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Homeland Security

SLUG: 1-01294 OTL Pakistan Southwest Asia Terrorism 03-14-03.rtf.rtf









Host: The war on terrorism in South Asia. Next, On the Line.


Host: Pakistan scored a major victory in the war on terrorism when security forces nabbed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the most important al-Qaida terrorist captured so far. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the "details man" behind the September 11th, 2001, attacks on the United States and a slew of other al-Qaida attacks. He was arrested in the city of Rawalpindi in an early morning raid and was soon transferred into U-S custody. And yet, in contrast to this high profile cooperation in fighting terrorism, Islamic extremism appears to be growing in Pakistan. Radical Islamic parties have gained a majority in the parliament of the Northwest frontier province where many Taleban and al-Qaida fighters are believed to be hiding. Is terrorism on the run or on the rise in South Asia? I'll ask my guests: Tariq Karim, former ambassador from Bangladesh and senior advisor at the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector at the University of Maryland; Douglas Streusand, a professor at the American Military University; and also joining us in a few minutes by telephone from New York, Mansoor Ijaz, a terrorism analyst for Fox News and chairman of the Crescent Partnerships. Welcome and thanks for joining us today. Tariq Karim, how is Pakistan doing in the war on terrorism?

Karim: I think it's been a pretty mixed bag in the sense you mentioned, in the recent capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, certainly very important, and they have helped in letting you catch a few. But think they've also let quite a large number get away.

Host: And who's been letting them get away?

Karim: Well, it's -- there are wheels within wheels within the I-S-I, I think.

Host: I-S-I is Interservices Intelligence.

Karim: Interservices Intelligence. And within Pakistani society, there has been a symbiotic relationship between what was the former Taleban, the former Mujahedin. For a long time it was nurtured and it was, you know, kept going. They funded it and there are many sympathizers. As you mentioned, in the recent elections one of the provinces has gone over to the hard-liners. There will be people within the establishment there who would also not be averse to helping or sympathizing or assisting them.

Host: Douglas Streusand, what do you make of Pakistan's efforts in the war on terrorism?

Streusand: I think the ambassador depicted the situation quite accurately. To a certain extent, I'm reminded of Samuel Johnson's comments on the dog walking on its hind legs, which is that it didn't do it very well but in some ways it's remarkable that it did it at all and that's worth paying attention to. President [Pervez] Musharraf is in an impossible situation and considering that, he's doing remarkably well. But when the society, including the security services, is ridden with sympathizers and many people who believe that the interests of Pakistan are with the terrorists and not against them, it's extremely difficult to make the operation work from top to bottom. I believe that what the government of Pakistan has done, is an attempt to make the cooperation work in the most important and most visible situations. And where the attention of the top leadership is not directed, there is a lot of support for the terrorist network going on.

Host: Mansoor Ijaz, are you there by phone?

Ijaz: Yes, I am.

Host: Hi. What do you make of Pakistan's efforts on the war on terrorism at this point?

Ijaz: Well, I think that it's sort of very convenient that at a moment when the pressure is applied from Washington that they cough up a particular fish. I think it's still unclear whether or not Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was quote-unquote "arrested" in Pakistan, or whether he was in fact given up by people that knew where exactly he was all the time. And that raises a lot of concerns about whether they know where other big fish are as well. The problem that Pakistan has right now is a political one, not a structural one in terms of what their intelligence services can do. I can assure you from years of experience, first hand experience that not one ant moves inside Pakistan without the I-S-I knowing where it is and what it's doing. The problem that is faced by [Pakistan President Gen. Pervez] Musharraf is that he told the entire world that [Osama] bin Laden was dead. It turns out that he's alive. He told the entire world that Pakistan was al-Qaida-free. It turns out that not only was it not al-Qaida-free, but probably the chief operations officer was sitting right there next to his own house in Rawalpindi or close there by. And so, as a result of that, he now has to look very carefully at what the ground realities are, whether or not the senior al-Qaida leaders, like bin Laden and people like that -- Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the number-two man -- are on Pakistani soil. And if they are, my guess is they're going to do everything they can to corral them and ensure that they're not actually reported as having been caught on Pakistani soil because the political embarrassment would just be too great for them going forward.

Host: Tariq Karim, is that political embarrassment with regard to the West or with regard to domestic constituencies?

Karim: I think it's more domestic constituencies. You have to remember now that General Musharraf is President Musharraf and he is wearing a political hat where presumably he will be looking a few years down the road for a reelection. And like politicians anywhere else in the world, they look to their back to see how the constituency is doing and so he'll be taking signals from there. Embarrassment vis--vis the rest of the world? There's a little bit of that there, but I think the domestic compulsions and the domestic dynamics will probably drive him more.

Ijaz: Could I just respond to what the ambassador said in one critical respect and that is that the domestic compulsion actually is now, in my judgment, too far gone for Musharraf to be able to do anything about it.

Karim: I agree.

