"Militancy in South Punjab is an artificial phenomenon"
Tahir Kamran, chairman department of History, Government College University Lahore recently wrote a research paper "Evolution and Impact of Deobandi Islam in the Punjab" which was published in "The Historian" the biannual research journal of GCU. In an interview with TNS, he explains the historical roots of militancy in South Punjab
By Waqar Gillani,
Aoun Sahi &Sarah Sikandar
The News on Sunday: A lot of reports are coming in the media on the increase of militancy in South Punjab. Is there any historical context of this perception?
Tahir Kamran: Yes, it has a historical background. It started with Rashemi Romal Movement in Punjab. Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, who was born in Sialkot, played a central role in it. Sahranpur in UP, New Delhi and South Punjab were important centres of Deobandi activism. Much is written in Amir Rana's book on Jihadi movements. Then there is a significant role of Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan who was among the first batch of students from Dar ul Ulum Deoband (est.1867) and was the one who started Deobandi activism in the region. He also founded Jamiat ul Ulma-i-Hind. Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi was his student and was profoundly influenced by him. To my reckoning, Ubaidullah Sindhi was the first Deobandi Alim who cast some influence on South Punjab. The other phase was the setting up of Majlis e-Ahrar and its activism against Ahmadis in the 1930s. The down-hill slide for Ahrar started by 1935, when the issue of Masjid Shaheed Ganj flared up and Ahrar had an ambivalent stance regarding it. Ahrar had a short lived political life, but its influence was quite long lasting. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of Sipah i- Sahaba had Ataullah Shah Bokhari as a source of inspiration. One must bear in mind that Bokhari was also settled in Multan, a centre of South Punjab. Another cause of religious/sectarian extremism in the area is the Partition in 1947. The Deobandi mosques and madrassas which were mostly set up in Jalandhar and Ludhiana, were relocated in the South Punjab after Partition. Many seminaries were opened in Multan, Okara, Cheehawatani and Bahawalpur etc. Because a chunk of such elements settled in South Punjab, that is why many seminaries like Khairul Madaris and Qasim ul Ulum were opened there. So, after 1947 this phenomenon really got a substantial push.
TNS: What are the other factors?
TK: There was a Deobandi movement in 1953 which further added acerbity to the situation which was already charged. Actually, the method of Deobandis is modernist. Deobandi clerics emphasised on Manqoolat (Rational Science). Deobandis adapted to the changing scenario and absorbed modernist influence quite implicitly. The structure of a Deobandi seminary testifies to that fact. Similarly they used printing as a tool, in the same way Christian missionaries had been using it in the 19th century. Hence the modernist tools/instruments were deployed for the benefit of the religious tradition. The loud speaker is one example which is essentially a modern instrument but it has come to be identified with the mosque in the particular case of Pakistan. In the current situation, the exponents of religious extremism have acquired expertise in explosives and the manufacturing of bombs. They are different from traditional Islam epitomised through saint and shrine.
The extremist factions of Ahle Hadith (Wahabi) and Deobandi take inspiration from such luminaries like Mujadad Alf Sani and Shah Wali Ullah. Shah Wali Ullah and Maulana Abdul Wahab Nijedi are contempories. Shah Wali Ullah, I personally think, had revived the severed link between Arabia and subcontinent. Thereafter, Islam in North India had started turning literalist. In Eastern India, Faraizi Movement and Titu Mir's movements also symbolised the same. Haji Shariat Ullah was also a hardliner. Quite conversely Brelvi Islam has greater accommodation for local culture and social ethos. Shah Wali Ullah's followers waged Tehrik-e-Jihad in 1831-32 at Balakot which was spearheaded by Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismael Shaheed. However, with the ascendancy of the British they went into hibernation. On the other side, this is also important that the only viceroy who was killed in the subcontinent was killed by a Wahabi (Sher Ali) in Indeman Island. Mayo Hospital as well as Mayo School of Arts in Lahore were built in his memory. These activists wanted enforcement of Islam through coercive means.
TNS: Do you think poverty in South Punjab is the main reason behind militancy?
