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Jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’: Haqqani

Pakistani scholar and author Husain Haqqani talks about his recent book 'India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just be Friends?'

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Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, scholar and author Husain Haqqani who is an integral part of the powerful elite in Islamabad, talks about his recent book ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just be Friends?’, discussing jihad, relations with India, terrorism and the connection between Pakistan’s military intelligence service – the ISI and Islamic jihadi forces.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Can you explain ex-ISI chief Shuja Pasha’s statement on 26/11 terror attack, “Log hamare the, operation hamara nahi tha” (our people but it was not our operation)?
A. Pasha said, “our people” were involved, he didn’t say it was Pakistan army officers or ISI men. Pasha could have meant Pakistanis or he could be referring to LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) as “our people.” However, Pasha had told ex-CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, that “retired Pakistani army officers and retired intelligence officers” were involved in the planning. General Hayden says so in his book. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, has also written the same.
Since 26/11, Pakistan never went into the depth of the case even though proof was presented. We did arrest some, but we have not successfully prosecuted those responsible and until that is done, questions will remain.

Q. Rice had warned Pakistan to shut down terror operations. However, nothing has changed.
A. Prosecution is difficult in a system where jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’. Yes, Secretary Rice had told Islamabad to shut down all terrorist operations. But that wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last. Pakistan has persisted with the same policy since the 1990s. When pushed by US on terror: first deny, then list Pakistani grievances, bring up Kashmir and blame India, provide commitments and assurances and end again with denial. This is not working.

Q. Though US had named Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of LeT as the 26/11 mastermind, he is roaming around freely in Pakistan. What is stopping Islamabad from taking action?
A. Pakistan sees jihad as a low cost option to bleed India. The security apparatus views terrorism as irregular warfare. Islamabad feels this is the only way to ensure some form of military parity.

Q. Is there a concerted attempt by the Pakistan army to thwart peace talks?
A. As an analyst, I have seen that over the last 69 years, Indian and Pakistani leaders have met 53 times and yet been unable to change the course of their ties. Whenever the two try to move forward, the military has reacted. Civilian and army leaders have lost power after attempting to make peace.

Q. What should be Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir?
A. Having a normal relationship, people-to-people ties and trade doesn’t mean giving up on legal or political claim. The question I ask is: Is Kashmir really Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ if it has survived for 69 years without it? Should the two risk nuclear mass destruction over a quarrel they have not been able to resolve for so long?
However, Pakistan’s military has insisted on resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio before opening trade or travel.

Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons
Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons

Q. Pakistan’s Kashmir policy remains by and large in the hands of the military even when a civilian prime minister holds office. How can we expect a solution?
A. Under civilian prime ministers, Pakistan has moved forward with India. But Pakistan’s security establishment insists on controlling foreign and security policy, including the Kashmir policy. They have not been able to reach any long-lasting solution. Pakistanis realise that it is only civilian leaders who can actually reach a solution.

Related article: The Fight for Kashmir

Q. In your opinion, Indira Gandhi had been magnanimous with the Shimla Pact, but Pakistanis saw the absence of pressure for a full settlement of Kashmir as an opportunity to keep the conflict alive. Should she have been more assertive on Kashmir?
A. Mrs Gandhi did not trust (prime minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but she saw him as preferable to a military regime. For India, domestic unrest or balkanisation of Pakistan, is not a favorable development.
The compromise was to declare in Shimla that “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” This was meant to preclude any future war.

Q. The book mentions how Pakistan intelligence had passed on the information of 10 terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat in March. Do you feel that its a sincere move to preempt a crisis after Pathankot?
A. It’s very positive that Pakistan has shared intelligence with India. But it was more because pressure from India and US. India cancelled scheduled talks and (Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif was eager to resume dialogue. It was less likely that this move reflected concern for possible Indian casualties and was more to do with the need to deflect international pressure.

Q. Are you hopeful of a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relationship after Pathankot?
A. The two foreign secretaries met in New Delhi for the Heart of Asia conference and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is scheduled to travel to Islamabad for the SAARC summit in November this year. So, talks will continue as before but for a breakthrough, the two sides need to move beyond simply cancelling or rescheduling talks and create an environment for change.

Q. You also talk about the shrinking space for friendship and increasing ‘saffronisation’ of India. How harmful is this for ties?
A. Indo-Pak ties have become a victim of two parallel and contending nationalisms. In recent years, we are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment and public displays of religion.

