SSG Commandos Killed Benazir

American and Pakistani military leaders are seeking to account for what may be renegade commando units from the  Pakistani military’s special forces in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The attack at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto’s rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto’s armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after
the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.

A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, PML-N Chief Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.

A working theory, according to this American source, is that PML-Q and MQM groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan’s Special Services Group [SSG], the country’s equivalent of Britain’s elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by SSG or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani Army special forces.

“They just killed the most protected politician in the whole country,” this source said. “We really don’t know a lot at this point, but the first thing that is happening is we are asking the Pakistani military to account for every black team with special operations capabilities.”

Bhutto survived a suicide bombing attack in October 2007 and then went public with a list of former and current security and military officials she said had been plotting to kill her. At the time, she asked for the FBI [U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation] to investigate the attacks.

The prospect that Bhutto’s attackers were Pakistan Army trained special forces operatives raises profound questions for America’s policy of giving financial aid to Pakistan’s military. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, America has provided the Musharraf regime with more than $10 billion.

A close associate of Bhutto for more than two decades, Hussein Haqqani, said he believed Pakistan’s security services were complicit in the assassination of his friend. “I don’t think they were complicit, as in, they did it, I mean this as they allowed this to happen. Of course that includes the possibility of actual complicity. I think her security needs and concerns were not addressed,” he told the Sun. Mr. Haqqani said he thought it was a possibility that PML-Q and MQM had penetrated the security services.

Violent protests reportedly were spreading throughout Pakistan. A Pakistan expert at the Rand Corporation, Seth Jones, said he would need to study the technical details of the assassination to determine if it was an inside job. “If there is anywhere to fault the national security establishment, it would be not protecting her well enough,” he said.

“Al-Qaeda” group has not yet issued an official statement claiming credit on its two largest Web forums.

A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said: “Whoever perpetrated this attack is an enemy of democracy and has used a tactic which PML-Q or MQM is very familiar with, and that is bombing and the taking of innocent lives to try to disrupt a democratic process.” President Bush condemned what he called a “cowardly attack.”

A senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel Markey, who just returned from Pakistan, told reporters on a conference call that there were plenty of people around Mr. Musharraf “who were angry with Benazir Bhutto.”

The assassination is particularly troubling for American policy. For the last year, the US State Department in particular has tried to broker a power sharing agreement between Mr. Musharraf and Bhutto, reasoning that Mr. Musharraf alone lacked the legitimacy to wage a
full military war against “Al-Qaeda.”

The New York Sun, New York, USA

Aroosa Alam Marries Former Indian CM

 Aroosa Alam, a journalist from Pakistan, has denied “any marriage, engagement or affair” with the former Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh.

She, however, stressed that she and her family enjoyed a “very good friendship” with Captain Singh’s family. Addressing the Chandigarh Press Club, Ms Alam, who heads the Islamabad chapter of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), expressed agony at the “hue and cry” generated over her friendship with Captain Singh.

Ms. Alam said she first met Captain Singh at a SAFMA function in Jalandhar. She respected him for his vision and wisdom. She said he had become a household name in Pakistan for promoting “people-to-people” ties, an area where she was also working as she liked India.

“Grudge against me”

When her attention was drawn to the fact that the controversy arose after a Rawalpindi-based newspaper carried a report about her reported marriage with Captain Singh, she alleged that the paper’s owner nursed a grudge against her, as she participated in dislodging his hegemony at the Rawalpindi Press Club.

Ms. Alam said her sons, including the elder one who is 33, had been hosted by Captain Singh and his family. After some problems, she got a visa to India this month as she wanted to meet Captain Singh’s ailing mother.

Appeal to media

 

Ms. Alam appealed to the media to desist from tarnishing her character. While the situation in her country could create security problems for her, she said she had a family and social and professional life which could be hampered due to the “unnecessary controversy.”

Even as she was responding to queries at the press conference, the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Ludhiana issued a fatwa calling upon Muslims to enforce a “social boycott” of Ms. Alam.

 

 

 

Mysterious Crowd Suddenly Stopped Benazir’s Car

Mysterious Crowd Suddenly Stopped Bhutto’s Car
By Saeed Shah and Jonathan S. Landay,
McClatchy NewspapersFri Jan 11, 
Two new reports on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto suggest that the killing may have been an ambitious plot rather than an isolated act of violence and that the government of President Musharraf knows far more than it’s admitted about the murder.
A police officer who witnessed the assassination said that a mysterious crowd stopped Bhutto’s car that day, moving her to emerge through the sunroof. And a document has surfaced in the Pakistani news media that contradicts the government’s version of her death and contains details on the pistol and the suicide bomb used in the murder.
The witness was Ishtiaq Hussain Shah of the Rawalpindi police. As Bhutto’s car headed onto Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Road after an election rally Dec. 27 , a crowd appeared from nowhere and stopped the motorcade, shouting slogans of her Pakistan Peoples Party and waving party banners, according to his account.
Bhutto, apparently thinking she was greeting her supporters, emerged through the sunroof of the bulletproof car to wave.
It was Shah’s job to clear the way for the motorcade. But 10 feet from where he was standing, a man in the crowd wearing a jacket and sunglasses raised his arm and shot at the former prime minister. “I jumped to overpower him,” the deputy police superintendent said later. “A mighty explosion took place soon afterwards.”
Shah suffered multiple injuries and is recuperating in a Rawalpindi military hospital, guarded by agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.
Who organized the crowd is only one of the mysteries two weeks after the assassination. “I don’t know who they were or from where they came,” the Rawalpindi officer told Dawn newspaper. “They just appeared on the road.”
The second report emerged in the Pakistani daily newspaper The News, with detailed information about the pistol and bomb. It rejects the government’s conclusion that Bhutto died when the force of the suicide blast threw her head against the sunroof lever of her car. Such an impact couldn’t have fractured her skull, it said. The government refused to confirm the report’s authenticity, but a security official verified it to McClatchy . He spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
According to the document, which the paper described as a “top agency” preliminary report, a pistol made by Norinco, a Chinese brand, was recovered from the scene, with the lot number 311-90. An MUV-2 triggering mechanism for the bomb also was found, as had been used in 15 previous suicide bombings in Pakistan , with the same lot number and factory code.
“It is a clear indicator that the same terrorist group is involved in almost all these incidents,” concluded the report, which the paper quoted at length.
Another mystery of the case is why so valuable a report has been buried. Among its other conclusions: Bhutto’s assassin, after shooting her, detonated his own suicide belt. No ambulance was called, and it took 25 minutes to get her to the hospital, only two miles from the scene.
Bhutto, and her security adviser Rehman Malik , had complained repeatedly that she was given inadequate official security, including mobile phone jammers that didn’t work and less than the four-vehicle escort that she thought was needed to protect the four corners of her car. In an e-mail to her U.S. lobbyist, Mark Siegel , in late October, Bhutto wrote that if anything happened to her “I would hold Musharraf responsible,” in addition to four individuals she named as plotting to kill her in a letter sent to Musharraf on Oct. 16 .
There was no security cordon around Bhutto— who’d escaped a suicide bombing attack Oct. 18 , the day she returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile abroad— as she left the park in Rawalpindi. The crime scene was cleared immediately and hosed down, destroying vital evidence. Doctors at the hospital where she was taken, who announced the night it happened that she’d died of bullet wounds to the head and neck, changed their story the next day. There was no autopsy.
Musharraf’s government has stuck to its explanation that Bhutto died when she hit her head on the sunroof’s lever after the bomb went off, despite the emergence of several videos that show the gunman firing, then Bhutto disappearing into her vehicle before the blast. Officials also turned up what they said was a transcript of a telephone conversation between the supposed masterminds— militant Islamists allied with the Taliban— congratulating each other, the next day.
Scotland Yard detectives, whom Musharraf called in under pressure from home and abroad, have been told that they’re to investigate only the cause of death, not the killer’s identity. “Providing clarity regarding ‘The precise cause of Ms. Bhutto’s death’ is said to be the principal purpose of the deployment,” said Aidan Liddle , a spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad .
To many in Pakistan , it all raises questions about whether the government was complicit in the assassination. To others, it points at the very least to a concerted attempt to hide the massive extent of a security failure.
Bhutto’s own private-security arrangements seemed poor, chaotic and amateurish. Armored cars are not fitted with sunroofs. Hers was modified in Karachi against all safety advice, according to a security company that operates in that city but spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. After Bhutto’s death, her husband made the startling revelation that she’d been guarded by men he’d met in prison.
“Both the state and the internal security of the Pakistan Peoples Party failed miserably,” said Masood Sharif Khattak , who was the head of the Intelligence Bureau , Pakistan’s top civilian intelligence agency, while Bhutto was prime minister and now is retired. “But state responsibility (for her security) stands first and foremost.”

“The fact that there are so many suicide bombings taking place in the country, and the security and intelligence apparatus is unable to prevent them, only leads to one conclusion: The jihadists have enablers within the system that allow them to do their stuff,” said Kamran Bokhari of Strategic Forecasting, a consultancy based in Austin, Texas .

“We’re not talking high-level officials, just people at midlevel, but mostly junior, who could provide them with logistics to operate.”

Musharraf has denied that government agencies are involved at any level.

One of the most widely suspected forces behind Bhutto’s assassination, al Qaida, hasn’t claimed responsibility. The Pakistani militant whom the government has blamed, Baitullah Mehsud, has denied it. Mehsud is a 34-year-old tribal leader in the lawless Waziristan region, in the northwest, who’s emerged as the leader of Pakistan’s version of the Taliban.

Dr. Farzana Shaikh , associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London , said: “If they (al Qaida) are intent on weakening Musharraf and his regime, they could do no better than this. For them to simply leave room open for speculation, much of which has centered on government complicity, would be a very clever move.”