TK: Poverty is not the sole factor. However, it is definitely one of major factors. In Punjab, the exponents of the puritan Islam have strived hard to malign Brelvi Islam, which, because of the centrality of the saints and shrines in its theological metaphysics, is considered Shirk for the Deobandis. This trend became ubiquitous during Ziaul Haq's era and a lot of support was provided for establishing Deobandi madrassas. So far as poverty being a factor contributing in the rise of militancy is concerned, there is no doubt that the state has not done enough to alleviate poverty in South Punjab. The pertinent question, however, is that militancy started spawning from 1980s onwards and not before that. That was the time when Pakistan was engaged in the Afghan war and it needed recruits who could go to Afghanistan and fight Russians. I, therefore, think the role of the Zia regime is very crucial in bringing militancy to South Punjab.
That is the reason that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant faction of Deobandis, had a catchment area in the Southern districts of Punjab like Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan.
Needless to say, militant Islam was disseminated at the expense of Sufi Islam in South Punjab. My prognosis is that the spiritual leaders of rural Punjab had been turned into feudal lords by the British and used them as its collaborators. Punjabi middle class therefore started nurturing suspicion against that class of pirs and Sajjada Nishins (keepers of shrines). Hence a Deobandi streak started becoming evident in the urban centres of the Punjab from 1920s and 30s. In the south, however, Deobandi extremism found space after partition in 1947.
TNS: Some people believe that this Deobandi activism is also used to crush Shia feudals in the south? To what extent is this true?
TK: The British wanted to use these landholders as their collaborators which they did quite adroitly as their political influence grew after they were granted proprietary rights of the lands attached to the shrines through Madad-i-Muash jagirs. It seems a simplistic explanation. This argument is true to only a partial extent in Jhang, Layyah or Multan. After the Partition, as far as Jhang is considered, many people moved from Rohtak and Hissar and settled down in Jhang city area, where people were mostly carpet weavers by profession and they in collaboration with the local bourgeois wanted economic/political space against Shia landlords, which became the fundamental cause for sectarianism to erupt.
In that context, the first general election in Jhang in 1970 was contested on Shia-Sunni issue, and a political stalwart like Colonel (r) Abid Hussain, who was Shia, lost which to many was inconceivable. But in further south, the phenomenon was markedly different, for instance in Bahawalpur and other areas. In fact clerics became important in the realm of politics only in Ziaul Haq's time. Otherwise, they had been reduced to a redundant lot ever since the advent of British in India. In the past, during Muslim rule they had a space in the state apparatus like Qazi or Qaz ul Qazat etc. The British changed that system quite radically and cleric's role was therefore confined to mosques and madrassas. The system of instruction in madrassas was no longer consistent with the prevailing situation. Coming back to Zia's time, Zakat and Usher Ordinance promulgated in 1979 virtually conflagrated the embers of sectarianism and Pakistani society was divided irreparably. In my view, the recruitment for Afghan and Kashmir jihad was also an obvious cause for the rise of extremism.
TNS: It is said that followers of Brelvi Islam are in majority, then how come Deobandis dominate?
TK: Literate Islam is Deobandi Islam. In urban areas, literate people mostly convert to Deobandi Islam. That brand of Islam got phenomenal support from the Gulf and particularly from Saudi Arabia. The aid for the Madrassas started pouring in after the Iranian revolution in particular. I think the revival of Brelvi Islam is also not possible because of lack of funding and also lack of organisation among their ranks. They have no Saudi Arabia and no organised sources. Tahirul Qadri factor is there but they get funding from Scandinavian countries but not regularly like Deobandis. Deobandis also cashed the money they earned from jihad.
TNS: Is militancy only specific to South Punjab?
TK: No, militants have support from urban areas of the whole of Punjab. You can take the example of Faisalabad, which is one of the main sources of Sipah Sahaba funding, because it is the biggest cotton market and has support of traders. Then they are also in Sialkot, Gujranwala. Adherents to Ahle Hadis persuasion are in astronomical number. In the south, their activism also rose because they were against spiritualism and shrines, which are mostly in the south. But overall, they are all over Punjab.
TNS: Do you think they are increasing?
TK: This is on the behest of foreign funding agencies. At the moment it seems funding is squeezed. The Taliban model of government in Swat also gave them a great loss, so I think it is difficult to proliferate now. But the threat is still there. It is difficult to counter or unravel the mindset which madrassas have created. Sometimes such mindset takes a generation to dilute.
TNS: Is there any threat of Talibanisation in South Punjab?
