Magazine article The Spectator

Pakistan Needs More Than Elections. Only a New Political Class Will Do

Magazine article The Spectator

Pakistan Needs More Than Elections. Only a New Political Class Will Do

Article excerpt

The most important country in the world right now faces the most dangerous election in recent times. The country is Pakistan, not America, and the elections for parliament take place this coming Monday. Policy experts speak of 'failed states', and Pakistan is just about as close to failure as it is possible for a state to be. That's one reason the world will be watching on Monday.

Another and more immediate reason for interest is the assassination at the end of last year of Benazir Bhutto, twice the country's prime minister and the secularist leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Bhutto's death had been predicted as inevitable by many Pakistani and foreign observers once she returned last year from years of exile, but in a sense she was just one more victim of the failing state. There have been many others. In 2002, for example, the American journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi and decapitated by the al-Qa'eda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Pakistan is the worldwide centre of Islamic terrorism. Osama bin Laden himself is thought to be in hiding on the border with Afghanistan, and Pakistani extremists are operating in Afghanistan, Kashmir and India -- and the UK and United States.

Pakistanis have made Britain the most formidable outpost for Islamist extremism in western Europe. The groundwork in the UK is mainly done by the Pakistani branch of the fundamentalist Deobandi sect -- which produced the Taleban. This sect recruits jihadists, who are sent from London to Lahore for training, thence to carry out atrocities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and the UK.

Funds routed via Pakistan have been used in every Islamist terrorist attack in Britain, from the 7/7 Underground attacks to the recurring Heathrow plots. In this sense, 'homegrown terror' is a myth. Islamist terror in the UK is a foreign import from Pakistan.

In the US, Pakistani militants have helped to set up and operate a radical establishment, the 'Wahabi lobby', financing mosque construction and capturing existing congregations. The lobby has also backed and helped organise propaganda efforts for jihadists around the world. A single, notorious Pakistani jihadi group, the Lashkar-eTaiba (Army of the Righteous, or LET) was linked to the North Virginia network of jihad recruiters, suppressed in the US at the beginning of 2003, and the 2006 Heathrow bomb conspiracy. LET was allegedly banned by the Pakistani government, but the US State Department said that it reformed and continues its activities under the name Jama'at ud-Da'wa -- a charitable organisation that denies any association with LET.

A pattern is emerging in the Englishspeaking countries: money from Saudi Arabia, mainly now private rather than governmental (but still plentiful), and donated via the extremist networks in Pakistan, finances the infiltration of mosques and the indoctrination of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Sunnis, who are thought to make up the majority of Muslims in Britain and the United States.

To Saudi cash and Pakistani agitators may be added another indispensable element in the scheme: the propaganda of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its star personality, the anti-Western writer Sayyid Qutb. The Muslim Brotherhood offensive is based neither on culture nor on local grievances, but on ultra-fundamentalism, which brings together Muslims from differing societies.

Many countries are threatened by Pakistani terrorists, but Afghanistan is obviously the most convenient theatre of fully fledged military operations for Pakistani radicals. For many years Pakistan's military and intelligence structures have been infiltrated by local Deobandis, others inspired directly by Saudi Wahabism, and, most significantly, adherents of the radical preaching of Abu'l Ala Maududi (1903-79), founder of Jamaat-eIslami (JI), one of the most powerful jihadist movements in the world. JI was launched in British India, but relocated to Pakistan after partition in 1947. …

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