“That people are willing to believe this is a very telling reflection of the declining credibility of the Musharraf regime.”

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

A Fight Between Fundamentalism and Moderation

Nicholas Schmidle

A dozen men sat in a circle in a village outside Peshawar on a recent afternoon. Wearing red caps, they gossiped and drank green tea. The sun fell behind a roof, and several of the men wrapped wool blankets around themselves. All belonged to the Awami National Party, a secular political party based in the North West Frontier Province. The ANP is predicted to win big in the coming elections, mostly at the expense of the Islamist parties who’ve frightened U.S. policy-makers for the past five years. “This election is a straight fight between those who want war and those who want peace,” Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the ANP, told me. He drew a line between Islamic militants on the one hand, and his own party on the other. “It is between fundamentalism and moderation.”

In the last elections, which took place in October 2002, the Muttahida Majles Amal, a six-party Islamist coalition, defeated the ANP, the Pakistan Peoples Party, and all other contenders by a wide margin in the North West Frontier Province and went on to form the provincial government. The MMA’s critics, led by the ANP, allege that the Islamists’ rhetoric and sympathies allowed so-called “Talibanization” to spread throughout the regions bordering Afghanistan. Sitting in the circle of red-capped men, I asked if any of them had voted for the MMA last time around. One man sheepishly raised his hand. “That was a vote for paradise and the Quran,” he said, as if excusing himself. “When they shoved the Quran in my face and said ‘Vote!’ I had no other choice. But once the MMA got their bungalows in Islamabad, everything changed. They went to Islamabad, not to Islam.” The World Bank praised the MMA government for its fiscal responsibility and health programs, but local perceptions of corruption, broken promises, and excessive politicking tarnished the coalition’s image at home. “We expected them to implement Islamic law and establish a system of justice,” said Salauddin, a middle-aged civil servant from Chardsadda.

In 2002, the MMA pledged to implement sharia law and support the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the time, people couldn’t have cared less about fiscal restraint. Now they have turned from the MMA, not because the Islamists were too hard-core, but because they failed to fulfill their campaign promises. What did they have to show for their time in government?

“Acts of terrorism only increased under the mullahs,” Salauddin exclaimed. During 2007, 60 suicide-bomb attacks killed more than 770 people in Pakistan, according to a recent report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. Most of the incidents occurred in the North West Frontier Province. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the ANP is the desire to rehabilitate the image of Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in western Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Street-level supporters, such as the men in red caps, and party leaders cited this as their greatest concern. More than 25 million Pashtuns live along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they’ve been renowned as fierce fighters for centuries. Pashtun militias have repelled British armies, Sikh armies, Soviet armies, and now American, NATO, and Pakistani ones, too. The majority of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan today are Pashtuns. “At this moment, if you talk about Pashtuns, the world thinks he is a terrorist, has a beard to his navel, hair to his shoulders, and holds a Kalashnikov,” said Khan, the ANP chief. “Islamic fundamentalism is destroying the basic fabric of Pashtun society.” But the success of the ANP’s election campaign signals a shift in the politics of the North West Frontier Province, where the rhetoric of secular nationalism is finding more appeal than that of Islamic fundamentalism. For instance, the ANP proposes changing the name of the province to Pashtunistan (“Land of the Pashtuns”) or Pakhtunkhwa (“Pashtun Nation”). (The MMA tried to change the name to Dar-ul-Islam, or “Domain of Islam.”) Khan said that all the other provinces of Pakistan shared “frontiers” with Iran, Afghanistan, or India. “But if they—Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan—can have their own names, why can’t we? This is a matter of our identity.” According to Khan and the ANP, Pashtuns are not naturally brash, militant people—an impression that’s been created by the Taliban. If anyone can reform the Pashtuns’ image, Khan’s family history suggests that he’s the man for the job. His grandfather Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan earned the nickname “Frontier Gandhi” for his role in leading the Pashtuns in a nonviolent resistance movement against the British Raj during the 1930s and ’40s. His organization became known as the “Red Shirts,” which is why the ANP’s flag is red and its supporters wear red caps. Ghaffar Khan opposed the Muslim League, the main outfit lobbying for the creation of Pakistan, and supported Gandhi’s Congress Party. Ghaffar Khan argued that religious identity shouldn’t determine the country where a person should live—and thus denied the rationale for the creation of Pakistan. Instead, Ghaffar Khan contended that ethnic identity was more important, and he called for the creation of an independent Pashtunistan. A year before the birth of Pakistan, fellow Muslims physically attacked him for being, in their minds, anti-Muslim, illustrating the tension that’s long existed between Pashtun nationalists and Islamists. To find out how the Islamists felt about their fall from power, I went to Mardan to meet Ata-ur-Rahman. Rahman is a senior leader of Jamaat-i-Islami and a former member of Pakistan’s National Assembly. Jamaat-i-Islami is one of the main component parties in the MMA. In December, Jamaat-i-Islami opted to boycott the coming elections in protest against President Pervez Musharraf’s regime and what they believe are destined to be rigged elections on Feb. 18. I had met Rahman several times in the past, but when I arrived at his madrasah in late December, he appeared pensive and distracted. He didn’t agree with the party’s decision to boycott the elections and had argued that doing so would leave the field wide open for the ANP. He lost the argument, and now Jamaat-i-Islami expected him to convince local people of the merits of a boycott. But what worried him most was the legacy that the Islamists had left behind. “The worst result of our rule was the rise in militancy throughout the region,” he said. Rahman is a moderate, with a Ph.D. from the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as comfortable speaking English or Malay as he is speaking Urdu or Pashto. He is one of the only Islamists I’ve heard admit that so-called “Talibanization” was a product of the Islamists being in government. We discussed the pro-Taliban uprising in the nearby Swat Valley, where a radical cleric determined to implement sharia is waging an insurgency against the state. I asked Rahman if he believes that people’s disappointment with the MMA’s failure to implement sharia had led some to turn to the Pakistani Taliban, believing they were the only ones capable of doing so. He nodded his head slowly and stared out the window. “If the MMA had been able to bring sharia to Swat, that would have definitely weakened the militants,” he said. With those alternatives, does anyone wonder why U.S. policy-makers are paralyzed when it comes to Pakistan?

QUETTA—Naiz Mohammad, an illiterate man who doesn’t know his age but guesses he’s around 50, squatted on a rocky hillside just outside Quetta and told me how he teaches his children. More than a dozen kids, caked head to toe in dust, crowded around, their bellies swollen with worms, greenish snot yo-yoing from their noses. A range of treeless mountains rose behind us, and Quetta’s parched cityscape spread in front. Hundreds of rectangular mud huts, all of them inhabited by Naiz’s fellow tribesmen, stood scattered along the pitched slope. Spindly desert twigs snagged shreds of plastic shopping bags, which flapped in the biting wind. New Kahan, Naiz’s village, has neither phone service nor electricity or running water. There is a government school nearby, but few kids actually attend. “We have a natural cycle of educating our people,” said Naiz, who wore a black turban and camouflage jacket. “For instance, you people came today in a big jeep. When you leave, my boys will ask me, ‘Why we don’t have a jeep like that?’ I’ll tell them, and then they’ll understand the deprivation that the Baluchis suffer.”

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, the largest—and poorest—of Pakistan’s four provinces. The majority of Baluchistan’s 10 million inhabitants are Baluchis, though Pashtun tribes form a significant minority in the northern part of the province, and there are Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking “settlers” living in Quetta. Since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, a percolating Baluchi nationalist movement has resulted in five insurgencies against the Pakistani army, most intensely 1973-77 and from 2005 to today. The nationalists argue that Pakistan illegally occupied the independent Baluchi state in 1948 and has been treating the Baluchis like colonial subjects ever since. When prospectors discovered natural gas in the remote mountains near Naiz’s ancestral village in 1953, it only added to the Baluchis’ sense of perceived injustice; they were the last in the country to enjoy gas stovetops and furnaces. Naiz’s tribe, the Marri, is the most militant and nationalist of the Baluchi tribes. During the 1970s rebellion against the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Benazir’s father), Naiz enlisted alongside guerrillas in an insurgency that left nearly 10,000 rebels and soldiers dead. “Then and now, we are only fighting for our rights, for an independent Baluchistan, where we are masters of our own land,” he said. According to Naiz, the Pakistani government has punished the Baluchis by refusing to develop the province. But running water and electricity are not his top priorities. “We just want the government to stop bombing us.” Naiz is originally from Kahan, a town in the gas-rich district of Kohlu. In the late 1980s, after a stint living in Afghanistan, Naiz and thousands of fellow tribesmen moved to Quetta and established New Kahan, partly to escape the constant fighting and bombardment in their native lands and partly because they wanted to be near their tribal chief. The tribal system revolves around obedience to the chief, or sardar. President Pervez Musharraf blames a few sardars, including the one from the Marri tribe, for the violence and instability engulfing Baluchistan. Since 2005, a guerrilla outfit known as the Baluchistan Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks on army convoys, oil installations, and railroads. The Marris comprise the top leadership of the BLA, which Musharraf declared a banned terrorist organization in April 2006. Yet the BLA aren’t alone; politicians, writers, and university students use their own methods to argue for an independent Baluchistan. And while they stress the nonviolent nature of their own tactics, their sympathies are unmistakable. “I pray for the BLA that God will help them remove the Punjabi forces from Baluchistan,” said Mohiuddin Baluch, the chairman of the Baluchistan Students Organization. I arrived in Quetta in early December, just as the election campaign was beginning, to find army and paramilitary forces deployed in the streets. An armored personnel carrier sat just outside the entrance to my hotel, machine-gun barrels poked out of sandbag bunkers at major intersections, and heavily armed convoys patrolled the roads every evening after sundown. Two weeks earlier, a top BLA commander (and son of the chief of the Marri tribe) was killed, setting off a wave of riots and guerrilla attacks on security forces that left dozens dead. I asked Naiz if he considered the dead BLA commander a fallen hero. “We don’t live in circumstances where we have time to dream of heroes,” he answered. “Independent Baluchistan is our hero. And sometimes we are obliged to carry out attacks on Pakistani forces to achieve this.”