TK: For me South Punjab is a different territory. Militancy is South Punjab is an artificial phenomenon which is in contrast with the social ethos of the place. NWFP has a history of militancy, but historically the south has a reconciliatory approach. I feel that the majority will react if there is any Talibanisation move. A bold decision of the government, however, can save the situation. The danger is only when people like Masood Azhar are there. But in my view Masood Azhar cannot function if "some" support is not with him.
TNS: Do you think these elements enjoy state patronage?
TK: The state is involved. Though state writ is absent there but the state is very much there in another sense. Such things cannot be done without state patronage. You can take the example of Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). When state withdrew its support there was no so such force in the scene. So what I want to say is state patronage can be ended. You also take the example of Jihad-e-Kashmir. Infiltration is curtailed. But now, I think the situation is different. Now such friendships are not possible. Such organisations have been marginalised.
TNS: Can you propose a solution to this issue? Do you think the state is heading towards a solution?
TK: The solution does not seem possible without involving intelligentsia. And at the moment the state does not seem heading towards the solution. In Saudi Arabia, sermons are totally filtered by the government but here the state failed to implement the Amplifier Act to bar hate speech. It seems that the situation is uncontrollable. The government should control the situation. Intelligentsia should be active and play its role. The media also needs to play role and should approach intelligentsia instead of seeking suggestions from retired generals, who were in this business during their time. In my view, success of the Swat operation can make things okay. Otherwise, the state will continue to be in anarchy and there will be no end to it.
Moreover, there is a need to have plural society and give a substitute to the Islamic identity. I mean a Pakistani identity is required to dilute the ideological state impact.
By Shoaib Hashmi
We live in strange times. You might recall last time I told you about a fourteen member bench of the Supreme Court calling on former President Pervez Musharraf to come to court, or send his lawyer to come and explain his conduct in declaring an emergency in 2007. The ex-president happened to be in Italy but he did call up all his lawyers and offered to reply. Meantime the Court got on with the case, and suddenly out of the blue on Friday they announced the conclusion of the case.
They announced a unanimous decision that the emergency and everything concerned with it was illegal and unconstitutional and it stood rescinded; all the judges who had taken an oath of office under the Provisional Constitutional Order were not legitimate and could go home, or the matter would be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council! It was the short decision and the whole country could sit and await the full decision, which would sort out which decisions taken since the Emergency the judgement applied to and which not.
Obviously a whole National election had been held since then, a Parliament was in place with premier and a cabinet, a new president had been elected and was in office, and no one wanted to play around with any of that. In addition, at the time of the emergency, the Supreme Court chief had been sacked and a new one appointed in his place -- that was illegal, and of no consequence.
Of course, it goes without saying that it was all a long time ago, and much water has flowed under the bridge since then. The former president has since resigned and the chief justice is back in his seat, and I think everyone would like things to go on without anyone shaking the boat.
The very odd thing is the new twist that has been put on the works since then. Ever since the emergency, the lawyers put the initial pressure on the government; it seems they have a peculiar sense of their own importance -- which since then has been oddly distorted. Of course the vast majority of lawyers are decent law abiding citizens, but a small coterie of them have been going to town.
First, they did not like a judgement, so they beat up the judge. Then they pressured a station house officer to do their bidding, and when he did not they beat him up. The channels were there, and captured the whole episode and ran it endlessly on their channels. Therefore, the next time the lawyers saw people from the channel, they beat them up and the channel people got bloody noses and a broken camera.
That put the channel's hat up, and everyone thought this was too much, including the decent lawyers, so when the lawyers got together to celebrate no one joined them. As I say, we live in rollicking times!
The July 31 Order reversed the course of history while making some exceptions
By Asad Jamal
The remarkable order passed by the Supreme Court on July 31, 2009, has evoked an equally optimistic reaction. Analysts even view the order to have shut the door on dictators forever.
A quick reading of the order raises certain pertinent questions, the answers to which may be hopefully offered in the detailed judgment. One thing is however clear that in an effort to clear the mess created by General Musharraf, the Supreme Court did not have much of a choice except to opt for political accommodation and judicial pragmatism.
