Egypt causing instability in Saudi Arabia?

Unlike Egypt or Syria, Saudi Arabia does not receive much coverage in international media. Except for few reports appearing occasionally about repression of Shiites in eastern region of Saudi Arabia, there has been very little coverage of ripples being created in normally sedantry Saudi society due to brutal military crackdown and massacres by Egyptian Army led by Al-Sisi.

Whereas Saudi government or rather monarchy has decided to put its weight completely behind the Egyptian military, it is not going down well amongst some strata of Saudi society.

Best overview is provided by Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued an unusually rapid and strong endorsement of the Egyptian military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-ins, calling on all Arabs to unite behind a crackdown on terrorism, incitement, and disorder. Bahrain, the UAE, and Kuwait rapidly backed his stance. But many of the most popular and influential Saudi and Kuwaiti Islamist personalities disagreed vehemently and publicly. Indeed, a popular hashtag quickly appeared on Twitter: “King Abdullah’s Speech Does Not Represent Me.”

When I started tweeting about these responses, a lot of Saudis quickly pointed me to Mohammed bin Nasir al-Suhaybani. Suhaybani had delivered a sermon at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina denouncing the crackdown, and arguing that whoever supported the coup bore the responsibility for the bloodshed and had God’s curse upon them. The video, posted to YouTube, has received hundreds of thousands of views. His rapid banishment quickly generated a popular hashtag in his defense (“Shaykh Suhayban Represents Me”) — which resonated uneasily with the hashtag “King Abdullah’s Words Do Not Represent Me.”

Few have been more outspoken than the influential Saudi Islamist Salman al-Awda, who tweeted in English on August 15: “Whoever helps a murderer – whether by word, deed, financial support, or even a gesture of approval – is an accomplice. Whoever remains silent in the face of murder to safeguard his personal interests is an accessory to the crime.” Surrounded by dozens of Arabic tweets blaming the Egyptian military for said crimes, the implications for the official Saudi position were difficult to miss. “It is clear who is driving Egypt to its destruction out of fear for their own selves,” he tweeted. “I am with those whose blood is being shed and against those who are blindly going about killing people.”

That seems to be in line with the most popular responses among the politicized Islamists of the Gulf. Examples abound. Ibrahim Darwish, in a video posted two days ago, was particularly incensed by the “monstrous crime” of Muslims killing Muslims. The Saudi professor Abd al-Aziz al-Abd al-Latif on August 16 complained about the official framing: how could it be that “supporting the coup and financing butchers and traitors is not fitna and not terrorism and not intervention in the affairs of Egypt, but fitna is calling for the rights of the downtrodden?” Another popular Islamist personality, Hajjaj al-Ajmi, declared “there is no doubt that the Gulf regimes participating in shedding the blood of Egyptians deserve the curse of God.” Others were more careful in their criticism, or focused on the need to avoid bloodshed, but their sympathies seemed clear. Mohamed al-Arefe declared himself on August 15 to be “with Egypt in my heart and my position and my preaching,” calling on Egyptians to “avoid violence, preserve the calm, do not wash blood with blood.” A’idh al-Qarni pleaded for all sides to show restraint.

But that is not all. Fearful of democracy gaining roots in the gulf neighbourhood, Saudi government got their grand mufti to implicitly endorse the coup, the brutal crackdown and the massacre.

The Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh has stressed the need to adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah to unify the Ummah and to avoid conflict and division.

He said that deviating from the teachings of the Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions is the reason behind current tribulations and calamities, in addition to deviating from moderation and issuing fatwas without knowledge.

He stressed the role of scholars to warn people against the dangers of sedition and show them the right path by disseminating accurate Shariah knowledge derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. He also warned against reverting to tribalism, extremism and conflicts over control that will cause the Ummah “great calamity.”