On my first night in Quetta, a soldier, standing behind a stack of sandbags near the center of town, took a bullet in the face and died. The intelligence agencies, police, and paramilitaries responded with house-to-house raids in BLA strongholds from Kohlu to Quetta. They cordoned off New Kahan and arrested 12 of Naiz’s fellow tribesmen. In many cases over the last two years, young Baluchi men have simply “disappeared,” kidnapped by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Others have been arrested and charged with treason. (In the autumn of 2006, I spent several weeks reporting in Baluchistan; by the time my story was published a few months later, nearly every featured character had been arrested or exiled.) A politician in Quetta told me that 6,000 Baluchi men were missing. Another man described how his cousin had been kidnapped by Anti-Terror Force troops in front of his four nephews in a city park. I asked how the four kids, aged between 4 and 8, knew the identity of the kidnappers. “In America, your children play with toys. That’s what they know,” he explained. “Our children know about the intelligence agencies and the army. This is what they grow up on.” Nonetheless, not all the Baluchi tribes are fighting against the government. In fact, Musharraf’s own party, the Pakistan Muslim League, is stacked with compliant sardars and tribal chieftains. “Though many of these tribes, since the inception of Pakistan, have been bearing anti-state feelings, some of them got on the bandwagon, and they’ve been ruling this province ever since,” said Anwar ul-Haq, a first-time candidate for the parliamentary seat from Quetta, running on the PML (Q) ticket. “For these people, being part of the establishment presents a huge opportunity for personal aggrandizement.” Later that day, I attended a PML (Q) rally with Haq in the same part of town where Western intelligence sources have alleged that Mullah Omar and other top Taliban leaders enjoy safe haven; in other words, a neighborhood where Musharraf and his cohorts are none too popular. Bodyguards assigned to protect the PML (Q) candidates stood on nearby rooftops, surrounded the stage, and mingled in the crowd. At one point, a rock hurled over the wall landed in the crowd of spectators. With a half-nervous smirk, my friend said, “At least it wasn’t a grenade.” When it was his turn to speak, Haq leaned on the podium with both hands and promoted a candidate for the provincial assembly because he wasn’t a sardar and therefore “understands your problems.” He added, “We will provide education, not Kalashnikovs, for your children. Now is the time for your decision. Give us your vote, and we will deliver.” I asked Haq, a middle-class divorcee in his late 30s with no tribal roots and no obvious constituency, if he planned to campaign in New Kahan. Earlier that day, Naiz told me that no candidate had visited New Kahan in years, although there were roughly 4,000 voters there. “Ideally, no party should ignore any area,” Haq answered. “But would the people in the Marri areas even allow me to go there? I doubt it. They only respond to certain social norms, those filtered through the tribe.” Back in New Kahan, I crouched beside Naiz, our jeep, and a horde of children, and shielded my eyes as a dust cloud blew across the exposed hillside. Naiz admitted that any decision about whether or not to vote, and for whom, would be decided by the tribal chiefs. Naiz hadn’t participated in an election since 1995. I asked him which way he was leaning this time around. “Why should I vote in a Pakistani election?” he said. “I don’t even recognize Pakistan.”

Nicholas Schmidle is a Pakistan-based writer and fellow at the Institute of Current World Affairs.

Pakistan After Benazir

On the Campaign Trail in Pakistan: “Why should I vote in a Pakistani election? I don’t recognize Pakistan.”
By Nicholas Schmidle
 “Benazir Didn’t Just Belong to the PPP”
I arrived in Karachi on New Year’s Eve, just as the seaside metropolis was limping back to normal after four days of rioting and looting in the aftermath of the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The day felt like the first after a blizzard, but instead of snowdrifts blocking driveways, burnt-out vehicles littered the road. More than 900 cars, buses, and trucks were torched in Karachi alone. Shocked by the violence, investors panicked, and when the Karachi Stock Exchange opened Monday morning, it was down almost 5 percent. Long lines of cars streamed out of gas stations, where pumps had been closed for days. Shopkeepers tentatively opened up, keeping their metal shutters halfway down in case they needed to close in a hurry. Then, around lunchtime, a rumor spread through the city that a top politician from Bhutto’s rival party in Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement, had been assassinated. The already spooked city of 15 million immediately withdrew back into its shell. Gas stations and stores shut down early in anticipation of more violence. Normalcy would have to wait another day. (The rumors proved false.)
That morning, I met Syed Hafeezuddin, a hopeful for the upcoming parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for Jan. 8 but recently postponed until Feb. 18. Hafeezuddin belongs to the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League headed by Nawaz Sharif, known as the PML (Nawaz). (In 2002, Musharraf’s supporters created their own faction, the Pakistan Muslim League [Q].) After Bhutto’s murder, many of her enraged supporters blamed Musharraf’s government for—at least—negligence and failure to provide adequate security for the two-time former prime minister. Some even alleged that Musharraf’s role was more direct and nefarious. As a result, looters attacked the offices of the PML (Q) and the pro-Musharraf MQM, burning everything inside and forcing their candidates underground. Meanwhile, Sharif, who rushed to the hospital after Bhutto’s murder and who has pledged to topple Musharraf, received a boost both because of his new bond with Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party and because Sharif now leads the opposition to Musharraf. “We are the only ones who can still run a public campaign,” Hafeezuddin told me.
Hafeezuddin and I headed to Machar (“Mosquito”) Colony, a slum built on top of a swamp, where two days earlier, a teenage boy had apparently been shot and killed by paramilitary Rangers. Hafeezuddin wanted to offer a funeral prayer with the family before they buried the teenager. A small fire burned in a mound of trash just behind us, and the slum smelled like a combination of sewage and spoiled fish. When the residents recognized Hafeezuddin from his campaign posters, they began to complain about the lack of electricity, water, and trash removal. “I take one bath a week, if I am lucky,” one man said. Hafeezuddin, who is more than 6 feet tall, towered above them and made lofty promises. Then, a few hundred yards away, gunfire rang out. Unsure which direction it was coming from, people scattered and sprinted for cover. Hafeezuddin and I jumped into his car and sped away. No one will be fully insulated from the security risks of the upcoming elections.
Hafeezuddin drove to another spot in the constituency where, the day after Bhutto’s assassination, he had organized a gathering in her memory. “I can’t leave the PPP alone right now,” he said. The PPP is riding a wave of sympathy, and Hafeezuddin knew that he would lose the election if he didn’t seize the initiative by leading the agitation against Musharraf and sympathizing about Bhutto’s loss. “I’ve tactfully taken on the PPP by sponsoring events in Benazir’s honor and then inviting PPP supporters,” he said. “I make them come to my events.” A goat walked down the street wearing a T-shirt. “Benazir didn’t just belong to the PPP, just like they didn’t own the memory of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. We, the people of Pakistan, own the Bhuttos and their memories.”
Most pundits and analysts agree that the PPP is poised to win big in the February elections, in large part because of the sympathy vote they are expected to receive. Hafeezuddin understands this all too well, which is why, even while Sharif united with the PPP in demanding that the elections be held on Jan. 8 as planned, Hafeezuddin quietly prayed for a delay. “I need some time to let the sympathy vote die down,” he confided. After all, he is contesting a seat in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, where the Bhuttos have long been powerful.
But the PPP may not win as big in Punjab and the North West Frontier Province as many expect, in large part because of the ethnic dimension that the riots took on. Pakistan is divided into four provinces—Punjab, Baluchistan, the North West Frontier Province, and Sindh—each one dominated by a different ethnic group. Punjab remains the most important when it comes to electoral politics, since its representation in the National Assembly is roughly equal to that of the small provinces combined.
The bulk of the post-assassination violence occurred in Sindh, much of it directed at non-Sindhis, primarily people from Punjab and the North West Frontier Province. Pashtuns from the North West Frontier Province control most of the transport businesses in Pakistan. One transporter I met in Karachi had 190 of his trailers burned on the stretch of highway running through the province. Moreover, the PPP’s decision to tap Bhutto’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, as the new head of the party could alienate voters in other provinces who don’t subscribe to the dynastic politics sanctioned by Sindhi customs and feudal traditions. And her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who is widely perceived as a sleazy crook, will run the party until Bilawal comes of age. “Zardari will damage the PPP’s national appeal,” said Hafeezuddin. “They will end up confining themselves to the interior of Sindh.”
Did Benazir Bhutto herself sow the seeds of this crisis? In the months before she died, Bhutto focused her election campaign almost entirely in Sindh. Though she never pitched herself as a Sindhi leader or employed the rhetoric of Sindhi nationalism, her exhaustive campaigning gave Sindhis the impression that “one of theirs” was about to take power once again. At her burial, mourners chanted, in Sindhi, “We don’t want Pakistan!” Such slogans raised concerns over the possibility of militant Sindhi nationalism re-emerging, as it did during the 1970s and ’80s. “Bhutto was killed only because she was a Sindhi woman,” said Khaled, a 32-year-old member of Jeay Sindh, a party calling for an independent Sindhi state. In the press conference Zardari gave Dec. 30, he made a point of saying, in Sindhi, “We want Pakistan, We want Pakistan.” But has the damage been done?
I left Khaled and drove down a muddy, rutted road in Lyari, the section of Karachi worst hit by the violence. It hadn’t rained in months, so the pools of slush in the road were actually sewage. I read chalk graffiti dating back to Bhutto’s return from exile on Oct. 18. It said, in Urdu: “Go, Go, to the Karachi Airport, Go!” (Hundreds of thousands of people went, but more than 140 never came home after suicide bombers targeted Bhutto’s motorcade.) We arrived at the local PPP office, where roughly 100 women sat on the floor, weeping and reading the Quran in Bhutto’s memory. “Oh Benazir, Princess of Heaven, we are sorry that your killers are still alive,” they chanted. Afterward, Nasreen Chandio, a PPP stalwart and former member of the national assembly, assessed the impact of Bhutto’s murder on the Sindhi people. “Sindhi nationalism has definitely been ignited because people realize that there will be no representation of Sindhis in the federation without Benazir,” she said. “The people of Sindh have become orphans.”

