Somthing that my uncle wrote months back for THE ASSAM TRIBUNE... he is a senior sub there and I think he is one of the best journalists ever from Assam and the North East of India. But like a typical Assamese he never bothered to venture out of the state... and is so far happy with his job... despite the fact that his bylines are never available on the NET. Here is something from Vijayanta Sharma Pathak.
BORN TO DIE
Suicide bombings in
In a swift response to the Lal Masjid assault, attacks by militant groups on the military and state mechanism have increased, especially in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other regions in the country. There has been 197 deaths — 72 civilians and 94 soldiers — between July 11 and 20. Between July 4 and 20, there have been 12 suicide attacks with 155 dead in contrast to ten suicide bombings in Pakistan during January 1 and July 3, 2007 with 112 fatalities. Official count of the dead and injured in the Lal Masjid storming remains challenged by both Islamists and official sources. Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and secretary-general of the Islamist alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Maulana Fazlur Rahman claimed that 1,000 civilians had been killed.
Even before the final army assault got under way, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, leader of the resistance in the mosque, claimed that 355 people had been killed inside the complex. That was his last recorded claim. Interior secretary Syed Kamal Shah claimed 75 people had been killed in the complex of which 50-60 were militants and rest women and children. Reports, however, said authorities had asked charity organization Edhi Foundation chief Abdul Sattar Edhi to arrange 800 shrouds. The already rising trend in Islamist extremist violence abruptly surged in the wake of the Lal Masjid assault claiming at least 351 lives in terrorism-related violence across
Female students of the Jamia Hafsa Madrassa attached to the Lal Masjid on January 22 occupied a children’s library near their madrassa to protest demolition of seven unauthorized mosques built on roads in Islamabad. President Musharraf often travels along this route and the mosques were dismantled on the advice of his personal security staff. Authorities on February 13 agreed to rebuild one of the mosques to end the standoff. Students, however, refused to withdraw from the library. Female students and their male colleagues from Jamia Faridia, another madrassa linked to the mosque, swooped down on a house nearby on March 27 and kidnapped a woman, her daughter-in-law and her six-month-old granddaughter for allegedly running a brothel. They were allowed to go after they expressed regret.
Though there’s been no direct engagement or claim by the Al-Qaeda over incidents of retaliation by Islamist extremists. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman-al-Zawahiri called for vengeance in an internet video message posted on July 11. He said “This crime can only be washed away by repentance or blood... If you do not retaliate... Musharraf will not spare any of you.” Zawahiri, unconfirmed reports suggest, may have, in fact, been directing militants inside the Lal Masjid. Laskar-e-Toiba (LET) chief Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed in funeral prayers, attended by about 20,000, at LET-managed Jamia Masjid Al Qadsia in
Some students of the two madrassas on March 28 took three policemen hostage in retaliation for the arrest of some students by police. The hostages were released on March 29. Next day some madrassa students visited CD and video shops in the capital and warned proprietors they should do some other business or face the consequences. The Lal Masjid on April 6 set up its own Sharia court. The mosque’s chief cleric Abdul Aziz warned of tens of thousands of suicide attacks if the government tried to shut down the Lal Masjid. The Sharia court on April 9 issued a fatwa flaying the then tourism minister Nilofer Bakhtiar hugging her French parachuting instructors. This photograph was splashed across newspapers in
Maulana Fazalullah, pro-Taliban cleric of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) at Swat in NWFP declared that “the government can’t imagine the repercussion, if any operation was launched against us. We are the people who have defeated
The government on April 10 announced that it had blocked the mosque’s illegal website and radio station. Chaudhury Shujaat Hussain, leader of pro-Musharraf
Seconds from doom
The security situation was rapidly worsening and the government on July 13 moved an army brigade into the Tank district of NWFP. Fuelling speculations that an anti-militant operation was on the cards, the army started despatching troops to the province’s southern districts adjoining
Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa students raided a message parlour in
Taliban and Al-Qaeda-backed militants in the other besieged region of north Waziristan meanwhile unilaterally nullified their nearly year-old peace pact with the government on July 15. The move came after the expiry of a four-day ultimatum for withdrawal of redeployed troops which militants said was a violation of the peace accord of September 5, 2006. The governing council under the leadership of Hafiz Gul Bahadur ordered fighters to initiate guerrilla attacks on security forces.
During interior minister Sherpao’s visit to
Intelligence analysts stated before the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that bin Laden’s network had become increasingly active in the ungoverned regions of
On his return to
General Musharraf himself had been saying that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) had been playing a lead role in the resistance put up by clerics and students in Lal Masjid. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s ministers had also been claiming that some armed ultras of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the political arm of LET and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) were also inside and firing at security forces. Presence of about 20 Sunni extremists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) was confirmed even as presence of JEM, JUD and HUJI militants was clearly not known. All these organizations are members of International Islamic Front (IIF) formed by bin Laden in 1998.
While the Rangers took up positions near Lal Masjid on July 2, masjid authorities and madrassa students on July 3 alleged that securitymen were planning to raid the mosque and madrassas. They tried to snatch weapons of Rangers who resisted. Two Rangers were injured when a madrassa student opened fire. One of them died in hospital. There was heavy exchange of fire between Rangers and students inside the mosque premises resulting in loss of about 20 lives. Rangers and students traded fire throughout the day. The government clamped curfew in mosque areas and rushed Special Services Group (SSG), Musharraf’s parent unit, to back the Rangers. An ultimatum to students to vacate hostels and go home was extended twice. Though tension was palpable on July 4, there wasn’t any exchange of fire.
The 111 Brigade, SSG (trained by the
Operation Silence, the code-name for storming the Lal Masjid was launched by Pakistani security forces at 4 am on July 10 — it took more than 24 hours to overcome the resistance and assume effective control over the complex. Ahead of the raid, security forces had meticulously questioned Maulana Abdul Aziz, head of the masjid and elder brother of deputy chief Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi who died. Maulana Aziz was arrested when he tried to escape from the mosque wearing a burqa. Stiff resistance put up by inmates has been sought to be explained by saying that they had vowed to seek martyrdom rather than accept terms laid down by a government which they perceive as acting at US behest. Another explanation is that some high profile jehadi leaders were present in the complex.
Musharraf himself conceded after the assault that Chinese pressure was key to his decision to use extreme force against radicals hiding in the complex. It’s now clear that Musharraf will have to pay a heavy price for acknowledging direct Chinese pressure. This has put Chinese lives in
The kind of backlash feared is increased threats to the life of Musharraf from jehadis as well as his own armed forces, particularly tribal soldiers. Most of the girls who died or were injured came from tribal areas and are daughters of serving and retired soldiers of the Pakistani Army. There has been an increasing number of fundamentalists and jehadis in the lower ranks of the military, particularly in the Air Force. The Army, as an institution, is, however, not fundamentalist. It won’t hesitate to drop Musharraf if it perceives that he won’t be able to prevent a jehadi takeover of the country. There could be escalation of terrorist attacks in tribal areas, particularly by TNSM and Jundullah (soldiers of god) type acts of suicide terrorism by angry tribals.
When Indira Gandhi decided to storm the
Isn’t Musharraf living on borrowed time?