Is Pakistan still a launch-pad for terrorism?
Daily Times, Lahore
While no seminary in Pakistan is willing to admit that the three London
bombers ever contacted them, intelligence personnel in Pakistan accept that
all three came to Pakistan between November last year and February this
year. Muhammad Siddiq Khan (30) and Shehzad Tanweer (22) are said to have
stayed in Lahore or other cities of the Punjab. Haseeb Hussain (18), the
youngest of the bombers, is believed to have visited Karachi. Six months
after their return from Pakistan they committed the acts of terrorism that
may change Europe more than the tragedy of 9/11.
In these six months they are presumed to have learnt from an expert how to
make explosives in accordance with the instructions in captured Al Qaeda
The police in Pakistan have gone looking in the cities where the spoor of
the terrorists has led them: Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh
and Kamalia. Four men have been reportedly arrested on suspicion from the
last three cities while at least one person has been detained in Lahore. The
international press has moved in and is looking for stories to file. In the
coming week, a lot of negative light will shine on Pakistan and its
private-sector religious institutions. With India claiming to have proof of
terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and Kabul complaining of infiltration
by �Pakistani� Taliban warriors, Islamabad will be on the defensive.
Worse, the 24 Taliban (three of them Uzbeks and one Sudanese) killed inside
Pakistani territory last week by US forces have been given an emotional
burial in North Waziristan attended by thousands of local tribesmen.
Meanwhile, the army has once again gone into the Tribal Areas looking for
new infiltrators, said to belong to Al Qaeda, after failing to catch
Abdullah Mehsud, who began his killing spree in Pakistan after being
released by the Americans from the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison last year.
The police have gone to the cities in Punjab known for their links with Al
Qaeda and its ancillary militias, now banned but functioning under new
names. That all was not well with our security measures was made clear by
President Pervez Musharraf when, addressing senior police officers last
week, he asked them to go after the banned but still functioning �renamed�
militias. He came across as admitting that this was something he did not
know and had had just been briefed about. (One can�t imagine how an IG will
approach the supreme leader of the Lashkar with handcuffs even if President
Musharraf specifically orders him to do so, which is unlikely.)
The truth is that at least three terrorist-jihadi organisation (whose
members tried to kill him earlier) have functioned quite openly, and a
usually sympathetic Urdu press has been referring to them freely after
realising that the government did not mind such reporting too much. At least
one leader in Lahore steadily appears on the pages of the Urdu press with
statements condemning President Musharraf�s �pro-US and pro-India� policies.
So powerful is his �renamed� organisation that he invites opposition
politicians to his impressive gatherings at a new venue in the city, which
the Punjab government has allowed him. Another �leader�, personally close to
Osama bin Laden, has never left the comfort of his luxurious house in
Islamabad. Although he has been �picked up� periodically, he has never been
In the meta-history of jihad in Pakistan the big seminaries have been used
by Islamists organising terror in the name of Islam. Although Al Qaeda is
supposed to have stayed away from sectarianism, its allies in Pakistan have
indulged in it, opening other jihadi �contacts� to public view. A number of
those leading Karachi�s Darul Ulum have been killed in the sectarian tit for
During this internal war, Karachi�s reputation as a training camp of
international terrorists has been revealed: not only have the Indonesian
bombers been facilitated here, but also hundreds of Pattanis of Thailand.
The future map of Thailand was said to have been decided at Multan Road in
Lahore by the jihadi leaders that President Musharraf presumably referred to
while talking to the policemen.
In Europe, the centre of Islamist extremism has been the mosque, not so much
the seminary. The Hamburg Cell �19�, which attacked the United States in
2001, fell under the spell of a Moroccan cleric at the city�s Al Quds
mosque. From there they were directed to Pakistan. All of them were
�facilitated� by Al Qaeda�s ancillary Islamists while on their way to
Afghanistan under the tutelage of Al Qaeda�s Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the
main planner of 9/11, who lived for many years in Karachi directing funding
DW (German) TV on Sunday showed a documentary by Mohamed Sifaoui, a French
Muslim journalist, who penetrated Al Qaeda in Paris and London, revealing
the dangerous extent to which the UK had allowed itself to become vulnerable
to terrorism. In Paris, there were three mosques (including one dedicated to
Pakistanis) in 2003 that spawned GIA-type terrorists. He talks of Karim
Bourti, an Algerian who took his training in Pakistan so much to heart that
he dressed in Pakistani clothes.
Unfortunately, in this account, Pakistan steadily featured in the background
as some kind of global launching pad for Al Qaeda�s projects. The three
bombers who visited Pakistan seem to have followed a set route. One thought
that the terror highway of Pakistan had been closed effectively after
President Musharraf revamped the ISI and closed down the camps where jihad
and terrorism had exploded in terrible chemistry during the 1990s.
That is why there is bound to be public resentment at the way the world will
pry into the Islamist interstices of an �enlightened and moderate� Pakistan.
But that is also why it is in Pakistan�s own national interest to clean up
the �facilitating� organisations that pretend that their project is
spiritual when in fact it is mercenary. *