Q. How do you see US policy towards Pakistan in the wake of US elections?
A. Neither of the current Presidential candidates have expressed a positive view of Pakistan. What should worry my countrymen is that entire US think tank and the average American share the same view.
Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2011 said, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” US policy towards Pakistan has been built on what I call ‘Magnificent Delusions’. Pakistan saw the US as its superpower ally who would build its resources to stand up to India, but Washington never saw India as a threat. US and Pakistan have very different goals but still assume they can get the other to work to their advantage.

Source: IANS
(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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‘World’s Oldest’ Buddha Statue Unearthed in Pakistan During Excavations

A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

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Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue is found excavated in Pakistan. Pixabay.

Islamabad, November 17: A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology And Museums Director Abdul Samad told Dawn News: “The 48-feet-long sleeping Buddha statue dates back to the third century, which makes it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue.”

He said that archaeologists found the statue, with its head intact, during excavations near the Bhamala Stupa.

“We have discovered more than 500 Buddha-related objects during excavations, in addition to the 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’,” he said.

The latest discoveries by the archaeologists have opened new chapters in the history of the ancient Taxila Valley Civilisation.

“This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa, which was reserved for Buddha himself,” Samad had said. (IANS)

 

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Is Islamic inequality a conspiracy against the God?

Islam was conducted in a sense it was never meant to be

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Muslims
An eternal religion like Islam is always targeted for its preachings. Wikimedia Commons

Religion was the purest creation by humans to guide them to a better life, but it is clear that religion is being misused by many to create chaos and misery.

Islam, which is the World’s second largest religion, has become to symolize as the largest religion of devastation. A religion that believes that there is only ‘One God’ and that is their God, has now come to stand for turbulence and violence.

Historically too, Islam has always been linked with ‘terrorism’, but what gave rise to this scenario? The synopsis of this situation is not the right interpretation of ‘Quran’. The term ‘Jihad’ which literally means ‘to strive for the betterment of society’ has been deceitfully presented which leads to production of terrorists like Kasab (he quoted it in his letter to his family). The greed for 72 virgin women, which is just a story, makes them a ‘person of mass destruction. ‘ In the name of God, some ‘juvenile’ people choose the path which they are not familiar with.’

Islamic Terrorism
It is often stated that most of the ‘Terrorists’ are Muslims.Wikimedia Commons

A religion should always teach and preach about equality but Islam surely fails when it comes to their women. They are not so privileged as men are in an Islamic society. Why is it so? Does religion discriminate between two on the basis of gender? Why a Muslim man is taught to think about 72 virgin women but a Muslim woman is told to consider one man as her god? Why a man has a right to marry thrice but a woman is allowed to marry just once?

Islamic scholar Imam Tawhidi’s tweet raised a question on the fairness of the Islamic religion.

The disparity is not limited here. A woman who leaves her home, her parents, her career and even her surname; a woman who makes a home a home; a woman who sacrifices her everything for a man; is the one who is out thrown from her own home just by saying ‘Talaq, Talaq, Talaq’. Is a relation between a husband and wife established on these three words? Why only Muslim men favoured with such power?

Culture of Hijab
Women are meant to cover their full body in Islam. Wikimedia Commons

The word ḥijāb in the Quran refers not to women’s clothing, but rather a spatial partition or curtain. However, the preachers of Islam say that women should get all her parts covered by confidently stating that it is mandated in the Holy Quran. Yet another example of inequality on the basis of gender but the compelling truth is that these customs and thesis are created by the human itself and not Islam. This is how Islam is misused to spread fallacious beliefs among the people and making their life miserable.

Does Islam need to reform? Or do preachers of Islam need to introspect and reform?

– Sumit Buchasia of NewsGram. Twitter @sumit_buchasia

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Journey of a Jihadist from a Herdsman to killing of US Soldiers in Niger

Niger still in search of Duonduo Chefou

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Niger
A Fulani cattle herder walks with his cows outside the city of Tillaberi, southwest Niger, about 100 km south of the Mali border, Niger, Nov. 1, 2017.

When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as many other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.

He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.

Yet on Oct. 4 this year, he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied U.S.-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West’s mission in the Sahel has become.

The incident sparked calls in Washington for public hearings into the presence of U.S. troops. A Pentagon probe is to be completed in January.

Who is Doundou Chefou?

Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari
Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger Nov. 1, 2017.

Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger Nov. 1, 2017.

Asked by Reuters to talk about Chefou, Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari’s face fell.

“He is a terrorist, a bandit, someone who intends to harm to Niger,” he said at his office in the Nigerien capital Niamey earlier this month.

“We are tracking him, we are seeking him out, and if he ever sets foot in Niger again he will be neutralized.”

Like most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad, several government sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as their pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.

For now, analysts say the local IS affiliate remains small, at fewer than 80 fighters. But that was also the case at first with al-Qaida-linked factions before they tapped into local grievances to expand their influence in Mali in 2012.

The United Nations this week released a report showing how IS in northern Somalia has grown to around 200 fighters from just a few dozen last year.

The U.S. military has ramped up its presence in Niger, and other neighboring countries, in recent years as it fears poverty, corruption and weak states mean the region is ripe for the spread of extremist groups.

A map of Niger with the capital city, Niamey, highlighted.
Niger
A map of Niger with the capital city, Niamey, highlighted.

Genesis of a jihad

For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading — Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara, and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.

Some have managed to become relatively wealthy, accumulating vast herds. But they have always stayed separate from the modern nation-states that have formed around them.

Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons over the years has made the rivalry ever more deadly.

A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gadhafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armories.

Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al-Qaida-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.

Until then, Islamists in Mali had been recruiting and raising funds through kidnapping. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.

Turning point in 2013

Boubacar Diallo, President f the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi
Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of more than 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger.

Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of more than 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger,

Amid the violence and chaos, some of the Tuareg turned their guns on their rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.

In November 2013, a young Nigerien Fulani had a row with a Tuareg chief over money. The old man thrashed him and chased him away, recalls Boubacar Diallo, head of an association for Fulani livestock breeders along the Mali border, who now lives in Niamey.

The youth came back armed with an AK-47, killed the chief and wounded his wife, then fled. The victim happened to be the uncle of a powerful Malian warlord.

Over the next week, heavily armed Tuareg slaughtered 46 Fulani in revenge attacks along the Mali-Niger border.

The incident was bloodiest attack on record in the area, said Diallo, who has documented dozens of attacks by Tuareg raiders that have killed hundreds of people and led to thousands of cows and hundreds of camels being stolen.

“That was a point when the Fulani in that area realized they needed more weapons to defend themselves,” said Diallo, who has represented them in talks aimed at easing communal tensions.

The crimes were almost never investigated by police, admits a Niamey-based law enforcement official with knowledge of them.

“The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani’s cattle,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. “The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves.”

‘Injustice, exclusion and self-defense’

Gandou Zakaria, a researcher of mixed Tuareg-Fulani heritage in the faculty of law at Niamey University, has spent years studying why youths turned to jihad.

“Religious belief was at the bottom of their list of concerns,” he told Reuters. Instead, local grievances were the main driving force.

Whereas Tuareg in Mali and Niger have dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani have generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on.

“For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination, and a need for self-defense,” Zakaria said.

One militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.

Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was loosely allied to al-Qaida in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.

After French forces in 2013 scattered Islamists from the Malian towns they controlled, al-Sahrawi was briefly allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaida veteran.

Today, al-Sahrawi is the face of Islamic State in the region.

“There was something in his discourse that spoke to the youth, that appealed to their sense of injustice,” a Niger government official said of al-Sahrawi.

Two diplomatic sources said there are signs al-Sahrawi has received financial backing from IS central in Iraq and Syria.

Enter Chefou

How Chefou ended up being one of a handful of al-Sahrawi’s lieutenants is unclear. The government source said he was brought to him by a senior officer, also Fulani, known as Petit Chapori.

Like many Fulani youth toughened by life on the Sahel, Chefou was often in and out of jail for possession of weapons or involvement in localized violence that ended in deals struck between communities, the government official said.

Yet Diallo, who met Chefou several times, said he was “very calm, very gentle. I was surprised when he became a militia leader.”

U.S. and Nigerien sources differ on the nature of the fatal mission of Oct 4. Nigeriens say it was to go after Chefou; U.S. officials say it was reconnaissance mission.

One vehicle lost by the U.S. forces was supplied by the CIA and kitted with surveillance equipment, U.S. media reported. A surveillance drone monitored the battle with a live feed.

The Fulani men, mounted on motorbikes, were armed with the assault rifles they first acquired to look after their cows. (VOA)