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Benazir Bhutto's Answer to Al-Qaeda

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Asia Times Nov 3, 2004 Benazir Bhutto s Answer to Al-Qaeda Benazir Bhutto,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2004
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
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      Asia Times
      Nov 3, 2004
      Benazir Bhutto's Answer to Al-Qaeda

      Benazir Bhutto, daughter of former premier Zulfiqar Ali
      Bhutto, as leader of the Pakistan People's Party, served as
      premier for two terms, 1988-90 and 1993-96, the first term
      making her the first female prime minister in the Muslim
      world. She currently lives in self-imposed exile. Asia Times
      Online's Syed Saleem Shahzad spoke to Mrs Bhutto on a wide
      range of topics.

      Asia Times Online: Islamic extremists have called for "death
      to America", with no room for compromise. Why has this
      extremism emerged now, and not, for instance, during the
      Cold War?

      Benazir Bhutto: The slogan "death to America" was, to my
      knowledge, raised before Islamic extremists took center
      stage in global politics. If I recall correctly, it was used
      way back in Latin America during the times of Che Guevara
      and Pancho Villa. The slogan is today considered more deadly
      because of the events of 9/11. In the past, it was more a
      manifestation of anger or resentment among those who raised
      such slogans. The events of 9/11 have given it a less
      rhetorical content.

      During the Cold War the countries which felt aggrieved used
      superpower rivalry to promote their agendas. With the demise
      of the Soviet Union, and the rise of Islamic extremists
      during the fight against the Soviet occupation [of
      Afghanistan], Islamic extremists felt that they could take
      on the remaining superpower. It is unlikely that non-state
      actors can take on a superpower without being assisted by
      another superpower. However, they can cause random terror,
      spread insecurity and fear, give birth to a clash of
      cultures and religions and create more hatred and
      intolerance. This is the real danger. We need to counter
      such extremism by promoting unity, tolerance and respect to
      different races, religions and genders. In such moderation
      lies the harmony and well being of the world community.
      Moreover, we need to address unresolved political issues to
      prevent extremists from exploiting them for their own narrow
      and theocratic ends.

      ATol: The US says "you are with us or against us" -- all-out
      war with no compromise.

      Bhutto: The impact of 9/11 was dramatic and led to a
      dramatic declaration that either you are with us or against
      us. The United States was struck in its financial and
      political center -- while Pearl Harbor was on the periphery
      in comparison. Pearl Harbor drew the US into World War II.
      The attacks of 9/11 have drawn it into the war against
      terror. For some time, the events of 9/11 will continue to
      dominate the agenda of global politics, with the US in the lead.

      ATol: The US is fighting a war against an invisible enemy
      called al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's International Islamic
      Front (a loose coalition of pro-al-Qaeda organizations).
      What is al-Qaeda in the real sense? Is there an ideology
      behind its movement, or are they just a bunch of militants
      who are mindlessly in search of soft US targets to blow up?

      Bhutto: Al-Qaeda has managed to unite disparate militant
      groups into an international confederate of terrorists,
      which is at times is called the Islamic Front. Often these
      groups exploit local tensions, for example the tensions in
      the Middle East, the nationalistic feelings of the Chechen
      people, the nationalistic opposition to foreign troops in
      Iraq or the Kashmir dispute. However, they do have an
      ideology. Their real agenda is to use regional political
      issues to bring about a theocratic dictatorship similar to
      the one that existed in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
      Gender discrimination, cultural intolerance, denial of
      representation, repression of freedom and subjugation of the
      masses to one-man clerical dictatorship is a negation of
      humanity's struggle to overcome suffering and to live in
      respect and dignity. It is important to separate the
      terrorists from the regional issue by defusing tensions
      where they exist through political action.

      ATol: There is a theory that Pakistani President General
      Pervez Musharraf was the biggest supporter of al-Qaeda
      before September 11, 2001. Why and how did he became the
      "most trusted" US partner in the "war on terror"? And does
      the Pakistani army fully support him?

      Bhutto: It is a fact that the Musharraf regime was the
      biggest supporter of the Taliban, who harbored al-Qaeda,
      which was recruiting and training men for terrorism prior to
      9/11. This policy was defended in the name of strategic
      depth. I called it "strategic threat" in a speech I gave in
      parliament calling for the breaking of ties with the Taliban
      in 1998. According to a book by Bob Woodward, the Bush
      administration asked Musharraf to stand up and be counted as
      friend or foe. Since he gave a positive answer in one
      telephone call, they decided to work with him. It was more
      convenient for Washington to work with someone stating he
      was prepared to play ball than bring about a change at a
      time of immense crisis. Washington has managed to squeeze
      concessions out of Musharraf. There is a US base in
      Pakistan, the FBI [US Federal Bureau of Investigation] are
      allowed to operate [in Pakistan] and through electronic
      "transepts" have captured some big fish. Musharraf in turn
      has been able to use the relationship to buy time during
      which the Taliban (either deliberately or inadvertently)
      have been able to regroup. He has also cleverly held out the
      promise of the capture of a high-value target -- read Osama
      bin Laden or [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar -- during the US
      presidential-election year.

      The Pakistan army is a disciplined force. It may be unhappy
      having to kill civilians in search of terrorists in the
      tribal areas, but it does what it is ordered to do through
      its chain of command. There have been isolated incidents
      that demonstrate a lack of support, namely in the two
      assassination attempts [last year] against Musharraf, and
      some other incidents. However, this kind of isolated,
      junior-level activity is not new. It has occurred in the
      past during the Attock Conspiracy case of the 1970s [to
      overthrow Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government] and the Islamic
      Brotherhood attempt to overthrow the democratic government
      in the 1990s.