Ijaz: And that is that you already have the frontline provinces abutting Afghanistan in the hands of the radical Islamist parties. They are pushing very hard. Punjab probably they can't take, but Sindh would not be a great stretch if they really were to make some serious compromises on how Karachi's tax revenues get distributed. So, in that circumstance -- Musharraf's looking down the road at an election -- I'd be surprised if he can survive the collapse of the parliament, which may happen any day. We're talking about a very serious political caving in around Musharraf as a result of the fact that this al-Qaida leader has been caught on Pakistani soil. Because, while he has certainly given President Bush a good victory in the war on terrorism, internally, he has inflamed sensitivities that were pretty well patted down after September 11th because they were allowed to have their voice heard in parliament and that's no longer the case.

Host: Now how is it no longer the case that the voice is able to be heard in parliament?

Ijaz: Because the parliamentary infrastructure is having essentially shoved down its throat a set of constitutional amendments that would give General Musharraf -- and I refer to him still as the general rather than as the president -- the general to dismiss parliament pretty much at any time that he feels that they're not toeing the line with him. And the trouble is that you can do that once or twice, but then there comes a point at which the masses say, "Enough is enough, you're no longer the person that we want to lead us; neither did you get us thirty-two billion dollars in aid from the United States, nor did you get us any military armaments to ward of the threats of India; nor did you implement a democracy that would make the rest of the world believe that we were trying to do the best we could." That's the problem that he faces right now.

Host: Mansoor Ijaz, is it possible at this point for General Musharraf to make moves toward democracy in Pakistan that would not immediately lead to the ascendancy of the Islamic parties?

Ijaz: I don't see how and the trouble is that the Islamist parties -- at the end of the day democracy is what it is. It's the power of the people and the trouble is that Islamist parties do not believe in the fundamental concept of a democracy, which is that you can have the right to change if you don't agree. What they believe in is one man, one vote -- by the way, women need not apply -- one man, one vote, one time. And that's essentially what you have going on. Very slowly but surely, the Islamist parties see that they've got -- they had no problem sacrificing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and the reason is that they look at him as a hypocrite, you know, a beer-drinking, skirt-chasing terrorist who really didn't have any real value. But bin Laden is a whole different ball game because many people in Pakistan revere him as some kind of a messiah.

Host: Douglas Streusand, where the Islamist parties have gotten the most power in Pakistan now in the northwest frontier provinces, what kind of presence is there of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces there?

Streusand: Well, I would have to say substantial although stealthy. I think it's important to point out that the real frontier area, so far as I know, has really never been under the control of any central government, not the Pakistani government, not the British, not the Moguls. It has always been an area of anarchy.

Ijaz: I agree with that.

Streusand: And so it is very difficult to expect even the I-S-I to have detailed control of what goes on in that region. The question, I think, as Mansoor has stated quite effectively, is to what extent they even want to, on the lower level.

Host: Let me ask Tariq Karim, is there a possibility that those frontier provinces become a repeat of Afghanistan if you will, a place where terrorism flourishes, a home base?

Karim: Well, this was always the fear when the Taleban were in Afghanistan. And Pakistani analysts and writers had been voicing the fears that there would be a blow-back of Talebanization from Afghanistan into Pakistan. And that had been happening even before nine-eleven took place. I think this is just a fulfillment of that fear that it has happened and that is the region adjoining Afghanistan. But, if I may jump in on that point raised by Mansoor earlier on democracy: Democracy is still a very far cry in Pakistan. They have engineered or experimented with democracy. A democracy is not something which you can hand to people on a platter.

Ijaz: Correct.

Karim: It's not something that somebody can come and say: "Here's a constitution. This fits you best and I have decided it fits you best. Go buy it." It doesn't happen that way. It has to be a bottom-up process. And the bottom-up process has never really been allowed to take off the ground. That's because the majority of the masses have been marginalized.

Ijaz: And that is also because at the partition and at the point that Pakistan was created, you had a systematic decision in India to dismantle the feudalism structure that was there before and an equal decision in Pakistan that while they would bring Islam as a religion that would essentially equalize everyone in one respect, the system of feudalism remained intact. And so, votes in fact really don't mean very much when there's one feudal landlord that controls twenty-thousand or fifty-thousand or however many serfs he's got on his land.

Host: Mansoor Ijaz, what kind of role have the Islamic parties played in Pakistan for the past decades?

Ijaz: What they have done is they have changed the nature of the debate in Pakistan. Essentially what they have done is marginalized the intelligensia. They have proven their corruption beyond any reasonable doubt. Political parties like the Pakistan-Muslim league and Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which then led to repeated instances of army intervention or what I called the Benazir-Nawaz [Sharif] turnstile over the last seven or eight years before Musharraf came in. And in that circumstance, what they demonstrated to the people was that the intelligensia cannot be trusted to essentially give your future a value and therefore you should trust us -- we who have brought you nuclear weapons, the madrassa school system, and enough food to eat every day. That's essentially what the Islamist party platform is. Pakistan is great because it's the Islamic world's only nuclear power and we have educated all of your children even though we only taught them how to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and read the Koran by bobbing back and forth and never understanding a word of what they're saying.

