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Their Money, Our Mullahs

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By Farooq Sulehria

The monetary embargo imposed on Palestine on the pretext of Hamas government is in no way a punishment for Hamas. In 1980s, Hamas used to enjoy Jerusalem’s generosity when it was being patronised as a counter-weight to PLO. Hence, the actual target of current sanctions is Palestinian people. They are being punished for not voting the party of Jerusalem’s (hence Washington’s) choice.

Therefore, the US Senate’s recent decision to deny Hamas money is in no way any ideological warfare but a geographical coincidence. Since Hamas, like Hizbollah, is based in Israel’s neighbourhood hence the geographical proximity has deprived Hamas of Western largesse. Else, West has never been miser while blessing beards with dollars. Same very Bush administration, very busy these days launching crusades, embraced Taliban. It was Secretary of State Colin Powel who himself announced a gift worth $ 43 million for Taliban. The puritan Taliban had no qualms either in accepting infidel money. This $ 43 million was a reward for Taliban’s declaration that opium growing was contrary to the will of Allah. By Taliban’s inference, lot of other things were also contrary to Allah’s will. But that did not bother Bush administration.

Taliban’s Pakistani version MMA is just another case in point. The electoral ‘surprise’ (15 percent votes nationally) that MMA gave in 2002 parliamentary elections rang alarm bells across the world. It was their fierce opposition to US invasion of Afghanistan that paid them electoral dividends particularly in NWFP. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, MMA head, once mad headlines when he issued a fatwa-legitimising killing of any American sighted in Pakistan. In its election campaign, the MMA also promised to liberate the nation and economy ‘from IMF and World Bank’. While Hamas has never threatened West or got itself involved in al-Qaida network or so-called global Jihad, MMA’s constituent parties have openly lent active support to global Jihad and al-Qaida. Not one but half a dozen al-Qaida militants arrested in Pakistan were nabbed from hide out provided by Jamaat Islami.

Jamaat Islami itself, by the way, has been main beneficiary of US largesse in Pakistan. But it has also delivered too. It was pivotal in US campaign back in 1977, to remove Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from power. The coup that saw Bhutto off was an early exercise in CIA-backed anti-Chavez coup four years ago. Bhutto died, Chaves survived. The Jamaat Islami was the missing factor in Venezuela perhaps.

A Jamiat-Jamaat combo called MMA formed government in NWFP in the wake of 2002 parliamentary elections. Did US Senate vetoed any money to MMA government even when Jamaat Islami was harbouring al-Qaeda activists? No, not at all. On the contrary, Nancy Powel, the then US ambassador to Pakistan, paid MMA leadership a visit in Peshawar. The meeting details are not available but during her visit she spoke at a Peshawar University seminar where she revealed that her government wanted a dialogue with Muslims to remove ‘misunderstandings’ that exist on both sides.

The ‘misunderstandings ‘ were removed through US’ economic tool: the World Bank. An 11-member World Bank delegation, led by country Director John Walls, met NWFP chief minister and expressed satisfaction over financial discipline enforced by MMA government. The reward for financial discipline was a promise of an early release of $ 90 million tranche to NWFP government for its Structural Adjustment Credit (SACIII). There were few other ‘disciplines’ that the MMA government had enforced that John Walls did not praise. Dress code for students, for instance. Western-style trousers were banned. Prayers, at work places, became mandatory for government employees. Music was banned and Peshawar’s historic Music Market was destroyed. The most funny ‘disciplinary action’ was a code for billboards. Women images on hoardings were banned. This ban was a reaction to Jamaat-style ad-busting. Jamaat activists destroyed all such billboards that were carrying women images. The most funny sight as a result of this ban were cinema houses’ billboards. Life size hoardings outside of cinema houses are part of Indian sub-continent’s film culture. Peshawar was famous for its exotic film hoardings. Now after the ban, women faces could not be painted hence bangles and peacocks showed their presence in the film cast.

A town with limited possibilities for women to go out, Peshawar now became a total-male town. Women could not be sighted even on billboards. If an alien happens to visit Peshawar these days, it would certainly wonder how people reproduce here.

When MMA had enforced a complete ‘discipline’, MMA chief Minister Akram Durrani was paid another visit. This time by Ryan Crocker who had replaced Nancy Powel as US ambassador to Pakistan. According to a newspaper report (published 12 April 2005), ‘Ryan Croker along with his team, called on NWFP chief minister Akram Khan Durrani here at Frontier House and agreed to reinforce the existing developmental ties between US and NWFP. The American envoy sought long term developmental partnership with the Frontier government to bring the two governments close to each other’.

Do they need any further closeness when MMA is sheepishly lending support to US ‘war on terror’ in bordering Tribal Areas? In fact, both are already close and have always been since Cold War days. The current ‘war on terror’, is a selective ‘war’. Not a general pattern.

Lastly, a word about Iran. The standard press story that Iranian mullahs are dogmatically unbent in their opposition to Big Satan, is not vindicated by the facts on ground. This may be true that Big Satan never co-opted Khomenis. But the beards in Tehran have always been ready to collaborate. One little example will demonstrate: in 2003, the mullahs offered a ‘grand bargain’ to Big Satan. According to Flynt Leverett, the then National Security Council’s senior director on Middle East Affairs, the Iranian government offered to end its support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine while transforming Hizbollah into a socio-political organisation. In return, it Tehran wanted an end to the sanctions, security guarantees and US nod for joining WTO. Tehran was willing to meet Zalmay Khalizad, the then US ambassador to Afghanistan, to hold negotiations. Tehran also willing to reveal names of al-Qaida leaders it had detained in Iran in exchange for the MEK (Mujaheeden-e-Khalaq) members list. Washington refused this bargain and reprimanded its ambassador in Vienna for passing along the offer from Iranian government. It is, it seems not big beards but Big Satan that is dogmatically inflexible in case of Iran. (ends)

Attached is a list of projects the Bank financed in NWFP during
2001-2006. The
amount is US$ in millions.
|NWFP First Development Policy Credit | 01-Jun-06|
30-Jun-07| 90|
|NWFP Community Infrastructure Project II ( | 20-May-04|
31-Dec-09| 37.1|
|NWFP CIP2) | |
| |
|NWFP Structural Adjustment Credit Project | 09-Jul-02|
31-Dec-02| 90|
|NWFP SAC II | 22-Jun-04|
31-Mar-06| 90|
|NWFP On-Farm Water Management Project | 12-Jun-01|
31-Dec-07| 21.35|
|NWFP-OFWM - Earthquake Additional Financing | 01-Dec-05|N/A
| 10|
|NWFP SAC II -- Supplemental Financing | 25-Oct-05|N/A
| 50|

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