The judges comprising the bench headed by the Chief Justice are generally referred to as non-PCO judges. It may well be recalled that before the July 31 order, superior courts comprised judges who may broadly be categorised as judges who took oath under the PCO, judges who did not take oath under the PCO and the ones who were appointed from Nov 3, 2007, till March, 22, 2009. The order has been passed in constitutional petitions which, among other things, assailed (i) the removal of judges on Nov 3, 2007, and the subsequent taking over as Chief Justice of Pakistan by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and the oath taking by judges of superior courts under the PCO; (ii) validation of actions taken by General Pevez Musharraf in the cases of Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan by the then Supreme Court as per incuriam (i.e. without due regard for law) and not by a Supreme Court that was constitutional, (iii) the new appointments to superior courts in consultation with then Chief Justice as unconstitutional.
Accepting the petitions, this unprecedented order declares, among other things, that:
uThe judgments delivered in Constitutional Petitions titled as Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan versus General Musharraf and others and any other judgment/judgments passed on the strength of the judgments are declared to be void ab initio;
uThe Proclamation of Emergency and the PCO and all other Orders issued by General Pervez Musharraf are ultra vires of the Constitution;
uThe judges holding offices on Nov 3, 2007 shall be deemed never to have ceased to have been Judges;
uMr. Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was never a constitutional Chief Justice of Pakistan;
uAll appointments of judges of superior courts made, in consultation with Justice Dogar, were unconstitutional, void ab initio;
uThe Islamabad High Court ceases to be;
uThe ordinances given permanence under the PCO will stand shorn of legality so conferred;
uThe increase in number of judges of SC through the Finance Act, 2008 being unconstitutional is void ab initio; and that
uThe judges who took oath in violation of the order of Nov 3, 2007 will be proceeded against under Article 209 before the Supreme Judicial Council for disciplinary action.
Clearly, the worst affectees are judges who took oath under PCO and the judges who were appointed in consultation with Justice Dogar as the CJP. The affected judges are more than a 100. The government took no time to comply with the order and has sent packing all the 76 judges appointed in consultation with Justice Dogar.
The court has, however, given protection to the administrative and financial acts performed by Justice Dogar or of any oath made before him in the ordinary course of the affairs of the said office thus protecting, among other things, the oath taken by President Zardari.
The order creates a further exception by providing that any judgments delivered or orders made or any decrees passed by any bench of the Supreme Court or of any of the high courts which comprised or which included the judges whose appointments have been declared unconstitutional, are protected on the principle laid down in Malik Asad Ali (PLD 1998 SC 161). It may be recalled that a bench of SC headed by CJP, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in an order on Oct 12, 2007 had practically stayed the much criticised National Reconciliation Ordinance, 2007 (NRO) by making its provisions subject to the final decision of the Supreme Court.
This order was "recalled" by a bench headed by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. As a result, a number of cases were dropped under the NRO. According to some analysts, creating this exception could possibly mean that if and when the matter is again taken by the SC, the dropped cases may be declared to be "past and closed transactions".
A couple of other exceptions in the present order are in fact more complex. The order clearly declares the oath taken by certain judges under the PCO was in violation of the SC order of Nov 3, 2007, which restrained judges from taking oath under PCO. Therefore such cases are being submitted before the Supreme Judicial Council. However, in a remarkable exception, it excepts those judges who though had been appointed as judges/chief justices of any of the High Courts between 3.11.2007 to 22.3.2009 but had subsequently been appointed afresh to other offices in consultation with or with the approval of or with the consent of the Constitutional Chief Justice of Pakistan.
This creates two kinds of exceptions: one, for certain judges who after taking oath under PCO in violation of Nov, 2007 order have been appointed by present chief justice to some other office; two, for those judges who were appointed by Justice Dogar but present chief justice appointed them to some other office. The two obvious beneficiaries of this exception could be Justice Zahid Hussain former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, who first took oath under the PCO on Nov 3, and then was appointed the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. He was elevated to the Supreme Court after Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif, along with some other brother judges, was restored to Lahore High Court after the long march led by PML (N) on March 15, 2009. The other beneficiary of this exception under the second category could be Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan who has been appointed as the Chief Justice of the federal Shariat Court by the present chief justice.
It will be interesting to read the legal argument for these exceptions in the detailed judgment. Other exception which may fall under this is that of Justice Sarmad Jalal Usmani who, along with late Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, accepted appointment to the Supreme Court, and has now been returned to the Sindh High Court as the Chief Justice.
The order also does not touch upon the issue of those judges who decided to take oath much before the present chief justice resumed his office after the Long March. It also does not address the issue of those judges who after Nov 3, 2007, accepted positions on the executive side: Justice Javed Iqbal of Supreme Court accepted the position of the chairman of the Press Council and Justice Ijaz Chaudhry of Lahore High Court accepted a position in the Punjab Public Service Commission.
