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Tale Of ‘Martyr’ Osama And The ‘Infidels’ Who Fought The War On Terror

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Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan called Osama bin Laden a martyr, which reflects the confusion of our state despite losing more than 70,000 innocent people. Indeed, we have not learnt our lesson. Calling a terrorist a martyr is the insult of the innocent people who sacrificed their lives for the country. Let’s understand the context as to why the remarks wrong and uncalled for.

After the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, fighters from all over the world were encouraged by the United States and its allies to join the Afghan war to participate in the noble religious cause against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The trauma started in 1979 with the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. It was expected that the ambition of USSR (now Russia) was to access Pakistan’s warm waters. It is also a fact that USSR was twice invited by the Afghan politicians, but they had refused. The third invitation from the Afghan government led towards the 1979 invasion.

A war was subsequently launched, in which 20,000 to 30,000 fighters from all over the Islamic world participated. Afghan warlords and their militias were armed and provided financial aid. The fight continued for 10 years until the disintegration of USSR. Due to the internal as well as the economic issues, USSR withdrew in a hurry leaving behind heavy weapons. The United States and the European countries were also quick to leave the arena.

During the Soviet occupation, Pakistan and Afghanistan were hosting the fighters with the help of the US and Saudi Arabia. In 1982, a Palestinian, Dr Abdullah Azzam and a group of spiritual leaders established the organisation called Maktaba al Khidmat in Peshawar. Osama Bin Laden was Azzam’s deputy. The organisation’s main objectives were to provide financial, logical and other support to the Afghan fighters. As Osama himself belonged to the elite family, the majority of the donation came from there. It should be clear that this did not happen secretly but the CIA and Pakistani agencies were also reportedly encouraging this and helping in the process.

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However, in the mid-1980s, Osama started to disagree with his mentor Dr Abdullah Azzam. He wanted to participate in the war and become a fighter instead of remaining association with only the donations. He formed his own force of a few Arab fighters. Initially, it was popular with the name of “Arab Brigade.” It can be said that the Afghan fighter was much likely to return to their villages for harvest crops, get married, attend the funerals but the Arab fighters were nowhere to go back.

In 1986, Osama set up his own base closer to a soviet garrison in eastern Afghanistan. Later on, in 1987, he fought a battle against the soviet at Jaji. That battle was highlighted around the world. Soon, Osama met an Egyptian medical doctor Ayman al Zawahiri (currently leader of the notorious al-Qaeda) who was providing treatment to the fighters.

In 1988, Osama formed al-Qaeda. The name term was first used by Dr Azzam in April 1988 in an article for a magazine named Jihad. In his article, he emphasised the idea to form an organisation that would work for social services in the Muslim world. He had never linked his idea with any war or fight. Osama took the name suggested by Azzam and formed al-Qaeda. A year later, Abdullah Azzam was assassinated and it was suspected that Osama was behind it.

In 1996, after the Taliban took over the control of Afghanistan, Osama arrived in Jalalabad. Subsequently, Arabs from various countries who had left after the Afghan war started to return to join forces with Osama. Al-Qaeda comprises a shura (consultative body) under which there are four committees, namely military, media, finance and religious affairs.

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The event of 9/11 changed the political dimensions of the world. Due to the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban and al-Qaeda members fled from the scene. Many members relocated to mountains, especially in the formerly Federal Administration tribal Areas (Fata) in the North-West of Pakistan. As Pakistan shares its western border with Afghanistan, the tribes are ethnically and culturally very close to each other. Despite this, Pakistan faces serious security issues from the same side.

Pakistan captured 689 al-Qaeda members and handed over 369 of them to the US, receiving bounties totaling millions of dollars.

Later, the Abbottabad operation caused the world to raise questions on Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, but Pakistan has suffered a lot, losing 70,000 people in the name of war on terror. It also took a significant toll on the economy.

Who is and isn’t a martyr is something our politicians need to be very careful about.


1 Comment

  1. Ahmed July 5, 2020

    Can you answer a few questions:
    1- Benazir Bhutto said in Nov 2007 that OBL died a natural death. Was she right or wrong? If she was right than the Abottabad raid was a something else. Can she be wrong?
    2- How does one become shaheed? How do we decide that?


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