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Taking Uncle Sam for a Ride

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Posted on Apr 18, 2012
AP/K.M.Chaudary

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

By Dilip Hiro, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.

The following ingredients should go a long way to produce a political thriller. Mr. M, a jihadist in an Asian state, has emerged as the mastermind of a terrorist attack in a neighboring country, which killed six Americans. After sifting through a vast cache of intelligence and obtaining a legal clearance, the State Department announces a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and conviction.  Mr. M promptly appears at a press conference and says, “I am here. America should give that reward money to me.”

A State Department spokesperson explains lamely that the reward is meant for incriminating evidence against Mr. M that would stand up in court. The prime minister of M’s home state condemns foreign interference in his country’s internal affairs. In the midst of this imbroglio, the United States decides to release $1.18 billion in aid to the cash-strapped government of the defiant prime minister to persuade him to reopen supply lines for U.S. and NATO forces bogged down in the hapless neighboring Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Alarmingly, this is anything but fiction or a plot for an upcoming international sitcom. It is a brief summary of the latest development in the fraught relations between the United States and Pakistan, two countries locked into an uneasy embrace since September 12, 2001.

Mr. M. is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a 62-year-old former academic with a tapering, hennaed beard, and the founder of the Lashkar-e Taiba (the Army of the Pure, or LeT), widely linked to several outrageously audacious terrorist attacks in India. The LeT was formed in 1987 as the military wing of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa religious organization (Society of the Islamic Call, or JuD) at the instigation of the Pakistani army’s formidable intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The JuD owes its existence to the efforts of Saeed, who founded it in 1985 following his return to his native Lahore after two years of advanced Islamic studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the guidance of that country’s Grand Mufti, Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz.

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On its formation, the LeT joined the seven-year-old anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, an armed insurgency directed and supervised by the ISI with funds and arms supplied by the CIA and the Saudis. Once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the Army of the Pure turned its attention to a recently launched anti-Indian jihad in Indian-administered Kashmir and beyond. The terrorist attacks attributed to it range from the devastating multiple assaults in Mumbai in November 2008, which resulted in 166 deaths, including those six Americans, to a foiled attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001, and a successful January 2010 attack on the airport in Kashmir’s capital Srinagar.

In January 2002, in the wake of Washington’s launching of the Global War on Terror, Pakistan formally banned the LeT, but in reality did little to curb its violent cross-border activities. Saeed remains its final authority. In a confession, offered as part of a plea bargain after his arrest in October 2009 in Chicago, David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American operative of LeT involved in planning the Mumbai carnage, said: “Hafiz Saeed had full knowledge of the Mumbai attacks and they were launched only after his approval.”

In December 2008, the United Nations Security Council declared the JuD a front organization for the banned LeT. The provincial Punjab government then placed Saeed under house arrest using the Maintenance of Public Order law. But six months later, the Lahore High Court declared his confinement unconstitutional. In August 2009, Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice, essentially an international arrest warrant, against Saeed in response to Indian requests for his extradition. Saeed was again put under house arrest but in October the Lahore High Court quashed all charges against him due to lack of evidence.

It is common knowledge that Pakistani judges, fearing for their lives, generally refrain from convicting high-profile jihadists with political connections. When, in the face of compelling evidence, a judge has no option but to order the sentence enjoined by the law, he must either live under guard afterwards or leave the country. Such was the case with Judge Pervez Ali Shah who tried Mumtaz Qadri, the jihadist bodyguard who murdered Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer for backing an amendment to the indiscriminately applied blasphemy law. Soon after sentencing Qadri to capital punishment last October, Shah received several death threats and was forced into self-exile.


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M Henri Day's avatar

By M Henri Day, April 19, 2012 at 7:30 am Link to this comment

«Now, the widely expected release of the latest round of funds from the Pentagon’s CSF will raise total U.S. military aid to Islamabad since 9/11 to $14.2 billion, two-and-a-half times the Pakistani military’s annual budget.» Considering, Dilip, that this figure represents approximately a thousandth part of the amount of money that the United States government has spent on its military and security related budgets during this same period, those who reap immense profits from this type of spending must regard such «aid» to Pakistan (for which the inhabitants of that country are no doubt deeply grateful) as a bargain. Which, of course, is why it - and the military spending of which it constitutes a minor part - continues, year after year, decade after decade. It will cease only when people in the US, in whose name this spending is done and from whom the largest portion of the resources to support it are extracted, decide to put an end to it, or when the Chinese people, who pay for much of the rest, do the same. In that event, look for still more of what I believe frequent Truthdig columnist William Pfaff would refer to as «turbulence»....

Henri

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DonSchneider's avatar

By DonSchneider, April 19, 2012 at 5:37 am Link to this comment

When you have been party to digging the deepest useless hole that you know you
will soon have to abandon, at what point do you decide to lay down the shovels ? 
What purpose does it serve to abandon an even deeper hole ?  Who is it that will
be so enamored with our digging prowess that we cannot afford to stop less they
be disappointed ?

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By gerard, April 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment

Possibly the most important sentence (near the end):
“As your planet-wide activities become ever more diverse, frenzied, and even contradictory, you expose yourself to exploitation by lesser powers otherwise seemingly tied to your apron strings.”

More proof that we’re in over our heads.It is hard to
believe that surveillance,droning, Koran-burning and dismemberment of corpses are viable substitutes for reassessment, restraint, and systematic moves toward immediate and progressive disengagement.

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By heterochromatic, April 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

and gee, the US gives more aid money to Pakistan than to Israel….....


pointing out that Pakistan is a totally corrupt, bankrupt, unjust state that has
nurtured terrorists on its territory does little to guide how we should deal with the
beast, but does point to disengagement from them as possibly unwise.

we’re stuck with them and it’s going to be slow going and is possibly the primary
reason why we’re not getting out of Afghanistan real soon.

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