An American Expelled for a NYT Story

CPJ: Pakistan expels reporter for The New York Times
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2008 18:05:50 -0500
 CPJ_Asia@cpj.org
To: < alerts@ifex.org>

Committee to Protect

 
Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA     Phone: (212) 465‒1004     Fax: (212) 465‒9568     Web: http://www.cpj.org     E-Mail: media@cpj.org
 
Contact:  Bob Dietz
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Cell:
 
 
 
New York, January 11, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by Pakistan’s deportation today of Nicholas Schmidle, a journalist whose report Next-Generation Taliban appeared in the New York Times Magazine on January 6. The article contained interviews with anti-government Taliban leaders and was written from the tumultuous Baluchistan province, and its capital, Quetta. CPJ was unable to immediately reach officials from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington or the U.N. mission in New York for comment.
 
According to Scott Malcomson, his editor at the magazine, Schmidle was given no explanation for his deportation by officials from the Ministry of the Interior. Malcomson told CPJ, however, that the deportation clearly was connected to his writing rather than anything else he was doing.
 
CPJ is unfortunately accustomed to reporting on the government’s attacks on the local media, but now harassment seems to be spreading to foreign journalists as well, said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. At a time of growing crisis in Pakistan, perhaps the worst tactic for promoting calm is for the government to silence the press.
 
Security services members visited Schmidle on Monday, January 7, and the local police gave him a deportation order on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 according to Malcomson. While the deportation order was dated December 29, 2007, editors at the magazine say they believe it was back-dated, and that officials issued it after the magazine’s article ran. The reporter, who is also a fellow at the Washington-based Institute of Current World Affairs, regularly freelances for The New Republic and Slate. He had been in the country 16 months, Malcomson said.
 
Schmidle told CPJ from London on Friday that he was extremely disappointed at being asked to leave Pakistan, and that his visa had contained no restrictions whatsoever.
 
I have yet to hear the Pakistani side in this, but if this is a sign that journalists will be subject to reprisals for reporting honestly on conditions in Pakistan, that is a cause for serious concern, Gerald Marzorati, editor of the New York Times Magazine, told CPJ.
 
In addition to visiting journalists reporting more difficulty in obtaining visas to enter Pakistan and traveling to conflict regions, there have been two serious incidents of government harassment of foreign journalists in the past 13 months:
 
On December 19, 2006, New York Times reporter, Carlotta Gall was physically assaulted and her belongings, including computers, notebooks, and mobile phones, were seized by four men who said they were from the Special Branch in Quetta. Her photographer, Akhtar Soomro, was detained at the same time.
 
 On November 11, 2007, two Daily Telegraph reporters, Isambard Wilkinson, Colin Freeman, and a reporter for the Sunday Telegraph, Damien McElroy, were ordered to leave the country within 72 hours, after an editorial critical of President Pervez Musharraf appeared in the British paper.
 
Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3, severely curtailing media freedoms in the country. Despite the lifting of the state of emergency on December 15, many of these freedoms have not yet been restored.
 
CPJ is a New York—based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org. 
Bob Dietz  bdietz@cpj.org
Asia Program Coordinator
Madeline Earp mearp@cpj.org
Asia Program Researcher
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Ave, 11th floor
New York, NY 10001  
 
Next-Gen Taliban
The New York Times Magazine
By Nicholas Schmidle
Sunday, January 6, 2008
One day last month, I climbed onto a crowded rooftop in Quetta, near Pakistan‘s border with Afghanistan, and wedged myself among men wearing thick turbans and rangy beards until I could find a seat. We converged on the rooftop that afternoon to attend the opening ceremony for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s campaign office in this dusty city in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, better known by its abbreviation, J.U.I., is a hard-line Islamist party, widely considered a political front for numerous jihadi organizations, including the Taliban. In the last parliamentary elections here, in 2002, the J.U.I. formed a national coalition with five other Islamist parties and led a campaign that was pro-Taliban, anti-American and spiked with promises to implement Shariah, or Islamic law. The alliance, known as the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or M.M.A., won more than 10 percent of the popular vote nationwide — the highest share ever for an Islamist bloc in Pakistan. The alliance formed governments in two of the country’s four provinces, including Baluchistan.
A cool breeze blew across the rooftop, and a green kite flew above in the crisp, periwinkle sky. The J.U.I. was gearing up again for national elections, then scheduled for the second week of January, but the message this time was remarkably different from what it was five years ago. One by one, hopefuls for the national and provincial assembly constituencies gave short speeches. Most of them spoke in Pashto, but, knowing Urdu, I could understand enough to realize that they weren’t rehashing the typical J.U.I. rhetoric. No one praised the Taliban. Shariah was mentioned only in passing. Just one person, a first-time candidate in a suede jacket who probably felt obliged to prove his credentials in a party of fundamentalist mullahs, attacked the United States. Afterward, party workers handed out free plates of cookies and cups of tea.  
 
