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Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021
Outlook.com
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Reviewer, Read Carefully

Ajai Shukla's review of my book, The True Face Of Jehadis: Inside Pakistan's Network Of Terror, is full of factual errors a

Reviewer, Read Carefully
Reviewer, Read Carefully
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Ajai Shukla's review of my book, The True Face Of Jehadis: Inside Pakistan's Network Of Terror, is full of factual errors and inaccuracies. Perhaps Shukla did not have time to read the book carefully, and has consequently drawn some hasty conclusions.

He states: "It makes good marketing sense to update and publish in English the handbook on jehadis that Amir Mir had published in Urdu some years ago." Let me enlighten Shukla that The True Face of Jehadis hasn't been published in Urdu. It was first published by Mashal Books in Pakistan in September 2004 -- in English and not in Urdu. It seems Shukla has confused Amir Mir with Amir Rana, the author of an Urdu book on jehadis, A to Z of the Jehadi Organisations. which was subsequently translated to English.

Shukla further writes: "The more serious problem lies in Amir Mir's broader analysis. Even if one accepts the somewhat shallow thesis that the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan lies at the root of jehadi terrorism in the region, there is little to support the argument that the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 left Pakistan with thousands of jehadis on its hands with no place to send them except Kashmir".

No such conclusion has been made by me in the book. It seems the reviewer is trying to put words into my mouth. The third paragraph of Page 3 of my book states clearly: "Following the withdrawal of the Soviet occupation forces from Afghanistan in 1989, the CIA was also withdrawn from the scene, leaving it to Pakistan to deal with the mess of Islamic militancy created by the Americans. What remained after the Soviet withdrawal was a huge force of highly motivated, militarily trained Islamic militants, who were now looking for new pastures. Since there was no dearth of funds from domestic as well as foreign sources, Pakistan had at its disposal all the means required for the pursuit of promoting and sustaining Islamic militancy and utilising the same to become one of the leading lights of the Islamic world".

Shukla goes on: "As a deeper analysis would show, the withdrawal of the Soviets did not mean the end of fighting in Afghanistan or a mass laying off of the mujahideen. And large numbers of Pakistani fighters were pumped into J&K only after Islamabad decided in 1991 to sideline the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) by strengthening the Hizbul Mujahideen".

Had Shukla read the book carefully, he would have noticed what I wrote in the second paragraph of Page 5 of my book: "By the end of 1989, most of the Pakistan-based jehadi outfits and the graduates of the Afghan war were joining the jehad in Jammu & Kashmir. What began as an indigenous and secular movement for liberation, soon became an increasingly Islamist crusade to bring all of Kashmir under the Pakistani control. Within a couple of years, many Pakistan-based militant groups, especially the Hizbul Mujahideen, gained more prominence and significance as compared to the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front and other secular Kashmiri groups that believed in political struggle to achieve their goal of liberation".

Shukla then goes on to write: "When Mir declares that Mohammad Jameel, the fidayeen bomber waiting to ram General Pervez Musharraf's car in Rawalpindi, made and received 109 phone calls in 30 minutes (page 13), it strains credulity".

The information about the calls made and received by the suicide bomber 30 minutes before the attack was actually retrieved by the investigators from the memory card of his cell phone. To give a clear picture of what had happened on the day of the bombings, let me reproduce the second paragraph of the book on page 13, from which Shukla has quoted just one sentence:

"On December 25, 2003, in the half-hour before Mohammad Jameel ended his life, he was a busy man. As he sat in a pickup truck loaded with deadly explosives, he made and received no fewer than 109 calls on his cell phone, talking, at least in some cases, to accomplices in his effort to incinerate the khaki President of Pakistan. Jameel might have assumed that the evidence he was creating would disintegrate in the blast he planned for Musharraf. If he did, he was wrong. Not only did he and a second car bomber fail to kill Musharraf in their December 25 attempt, but also the memory card of Jameel's cell phone, which investigators found intact amid the detritus of the blasts, had led authorities to dozens of suspected collaborators".

Shukla states: "Footnotes would have given the book a flavour of truth but where they are provided, they are somewhat unconvincing". Shukla should have noticed that there are no footnotes at all in the book, what to talk of being "somewhat unconvincing". Instead of giving footnotes at the end of every page or chapter, I have tried to mention the original sources of information there and then in the same paragraph. This has been done to make the reading of my book more convenient. Even otherwise, footnotes is an aspect common to academic books, not to those written by journalists.

Shukla further writes: "The True Face of Jehadis is more a quick reference handbook, a variety of assertions pigeon-holed into a large number of sections. For the casual reader or for a student flitting through the Jehad 101 course, this is most convenient. For those expecting a deeper look at terrorism in South Asia, there are two serious problems in this book. The first of them is that, unlike some others in this genre, Amir Mir is long on accounts and short on references".

Here, I would like to quote a paragraph from the preface of my book, written by a noted Pakistani scholar Mr Khaled Ahmed: "Amir Mir is perhaps the only Pakistani journalist who has made an effort to bring together the published and unpublished information about the jehadi personalities from Pakistan linked to al-Qaeda. He has also juxtaposed the information published abroad and the data available in Pakistan from the heretofore-ignored jehadi publications. Amir Mir has produced a mosaic of information based on what has come to light from sources in the Arab world, as communicated by the journalists and intelligence agents of the West; and what has appeared as deadpan news in the Pakistani press. This kind of work was needed in Pakistan. It is not a book of analysis or opinion; it simply puts together the mosaic of reportage in such a way that it creates a narrative that might yield grounds for analysis".

Either Shukla was prejudiced or, as the arguments above prove, did not have the caliber and time to read my book.

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