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Homegrown terrorism

Homegrown terrorism

Author: Ardeshir Cowasjee
Publication: Dawn, Karachi
Date: November 11, 2001

Since I wrote last week, Bagh-i-Rustom has lost its illustrious neighbours. The consulate-general of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with its huge mosque and its adjacent comfortable living quarters lies sealed and shut.

The consulate itself is quite incongruous with what we are told about the poor Taliban who have no money for their country or for their people - its floors and walls are of marble imported from Afghanistan. As it is with our country, one must suppose, the Afghan people starve and shiver whilst the rulers dwell in halls of marble.

The last conversation with Consul-General Maulvi Rahmatullah Kakazada was memorable. "We are warriors of God and Islam" he told me. "But," I responded, "He neither enlists nor recruits armies and does not believe in conscription. He does not command anyone to go to war, to kill in His name, or to be killed in His name. He tells us that life is His gift to us, to be lived to the full, and to do as much good as we can whilst in this world."

His response : "Well, if I go on jihad and fight and die in the name of Islam I know I will go straight to heaven. Otherwise, if I do not, I can live my life doing what I can without knowing whether I will ever get there or not." "You might get a safe passage, but what about your wife and children and other dependents?" I asked. "No problem," he said, "my wife and children will be looked after. They will mourn for three days and on the fourth day, because of my good deeds, my wife will find a better husband and my children a better protector."

This sound madrassah logic is what George Bush is waging war against with his bombs. Kakazada's parting request: "Our brothers across the Gulf have sent us 80 tonnes of dates in six containers which arrived at Karachi port on July 25 on one of our brothers' vessels, the Al-Manakh. We are unable to clear the consignment for want of funds. Can you help me get the port charges and demurrage waived and somehow arrange to have the dates sent to Afghanistan for our starving people?"

Marble - demurrage ?

All that could be done, I told him, was to seek help from one of the Taliban godfathers, General Javed Ashraf Qazi , a former chief of ISI and now our minister for ports and (no) shipping.. Could someone reading this in Islamabad bring the matter of Kakazada's plight to the notice of the able communications general. Some 150,000 lbs of dates will sustain many a life for many a day.

One advantage of Bush's war, so far, has been that our homegrown terrorists are creeping out of the woodwork and making conciliatory noises. They know that an act of terrorism is a criminal offence to which the statute of limitation does not apply. It is amusing to now hear all, repeat all, our past political stalwarts who have actively and knowingly committed or aided and abetted acts of terrorism.

A PPP - obviously uneducated - former minister, Manzoor Hussain Wassan, chosen by our freely and fairly elected democratic prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 to be her minister for transport in her own province of Sindh, once terrorized the secretary of his ministry. Zubair Kidwai, operated strictly and correctly by law and procedure, and when overruled by the minister in his own and his party's interest, made no objections.

But Wassan was not content with merely overruling Kidwai ; he wanted him to put his signature to the flouting of the law. This Kidwai did object to. So, the minister summoned his secretary and the managing-director of the Karachi Transport Corporation. They arrived in his conference room into which then entered the minister accompanied by two personal armed guards, his private secretary and a peon. One gunman was posted by the door, and the other at the seated Kidwai's back.

Wassan berated Kidwai for failing to carry out his orders, be they illegal or legal, and assured him that he had 'other means' to use to get things done in his department according to his wishes and desires. Shouting, he told them that rules and regulations were for the birds, as was any reference to the chief minister. Wassan made it quite clear to Kidwai, with the gunman behind him, that he knew how to get officers such as he to perform, and using his own particular methods would ensure that he and the KTC MD were not transferred and were forced to carry out his orders blindly.

When Kidwai asked him politely not to shout he was told to 'shut up'. When he then rose from his chair and asked if he could leave the room, the man at his back with one hand poked him with his gun barrel, with the other pushed him down by the shoulder, and told him to remain seated. Wassan continued his tirade by informing Kidwai that he knew that even if transferred, Kidwai and his family would remain in Karachi and that Wassan had ways of 'fixing' (a favourite PPP word) them even when out of his ministry. Kidwai was then told to 'get out'.

Now, after eleven years, Wassan writes a letter to Dawn ('PPP leader's version', October 31) and asks for proof of what he did. The matter is on record at the Sindh secretariat and all Wassan has to do is to refer to a note written by the then chief secretary, Abdul Karim Lodhi, to the PPP chief minister, Aftab Shahban Mirani. Will this satisfy him?

Lodhi asked Mirani to immediately issue notice to his ministers and other party members, instructing them "....that no one shall cause fire arms or any other weapons to be carried into the office rooms. If anybody does so, from now onwards, Sir, with due respect, one will have to order the physical removal from the secretariat of both the minister and his companions bearing arms. The government has provided adequate police security in the secretariat. If that is not considered enough by anybody, it cannot be supplemented by ruffians....

"Now, reverting to the ugly incident, Sir, it so happens that both the affected officers have a known reputation for uprightness, competence and integrity. One wonders if anything similar can be used to describe the errant minister..... Mr Manzoor Wassan should personally apologize to both officers, preferably in the presence of his private secretary and the two guards (of course, minus their weapons)......".

Before Mrs Nasreen Jalil, the resident chief of the MQM, jumps the gun and writes a letter to the press, for her information and according to police records, there are 260 criminal cases, many involving acts of terrorism, pending/decided here in Pakistan against her party chief Altaf Hussain, who fled the country and is now in residence in London with a British passport in his pocket. In one case, FIR 211/91 of 24/6/91, filed by Major Kalimuddin in Landhi police station, Altaf Bhai and six others were awarded 27 years RI by the special terrorist court. Tony Blair has given him asylum and by making him a British citizen has afforded him protection. But brother Altaf should realize that Blair is a far cry from Palmerston.

If this newspaper is to be believed, the PPP and General Pervez Musharraf's government are very close to finalizing a deal (front page report, November 9). Asif Zardari is in custody facing four cases involving terrorism and murder.

Terrorism will not be eliminated in Pakistan as long as our politicians and the vast majority of the people remain uneducated and bigoted. However, in the meantime, will someone - the honourable minister, the United Nations chief in the country, the ambassador of the US, or some other good man of God save Kakazada's dates. They are rotting, or sprouting roots, in their containers at Karachi

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