Benazir Bhutto: The Matron of Taliban

Today is the 6th anniversary of the death of Pakistan Peoples Party leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007 after addressing an election rally at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.  It is believed that her assassination was ordered by Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani wing of the Taliban called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mehsud was later killed in a US drone strike in 2009. His successor Hakimullah Mensud unleashed a reign of terror in Pakistan and met the same fate this year.

Few Pakistanis know that the Taliban movement was midwifed by Benazir Bhutto and her right-hand man and interior minister Naseerullah Babar during her term in office in 1993-1996. Benazir is often referred to as the Mother of the Taliban because of her role in giving birth to the Taliban movement. Once born and nurtured by Benazir and Babar, the Taliban quickly became a force to be reckoned with. The Taliban defeated the Mujahedeen ad quickly took control of much of Afghanistan in just a few years. The Taliban became so confident that they resisted Pakistan's pressure and refused to agree to the Durand Line as international Pak-Afghan border when they were in power in Kabul in 1990s.

Benzair Bhutto's contribution to the birth and growth of the Taliban movement has been described in significant detail by Ahmed Rashid in his highly trusted and best-selling book "The Taliban: Islam, Oil and The New Great Game in Central Asia". On page 90 of the book, the author explains at some length how Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F), joined the Pakistan Peoples Party coalition led by Benazir and used the opportunity to set up hundreds of madrassahs along the Afghan-Pakistan border, including Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, the mother of all the Pakistani madrassahs, led by Maulana Sami-ul Haq. Mullah Omar, the Taliban Chief, graduated from Madrassa Haqqania before starting his movement. Tens of thousands of others came out of Haqqania and other madrassas to swell the ranks of the Afghan Taliban in 1990s.

Before Benazir decided to help create the Taliban, the Pakistani establishment (Army and ISI) favored the Afghan Mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was aligned with the Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's rival Islamic political party in Pakistan. Maulana Maudoodi, the founder of  Jamaat-e-Islami was considered a Kafir by many of Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's fellow Deobandis. Both Maulana Fazal and Benazir intensely disliked the Jamat-e-Islami leadership. Jamat-e-Islami had supported late Gen Zia ul Haq who executed Benazir's father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. Maulana Fazlur Rehman saw this as an opportunity to edge out Jamat-e-Islami by aligning himself with Benazir Bhutto to create and nurture the Taliban who opposed Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. Here's how Rashid describes Maulana Fazal's role in it:

"After the 1992 capture of Kabul by the Mujaheddin, the ISI continued to ignore the  (Maulana Fazal's) JUI's growing influence over the southern Pashtuns. The JUI was politically isolated at home, remaining in the opposition to the first Benazir Bhutto government (1988-90) and the first Nawaz Sharif government (1990-93). However in 1993 elections the JUI allied itself with the winning Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto, thus becoming a part of the ruling coalition. The JUI's access to the corridors of power for the first time allowed it to establish close links with the army, the ISI and the Interior Ministry under Naseerullah Babar. Babar was in search of a new Pashtun group which could revive the Pashtun fortunes in Afghanistan and give access to Pakistani trade with Central Asia through southern Afghanistan and the JUI offered him that opportunity. The JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was made Chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, a position that enabled him to have influence on foreign policy for the first time. He was to use his position to visit Washington and European capitals to lobby for the Taliban and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to enlist their financial support."

Ahmad Rashid is not alone in his assessment of Benazir Bhutto's critical role in creating the Taliban. In "Ghost Wars", author Steve Coll says "Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction (Taliban)." Najam Sethi also agrees with it. In a 2002 interview, Benazir Bhutto herself acknowledged her role in creating the Taliban. She said, "Once I gave the go-ahead that they (Taliban) should get the money, I don't know how much money they were ultimately given ... I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche."

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, it's now easy to see in hindsight that Benazir Bhutto's alliance with Maulana Fazlur Rehman's JUI and their joint policy of creating and nurturing the Taliban was fatal not only to herself but also to hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis. It seems that she learned nothing from the mistakes of her father who gave in to the demands of the religious right only to be removed from power and hanged by them.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Ghost Wars By Steve Coll

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban By Ahmed Rashid

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 

Views: 421

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 29, 2015 at 10:30am

Bhuttos relations with Taliban go back to 1974 when ZAB used Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in response to Afghanistan's Dawood Khan's use of militants against Pakistan. 