But in this age, one may be able to control the electronic and print media but social media is a totally different beast. The Grand Imam of Makkah Holy Mosque is a revered figure amongst Muslims but on August 23rd he delivered a friday sermon lambasting the Syrian Bashar Al-Assad but supporting the coup in Egypt. Saudi twitter went up in flames with this hashtag#خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني i.e. the sermon of Sudais doesn’t represent me

Its just a start. Saudis are taking to twitter quite aggressively

But one should not read too much into it because in the end, “protesting on internet is effortless therefore worthless.”

A fight broke out between Egyptian expats (Muslim expats more often than not support autocracies in home countries) and locals in Riyadh mosque when preacher in Friday sermon instead of toeing the official line of supporting the coup started lambasting Al-Sisi. From Al-Arabiya (visit the link for the video)

The report said the Saudi cleric had been praying for the downfall of both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and General Sisi, prompting uproar from the Egyptians who were in attendance.

And with anything happening in Saudi, it resulted in a hashtag #عراك_جامع_الفردوس. Seems hashtags will do for Saudis now. However it seems that such hashtags are causing jitters to the Saudi authorities

300 hashtags targeted KSA in one month, says official

Over 300 Twitter hashtags targeting the Kingdom and its people have been registered in just one month by the Sakina program combating extremist and terrorist ideology, which is run by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, according to the program’s director.

Speaking to Al-Watan newspaper, Abdul Monem Al-Mashooh said: “The hashtags were made by unknown people who know what they are doing and are following up closely the current events in the region.” He said over 17,000 tweets reacted to these hashtags.

“This number should be taken into consideration and should not be ignored even though it increased suddenly before vanishing. Although these hashtags failed to achieve their goals, they succeeded in stirring a limited number of people, a matter which should be dealt with carefully,” he added.

He regretted the fact that several accounts on Twitter acknowledged and interacted with the hashtags without verifying their sources and real purposes.

“Everyone should realize very well that this is a battle against the Kingdom and it should be fought with great wisdom. Our religion, security, unity and minds are targeted. Reforms and advice are a must but those who wish evil to this country and hate us should not play any role in the process of reform and advice.” Al-Mashooh said the hashtags were made from unknown Twitter accounts that are run by people who want to wreak havoc and chaos in the Kingdom in order to achieve their goals.

“They care about nothing but instigating sedition, exaggerating mistakes, and filling people’s minds with hatred. They have been trained to create an environment conducive to chaos,” he warned.

Al-Mashooh said most Twitter users in the Kingdom realize that such hashtags come from foreign sources.

“Most people refuse such hashtags because they go against the Shariah. People realize what happened to other countries whose people listened to the calls for chaotic revolutions,” he said while emphasizing the importance of countering such hashtags with wisdom.

The Sakina program plays a weak role in countering such extremist ideologies on social networking sites because it does not have enough capabilities, Al-Mashooh pointed out. He called for setting up a center to study such hashtags and other posts on social networking sites.

Why and How MQM Rabita Committee was beaten

[All updates will be at the end if this piece]

All the videos shared below are found on my earlier post Altaf Hussain : King of Hearts so apologies to those who were expecting newer material. The purpose of this post is to try to make sense of the events that led up to Rabita Committee being beaten.

Altaf Hussain had been making drunk speeches recently. According to my Dad, he has been making speeches after drinking cheap kachchi vodkas, which created an impulse in me to probe my dad further as how he came to know about side effects of cheap vodka but I digress.

He has always been a joker whenever he made those live performances (to call them anything other than “performances” such as speech etc would be dishonesty) and one can find tens of such video on youtube, however, for our current discussion it all started when Altaf Hussain threatened PTI protestors staging a dharna aka sit-in (or dharni according to MQM who claim Dharna comprises of a very large crowd) at Karachi’s Teen Talwaar roundabout against irregularities in polling of NA-250 National Assembly seat.