his seemed altogether too gentle. Had the J.U.I. gone soft? Among several firebrands conspicuous by their absence was Maulvi Noor Muhammad, Quetta’s former representative in the National Assembly and an outspoken supporter of the Taliban, so I went to see him at his madrassa. Adolescent students, many wearing the black turbans favored by the Taliban, mingled by the metal entrance gate. Muhammad had told me in the fall of 2006 that the sole reason that the Taliban hadn’t defeated NATO forces in Afghanistan yet was because NATO had B-52′s, and when I reminded him of this, he smiled through a mouthful of missing teeth. “The Taliban have more than made up for that disadvantage now with suicide bombers,” he said.
If the government’s version is correct, radical Islamists pressed their advantage to terrible effect in assassinating Benazir Bhutto during a rally on Dec. 27. Bhutto’s family and her party clearly have no faith in the probity of President Pervez Musharraf’s government, and many — including Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto’s nearest rival in the Pakistani opposition — have accused the government of creating the security situation that led to her murder. Musharraf responded in a nationally televised speech on the evening of Jan. 2 by doubling his insistence that terrorists were responsible: “We need to fight terrorism with full force, and I think that if we don’t succeed in the fight against terrorism, the future of Pakistan will be dark.” Efforts at democratic integration by parties like the J.U.I. have now been overshadowed by the violence of their antidemocratic Islamist colleagues — a network of younger Taliban fighting on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, jihadis pledging loyalty to Al Qaeda and any number of freelancing militants. Disrupting and discrediting democracy may, of course, be the point. The Bhutto assassination could well make moderation impossible, as Islamist radicals savor their disruptive power — and enraged mainstream parties threaten the stability of the government itself. For now, the Bhutto killing has given the opposition a rare unity, and the elections, although delayed to Feb. 18, may well go ahead. The J.U.I. remains determined to continue campaigning. Six weeks, however, could prove to be a very long time in Pakistan’s embattled politics.
In Quetta, Maulvi Noor Muhammad, who is 62, sat on the madrassa’s cold concrete floor wrapped in a wool blanket as he leafed through a newspaper. Speaking in Pashto through an interpreter, he said that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the J.U.I. chief, had visited three times in the previous few weeks to persuade him to enter the election. Muhammad claimed to have refused each time because he believed the J.U.I. had drifted from its core mission: to lead an aggressive Islamization campaign and provide political support to what he referred to as the mujahedeen, a term for Muslim fighters that can shift in meaning depending on who is speaking. “Participating in this election would amount to treason against the mujahedeen,” he said. I asked about the others in the party who had decided to run for office. Muhammad shook his head in disappointment and explained how, following the government operation against the Red Mosque rebels in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, in July, President Musharraf put religious leaders under tremendous pressure. “Musharraf threatened to raid several madrassas,” Muhammad said. “The political mullahs got scared.”
Maulana Fazlur Rehman is exactly the sort of “political mullah” whom Muhammad portrayed as running scared. In the past year, the J.U.I. chief has tried to disassociate himself from the new generation of Taliban wreaking havoc not only across the border in Afghanistan, as they have for years, but also increasingly in Pakistan. At the same time, Rehman has been trying to persuade foreign ambassadors and establishment politicians here that he is the only one capable of dealing with those same Taliban. (Rehman told me that he never offered Muhammad a chance to enter the election; he even added that the J.U.I. had already expelled the Taliban guru “on disciplinary grounds.” ) In the process, some Islamists maintain that Rehman has sold them out. Last April, a rocket whistled over the sugarcane fields that separate Rehman’s house from the main road before crashing into the veranda of his brother’s home next door. A few months later, Pakistani intelligence agencies discovered a hit list, drafted by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, with Rehman’s name on it.
“The religious forces are very divided right now,” I was told by Abdul Hakim Akbari, a childhood friend of Rehman’s and lifelong member of the J.U.I. I met Akbari in Dera Ismail Khan, Rehman’s hometown, which is situated in the North-West Frontier Province. According to this past summer’s U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, approved by all 16 official intelligence agencies, Al Qaeda has regrouped in the Tribal Areas adjoining the province and may be planning an attack on the American homeland. “Everyone is afraid,” Akbari told me. “These mujahedeen don’t respect anyone anymore. They don’t even listen to each other. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is a moderate. He wants dialogue. But the Taliban see him as a hurdle to their ambitions. ”
Rehman doesn’t pretend to be a liberal; he wants to see Pakistan become a truly Islamic state. But the moral vigilantism and the proliferation of Taliban-inspired militias along the border with Afghanistan is not how he saw it happening. The emergence of Taliban-inspired groups in Pakistan has placed immense strain on the country’s Islamist community, a strain that may only increase with the assassination of Bhutto. As the rocket attack on Rehman’s house illustrates, the militant jihadis have even lashed out against the same Islamist parties who have coddled them in the past.
Western audiences might find news about Islamists fighting among themselves rather appealing. But jihadi wars, at least since the expulsion of the Soviets from Afghanistan, have tended to spill over borders, all the more so since Sept. 11, 2001. And within Pakistan, the struggle for supremacy between those Pakistani Islamists who want to gain power democratically and those who want to abolish democracy altogether could well tear the country apart.
The election season got off to a late start, postponed by President Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution and declaration of a state of emergency. In November, when politicians should have been out stumping and rallying support, many were dodging the police. Besides sacking dozens of judges and pulling private television channels off the air, Musharraf arrested thousands of lawyers, students, social activists and political leaders during the 42-day emergency regime, which ended on Dec. 15.
The most damaging result of the emergency, however, may have been the doubt it sowed within the opposition, splitting those advocating participation from others calling for a boycott. The split hit the six-party Islamist M.M.A. alliance hardest of all. While Rehman repeated the J.U.I.’s intention to field candidates, his main partner in the alliance, the Jamaat-e-Islami party, argued that the polls would be rigged and participation would legitimize Musharraf’s regime. Both parties stuck to their positions, and in mid-December, the Islamist alliance fell apart.
Rehman maintained that he could persuade Jamaat-e-Islami supporters to vote for the J.U.I. this time around, but even some of his fellow party members doubted that would work. “In the last election, everything was related to Afghanistan and how innocent Afghans were being killed,” Chaudhry Sharif, a longtime J.U.I. member from Rehman’s district, told me last month. Now Rehman “has to answer his people when they ask him, ‘What happened in our own country?’ ” Despite the M.M.A.’s taking power in the North-West Frontier Province, hundreds of civilians have died in Islamist terrorist attacks. The public’s previous image of mullahs as incorruptible politicians has also been tarnished. Rehman’s chance of attracting swing voters appeared dim.
For now, it is Islamist violence that seems to have the political upper hand rather than the accommodation of Islamist currents within a democratic society. The mainstream parties have addressed Islamic militancy strictly as a security issue. Benazir Bhutto used particularly aggressive rhetoric against militants — her main rival, Nawaz Sharif, has a more religiously conservative base — but all of the main political figures outside the M.M.A. treated jihadi violence within a pro- or anti-Musharraf context, and as an effect of U.S. relations rather than as a problem integral to Pakistan’s political culture. “This election comes down to whether you are pro-Musharraf or anti-Musharraf,” a lawyer at a Pakistan Peoples Party rally told me a few weeks ago. In the North-West Frontier Province, the Awami National Party, a secular, nationalist Pashtun outfit, also stands to gain from the M.M.A.’s decline and will dilute the Islamists’ influence in the provincial assembly.
Jihadis have, of course, increasingly opted to intervene in Pakistan by attacking mainstream politicians and their supporters. Only a week before Bhutto’s assassination, a suicide bomber targeted the former interior minister, leaving more than 50 people dead. It was the second attempt on the minister’s life; the first, in April, killed nearly 30 people. And of course Bhutto’s arrival home in October, after years abroad, was greeted by two suicide bombers who detonated themselves beside her float, killing about 140 people. In the aftermath of her killing, more violence seems inevitable. But the politics of terror and assassination are probably secondary, among jihadis, to the gradual extension of their control over rural and semiurban stretches of western Pakistan — a power base that, at least in the short term, can be disrupted only by the Pakistani military. Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban commander from South Waziristan who captured about 250 soldiers in August, recently warned a J.U.I. candidate there not to run unless several of his arrested Taliban fighters were released. More ominously, in mid-December, 40 representatives from different Taliban gangs from across the North-West Frontier Province and the Tribal Areas banded together into a single group, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban Movement). The movement named Mehsud their leader. He has also been named by Pakistani authorities as a suspect in Bhutto’s murder.
The sound of an explosion punctured an otherwise pleasant evening. I had been sitting under a giant mango tree, drinking Southern Comfort with a group of friends, including a midlevel intelligence officer in the army. It was my first night in Dera Ismail Khan, Rehman’s hometown in the North-West Frontier Province, about 100 miles from the Afghan border. While the blast jerked me upright, no one else seemed too bothered. Locals had grown used to the bangs and booms. The previous night, Pakistani Taliban bombed a music store in the town bazaar. The sound I heard was the explosion from a small grenade targeting the owner of a cable-TV service.
Musharraf’s government says the increasingly frequent bombings are evidence of Talibanization creeping east from the Afghanistan border. The local Taliban militants blast shops selling un-Islamic CDs, cable-TV operators, massage parlors and other sites they consider havens of vice. A newspaper editor in Dera Ismail Khan showed me a letter he received, signed by the Taliban, warning him not to print anything that defamed the mujahedeen. They threatened to blow up his office if he didn’t comply.
Rehman’s critics blame him and his party for facilitating the local Taliban, an allegation he resents. “We are politicians, and we will have to go to our constituencies to get votes in an election,” he told me, as we sat together in the drawing room of his home in Dera Ismail Khan. “If there is a war going on, no one can vote.” Halogen spotlights dotted the ceiling, and soft leather couches lined the walls. Rehman wore a pinstripe waistcoat over a shalwar kameez. The room smelled of strong cologne. He added, in a rare moment of candor, “But even we are now afraid of the young men fighting.”
For many years, few people questioned Rehman’s command over the mujahedeen along the border separating Pakistan from Afghanistan. His father, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, ran the J.U.I. for 20 years. Mahmood helped kick-start the Afghanistan jihad by issuing a fatwa against the Soviet-backed communist government in Kabul. A year later, when Mahmood died from a heart attack, Rehman, a 27-year-old madrassa student with scant political experience, inherited the J.U.I. and his father’s jihadi enterprise. Thousands of Islamic seminaries profess political allegiance to the J.U.I., and thousands of Taliban warriors first imbibed radical theology in Rehman’s madrassas.
Over time, Rehman cultivated his pragmatic side and played power politics in Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad. He eased his way into the establishment just as the Taliban were taking over Afghanistan. In 1993, Benazir Bhutto, then the prime minister, named him chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, a post that “enabled him to have influence on foreign policy for the first time,” writes Ahmed Rashid in his book “Taliban.” Rehman still argues that, particularly in the Taliban’s later period of running Afghanistan, he was having a moderating influence on Mullah Omar. “They should,” he told me, “have been given more time.”
During Pakistan’s 2002 election campaign, Rehman played up his links with the Taliban, and the Islamist coalition did well. In retrospect, that may have been his high point. The divide between the pro-Taliban leaders of yesterday and those of today was fully exposed by the insurrection at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which began last January under the leadership of Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his brother. As the weeks and months passed, the rebels kidnapped a brothel madam, some police officers and, finally, six Chinese masseuses. They made a bonfire of CDs and DVDs and demanded that Musharraf implement Shariah. Defenders paced the outer walls of the mosque holding guns and sharpened garden tools.
