by Alex Constantine
While a fugitive in Pakistan, Ramzi Yousef was instrumental in several bombings and a previous plot to kill Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister. Mrs. Bhutto chaired the Pakistan People's Party, founded in 1967 by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In July 1977, Mr. Bhutto was unseated as prime minister himself in a CIA-planned coup led by General Mohammed Zia Al-Haq.
Benazir has long experience with the political intrigues of the Pakistani contras:
"As a moderate, progressive, democratically-elected woman prime minister of Pakistan," Mrs. Bhutto said in a 2001 interview, "I was a threat to the fundamentalist zealots on multiple levels and targeted by them." The zealots, of course, had a distinct advantage: "The support of sympathetic elements within Pakistan's security apparatus and the financial support of people like Osama Bin Laden."
Bhutto had shut down an al Qaeda-affiliated university in Peshawar, and that brought retaliation - "My government was destabilized," she says; Ramzi Yousef had been caught, extradited and "money was pilfered and laundered from state banks to fund the campaigns of opposition parties."
The interrogation of Yousef revealed "two separate assassination attempts in 1993. Osama bin Laden personally spent over $10 million in late 1989 in support of a motion of no confidence to topple my government. And ultimately, with the active support of elements of the Pakistani military, my two democratically elected governments were sacked and elections rigged to ensure that my party would not return to power. Beware the power of zealots who are well-funded, well-armed and supported by elements of your own government!"1
In November, Bhutto was dismissed as "paranoid" by clerical opponents when she condemned the intrusion of religion into politics, and spoke in favor of a liberal democratic state. She also denounced the irrelevant, bomb-throwing fundamentalists agitating for her removal as "western agents" financed "by the CIA."2
Bhutto takes a dim view of the current administration under Pervez Musharraf. In a recent Guardian editorial, she saw that in Bush's war or terror, Musharraf "gets to play good cop and earn Washington's pleasure to continue his dictatorship." Unfortunately, "eyebrows are raised as to why leading al Qaeda militants found it necessary to hide" - and continue to operate, like Yousef and Murad and Atta - "in a land run by Washington's key ally' in the war against terror."3
US CENTCOM CHIEF MEETS MUSHARRAF
Islamabad, Oct 6, 2003, IRNA - ... US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has praised Pakistan's cooperation with the United States. ...
American news outlets have been all too willing to distort the Islamic threat and report dubious federal pronouncements without question. At the same time, U.S. involvement in terrorism, particularly the "conservative" variety, is downplayed.
The bonds between the CIA, according to Australian reporter Ben Vidgen, "anti-Communist elements of the Vatican and Hitler's men are not slim. Since the final days of World War II, the totalitarian seekers have made use of people's hatred by establishing a clandestine fascist network." The said network would, of course, include "government-endorsed death squads" prowling the countryside like the Black Reichswehr of proto-Nazi Germany ... or the Nicaraguan contras.
Pakistan's faith-based death squads "possess the financial, logistical and political support of agents whose influence equals or betters the ruling system's power. The above is a premise wholeheartedly agreed with by the US-based right-wing Center for International Affairs (a favourite stomping ground of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski).
The Center for International Affairs (and its close cousin, the Center for Strategic and International Studies) utilised this hypothesis to promote the perception that the Soviet Union lay behind all incidents of international terrorism. Their prestige and influence was so great that when the CIA's own analysts could not find verifiable proof of a Soviet terrorist conspiracy, the CIA director, William Casey, chose to rely on the information of journalist Claire Sterling in her book, The Terror Network. Read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards whom I pay $50,000 a year,' responded Casey in fury. The irony was that Claire Sterling's book had used material that was in fact part of a CIA propaganda scheme."4
In November 2001, members of a militant group calling itself Mohammed's Army hijacked a bus in Pakistan after the driver ignored a demand to turn off the muzak. Police caught up with them and seized firearms, grenades, a variety of arms ... and weapons permits issued by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency.5
"Since its founding in 1948," the Baltimore Sun reports, "the ISI has grown into a giant intelligence and covert operations network with an estimated 10,000 employees - an invisible government,' some say - that wields considerable influence over Pakistani foreign policy and sometimes meddles in domestic politics."6
It is well-known that the ISI was a CIA cut-out in the arming of Afghan guerillas, and that BCCI laundered opium profits for the war. (Dozens of al Qaeda histories and timelines on the Internet weave the Byzantine maze of Bush administration, CIA and bin Laden connections to BCCI, so the banking network won't be discussed in this account unless necessary.)