It was a peaceful dharna mainly comprising of upper class kids who before these elections and appearance of Imran Khan on political scene of Pakistan had been apolitical and had never really felt the terror of MQM like the people who live in middle class and lower class areas of Karachi. In his live speech to the protestors, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai threatened these protesters that he will let loose his workers on them who will cut them up with swords.

Normally, it would have been enough to shut Karachi down. But the so-called youthias (a play on “youth” supporters of PTI) of PTI may not be politically savvy but they are social media savvy. And since Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai made this speech on live TV which all channels under instruction from MQM showed live, this really fired up the social media.

In subsequent days, PTI staged protests in different middle class areas of Karachi (which were about apparently polling irregularities but implicitly against MQM as MQM was the one party mainly engaging in irregularities in Karachi) such as Gulshan, North Nazimabad, Sharae Faisal which would have been unthinkable before the Teen Talwar protest.

Anyway, after the sword remarks by Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai, Rabita Committee (RC) goes into damage control mode. Raza Haroon comes on TV and explains that in Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s speech, sword was an allusion to three swords on the eponymous Teen Talwar Roundabout inscribed with founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s words Unity, Faith and Discipline. To anyone who has heard Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s speech this seemed absurd but you have to admit, it was the best they could come up with in short time. Anyway, it became a butt of jokes on social media.

Adnan Asim's Karachi City. 3 Talwar ( Swords )...

Couple of days later, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai has a live press conference with journalists where he threatens the journalists and ECP:

It was becoming too hard for RC to control the damage that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was doing to himself and consequently to MQM.

Then tragedy strikes. One night before the repolling has to take place in NA250 and which MQM had boycotted, PTI office bearer Mrs. Zehra Shahid is gunned down which police immediately describes us mugging gone wrong and everybody else i.e. witnesses and media described as a case of targeted killing.

When news reaches Imran Khan leader of PTI, he releases a statement from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for spinal injury after his fall, that he holds Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai directly responsible for her murder and also holds British Government responsible for allowing Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai to run his party and killings from London.

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Despite it being an open secret that MQM has a militant wing and it engages in targeted killings on behalf of MQM as well as hires out its services to other local and international agencies, and whereas other parties do claim in their protests and publication that MQM has terrorized the city, it was the first time that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was reported by all the 24 hour news media as well as international media as being called a murderer and consequently running a terrorist organization.

MQM who has always controlled media with an iron hand was at taken aback as never any adverse news about MQM has been released in media as MQM has the ability to shut down channels as well as physically threaten their workers and journalists in Karachi. MQM was not prepared such a serious allegation which was “heard around the world”.

Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai wanted to make another live televised address to counter this allegation but RC stopped him saying that RC will take care of it. RC called a press conference and condemned Imran Khan for making a baseless allegation and later on also stated that they will send Imran Khan a Rs.50 Billion defamation suit.

However, Altaf Bhai was not satisfied with Rabita Committee’s statement and instead of calling the audience through RC (normal procedure) sends out an announcement of his speech to workers the same night by directly announcing it through electronic media.

The speech is made around 4 in the morning allowing workers to congregate as his announcement was sent out very late. In a performance worthy of Oscar award, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai ended his speech by asking his workers that RC did nothing when Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s honor was challenged, will you, the workers, also will also remain quiet. Egged on by Hammad Siddiqui, workers get fired up and stand up.

We all know what happened afterwards. You can hear Farooq Sattar’s voice over the speaker in the end where he is pleading with the enraged workers “maafi maang to rahay hain hum”.

Not many people know this but Altaf Hussain when he was still in Karachi had Farooq Sattar beaten “aik joota fi kas” i.e., every worker was asked to beat him with one boot each. At the time, Farooq Sattar was trying to wrangle for more control in MQM and may be trying to weaken influence of Altaf Bhai.

In this beating, Babar Ghori’s clothes were torn, Raza Haroon received facial injuries and that is the reason he is not coming on media since then. But worst was reserved for Wasay Jalil. Altaf Bhai said “issay itni zor say joota maro ke mujhay yahan tak awaz aaye” (beat him so hard with a boot that I can hear the voice over the line [here in London]).