Rehman tried to talk the Ghazi brothers out of their reckless adventure, but his influence inside the mosque was limited. “They are simply beyond me,” he said at one point.
Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his entourage of Islamic militants finally clashed with state security forces in early July, but the real rebellion actually occurred in the preceding months, when Ghazi and his brother flouted efforts by Rehman and other religious elders to talk them down. Back in April, when I had asked Ghazi how he felt with the entire old guard turning against him, he looked more amused than worried. “Everywhere you look, you can see youngsters rejecting the old ones because old people do not like change,” he said. “They are rigid.” Before army commandos killed him in July, Ghazi promised that a government assault on the Red Mosque would be a blessing for the mujahedeen. His “martyrdom,” he used to say, would further invigorate the jihadis and expedite an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
Since Ghazi’s death, hundreds of soldiers and policemen have died in suicide blasts or in gunfights against the Taliban. The capture of the soldiers in South Waziristan has perhaps been the worst of it. (In a Taliban-produced DVD circulating around Dera Ismail Khan, a teenager saws the head off a soldier while, in the background, three of his adolescent peers chant “Allahu akbar.”) But the militants have not spared Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence ( I.S.I.), which orchestrated the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s. In September, twin suicide blasts went off, and one ripped through a bus carrying I.S.I. employees to work in Rawalpindi, the military’s garrison city near Islamabad, killing at least 25 people. The intelligence officer I met in Dera Ismail Khan, whose area of operations included the Taliban-ruled enclave of South Waziristan, maintains that his contacts with the militants were severed long ago. “We can hardly work there anymore,” he told me. “The Taliban suspect everyone of spying. All of our sources have been slaughtered.”
I asked Rehman, who used to refer to the Taliban as “our boys,” if he still considered the Taliban, even those who might be firing rockets at his house, his boys. “Definitely,” he replied. “But because of America’s policies, they have gone to the extreme. I am trying to bring them back into the mainstream. We don’t disagree with the mujahedeen’s cause, but we differ over priorities. They prefer to fight, but I believe in politics.”
Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the pro-Musharraf faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, told me that no one can negotiate the politics of the North-West Frontier Province better than Rehman. “We know that we need a bearded, turbaned guy out there,” Hussain told me. It is perhaps a measure of how inextricable Islamism and politics have become in Pakistan that even the United States would deal with an anti-American like Rehman. In September, he had the first meeting of his 30-year political career with an American ambassador. What did Rehman and Anne Patterson, the American envoy, discuss? “She urged me to form an electoral alliance with Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf,” he told me a few days after the meeting. “I am not against it. But politically, because of the American presence in Afghanistan and rising extremism, it is a bit hard for us to afford.” Plus, the fact that the Americans thought Bhutto could tackle the Taliban had simply baffled him. “She has no strategy in those areas, and nothing to do with those people,” he said.
When asked if Patterson’s meeting signaled a change in American attitudes, an embassy spokeswoman said it “reflects our approach to democratic politics in Pakistan” and was “part of a process of talking to all those who represent political movements in Pakistan, across the spectrum.” The U.S. has given more than $5 billion to Pakistan in the past few years to fight Islamist militants, but recent reports suggest that the aid has not been effective. Late last month, Congress put restrictions on some military aid and called for the restoration of democratic rights.
Even after the Bhutto assassination, Rehman told me he would stay in the election — although, as he put it, “the reality is that this is complete anarchy, and no one can run a campaign.”
Before his death at the end of the Red Mosque standoff in July, Abdul Rashid Ghazi was allies with a young cleric in the Swat Valley, in the North-West Frontier Province. The cleric’s name is Maulana Fazlullah. For a year, Fazlullah trained his militia and amassed a following. Twice a day, he delivered a radio address, broadcast to tens of thousands of people in Swat, over his illegal station. He preached about the virtues of Shariah, the ills of female education and the honor of jihad and the Taliban. In retaliation for the assault on the Red Mosque, Fazlullah’s militiamen and suicide bombers launched attacks on convoys and police stations throughout the Swat Valley.
When, in October, I asked Rehman if he had any control over Fazlullah, he said the negotiating efforts of the J.U.I. leader there, Qari Abdul Bais, were saving Fazlullah and the Pakistani Army from going to war. But when I met Bais, a septuagenarian with a cane, he offered this estimation of Fazlullah: “He is totally out of control.” Fazlullah created a more difficult situation for Musharraf and the generals — and, in a different way, for local religious leaders — because his ambitions exceeded the mere creation of an Islamic emirate in Swat. In November, his men began conquering territory and taking over police stations in neighboring districts, pulling down Pakistani flags and raising their own. By late November, the Pakistani Army had had enough and mounted an immense offensive against Fazlullah and his men, a bloody battle that continued into late December. I was able to visit Fazlullah’s compound (since destroyed) just before the military attacks began and get a sense of what a Taliban-controlled area in Pakistan would be like.
Fazlullah’s base was a sprawling mosque and madrassa compound in the village of Imam Dehri, located across the Swat River from the city of Mingora. The entire Swat Valley is surrounded by mountains blanketed with pine forests. The river pours from the Hindu Kush Mountains and meanders through the valley, nourishing apple and persimmon orchards. During the summer, thousands of Pakistanis flock here for a break from the heat and humidity choking the lowlands. When I visited Swat in June, for example, still weeks before the Red Mosque assault began in Islamabad, I had trouble getting a room at the exclusive Serena Hotel. By the time I returned in October, I was the only guest. Almost immediately after arriving the second time around, I saw why: at the edge of town, Taliban rode around in flatbed trucks, pointing weapons in the air and ordering motorists to remove the tape decks from their cars. Fazlullah, like his Taliban predecessors in Afghanistan, deemed music — and anything that plays music — un-Islamic.
The following Friday, I went to Imam Dehri, where I met the commander of Fazlullah’s militia, a man with glacier-blue eyes named Sirajuddin. (Fazlullah appeared briefly, but didn’t stay long; he was observing aitekaaf, a meditation period that lasts 10 days at the end of Ramadan.) To get from Mingora to Imam Dehri, my Pashto interpreter and I boarded a small metal tram attached to a zip-line. Six other people piled in. We got a light push to get moving, and then soared over the river. Sirajuddin waited on the other side, and he led us through a crowd of Fazlullah’s supporters. The P.A. system blasted prerecorded jihadi poems while Taliban walked about with assault rifles slung over their shoulders.
“We are struggling for the enforcement of Shariah,” Sirajuddin told me inside a brick shed that was his office. “Twice, in 1994 and 1999, the government said it was committed to enforcing Shariah in this area, but it never did. The people here want Islam to be a way of life.” He added: “We are Muslims, but our legal system is based on English laws. Our movement wants to replace the English system with an Islamic one.”
Four Taliban sat in the room with us, watching me with dark, intent eyes. I asked one of them, a 32-year-old named Abdul Ghafoor, what he was fighting for. Islam? Revenge? “This is not personal revenge; this is our religious obligation,” he told me, speaking Pashto through an interpreter. Ghafoor crouched on a low stool, a Kalashnikov resting on his lap. He said he was a recent graduate from the University of Peshawar with a master’s degree in Islamic theology, and that he earned his living as a schoolteacher. Every day after school, and on holidays, he grabbed his gun and joined Fazlullah. He wore a long beard, a black turban, an ammunition vest stuffed with extra banana clips and pistols and Reebok high-tops with a Velcro strap. Messages crackled over the walkie-talkie attached to the collar of his vest. The Taliban were coordinating their movements.
Later, Ghafoor took me from Sirajuddin’s office to a platform where some supposed criminals were scheduled to be lashed. About 15,000 men and boys, some sitting on picnic blankets, encircled the wooden platform, which was supported on drum barrels and had been erected by Fazlullah’s group as a place for public punishments. The Taliban paraded three men, accused of aiding kidnappers, before the crowd. Fazlullah’s mujahedeen had caught the kidnappers as they were shuttling two women out of Swat. The Taliban sent the women back home and arrested everyone involved with the crime. Now the youngest of the criminals, who appeared to be still in his teens, scaled the steps to the platform. He looked as if he might collapse, legs wobbling with fear, as hundreds of heavily armed Taliban spread out around him. I stood among them, waiting to see the boy receive 15 lashings — the appropriate Islamic punishment, according to Fazlullah.
The boy lay face-down on the platform. Taliban held his arms and legs so he wouldn’t flop around. Another jihadi, clutching a thick, leather whip, roughly two feet long, wore a camouflage shalwar kameez and a ski mask over his face. Every time the whip crashed on the boy’s back, the crowd called out the corresponding number of lashes, as if counting the final seconds of a basketball game. The teenager’s body convulsed under the crack and thud of each lash; when he finally stood up, he was shaking and drenched in tears.
“This punishment is permitted in Islam,” announced one of Fazlullah’s deputies over a P.A. system fixed to a flatbed truck parked beside the platform. Along with the three accused men, who were lashed in turn, a dozen militants also stood on the platform, holding Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers. Another lay on his stomach on the roof of a nearby shed, his eyes lined up behind the sights of an automatic machine gun. Everyone knew that Fazlullah’s decision to take the law into his own hands was in blatant defiance of the government’s writ: the militants’ job was to repel any sudden ambush by the Pakistani Army or paramilitary forces; the deputy on the P.A. system, meanwhile, had to persuade the people that the lashings accorded with Islamic law. “Even if there is no central Islamic government, these punishments are permitted in parts of the country if it contributes to maintaining peace,” the deputy explained, speaking in Pashto. “We have no intention to occupy the government or for any political authority. This is only for peace and security.”
After the lashings, thousands of people lined up to ride the tram back across the river. Ghafoor took us to Mingora by another route, through a cluster of villages loyal to Fazlullah. On the way, I asked Ghafoor what he thought about Maulana Fazlur Rehman. “He and his party deceived the public for votes, all in the name of Islam,” Ghafoor said. Ghafoor voted for the M.M.A. in 2002, hoping that they would enforce Shariah as they had promised. “But Maulana Fazlur Rehman didn’t even implement an Islamic system within himself,” Ghafoor said. “He gets photographed with women, which is against the principles of Islam. And he failed to resolve the Jamia Hafsa crisis. He couldn’t protect all the innocent people who died.” Jamia Hafsa was the women’s madrassa adjoining the Red Mosque.
We got into an S.U.V. and rode on a single-lane dirt road, lined with lush fields of cauliflower, apricot orchards and persimmon trees, their ends tipped with the bright orange fruit. We passed through a village made of mud-brick homes, and on one of the walls someone had chalked “Shariat ya Shahadat” (“Shariah or Martyrdom”). “I will never vote for the M.M.A. again,” Ghafoor said, “and we will totally boycott the next election.” Democracy, he added, was un-Islamic.
The Pakistani Army now claims to have killed hundreds of Taliban, and arrested hundreds more, in its Swat Valley operation. The army also says that local people in Swat greeted them with sweets, and that the homes of some top leaders, including Sirajuddin, had been destroyed. Ghafoor’s phone line has been cut for weeks, as have those of others in the group — although Sirajuddin has made occasional calls to the press, as when he accepted responsibility for a suicide attack in late December.
When I met Rehman in Peshawar in the fall we sat outside on plastic lawn furniture in the shade of a large oak tree. He rubbed a strand of chunky, orange prayer beads, and we discussed the changing leadership in the borderlands of Pakistan. In the past five years, more than 150 pro-government maliks, or tribal elders, had been killed by the Taliban. Oftentimes, the Taliban dumped the bodies by the side of the road for passers-by to see, with a note, written in Pashto, pinned to the corpse’s chest, damning the dead man as an American spy. “When the jihad in Afghanistan started,” Rehman told me, “the maliks and the old tribal system in Afghanistan ended; a new leadership arose, based on jihad. Similar is the case here in the Tribal Areas. The old, tribal system is being relegated to the background, and a new leadership, composed of these young militants, has emerged.” He added, “This is something natural.”
 
