Osama bin Laden’s successor

Published: June 19, 2011

Aiman alZawahiri comes from a privileged family of doctors in Egypt. A qualified physician, he was to acquire a PhD in surgery from a Pakistani medical university while living in Peshawar. PHOTO: AFP

People who know al Qaeda knew that Aiman alZawahiri will run al Qaeda because he has been running it all along. He is the man who, by his own admission, wants to become the caliph of Pakistan, if not the entire Muslim world. He has written a critique of Pakistan’s current Constitution in his booklet Morning and the Lamp being circulated by the madrassa network in Pakistan as the next constitution of the country.

AlZahawiri’s rise has been steady but dogged, overcoming differences of opinion within al Qaeda and its international cells. Osama was vatic and otherworldly; alZawahiri was the operational brains with his doctrine of the ‘near enemy’ and takfeer (apostatisation).

Aiman alZawahiri came from a privileged family of doctors in Egypt. Himself a qualified physician, he was to acquire a PhD in surgery from a Pakistani medical university while living in Peshawar. Reading Syed Qutb, he favoured applying violence to end the jahiliyya of Muslim societies not living under sharia. Al Qaeda was created in Peshawar in 1987-88 when the intellectual leader under Osama bin Laden was the great Palestinian scholar Abdullah Azzam. Joining late, alZawahiri soon began to monopolise Osama and pushed Azzam to the margin, some say causing him to be killed in Peshawar with his two sons.

Osama was persuaded by alZawahiri’s argument in favour of al adou al qareeb (enemy who is nearby) in opposition to Azzam’s global vision of jihad which was described to Osama as al adou al baeed (enemy who is far away). This was, in effect, the beginning of the narrowing of the vision of al Qaeda. Once this strategy was adopted, jihadists were permitted to vent their own local and regional angers on the ‘near enemy’ who happened to be fellow-Muslims.

AlZawahiri wanted the US to come out and fight far away from ‘fortress America’ and he succeeded when America invaded Afghanistan in 2001, although he miscalculated the fury of Washington’s response and had to hightail it out of Afghanistan into Pakistan’s tribal areas, only to face a Pakistan Army allied with the US and its international brigade of scared governments. But this was the moment of the Pakistan Army’s punishment for having created an entire underworld of proxy warriors during the 1980-90s. AlZawahiri strategic skills later netted him the entire jihadi network plus army officers who decided to retire and join al Qaeda.

He had Arab terrorists gravitating to the tribal areas but the best thronging al Qaeda camps were the warriors whom the military had trained and been using for raids in Indian-administered Kashmir. One such person was Ilyas Kashmiri who created his Brigade 313 to take revenge on the Pakistan Army for having reneged on jihad. Then there were retired majors and captains enslaved to alZawahiri’s jahiliya and takfeer, willing to kill army personnel and army officers. The old practice in the army of letting officers go on tableeghi furlough helped in this process. Army chiefs began to be targeted in Rawalpindi.

Some say alZawahiri had put Osama away in Abbottabad in 2005 with the help of his local moles so that he could get better control of al Qaeda. If he did that it proved effective, because the forces arrayed against the state of Pakistan became stronger through integration. The Punjabi Taliban were put under the Haqqani network, although Pakistan thought the network was its asset. AlZawahiri totally overpowered Sufi Muhammad’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and occupied Swat; he converted to takfeer Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid in Islamabad through his Arab proselytiser Sheikh Essa and came closer to the prize he has always sought: The capital of Pakistan.

Pakistan and its elected parliament have made the rest of alZawahiri’s journey easy. If things continue as they are, the number of al Qaeda and Taliban sympathisers will only increase and a point could come when this reaches a critical level.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Shock Horror
    Jun 20, 2011 - 2:23AM

    ISI and Pakistani Army chief should be happy, as following the raids in Indian Administered Kashmir, and a decidedly poor outcome, its trained personnel are, like chicken, coming home to roost. How long were things expected to remain quiet? The old saying, as you sow so shall you reap, seems very appropriate, unfortunate as it may be!Recommend

  • usman
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:47AM

    Khaled Ahmed is shining through these editorial words. I like him and his style is unmistakeable.Recommend

  • ashwin
    Jun 20, 2011 - 2:48PM

    Syed saleem Shahzad was killed for exactly such writing.Please for you’r safety please be more discreet when writing such editorials .Anyways what is done is done,let us concentrate on removing this scourge. Recommend

  • humza
    Jun 20, 2011 - 4:30PM

    I would request the writer to name any army personnal who is affiliated to Al Qaida less a nursing of medical corps envolve in GHQ attack. Moreover, the type of life Usama was spending in abbottabad was miserable. He had to request for money to his comarades for his rations. So what difference will it make after his death? it was same leadership before Usama’s death also.
    Please donot portray a dark future. I would request you to write in a manner which should encourage our leadership to take bold steps and develop the confidence in youth to report about miscreants in their surroundings.
    Please do this favour to nation and its youth to get united.
    The sacrifices army has given in this war are much more than 65 and 71. The success of American operation at Abbottabad was Intelligence failure because of inefficiency of local security apparatus (Chaukidars, Khasadars etc) and police. Intelligince cannot be everywhere, police and local security appratus are the sources for intelligence.
    Please identify the root causes and then try to developRecommend

  • Subhash, India
    Jun 21, 2011 - 1:03PM

    @humza:
    “Moreover, the type of life Usama was spending in abbottabad was miserable. He had to request for money to his comarades for his rations”
    I do not understand this; are you empathizing with OBL & what is your source for this comment?
    If there is no correct answer for this then rest of ur comments have NO value.Recommend

  • humza
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:17PM

    For the world he was the biggest terrorist but he had one AK47 and a pistol with 70 and 12 rounds respectively. The same were never fired and their manufactiring lot of rounds were also more than five years old. His first call was traced in 2007 requesting for money for his daily food. As a matter of fact we discuss what great powers tend to project but no one is interested to listen those who reached at the site just after raid and saw those luxuries in which he was living. But still he was most wanted and people expect a change in style/ practices of alqaida after osamas death. To me, its funny …………………. After US attack he was just hiding and thats all.
    Moreover ask any one, donot believe me that how many kids, women and men (other than his sons) were there. You will come to know what the most wanted terrorist of the world was doing there.
    I know how many shoes/ sandals of kids were there after the raid and i came to know what the most wanted man doing thereRecommend

  • humza
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:21PM

    @Subhash, India:
    Please see my detail comments already written about your querryRecommend

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