The workers are part of Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC) i.e. organizing committee. It is headed by Hammad Siddiqui who is younger brother of MQM former MPA Adil Siddiqui. All the Unit Incharges and Sector Incharges report to Hammad Siddiqui and all MQM workers report to their respective unit incharges. So when workers beat RC members, it is said that Hammad had them beaten because RC and Hammad/KTC didn’t see eye to eye.

However, this doesn’t take away the fact Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was listening while the beating was going on and didn’t stop it. In an effort of damage control for public consumption, all the workers who had participated in beating RC members were asked to submit written apologies next day.

Later that day workers convention is held wherein media is barred from reporting live. Through a press release it is made know that due to not following party discipline, Hammad Siddiqui-head of KTC is removed and KTC is dissolved. Hammad Siddiqui is being made a scapegoat here as Altaf Bhai was well aware when the beatings were going on.

However, RC being a public and positive face of MQM needed to be appeased and this what they asked for as a minimum as they wouldn’t dare ask for abdication of Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai.

Hammad Siddiqui is paying a heavy price for showing the exact loyalty that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai demands from his workers. His membership of MQM has been cancelled and he has been barred from making any contact with workers and workers have been barred from making any contact with him.

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Situation on ground is very fluid right now. Arrival of PTI has shaken MQM to the core and they are going on a major rebranding exercise. RC both in London and Karachi have just been dissolved. It could be that RC Karachi was rebelling. There is also a tussle between RC Karachi and RC London. Former MQM MPA Tariq Javaid is back in town from London and it was earlier presume he will take over reins of KTC. The new organization structure will emerge from MQM worker’s convention set for 25th May 2013. If time and life permits, will write another post on how and why this rebranding is just a facade.

UPDATE 1:
All news media reporting that Hammad Siddiqui has left for Dubai. MQM has placed a ban in media since above events to not report anything without their permission. This means that news about Hammad leaving for Dubai is released by MQM themselves causing one to doubt its veracity. There are whispers that Hammad is being kept underground at safest place in Karachi ie MQM HQ Nine Zero in Azizabad.

UPDATE 2:
If you want to know how deep is MQM entrenched in security apparatus of Karachi, read this amazing piece on murder of GEO network journalist Wali Khan Babar – Roots of Impunity

Altaf Hussain : King of Hearts – Picture from the Archives

Educated people are baffled that how Altaf Hussain can demand such loyalty and hold such sway over people.

Since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, there hasn’t been a leader who is culturally sensitive to his audience. He talks in the language they understand.

When he calls on feudals, he addresses them as “aye zameendara”, 

when he talks to burger bachchas, he uses the Thundercats allegory of a sword

,

with the journalists he uses a different tone

or

and when he talks to his workers,

 well, you get the drift.

But cultural sensitivity of Quaid e Tehreek is not defined by his talk alone. He walks it as well. It is evident in his mannerisms. In 1981, he visited Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with Rauf Siddiqui. The picture below though is undated but would have been taken around the same time. Talking with Arabs, he adopted their mannerisms. Don’t think any one till then or has ever since did this.

Quaid e Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai – King of Hearts

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Deed Apne Thi Use Khwahish
Aap ko har tarah bana dekha