 Though Rehman describes the emergence of the local Taliban in evolutionary terms, he explains it as a result of a leadership crisis in Pakistan. He respects the secular-minded people who created Pakistan but insists that social and religious changes over the past two decades have made such leaders much less relevant: “We have to adjust to reality, and that demands new leaders with new visions.”
I asked if he considered himself such a new leader with a new vision. “I don’t consider myself as someone extraordinary,” Rehman said. “I have the same feelings as everyone else in the current age: if the weather is warm, everyone feels warm; if it is cold, everyone feels cold. The difference between me and other people is in our responsibilities.” He took a long breath of the fresh, fall air, continued rubbing his prayer beads and leaned over the chair to spit. “That’s why I am so careful, because my decisions can affect many, many people. I am trying to bring people back from the fire, not push them toward it.” Rehman once seemed ready to introduce Taliban-style rule in Pakistan. Now he is trying to preserve democracy from being destroyed by ruthless militants. If he can’t succeed, can anyone?
 
Nicholas Schmidle is a Pakistan-based writer and a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs. This is his first article for the magazine.  

The Split Within the Bhutto Family

The broken bloodline

Fatima Bhutto is Benazir’s niece. The resemblance is striking: the long nose, the headstrong personality, the burning rage about a father’s violent death. Declan Walsh meets the woman who would have been the heir to Benazir’s throne – if it weren’t for the family feud that came between them

Fatima Bhutto
Fatima Bhutto. Photograph: Declan Walsh
 

Watching him receive a verbal pistol-whipping from Jeremy Paxman at a London press conference this week, it was hard not to feel sorry for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 19-year-old heir to Pakistan’s most perilous throne. Did the Oxford fresher really think he was up to the job of heading the Pakistani opposition, even nominally? At home in Pakistan, critics found other faults. “He’s not a Bhutto, really, he’s a Zardari,” muttered a party loyalist, a few days after she was assassinated. “We need a true Bhutto to do the job.”

Bilawal may be happy to slip back to Oxford, secret service bodyguards in tow, for another three years. But in Karachi there is another young Bhutto who, if dynasty is your game, seems perhaps better qualified to lead the Pakistani opposition.Fatima Bhutto is clever, sassy and savours the salty taste of Pakistani public life. She has two books under her belt, writes a punchy newspaper column, and, as a close lieutenant to her vote-seeking mother, is a politician in training. There are some obvious parallels between Fatima and Benazir 30 years ago. Both their lives have been shaped by the untimely and violent deaths of their fathers; both are headstrong, with deep reserves of charm and, when called for, a sense of entitlement. Both are western-educated. The physical resemblance can also be striking. One television interview this week showed Fatima in profile before a portrait of a young Benazir – the same long nose, wide forehead and calm bearing were evident.

Fatima is 25 and eligible to run for public office. (Bilawal must wait another six years.) And for what its worth, she even has the endorsement of Jemima Goldsmith. “At least she has some work experience,” wrote Goldsmith, who was once married to cricket star Imran Khan, in last week’s Sunday Telegraph. (Goldsmith’s expertise in Pakistan, which she left several years ago, was less clear.)

But Fatima says she has no political ambition and, at any rate, is unlikely to eclipse her famous cousin anytime soon. The reasons spring from a half-forgotten chapter of the Bhutto history. It is a story written in broken bloodlines that illuminate the Greek tragedy that this extraordinary South Asian dynasty has become.

Last October, two nights before Benazir was due to return from exile in Dubai, I went to see Fatima and her Lebanese stepmother Ghinwa at their home in Clifton, Karachi’s oldest and plushest suburb. They offered a simple dinner – pizza in the box – with apologies: they had just returned from their ancestral home in Larkana, 200 miles to the north, further up the Indus river, where they had been visiting prisoners in the local female jail.

We ate in the upstairs lounge of 70 Clifton, the sprawling house built by Fatima’s great-grandfather, Shah Nawaz, in 1954. It reeked of history. Benazir paced these corridors during her detention under the military dictator Zia-ul- Haq in the 70s and 80s. In the garden in 1986, she married Asif Zardari, a polo-playing society lad. Later Benazir would relinquish the house to her brother Murtaza – Fatima’s father – but was said still to covet her father Zulfikar’s fine library downstairs, rumoured to hold an extensive collection of books about his hero, Napoleon.

That night the city was zinging with excitement. For the first time in years the streets were plastered with Benazir posters, and yahooing men on motorcycles zipped through the traffic, honking their tinny horns. But the gate of 70 Clifton had a lone, defiant poster of Murtaza, who died in a hail of police gunfire in still disputed circumstances in 1996. Since then Fatima and Ghinwa have held Benazir “morally responsible” for his death. The bitterness was palpable and public.

Over dinner, the pair were cheerless at the prospect of her aunt’s imminent return. “If she didn’t sign the death warrant, then who had the power to cover it up? She did,” said Fatima indignantly. In support of her case she cited dead-end investigations, dodgy policemen and the mound of court papers and other testimony about her father’s death that she had collected fastidiously in the office next door.

Ghinwa, with a shock of black curls and a supply of long, thin cigarettes, added: “The more there are delays, the more it incriminates those who encouraged those delays.”

The origins of the feud stretch back to 1979 and the epochal event that traumatised Pakistan’s political psyche and, ultimately, split the Bhutto clan. After the family patriarch Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic but flawed prime minister, was hanged by Zia, the military dictator who had deposed him two years earlier, his children scattered. Benazir stayed at home in Pakistan, enduring harsh imprisonment, looking after their ailing mother, Nusrat, and tending to the persecuted People’s party that would rise from the ashes after Zia’s death nine years later. But Zulfikar’s sons, Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, took a different path.

Young, brash and angry, they started Al Zulfikar, or the Sword, an armed movement that sought to overthrow Zia. The revolutionaries shot to fame in 1981 with the hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines jet that was forced to land in Kabul, where the Bhutto brothers lived in exile under the communist government. The precise details of what unfolded are still disputed, and Murtaza’s family claims that he was not involved in the plot (but did act as a negotiator). But a young army officer aboard the plane was executed, some Bhutto supporters were released from jail and flown to Libya, and the brothers became A-list enemies of the powerful military establishment.

Along the way, the Bhutto brothers married two Afghan sisters, the daughters of an Afghan foreign affairs official. Murtaza had a daughter, Fatima, with his wife Fauzia, but they divorced three years later. The brothers flitted to Tripoli then to Europe, sheltering with sympathetic governments. But in 1985 exile took a dark turn when Shah Nawaz, the younger brother, was poisoned during a family holiday in the south of France. The Bhuttos blamed Zia, the CIA, or both.

Murtaza and Fatima found a home in Syria where they met Ghinwa Itoui, a Lebanese woman who had fled the war at home and was giving ballet classes in the basement of a Catholic church. Fatima was among her students. Murtaza and Ghinwa fell in love and married in 1989. At home, Murtaza faced serious allegations, but his daughter idolised him. “He was a wonderful father. We had so much fun,” she said, recalling one day when he whipped her out of school for an impromptu excursion to the snow-capped Syrian mountains.

The split came in 1993 when Murtaza ended his 16-year-exile. Sparks flew with Benazir, then elected prime minister for the second time. Murtaza wanted to assume a senior role in her party, possibly the leadership – a demand in keeping with the patriarchal assumptions of the Sindh province’s landlord classes. Benazir was having none of it. The rows multiplied, the rift grew deeper, and Murtaza formed a splinter party, which had little success.

It came to a tragic climax three years later, in 1996, when Murtaza, who used to travel with an entourage of armed bodyguards, got into a gunfight with some police, who were ostensibly trying to arrest him. His death rocked Pakistan – another Bhutto dead – and Benazir was said to be distraught. “Our paths were different but our blood is the same,” she said. Her government fell six weeks later.

But the grief-stricken Fatima and her mother came to believe that Benazir or her husband, Zardari, had a hand in the killing. Stories circulated that Zardari had had a fight with Murtaza in which his moustache was shaved off – an immense insult. Benazir believed that the shooting had been orchestrated by her enemies. “Kill a Bhutto to get a Bhutto,” she told friends. But as with so many political deaths in Pakistan, the truth has never emerged.

Fatima is at great pains to distance herself from her aunt. She did her masters at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies, not Oxford, she points out, and instead of heading a debating society, she wrote her dissertation on the resistance movement to Zia. She published a book of poetry, Whispers of the Desert, at the precocious age of 15, followed in 2006 with a collection of stories about the 2005 earthquake that killed 73,000 people in Kashmir and North West Frontier Province. “The comparisons are largely cosmetic,” she said. “In terms of political ideology, what we read, how we think, we are very different. I don’t think that I’m anything like her.”

Her weekly column touches on social and political issues. She won plaudits for her reports of the 2006 war in Lebanon – she was in the country when the fighting started – and keeps a poster of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on the door of her office. She yearns to visit Kabul, her birthplace, but her mother discouraged it on grounds of danger.

Benazir clearly loved her niece – her autobiography Daughter of the East has several warm references – but Fatima believes she tried to split the family apart. Benazir disparaged Ghinwa as a “Lebanese belly dancer”, and six months after Murtaza’s death persuaded Fatima’s biological mother, Fauzia, to return to Karachi to seek parental custody. “It was just vulgar and crude,” recalled Fatima. “I was in biology class in ninth grade. Then the principal came and said, ‘There’s a woman here who claims to be your mother.’” Fatima locked herself in the nurse’s office as the press swarmed outside. A few years later, Fauzia launched an unsuccessful court bid for custody. She later returned to the US. “It sounds like a soap opera but unfortunately it was very real,” said Fatima. “It felt very orchestrated and designed to humiliate.”

But she was also keen to distance herself from her aunt’s shadow. She didn’t like her grievances being aired as a “catfight”, she said. “As someone who cares about this country, I’m upset by what’s happening. The fact that she’s my aunt is just a footnote … In this country, politics has become entertainment. It’s become sleaze, quick and tawdry, because we don’t want to talk about things that really matter.”

