By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
On May 2007, WEA RLC released a News & Analysis posting entitled "Pakistan in
Crisis: Situation Critical" (link 1), which examined Pakistan's escalating
sectarianism (Sunni vs Shi'ite) and Islamisation (both of which fuel Islamic
zeal and intolerance) and lawlessness (which facilitates criminal activity and
intensifying religious persecution). The situation is most severe in the
Taliban and al-Qaeda-administered and influenced tribal agencies and districts
of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). (Link 2)
WEA RLC's May posting also contained a section entitled "The Islamisation and
Talibanisation of Islamabad" which focused on the stand-off at the radical Lal
Masjid (Red Mosque) in the heart of the capital, Islamabad.
As was widely reported in mainstream news, rising tensions at the Lal Masjid
mosque culminated on 3 July in street battles between security forces and
militants. On 4 July Pakistani security forces laid siege to the mosque,
demanding an unconditional surrender and the release of hostages and human
shields. The mosque's senior cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested as he
tried to sneak out of the mosque dressed in a burqa and high-heels. (The
government's televising of this image enraged Islamists!)
Aziz' brother, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, subsequently took over as mosque chief and
the siege continued until 10 July when last-ditch negotiations failed and
security forces stormed the mosque. Death toll estimates vary widely, from the
official government estimate of around 100 dead to the Islamist claim that
more than 2,000 were "martyred". Abdul Rashid Ghazi was killed in the military
As soon as the government forces laid siege to the Lal Masjid, jihadists in
north-western tribal regions cranked up their terrorist actions against the
Pakistani Army. On 16 July the Taliban and al-Qaeda alliance in Waziristan
terminated their "peace deal" with the government. The subsequent violence and
terror has claimed hundreds of lives including those of at least 200 soldiers.
Army morale is low as this a very unpopular fight with many believing the army
is fighting its own people at America's behest. Not only are the huge losses
demoralising, but many soldiers find it difficult to feel motivated about
killing fellow Pakistanis and Muslims. Several weeks ago 300 soldiers
surrendered to a band of some 30 tribal mujahideen in South Waziristan without
firing a single shot. Whilst a few have been released, virtually all of them
Since the highly-organised bombing of Benazir Bhutto's motorcade on18 October
the government has declared its intent to unleash all-out war on the militants.
A battle for Pakistan -- a nuclear armed state -- has commenced and the
outcome is far from certain. Religious liberty and the security for Christians
hangs in the balance and the prospects, especially in the short and medium
term, are bleak.
WHAT WILL THE PAKISTAN ARMY BE UP AGAINST?
- the Taliban and al-Qaeda mujahideen of The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.
Whilst the US bombing and invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 toppled the
Taliban, most of al-Qaeda's core leadership survived and relocated to
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
In 2003 the Pakistani Army was given the responsibility of eliminating
al-Qaeda and Taliban elements from the border regions of Pakistan. Over the
years however a soaring death toll has included the loss of at least 1,000
soldiers as well as the execution-style murders of around 150 anti-Taliban
tribal leaders. All this has taken its toll on Army morale and weakened public
resolve. (Unofficial estimates are that Pakistan has lost more soldiers in the
FATA than the US has in Iraq, i.e. over 3,000).
In a short-sighted attempt to extricate himself from a sticky position,
President Musharraf brokered a series of "peace deals" with the
Taliban-al-Qaeda-tribal alliance. In February 2005, South Waziristan was ceded
to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and on 5 September 2006, North Waziristan was
ceded. While Musharraf's capitulation brought him some (temporary) peace, it
also established the two Waziristans as the most secure Taliban and
al-Qaeda-run terrorist sanctuary and administrative and training base in the
Tarique Niazi elaborated on the "peace deal" in Terrorism Monitor (5 Oct
2006): "The deal offers amnesty to Taliban militants and 'foreigners' (a
reference to Afghan-Arabs who are members of al-Qaeda) in North Waziristan for
a pledge that they would desist from mounting cross-border attacks into
Afghanistan; assaulting Pakistani security forces, public servants, state
property, tribal leaders and journalists; and carrying heavy weapons (DAWN, 6
September 2006). They will, however, be allowed to travel across the border
into Afghanistan on a 'business trip' or a 'family visit' and carry 'light'
weapons such as AK-47s.