Kahin abid bana kahin zahid
Kahin rindon ka peshwa dekha

Kahin woh dar libaas-e-mashooqan
Bar sare naaz aur ada dekha

AQ Khan and Nuclear Bomb : Part II : Aslam Beg and Iraq’s Kuwait Invasion

But since [General Aslam] Beg did not care where Pakistan’s money or political patronage came from, he simultaneously reached out to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, authorizing a KRL [Khan Research Laboratories] agent to approach Baghdad just as the UN Security Council authorized the use of “all means necessary” to eject Iraq from Kuwait and a US-led coalition prepared to insert ground forces into Kuwait to repel Saddam’s army. Beg’s man offered the Iraqi secret service something special, a nuclear bomb. The Iraqi nuclear weapons program—code-named PC-3—had been all but destroyed by Israel’s attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981, and for the following decade, against a backdrop of censure from the international community, Saddam and his scientists had struggled to rebuild it. But here was pragmatic and impoverished Pakistan offering Saddam the whole package, a complete product or the blueprints to manufacture one (along with advice and drawings on the creation of a uranium enrichment plant). PAEC in Islamabad would machine the former, and the latter would come from A. Q. Khan at Kahuta, who planned to recycle bomb designs given to him by China in the 1980s.

If intelligence about this offer had filtered out at the time it would have radically transformed the approach to the Gulf War, as no US president would have willingly put thousands of American troops into a maverick state armed with a nuclear weapon. However, another five years would pass before the West glimpsed the Pakistan–Iraq deal, after IAEA inspectors raided a farm outside Baghdad belonging to General Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, who, as director of the Military Industrialization Authority, had been in charge of the country country’s weapons program. Briton Gary Dillon, who led this inspection team, recalled how they recovered boxes of documents, among which was a tantalizing reference to the offer made by Pakistan. Dillon’s team was so shocked by the contents of the one-page memo that for some time they presumed it was a fake. Headed “Top-Secret Proposal,” it referred to something with the code name “Project A/B.” Dillon said: “The memo appeared to be from the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service, and dated 6 October 1990 it was an account of a meeting that had taken place in the offices of the Technical Consultation Corporation, a procurement organization used by the Mukhabarat.” Addressed to an unnamed link man in PC-3, it reported: “We have enclosed for you the following proposal from the Pakistani scientist Dr. Abd-el-Qadeer Khan [sic] regarding the possibility of helping Iraq establish a project to enrich uranium and manufacture a nuclear weapon.” On offer were project designs for a bomb, with the necessary components supplied by European companies operating through the nexus of Dubai. The report noted that a meeting could not be arranged with Khan himself, due to the chaos surrounding the invasion of Kuwait, so instead a rendezvous was proposed with a trusted intermediary in Greece. As to Pakistan’s motives, the Mukha-barat was clear: money.

Poring over the documents, Dillon’s team found a second reference to Pakistan, something that resembled the offer KRL had made to Iran in 1987. It was a menu of items for sale, with a request by Pakistan’s intermediary for an initial fee of $5 million, with 10 percent commission payable by Iraq on every purchase. Dillon recalled: “We also discovered a response from PC-3 to the Mukhabarat that warned of their fears of a possible sting operation. Iraq’s nuclear specialists were unsure.” It was such an extraordinary offer, someone proposing to sell a nuclear bomb to a malignant Arab state, that even an adventurist like Saddam was skeptical. But then, he had seen what the forces pitted against his nuclear plans were capable of—like the undercover Mossad hit men who had killed one of his top scientists in a hotel room in Paris.

Dillon said: “Hedging their bets, PC-3 suggested that Iraq obtain samples from Pakistan before agreeing to go-ahead.” But there the paper trail ended. Dillon later tracked around the world to identify the parties involved and traced an Iraqi who had participated in the negotiations to Australia, where he was living as a refugee. “He refused to discuss the Iraqi nuclear project,” Dillon recalled. “He said, ‘I know my rights and if you pursue this I will disappear and you will never be able to find me.’ We registered our extreme concern at the IAEA and I tried to prick the US interest too, but no one in Washington wanted to talk about it or share any intelligence.” Dillon scrutinized the documents. “I believed that they were an accurate representation of what Pakistan had put on the table—although we could never know for sure. As for the overall code name, Project A/B, I puzzled over this for some time until I realized what the letters stood for: Atom Bomb. The truth is often far simpler than one thinks.”

