He was always considered extraordinary. He was an excellent
pupil, a good cricketer, a natural student leader, and a popular teacher in the
medical career that he chose to pursue.
Then he decided on a radical change in direction. He would
become a jihādī, undergo a six-month training program, and then die as a martyr
in the Kashmir valley.
On the journey toward the ultimate sacrifice of his life,
though, his views underwent another radical change, and what had appeared as
reality became an illusion as the bitter realization hit home of how cheap life
is in the military games that Pakistan and India play.
By the time this revelation occurred, our talented
character had already risen to the position of a top Pakistani jihādī commander.
Now he spends most of his time sitting at home in front of a computer screen,
working as a medical researcher for a Canadian company.
‘You know, the military establishment is flourishing on our
revenues. It has consumed our resources, and now it aims to consume the whole of
our society in the name of jihād. My problem is, we spend so much of our
national budgetary resources on our army, yet it sends young civilian lads to
fight in the occupied valley [of Kashmir]. Why don’t they wage this ‘jihād’
themselves, for which they get fat salaries and dozens of other benefits which a
civilian cannot even dream of?’
These words were spoken softly by a man with a long beard
in the former Karachi offices of the banned Lashkar-i-Tayyibah, one of the most
active militant groups in Kashmir. The blunt sentiments caught the few other
people in the room by surprise, causing the man with the long beard to laugh,
and comment that perhaps such words should not echo ‘in these four walls’. The
encounter ended with an exchange of business cards. Subsequently, after several
telephone calls, the bearded one agreed to meet Asia Times Online in a local
Dr Ahmed (not his real name) turned out to be a famous name
in the student politics of the city in the late 1980s.
‘I am a medical researcher and I graduated from the
prestigious Dow Medical College [DMC] in Karachi. [President] Zulfiqar Ali
Bhutto made the college his main political field as the National Students’
Federation [NSF] was the main force behind his socialist agenda, and his phrase
‘I always keep my eyes on the DMC’s cafeteria to know the real pulse of national
politics’ has become part of local folklore.
‘Now, as our army does not want thinking minds in the
country, it has had that cafeteria demolished so that no brain-storming debates
on politics are possible on campus. The DMC used to be the main playing field of
left-wing students, but by the mid-70s, when the Islāmī Jamī‘at-i-Talabah [IJT]
won the elections, like they did everywhere, the largest English daily of the
country ran the headline ‘Socialism is defeated in Moscow’. How serious and
ideological the political roots used to be in Karachi; now everything is
changed. Student unions are banned. There is an all-out attempt to keep original
thinking to a minimum. Now, after receiving education from the most enlightened
academy of the country, the students do not fit into society, and they make
their way to the US. Whether they belonged to the IJT or the NSF, they get Green
Cards or US nationality and work in the US hospitals. These dictatorial regimes
in fact are the real reason for the brain drain! especially from Karachi.’
Following are some of the questions posed to Dr Ahmad.
Q: How did your life change?
A: I come from a Salafī [Wahābī] family so I was a
practicing Muslim to some extent. After completing my medical education I joined
a college where I taught. I came close to a few Salafī scholars whose appeal for
jihād inspired me. I prepared a program of six months under which I would go to
Kashmir and sacrifice my life in the way of Allah.
Q: So what happened then?
A: Since I was the most qualified person among my group of
jihādīs, I was soon elevated to the position of provincial commander of Sind
province, where my work was to recruit new people for jihād. I was also taken to
the base camp in Pakistani Kashmir for briefings and exposure to jihādī
activities. I am still a committed person in terms of the Islamic cause, but
that exposure was enough to bring me back from illusions to reality.
Q: Could you please elaborate?
