TCS Daily

Pakistani Radical Islamists: Who's Minding Washington?

By Stephen Schwartz - July 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Let's take this one step at a time.

The main perpetrators of the terrorist assault on the London public transport system, on July 7, were of ethnic Pakistani origin, although born in England.

Pakistan is frontline country number two, after Iraq, in the global war against terror. It is a place where Islamist extremists have shed lakes of blood, killing Shia and other Muslims who reject the terrorist ideology, as well as non-Muslims. I reported on the Pakistani connection to the London atrocity here and here.

Pakistan is country number one as a target for infiltration and manipulation by the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the ultraradical state religion in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism has metastasized in Pakistan, merging with a local radical movement, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and related groups.

The jihadism of JI and its satellites and allies is at least murderous and at worst genocidal. Their takeover of the Pakistani military and its intelligence system were crucial in Saudi control over the Taliban state in neighboring Afghanistan. Radical Islamists in Pakistan, whose rhetoric doubtless inspired the London bombers, operate behind a political front, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

Now here's the interesting news: precisely while London was busy recovering from the transit bombings, a leading figure in MMA, Akram Khan Durrani, was parading around Washington seeking a sympathetic ear. Durrani is the political ruler of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), on the border with Afghanistan. He was elected in 2002 on a simple platform: imposition of radical, Saudi- and Taliban-style shari'a law, to be enforced by a religious police. He and his cohort are bloodthirsty bigots.

Over the weekend, the South Asia Tribune revealed that Durrani had come to the U.S. capital as a guest of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), which describes itself indulgently as "shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." IGE was founded by Robert A. Seiple, who served for two years as "U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom," a mainly ceremonial post. Seiple is also the former head of a major relief organization, World Vision, Inc.

Durrani's tour of Washington was, according to him, successful. He even claimed to have gained "meetings with National Security Council and Pentagon officials. I gave every one a copy of the Hasba Act," he said, referring to the legislation imposing radical shari'a in the NWFP.

What legitimate purpose, in line with U.S. interests, was served by flattering a vicious ultra-jihadist, from a country that exports terrorists? Durrani never should have been allowed to set foot on American soil. The failure of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf to suppress the MMA, which incites global mass murder, undermines his claims that he is a secure ally in the antiterror war, even as he promises new action in the wake of London. Durrani and every other major MMA leader should be expelled from their nests in the Pakistani state, arrested, and charged with conspiracy to incite and commit terrorism. If found guilty, they should be subject to the death penalty.

Indeed, the Hasba Act which Durrani handed out in Washington has been declared by the Pakistan federal government to be in violation of the country's constitution, and is the subject of a legal case before the country's Supreme Court. Many observers of Pakistani politics fear that if the Court finds against the shari'a scheme, which is backed by MMA, new violence will erupt. If the Court finds the Hasba Act legal, MMA will be encouraged in its fantasy of rigid shari'a throughout Pakistan.

In fighting radical Islamist terror, both the U.S. and the UK should combine their domestic investigations with pressure on the Saudi and Pakistani governments to remove Wahhabi and neo-Wahhabi ideologues from their own state and other public structures. All financing of these preachers and practitioners of homicide must be cut off, and every leading representative of the networks should face legal punishment.

The beliefs that impel the Wahhabi War on the World have nothing to do with either political protest or deep religious beliefs. Normal protest, even when it becomes violent, increases and decreases in reaction to events. Intense Muslim commitment drives believers away from terrorism as much or more than toward it. The proliferation of Islamist extremism, like that of pro-Moscow Communism in the past, is dependent on money, a leadership structure, and the seduction of power. Cut off the money and the heads of the conspiracy and the threat will diminish immensely. Without the power represented by the Saudi state and the Pakistani military intelligence services, terrorist ideology will lose its ability to capture and pervert the minds of susceptible recruits.

Dialogue with terrorists and their enablers is not possible. The following message should be delivered to men like Durrani: the moderate Muslims of the world will be helped to defeat you -- you are doomed. It may not be too late for the U.S. authorities to stop and interrogate Durrani before he returns to his mischief at home.

The author is Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.



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