May 4, 2012

Pakistan GEO TV program on rise of Taliban

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — David Isby @ 1:18 pm

TV Show Explores Role of Pakistani Seminaries in Formation of Afghan Taliban
From the program titled “Jirga” hosted by well-known journalist Salim Safi who hails from the tribal area. Words within double slanted lines are in English.
Geo News TV
Monday, April 2, 2012 T13:35:05Z

(Unidentified person) 2011…

(Video shows President Hamid Karzai begining a speech with voice over by unidentified commentator giving historical background of Afghanistan and Taliban)

(Unidentified commentator) The international forces were struggling to come up with a suitable solution to the Afghanistan conflict until the end of 2011. As 2012 begins, the Taliban seem to have made a comeback to the political scenario of Afghanistan. The Taliban first emerged and then disappeared. But it seems that they have resurfaced in Afghanistan and the world knows very little about their reality. Is it that the resistance offered by the Taliban during the past 10 years has caused a change in Washington’s //stance//?

(Unknown Anchorperson on American News Channel) After fighting the Taliban for 10 years in Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden says that the Taliban is not really their enemy.

(Unidentified Taliban in battle field) Allah-o-Akbar

(Host Saleem Safi over video) They are the ones who gave a //tough time// to the NATO and US forces equipped with sophisticated weapons. The world’s best weapons and //technology// offer little resistance before them. They are the ones who blow up tanks and vehicles like toys. They are the ones who blow themselves up as well as others. Here they are, they are the Afghan Taliban. Who are the Afghan Taliban? What is the motivating factor behind their movement and sacrifices? Have all the fighting Taliban students of madrassas or some other elements also gathered under the Taliban banner? Is it the religion that motivates them to fight or is their fight for the sake of the Pashtun nationhood? Is the actual motive of the fight to gain power, money and control? Who are the Taliban //supporting// and who is //supporting// them? Moreover, what link do the Taliban have with Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban? To disclose the truth about these Taliban cadres, we are taking you on a journey of the place that is being ruled by the Taliban. We are starting our journey from the city that is embroiled in blood and fire today but used to be the //base camp// for the mujahideen during the jihad against the Soviet Union. Perhaps, we cannot understand the phenomenon of the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban without being aware of the similarities between people living on either side of the Durand Line. The Peshawar University enhances the beauty of this traditional city. Located at the center of the university is the Pakistan Study Center where we met Dr Fakhr-ul-Islam to understand the region and its people and to find answers to our questions in the academic sense.

(Islam) The combination of a number of different //factors// make Pakistan’s neighborhood with Afghanistan distinctly different from its neighborhood with China, India, or Iran. Therefore, a //racial// link exists between us. For example, you name any tribe you can, the forefathers of every tribe of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa had come from Afghanistan. It does not stop here. IT cannot be disputed that the Gardezi tribe of Multan, the Jadoon tribe of Abbottabad, the Afridi, Yousafzai, Mohmand, and Lukman Khel tribes have all come from there.

(Safi) What characteristics make the Pakistan-Afghanistan border different from the other //borders// of Pakistan?

(Islam) First of all, it is a very lengthy border. Second, it has been a subject of dispute over the years, but across the border…

(Safi) How far is it true that the life of the agreement (Durand Line) was 100 years and that it has now expired?

(Islam) We will have to deal with the complexities of international law to answer that. I do not consider myself knowledgeable enough to give an opinion on this issue. Even though the dispute has not surfaced prominently yet, it is, nonetheless, a dispute. But I fear that this dispute might raise its ahead again in the future.

(Safi) In your opinion, how much did the //global powers//, the religious factor, and particularly, the traditions and //culture// of the Pashtun //belt// of Pakistan and Afghanistan contribute to the resistance against the Soviet Union?

(Islam) I think all the three factors played their roles. However, the //superpower// played a //dominant role//.

(Safi) Do you think that the Pashtun ethos and the Pashtun culture of hospitality played a role in the arrival of the Afghan Taliban and the Al-Qa’ida and the emergence of the //Talibanization// in Pakistan’s tribal areas or can it be attributed to some other factors?

