Thursday, May 25, 2023
Support Our Journalism
HomeOpinionImran Khan can’t get away by blaming America for Pakistan’s jihad problem

Imran Khan can’t get away by blaming America for Pakistan’s jihad problem

Pakistan does not want to be blamed for discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad or for the presence of terrorist outfits across the country.

Text Size:

Pakistan’s promise of ending jihadi radicalisation at home and militancy in its neighborhood would be more credible if its leaders did not insist on re-writing history to blame others, mainly the US, for Islamabad’s policies.

Prime Minister Imran Khan attempted to hold the US responsible for Pakistan’s use of radical Islamists as an instrument of foreign policy in his recent talk at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. According to Khan, “jihad was glorified” because “helped by the United States, we organised the resistance to the Soviets”.

Imran Khan’s attempt at historic revisionism, of course, is not new. Other Pakistani leaders have made similar assertions. General Pervez Musharraf attributed Pakistan’s jihad problem to the US-supported war and explained its continuance beyond the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to a ‘proxy war’ with India. Former Pakistan president Asif Zardari also made claims similar to those made by Imran Khan.

The logic behind this revisionist history is that Pakistan and its leaders are not to be blamed for the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad or for the presence of dozens of terrorist organisations across the country. The blame should somehow lie with the United States for ‘using’ Pakistan for jihad against the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989.

Also read: Imran Khan is done being the PM of Pakistan. He now wants to worry about India all the time

Pakistan establishment’s real problem

This attempt to shift the blame from Pakistan’s jihadist policies has several flaws. The jihad against the Soviets ended 30 years ago, and the major figures who participated in it are either dead or very old. The terrorist groups trained and launched for Ghazwa-e-Hind, the battle for India, had little to do with the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan.

The Kashmir-related groups were purely Pakistan’s creation and most of the major leaders in the Kashmiri jihad had no significant roles in the battles waged in Afghanistan against the Soviets. None of them received training or equipment from the Americans. Some of these groups have had several incarnations despite successive governments saying they would ban them.

Instead of shutting these groups down, Pakistan’s officials simply want to deceive or confuse the rest of the world about their existence. For example, only two weeks ago, a US-designated terrorist, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, appeared on stage in Islamabad with Pakistan’s special assistant to the PM on information at a Kashmir solidarity conference.

The story of his sharing the stage with Imran Khan’s cabinet member was carried by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan only in its Urdu service. Last year, Khalil had campaigned alongside Imran Khan’s former finance minister Asad Umar, and the press reported that he had joined Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The report was contradicted the next day in the English-language press because foreign diplomats and outside analysts are most likely to read news on English-medium websites.

Khalil was a co-signatory of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against the United States and has continued to operate freely over the years even as Pakistan promised action against him. The effort to hide him from foreigners while allowing him to campaign alongside cabinet ministers indicates that Pakistan’s establishment sees overseas exposure of jihadis, not their existence, as the real problem.

Also read: Our army, ISI trained al Qaeda, military backs all my decisions — gems from PM Imran in US

Pakistan’s jihadist history

Fact is that jihad, which remains part of the Pakistan army’s credo – Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabil Allah (meaning Faith, Piety, Jihad in the path of Allah) – has been one of the defining elements of Pakistan’s state ideology. Covering that up before foreign audiences with abridged accounts of history implies that Pakistani leaders do not want to acknowledge and confront the problem. They would rather sweep it under the carpet.

The anti-Soviet jihad, generously assisted by the Americans, came after Pakistan had already established a tradition of mustering irregular forces inspired by Islamic sentiment. In my book Pakistan Between Mosque and Military, I have cited extensive evidence of how Pakistan’s civil and military leaders repeatedly offered Pakistan’s services to the West in return for economic and military aid.