It has been prescribed in the order that in the Code of Conduct prescribed for the judges of the Superior Courts in terms of Article 209(8) of the Constitution, "a new clause shall be added commanding that no such Judge shall, hereinafter, offer any support in whatever manner to any unconstitutional functionary who acquires power otherwise than through the modes envisaged by the Constitution and that any violation of the said clause would be deemed to be misconduct in terms of the said Article 209 of the Constitution". This has been done in the presence of Article 6 of the constitution which clearly prescribes that any person aiding or abetting in abrogation or subversion of the Constitution shall be guilty of high treason.
The order after referring to one of the cardinal principles of natural justice that "no person should be judge in his own cause" at the outset goes on to reproduce one of the prayers in the petitions which reads as follows:
"Hence, in view of the facts and reasons stated above Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is still the Chief Justice of Pakistan as per Constitution and all appointments and re-appointments made in the Supreme Court and High Courts without consultation of de jure Chief Justice of Pakistan are unlawful, illegal, ultra-vires of the Constitution as well as mala fide."
There are certain difficult and complex questions: Whether the judges in the bench acted in their cause? Whether the proceedings were fair? Whether essentials of due process were followed? Why were judges who were condemned in the order not given an opportunity to present their case when indeed General Musharraf was called upon by the court? The court did not invite any amicus curae to raise these questions or adequately answer them nor were there any opposing counsels.
The truth is that the mess created by General Musharraf's Nov 3 actions presented quite a tall order for all three branches of the government to deal with. While some analysts may see in the July 31 Order a reflection of judicial pragmatism and a concern for self-preservation, it may well be hoped that the judicial wing of the state is now well set to act in support of the elected representatives i.e. the sovereign authority.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and may be reached at [email protected]
IDPS make their way back across the Swat valley with mixed feelings
By Kamal Siddiqi
For Nadia Khan, in her 30s, the journey to Mingora was a painful one. Speaking at a camp in Mardan, she recalled how she was forced out of the town by the Taliban because she ran a sewing school for women.
Nadia Khan's school, funded by a local NGO, helped teach women to learn basics of dress making so that they would be economically independent. "My students were mostly widows or women whose husbands or brothers had run away. I would teach them to earn some money to feed their family," she says, as tears stream down her cheeks.
My two visits to the camps in Mardan -- first in April when the IDPs started to arrive and then in July when they were set to leave -- show how things happened in the camps in terms of help and support. At the end of the day, the people do want to go back, despite the obvious they face.
Thousands like Nadia Khan who make their way back to Swat and Buner have similar stories of fear and worry. Nadia says that the Taliban did not come knocking at her door but simply issued instructions from a nearby mosque. "They said all women schools should be shut," she recalls, "and after that day no one came to attend classes. Such was the fear they instilled."
Soon after, Nadia had to leave as her school was attacked. Sewing machines and other basic machinery was broken or robbed. She says now she has to build everything all over again.
Most of the thousands of people going back to Swat have similar emotions. One man at the Shaikh Yasin Camp in Mardan says that he prayed that his house was still standing. "So many have been looted and destroyed. I can only hope for the best."
Escorted by army and local police personnel, the buses and trucks containing these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) make their way to towns and villages across the Swat valley with mixed feelings. Dr Mubina Agboatwala, who runs a local NGO called HOPE, says she fears for the safety of many of those making their way back. "The fighting continues in parts of the valley. It is premature to force them to go back," she comments. But there are few who can stand up and argue with the government officials who have announced that after July all official help to the IDPs will come to an end.
Prime Minister Gilani had announced in July that the situation was conducive for a return of the IDPs. Analysts say that the government is under pressure to show that the military operation was a success and that the situation has normalised. Many of the refugees say that this is not the case but some argue that a home is better than a camp any day.
When asked, 17-year-old Gohar Ali says that the day I return will be the happiest day. "It has been hell living in a refugee camp," he says. He was critical of the help that the government gave.
At the same time, he is praises for some of the NGOs who gave him help in finding work as well as in feeding his family. These NGOs, many of them from religious parties, seem to have emerged more popular after their work in the camps.
This worries many who see a pattern of religious parties doing relief work to gain sympathies at a time when the government falters with bureaucratic delays.
