What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A piece of history retold by Khalid Khawaja

Wow, this is an interesting interview. The late* Khalid Khawaja just does not fit many stereotypes and that makes this interview with him very interesting reading, from 2005. Having been kicked out from ISI for complaining about Zia ul-Haq's loyalty to Islam (!), and having fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, someone who thinks Indian Muslims have more rights than Pakistani Muslims and that suicide bombings killing innocents should be haram. And yet someone who thinks fondly of Osama bin Laden. How could this be? That is what you might be asking. Part of the explanation is just a totally different perspective on the world, of course. That is not something one can convey with a blogpost if one is not sharing that perspective of his. Another part of the explanation, the one I can try to convey is the rather different Osama he got to know, a long time ago, when bin Laden was still busy organising his al-qaeda as-sulbah, and not really involved in organising transnational terrorist attacks (the first of which only came at the end of 1992, in Yemen, and even at that time as one targeted against U.S. military personnel; just failing to hit its target). Abdullah Azzam was still alive. Two key excerpts are included below, as provided in the interview that was prepared by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the journalist who always delivers something new.
So Khalid Khawaja tells part of his story below, naming some key names...

"The story starts in 1986-87, when out of emotion I wrote a letter to General Zia ul-Haq saying that he was a hypocrite and he was only interested in ruling Pakistan, rather than imposing Islamic law in the country. General Zia immediately ordered my dismissal from my basic services in the Pakistan air force, where I was a squadron leader, and from the ISI, where I was deputed at the Afghan desk. I went to Afghanistan and fought side-by-side with the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet troops. There I developed a friendship with Dr Abdullah Azzam [a mentor of bin Laden], Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Abdul Majeed Zindani [another mentor of bin Laden's]. At the same time, I was still in touch with my former organization, the ISI, and its then DG [director general], retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul."

He goes on to describe how "his and Hamid Gul's" Islamic Democratic Alliance did not work to defeat the PPP at upcoming elections in 1988. Nawaz Sharif then purportedly asked Khawaja to arrange a meeting with the ever generous Arab sheikh, Osama bin Laden. The aim was to get money, in order to challenge the PPP more effectively.

"The most historic was the meeting in the Green Palace Hotel in Medina between Nawaz Sharif, Osama and myself. Osama asked Nawaz to devote himself to "jihad in Kashmir". Nawaz immediately said, "I love jihad." Osama smiled, and then stood up from his chair and went to a nearby pillar and said. "Yes, you may love jihad, but your love for jihad is this much." He then pointed to a small portion of the pillar. "Your love for children is this much," he said, pointing to a larger portion of the pillar. "And your love for your parents is this much," he continued, pointing towards the largest portion. "I agree that you love jihad, but this love is the smallest in proportion to your other affections in life." These sorts of arguments were beyond Nawaz Sharif's comprehension and he kept asking me. "Manya key nai manya?" [Agreed or not?] He was looking for a Rs500 million [US$8.4 million at today's rate] grant from Osama."

Finally, Khawaja mentions how after this other politicians also wanted a slice of the pie, and asked for meetings with "the Sheikh."
* Showing just how busy I was in the latter weeks, I was not aware of Khalid Khawaja's recent death when I posted these comments about his interview.

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