Books/Press review


Reviewed by Pirah Mangi

It is generally perceived that the modern concept of Jihad and Talibanization came to be known in, 2001, (attack on World Trade Centre) but it has begun during the war against Soviets in Afghanistan.

However, the role of Pakistan in this, ongoing, age of jihad has taken place since the early years of the inception of Pakistan, when the spread of Islamic radical groups were aided directly by army (is by far the most professional organization of Pakistan). So the author, Johan R. Schmidt, claims “No understanding of Pakistan can be complete with examine the role of religion”.

The first two chapters of the book deals with the social and political study of feudal system, composing the influential class structure affecting the social and political affairs in especially rural areas in Pakistan, the involvement of military in the politics and the rise of sectarian groups that has been working as fuel to fire to Islamism in the region. Moreover, these chapters exposing the relationship among these three factors of social-political study.

There are indeed sectarian groups (Deobandis and Barelvis) and religious parties have been a relentless pressure groups to Islamicize the Pakistani society form its very beginning; which was infused by the army dictator Zia-ul-Haq, with the Islamic fundamentalist lines as a Federal Shariat Court, and that was Zia period in which first radical Islam had emerged and his Islamization campaign had begun shortly after the seizing power in 1977 and alter on 24th December 1979 ( the day when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan).

Soviet Union was suspected to have penetrated in the region, by Saudis as much as United States and both rivals looked at Pakistan’s support for throwing Soviets out of the “hot water” region.

They had financially contributed dollar for dollar. The Chinese and Egyptians also promised to help out. Zia assigned military spy service ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence) Directorate to carry out the Afghan insurgency (that was first entanglement of ISI, in the great game of terrorism or Jihad beyond the borders).

Johan Schmidt writes that ISI has been under rumors of being “a rogue organization” and utilizing its instruments (Islamic radical groups) to pursue its foreign democratic agendas. The origin of jihad and radical group of Mujahideen was born with recruit of Major radical figures as Abdullah Yusuf Azam (Saudi), Syed Qutb (who had written a most Islamic Radical tract “Defense of the Muslim Land” in which he suggested the Muslim to undertake jihad as only way to liberate Palestinian, Afghanistan under infidel rules just after the Soviet invasion), Osama Bin laden (he has strong ties with Saudi royal family), and other recruit was Ayam al-Zawahiri (had been imprisoned for his active involvement in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, in 1981).

There were many other young radical Islamists, from Middle East and within Pakistan, flocked to Pakistan to form a Mujahideen force of jihad that later was named “Al-Qaeda”. They were organized, trained, and equipped to undertake the operations against Soviets.

Though writer claims, the United States was also in favor of the recruitment of these foreign jihadists into the Mujahideen, and within Pakistan small radical groups gave birth to the first Pakistani Jihadist organization, in 1980, by Deobandi madrassa, the Jamia Uloomal-Islamia in Karachi.

Likewise, local Pashtuns of the similar mind established Harakal Ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI), a mullah by the name of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi founded the Sipah-e-Sahabah Pakistan (SSP) in 1985 and another radical Shiite pressure group formed Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Fgh-e-Jafaria Pakistan (TNFJ).

Shortly, after the Soviet invasion and then departure of Soviet from Afghanistan in February 1989, a large number of radical groups and organizations came into being, which had resulted the institutionalization of jihad in Pakistan; some of these organizations were directly operated by army and ISI. After driving out Soviets from Afghanistan, Pakistan assumed an opportunity in Kashmir with same strategy to do so to Indians there.

The first was the Hizbul Mujahideen, formed in 1989, as the armed wing if the Kashmir branch of the Jamiat-e-Islam, Schmidt has written the joint involvement of Jamiat-e-Islam and ISI in Kashmir against Indian, by referring his own experience as “the Hizbul Mujahideen loyally followed the lead of its Pakistan; parent organization in favoring the incorporation of Kashmir into Pakistan and was more than happy to cooperate with ISS and the Pakistan army to this end. I asked the Jamiat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed, how the Hizbul Mujahideen, which he professed to control, could take orders from both his leadership and from ISI. He pondered for a moment and then a slight smile crept across his face “This is Pakistan” he replied”. Pg. 82

The instant aftermath of 9/11 was distinctively felt in the changed world political scenario and presented the global concept for the definition of Terrorism and Jihad, which left Pakistan with no ultimate choice but only to stand by the side of US in the War on Terrorism (WOT) or age of Jihad, however; in later chapters Schmidt also delineates the murky story of infringement of Pakistan in this cooperation with US.

