Ayman al-Zawahiri’s new video release, titled “Message to the People of Pakistan,” closely meshes with the work of Abu Musab al-Suri (also known as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar), one of the chief political thinkers of al-Qaeda, who was arrested last November in Pakistan (Terrorism Focus, March 28). Al-Suri’s own treatise on the subject, titled Pakistan Musharraf: al-Mushkila wal-Hall, wal-Farida al-Muta’ayyana (Musharraf’s Pakistan: The Problem and the Solution…and the Incumbent Ordinance), was completed in November 2004 and extends to 161 pages. Methodically ordered and meticulously researched, the treatise sets out to demonstrate how Musharraf’s government, in its structure, policy and actions, is an infidel government, and therefore in itself illegitimate, in much the same way as al-Zawahiri presents his case. In many respects, the treatise by al-Suri forms the ideological framework for al-Zawahiri’s homily.
Al-Suri’s word for al-Zawahiri’s “dark fate” of Pakistan is karitha, the “disaster,” and avoiding this “disaster” forms the theme of his work. The “disaster” is the progressive secularization of Pakistan. “It pains us,” al-Suri laments, “to see Pakistan, the redoubtable citadel of Islam—due to a gang traitorous to God, His Prophet and the Believers—become day-by-day an American citadel for the war on God and His Prophet.” Al-Suri gives much space to Musharraf’s alleged “combat against Islam,” singling out his subordination to the U.S. war on terrorism. For al-Suri, Musharraf has “openly declared war on Islam, its ulema, madrassas and students.” Just as al-Zawahiri laments how Musharraf “provided all the backing needed to expel the Islamic Emirate from Kabul,” al-Suri discusses at length how “Muslims in Pakistan must support the Emir of the Faithful Mullah Omar and the Taliban.” Like al-Zawahiri, al-Suri is also at pains to counter the negative perceptions on the presence of the Arab mujahideen in Pakistan as causing the present crisis. In his opening note, al-Suri argues that the conflict they are waging is all one, against a common global enemy: “all we need do is change the name Pakistan for Saudi Arabia, or Yemen, or Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia or any other Islamic country…and the enemy name, whether America, Crusader Europe, Israel, or enemies of Islam such as India, they are all one and the same.” The disaster befalling Pakistan, al-Suri argues, is simply a local manifestation of the disaster that has befallen all of Islam. Pakistanis should, therefore, think more globally, less parochially, and lend their support to the mujahideen unstintingly: “Muslims in Pakistan are obligated to shelter migrant mujahideen fleeing for their faith, whether Arab or Afghan or others, from whatsoever nationality, and they must conceal them and aid them with all that they have.”
Al-Zawahiri’s case against Musharraf promoting a “jihadless Islam” forms the subject of an entire section of al-Suri’s treatise. Under the rubric “The Essence and Demands of the Sharia,” al-Suri lists obligations of government policy that conforms to the mujahid interpretation of Islam: the universality of Islamic law in religious and mundane affairs, the legitimacy of the ruler judged by this standard and conduct of foreign relations according to the doctrine of al-Wala wal-Bara (Friendship and Enmity), which regulates relations on the basis of religious propriety alone.
Al-Zawahiri’s claim that Musharraf is compromising national security is fleshed out in full in this treatise. A significant portion of the fifth section is taken up with the war with India and its influence on the progress of jihadist currents within Pakistan. Al-Suri turns on its head Musharraf’s argument (deplored by al-Zawahiri) of the need to “take care of their interests without paying attention to any moral or religious considerations.” The nation, he argues, is everyone but the government. The combined threats of “India, America behind her, and Europe,” he states, “require Pakistan to maintain internal unity, in particular between the army and the Pakistani people, and especially its militant forces, which are the Islamic organizations and the ulema and the students, and especially the armed jihadi groups which have gained fighting experience in Kashmir and Afghanistan.”
Al-Zawahiri’s emotional call upon the army’s sense of honor and fear of the afterlife to foster non-cooperation with Musharraf is given chapter-and-verse treatment by al-Suri. Under “The Essence and Demands of the Sharia” section, the author expounds at length on the implications of “soldiers and collaborators with tyrant rulers who befriend the enemies of Islam and who fight against Muslims.” The argument is subtly presented, with jurisprudential examinations made into the case of a soldier being ignorant, collaborating unintentionally or “being forced into working for the infidel powers.” From there, categorizations follow of “legitimate and illegitimate obedience to orders from commanders, scholars and elders,” but the treatise concludes that they may be killed “if they attempt to protect the infidel imams or act as bodyguards for Americans or Disbelievers.”
Al-Suri sums up the present state of the country. With the myriad agents of the FBI and the CIA operating out of annexes to Pakistani security institutions, or even independent bases, “it appears that Pakistan under Musharraf has become an American colony dependent on the American administration and its orders on the political, economic, military and security fronts, and all that follows this in cultural and social terms.” General Musharraf labors “under the American threat of their support for India” and is dependent on Washington for his position in power. “Events are going from bad to worse every day,” al-Suri warns. “What can be avoided or resisted today will be difficult to avoid tomorrow as the tentacles of the American octopus and its collaborators spread…and the seeds of secularism and treason take root and grow.” To avert this “disaster” in Pakistan, al-Suri formulates the strategy of resistance:
• Maintain the coherence of the Pakistani forces;
• Prevent the apostate government from filtering out the Islamic forces in the army (which is what they claim the United States is attempting to do);
• Do not allow Musharraf’s government to weaken the broad Islamic base of the ulema, students and Islamic and jihadi groups in Pakistan;
• Maintain the jihadi alliance of mujahid Islamic forces in the territories (Afghan mujahideen led by Mullah Omar and the Taliban; Arab mujahideen led by Sheikh Osama, al-Qaeda and the Afghan Arabs; the mujahideen in Kashmir; the Central Asian mujahideen led by the mujahideen of Uzbekistan);
• Remove the Musharraf and Karzai regimes and eliminate them;
• Expel U.S. forces from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the entire region and eradicate their presence.
Given al-Suri’s argument that “jihad against the Pakistani government and its U.S. backers is an individual obligation,” he states bluntly: “Muslims in Pakistan are to target all manifestations in Pakistan of the Western Crusader presence, American, British or other infidel allies, [all actions hostile to] their blood and wealth is therefore authorized.”
The treatise is uncompromising, unemotionally argued and consequently commands all the more weight as an authority, as one would expect from the composer of the encyclopedic 1600-page “Call to Global Islamic Resistance.” The recent confirmation of al-Suri’s arrest (after early reticence, Pakistani officials stated that al-Suri had been flown out of the country to an undisclosed destination) may mean that his writing days are over, but his ideological influence and legacy remain considerable and will continue to influence the coming generation of mujahideen. As Pakistan climbs up the scale of weakening or failing states, the need to understand the intellectual and ideological structures of Pakistan’s growing jihadist current becomes all the more urgent. For political observers, analysts and strategists, Abu Musab al-Suri’s Musharraf’s Pakistan: The Problem and the Solution should be required reading.