"It binds the government to cease ground and air assaults against the Taliban
and resolve all future disputes according to the Rivaaj (tribal customs). It
further obligates the government to redeploy its troops from North Waziristan
to their designated camps and forts, and dismantle all 12 checkpoints that
were set up to hunt al-Qaeda and Taliban militants (DAWN, 6 September 2006)."
Niazi also reported that subsequent to signing the deal, the government set
free 132 Taliban fighters who had been jailed for terrorist violence (Daily
Times, 8 September 2006), returned their seized weapons (including 24
AK-47s), restored their impounded property and reinstated their forfeited
privileges, including government allowances. Additionally, the government
approved a cash compensation of 230 million rupees ($3.8 million) for the
material losses suffered by tribesmen (DAWN, 9 September 2006). (Link 3)
Policy and military analysts Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bill Roggio gave a
bleak assessment to the Weekly Standard (2 Oct 2006): "Together, these events
[ceding territory and releasing prisoners] may constitute the most significant
development in the global war on terror in the past year." (Link 4)
Their article in the Weekly Standard describes the Waziristan Accord as the
"unconditional surrender of Waziristan". Concerning the signing ceremony they
write: "Taliban fighters searched government negotiators and military officers
for weapons before allowing them to enter the meeting, which took place in a
soccer stadium in the North Waziristan capital of Miranshah. According to
three separate intelligence sources, heavily armed Taliban were posted as
guards around the ceremony, and al-Qaeda's black flag hung over the scoreboard.
"Immediately after the Pakistani delegation left, al-Qaeda's flag was run up
the flagpole of abandoned military checkpoints, and the Taliban began looting
leftover small arms. The Taliban also held a 'parade' in the streets of
Miranshah. Clearly, they view their 'truce' with Pakistan as a victory. It is
trumpeted as such on jihadist websites."
Whilst President Musharraf and US President Bush portrayed the Waziristan
Accord as a victory, it was in reality nothing less than the ceding of
territory to a hostile enemy entity. As soon as the territory was ceded,
al-Qaeda declared "The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan" and established a
governing Shura council. The Waziristan Accord provided the Taliban-al-Qaeda
alliance an autonomous mini-state within a state, a safe-haven, a sanctuary
from where they could consolidate, strategise, recruit, train, deploy, enforce
their writ and expand their sphere of influence.
Eric Sayers, in a report for the Washington based Center for Security Policy,
quotes Bill Roggio: "The destruction of al-Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan
during Taliban rule has essentially been negated by the rise of Talibanistan
in western Pakistan." (Link 5)
Sayers adds (writing in February 2007, link 5): "According to NATO statistics,
since the signing of the Waziristan Accord in September 2006, attacks into
Afghanistan along the border with Waziristan have increased by almost 300
percent. Consequentially, US military deaths in the region were almost double
during this period, in comparison to what they were during the same period the
previous year. Further emphasising the strategic importance of the
sanctuaries, recent reports have indicated the al-Qaeda fighters wounded in
Afghanistan are being treated for their wounds in Bajaur hospitals." [Bajaur,
the suspected home of al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, has also been ceded
to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance. The Bajaur Accord was signed on 17 March
2007. (Link 6)]
Bill Roggio subsequently reported (23 October 2007): "Within months the North
Waziristan Accord was followed by agreements in Bajaur, Swat, and Mohmand
agencies. News from the tribal agencies of Kurram, Orakzai, and Khyber has
gone dark. These tribal agencies are very likely under Taliban control. Open
source reporting indicates all or portions of the settled districts . . . of
Dera Ismail Khan, Laki Marwat, Tank, Khyber, Bannu, Hangu, Kohat, Charsadda,
Dir, Mardan, and even the provincial seat of Peshawar are under Taliban
influence to some degree or another." (Link 7 -- which includes a map showing
degrees of Taliban control in NWFP.)
From its sanctuary in The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, the Taliban-al-Qaeda
alliance has been able to progress from a position of besieged weakness to one
of organised strength. Not only are they now having a profound impact on
international terrorism and the jihads in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are also
now able to launch a genuinely threatening insurgency in Pakistan.
"COME TO JIHAD, to the people of Pakistan."
- Osama bin Laden beckons.