There was a morbid conclusion to the uncovering of the Iraqi bomb-for-sale plot. Dillon explained: “We had been led to the farm where we found the Pakistani bomb proposal by General Hussein Kamel and his brother, Colonel Saddam Kamel, after they had defected to Jordan on 8 August 1995, bringing with them their wives, Saddam’s daughters Rana and Raghad, and Saddam’s nine grandchildren.” Saddam would never forget the treachery, and the following February he lured the Kamel brothers back to Baghdad, only to have them and many of their in-laws shot dead in their own home.

The cash deal with Iraq faltered, but General Beg worked hard to get the Islamabad–Baghdad relationship on track. As US troops entered Kuwait in February 1991, General Beg called on prime minister Sharif and, without mentioning the Mukhabarat negotiations, reasoned that Pakistan should stand beside Saddam Hussein. Sharif was startled. He recalled: “Pakistan had already pledged to be part of an Islamic coalition formed to defend the Middle East against Saddam and we had offered to send soldiers to Saudi Arabia. I had been touring Arab states pulling the coalition together. Saddam had occupied an Islamic state, Kuwait, and was threatening to attack our sponsors, Saudi Arabia. I said to Beg, ‘No, we won’t support Saddam.’ He left disgruntled and no doubt sowed dissent in the military against me.”

Excerpted from “Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network

Street fighting : Football edition

I grew up in Saudi Arabia where Saudis outnumber the expats many times unlike other middle eastern countries where you can go on living for months without running into a local. Hence we had picked up large number of Arabic street words and though could not carry a complete conversation in Arabic yet could find our way around easily in Arabic.

In our neighbourhood block, there were a few Pakistani families with kids our age but it was mainly a local majority area. In the evening we played football on the roads. When the traffic increased in a few years, we moved on to empty lots of land and when population increased further and empty lots were converted into buildings we moved to football grounds located in parks which were at least 15 minutes walk from our neighbourhood.

Before moving to parks, we used to play amongst ourselves (i.e. Pakistanis). In parks and grounds, occasionally there were other contenders for the field as well mainly the local saudi kids. This is where things got exciting. We were not gifted football players and our game had not improved a lot since childhood days as we did not take it too seriously challenged always playing amongst ourselves 4 or 5 a side and during exam times even 2 a side.

When we played with the locals, it would be like 8 or 9 a side and all of us Pakistanis in one team. During the early games we lost badly with even their weakest players going home with a goal or two under on the score card.

Over time our game improved and we started giving them tough competition. For the locals, whose national game was Football, losing to measly Pakistanis would tantamount to loss of face. As such, they would resort to hard tackles to dispossess us of the ball or play unfairly to keep us from winning. But you can’t lose forever and we would win despite their questionable tactics.

Occasionally the game would end into fights as they could not bear losing to us. Being expats, we were afraid of hitting them hard so that it might not bring trouble (local police to our homes). However, the uncouth locals had no such inhibitions stones, pepsi cans even discarded beverage bottles on the outskirts of the ground were fair game for them.

Football turned out to be our training ground for street fighting. The best strategy was that when the fight broke out hit as many punches and kicks as quickly as possible and run!. The locals could always count on passerbys to join increase their numbers as they would definitely be a local but we had only ourselves to fall back on. So it was always a punch here, jab there, kick in the groin and run for your lives.

The best part was that as we were kids, we could not hold a grudge for long. Boys being boys can’t remain play indoors forever. So after a gap of couple of days allowing the tempers to cool down we would go back to the same ground and play football again. You have to give it to the locals (even if a little) that they would have forgiven our hit and run incident of last week.

Though our football skills had improved slowly playing with locals, significant improvement came from street fighting wherein we learnt such skills as sprint bursts, dogding (necessary to dodge a stone or bottle hurled at you) and major increase in our stamina as we had to lose them in the streets and not lead them to our homes.

Looking back I would say that football introduced us to street fighting which in turn improved our football.

It also brought me the realization that blood is thicker than water but that is for a separate post.