(Islam) Undoubtedly, the Pashtuns show hospitality when they receive a guest. Marriages are also solemnized, people become relatives, they get married, and the women of this region are given to them as their wives. So no one can deny the Pashtun culture of hospitality. However, religious and ideological connections also played a major role in fostering hospitality.

(Safi) We have to meet an expert who has observed the situation in detail and can discuss the same correctly to understand the background and the presence of the Taliban Movement. We also have to find out how relevant Dr Islam’s scholastic views about Pashtun culture and the region’s historic background are to the current political situation. We first learnt about Islam’s scholastic views during our visit to the Peshawar University. Rahimullah Yousafazai’s beard has turned white teaching and studying Afghanistan.

(Yousafzai) The Afghan Taliban owe their coming into being to circumstances. No one created them. They came into existence on their own. I am of the view that if some force other than the Taliban emerged, people would have welcomed them as well, even if that force belonged to the communists’ old school of thought.

(Safi) How many Afghan Taliban cadres had links with Pakistan’s religious leaders or graduated from Pakistani madrassas? What role did the Pakistani Taliban or religious leaders play in the movement of the Afghan Taliban?

(Yousafzai) There was a time when Pakistan was home to five million Afghan refugees. The madrassas in Pakistan catered to the needs of their (the Afghan refugees) educational requirements. This was how a large number of the Afghan Taliban received their education from the Pakistani madrassas. As you have noted, many of them write ‘Haqqani’ with their names, which means that they graduated from Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak, near Peshawar, but…

(Safi) Did Mullah Muhammad Omar also graduate from there?

(Yousafzai) When I asked Mullah Muhammad Omar how often he had visited Pakistan, he replied rarely. However, he also said that he was shifted to Pakistan by the ICRC, the Red Cross for medical treatment when he suffered injuries while offering resistance against the Russian Army in the battlefield of Sing-e-Sar, his hometown located in the area called Merwan, along the Kandahar-Herat road. So he used to visit Pakistan and also studied here for some time.

(Commercial Break)

(Imran Khan, while addressing a rally) America… Afghanistan (words indistinct)

(Safi) The Taliban Movement is not the only example to refer to while studying Afghanistan’s national freedom movements regarding the contribution by the Pashtun population living on the other side of the border. The level of emotional involvement was the same during the jihad against Russia. The city of Peshawar used to be the //base camp// of the Afghan mujahideen. Here, we are looking for Haji Sharafat, so we went to the Town University to reach the head office of the Hezb-e-Islami, the largest group of mujahideen during the resistance against the Soviet Union. We are meeting Haji Sharafat, the former right-hand man of Golbodin Hekmatyar, and former //commander// of the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, in the building that Golbodin Hekmatyar, the head of the Hezb-e-Islami used to sit in.

(Sharafat) Peshawar played an important role in the Afghan jihad. The arrival of Afghan refugees in Pakistan began when the communists invaded Afghanistan. Most of the refugees came to Peshawar since Peshawar was very close to Nangarhar and Jalalabad. The base camp f or the Afghan jihadist organizations was also Peshawar from day one. As you said, even at that time, the headquarters of jihadist organizations, including the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, the largest jihadist organization, were in Peshawar, while the centers of the Afghan mujahidin were in the areas adjacent to Peshawar. The mujahidin would prepare themselves and move toward Afghanistan from those training centers. The mujahidin enjoyed immense support from the tribal people. The tribal people have also faced problems for providing support and cooperation to the mujahideen since Russia bombarded the tribal areas a number of times. It is obvious that Pakistan and the entire Arab world were standing behind the mujahidin. The mujahidin, to some extent, also enjoyed the support of the United States because this was a huge resistance movement involving a number of stakeholders.

(Safi) Golbodin Hekmatyar has vanished from the scene, but he continues to offer resistance to the United States and its allies. But the United States is holding talks with the Hezb-e-Islami as it held with the Taliban. It is Dr Ghairat Baheer who always leads the delegation of the Hezb-e-Islami during his talks with the United States or the Afghan Government. Dr Ghairat Baheer served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan. We also searched and found Dr Ghairat Baheer.