Pakistan’s intelligence has had several agreements with radical Islamic groups (as Haqqani Network) while pleading the military cooperation with US and also promising to do more.

At few places, Schmidt in his writings seem to be conceded that American and Indian foreign policy in the region has somewhat caused the sense of responsibility in Pakistan that resultantly ensues Pakistan not to fight against radical Islamic or Jihadist groups but to pursue them.

Schmidt is presently teaching at the Elhiott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He has penned the book down under his personal observation and experience during his services in the state department, including as political counselor at the U.S. embassy in the years leading up to 9/11.

This book “The Unraveling: Pakistan in the age of Jihad” is comprehensive insightful historical accounts of Pakistan’s involvement with radical Islam which unravels the hidden nods of the institutionalization of jihad since the inception of Pakistan till the last chapter of Osama bin Ladin. There is specific heed on the role of ISI and army and influence of Pakistani Talibans in tribal areas affecting the regional and international politics.

Since the departure of the former Soviet Union (Hot-water Hunter), the rapid rise of Talibanization has been witnessed in Afghanistan and Northern areas (Former NWFP) of Pakistan and various Taliban groups instantly started to emerge.

Afterwards the tendency of incidents of execution, assassination, slaughtering, kidnapping, and beheading of foreigners, tourists, and civilians are one of the common stories of the outcome of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan.

The issues of Lal Mosque (the largest Deobandi mosque was run by Ghazi brothers who had communication with Ayman al-Zawahiri), Mumbai Attack, and the Buner Moment reveal the how domestic terrorism or Islam radicalism of Pakistan is being instrumentalized to manipulate the regional politics by Pakistan.

As Pakistan’s authority has been denying those evidences that prove Pakistan to be accused of endorsing the radical Islamic groups that are found jeopardizing the wave of peace in the region.

On the other hand Schmidt has divulged the Ajmal Kasab’s (only survivor of the terrorists at Taj Mahal Hotel) close ties with Lashkar-e-Taliban which had planned and carried out the attack in Mumbai. (pg. 167)

Despite the tracing the historical account of involvement of Pakistan in the age of Jihad, John R. Schmidt has been found fail to portray the quest of future of Pakistan or to foresee the ending chapter of Jihadist groups; in the spite of military presence of US and NATO forces in the region.

Later author expounds the presence of Osama bin Ladin in the lap of Pakistan’s army convinced the world, Pakistan has been rearing up the terrorism, since it ages, undermining the region and global peace.

The crucial interference of Pakistan establishment has made itself to have dived into morass of Jihad that ensures the rampant political and social life of Pakistan, which has been paying the way for Pakistani, indeed, in the (self-made) age of Jihad.

The Reviewer can be reached at

Book Review with critic ink: Pakistan on the Brink.

Fatima Bhutto

At the start of Pakistan on the Brink, Ahmed Rashid confesses that he didn’t really want to write the book and that it was “forced” out of “a very reluctant author” by editors and publishers. To which one might uncharitably reply: we didn’t want to read it either. The third book in a trilogy, following Taliban and Descent into Chaos, is a compendium of statistics, bomb counts and Wiki knowledge. If you’ve paid attention to the news during the past 12 years, you already know most of this.

                                                  Pakistan on the Brink: The future of Pakistan, Afghanistan                   and the West: by Ahmed Rashid

It’s also a little out of date. The killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the deadly attacks on Pakistan’s naval and military bases over the past year, the rise of the Punjabi Taliban, and the murder of Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s brother are only fleetingly described; the coming US elections are ignored and Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan last spring is given only a cursory glance.

But the book’s central fault is that Rashid’s teleology is dedicatedly western. And it is precisely this sort of thinking that got us into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place. There is no context that is not westernised for clarity (Bin Laden’s retirement home of Abbottabad is like a “British country seat”, a Pakistani military academy is a “West Point”). Rashid, whom his fellow Pakistani author Tariq Ali once called a “prize cock of the US defence establishment and videosphere”, may have soured slightly in his views of the American government and its war in Afghanistan, but he still uses its language.