In 1974, Daoud signed one of two economic packages that would enable Afghanistan to have a far more capable military because of increasing fears of lacking an up-to-date modern army when compared to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan. Daoud hosted General Secretary of the National Awami Party led by Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak,and others like Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch guerriallas etc. and started training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs and was sending them to Pakistan for sabotage and militancy. So much so that one of Bhutto's senior members, minister of interior and head of provincial party, Hayat Mohammad Sherpao, was killed and the relations with Pakistan further dipped. As a response Pakistan also started the same. By 1975, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been engaged in promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan. Some of those trained and supported by Pakistan were Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Ref: The Gem Hunter: True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan
By Gary W. Bowersox 

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 25, 2016 at 7:53am

Ahmed Rashid on Unocal deal with Taliban

Unocal, backed by US, was in talks with the Taliban to build an oil pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan through Afghanistan in late 1990s before 911 attacks.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 26, 2016 at 7:39pm

#Pakistan’s problem is moderation, not extremism. #Taliban #corrupt #elite

by Ayaz Amir
Extremism, hate speech and sectarianism – the ills we are familiar with – are products of Pakistani moderation. The maulvi, the cleric, the doctor of the faith did not create the mess Pakistan is in. The maulvi was never in command of politics and power. He was always, and still is, a figure on the sidelines…a nuisance at best, the creator of too much noise, the specialist with the loudspeaker, but he never was the driving force behind national policies.
That was the prerogative, the monopoly, not of the maulvi, not of the Tableeghi Jamaat, but of the English-speaking classes, the real rulers of Pakistan. Who runs Pakistan even today? The army, the civil service, the political class, the enterprising seth, the sharp-eyed real-estate tycoon. Where is the Islamic warrior in this distinguished coalition?
The Kakul-trained and Quetta Staff College-perfected army command gave us the fruits of jihadi Islam. They pushed the nation into the Afghan cauldron. Even today you can come across generals and bright diplomats who will swear that Pakistan’s leading role in that evangelism, sustained by Saudi riyals and American dollars, was essential because after Afghanistan would have come Pakistan’s turn, the Soviets with their eyes transfixed on the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.
It was on the back of such nonsense that Pakistan’s then generals, oblivious to Pakistan’s own problems, set about the liberation of Afghanistan. The maulvi and the seminary student were the foot-soldiers in that venture. They did not frame the policy or set out the larger goals. The guns, the cash and the Stinger missiles came from elsewhere. The foot-soldiers of jihad were fortified by the belief that they were marching to heaven.
Eminent divines spoke in favour of the Objectives Resolution but they were not its authors. That was the work of the enlightened Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly, led by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, who tore out their lungs in praise of that resolution, paying little heed to the plaintive cries of the Hindu members that this was not what Muhammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned or promised them in his famous August 11 speech.
Incidentally, the most learned and eloquent speech in favour of the Resolution came from the foreign minister, Sir Zafrulla Khan, an Ahmadi by faith. Shouldn’t this be grounds for calling for an annulment of the Objectives Resolution?
Maulvis or religious leaders did not lead us into Seato and Cento, the American-inspired defence pacts of which Pakistan became such an eager member. India phobia – and it is a phobia, let’s be clear about this – was not made part and parcel of the thinking of the new state by the clerical establishment. That was the work of the most educated, cultured and enlightened sections of the intelligentsia and the ruling classes who had migrated from India.

What has the maulvi or the seminary student to do with any of this?
Pakistan needs a transformation of state and society. How long can it live with plundering robber barons who have democracy on their lips and exploitation in their hearts? This transformation can only come from a strong and radically-inclined leadership, with the strength and outlook to clean the national stables, knock heads together, lessen some of the hypocrisy which is the republic’s leading currency and change the Pakistani landscape for the better.
The extremism of the Taliban is primitive extremism, the product of narrow minds. Pakistan needs the extremism of the pathfinder, the pioneer, the searcher of the depths, the climber of the highest mountains. Of quaking moderation, belting out empty slogans and mouthing empty promises, it has had enough. Seventy years is a long enough time to test any experiment. It is time to give that a decent burial.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 21, 2021 at 7:25pm

Genesis of the Taliban in #Afghanistan: Thread.

King Zahir Shah was the Monarch and absolute ruler of Flag of Afghanistan from 8 November 1933 to 17 July 1973. His rule was underlined by peace and stability on #Afghanistan's borders and within. He left for medical treatment in Italy in 1973...

While the King was getting medical treatment, his cousin Muhammad Daud Khan plotted to overthrow him. On 17th July 1973, Daud Khan backed by elements of Afghan Army and Communist leaning People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, He mounted a successful Coup and took over Flag of Afghanistan.

Daoud hosted General Secretary of National Awami Party Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch militants, and others. Khan's government and forces also commenced training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs to conduct militant action and terrorism in Pakistan.

