By Major (Retd) Zubair Khalil Khan
Arrest of serving Army Brig. Ali Khan along with one Colonel and four Majors very explicitly certifies how deeply the Jehadis have penetrated the ranks and files of Pakistan Armed forces. Brig. Ali Khan currently posted at GHQ was heading the Army Rules and Regulations Directorate. Prior to present posting, he was Brigade Commander in Kashmir. Due to radical religious views he was superceded and was declined promotion to the next rank. His father was a junior commissioned officer in Pakistan Military, his brother is a Colonel and posted in an Intelligence Branch, while his son and son-in-law are both Captains in the Army. In his youth he was an upcoming officer as such was selected to undergo the course in a foreign staff college. His wife now may keep on presenting excuses but it is becoming apparent that there was something “fishy” about the Brigadier’s associations. Unfortunately, Pakistani society neither has the courage to face the facts nor a distinction in speaking the truth, as such Pakistan Army DG-ISPR kept quiet on the whole issue. It was BBC which blew the leak whistle. Actually Brig Ali went under custody of Army high ups on 06.05.2011 and of course after having sought the clear cut approval from General Kiani. Now let us also examine few other incidents of recent past which are of similar nature.
This year, May debacles of Abbotabad and of PNS Mehran are very fresh in our memories. Due to these incidents, Major Aziz, commando officer Kamran, and a commando officer belonging to Mehsud Tribes were arrested. In addition, dozens of ranks and files have also been apprehended. During the investigation all revealed that they have a very radical interpretation on the view point of Islamic Jehad and very concrete proof of their connections with Jehadi organisations came to lime light. In year 2009, Colonel Shahid Bashir, Commandant Shamsi Air Base, along with S/Ldr Naeem Shah and Owais Ali Khan were arrested. All were alleged having radical/aggressive views of Jehad and connections with terrorist organisations. Top secret information pertaining to Shamsi Air Base was leaked to Jehadis by these officers. All were later court marshalled. However no one knows their current fate.
When COAS, Gen Kiani, launched military operation in South Waziristan, at that time, officers, ranks and files and in some cases complete military units, resisted and almost declined to fight against Muslim Tribal area Tribes. All were of the views that as per their interpretation of Islamic Jehad the fight against these tribes is un-Islamic. COAS, Gen Kiani got stunned /shocked on this state of affairs as it was one of the worst dents to the discipline of Pakistan Army. In 2003, Gen Prvez Musharraf was attacked. That time Lt.Gen Kiani conducted the inquiry. In the inquiry it was proved that serving officers as well ranks and files having radical views of Islamic Jehad were involved in the attack on their Supreme Commander. Almost 150 officers plus ranks and files were arrested. Out of this figure 48 were officers and non commissioned officers of all the armed forces. Few were found having direct contacts with Alqaida. Later in year 2005, Colonel Sultan Anwar made further investigations and Major Adil Qudoos, Colonel Ghaffar, Colonel Khalid Abbasi, Major Ata, Major Fraz and Captain Zafar were awarded military punishments. Islam Siddiqi got the capital punishment as he was alleged to have pressed the remote control which caused the blast on the entourage of President Musharraf. All involved were found having very radical views about Islamic Jehad and they considered the anti terrorist efforts of military as un-Islamic. In year 1995, a serving Major General along with many senior officers planned to topple the Benazir government along with coup against the high command of Pak Military. However, due to premature leakage it did not materialise. All involved were having very radical and aggressive interpretation of Jehad and were against the anti terrorist activities of military.