(Baheer) I have had the experience of living in the prisons of both the United States and Russia. I was lodged in the prison of the Russians or the //communists// for a year. First, let me admit that Pakistan is the second home to all the Afghans. We have never felt like we are an alien country whenever we come to Pakistan. The attitude of the Pakistani people vis-a-vis Afghanistan has been positive by and large. We will never forget the hospitality offered by the Pakistani people. The religious leaders played a very positive role and cooperated a lot. As far as the positions taken by the governments are concerned, they change with time. The governments’ policies, being unstable, experienced ups and downs during that (jihad). Moreover, it is a fact that the party in power hardly represents the people’s aspirations.

(Safi) There are divided opinions over the role that the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, played in Afghanistan. Opinions on the ISI’s roles in all the matters ranging from the beginning of the mujahidin’s resistance against the Soviet Union, the organizing of the resistance, the beginning of the Taliban Movement, the government’s U-turn at the time of the US invasion in Afghanistan to the resulting war on terror have all been riddled with contradictions. So, to get an accurate idea of the ISI’s role, we went to the residence of former ISI officer retired Brigadier Asad Munir. He was appointed the ISI’s in charge in some areas of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and in other tribal areas immediately after the 9/11 incident and spent many years in that capacity.

(Safi) What was ISI’s //contribution// to the first war in Afghanistan that was against the Soviet Union? What was the reality?

(Munir) It was the ISI’s job to provide money, weapons, and strike a deal with the mujahidin and provide them training and plan their course of action. The ISI was doing this all before the United States arrived and continued to do so until 1989.

(Safi) What role did the religious parties and the madrassas of Pakistan play and how much did they contribute to the jihad?

(Munir) The Jamaat-e-Islami played a very active role in the jihad. With the support of the ISI, the Jamaat-e-Islami had established humanitarian camps and hospitals, among other //facilities// in Peshawar for people and mujahideen fighters who came from outside. At that time, the madrassas did not have to play any role. Most of the madrassas were established after 1984. It was by the early 1990s that the first batch or the first group graduated from the madrassas.

(Safi) What was the ISI’s role in the emergence of the Taliban?

(Munir) The gen erally perceived notion that the Taliban were created by the ISI or Naseerullah Babar is not true. I believe that the ISI did not know what ‘Talib’ means until the Taliban conquered Kandahar in November 1994. The Taliban were perceived to be unknown people supported by the United States. After a few, I think two-three months, when they captured Kandahar, they began supporting them (the Taliban), since the other groups were fighting amongst themselves.

(Safi) Is it true that the ISI and the Pakistani Government supported them after they captured Kandahar?

(Munir) Yes, the ISI supported them from 1995 to 2001.

(Safi) What was the role of Pakistan’s religious parties and madrassas in the rise of the Taliban?

(Munir) Most of the //force// of the Taliban was supplied by the Pakistani madrassas. People went there after Kandahar fell to the Taliban. All our jihadist organizations, madrassas and sectarian organizations went to Afghanistan in 1996 and forged an alliance with the Taliban and fought against the Northern Alliance for five years.

(Safi) How much did the ISI contribute to the downfall of the Taliban government and the rise of the NATO after the 9/11 incident?

(Munir) Our relations with the Taliban ended after the 9/11 incident. After a new policy was implemented, Jalaluddin Haqqani had to vacate the residence in North Waziristan where he had been living since 1974. His madrassas were also sealed. Most of the Taliban leaders went to Balochistan, but three of them were believed to be in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. We launched raids against those three Taliban leaders in different areas whenever we received intelligence information. There was no policy of a double game. We did not support anyone after that.

(Safi) Some Afghan Taliban cadres have not only been surviving, but also giving a very tough time to the NATO and US forces. What role is being played by the Pakistanis, Pakistan’s religious parties, the Pakistani students living in madrassas, and the Pakistani jihadist organizations, to offer resistance to the Afghan Taliban?