What mattered, she said, was her politics. As she spoke, Ghinwa lit her cigarettes with a box of personalised matches. “For the house of 70 Clifton,” read the packet. The box had been printed by a supporter from Ghinwa’s political vehicle, the Pakistan People’s party – Shaheed Bhutto (“Bhutto the martyr”), which she kept alive after her husband’s death. But the flame is barely alive. PPP-SB failed to win even one provincial seat at the last elections. After Benazir’s return, and the suicide bombing that killed 140 people, I met Ghinwa again. The rift was raw as ever.

“I hoped that she wouldn’t die, of course. I think it will be a bigger punishment for her to live. I feel terrible about all those people, and angry for exposing them like that,” she told me.

In life, Benazir was touchy about allegations that she bore any responsibility for Murtaza’s death. Instead, she blamed the powerful intelligence services for engineering the killing to split her family. If she was right, the strategy worked spectacularly well. Last month Fatima sent around a link to a YouTube clip of a television interview. It showed Benazir being aggressively questioned about Murtaza’s death, breaking into tears and storming out of the studio. “Her reaction is amazing,” wrote her estranged niece in an acerbic tone.

Then, two weeks ago, everything changed. In the wake of Benazir’s death I found Ghinwa, Fatima and her 17-year-old brother, Zulfikar Ali junior, at the Bhutto ancestral home in Larkana, a 20-minute drive from Benazir’s grave. The town centre was still smouldering after the violent reaction to the assassination, and a charred vehicle was parked outside the house. Fatima was shrouded in a black veil, her face was drawn, her cheeks were stained with tears. “It’s been a real shock,” she said.

Fatima and her mother had been on the election trail, canvassing door to door, when the news broke. She went home and wrote a bittersweet farewell to Benazir for the News. The prose was staccato, the sentiment raw. “My aunt and I had a complicated relationship. That is the sad truth,” it started. She remembered fondly that they used to read children’s books together, shared a passion for sugared chestnuts and were troubled by the same sort of ear infections. “In death, perhaps there is a moment to call for calm. To say enough … We cannot, and will not, take this madness any more.”

Yesterday Fatima was back in Karachi, still receiving condolences. “My first thought was that it was just too familiar. It felt like we had been through this too many times before,” she said by phone. “When I heard that she had been shot in the neck, I thought of my father. The bullet that killed him was also fired into his neck, though at point blank range. It seems like every 10 years we bury a Bhutto killed violently and way before their time.”

She had not changed her mind about her father’s death, she said. “Her government never adequately explained its role. But now that she’s gone …” She paused. “We’ll remember her differently.”

But the Bhutto legacy is not at rest yet. Mumtaz Bhutto, the self-described head of the Bhutto clan, stirred the pot recently in suggesting that Fatima’s brother, Zulfikar Ali, is the real heir to Benazir’s title. But he is highly unlikely to take on the mantle, and Mumtaz’s comments may be a product of his longstanding rivalry with Bilawal’s father, Zardari. They are also a product of a bygone age – the succession of Bilawal and the bypassing of the bloodline proves that Pakistan opposition politics are about Benazir more than Bhutto.

Soon Fatima and her mother will return to Larkana, to continue the campaign for elections in five weeks’ time. “I don’t believe in birthright politics,” she said. “I don’t think, nor have I ever thought, that my name qualifies me for anything. I am political through my writing. I have no interest in parliamentary politics for now. I’m too young. There’s a lot to learn”.

Poor Lahore

Here in the city of Kim, Pakistan’s magnificent history is being left to rot

Simon Jenkins in Lahore
Friday January 11, 2008
The Guardian

Poor Lahore. Yesterday this jewelled city of the Raj was hit by a suicide bomber aimed at lawyers protesting President Pervez Musharraf imprisonment of his top judiciary. As body parts scattered the tree-lined Mall, Kipling’s “city of dreadful night” became the city of dreadful day. Nor could the outrage have happened in a more symbolic spot. Just up the road
from the bombed Victorian High Court stands “Kim’s gun”, the great 18th-century Zam-Zammah cannon, pointing towards the scene.

While the historic cities of Pakistan’s great rival, India, soar up the league table of celebrity, nothing better displays Pakistan’s current misery than the state of Lahore, joint capital of many an Indian empire and of British Punjab. Splendid Victorian palaces still line the boulevards of the Mall: the high court, the governor’s house, the general post office,
the government college and Lahore’s museum, Kim’s ‘Wonder House’. Even the art college built by Kipling’s father, Lockwood Kipling, survives, with  students squatting under giant fans in its corbelled hall.

The style of these and other buildings is the “Anglo-Saracenic” (or mughal/gothic) with which the engineer/ architects of the Raj paid their respects to a local culture over which they intended to rule for ever. Bursting with imperial confidence the buildings are the glory of Punjab and the most remarkable group of 19th-century public buildings anywhere,
complementing Lutyens’ Edwardian Rajpath at the eastern end of the Grand Trunk Road in what today is India.

A mile away across this now sprawling 8m-strong metropolis heaves and sweats Lahore’s walled city, old and unchanged. Here, on a wet January night, one can easily imagine the fleet young Kim darting through the mud and huddles of humanity, over the rooftops on some mystery “women’s errand”. At its heart lies Lahore fort, its gates, gardens, mosques and decorative finishes the finest mughal monument after the Taj Mahal. Crowded outside its walls are scruffy courtyard houses (havelis), markets, food stalls, brothels and alleys of unimaginable dirt and decrepitude. Buried within them are shrines, mosques and derelict palaces. Only a few structures have been restored by enthusiasts, such as the exotic Cuckoo’s Den restaurant by the fort.

In no other world city have I seen so much magnificence so
neglected. Pakistan’s ancient sites, those of the Indus civilisation and Taxila and Moenjo Daro, are well guarded. Limited preservation is being done on Lahore fort and Shah Jahan’s exquisite Shalima Garden in the suburbs. But saving Lahore itself has become a desperate struggle conducted
by a few lone warriors, such as the Karachi architect, Yasmin Lari, and Lahore’s Kamil Mumtaz.

January  10 blast at the High Court followed persistent attempts by the  government to demolish the building, despite its handsome moulded brick walls and terracotta, marble and teak inside. The authorities also tried to
demolish old Tollington market on the Mall. Looking like an East Anglian railway station, it was saved by public outcry and is now a thriving art centre.

Such carelessness is not for want of help. The World Bank offered $10m to restore the old city, which the authorities used to pay for drains. A so-called Sustainable Development Walled City project has hired offices and bureaucrats, but seems to have lost the will conserve anything. Nobody is
trying to stop a hotel company from buying up a street of havelis and demolishing them – houses which in Marrakesh would be worth millions and might one day be so in Lahore. There is no protection for these structures, and if there were a well-placed bribe would negate it.

Even a modest project initiated by Lari to restore the old Royal Route through the walled city from the Delhi gate to the fort has ground to a halt, from a mix of corruption and inertia. The gate itself was demolished by the British in the 19th century but rebuilt, probably at Curzon’s instigation, in the 20th. Through the murk of the royal route can be seen
mughal arches, lattice-work panels and classical porticos. All Pakistan’s history is here, but disintegrating beneath encroaching shanties, cobwebs of wires and piles of rubbish. Meanwhile the dictatorship is spending $1 billion on a new army headquarters in Islamabad.

Islamabad, five hours north of Lahore, offers a glaring contrast. This is Pakistan’s own Chandigarh, Canberra or Brasilia, a new city built from scratch in the 1960s and with all the mind-numbing tedium that only 20th-century planning could inflict on humanity. Everything there before, natural, living or manmade, was simply bulldozed. A grid was imposed on thewide Potohar plateau. Each square was given a letter and number and allocated to commercial, retail or residential use, Soviet-style.

Embarrassed at the resulting soullessness, the city authorities are now seeking to recapture some of the character they destroyed, as are the planners of Britain’s not dissimilar Milton Keynes. Anything surviving from the past, a village, a historic landmark, even a tree, is seized on to lend
character to a settlement that lacks any sense of place.

The result has been the virtual demolition and rebuilding of a 16th-century village, Saidpur, on a hillside overlooking the city. A Hindu shrine has been stripped bare and made into a museum. “Illegal residents” have been cleared and their belongings dumped on the road to make way for an ersatz
tourism village of restaurants and boutiques: anything to suggest that Islamabad has a history. Elsewhere on the city outskirts, an old British station has been restored as a museum. At the pleading of a local artist, Fauzia Minallah, surviving banyans have been left standing, in one case in
the middle of a motorway. These magnificent trees, she points out, constitute the nearest Islamabad has to “a national heritage”.

Pakistan used to pride itself on its cities being cleaner and more modern than India’s. This is no longer so. While Islamabad seeks to create a past for itself, Lahore’s past is collapsing round it. Hovering over its ancient walls is a sense of utter neglect, so much so that some 400 buildings have
been scheduled for demolition as dangerous.

The reason is rule by distant dictator. Some dictators take pride in their past, eager to make their mark on the nation’s narrative. This was true of the Shah of Persia and even of Saddam Hussein. It is sad that present-day Pakistan, once a prized province of India’s Mauryan, moghul and British
empires, should not only have cut itself off from that narrative but find itself at the mercy of an insecure and philistine soldier, for ten years the puppet of London and Washington.

Though eager to be admired abroad, Musharraf has allowed one of the great cities of Asia to decline into squalor. For centuries the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi through Punjab carried the history of the sub-continent streaming beneath the walls of Lahore. But while India is at least fighting
to rescue what remains of its past, Lahore is left to languish.

From the Indus to the Himalayas Pakistan should be the object of every traveller’s desire. Today it is awash in pessimists ready to declare its 60-year-old creation doomed and its further Balkanisation, begun with Bangladesh in 1972, inevitable. I am not sure, but any country that neglects its past loses touch with its present and endangers it future. In
Pakistan the bulldozer is doing as much to hasten that danger as any suicide bomber.

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