      By involving the military in civilian affairs and scandals .
      . . as well as political persecution, the impartiality of
      the armed forces and its professionalism has been made
      subject to public controversy. It is this controversial
      political role that would make most professional officers
      uncomfortable.

      ATol: The US invasion of Iraq, in the name of creating a
      civil society and a liberal democracy in the Middle East,
      has instead promoted fundamentalist trends, especially in
      Iraq itself, which had been a tolerant secular society but
      is now a fundamentalist hotbed where private Shi'ite and
      Sunni militias rule the roost.

      Bhutto: There were two plans: one for the overthrow of the
      Saddam Hussein regime and the second for a postwar order.
      The first worked and the second did not. The consequences
      are before us. It's a tragedy to see Muslims divided on
      sectarian lines. It's important for Muslims to unite and
      dissent on political rather than religious issues.

      ATol: Previously, Islamic fundamentalist parties could not
      make headway in elections, now they are emerging as a
      challenge in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan,
      Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia.

      Bhutto: Extremist and fundamentalist political parties have
      never been able to score any significant political victories
      in countries like Pakistan. In fact, if the past record is
      any guide, it is clear that the extremist parties were never
      voted into power or even brought close to it by the people.
      The extremists rose under the dictatorship of General Zia
      ul-Haq in Pakistan. The religious parties [Muttahhida
      Majlis-e-Amal] formed a government for the first time [in
      North West Frontier Province] under General Musharraf's
      dictatorship.

      It is dictatorship that leads to the rise of extremist
      groups. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia,
      etc are all countries that share a background of long
      periods of military or authoritarian rule. The best defense
      against extremism and terrorism is the promotion of freedom,
      human dignity, rule of law, tolerance and pluralism. The
      present marginalization of moderate political parties in
      Pakistan can cause blow-back in time. There is a political
      vacuum in Pakistan which is dangerous to the future.

      ATol: There is an extreme feeling of dissent within
      religious political parties, which is further giving birth
      to more extreme notions. Jihadi organizations are one
      manifestation, but there is a very strong opinion
      flourishing in the shape of Hizbut Tehrir-like
      organizations, which has taken strong roots in Central Asia
      and is silently taking root in Pakistan. Unlike
      religious-political parties, they do not believe in
      democracy at all. What is the perspective of these trends?

      Bhutto: During the days of fighting the Soviet occupation in
      Afghanistan [1980s], a military dictator in Pakistan [Zia]
      used religious parties to recruit fighters. He used money to
      set up religious schools whose real purpose was to
      indoctrinate young men into becoming robots. Since he was
      associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, he used those links
      to bring together members of the Muslim Brotherhood from
      different parts of the world. They were brainwashed into
      believing that after defeating the Soviet Union, they could
      take on the other superpower, namely America. They were
      never told that the success against the Soviets was because
      it was a proxy war with international backing. These
      indoctrinated elements were patronized in the military,
      security, civilian and political structure of Pakistan. They
      believe that Islam came to Pakistan through the shores of
      Central Asia and can now be exported to Europe through
      Central Asia. Hence we see the cells operating in that area.

      I believe that both my governments were destabilized by
      these forces. The Pakistan People's Party and I posed the
      most potent threat to them. We gave an alternative vision of
      freedom, human rights, modernity compatible with religion as
      well as progress and prosperity. Pakistan, under the PPP,
      was an example of a moderate, enlightened and modern
      democracy to 1 billion Muslims at the crossroads having to
      choose between the past and the future. These elements
      prefer Musharraf to the PPP. Musharraf is a military
      dictator and is not an ideological alternative to them. They
      have scuttled all attempts at rapprochement between the army
      led by Musharraf and the people led by the PPP. This is why
      some sections of the media have speculated that Islamabad
      could be seized by a combine of religio-political-military
      elements. I do not believe that this nightmare scenario is
      possible because I believe that the restoration of democracy
      can turn the wheel of disaster into one of opportunity for
      the people of Pakistan - and the wider world community.

      Previously, the religious parties were used to help recruit
      militants. With the passage of two decades, the militant
      cells are becoming more independent of the religious
      parties. While they take their spiritual mentoring from the
      religious parties, their organizational structures are
      cellular and independent. But there is a real danger today.
      Disillusioned with military dictatorship and unable to
      express disillusionment through a fair electoral process,
      the danger is of the radicalization of the masses. This
      disillusionment provides a perfect breeding ground for
      extremist organizations. That was why in Pakistan, parties
      that are sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda claim that
      neither democracy nor military dictatorship works and that
      theocratic rule should be given a chance. Thus, when people
      are denied the democratic model of development, they can
      choose a system that is even worse than military dictatorship.

      ATol: Why have secular forces in Muslim societies failed to
      contain fundamentalism?

      Bhutto: Most secular forces were kept out of government
      during the Cold War by military or authoritarian rulers
      lacking grass-root support and legitimacy. Since
      authoritarianism and dictatorship rested on force rather
      than on law, it gave birth to a culture of lawlessness and
      extremism. We need to have democracy in the Muslim world and
      we need to spend more on education and human development to
      contain the forces of extremism.

      ATol: Where do liberation movements such as those in
      Palestine and Kashmir stand?

      Bhutto: The armed struggle of the people of Palestine and
      Kashmir and others under occupation received a setback
      following the events of 9/11. Now there is zero tolerance
      for armed struggle. However, the causes of unrest are
      political and the search for a solution will continue
      through peaceful avenues.

      Syed Saleem Shahzad is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times
      Online. He can be reached at mailto:saleem_shahzad2002@...

      --
      Dan Clore

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