For Rashid the problem seems to be not that US and European troops are mired in a bloody, imperially designed and unwinnable war, but that there aren’t enough of them to get the job done in good time. Only once is the conflict noticeably described in less than necessary terms, when Mullah Baradar of the Taliban is quoted as calling it a “game of colonisation”. Rashid berates Obama for not “personalising” the war in Afghanistan and for not telling in any detail stories of Afghans and their plight. Yet he doesn’t either. There’s not one account of how people have suffered under Operation Enduring Freedom, merely statistics of doom.

Rashid made his name by bringing to light forgotten stories, but he has now become the story. The book’s acknowledgments offer thanks to “all manner” of “bureaucrats, politicians and heads of state”. Countless anecdotes begin with him advising the world’s most powerful men on how to run their war (only for them to do the opposite). In his histories, power has replaced the people.

The chapter on the 2009 war in the Swat valley between the Pakistani army and Islamist militants is titled “A sliver of hope”, but Rashid devotes hardly any space to the awful conditions 1.4 million internal refugees were held in after they had fled from the fighting. The UN called it “one of the world’s worst displacement crises” and journalists, both international and local, were deliberately denied access. For Rashid, however, Pakistan gets an A grade for the war.

Pakistan and India are depicted one-dimensionally as paranoid powers unable to consider each other outside destructive paradigms – which indeed they might be, but their populations have long wanted peace, and are currently engaged in many hopeful people-to-people initiatives.

Sotto vocce, he tells us that anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is whipped up by the military and the nefarious Inter-Services Intelligence. According to Rashid, intelligence agencies manipulated the violent protests against Nato last November, following the airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers (and for which the Pentagon grudgingly expressed “deepest regret”). But the author fails to understand that after a 12-year war, diplomatic dealings that are a perpetual exercise in humiliation, and hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilian deaths at the hands of drones, the one thing the Pakistani army need not manipulate is anti-American sentiment. The US military, with its trigger-happy contractors and recent renegade shooters, Raymond Davis and Sgt Robert Bales, does a fine job of whipping that up all by itself.

At least, if belatedly, Rashid has cooled off in his affection for President Karzai. Gone are the days when he wrote articles entitled “How my friend outwitted the mullahs”, as he did for the Daily Telegraph in 2001. Karzai, who has presided over gross corruption, factionalism and dashed hopes for Afghanistan for the past eight years, is finally described as he is: “increasingly paranoid” and “controversial”. Rashid deserves credit, too, for going after Pakistan’s villainous elite, often celebrated as the country’s last hope.

Readers of his previous work will know that Rashid possesses a sophisticated understanding of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US, but here he offers disappointingly bite-sized analyses of places one would expect him to delve deeper into. On the decades-long secessionist insurgency in Balochistan, he references only a Human Rights Watch director called Brad: he doesn’t speak to any Baloch groups or survivors of the army’s campaign of violence. Karachi, Rashid surmises in a hurry, could easily be taken over by the Taliban “when they feel the time is right”. Such foggy analysis is a betrayal of centuries of the city’s syncretic, tolerant history, during which it has offered space to Christians, Hindus, Jews, Parsis and Sufis. We need to know more, but no nuance is available when an author is being pressed to complete a trilogy.

Courtesy: Online Guardian Newspaper.


Book Review: The Redefined Dimensions of Baloch Nationalist Movement

Yousaf Ajab Baloch

This review is based on the recently released book “The Redefined Dimensions of Baloch Nationalist Movement”, written by Malik Siraj Akbar, the founder and editor-in-chief of Baluchistan’s first online English language newspaper The Baloch Hal. The 346-page book has been published in the United States of America and is now available on and several other online bookstores. The book is the mirror of current environment of exploited and bleeding Balochistan.

The author, Malik Siraj Akbar, is the most quoted journalist about Balochistan crisis in the national and international media. Currently, he is a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Articles in the book discuss political, economic, and social problems of Balochistan. The book also includes interviews of top Baloch political leaders. Malik reveals burning issues, such as the “enforced disappearance” of hundreds of Baloch political workers, teachers, human rights activist, writers.

In his “foreword” of the book, renowned intellectual and a former guerrilla fighter Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, who writes, “This book contains a wealth of material on contemporary Baloch history and records the personalities, events, emotions and sentiments of the Baloch and of the Baloch related struggle. This book will prove to be a very good reference book for dates of events and moreover of the critical junctures which brought about a sea-change in the thinking and attitudes of the Baloch towards the State of Pakistan. This book will be a good guide to the uninitiated and wealth of information and a diary of events for that Involved in the political and armed struggle in Balochistan.”