In late September 2007, Osama bin Laden released an audio message entitled
"Come to Jihad, to the people of Pakistan". (Link 8)
Replete with Qur'anic quotations, it informs the people of Pakistan that it is
their moral and Islamic duty to respond to the "Lal Masjid massacre" by
joining with the Muslims following "true Islam" and waging jihad against the
kuffaar (unbeliever) government of Pakistan, the Army and their supporters.
In his message bin Laden likens Musharraf's invasion of and "massacre" at the
Lal Masjid to the destruction of and slaughter at the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya,
India, by Hindutva forces in 1992. He says the events at the Lal Masjid
demonstrate that Musharraf is aligned with infidels against the Muslims.
Therefore, he says, rebellion against Musharraf is obligatory. Bin Laden
beckons those who have been "led astray" and are now supporting Musharraf or
democracy or peace, particularly the Pakistani Army, which he says is supposed
to be protecting the Muslims against the kuffaar (unbelievers), not allowing
themselves to be tools and weapons in the hands of the kuffaar against the
In his speech bin Laden condemns Muslims who spill the blood of fellow
Muslims, warning that there is never any excuse: "Compulsion is not legally
valid as the soul forced to kill is not better than the soul of the one
killed." He appeals directly to soldiers, recommending they resign from their
positions in the Pakistani Army, disassociate themselves from Musharraf and
enter "true Islam", because, he says, "the government and army have become
enemies of the Ummah [community of Muslims]. . . all of them have pledged to
the cross worshippers to fight true Islam and its people. . . and permitted
American cross worshipper forces to use the air, soil and water of Pakistan,
the country of Islam, to kill the people of Islam in Afghanistan and then in
He concludes with an ominous promise: "We in the al-Qaeda organisation call on
Allah to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Maulana abd
al-Rasheed Ghanzi. . ." and other slain Muslims, "champions of Islam in
THE BATTLE FOR PAKISTAN
- The prize: the Intelligence Services (ISI), the Army, the state, the nuclear
- The outcome: that will depend primarily on Army and government resolve.
Mark Sappenfield writes for the Christian Science Monitor (22 October 2007):
"Bowing to international pressure, President Pervez Musharraf has restarted an
offensive in the remote tribal areas that are rapidly becoming a hub of global
terrorism. Yet early indications are that, no matter who is in charge, the
Pakistani Army is ill-suited -- and perhaps incapable -- of doing the job."
As noted by M K Dar (Former Joint Director of Intelligence Bureau, India (Link
10)) for more than two decades now powerful elements within the Pakistani Army
and intelligence services have supported Sunni fundamentalist organisations
and employed Islamic militants as proxies in their conflicts against India in
Kashmir and against Soviet and now Western-backed forces in Afghanistan.
It must also be noted also that foreign forces with their own agendas have
encouraged and assisted this for the purpose of fighting proxy wars, including
the Saudis (to subdue the Shiites) and the US (to fight the Soviets).
Consequently, over the past more than two decades, the well trained and
supplied ISI, the rank and file military, the Mullahs and the militants have
become very close knit.
Because the conflict in the north-western tribal regions is unpopular and a
high casualty rate is guaranteed, many experts do not expect the government's
renewed offensive in the north-west to continue long term. Sappenfield writes:
"If it does, the Army 'will get divided vertically', with officers remaining
loyal to headquarters and the rank and file becoming increasingly alienated,
says Ayesha Siddiqa, author 'Military Inc.', a book about the Pakistani Army.
'Cracks are appearing,' she adds."
While officers might see this as an opportunity to further entrench military
control over Pakistan, an alternative scenario could be that if officers feel
that military domination of Pakistan is under threat because genuine democracy
is in sight, they might desert Musharraf for the Taliban for pragmatic as much
as ideological reasons. There are many unknowns.
Syed Saleem Shahzad writes for Asia Times Online that a Pakistani security
official, who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, said the
goal of the government's counterinsurgency is "to pacify the Waziristans once
and for all". (Link 11)
Shahzad writes: "Lining up against the Pakistani Army will be the Shura
(council) of Mujahideen comprising senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders,
local clerics and leaders of the fighting clans Wazir and Mehsud (known as the
Pakistani Taliban)." He quotes the Pakistani security official as saying, "If
the planned battle is successful and Waziristan is pacified, the global
Islamic resistance would be back where it was in 2003, when it had fighters
but no centralised command or bases to carry out organised operations."