A: You are a journalist and roam all around among jihādīs
and meet people from top to bottom. Have you ever noticed that though Karachi
has the largest presence among jihādīs, most of them actually come from the
rural areas of Punjab? The recruitment of Karachites is strictly discouraged in
jihādī outfits. You know why? Because an urbanite will not follow instructions
blindly, and the army establishment needs jihādīs with below-average
intelligence. It was, I think, in 2002 that I was sitting in the Azad Kashmir
base camp where a brigadier was giving a briefing on strategy. The brigadier
said that a 500-member suicide squad was the need of the hour as India was set
So I asked the brigadier to please explain to me why India
would attack Pakistan. He said that since Pakistan supported the freedom
struggle in Kashmir, which had ‘wrecked the nerves of the Indians’, retaliation
was expected at any time. I argued that this is what Pakistan had been doing for
more than a decade, so what was new at this point of time that India would
suddenly need to attack Pakistan, especially at a time when both countries had
nuclear arms? The brigadier then replied that the United States wanted to seize
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and when this happened, India would attack Pakistan.
I laughed and said, then perhaps you have chosen the wrong enemy - you should
shoot the Americans first and kick their bases out from our land. My
conversation irritated the brigadier, so he terminated the briefing and left a
note that ‘next time I do not want to see this gentleman’.
The next few days in the camp were even more of a strain on
my conscience. A batch of teenagers from different, remote, rural places
arrived. They were given initial training and were set to launch into the
Indian-occupied Kashmir valley. But the field commander of the
Lashkar-i-Tayyibah sent a message that an Indian army unit was on patrol in the
area. The Pakistani colonel in charge nevertheless forced the youths to cross
the border as he had to report back to his superiors. So despite the objections
of the field commander, the youths had to go. They immediately came under siege
by the Indian patrol, and many were shot dead.
The innocent faces of those young lads remained in my mind
for several days. I questioned myself, should they deserve that? Did they really
sacrifice their lives for Allah? For jihād? No! My mind and heart said that they
were killed in the military game of two armies on both sides of the divide. I
have three small kids. I questioned myself, should I send my children to Kashmir
after seeing all this? My heart and brain both said no. I thought, why should I
recruit other people’s children to become the cannon fodder of this military
I know deep in my soul how parents nurture a human life.
How a child grows, learns to walk and run, and becomes a full-grown man. And
then, in a matter of hours, he is sent into an obvious death trap just because a
bloody officer had to report back to his senior that on India’s day of
independence an operation was launched into the Kashmir valley.
A few other demonstrations of this kind forced me to go
back to Karachi, but little did I know that more mental trauma awaited me there.
A Lashkar-i-Tayyibah worker was arrested for alleged transportation of al-Qā‘idah
members. Later, the charges proved to be wrong. But before that, from his cell
phone address book, my name was recovered. More than 600 members of the law
enforcement agencies in the presence of US FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation]
agents raided my residence. I did not know where I was being dragged. I have
pride in having received education from a most prestigious academy, with the
distinction of working as a teacher. Now I was subjected to kicks and slaps from
ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] agents in front of my wife, father and
children. This completely shattered my pride and punctured my ego and
I was detained in an unknown place without trial. After a
few days an officer came to me and without a single word of apology or excuse
informed me that the whole episode was the result of misunderstanding. I was
blindfolded again and left in the middle of a deserted place, without a single
penny in my pocket. I traveled several miles on foot to reach my home. I later
met the chief of the Lashkar-i-Tayyibah, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, and narrated the
whole story. He advised patience. I protested and said that if you want to serve
this army, you are welcome, but I am not ready to serve them. That was the last
day I worked as a Lashkar commander.’
Q: So you abandoned your cause?
A: This is a matter of heart and soul and cannot be given
up. Do not get me wrong, I am committed to my cause, but cannot be cannon fodder
for a simple ‘military game’ of two armies. Have you seen a horse and cart? The
horse’s owner puts leather blinkers close to its eyes so that it can only see
what its master wants it to see, not look here or there. This is how the
Pakistani army treats jihādī organizations. This is possible with animals, but
not with a walking, talking and thinking human being.
Courtesy: Asia Times Online