Nourishing terror with US dollars
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Commenting on America’s response to the multiple terrorist strikes of 9/11, the most spectacular of which was Mohammed Atta and his fellow jihadis flying two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and reducing the glittering chrome-and-glass symbol of American power to twisted steel and rubble, Gen Pervez Musharraf writes in his memoir, In the Line of Fire, “I was chairing an important meeting… when my military secretary told me that the US Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, was on the phone. I said I would call back later, but he insisted that I come out of the meeting and take the call. Powell was quite candid: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ I took this as a blatant ultimatum… I told him we were with the United States against terrorism, having suffered from it for years, and would fight along with his country against it.” Gen Powell’s pronounced pro-Pakistan bias was no secret in the first Bush Administration. It is possible that his colleagues were not too sure whether he had been blunt enough while delivering what Gen Musharraf was to later correctly describe as a “blatant ultimatum” to Pakistan. So a follow-up message was sent, this time through a person who had little time and lesser patience for niceties. “When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In what was to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director-general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we would be bombed back to the Stone Age.”
It is anybody’s guess as to whether the Americans would have carried out their threat had Gen Musharraf cast Pakistan’s lot with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But being the crafty man that he is, Gen Musharraf decided to play along with the Bush Administration by pretending to be a ‘staunch’ and ‘steadfast’ ally in the war on terror, and thus get the West to acknowledge Pakistan as the ‘frontline state’ deserving of military and civilian aid, which has since run into billions of dollars, most of it contributed by the US. Seven years after Gen Powell asked Gen Musharraf to choose between America and the terrorists, and Mr Armitage made sure Pakistan chose to support the US, there is little or nothing to show for the military and non-military aid. Oversight audits have revealed that much of the money meant to modernise the Pakistani Army to fight terrorism in that country’s badlands has been pocketed by its top brass through the rampant use of bogus vouchers and fake bills.
As for non-military aid, it is obvious that generous cash transfers from Western capitals to Islamabad have not helped prevent Pakistani society’s descent into Islamic fanaticism and jihadi bloodletting. Gen Musharraf had promised to reform the education system by cleansing school curriculum of the regressive elements introduced during the Islamisation drive of Gen Zia-ul-Haq, shutting down non-registered madrasas run by rabid mullahs, and modernising those seminaries which are recognised by the Government. For all his talk about “enlightened moderation”, Gen Musharraf did nothing on this front; by the time he ordered his troops to storm Lal Masjid and its two madrasas, including Jamia Hafza, in the heart of Islamabad on July 8, 2007, thousands of clones of this Deoband-inspired seminary of hate had sprung up across Pakistan. Many more have mushroomed in the last two years and each one of them preaches a simple, one-sentence message: “Jihad is your salvation.”
Distinguished Pakistani scholar and columnist Pervez Hoodbhoy, in an article, “The Saudi-isation of Pakistan”, published in the latest issue of Newsline, laments how radical Islamism and mullah-driven Arabisation are furiously gnawing at the innards of a tottering Pakistani state. He says although the Government admits to the existence of only 13,000 madrasas with 1.5 million Taliban, the real number is likely between 18,000 and 22,000. That would mean millions of Taliban being indoctrinated by hate-mongers for whom Islam means being in a state of constant war with those who refuse to submit to oppressive Islamism that militates against human liberty, equality and dignity.
The preaching of hate and the teaching of ‘virtues’ of jihad are not limited to Deobandi madarsas alone. Such has been the all-pervasive influence of state-sponsored Islamisation since the days of Gen Zia’s dictatorship — contrary to popular belief Benazir Bhutto did nothing to reverse the trend after the dictator met a justly deserved fiery death (those with an evil mind insist the CIA did him in), nor did Mr Nawaz Sharif bother to halt the onward march of radical Islam while Gen Musharraf tricked the Americans into believing he was working on education reforms but it would require a few more million dollars, please — that private schools have now begun adopting offensive textbooks. Rezaul Laskar of PTI has filed a report from Islamabad which is worth quoting verbatim: “Thousands of Pakistani schoolgoing children are growing up learning that the Urdu equivalent of the letter ‘A’ stands for Allah, ‘B’ for bandook (gun) and ‘J’ for jihad. Though not officially prescribed for pre-schoolers, books printed by Iqra Publishers are being used in several regular schools and madrasas across Pakistan. The three examples of Allah, bandook and jihad are not the only ones which sound like a ‘blueprint for a religious fascist state’. The Urdu letter for the ‘T’ stands for takrao (collision), ‘K’ for khanjar (dagger), H for hijab (veil) and ‘Z’ for zunoob (sins) which include watching television, playing musical instruments and flying kites.
Which takes us back to Peerbhoy’s lament: “Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.” Not given to grand pronouncements, Peerbhoy has been cautious with his words. For, Pakistan has not only set itself on a self-destructive course, it is also headed for a catastrophe whose victims shall not be Pakistanis alone. Tragically, the Americans refuse to read the writing on the wall. If the Bush Administration erred in trusting Pakistan, the incoming Obama Administration has compounded that error by promising to treble aid to a criminal state whose ruling elite, both military and civilian, is a complicit partner in promoting a particularly virulent form of radical Islamism. Little does the Pakistani elite realise that it too shall be devoured by the beast it is nourishing with American dollars.