From Faisal Shehzad to Ajmal Kasab – Two ends of Pakistani jehadi spectrum
May 17, 2010
By Amir Mir
LAHORE: Having an elite class family background, an American college degree and a handsome white collar job, even a cursory glance at the profile of Faisal Shehzad, a naturalized American of the Pakistani origin, who has been accused by the FBI of planting a car bomb into New York’s busy Times Square on May 1, simply doesn’t make him someone desirous of bombing the big apple.
Faisal Shehzad’s privileged family background as an educated, upper class Pakistani, doesn’t go with the profiles of most Muslims who resort to terrorism after being indoctrinated. Having a father – Air Vice Marshall (retd) Baharul Haq – who had first served the Pakistan Air Force and then the Civil Aviation Authority, a brother – Amir Shehzad – who is well settled in Canada as a mechanical engineer, a paternal uncle – Major General (retd) Tajul Haq – who is a former Inspector General of the Frontier Corps (IGFC), a father-in-law – Iftikhar Mian – who runs a successful business in Karachi and a wife – Huma Faisal – who studied in the United States, has an accounting degree and is active on online social networking sites, Faisal simply doesn’t fit the conventional profile of a jehadi terrorist. His looks and persona, as reflected in his pictures being flashed by international media, is more of a fashion model than a motivated jehadi or a bomber.
Faisal Shehzad, 30, has spent much of the last decade in the United States. Even before that, he used to lead a comfortable life in Pakistan, being the son of a senior Air Force official who [while still in service] had served as the defence attache in Pakistan’s embassies in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, eventually rising in the ranks to become an Air Vice Marshal. Hardly two years before his retirement, Baharul Haq was among three senior most PAF officers who had been considered for the top slot of the Air Chief. However, he could not be promoted to full Air Marshal. While Faisal Shehzad completed his higher studies from the United States, Baharul Haq had been an exchange student of the British Royal Air Force College in Cranwell, UK from 1971-72. Being a Squadron Leader, he had served the Royal Air Force College as an instructor besides being an active member of RAF’s Aerobatic Team.
Baharul Haq’s elder son Faisal Shehzad was privately educated and went to university with other sons of the Pakistani elite in Peshawar. Faisal eventually traveled to the US on a student visa in 1988 and got a master’s degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, followed by a handsome job as a budget analyst at a reputed American business firm. His path to American citizenship was eased by his marriage to a US national of Pakistani origin, Huma Mian, who was well-educated, with a business degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. On her profile on the social networking site Orkut, she has described herself as ‘not political’, and someone who can speak English, Pashto, Urdu and French. Interestingly, she listed her passions on the social networking as “fashion, shoes, bags, shopping and Faisal”. She has also posted a picture of Faisal Shehzad, smiling, with the caption, “what can I say, he is my everything”.
Till late 2008, Faisal’s was the classic American immigrant success story. But in the period that followed, he is believed to have discovered a violent version of Islam, despite the fact that it is a religion of peace. In his Peshawar home town, shocked residents remember Faisal Shehzad as a non-practicing liberal Muslim youth coming from a decent family with military background which had neither expressed hatred for the West nor shown sympathy with militant Islam or any extremist jehadi group. Faisal Shehzad has nothing in common with jehadis like Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Mumbai attacker, actually a poor and jobless Pakistani youth who was recruited by the Lashkar-e-Toiba to carry out the bloody 26/11 Mumbai assault which left 166 people dead in the Indian commercial capital. Already condemned to death by a Mumbai court, Ajmal Kasab comes from the seething, desperate poverty of southern Punjab, which has become a fertile ground for jehadi recruitment in recent years.
Kasab belongs to a poor family of the Faridkot village in Okara District of Pakistani Punjab and his father used to make a living by running a snack cart. Going by Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement, given to the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police, the 21-year-old had described his conversion from an aspiring street criminal to a loyal soldier for Lashkar-e-Toiba who was trained at the Muzaffarabad headquarters of the organisation. He came to the LeT while looking around to buy guns to commit robberies after quitting a low-paying job at a catering business. The search led him to several Lashkar-e-Toiba stalls at a busy bazaar in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. He confessed that he was largely compelled by hunger and poverty to join the LeT as the recruiters had promised to pay the families of the 24 jehadis Rs 1,50,000, each but only upon their becoming a martyr.
Compared with that of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab from Faridkot, the case of Faisal Shehzad seems entirely different. But the fact remains that Ajmal, the poor youngster who had decided to join a jehadi organisation to make money for his family and Faisal, the well off American citizen of the Pakistani origin, who decided to resort to terrorism to express his anger against the Americans, actually represent two ends of a spectrum of violent Islamic militants who are being groomed in Pakistan.
The fact that Faisal was determined to set off a bomb in America rather than in Pakistan or in Afghanistan where many Westerners have been recruited in the recent past by Al-Qaeda as human bombs makes him Pakistan’s first global jehadi. Many security analysts believe recruits bearing Western citizenship are prized by the Al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani jehadi groups primarily because their nationality, English speaking ability as well as relative comfort with life in West is largely absent among the misguided Pakistani madrassa students, no matter how motivated and committed they are to act against those who are siding with “the forces of the infidel” in the war against terror. Therefore, highly educated multinational youngsters like Faisal Shehzad are increasingly being chosen by the international jehadi mafia as recruits to strike in the heart of the West.
Source: Amir Mir