Pakistan first finance minister (and later Governor-General), Ghulam Muhammad, had proposed the creation of an ‘Islamic barrier to the Soviets’ with the help of US intelligence as far back as 1949. Afghan mujahideen leaders Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar set up shop in Peshawar in 1973, six years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And, after the invasion in 1979, the idea of jihad against the Soviets was mooted to the Americans by Pakistan’s then-military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, not vice-versa.

Pakistan’s jihadist history began with the organisation of tribal lashkars in 1948 for Kashmir. It continued with Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s call for jihad against India in 1965, backed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s call for a “thousand-year war” and the 1971 mobilisation of mujahids and razakars to subdue the Bangladesh liberation struggle in erstwhile East Pakistan.

Ayub Khan’s Bureau of National Reconstruction had proposed ‘irregular warfare’ as the solution to the country’s security problems. Aslam Siddiqi, a senior official in that bureau, explained in his book Pakistan Seeks Security (1960. Lahore, Longmans Green): “Irregular warfare can help in reducing the crucial nature of the initial battles of Pakistan. It can help in spreading out prolonging action. The essence of this irregular warfare is to deny the enemy any target and keep attacking him again at unexpected places.”

The anti-Soviet Afghan jihad expanded the scale of Pakistan’s ability to wage ‘irregular warfare’. The influx of American and Middle East money enabled the enlargement of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) into a formidable organisation. It also improved the quality of weapons, other equipment, and training available to the jihadis. But it was by no means the beginning of Pakistan’s involvement with jihad. And denying history, and the misdirected ideology behind it, will certainly not help end the misadventure and its debilitating consequences.

Also read: Pakistan needs to stop thinking of Kashmir as an unfinished business of Partition

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His books include ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military,’ ‘India v Pakistan: Why Can’t we be Friends’ and ‘Reimagining Pakistan’. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Champion Apologist !
    ‘Dont hurt our sentiment we wont react’.
    Suggesting people of other religions dont have sentiments simply because they have a heart AND a mind to be able to tolerate a joke or comedy.
    And yes terrorism has no religion until people shout glory to their prophet and God when they blow themselves up and kill innocent people. Psychos in America who massacre school children haven’t been heard or seen saying ‘praise the lord’! Tamils did not blow themselves up in the name of their religion. They were not shouting glory to any if their Gods or prophets. They did not name their organisation with religious intonation.
    Talking about RSS! It is only an organisation , nationlist or religious is debatable although the name literally means National service organisation. Wether Modi wants to run the country by its agenda( whatever the narrative ) is speculative. In any case you have religion , India could do with a bit of Nationalism to bring its extremely diverse people together.
    . Talk about rights of minorities . I m all for equal rights but lemme ask what rights does any Muslim state give to its minorities? Try making a temple or church in Saudi Arabia. Anybody can check the Hindu or Christian demographics in Pakistan in its 70 years of establishment.( its available on Google)
    Incidentally ,the utopian version of the state of Medina would differ greatly between legitimate historians. We all know only too well that as great a crickter as Mr Khan was his knowledge of history and geography leaves lot to be desired.
    Prime Minister is concerned about the liberty of Muslims in Kashmir but won’t mention of them in China. Not to mention the pashtouns and Balochs in Pakistan itself. And which Muslim country came forward to accept the Rohingyas or the Syrians for that matter.
    What claim can Pakistan make on Kashmir?, just that there is a large muslim population there? ( Wont mention the pogram of hindus there when it did become so large)There’s more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. Want to take them all??
    your conviction of them getting radicalized will certainly radicalize them because you are making this about religion whereas this is about territory.
    Or should India keep giving a piece of itself on the basis of religion?
    I m not defending or attacking any religion or act of terrorism, at all!. I m just pointing out double standards.
    Its ironic that a proud leader of a theocratic Islamic state should preach secularism. That too, to not only a country but to a civilization that thrives on ‘Ekam Sat vipra bahudha vadanti’.(go figure).

