Behind Pakistan’s ‘Haqqani problem’

– Analysis » By Khaled Ahmed

The planned committee that will ensure that the APC statement is acted upon will have a tough time bringing the Haqqanis under control because in this instance the tail is wagging the dog

During the APC against America on 29 September 2011 in Islamabad, Maulana Samiul Haq said that the Haqqani network was ‘indigenous to Pakistan’. How could he say that except on the basis of the fact that both the founder of the Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son the current commander Siraj, are graduates of his Madrassa Haqqania in Akora Khattak, Nowshehra, near Peshawar?

There are other efforts afoot to own the Network. Reference is made to the 1980s and the US-backed jihad against the Soviet Union when Jalaluddin Haqqani began camping in North Waziristan while serving one of the seven Afghan militias headquartered in Peshawar. Such claims in favour of Haqqani Network’s ‘indigenisation’ in Pakistan ring hollow. The truth is that the Haqqanis are in control of the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provide support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces.

The Americans are targeting the Haqqanis in North Waziristan – most of the drone attacks were aimed at their men – and Pakistan Army doesn’t like it. Yet if you indigenise the Haqqanis, you come under direct criticism of carrying out attacks against the Americans in Afghanistan. The Americans say they have evidence of Pakistan’s nexus with Haqqanis as they attack Kabul, and President Obama’s partial retreat from this position after the anti-American APC orchestrated by the Pakistan Army in Islamabad, will hardly make America keep quiet over the issue.

But some facts have to be kept in view. Once upon a time, Jalaluddin Haqqani built extensive links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the American CIA, and Arab fighters in the region, including Osama bin Laden. While fighting in Afghanistan, Jalaluddin has always had a strong base in North Waziristan. Indeed, his decision to launch an uprising against Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed communist government reportedly took place at a meeting of Afghan refugees at the Muhajireen mosque in Miranshah in the spring of 1978.

During the anti-Soviet jihad, Jalaluddin operated under the Yunus Khalis faction of the Hizb-e-Islami party, an arrangement that provided political cover and access to resources. Although Jalaluddin was well-educated, he was primarily a military commander, earning his greatest victory in 1991 when he captured the city of Khost from the post-Soviet communist regime in Kabul.

There is also evidence of the Haqqanis arousing deep devotion among his ISI handlers in Pakistan. The year Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi in 2007, after naming ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul as one of her possible assassins, the Bush administration forwarded a two-page unsigned document to Pakistan. It accused Gul of giving financial assistance to Kabul-based criminal groups and involvement in spotting, assessing, recruiting and training young men from seminaries:

‘Hamid Gul has maintained extensive contacts over the years with Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives located in Pakistan, providing financial support and encouragement to these groups. In 2005, Hamid Gul provided general overarching guidance to the Taliban leadership on operational activities in Afghanistan. In 2008, Hamid Gul was in contact with the militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its leadership, including Baitullah Mehsud, and provided the TTP leadership and operatives with guidance on the conduct of militant operations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region…

‘Hamid Gul was a regular contact for Sirajuddin Haqqani and regularly apprised Sirajuddin of Pakistan government activity in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As of early 2007, Gul was involved in spotting, assessing, and recruiting young men from various Pakistani madrassas for training in eventual attacks against US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

‘The training consisted of techniques for laying mines, arson and suicide bombings. As of late 2006, Gul was also involved in the training camps. In late 2006, Gul provided money to a Kabul-based criminal group for every International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) member that the group kidnapped and turned over to the Taliban.

‘In addition to these kidnapping-for-ransom activities, this criminal group sold weapons and explosives to the Taliban and acted as travel facilitators for Taliban members in Afghanistan. As of mid-2008, Gul has knowledge of the resettlement of Al Qaeda members from Iraq to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region’. (‘Secret document confirms Hameed Gul wanted by US’: The News, 7 December 2008.)

(As if upset by the US document, Gul subsequently appeared on TV to explain his and his sons’ private friendship with the Haqqanis in North Waziristan. He revealed that he had once sent his son to jihad. Rumours continue to involve his son, Abdullah Gul.)

After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Jalaluddin and his allies returned to Miranshah, much as they had in the face of threats in the mid-1970s. Jalaluddin Haqqani’s legacy in Miranshah is apparent in many areas, but especially at Haqqani-run madrassas, which have provided food and lodging to a generation of religious students in the area.

Although Jalaluddin is widely respected among militants in North Waziristan for his role in the anti-Soviet jihad, his relationship with tribal leaders in the agency is complex. The Haqqanis come from the Zadran tribe, which is based in Afghanistan’s Khost province, and their lack of tribal roots in North Waziristan has occasionally prompted scorn from tribal leaders in the agency, even in the 1980s. This weakness has likely empowered Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who does have tribal roots in North Waziristan.

Pakistan cannot oust the Haqqanis for various reasons, and the Americans will go on targeting them with drones, in North Waziristan, and in Kurram where they have been partially relocated. But the Haqqani Network’s organisational base is Miranshah, where it operates from at least three compounds: the Miranshah bazaar camp, which contains a madrassa and computer facilities; a compound in the suburb of Sarai Darpa Khel; and another in the suburb of Danday Darpa Khel, where members of Jalaluddin’s family reside. Most major financial decisions, the organisation of weapons acquisition and delivery, and the development of overall military strategy take place in Miranshah.

As with other Afghan insurgent groups, the Haqqanis’ funds come from a variety of sources. Some of Sirajuddin’s brothers are believed to travel to the Persian Gulf region to raise money, relying on Jalaluddin’s networks from the mujahideen years and more recently established contacts.

The planned committee that will ensure that the APC statement is acted upon will have a tough time bringing the Haqqanis under control because in this instance the tail is wagging the dog. Saleem Shahzad in his book Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Saleem Shahzad (Pluto Press 2011) revealed that Al Qaeda controlled all jihad and terrorism in Pakistan. The Punjabi Taliban are under Haqqani Network which is aligned at once with Al Qaeda and Mullah Umar’s Shura, while additionally aligned with Pakistan Army.

The Pakistan Army, which calls all the shots in Pakistan, may be leaning on pragmatism in its policy towards the Haqqani Network: it will not say that it is unable to take on the ‘foreigners’ because of the feelings of common cause they arouse inside the Pakistan Army or because it is more determined to keep to the compass of its supreme goal of keeping India out of Afghanistan and facing its army, if need be, on the eastern border. The world, more inclined to lean on international law, cannot accept Pakistan’s policy of surrendering sovereignty to Al Qaeda and its affiliates as they carry out attacks across Pakistan’s frontiers.

Courtesy: » The Friday Times

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