Between 27th - 28th of April 1978, communist sleeper cells inside Afghan Army were activated by PDPA leader Hafizullah Amin who had been under house arrest on Daud's orders. In "Saur Revolution" coup that followed, Daud Khan along with most members of his family were massacred.

On 30th April 1978, communist leader Nur Muhammad Taraki took over the Presidency and the control of the communist party. He quickly developed feud with fellow communist Hafizullah Amin who plotted to overthrow him because of disagreement over the power sharing formula.

On 14th September 1979 as Taraki returned from his Moscow trip, he was imprisoned on Hafizullah Amin's orders, who had him executed by suffocation while in captivity - and formally took over the Presidency.

Between 14th Sept to 27th December 1979, Hafizullah Amin tried to hang on to power, but he quickly lost confidence of his KGB handlers. KGB believed him to be a double agent of CIA due to his overtures to Washington, a mistake that would prove to be fatal.

By early 1979, 25 out of Afghanistan's 28 provinces were unstable because of armed resistance against the Amin regime. On 29th of March 1979, the Herat uprising began; the uprising turned the revolt into an open war between the Mujahideen and the communist Afghan government.

By 1979, the KGB had lost patience with Amin & KGB Gen Yuri Drozdov approved plans to have him assassinated. 2 attempts were made on his life by the KGB's which failed, so they decided to have him executed in a bloody coup to take place at Tajbeg Palace.

By early-to-mid December 1979, the Soviet leadership had established an alliance with Babrak Karmal, who was to take over after Amin had been assassinated. On 27th Dec 1979, Amin and most of his family were massacred by KGB, Spetsnaz in an operation codenamed: Storm-333.

Babrak Karmal enjoyed complete backing of the USSR when he took over the Presidency on the same day Hafizullah Amin was executed by KGB. For the next 6 years he would oversee the scorched earth campaign of the 40th red Army in his own country, killing over 2m Afghans.

As the Soviet 40th Army intensified its brutal campaign in #Afghanistan, a joint "Operation Cyclone" was launched by the CIA and the ISI. Over the next 6 years, the Mujahideen would bring the 40th red Army to its knees along with its communist Afghan military allies.

As the war in #Afghanistan turned into "Soviet Vietnam", the KGB recommended overthrow of their blue eyed Babrak Karmal and replace him with the Chief of Afghan Intelligence KHAD, Major Gen Mohammad Najibullah, who deposed Babrak in a bloodless party coup and finally took over;

The Presidency on 30th Sept 1987. Najibullah was a bona fide KGB agent and enjoyed full confidence of KGB Chief Yuri Andropov. As the head of KHAD, Najibullah oversaw the industrial scale torture and murder of Afghan prisoners. KGB saw him as a "strongman" they needed.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 21, 2021 at 7:25pm

Genesis of the Taliban in #Afghanistan: Thread.

King Zahir Shah was the Monarch and absolute ruler of Flag of Afghanistan from 8 November 1933 to 17 July 1973. His rule was underlined by peace and stability on #Afghanistan's borders and within. He left for medical treatment in Italy in 1973...

14 April 1988 the Afghan and Pakistani governments signed the Geneva Accords, requiring the Soviet 40th Army to retreat from #Afghanistan by 15th February 1989, marking the end to a brutal civil war in the country. The future of Najibullah's communist regime became uncertain.

After the Soviet 40th Army retreated, and the disintegration process of the USSR began by 1992, all military aid to Najibullah's 300,000 strong military dried up. The Afghan Army Generals started to defect, Major cities were lost to Mujahideen and on 14th April he resigned.

Najibullah requested political asylum from India but the Indian Govt refused despite Najibullah being a long time partner of New Delhi against Pakistan. He took refuge at the UN compound until 26th of September 1996, when a new insurgent group defeated Ahmed Shah Massoud..

In the battle of Kabul and took control of the UN compound, where they arrested Najibullah and his brother, who were later executed with their bodies displayed publicly, while his wife had already fled to India. This little known group was called the "Taliban".

Personal note: The genesis of the Taliban has to be understood in the convoluted historic context of the Cold War Era politics in Afghanistan. The Communists who took over the reigns of power in an illegal coup introduced a reign of terror in Afghanistan that killed millions..

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 29, 2021 at 10:30am

Ex RAW official Rana Banerji to Karan Thapar: "Taliban was formed in the 90’s from a madrasah near Kandahar to counter growing criminal behaviour/rapes due to the vacuum left after Soviet withdrawal & US Pakistanis were involved at this stage.

Taliban were initially funded by President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistanis were later aided/funded by Pakistan ISI in 1994-95.


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