Shahzad reports: "The safety of Taliban and al-Qaeda assets in Waziristan is a
matter of life and death and, therefore, the militants have devised a forward
strategy to target the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad,
hoping to break the will of the Pakistani armed forces. The Pakistani
military, meanwhile, is trying to break the will of the militants with ongoing
"Underscoring the seriousness with which the military is planning for the
coming battle, it is reported that Shi'ite soldiers from northern Pakistan are
being sent to the Waziristans. In the past, the Pakistani Army has been
plagued by desertions of Pashtun and Sunni troops who refuse to fight fellow
Pashtuns or Sunnis." [Shi'ites will supposedly have fewer problems killing
Sunnis. The sectarian element could however, just introduce another layer to
This issue of a morally conflicted and fracturing army is without a doubt one
of the greatest threats as increasingly more and more soldiers are questioning
the Islamic credentials of their mission. After a major army offensive in
South Waziristan in 2004 in which some 500 officers and soldiers refused to
fight, "500 leading religious scholars signed a fatwa, a religious judgment,
ruling that militants killed in the action are 'martyrs'. The same fatwa
forbade the public to pray for the dead government soldiers." Earlier this
year the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistani Army attempted to solicit
a fatwa to its own advantage from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) but
was unable to do so. (Link 12) How many soldiers will heed bin Laden's call?
In July, Ayesha Siddiqa (author of 'Military Inc.') wrote an article entitled
"Life after Lal Masjid" where she ominously likened the siege and storming of
the Lal Masjid to the "Indian army's June 1984 attack against the Golden
Temple and the dissident Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In both situations," she
says, "the rebels were created by the establishment to be later killed at the
government's hands. . . It is hoped, however, that the Lal Masjid operation
does not result in the assassination of a leader and the killing of hundreds
of innocent people like it occurred in India in October-November 1984." (Link 13)
On 18 October, Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped assassination and more than 130
people were killed and hundreds were wounded when her motorcade was targeted
by terrorists. This is doubtless only the beginning of the terror. Al-Qaeda
will seek to eliminate all bulwarks against Sharia and Taliban control of
Islamabad. We can expect to see terrorist incidents and assassinations
proliferate in Pakistan. Christians ("cross worshippers" as bin Laden calls
them) are destined to be targeted, as the militants view them not only as
expendable kuffaar and stains to be removed, but as the targets most likely to
attract Western attention, breast beating and pressure for more "peace deals".
Al-Qaeda's goal is nothing less than control of a nuclear-armed Islamic state,
complete with intelligence services and an Islamist Army, for the purpose of
administering and waging international Islamic jihad. A long and bloody battle
for Pakistan has begun.
1) Pakistan in Crisis: Situation Critical
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 22 May 2007
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
2) Pakistan: War and unprecedented persecution in NWFP
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 29 Oct 2007
3) Pakistan's Peace Deal with Taliban Militants
By Tarique Niazi for Terrorism Monitor, Volume 4, Issue 19 (5 October 2006)
4) Pakistan Surrenders. The Taliban control the border with Afghanistan.
by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Bill Roggio. 2 Oct 2006.
5) The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan and the Bajaur Tribal Region:
The Strategic Threat of Terrorist Sanctuaries. By Eric Sayers, Feb 2007
6) Pakistan signs the Bajaur Accord
By Bill Roggio (Military analyst) 17 March 2007
7) Crunch Time in Pakistan, By Bill Roggio, 23 October 2007
(Includes a map showing areas of Taliban-al-Qaeda rule and areas under threat.)
8) Come To Jihad, To The People Of Pakistan
26 Sept 2007. Translated From Urdu By Ahmed Al-Marid | Jihad Unspun
9) Pakistan's Army: Unprepared to tackle terrorism? 22 October 2007
By Mark Sappenfield , Staff writer, The Christian Science Monitor
10) Militants' sway in tribal areas. 23 Oct 2007
M K Dar (Former Joint Director of Intelligence Bureau)
11) Pakistan plans all-out war on militants
By Syed Saleem Shahzad 19 Oct 2007
12) Troop Defections Threaten Pakistan's Operations in Tribal Regions
By Tarique Niazi, for Terrorism Focus, Volume 4, Issue 4 (6 March 2007)
13) Pakistan after Lal Masjid
Ayesha Siddiqa, 17 July 2007
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