by Tarek Fatah
I am flattered. Pakistan’s infamous military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has taken exception to my columns in this newspaper and ordered the blocking of the Toronto Sun website in Pakistan.
In a recent column, I had written about reports that the Pakistan army was behind a Canadian cleric who threatened to storm the parliament building in Islamabad to pave the way for yet another military takeover.
The next day, all access to torontosun.com was shut down across Pakistan.
What is the Pakistan Military and the ISI afraid of? I asked a number of prominent Pakistani journalists, parliamentarians and senior officials in Islamabad. Every one of them was scared of the ISI and begged not to be quoted. On condition of anonymity, one gave a blunt reason:
“Your criticism and exposure of the Fauji-Jihadi shenanigans. Decision (to shut down Toronto Sun came) from Aabpara.” (Fauji is the Urdu word for Army while Aabpara is the Islamabad neighbourhood housing the ISI headquarters.)
What most Canadians don’t know is Canada is home to many “retired” Pakistan military generals, brigadiers and colonels with close ties to the ISI. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has now raised concerns of the links between the Pakistan Army and international Islamic terrorists. HRW has asked Islamabad to “actively investigate allegations of collusion” between Islamic terrorists and the Pakistan military intelligence. These terror groups include the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
The LeT operates not just in India, Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh, but right here in Canada. We learned of LeT’s Canadian presence during the trial in Chicago of Pakistani-American David Headley and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana for their role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as well as the plot to blow up the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Interestingly, Rana turned out to be a former Pakistan military officer.
Then there is the question of my column about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Some of Pakistan’s 200 nukes may be directed at India, but that is not who the Islamists wish to target. Rather, it is the West and our allies in NATO who Pakistan’s jihadi generals see as “Islam’s enemies.”
Pakistan’s leading nuclear physicist, MIT-educated Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy has this to say on the subject in his new book Confronting the Bomb:
“The fear of loose (nuclear) weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day.”
Hoodbhoy describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts … It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.”
But loose nukes aside, it seems the unpardonable sin I committed in the eyes of the ISI is my column on the taboo subject of Pakistan Army’s atrocities in Balochistan, where thousands of young men have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.
HRW has accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies of “continued enforced disappearances and killings” of Baloch opposition activists who want an end to Pakistani occupation.
In 2012 at least eight journalists were killed in Pakistan. HRW talks of “a climate of fear” that impedes media coverage of the state security forces so journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military.
And the Pakistani government can block the Toronto Sun all they want, it is not going to deter me from exposing them.