There are critical, even shocking gaps in the files among those kept between 1982 through 1992. Not all is known about the CIA-BCCI scandal or some of principal contacts in the Middle East, including BCCI shareholder Kamal Adham and a favored client, Adnan Khashoggi. However, as The New Yorker reported on March 17, 2003, when Khashoggi embargoed missiles to Iran on
behalf of North's NSC, he "borrowed much of the money for the weapons from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, whose collapse, in 1991, defrauded thousands of depositors and led to years of inquiry and litigation."
Investigations of Adnan Khashoggi have cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars - and they always come up dry due to backstage intrigues.
But there is a substantial record of Bush ties to the ISI and bin Laden. The bin Ladens and their Saudi business partners owned Texas property banks, airlines. Intensive lobbying efforts, Wayne Madsen reports, "carried out with the help of Texans like Houston socialite and TV personality Joanne Herring, Baron and Baroness di Portanova, and Vice President George H. W. Bush, in concert with Richard Perle, former New Hampshire Senator Gordon Humphrey, the Congressional Jewish Caucus, and the ever-enigmatic shady operator Richard Armitage, radicals like bin Laden and his associates, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri and Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf (the founder of a Saudi-financed and ISI-organized Terrorist University' which spawned the Philippine terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group'), were able to cobble together an mimpressive jihadist army armed with stockpiles of Soviet-made weapons from Egypt, captured Soviet weapons from Israel, and tons of cash from billionaire Saudi benefactors. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush's Florida election fixer' and newly-named Bush debate coach James Baker III have both been honored guests, according to The Wall Street Journal, at the bin Laden family's palatial headquarters in Jeddah. With the active support of Pakistan's military dictator Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq (who was killed along with the U.S. ambassador, Pakistan's ISI chief Akhtar Abdul Rahman, and others in a mysterious 1988 plane crash determined by an unpublished Pakistani court of inquiry report to have been caused by the pilot being knocked out by gas in the cockpit), the Afghan mujaheddin became increasingly radicalized in the Wahhabi traditions."7
Saudi Royals furnished the madrasas, and Pakistan's ISI whipped them into fundamentalist soldiers for Allah.
1) "A Former Pakistani Prime Minister Weighs In: Benazir Bhutto," Slate.com, Sept. 21, 2001.
2) "Bhutto's paranoid accusations," Independent Center for Strategic Studies and Analysis.
3) Benazir Bhutto, "Dictatorship and religious extremism are fuelled by gross inequality," Guardian, August 9, 2004.
4) Ben C. Vidgen, "A State of Terror: How many 'terrorist' groups has your government established, sponsored or networked lately?" Nexus, February-March 1996.
5) Frank Langfitt, "Pakistani spies long linked to militants - Agency gave backing to Taliban, Kashmir fighters, mujahedeen," Baltimore Sun, November 25, 2001.
7) Wayne Madsen, "Osama bin Laden: a Texas-style Republican in Muslim clothing," Online Journal, September 12, 2004.
Without a war on poverty, we will never defeat terror
Dictatorship and religious extremism are fuelled by gross inequality
BY BENAZIR BHUTTO
The Guardian, August 9, 2004
While the world focuses on the war against terror, the war against poverty slides on to the backburner. Since the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 2001, three developments have become decisive on a global scale. The first is the fight to root out militants, the second is the political rise of those on the religious margins and the third is the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
Pakistan is a frontline state in the war against terrorism. Most of the leading terrorists have been arrested in Pakistan. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, once described as the CEO of al-Qaida, was arrested in Rawalpindi. Other important leaders continue to be caught in dribs and drabs every six months, including Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian, who was arrested in the Pakistani city of Gujrat last month.
