Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why Pakistan Produces Jihadists
Monday night's arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American accused of planting a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday, will undoubtedly stoke the usual debate about how best to keep America safe in the age of Islamic terrorism. But this should not deflect us from another, equally pressing, question. Why do Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora churn out such a high proportion of the world's terrorists?
Indonesia has more Muslims than Pakistan. Turkey is geographically closer to the troubles of the Middle East. The governments of Iran and Syria are immeasurably more hostile to America and the West. Yet it is Pakistan, or its diaspora, that produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London.
The list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves—but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country—is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. And this partial catalogue doesn't include India, which tends to bear the brunt of its western neighbor's love affair with violence.
In attempting to explain why so many attacks—abortive and successful—can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan's emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it's important to go back further, to its creation.
Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, the world's first modern nation based solely on Islam. The country's name means "Land of the Pure." The capital city is Islamabad. The national flag carries the Islamic crescent and star. The cricket team wears green.
From the start, the new country was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism. The Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad—an Austrian Jew born Leopold Weiss—became an early Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. The Egyptian Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, made Pakistan a second home of sorts and collaborated with Pakistan's leading Islamist ideologue, the Jamaat-e-Islami's Abul Ala Maududi. In 1949, Pakistan established the world's first transnational Islamic organization, the World Muslim Congress. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the virulently anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed president.
Through alternating periods of civilian and military rule, one thing about Pakistan has remained constant—the central place of Islam in national life. In the 1960s, Pakistan launched a war against India in an attempt to seize control of Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority province, one that most Pakistanis believe ought to be theirs by right.
In the 1970s the Pakistani army carried out what Bangladeshis call a genocide in Bangladesh; non-Muslims suffered disproportionately. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto boasted about creating an "Islamic bomb." (The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, would later export nuclear technology to the revolutionary regime in Iran.) In the 1980s Pakistan welcomed Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Palestinian theorist of global jihad Abdullah Azzam.
In the 1990s, armed with expertise and confidence gained fighting the Soviets, the army's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spawned the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, and a plethora of terrorist groups to challenge India in Kashmir. Even after 9/11, and despite about $18 billion of American aid, Pakistan has found it hard to reform its instincts.
Pakistan's history of pan-Islamism does not mean that all Pakistanis, much less everyone of Pakistani origin, hold extremist views. But it does explain why a larger percentage of Pakistanis than, say, Indonesians or Tunisians, are likely to see the world through the narrow prism of their faith. The ISI's reluctance to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism—training camps, a web of ultra-orthodox madrassas that preach violence, and terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba—ensure that Pakistan remains a magnet for any Muslim with a grudge against the world and the urge to do something violent about it.
If Pakistan is to be reformed, then the goal must be to replace its political and cultural DNA. Pan-Islamism has to give way to old-fashioned nationalism. An expansionist foreign policy needs to be canned in favor of development for the impoverished masses. The grip of the army, and by extension the ISI, over national life will have to be weakened. The encouragement of local languages and cultures such as Punjabi and Sindhi can help create a broader identity, one not in conflict with the West. School curricula ought to be overhauled to inculcate a respect for non-Muslims.
Needless to say, this will be a long haul. But it's the only way to ensure that the next time someone is accused of trying to blow up a car in a crowded place far away from home, the odds aren't that he'll somehow have a Pakistan connection.
Mr. Dhume, the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), is a columnist for

Questions surface over Times Square investigation
Questions remained in the days following the dramatic arrest of the Times Square bombing suspect, who was captured only minutes before his plane was due to take off for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Faisal Shahzad was able to board Emirates Flight 202 late Monday despite being put on a no-fly list earlier in the day, but at the time of his ticket purchase, the airline had not refreshed its information so his name did not raise any red flags, a senior counterterrorism official said.
Authorities had tailed Shahzad throughout the day, but lost him before he arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was ultimately arrested, the official said.However, an FBI official responded that surveillance operations are designed with redundancies in place, and that agents had to avoid tipping off Shahzad that he was being followed.
At a Tuesday news conference, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended surveillance efforts.

