trust the foreigners because they are backing the warlords. People are fed up with crime and brutality and that’s a big problem for the Americans. We’re well positioned, with supporters everywhere.”

As they prepare for the traditional summer fighting season, the Taliban leaders are placing as much emphasis as Nato on winning the hearts and minds of the population.

Abdul Rashid said there had been Taliban commanders who had financed their campaigns by taking bribes to give safe passage to Nato supply convoys or from drug smugglers. But the Taliban’s leadership had ordered a halt to this.

“What we do is not for a worldly cause — it is for the sake of Allah. More important than the fighting for us now is the process of purification. We are getting rid of all the rotten apples,” he said.

12-17

Fresh Wave of Militancy in Aftermath of Bloody Red Mosque Operation

July 19, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ashraf Ali, Special to Muslim Media News Service

Peshawar, Pakistan–The ‘operation silence’ at last broke the silence when 102 persons including Red Mosque deputy cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, seventy two seminarians and ten soldiers were killed and over 130 injured as security forces stormed the Red Mosque-Jamia Hafsa complex–on July 10.

The operation, although it put an end to a six-month long stand off between the Red Mosque clerics and the government authorities, has given birth to many questions.

The foremost question asked is: why did President Musharraf chose this time for launching an operation against the mosque, and secondly, how come the heavy piles of arms and ammunition could make its way to the mosque and Jamia Hafsa in the capital right under the nose of intelligence agencies? The political observers believe that the launch of the operation at this times was aimed at diverting people’s attention from the on-going judicial crises which started with the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the governments’ failure in delivering to the flood-hit areas where the torrential rains during the current monsoon played havoc with thousands of people in parts of the country; and finally sabotaging the efforts made for making the All Parties Conference a success, which was due in a couple of days after the operation was launched.

According to a government spokesman, the assault was necessary to free hundreds of female hostages and young seminarians, but a week after the attack the despondent parents are still seeking their loved ones.

In an officially arranged visit to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa, the security forces showed the media persons a huge cache of arms and ammunitions, which according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) was recovered from the mosque and the madrasa Hafsa. This included rockets, landmines, suicide bombing belts, light machine guns (LMGs), Klashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic guns, pistols, revolvers, night vision equipment, and over 50,000 live bullets of different calibers. Three crates of petrol bombs prepared from green soft drink bottles, gas masks, recoilless rifles, dozens of AK 47s, two way radios, large plastic buckets held tennis-ball size homemade bombs and knives were also put on display for the visiting media persons. While briefing the media persons, Director General ISPR, Major General Waheed Arshad said “we also recovered the head of a suicide bomber and his body parts.”

If the government is true in its claim, then the question posed is how come the huge dumps of arms and ammunitions could make its way to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa and how it got radicalized itself within the breathing distance of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.

And secondly, why did the government delay any action against the Red Mosque when it knew that the mosque’s administration have been challenging the writ of the government for the last six months when the Ghazi brothers started brandishing un-authorized weapons in public.

The Red Mosque administration became radicalized during the Afghan jihad against the USSR. Maulvi Abdullah, the father of the deceased Maulvi Abdul Rashid Ghazi, befriended Afghan jihadists including Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf and Jalaluddin Haqqani during the early nineties. Later, Abdullah developed friendly links with the Taliban when they emerged as victors of Kabul in 1996. General Zia ul Haq, the then President of Pakistan was more pivotal in radicalizing Pakistan, with the help of US funds and weapons. He encouraged Abdullah’s fraternizing with Afghan worriors. As a result of state encouragement, Maulvi Abdullah and the Red Mosque enterprise grew; Abdullah usurped state land in the prime E-7 sector of Islamabad to establish yet another seminary, Jamia-e-Fareedia and because of his links to the high ups in the establishment, the authorities did not prevent him from using state land.