I found this book very well written and highlighting the major problems, mainly the problems facing Balochistan. Malik has analyzed issue according to his point of view, and comes up with a solution too. There are possibilities one may differ from his conclusions in some of the articles. A great predilection of Malik in salvation of Baloch crisis has tempted him to focus on problems the Balochs are facing today.

After the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bughti, 79, a significant change occurred in the Baloch politics. The enraged Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood, held a historic Jirga of Baloch tribal and political chiefs in September 2006 to collectively decide to file a case against the State of Pakistan against what they termed as the “forced annexation” of the defunct Kalat State into the fledgling county of Pakistan. Ironically, most Baloch tribal chiefs who backed the Kalat Jirga and staunchly condemned the killing of Nawab Bugti are all a part and parcel of the current government, including Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi and Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Asam Raisani. Thus, Malik calls it as “Dressed with nowhere to go”.

‘While some view the [Kalat] jirga session as a major development, others see it only as a political gimmick by the Khan. “The fact that these 85 Baloch Sardars were able to gather at the same platform is a big development considering that they are usually always engaged in internal, personal vendettas,” said Shahzada Zulfiqar, president of the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ). “The presence of some supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League at the jirga also sends a clear message to the Centre that it will lose more allies if it doesn’t review its aggressive policies,” he added. However, the jirga’s road map to move the ICJ is ambiguous; it was not made clear when the ICJ would be approached and how. Also, legal experts point out that while the Court adjudges cases between two sovereign states, Kalat, today, is no longer a sovereign state’.

He goes on: “That Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, the Baloch leader believed to be leading the armed struggle in the province, was missing from the Jirga session also takes away from its importance and potential impact. Sources close to Marri say he has rejected the Jirga as unimportant and believes it was convened by the Khan of Kalat simply to earn political points. The Marri and Bugti sardars play a pivotal role in Balochistan”

Malik also writes about Balochistan’s crisis of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): “The government of Pervez Musharraf not only created an IDP (internally displaced persons) crisis in Balochistan, it also very dexterously kept the whole country in oblivion about it. Limited and restricted information was leaked about the fate of around 100,000 Baloch IDPs who were driven out of their homes during the military operation carried out in Marri and Bugti tribal areas. The dictator-sponsored humanitarian catastrophe was deplorable but officially denying accesses to national and international humanitarian groups to grapple with the IDP crisis in Balochistan was criminal.” Malik recalls.

The book also reveals the hardships journalists face in Balochistan during the reporting of the conflict. There have been several attacks not only on Baloch media but also on Baloch journalists. As the government forcefully shut down a vocal Urdu-language newspaper, Daily Asaap, Malik wrote    “The end of Asaap is in fact the closure of a school of journalism. The newspaper continued its journey very proudly and confidently. It raised the voice of the Baloch people without any fear and favor even during the gruesome martial law days of General Pervez Musharraf. The turning point for Asaap was the publication of the list of missing persons issued by Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) which demanded the release of missing Baloch political workers in return of UNHCR official John Solecki. This remarkably irritated the government authorities”.

On the cold-blooded murder of Baloch journalists Muhammad Khan Sasoli and expresses the hardships of the journalists, Malik says: “As the Balochistan conflict worsens, truth becomes the first causality. All stakeholders perceive journalists as a threat and do whatever it takes to kill the potential messengers. In the backdrop of turmoil that has engulfed Balochistan, media watchdogs must pay attention to the plight of journalists working in the conflict-stricken province. While some organizations should initiate training programs on conflict reporting, the employers must at least back their reporters in the (battle) field. It is our moral responsibility to provide financial assistance to the families of those gallant journalists who were killed while upholding the true voice”

The Redefined Dimensions is a very brave effort by Malik Siraj Akbar given the fact that even reporting from the battle field of Balochistan today is not free of personal and professional risks. He has, on the top of it, decided to write a full book. Currently, Baloch journalists are being abducted, killed and dumped, whereas a large number of them, such as the journalist from Pasni, Siddiq Eidho, are still missing. Thus, being professional journalist during such a crucial time, is an admirable job.

(Courtesy: Viewpoint Online)


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