A Pashtun Paradox from Peshawar

May 29, 2010

“The real problem with American society is that we’re supremely greedy, stupid and lazy when it comes to our politics and government. Most of us invest next to nothing in thinking about issues and voting intelligently, let alone other more robust forms of political participation,” said Dr. David Michael Green, Associate Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University in New York.

Greece is bankrupt and the European Union is teetering on the edge of financial collapse. A global climate catastrophe is at hand with atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide estimated at 390 parts per million, well above the sustainable level scientists peg at 350. A gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico not only has caused an environmental disaster of Exxon Valdez proportions (British Petroleum-BP-was behind that one, too!), but also has exposed U.S. government malfeasance in regulating BP’s offshore drilling.
Iraq is once again proving that the mission is anything but accomplished, as a deadly new wave of bombings engulfs the land of two rivers, adding to the 1.3 million plus Iraqis killed as a result of the U.S. invasion. President Obama’s “surge” of 30,000 troops into war torn Afghanistan is failing, causing only more bloodshed and strengthening the determination of Afghan resistance fighters to eject their U.S. occupiers.
Meanwhile back in Pakistan, the CIA is busy killing innocent civilians with their ever-expanding fleet of unmanned drones, as U.S. special forces flood into the Northwest frontier, ratcheting up for the next military operation against the Pakistani Taliban.
Clearly, the time was ripe to stage another dramatic episode from the “War on Terror” to divert the attention of the gullible American public from the aforementioned problems.
Enter Faisal Shahzad, the latest to star in a cast of Muslim militants, all allegedly having received their terrorist training in Pakistan. First, there was Richard Reid, a British native who spent two years in Pakistan, and was convicted of attempting to down American Airlines flight 63 on 22 December 2001 using explosives packed in his shoes. Next was Junaid Babar, a Pakistani-American who was arrested in New York for plotting bomb attacks in England in April 2004. Then came Najibullah Zazi, an Afghani who received explosives training in Pakistan in 2008, and admitted plotting a suicide attack in the New York subway system in September 2009.
Now comes the paradoxical Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from a well-to-do Pakistani family of Pashtun ancestry, whose father was a Vice Air Marshal in the Pakistani Air Force. Shahzad stands accused of attempting to detonate an improvised explosive device inside a sports utility vehicle in Times Square near 45th Street and Seventh Avenue on 1 May 2010. According to the 5-count indictment, he received his bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan.
“This is a tragedy for me and every Pakistani, every Pashtun,” laments Faiz Ahmed, former mayor of the village of Mohib Banda, the Shahzad family’s ancestral home in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, about 25 km from the provincial capital of Peshawar. However, the tragic tale is not without its problems.
First, Mr. Shahzad does not exactly fit the profile of a potential terrorist and, in fact, seems to have been a textbook example of a successful American immigrant. While Richard Reid had numerous brushes with the law and converted to Islam while in prison, Faisal Shahzad is a college graduate, married with two children and held a lucrative job as a financial analyst. Then in July 2009, 3 months after gaining his U.S. citizenship, he suddenly quit his job, packed his belongings, abandoned his home, allowing it to slip into foreclosure, and hurriedly moved back to Pakistan.
Next are the puzzling details of the alleged attack in which no one was injured and the bomb failed to detonate. The crude explosive device consisted of propane, gasoline and M-88 firecrackers, which according to Phantom Fireworks President Bruce Zoldan, “wouldn’t damage a watermelon.” Despite that, Mr. Shahzad is charged with terrorism and using a weapon of mass destruction. Retired Pakistani general, Brigadier Javed Husain, remarked that claiming Shahzad was using a “weapon of mass destruction” was a laughable exaggeration.
Finally, there was the dramatic, last minute capture of the suspect by U.S. officials on board an airliner about to take off for Dubai.
Retired Brigadier General Talat Masood suggests the motive for this latest orchestrated Pakistani terrorist drama is to allow the U.S. and the international community to put increased pressure on Pakistan to clear out its militant jihadi sanctuaries. To that end, U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta have already met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, no doubt to plan the next U.S. attack to be unleashed upon Waziristan.
In his role as terrorist du jour, Shahzad has waived his legal rights and is cooperating with FBI, CIA and Defense Department Investigators. U.S. officials claim that Shahzad admitted that his Times Square bombing escapade was backed and funded by the Pakistani Taliban, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had insisted earlier. This, of course, provides justification for continued U.S. acts of terrorism on Pakistani soil.
However, other U.S. officials seem to be reading from different versions of the script. Senior U.S. commander General David Petreaus stated that Shahzad was a lone wolf, who perhaps was inspired by militants but had no direct contact with them. Other sources contradicted Petreaus and claimed that U.S. officials had found Shahzad’s funding link in Pakistan, which may be a reference to the Hanif Rajput Catering Service, owned by wealthy Pakistani Mohammad Ashraf Khan, whose son, Salman Ashraf, was detained in connection with the investigation. Still another source suspects a link between Shahzad and Kashmiri militants. U.S. investigators appear to be floundering, considering the multiple arrests taking place everywhere from Long Island to Pakistan.
In the meantime, the U.S. continues its targeted assassinations program, initiated by former President Bush and expanded by President Obama. Over 500 alleged terrorists have been killed in Pakistan by CIA drones since the summer of 2008.
Is Professor Green correct? Are Americans too stupid or lazy to comprehend that the current chaos in Pakistan and Afghanistan stems from their own government’s past support of the very same organizations it now brands as “terrorist,” such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban? Are Americans incapable of grasping the undeniable fact that the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence collaborated in the 1980s to create al-Qaeda, then known as the Mujahideen, to wage a proxy war against the Soviet Union?
Over 1,200 Pakistanis have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks since August 2009 as a consequence of U.S.-induced violence in the region. Is it surprising that some of them would be extremely angry and perhaps even sufficiently enraged to contemplate launching counter attacks against their American assailants? No, absolutely not.
However, in the case of Mr. Faisal Shahzad, the botched bombing story reads a bit too much like a script from a low budget Hollywood movie to be convincing. I believe this “terrorist attack” is nothing more than a fabricated fable from Washington’s fear factory.