After having briefly touched few recent incidents, let us now examine that how this religious radicalism penetrated in defence forces of Pakistan and is there any way to combat it. Impartial, unbiased, and in depth study clearly reveals that during Zia-Ul-Haq’s era, religious radicalism was given the green signal to penetrate the uniformed individuals. Pakistan defence forces were compelled to get involved and to combat the Russian occupation in Afghanistan. And, in order to motivate and to raise the moral of fighting soldiers, Molvis with high oratory competence were abundantly imported from Tablighi and other so called religious organizations into to Army Garrisons and were permitted to convince the foot soldiers to sacrifice their lives for the so called Jehad in Afghanistan. To cover up the visits of Molvis, banner of Tablighi Jamaat was used very openly. However, under this cover of Tablighi Jamaat, Mullahs from different fields got the chance to penetrate the forces. I remember personally, that some times, even during the very emotional lectures of these Mullahs, many young soldiers would stand up and would offer themselves to be thrown in the battlefield on urgent basis. Initially, such efforts were directed to get the motivation momentum going for the Afghan Jehad. However, when this initial effort of Jehad motivation against non Muslim occupational forces in Afghanistan succeeded, some opportunist Mullahs whispered in the ears of General Zia and convinced him to divert some of the Jehad momentum against Ahmadiyya Community also. Since this community, as per clauses of Constitution and Law, was already stamped as non Muslim, so, in order to gain cheap popularity, strengthen his power base, and to get the favour of Molvis, Gen Zia promulgated anti ahmadiyya ordinances and gave a green signal to radicals to treat the ahmaddiyya members with the same stick which was being used for non Muslim occupational forces in Afghanistan. How these newly enacted anti-ahmadiyya ordinances poisoned the minds of defence personnel, hereby I quote one personal incident. One major, my military academy course mate, was doing staff college with me in Quetta. In staff college officers are batched in syndicates for education. In my syndicate were 8 Pakistani majors and two majors from Germany and UK respectively. Just as routine, one morning, I entered the syndicate room and said Asslamoalikum to Pakistani officers and Good Morning to foreign officers. Surprisingly the face of my course mate officer turned red. He, in a very loud voice, reprimanded me to refrain from saying Assalamoalaikum. Notwithstanding the reason I just smiled and looked at him. What do you mean by this I asked him very innocently? Do not you know that law has come in to force forbidding the Ahmadiyya members not to use Islamic terminologies. Again I smiled and considering it as a joke, once again uttered Assalamoalaikum. Next moment he attacked me with his briefcase which was lying in front of him on the table. I, and all other present in the syndicate room got shock of our life at this act of him. Later an inquiry was conducted and subsequently matter was buried in files. Why I have mentioned this personal incident has following argument. First as long the Jehadi sentiments remained directed to occupational Russian forces no major problem was confronted with in the country. The moment direction of this Jehad got diverted to Ahmadiyya it started creating problems with in the country. The action of Major who was considered very educated, polished and mannered and additionally was my course mate/friend is a clear cut example of reaction of such diverted direction. If enactment of anti ahmadiyya law and its radical interpretation can spoil the rationale thinking of an educated military officer and he considered the use of force justified to defend his interpretation of Islam then one can imagine what influence such interpretation can leave on the minds of illiterate, less educated and already radicalised citizens of Pakistan. Mirza Tahir Ahmad (late), then the supreme head of Ahamdiyya, very clearly warned Gen Zia that enactment of anti ahmadiyya ordinances will open the Pandora Box of radicalism in this country. He also opined that General Zia did not foresee the consequences of these laws. As per his vision he prophesied that a time will come, when due to these ordinances, the fire started against ahmadiyya will engulf the whole nation and country. How true his vision was one can visualise now, when each sect of Muslims and each segment of society has become prey to the acts of radicalism and terrorism.
Members of Pakistan defence forces are also integral part of Pakistani Society. What ever societal changes take place aught to affect them also. After listening an impressive oratory and the radical interpretation of Jehad against non Muslims in military mosques and cantonments, they get convinced to the arguments presented by the Molvis (Muslim fundamentalist clerics) and as a result they take it as their religious duty to punish such institutions or the individuals, which their Molvis have declared as infidels. So many attacks on defence installations with the help of uniformed individuals working within these institutions are sufficient to prove such state of affairs. Even not a single one in such polluted files and ranks bother to validate the arguments of Molvi or ready to listen any other view point. What has been said by Molvis is taken as final for implementation. This is in fact the ‘Mind Set’ which has been propped up amongst the members of defence forces as well in other segments of the society and is taking the country on the path of complete collapse. Tide of violence against each other and zero tolerance level to other view point has engulfed almost the whole nation. Pakistani Society now seems to have deteriorated so much that no forum exists for logical or rationale thinking/reasoning. However, a last chance still exists for the patriotic leaders of Pakistan to urgently assess the situation and examine to repeal such laws which have given birth to religious radicalism. Once done so the exploiting interpretation of religious terminologies should be forbidden completely in the country. Any one found in such practice should be awarded exemplary punishments. Discussion of religious differences should be banned in defence forces. The discipline that existed before General Zia should be reinstated in all the defence forces. Military Mosques and religious directorates can be ordered to use their resources to spread the harmony, tolerance and love for all and hatred for none. If concrete steps are taken now, we can still hope that beneficial fruits can be reaped in near future.