This is good and bad news for Islamabad's military ruler. The positive part is that General Pervez Musharraf gets to play good cop and earn Washington's pleasure to continue his dictatorship. The bad part is that eyebrows are raised as to why leading al-Qaida militants found it necessary to hide in a land run by Washington's "key ally" in the war against terror.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, assassinations and suicide bombings have also been increasing domestically. Scores of Pakistanis and many foreigners have been killed. Many political leaders have been gunned down in the streets - from Rawalpindi in the north to Karachi in the south.
None of the assassins has been arrested. Instead, public attention has been focused on five apparent assassination attempts against high-profile targets that have taken place since last December: two attacks on Gen Musharraf, and one each on the Karachi corps commander, the prime minister-designate, Shaukat Aziz, and the Baluchistan chief minister.
While the regime insists these were genuine assassination attempts, their pattern suggests something different. At most, they seem to have been attempts to frighten the targets. At worst, if the cynics are to be believed, the attacks were stage-managed for external consumption.
For example, in each case, the bombers used low intensity explosives. None of the people hurt or killed was of political value - though they were, of course, of personal and national value. These included innocent people escorting the apparent targets. The main targets escaped without a scratch. While it is welcome that they survived, the larger issue needs resolving.
The drivers in the corps commander's and prime minister-designate's cars were killed, but the other passengers escaped unscathed. It is difficult to believe that bombers would repeatedly use low-intensity explosives so that only one occupant of the car being attacked - or a person outside the car - would die. A public commission into these attacks is needed.
The second crucial development since September 11 2001 has been the rise of religious extremists. There appear to be groups in both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds who believe that a clash of civilisations is needed for religious reasons. The Christian fundamentalists believe that Christ will be resurrected once the people of the Jewish faith are resettled on the banks of the Euphrates. The Muslim extremists believe that the Mahdi will arrive when the battle between Muslims and non-Muslims intensifies.
This political scenario is threatening to undo the entire global social fabric built since the end of the second world war - one based on the tolerance between different faiths, races, genders and cultures. A clash of civilisations can lead to Armageddon, where there will be no winners on earth. But perhaps the religious extremists are not searching for winners on earth.
The challenge for the world community is to emphasise values of tolerance, moderation and inter-faith understanding, on which rest the pillars of a less violent world. However, the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the events in Iraq have made that more difficult. The former led to suspicion against Muslims and a loss of civil liberties; the latter to a counter-suspicion from Muslims as to the real purposes of the war. The inability to find weapons of mass destruction and the Abu Ghraib abuses undermined the reasons given for the Iraq war.
While global attention is focused on terrorism, the crisis of poverty is effectively disregarded. Today, big business seems to be in the driving seat. One recent report found that while 20 years ago CEOs made an average of 40 times more than factory workers, last year it was 400 times more, and is now climbing to a multiple of 500.
This staggering rise in the fortunes of those on top, while those below suffer, is a festering sore that has the potential to erupt. The recent Indian elections showed that a stock-market economy alone could not make India shine. The Indian electorate went against all predictions, as peasants, labourers and the middle classes voted for change. Similarly, in Pakistan the talk of stock market rises and foreign exchange increases hides a more troubling picture. This is one of increasing poverty, hunger, misery and frustration. The numbers of young people killing themselves because of hunger was 1,200 in six months. These are the officially recorded figures - the real figures are believed to be much higher.
In Pakistan, the average income has been shrinking. The cost of living is rising sharply. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the ordinary citizen to pay fat utility bills and buy the basic necessities of life. The Pakistan Economic Survey admits that poverty has increased since democracy was derailed in 1996. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing at an alarming rate. The war against terrorism is primarily perceived as a war based on the use of force. However, economics has its own force, as does the desperation of families who cannot feed themselves. A more stable world depends on the ability to use force when necessary - and to seek political solutions when possible. After all, force is the prelude to achieving a more favourable negotiating position in a political settlement.
Militancy and greed cannot become the defining images of a new century that began with much hope. As the body count rises in Iraq, as a leading NGO pulls out of Afghanistan and as a suicide attack takes place against Pakistan's prime minister designate, the time has come to rethink. By returning to the values of democracy, the will of the people, broad-based government and building institutions that can respond to the people, the social malaise can be addressed.
The neglect of rising poverty against the background of religious extremism can only complicate an already difficult world situation.
· Benazir Bhutto is chairperson of the Pakistan People's party and a former prime minister of Pakistan