"I was here all yesterday and through much of last night and was aware of the tracking that was going on, and I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him," Holder said.Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, noted that, along with a Nigerian man who tried to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day, this is the second high-profile incident in recent memory where someone on the U.S. no-fly list has managed to board a plane."Whatever went wrong, I hope they get their acts together and correct it," Rangel said. "The good thing about this is that nobody was hurt in either case, but ... someone ought to come up with the answer and see that it doesn't happen again."Shahzad was arrested shortly before midnight Monday at JFK airport after U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which reviews all flight manifests, caught his name when the airline sent the agency its passenger list, according to the counterterrorism official.The terror plot may dominate discussions Wednesday as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg travels to Washington for a previously scheduled Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on terrorism.Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine and ranking member of the committee, has already expressed concerns.
"A key question for me is why this suspect was allowed to board the plane in the first place," Collins said, according to the New York Times. "There appears to be a troubling gap between the time they had his name and the time he got on the plane."
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that U.S. intelligence efforts have to be better.
"Being lucky can't be our national security strategy," Hoekstra said. "We were lucky on Christmas Day. We were lucky last week."

Pakistan native admits to Times Square bomb plot

New York Times
A Pakistani-American man arrested in the failed Times Square car bombing has admitted his role in the attempted attack and said he received explosives training in Pakistan, the authorities said Tuesday.

The man, Faisal Shahzad, 30, was arrested as he tried to flee the country in a Dubai-bound jet late Monday. Hours later, there were reports that seven or eight people had been arrested in Pakistan, as officials in both countries sought to determine the origins and scope of the plot.

Mr. Shahzad was charged on Tuesday with several terrorism-related crimes. American intelligence officials said that while any ties Mr. Shahzad had to international terrorist groups remained murky, investigators were strongly looking at possible links to the Pakistani Taliban in the attempted attack on Saturday.

If the role is confirmed, it would be the group’s first effort to attack the United States and the first sign of the group’s ability to strike targets beyond Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban is a different organization from the Taliban groups that the United States is battling in Afghanistan.

Mr. Shahzad’s ability to board an international flight despite being the target of a major terrorism investigation was the result of at least two lapses in the response by the government and the airline, Emirates.

Mr. Shahzad, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan who lived in Bridgeport, Conn., was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and other federal charges, several related to explosives. He was interrogated without initially being read his Miranda rights under a public safety exception, and he provided what the Federal Bureau of Investigation called “valuable intelligence and evidence.”

He continued talking after being read his rights, the F.B.I. said. The authorities charged him as a civilian, but he did not appear in court and no hearing has been scheduled.

“It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in the country,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference on Tuesday in Washington.

Mr. Shahzad booked a ticket on his way to Kennedy Airport and bought it with cash when he got there, officials said. He had boarded the plane but was taken off before it taxied away.

Investigators had been trying to find Mr. Shahzad after determining that he was the man who bought a Nissan Pathfinder from a Connecticut woman last month and had parked it just off Broadway on Saturday night packed with gasoline, propane, fertilizer and fireworks. No one was hurt, but officials said the bomb could have been deadly on the crowded streets if it had ignited.

Officials said Mr. Shahzad had been placed on a no-fly list on Monday afternoon, but they declined to explain how he had been allowed to board the plane.

An Isuzu Trooper that Mr. Shahzad had apparently driven to the airport was found in a parking lot. Inside the Trooper, investigators discovered a Kel-Tec 9-millimeter pistol, with a folding stock and a rifle barrel, along with several spare magazines of ammunition, an official said. Fearing the Izuzu might be rigged to explode, officials briefly cordoned off the area around it.

All of the passengers were taken off the plane, and they, their luggage and the Boeing 777 were screened before the flight was allowed to depart, about seven hours late, at 6:29 a.m. Two other men were also interviewed by the authorities but released, according to one law enforcement official.

Mr. Holder said Mr. Shahzad had been providing “useful information” to federal investigators since he was pulled off the plane. Besides saying that he had received training in Pakistan, Mr. Shahzad said he had acted alone, a claim that was still being investigated.

In Pakistan, developments unfolded quickly. Officials identified one of those arrested as Tauhid Ahmed and said he had been in touch with Mr. Shahzad through e-mail and had met him either in the United States or in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Another man arrested, Muhammad Rehan, had spent time with Mr. Shahzad during a recent visit there, Pakistani officials said. Mr. Rehan was arrested in Karachi just after morning prayers at a mosque known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Investigators said Mr. Rehan told them that he had rented a pickup truck and driven with Mr. Shahzad to the northwestern city of Peshawar, where they stayed from July 7 to July 22, 2009. The account could not be independently verified. Mr. Shahzad spent four months in Pakistan last year, the authorities said.