Some of these NGOs are suspect. But Zahid Mumtaz, an under-training DMG officer from Lahore who was assigned to look after the Shaikh Yasin Camp, says that all NGOs that worked in the camps were thoroughly checked and their antecedents verified. "This came about after there were fears that the Taliban and other extremist organisations had filtered into the camps."
Sajjad Afridi, a doctor who ran one of the clinics in the camp, disagrees: "They were here. They did some good work. Many people are going back with the impression that it was only these parties that helped."
As the trucks and buses draw out of the camps amidst much fanfare, the people of Swat wonder what is next in store for them. Many feel that the forces of extremism they left behind are still lurking in the shadows.
Gohar Ali, who left his school when the fighting erupted, says there is nothing to look forward to. This view is shared by Anwar Ali, a school teacher, who says that people are still fearful of being targeted. Many look towards the government to come up with some economic package but so far this has not been announced.
While President Zardari believes that an economic package is the only way Swat will be able to recover from the trauma it has undergone, the president looks to the West for help. So far, while promises have been made by many governments, there has been no on-ground help for the people of Swat, fuelling fears that the terrible cycle of economic deprivation and violence is about to resume in the troubled valley.
Then there are those who want to go back but cannot. Jamroze Khan, in his 40s, is worried at the prospect of returning to his village Qambar in Swat Valley. Sitting in a tent at the Shazad Town tent village on the outskirts of Mardan, Jamroze says that the situation in his area is far from normal. "When I went there a couple of days back, the army did not let me enter my village. They told me to stay on the main road," he says, adding "now the government wants us to leave the camp by July 25. Where will I go?"
Jamroze and his younger brother Behram Khan ran a vegetable supply business which they now say is no more because their stocks, which they left at home as they fled, were either stolen or destroyed. "My other worry is how to pay creditors in Punjab from whom I bought my stocks," he says as he shakes his head in dismay.
For its part, the government's plan of busing IDPs into Swat seems to be working. Murad Ali, who supervises the Muslim Hands International School at the Shaikh Yasin Camp, says that enrolment at the school has fallen drastically.
Asad Ali from the Ummah welfare Trust, shows how the mobile schools, complete with ceiling fans, proper desks and chairs are now being wound up. He suspects that some children will not have the quality of education that they received eventually at the camps.
As the IDPs leave, the government pays them Rs25,000 as resettlement allowance and more provisions as an incentive to go. But Zahid Mumtaz says that the paperwork involved is immense "even for those who are willing to go". He adds that owing to overlapping procedures, initially the government estimated the number of IDPs to be 3.2 million. This figure was revised to 1.7 million when it was discovered that many people had registered several times over to get more provisions and benefits. Now the army has taken over the charge of processing the payment claims.
Some argue that the move to send back the IDPs is premature. Other disagree. Dr Sajjad Afridi, who looked after IDPs in the camps, says that the camps have no sewage and drainage system and the onset of monsoon may bring with it a variety of diseases. "The government knows this and that is why they are trying to push the IDPs out," he says.
But school teacher Anwar Ali says that things are not all well in Swat and Buner. "I have been there and my family members have also gone back. Almost every day we hear heavy gun fire and shootings in the city as well as the country side. It is a nervous time for us," he says.
Another worry is the lack of basic facilities and food supplies. Vegetables are sold at 10 times their value in Swat when compared to nearby Mardan. Power is erratic, water supply is suspect. These are some of the fears and worries that most IDPs share as they make their way back to Swat. "It is happiness mixed with anxiety," says one woman.
Osama, the CIA and China
By Omar R Quraishi
For some reason most of the mainstream Pakistani media failed to pick up a very interesting (and some would say highly conspiratorial) story circulating in the American blogosphere for over a week on Osama Bin Laden's association with the US government. It is already in the public realm that Bin Laden's family owns one of Saudi Arabia's largest construction companies and that several members of his clan had in the past been friendly with senior people in various US governments, particularly the family of George Bush Sr. However, what was not known was the bombshell dropped on July 31 by the news website the Daily Kos, which had a report quoting the remarks of a former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds saying on a US radio show (the Mike Malloy radio show) that the US had "intimate relations" with Bin Laden and the Taliban "all the way until that day of Sept 11". She also said that this cooperation was related to America's involvement in Central Asia and particularly in the CIA creating disturbances in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and that in this America was working with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan! Ms Edmond's 210 minute-long testimony to the commission probing 9/11 has been suppressed by the US government as well after it was deemed "classified."