  2. Husssin haqqani is planted agent of indian RAW nd written here just to sabotage peace effort of pakistan who is not just involved in peace process with india but helping usa with Afghanistan and iran.

    Kashmiris r dying nd UN resolution demand their rights. The false tetrorism tag ll not help them to hide indian tetrorist action

  3. The opinions of a man so lacking in principles and so willing to sell his soul for material gain have little weight an credibility. How can any intelligent Indian even give an iota of weight to Haqqanis views?

    • Intelligent or not, Indians are in a position to understand Haqqani’s views correctly — it’s pathetic that you guys are not.

  4. Has he got the US Citizenship OR still under Loyalty accumulation points program to gain Citizenship. Pity the person who can sell his soul, beliefs, religion, country and family for a few monetary gains.

  5. The fact is that, Pakistan does not have a good constitution. Nor does it have the intention to provide good governance to it’s people. It has looked upon it’s army to be a saviour, which is in fact a parasite & very big problem. The army is relying on the use of religion to rally the masses around itself. IK is not a material for true & SANE LEADERSHIP. Pakistan needs to go back to the ‘drawing board’ & recarve it’s future path.

  6. I may not like IK for what he has done to the nation by being very divisive , unfortunately the author who was a talented journalist an asset for the very military establishment once upon a time is wrong in this case . Imran Khan is right a 100 % on what he says my question to the Author Hussain Haqani is what was his role in the OBL fiasco why does he not write about it tell the truth

    • His (IK’s) role was one of claiming brotherhood of a bunch of “angry brothers”.
      If you do not understand what aiding and abating means, no amount of Haqani’s writing would make up for the shortfall of your mind (or IQ).

  7. The writer is traitor. Wanted in Pakistan for spying and selling confidential secrets of Pakistan to other countries. His family disowned him. He is a traitor and he has no right to comment on Pakistan. Hussian come back to Pakistan, sitting in america behind computer and spread hate that’s all you can do. You cant even leave your room, I have seen your video how you were publicly humiliated at the hotel.

    • He is not a traitor… You are a delusional criminal Anon who does not want to reveal his own name… Coward !

    • He us wanted where? Could you please mention a single FIR lodged against him?
      Labellinganyone traitor is our national hobby, go and do some homework.
      Disowning intellectuals is a high rated act in pakistan. Someone who advocate different opinion and ideas can not be labelled traitor just because you don’t like his ideas.

    • Who humiliated whom? He is a greater patriot than your IK and he speaks the truth. You guys don’t even have the qualification to tie his shoe lace.

  8. I was one of the early supporters of CPEC. It would have given Pakistan a good reason to develop its economy, become a more normal nation. Taken the China – Pakistan friendship into something more constructive, beyond a shared antipathy towards India. The state of Pakistan’s economy reflects years of misplaced priorities. The children of the elite can emigrate to the West, but that still leaves 200 million people a Third World economy. Instead of mocking Pakistan, we too should draw the right conclusions. Bangladesh is now the star of the region, poised for 8% growth.

  9. Well its true. USA kept conducting regime changes in Pakistan, egging on military rulers to take over and further USA’s interests. This destroyed Pakistan, dismembered the country and has brought Pakistan to the brink

    • The first military coup was way before USA shows interest in Pakistan. Although USA relationship with Pakistan started early 50s, but Military aid started during 60s. While successful military coup during late 50s before that they had weak political govt during which head of states were changed like monsoon

  10. As usual brilliant work by HH. Its frustrating that no one calls IK out when he keeps repeating this false assertion.
    Another Q for all – imagine you are OBL for a minute, you have to escape from an area full of caves and difficult terrain. Would you think its safer to go across the border? not in lawless fata..wait I think it may be better to get a big house right in middle of an Army garrison town. Also let me take my whole family, surely no one will notice an odd arabic speaking family in a congested area amongst locals. Would you??..maybe if someone is ensuring your safety!

Comments are closed.

Most Popular