The former Chairman of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar and political analyst, Professor Iqbal Tajik, said, “both the Ghazi brothers of the Red Mosque were pampered by the successive military regimes which lends credence to the widespread nexus between the mullahs and Army.” “How could they build up such a military compound right at the heart of the capital without the knowledge of the army and intelligence agencies?” asked Professor Tajik.

Intelligence agencies thought that by funding and creating radical groups they would be able to switch them off when a situation demanded. But it was a wrong assumption. The government did not take into account that once a radical organization is allowed to sprout and attains a certain level, it becomes autonomous in its management and policies. It is then only a matter of time before such an organization graduates first to a regional and then into an international terrorist network. The Red Mosque was no exception.

By 2001, it began to criticize US policies openly. In 2003, the Red Mosque organized violent protests against the murder of another leader of a jihadist outfit, Azam Tariq of a banned religious party, Sepah-e-Sahaba. Seminary students ransacked petrol stations, cinemas, restaurants and other property.

In 2004, Osama Bin Laden’s driver was arrested from the Red Mosque compound. But despite all this the government was unperturbed at the waywardness of its people. A legal expert cum political activist and former member of the national assembly, Abdul Latif Afridi, explained the logic behind the government’s silence on the issue in question, in these words: “The only explanation that comes to mind for this indifference is that government used periodic Red Mosque eruptions as justification for retaining the role of the military in Pakistani politics.”

The political pundits are of the view that at this juncture President Musharraf, exploiting the situation, wanted to show the American administration that the threat of religious extremism still exists in Pakistan and that he (General Musharraf–a man in the uniform) could be the best option for America to crush these extremist forces with full might.”

But Musharraf and his government had to pay a huge price. Immediately after the operation, a series of retaliatory attacks rocked various parts of the country, claiming hundreds of people including youths of the Pak-Army, police, levies and Frontier Constabulary (FC). During the weekend alone, seventy-one people have lost their lives and scores of others have been wounded as a result of suicide attacks in the North West Frontier Province of the country.

In North Waziristan, a troubled area in the tribal belt, the militants, while unilaterally scrapping their 10-month-old peace accord with the government, have threatened guerilla style attacks against the security forces in the area. Abdullah Farhad, a spokesman for the Taliban in the restive tribal areas while talking to The Muslim Observer on telephone from an undisclosed area, said that “their Amir (leader) has announced that the agreement with the government which reached on September 5thl, last year, stands terminated.”

He further maintained that the Amir had ordered the Taliban to start guerilla attacks against the security forces re-deployed in the area following attacks on the security forces. Leaflets announcing the scrapping of the accord were distributed in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, prompting scores of families to flee the troubled area. He later claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Sunday that killed 26 including 15 policemen and 11 candidates who had gathered for police recruitment, and injured more than 50 in police lines in Dera Ismail Khan, a southern district of North West Frontier Province.

Following a bloody suicide attack in the Swat valley which killed 13 persons including 11 soldiers, the government has already sent reinforcements to the troubled area where a local cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has challenged the authority of the government. Maulana Fazlullah who has been running an illegal FM radio station is said to have the active support of thousands of armed men at his back in an area which is the stronghold of a banned religious outfit, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-e-Muhammadi (TNSM)- a movement for the implementation of the Islamic Shari’ah. TNSM was founded by Maulana Sufi Muhammad in 1992 and since then the movement has been struggling for the implementation of a Taliban-style government in the Malakand region of the Swat Valley. After 9/11, Sufi Muhammad took more than ten thousand people to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban against US-led forces there. In 2002, President Musharraf banned TNSM along with some other religious outfits on charges of their being involved in terrorism-related activities.

It is clear that there will be more retaliatory killings to avenge the deaths of civilians in the Red Mosque. A solution to the problem of jihadism lies in a twin track approach, based on full political empowerment by the return of undiluted democracy and a clear official committement not to use jihadi proxies for political or military objectives–their nexus with the intelligence services can only turn Pakistan into a crippled state. Its is too high a price to be paid.

9-30