By Arnaud de Borchgrave
Pakistan is still producing an estimated 10,000 potential jihadis a year out of 500,000 graduates from Pakistan’s 11,000 madrassas – young gung-ho boys, mostly 16-year-olds, who finish 10 years of Koranic cramming and can then recite the holy book by heart in Arabic. That means 114 suras (chapters), 6,247 ayats (verses) or 78,000 words. A true-green jihadi believes the enemies of Islam (principally the United States, India and Israel) are on a crusade to push back the frontiers of Islam and deprive the Muslim world of its principal means of defense – Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
How can the holy Muslim book motivate youngsters to kill nonbelievers by killing themselves? European Koranic “experts” say that two lengthy suras in the Koran deal with God’s promise “to cast terror into the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth; strike, then, their necks” (Koran 8:12). God also instructs his Muslim followers to “strike terror into his enemies and your enemies” (Koran 8.60).
The motto of the Pakistani army is “faith, piety and jihad in the path of Allah.” A military manual on jihad, “The Quranic Concept of War,” is required reading at officers training schools. Sample: “The war [the prophet] planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts, internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military. … Thus, the Quranic military strategy enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy, known or hidden. … Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means; it is the end in itself.”
Mercifully, the United States is no longer seen as the enemy by most Pakistanis. Taliban, an organization originally patented by Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI), is now Public Enemy No. 1.
Madrassas are jealously guarded by Pakistan’s countless politico-religious extremists.
Government edicts on curriculum reform are ignored with impunity. Free meals and an “education” are the principal attraction for the overwhelming majority of Muslim Pakistan’s 175 million people, who subsist on $2 or $3 a day. The government cannot afford a modern public school system for the poor as the military absorbs most of the budget. And Pakistan cannot return to the ranks of strong, peace-loving nations until madrassas are replaced by normal high schools. Those are still a decade or two away.
The miserable conditions under which a majority of Pakistan’s poor eke out subsistence living (electricity frequently is unavailable for 12 hours a day, shutting down fans and naked bulbs in 100-degree heat) are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The game-changer is the Pakistani army, whose volunteers came principally from the ranks of the poor. But the officers, if not the rank and file, now understand that religious extremists are no longer their allies.
With 3,500 killed by terrorists in a year and more than 10,000 injured and many small businesses closed, coupled with the government’s neglect of their plight for lack of funds, and U.S. aid spread thin over a multitude of unrelated projects, those who cherry-pick suicide targets to make matters worse are faced with an embarrassment of riches. The government, such as it exists, is left with a grim menu of inadequate medical and police responses, followed by vigils and commemorations.
The governor of Punjab, long considered the most important of Pakistan’s four provinces, says it is a “bomb” waiting to explode.
In Baluchistan, youths on motorcycles attacked and disfigured teenage girls by throwing acid in their faces.
Following the army eviction of terrorists from the scenic Swat valley, and its return to civilian control, Taliban extremists are back – while the army has moved on to fighting Talibanis infiltrating back into the South Waziristan, Bajaur and Orakzai tribal agencies whence they also had been evicted over recent months. The military, long used to static positions on the Indian frontier, is exhausted. So is the equipment. Helicopters, in desperately short supply, require 15 hours of maintenance for every hour ferrying troops or rocketing Taliban strong points. And tribal leaders who fled South Waziristan last fall are refusing to return to their villages.
The United Nations issued an SOS for about 300,000 new refugees from the fighting who require food, water, sanitation, health care and shelter. About 1.3 million already displaced by earlier fighting in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province (formerly known as North West Frontier Province) are yet to go home and are stranded with little assistance, the U.N. says.
A former high-ranking Pakistani official, speaking privately, told us, “Now that the state is finally taking some domestic terrorists head-on, it is high time the pseudo-religious terrorists, previously protected, be brought to book for spreading hate, bitterness and terror throughout the country.”
Most of the banned sectarian organizations, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan are now an integral part of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). And they have taken on Shia Muslims from the tribal areas to Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, where they are known as Hazaras and their first language is usually Persian Farsi rather than Pushto.
Evidently, TTP has revived from multiple blows from the Pakistani army since August 2009, when it lost its founder, Baitullah Mehsud, killed by a U.S. drone attack. His successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, caught in the cross hairs of another drone flown by remote control from Nevada, was first reported killed. Severely injured, Hakimullah survived; six others were killed.
TTP’s new commanders apparently have revamped their fading organization. Both the Afghan and Pakistani branches of Taliban are still well-entrenched on both sides of the long (1,400 miles) border and are reaching out to all manner of extremist Muslim groups that share the same twin goals – caliphate and Shariah.
In Afghanistan, rhythmic chants of “Death to America” and “Long Live Islam” echoed from demonstrators outside Jalalabad protesting U.S. troops who had killed a Taliban “facilitator.” He also was the brother-in-law of a prominent parliamentarian. Instructed to lower his weapon, he raised it and was promptly cut down.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.