Pakistani officials promised to aid the United States “in bringing such culprits to justice,” the Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, said in a telephone interview as he announced the seven or eight arrests.

Mr. Shahzad is believed to be originally from Kashmir and is among a handful of Pakistani-Americans who have recently faced terrorism accusations in the United States or abroad.

The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday released a video taking credit for the Times Square attack, but American officials cautioned on Tuesday that the investigation was still in its early stages, and said it could take days before enough evidence emerged to point to any one group for its role in the plot.

For months, terrorist groups have pledged to exact revenge for the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in the Pakistani mountains.

Last year, a C.I.A. drone killed the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and American intelligence officials believe that the group has over the years cultivated close ties to Qaeda leaders. Any ties between Mr. Shahzad and Pakistani militants could add new urgency to American demands that Pakistan root out the web of Al Qaeda and local groups that use the tribal areas to strike at United States troops in Afghanistan and other targets farther abroad.

The United States, which has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars in counterterrorism aid since 2001, has pressed Pakistan to crack down on militants inside its borders, and an American official said Pakistan’s response to this attempted attack would have serious implications for the country’s strategic relationship with the United States.

A detailed 10-page court document outlining the criminal charges describes new details about Mr. Shahzad’s actions in the days leading up to the attempted attack, including how he bought the Nissan Pathfinder that would ultimately help lead investigators to him.

It says that Customs and Border Protection records show that Mr. Shahzad returned from Pakistan on Feb. 3, 2010, after a five-month visit there, flying back on a one-way ticket from Pakistan. He told customs inspectors, the complaint said, that he was visiting his parents.

The complaint, sworn out by Andrew P. Pachtman, an F.B.I. agent assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, says that Mr. Shahzad used a prepaid cellular telephone to contact a Connecticut woman who had placed an online advertisement to sell the vehicle. It described how the phone led investigators to him.

He received four calls from a number in Pakistan hours before he bought the vehicle, the complaint says.

The prepaid cellular phone, according to the complaint, was also used to call a fireworks store in Pennsylvania that sells M-88 firecrackers like those that were used as part of the bomb. The phone was last used on April 28, according to the complaint.

In the Connecticut towns of Shelton and Bridgeport, where Mr. Shahzad had lived, residents described Mr. Shahzad as quiet and unremarkable. One of the last to see him was his landlord, Stanislaw Chomiak.

About three months ago, Mr. Shahzad signed a one-year lease on a second-floor two-bedroom apartment in Bridgeport. Mr. Chomiak usually saw Mr. Shahzad only when the rent was due, but Mr. Chomiak described his tenant as a nice guy who furnished his apartment sparsely and had claimed he made a living selling jewelry in New Haven.

But the evening of the attempted bombing in Times Square, the landlord received a phone call from Mr. Shahzad, who said he was riding the train back from New York City and needed to be let into his apartment because he had lost his keys. Mr. Chomiak lent Mr. Shahzad spare keys, with the two men agreeing to meet up the next day to return them, Mr. Chomiak said.

“He looked nervous, but I thought, of course he’s nervous, he just lost his keys,” Mr. Chomiak, 44, said in an interview at his home, about 15 miles outside of Bridgeport. The men did not end up meeting until about 4 p.m. on Monday, and Mr. Shahzad returned the keys. It was the last time the landlord saw him, and less than eight hours later, Mr. Shahzad was boarding the flight to Dubai.

An official in Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said Mr. Shahzad came to Pakistan in April 2009 and departed on Aug. 5 on an Emirates flight.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the attempted bombing “an act that was designed to kill innocent civilians and designed to strike fear into the hearts of Americans.”

In March, a Pakistani-American man, David C. Headley, pleaded guilty to helping plan the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. And last December, five young men from Virginia, two of them with Pakistani backgrounds, were arrested in Pakistan on accusations of plotting attacks against targets there and in Afghanistan.

At his news conference, Mr. Bloomberg warned against any backlash against Pakistanis or Muslims in New York, saying, “We will not tolerate any bias.”