Host: Mansoor Ijaz, one of the things you mentioned, the madrassa schools, General Pervez Musharraf had promised to reform them in some way. Has any real effort to do that been done?

Ijaz: No. I cannot in any honest assessment say that they have done anything that would be effective. And part of the reason for that is that for them, it feeds a system that is responsible for propagating the rationale for Pakistan's national security and that is a conflict in Kashmir. They've got to have at least two or three-thousand or five-thousand boys who are willing to go up and kill themselves essentially every year by infiltrating across the line of control and doing whatever nonsense they do up there in Kashmir. And I've seen this with my own eyes. As you may or may not know, I negotiated the framework for the cease-fire in the summer of 2000, and the kinds of people that are going up there and being brainwashed, I mean, it is one of the great tragedies of history to see the people in Kashmir have superimposed on them Indian security forces on one side and zealots of the bin Laden breed on the other. It's just one of the greatest tragedies of history.

Host: Well, Douglas Streusand, have Pakistan's efforts affected at all the Kashmiri situation and infiltration there?

Streusand: Only very superficially so far as I know. Granted, I suspect that one could come up with a list of individual people who did not infiltrate when they might have, but beyond that there hasn't been any overall change. And I agree with Mansoor Ijaz that the real victims of the Kashmiri conflict are the Kashmiri people who suffer violence from both sides. And neither the Indian government nor the Pakistani government is innocent.

Host: Tariq Karim, can Pakistan deal with this issue of terrorism without resolving in some way the Kashmiri situation?

Karim: The Kashmiri situation is not likely to be resolved overnight. It was a complex, complicated issue which has become [more] complex with the passage of time. And while both sides have a role to play, I think the Pakistanis probably played spoilers more than they ever tried to resolve it. That's the opinion which I hold. The problem is, as Mansoor pointed out, the madrassas are the feeder grounds for the foot soldiers. And in Pakistan, these vast spaces which were left untended or vacant by the government -- because when a government has an establishment of a nexus between military and bureaucracy who are hogging about seventy percent of the revenue budget every year from 1949 -- there's not much left to go for societal development. And so these vast empty spaces, somebody had to attend to them. These usually came in the form of Islamic charities who would then also start a madrassa. A lot of funding came from abroad with different countries having their own agents there. Once you create a Frankenstein, it's difficult to mend it. And I do not think the madrassas can be mended or reformed. You have to create parallel institutions which would pose a challenge to them and attract people away from the madrassas to these. And I'm talking from the experience that Bangladesh had. We were part of Pakistan. We inherited the same weaknesses, the same structural, same institutional weaknesses. Why is it that we struck a separate path?

Streusand: I think it's important to emphasize one point in your comments, with all of which I strongly agree, and that is that the madrassas produce foot soldiers. They do not produce leaders. Most of the leaders of the Islamist terrorist organizations don't have Muslim traditional educations. Many of them have technical backgrounds. Many of them have studied in the West. So, it's important to make that distinction. The madrassas produce foot soldiers. They produce young men who are willing to die.

Host: Mansoor Ijaz, is it possible at this point for Pakistan to address the gaps in the public education that has not been offered in Pakistan and compete with madrassas?

Ijaz: Again I'm afraid that my outlook is very dim on that because the problem is that the intelligensia of the country has essentially gotten up and walked away from the problem. I don't see any real effort to try and rebuild the political institutions. I mean, when you have a constitution that is compromised repeatedly in every visceral way. Pakistan's constitution has, from the 1971 constitution that everyone agreed upon that was a real constitutional framework, has been eviscerated by everyone that has ever ruled that country since then. In that circumstance, until there is a structural decision at the top, that they have to introduce science and math and biology and chemistry and things that are the normal part, history and art and music and stuff like that, there's just no way. I've supported for many years now, probably seven or eight years, an organization called Development in Literacy that is a bunch of Pakistani-American school moms, basically, who are sending their money back home to try and create what the ambassador referred to as the parallel system. But you know there's just not enough money there to do it on our own. I think frankly the U-S government ought to insist that a portion of their financial aid goes directly into the hands of people that are going to teach, especially the girls, who have to raise children and these large families, raise them to learn something more than just how to shoot a Kalashnikov rifle and read the Koran.

Host: Tariq Karim, we only have a little bit less than a minute. I did want to touch on your country, Bangladesh, and there have been a string of bombings in Bangladesh recently. What's happening with Islamic extremism in Bangladesh right now?

Karim: Well, we have not been left totally untouched. I think when you have Islamic extremism and, I would call it, radical militant Islam flourishing in the regions nearby, some of it is bound to come and splash over. However, that does not detract from the fact that traditionally Bangladesh has had a secular outlook. It has a different social setup from Pakistan, this and that. Feudalism was abolished long ago and the political spaces were weakened.

Host: I'm afraid that's going to have to be the last word. We're out of time for today. I'd like to thank my guests, Tariq Karim of the University of Maryland; Douglas Streusand of the American Military University; and by telephone, terrorism analyst Mansoor Ijaz. For On the Line, I'm Eric Felten and I'd like to invite you to send your questions or comments to Ontheline@ibb.gov

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