(Munir) The Pakistani jihadist organizations provide them a //support system// when they cross the border and take refuge in Pakistan’s areas.

(Commercial Break)

(Safi) We shall have to go into the past to know the roles the religious parties and the seminaries of Pakistan played in the present resistance movement of Afghanistan. These religious seminaries have been imparting religious education for several decades, and they can be rightly termed the biggest NGO movement of the country. The base of relations and the cooperation with the Afghan Mujahidin were developed at the time of war against the Soviet Union when the United States, with the patronage of the Arab world and the Pakistani establishment, persuaded religious parties and religious organizations to support the Afghan Mujahidin.

(Former US President Reagan) Pakistan today stands in the vanguard of nations shouldering a great responsibility for mankind.

(Former Pakistani President General Zia-ul-Haq) Pakistan’s continued commitment and objectives of the Islamic Conference are the fundamental postulates of its foreign policy.

(Former US National Security Advisor Berzenski, saying at the Torkham Border in 1980) We are aware of their deep belief in God and are confident that their struggle will succeed. Now that land over there is yours. You’ll go back to it one day because your fight will prevail and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and because God is on your side.

(Safi) Pakistan’s religious leaders, for example Maulana Samiul Haq, used to say that they (Taliban) were his students, and Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-i- Islam (JUI) and some other parties also supported them (Taliban). Some people say that the militant organizations of Pakistan were also supporting them.

(Yousafzai) I think there is no truth in these claims. In my view, the Taliban made their decision s on their own, but they (religious leaders) helped the Taliban in a way that they closed their //madrassas// (seminaries), whenever the Taliban needed manpower to launch any new attack or offensive. So, the students of the seminaries, both of Pakistani origin and Afghan origin, went to Afghanistan to support the Afghan Mujahidin. You have seen that they (Taliban) refused to obey the directives of the Pakistani Government on some occasions. So, I think, they were independent in many of their actions.

(Safi) Did the level of closeness (between the Taliban and the Pakistani establishment) reduce or increase after the 9/11 incident?

(Yousafzai) Their (Taliban) compulsions increased after their government was toppled in Afghanistan. Many Taliban leaders took refuge in Pakistan. So, they (Taliban leaders) were under the influence of Pakistan within the territory of Pakistan, but they expressed their own free will, whenever they got the chance to go to Afghanistan or to come closer to the //Durand Line//.

(Safi) Dr Ghairat Baheer, a leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, acknowledges the impacts various Islamic movements of Pakistan and of other parts of the world have had on the Afghan groups fighting against the former //Soviet Union//.

(Baheer in Pashto) The role and influence of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Ikhwanul Muslimeen were more than those of the students and teachers of the seminaries during their resistance against the former Soviet Union. However, there is no doubt that the teachers and students of Maulana Samiul Haq’s seminary among others played a key role in the formation of the Taliban movement and its government (in Afghanistan).

(Haji Sharaft, another leader of the Hezb-e-Islami, in Pashto) The Pakistani religious parties undoubtedly helped the Afghan Mujahidin in the war and offered every kind of help to the Afghan Mujahideen.

(Safi, showing a photograph of Maulana Haqqani) This person played a key role in the war against the former Soviet Union, and he is still a thorn in the flesh of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan. Maulana Haqqani was the right-hand man of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the minister for borders in the Afghan Government of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is said that the network of Maulana Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani is still playing a key role in the middle and eastern Afghanistan, apart from Kabul. Sirajuddin Haqqani writes Haqqani with his name, because he has studied at Madrassah Haqqania, situated in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province of Pakistan. It is said that Taliban leader Mullah Omar and several other top Taliban leaders studied at the same seminary (Madrassa Haqqania). The name of the seminary is atop the list of the seminaries that provided manpower to the Afghan Taliban. More than 3,500 students are studying in the seminary at present. Therefore, we went to Darul Uloom Haqqania to find out the truth. Students at the Darul Uloom Haqqania were busy playing different games after Asr (pre-sunset prayers) there and it was here that we met Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of the seminary.

