"Punjab is the strategic depth of bigotry and extremism masquerading in the colours of Islam."
Actually, you should probably read the whole piece. Much of it re-encapsulates well-tread ground about the origins of our extremism problem. But the following concluding bit should also perhaps be translated and read out to his party members and leaders who probably find reading anything a bit bothersome (the clarifications in [square brackets] are of course my additions)...
"All the extremist outfits with whose names we are now familiar emerged at that time [under Zia whose protege Amir's leader Nawaz Sharif was]: the jaish this and that, the lashkar so and so. Most of them were Punjab-based and members from all these organisations acquired battle experience in Afghanistan. My friend Colonel Imam of Afghan 'jihad' fame -- and who, like most good people, is from Chakwal -- takes enormous pride in saying that the most fearless fighters of all were from Punjab. And he should know for he was in the thick of it.
When with the departure of the Soviet army and the victory of the Saudi and Charlie Wilson-funded 'mujahideen', the Afghan war wound down, the fighters who had gained battle experience in Afghanistan were shifted to an entirely different front: Kashmir, where in a protracted struggle they managed to tie down half a million Indian troops.
Their godfathers in the security establishment felt elated. Forgetting the role of hard-drinking Charlie Wilson and the Saudis, they wrote a self-glorifying narrative in which it was claimed that not only had the power of faith defeated the Soviets. It had also hastened the end and break-up of the Soviet empire. If a superpower could be thus defeated, zeal and the spirit of 'jihad' could work similar miracles in Kashmir.
This was the mood then pervading the top ranks of the army and the intelligence agencies. So it is scarcely to be wondered at that when after the fall of Kabul to the 'mujahideen', a Pakistani delegation was on its way to the Afghan capital, no sooner had the aircraft carrying it entered Afghan airspace when those on board, including some Americans, were startled by a loud cry: "Allah-o-Akbar". This from the then ISI chief [and a close confidante of then PM Nawaz Sharif who appointed him], the heavily-bearded Lt-Gen Javed Nasir.
Our rendezvous with our present extremist-flowing troubles did not come about from out of the blue. We had ploughed the land and watered it for a long time.
When the Americans attacked Afghanistan post-Sept 11, the theatre of 'jihad' shifted again: back to Afghanistan. The Bush administration of course screwed things up for itself by going on to attack Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan, a piece of folly sure to haunt the US for a long time to come. But Afghanistan was bad enough by itself. It reignited the fires of holy war and, given the iron dictates of geography, it was inevitable that Pakistan sooner or later would have its hands burned by another conflict raging in Afghanistan.
Once a change of course in our strategic course was forced upon us by the US -- Musharraf succumbing to American pressure without extracting the kind of bargain that would have better served Pakistan's interests -- logic and necessity demanded a clean break with the playing-with-fire policies of the past. In other words, a clean and definitive break with Zia-minded 'jihad'. But Musharraf played a double game. Even while dancing wildly to America's tune he was never serious, or he lacked the will and capacity, to seriously rethink the past.
But now that under a new sun and a new sky we are finally embarked upon a new course -- which marks a true break with the past -- we have to realise the extent and magnitude of the problem. The terrorism we are now fighting is not a provincial subject. It is not confined to any one province. It is a composite whole, organically tied together, growing not from any isolated virus but from a sickness of the mind and soul which had the whole of Pakistan, or at least its strategic quartermasters, in its grip.
If Pakistan is to become something, realising its dreams and potential, if it has to enter the real world and leave the world of dreams and fantasies behind, then there is no course open to it except to tackle this sickness, no matter what it takes and what sacrifices it entails, without ifs and buts, and without any misconceived appeals to the Taliban."
Amir's reference to General Musharraf reminded me of the time in the year 2000, when soon after taking power and vowing to restore Jinnah's vision, he had been asked a pointed question by a young journalist about the threat of Talibanization of Pakistan at a public gathering. If I recall correctly (I was witness to it), the question had raised the issue of blowback, long before it became fashionable to talk in such terms. I still recall the general's response: he claimed that people often tended to forget that the Taliban were evolving too and cited as an example the fact that when they met for dinner with Pakistani army delegations they would now use (or at least have on the table/ dastarkhwan) cutlery and crockery... whereas earlier they would simply eat with their hands out of a single thaal (dish). I'm not making this up. A few months later, the cutlery and crockery were publicly forgotten.
As for Ayaz Amir, if ever there was a misfit in a political party...