Pakistan blames West for terrorism
Duncan Campbell reports on the resentment that Pakistan feels when portrayed in the West as the epicentre of terrorism,00.html

Duncan Campbell in Islamabad
Sunday August 20, 2006

The banners that flutter at the roadside leading from Islamabad to Rawalpindi show the face of General Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country under martial law for more than a decade and died when his plane exploded in mysterious circumstances on 17 August 1988, killing him, along with five generals and the American ambassador. The flags refer to his 'martyrdom', although their presence may have more to do with the fact that his son is now a government minister than any nostalgia ordinary Pakistanis may have for his ruthless regime.

The explosion took place at the airport for the Punjabi city of Bahawalpur, which is where, coincidentally, Rashid Rauf, the young dual-nationality Briton, was arrested on 9 August in connection with the alleged airline bomb plot. But the connection between Zia and the current investigation is much deeper than that, according to many Pakistani politicians and commentators.

Writing this weekend in the News, Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani Prime Minister, recalls that Zia, who toppled her father's regime in a coup in the 1970s, played a key role in assisting the US and the Mujahadeen to defeat the Soviet-backed Afghan government.

'This alliance not only brought modern weapons and technology to the Mujahadeen but converted my homeland from a peaceful nation into a violent society of Kalashnikov weapons, heroin addiction and a radicalised interpretation of Islam,' she stated. Thus, she suggests, were the seeds of the current harvest sown. Her views have found many echoes in Pakistan this week, both in the marketplaces and in the offices of think-tanks, politicians and commentators.

'You have created a monster and now you don't know what to do with it,' said Senator Asfundyar Wali, the Awami National Party senator who was jailed at the age of 14 for his political beliefs and has been arrested many times since. 'The war against the Soviet Union turned refugees into jihadis.'

Throughout that war, the CIA channelled an estimated $3bn (£1.6bn) into the hands of the Afghan resistance groups and their foreign fellow-fighters, many of whom still inhabit the region around the border with Afghanistan in the north-west of Pakistan - an estimated 25,000 of whom, the 'Afghan Arabs', arrived from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and more than a dozen other nations. If the creation of a radicalised and militarised reservoir of fundamentalists is blamed on the buckling of Pakistan to US pressure in the 1980s, there is also a growing scepticism about the current alleged plot and its timing here.

'These plots are essential for Bush to keep up the fear of terrorism, so that the American public is constantly fearful,' said Dr Shireen Mazari, director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. On the issue of al-Qaeda's alleged involvement, Dr Mazari said: 'I think it's becoming a brand name that attracts disparate groups.'

The cartoonist Maxim, in the Nation, has a balder interpretation but one that finds a growing audience. His cartoon shows an Arab looking at three missiles marked UK, US and Israel and thinking: 'Real WMDs - Weapons for Muslim Destruction.' This view has many supporters. Shafiq Ahmed, 35, deputy imam at the Al Huda mosque in Islamabad, said: 'This plot seems to be a conspiracy to divert the attention of the international community from what is happening in Lebanon. Muslims are being terrorised and killed on the back of 9/11 Nobody is concerned about the Muslims' issues, even the UN are not... We believe if we fight injustice, we go to heaven and if we cannot do something against these cruel powers we may pray for God for their destruction.'

Usman Moosa, a 21-year-old student, reflects an equal resentment that Pakistan is portrayed in the West as the epicentre of terrorism. 'You don't have to blame Pakistan for what people do in another country, people who were born over there and educated over there,' he said as he loaded his car at the Jinnah market. 'Why do people always look at Pakistan?'