(Haq) It is baseless to say that Pakistan or the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) played any role against the former Soviet Union. I also reject the notion that the United States played a role in the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. The Haqqani network enjoys a favorable reputation at present. Sirajuddin Haqqani is an Afghan, and he has no connection with Pakistan, except that he was a student of Darul Uloom Haqqania. He also served as a teacher at the seminary. He was a brilliant student. He went to Afghanistan to counter the former Soviet Union in the wake of the threat both for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He went to the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

(Safi) Did Taliban leader Mullah Omar also study at Darul Uloom Haqqania?

(Haq) He studied here for a few years, but did not complete his studies. He got involved in jihadi activities. He was with the group of Maulana Younis Khalis.

(Safi) Will you please tell me the names of other top Taliban leaders who studied at Darul Uloom Haqqania?

(Haq) Out of the 14 cabinet ministers of the Taliban government, as many as nine or ten studied at Darul Uloom Haqqania. They were Maulana Ahmed Jan and Maulana Abdul Qadeer among others.

(Safi) Did Darul Uloom Haqqania or the other seminaries of Pakistan play any role in the emergence of the Taliban movement or the formation of the Taliban government in Afghanistan?

(Haq) There was a basic role of ours…

(Safi) Is there any truth in the reports that the students from Pakistani seminaries fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan?

(Haq) The Afghan students of the seminaries went to Afghanistan. I have a letter by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, wherein he requested me that the Afghan students not be admitted in the Pakistani seminaries. So, the Pakistani students did not go there during that time.

(Commercial Break)

(Safi) Most of Pakistan’s religious and political personalities do not disclose the nature of their relations with the Afghan Taliban, but to know the facts, I visited the Karak City of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province. It is believed that the Pakistani Taliban are quite active in Darra (pass) Adamkhel area, situated on the Peshawar-Karak Road. The tunnel near the pass has made the journey to the southern districts of the province easy, but the militants have attacked the tunnel many times. Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, former member of the National Assembly (MNA) of Pakistan, warmly welcomed me in his town. Aziz, to what extent did the Pakistani religious scholars, seminaries, and their students play their role in the formation and the strengthening of the Taliban government in Afghanistan?

(Aziz) People supported Mullah Omar when he took over as the leader of the Taliban movement. As far as the process of consultations with the Taliban is concerned, the Pakistani religious scholars and students joined them, and they (Pakistanis) were so close to the Afghan Taliban that it was difficult to distinguish them from the Afghans. Mullah Omar had the habit of consulting the Pakistani religious scholars in the hour of need. He would contact my father at any difficult time.

(Safi) Who were the other personalities other than your father?

(Aziz) I myself visited Afghanistan once or twice. The religious scholars from Karachi to Khyber once visited Afghanistan and a delegation of nearly 45 religious scholars led by Maulana Samiul Haq visited Afghanistan.

(Safi) Did the students of the Pakistani seminaries also contribute to the jihad in Afghanistan practically?

(Aziz) Yes, they took part in the jihad. Jihad is obligatory for Muslims like prayers and fasting. The former Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan and the Afghan Mujahidin fought against the superpower. I believe that the United States is now an aggressor in Afghanistan, as the country has attacked the defenseless people of Afghanistan. The United States is an oppressor and the Muslims are fighting against the country.

(Safi) Have you taken part in a practical war?

(Aziz) I was a boy during the war against the former Soviet Union, but I participated in the war on different fronts. Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani and Abdurab Rasool Sayaf were my commanders. I, with the help of the people of Karak, established camps and collected financial aid for the Afghan Mujahidin, when the United States attacked Afghanistan. We helped people in the Khost and Charasyab areas of Afghanistan.

(Safi) You are talking about the post 9/11 scenario.

(Aziz) Yes, I am talking about the circumstances that developed after the 9/11 incident. I provided financial aid, medicines, and blankets to the people of Afghanistan. We also delivered financial aid to Mullah Zaeef in Islamabad. These were my services.

(Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu — 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan’s Jang publishing group. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Geo’s focus on reports from India is seen as part of its policy of promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.)