As for Sibel Edmonds, she is an American of Turkish descent and founded the National Security Whistleblowers after she was fired from her FBI job where her designation was "language specialist" (apart from English she is fluent in Turkish, Persian and Azerbaijani -- and she began working for the FBI on Sept 20, 2001, and was fired in March 2002).
Interestingly, she was sacked after she accused one of her FBI colleagues of covering up illegal activity involving foreign nationals and after she accused the bureau of involving itself in serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence. After she made these allegations, the matter went to court and proceedings were blocked by the US government citing what is called the "State secret privilege," which is a rule used by American governments to prevent a court of law from carrying on with a case on the grounds that doing so would compromise national security. While most governments have such rules, what is intriguing about this American one is that in most cases where it has been used (being officially recognised by the US Supreme Court in 1953 as a kind of an evidentiary rule) the presiding judge has not been able to ascertain the merit, or otherwise, of the assertion that the case not be proceeded with. In a sense, this leaves the use of this rule by a government open to abuse, and that is what many feel may have happened in Ms Edmonds' case. Furthermore, such a rule clearly serves as a gag order, though the institution on which the gag is being applied is not the press but rather the judiciary.
Prior to her bombshell on the US radio show in the last week of July, Ms Edmonds had made a string of controversial claims, which she insists are true because she had first-hand knowledge of them gained during her time at the FBI. One of the claims was that the FBI, the US State Department as well as the Pentagon had been infiltrated by a "Turkish and Israeli-run intelligence network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets". While this may sound conspiratorial and outlandish to many people, one should remember that it is the job of intelligence agencies all over the world to carry out precisely these kinds of activities -- because if they didn't then what use would they be, since intelligence-gathering is the primary reason for their existence.
Another claim that she made -- and probably for which she was fired from the FBI -- was that in April 2001, the FBI received information from "a reliable Iranian intelligence asset" (who had been providing information since 1990) that Osama Bin Laden was planning attacks on four to five American cities and that such attacks would be mounted using aeroplanes, that some of the people who would carry out the attacks were already in the country and that they would happen in the coming "few months". Ms Edmonds has also accused "high ranking members" of the US government of "selling nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan". In May 2005, she wrote an open letter in which she said that the US government's use of the "state secrets privilege" was not intended to protect the interests of Americans but rather of a small group. She said that it was used to protect "certain diplomatic relations" and "certain US foreign business relations". She also alleged that the US government had "intimate relations" with both al Qaeda and Taliban and that these were around till the Sept 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
And now to her July 2009 radio interview again. Parts of the interview are reproduced for readers to make their own judgments. Though the radio programme on which she came is called the Mike Malloy Show, she was being interviewed by Brad Friedman who was a guest host for that particular day. Partial-edited-excerpt of the interview now follows:
Brad Friedman: So it's fair to say in your case then that you don't necessarily have information that you haven't been able to disclose that reveals that 9/11 was an inside job, you just have, like I do, concerns about the information that we have, the bad information that we have…
Sibel Edmonds: (Interrupts) I have to jump in here and say that I have information about things that our [US] government has lied to us about. I know. For example, to say that since the fall of the Soviet Union we ceased all of our intimate relationship with Bin Laden and the Taliban -- those things can be proven as lies, very easily, based on the information they classified in my case, because we did carry very intimate relationship with these people, and it involves Central Asia, all the way up to Sept 11. I know you are going to say 'Oh my God, we went there and bombed the medical factory in the 1990s during Clinton, we declared him "Most Wanted" and what I'm telling you is, with those groups, we had operations in Central Asia, and that relationship -- using them as we did during the Afghan and Soviet conflict -- we used them all the way until September 11.
Brad Friedman: Are you able to speak in more detail about that material that was classified?
Sibel Edmonds: People have written about it, based on the interviews conducted, and based on other people talking about it. And you know what, it's not very difficult to put two and two together on this. There is so much information that of course our [US] mainstream media has not reported, but there have been some good books written on the topic, and that is: What we have been doing, what we were doing in those years, all the way, all the way until that day of Sept 11, in Central Asia, in what they call East Turkistan where we are talking about the Uighurs, and with Bin Laden, via Turkey…. And we, as a country, the United States, used Turkey, along with actors from Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia to carry out a lot of operations.