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IN THE HEARTLAND OF TERROR

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By KAUSHIK ROY
  • Published 21.07.06
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THE TRUE FACE OF JEHADIS: INSIDE PAKISTAN?S NETWORK OF TERROR
By Amir Mir, Roli, Rs 395

Islamabad has become infamous for exporting terrorism. India has been suffering from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism since the Eighties, but it was only after 9/11 that the United States of America took note of Pakistan?s role in spawning Islamic fundamentalism. In The True Face of Jehadis, Amir Mir, a famous Pakistani investigative journalist, shows how Islamic terrorists created by Pakistan are threatening not only neighbouring countries but also the very society that sustains them.

A couple of decades back, when Washington needed allies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, Pakistan suited its scheme perfectly. For dollars and F-16s, Islamabad allowed CIA agents to train mujahedin in camps spread over the North West Frontier Province. The heavy Soviet retaliation against the mujahedin, pushed into southern Afghanistan by the US, forced Afghans to flee to refugee camps on Pakistan?s northern border. Many young men from these camps joined the mujahedin for money and revenge.

Pakistan, on its part, was eager to collaborate with the US for strategic reasons. It is, after all, only a narrow strip of land compared to the vast landmass of India. In case of war with India, Pakistan?s communications could be easily disrupted. Thus Pakistanis hoped to increase their strategic depth by installing a friendly government in Afghanistan, and they succeeded in September 1996, when the taliban captured Kabul.

But internal compulsions also made Pakistan harbour Islamic terrorists. Zia-ul-Haq, to legitimize his rule, endorsed Islamic tendencies. A large number of madrasahs set up during this period, and supported by Saudi money, offered poor children free meals and ?legitimate? degrees. They preached hatred and holy war against the infidels while the establishment favoured and rapidly promoted ?Islamic? army officers. But, after the Soviet with-drawal from Afghanistan, many jihadis became unemployed and turned to gunrunning and the drug trade.

The scenario changed abruptly for Pakistan after the World Trade Center attacks. Under US pressure, Pervez Musharraf was forced to crack down on the home-grown jihadis ? to start a campaign against their training camps in Waziristan and the madrasahs that have endangered his own life.

Mir portrays a dangerous and tragic picture of Pakistan. He concludes that Musharraf?s actions are too little and too late. In order not to fail as a state, Pakistan has to liberalize, demilitarize and democratize its society. But the fundamentalist forces are too strong to counter.