April 08, 2007

MUSHARRAF'S BHINDRANWALE : Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz

By B.Raman

Bhindranwale was a Sikh cleric, who became notorious in the 1980s.Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, and Zail Singh, her Home Minister, allegedly tried to use him to create a split in the terrorist movement, which started a fight against the Government of India in 1981 for the creation of an independent State for the Sikhs to be called Khalistan.

2. After some months of seeming co-operation with the Government of India, he went out of control, joined the terrorists and took over the leadership of their so-called Khalistan movement. He and his terrorist followers took shelter inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar in Punjab and, from there, spread havoc across Punjab and Delhi. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to take advantage of the movement in order to destabilise Punjab.

3. After showing patience for some months, Indira Gandhi was forced to send the Indian Army inside the Golden Temple in June,1984, in an operation code-named Blue Star to neutralise Bhindranwale and his supporters. They put up a fierce fight and many of them, including Bhindranwale himself, were killed duringn the operation. A part of the Golden Temple was damaged.

4. This caused widespread anger in the Sikh community, culminating in the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh body-guards on October,31,1984.

5.Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz is a Deobandi cleric, who was not very well-known in Pakistan. Nobody had heard of him outside Pakistan. He is the head of the Lal Mosque in Islamabad, where many of the civilian bureaucrats and military officers of the Pakistani capital used to go for the prayers.

6. Since seizing power in October,1999, Musharraf and the ISI were using him to discredit Ms.Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Ministers, and other political opponents. Since last year, he has gone out of control. He has assumed the leadership of the pro-Taliban elements in the non-tribal areas of Pakistan and has started a jihad against Musharraf for his co-operation with the US.

7. The Lal Masjid has two madrasas (religious schools) attached to it---one for boys and the other for girls. The madrasa for girls is called Jamia Hafsa. Many of the madrasa students are the children of the pro-Taliban tribals of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). They project themselves as the future wives and mothers of suicide bombers. The daughters of many persons of Pakistani origin from the UK and the US are also studying there.

7.Since January this year, the madrasa students----boys and girls, the girls of Jamia Hafsa more ferociously than the boys--- have been on the warpath against Musharraf. The trouble started initially when the ISI ordered the Islamabad municipal authorities to demolish some mosques, which were located on routes generally used by Musharraf while moving between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Government claimed that these mosques were demolished because they were unauthorised constructions. The real reason was that the ISI feared that the terrorists targeting Musharraf could use these mosques as a hide-out.

8. In protest against the demolition, the girls occupied a nearby library for children. The boys joined the protest. Rattled by this, the Government accepted their demand to have the demolished mosques re-constructed at its expense. The girls have refused to vacate the library till the re-construction is complete.

9.Maulana Abdul Aziz and his brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi, another cleric, have taken over the leadership of the anti-Musharraf agitation of the madrasa students. From inside the sanctuary of the Lal Masjid, they have been issuing statements praising Osama bin Laden and Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, and calling for a ban on TV, for the destruction of all video shops and arrest of prostitutes. They attacked police vehicles deployed outside the mosque and took away their communication sets. They are now using these sets to communicate with the pro-Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban elements in the FATA. They managed to get hold of FM radio equipment from the FATA and started using them to make anti-Musharraf, pro-bin Laden and pro-Omar broadcasts to the residents of the capital. They have started their own web site for disseminating their propaganda.

10. There is a torrent of fatwas (edicts) coming out of the mosque every day. One fatwa calls for Islamic rule in Pakistan in accordance with the Sharia. Another calls for the release of all those arrested by the Government in connection with the current agitation. A third calls for the release of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and other jihadis detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. A fourth calls upon all tribal madrasas to declare a vacation for their students so that they could march to Islamabad and join the ant-Musharraf agitation and overthrow him just as the madrasa students from Pakistan marched to Kabul in April,1992, and helped the Afghan Mujahideen in the overthrow of Najibullah, the then Afghan President.Addressing the Friday congregation on April 6,2007, Maulana Aziz announced that he was setting up a religious court in Islamabad , and threatened suicide attacks if the Government did not enact the Islamic law and close down brothels and video stores within a month.

11. Musharraf is hesitant to act against the pro-Taliban and pro-bin Laden agitators in the capital, who have been flouting his authority for nearly three months. There is estimated to be a total of 6000 agitators inside the mosque and its madrasas.Many of the students of these madrasas are the children of the non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces. Many of the NCOs frequent the Lal Masjid for prayers and are devoted to Maulana Aziz and his brother.Musharraf is, therefore, not certain whether the lower and middle level members of his security forces would carry out his orders if he asked them to raid the moque and the madrasas, put an end to the agitation and arrest the two clerics. More worrying is what would be the impact on the armed forces personnel if some of these children get killed in any military raid.

12.Musharraf, the commando, who always brags that he believes in leading from the front, is reluctant to do so in this case. He has let his subordinates handle the agitation as best as they can.Finding his writ increasingly challenged by the jihadi terrorists in the FATA, the NWFP and the Islamabad capital region and by the Baloch nationalists in Balochistan, he has started doing what President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been doing since 2002----gallivanting all over the world and projecting himself as an important leader of the Islamic world, whose advice is being increasingly sought by the international community. He has started spending more time seemingly attending to the problems of other Muslim countries than to the life-threatening problems of his own country.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com


Mai said...

Your analysis of Sant Bhindranwale Ji is flawed, but that's not what I really want to talk about.

Mrs. Gandhi was not forced to attack Harimandir Sahib or any of the hundreds of others gurdwaras that were destroyed in June 1984.

And all of this did NOT culminate in her assassination/execution.

It DID culminate in the murder of thousands of innocent Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere by government-sponsored terrorism. I am not only talking about the killing of terrorists or suspected terrorists or people even marginally involved with terrorists; I am talking about human beings most of whom were absolutely uninvolved in anything political, just normal people trying to live normal day to day lives.

I know you want to talk about this fellow Aziz, but I couldn't let your callous statements about the above pass without comment.

Anonymous said...