Crowding in paradise

islamic martyrdom

Did the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have prior knowledge of Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s assassination? Surely it had profiles of security guards detailed to protect him. It must have had an idea of the national mood on the Blasphemy Law which Taseer opposed and that, therefore, rose petals would be showered on his killer. How widespread was the knowledge within the agency of pockets of celebration in its own ranks? How infected is the army, police, frontier corps, civil service, ordinary people minus the deluded cocktail circuit of which, alas, Taseer also was a part?

These would be malicious questions were they not about an organisation which has extraordinary intimacy with Islamic militancy, terrorism since the ’80s when it created it, reared it and has nurtured it since.

It is always useful to remember that the showdown which eventually consumed Pervez Musharraf was on the issue of ISI: who controls it? Interior minister Rehman Malik was given charge only for it to be snatched back by the army within hours.

Is civilian control possible of an organisation led by a Lt General? Below him are six major generals, supervising six different branches, helped by dozens of brigadiers, a hundred colonels and hundreds of junior officers. This is just 60 per cent of the total organisation. The remainder 40 per cent consists of civilians.

This mammoth proselytising machine, committed to a brand new politicised Islam imported from the Arab world, has been preparing drafts, gameplans for Kashmir, strategic depth in Afghanistan and a huge game of bluff diligently designed for the American establishment: credible help interspersed with its exact opposite. For 30 years it has cooked up these plots with unwavering dedication. Can it be controlled?

Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Taseer’s killer, probably has no links with the ISI, but he is irredeemably part of the web of extremism ISI has woven.

A few years ago, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI told me a frightening story. A young man approached him in Peshawar with an unusual request. Could he (the Maulana) use his influence with the Islamists and promote him to the top of the long list of suicide bombers? His ailing parents were eager to have him ascend to paradise in their lifetime.

Now the young aspirant for paradise does not have to wait in lengthy queues to be strapped to bombs. Qadri has simplified the matter. You chose your apostate or heretic, pump him with bullets, bludgeon him or exterminate him in deviant congregations and proceed to paradise. The logical conclusion of this trend, of course, is an overcrowding of paradise and an emptying of such of the liberal Pakistan as still latches on to the tattered Jinnah fabric.

The ostrich

There is something of the ostrich about American policymakers keeping a steady gaze on the July 2011 policy review on Afghanistan. They have forgotten the hyphenation — AF-Pak. They should be running scared of what is happening to Pakistan, their ally of almost as long a standing as Israel. Both are getting out of hand in their own ways.

For the Americans there is no easy choice, which probably explains why they have no policy either for Afghanistan or Pakistan, the latter in my view being much the trickier problem.

Pakistan’s current problems are a direct consequence of Pervez Musharraf’s U turn, joining the American war on terror while keeping a screen on Lal Masjid in the heart of Islamabad, the hatchery where thousands of Qadris and his female variants were reared. Lal Masjid, let me add, is only a metaphor for a much more widespread phenomenon.

Musharraf’s dilemma remains the dilemma of the Pak army: how does the army exterminate the fighting force it has trained for Soviet expulsion, strategic depth in Afghanistan and Kashmir? So, the army plays both sides of the street — alert the villages, then send the soldiers in. Egged on by the Americans to ‘do more’ and sometimes truly motivated because Pakistan soldiers have been killed, real and fierce action takes place. This on-and-off offensive has been going on since 2003.

Naturally, Pushtoon nationalism is enflamed. Pushtoon and Afghan are synonymous terms. All Taliban therefore are Pushtoons and Afghans at the same time.

When the army strikes at Taliban, collateral damage and all, Pushtoon nationalism is fired. When the army pulls back, Taliban mop up the peace in unstoppable evolution of a Pushtoon entity, only loosely linked to Islamabad and Kabul.

Americans, aware there can be no victory in Afghanistan or Af-Pak, are, in demonstration of muscle, persistently Droning the Waziristan region. Rampaging anti-Americanism is exponentially visited on the Pak army.

Quite unintentionally, the Americans have achieved something they are not fully aware of. Pakistani inconsistency, sometimes embedded with the Americans, have made them (the Pakistanis) the most hated quantity in Afghanistan, with near zero potential for any negotiation with Afghan, indeed any Taliban.

But Americans are desperate and do not have a policy in the entire Af-Pak complex. They are exasperated with the Pakistan army’s hot-and-cold approach. So, in demonstration of power, more and more Drones are going to be unleashed, accompanied by special forces, inviting a catastrophic blowback in Pakistan. There will be such mass recruitment of Malik Mumtaz Qadris that the gates of paradise will crash open for an avalanche of ‘Muslim’ martyrs with Archangel Gabriel at the gate, raising his hands in despair: “Enough; enough!”

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