How Pakistan got into vortex of by Terrorism
We should have a broad idea of what is terrorism or what constitutes the terrorism as we know it today. Terrorism, in the normal meaning of the term, has been present in various forms and manifestations in the world since the beginning of the human society. The clan feuds, tribal clashes, wars among city states, establishment of empires at the cost of weak states, revolts against established authorities, ideological or freedom movements, revolutions, autocratic and dictatorial rules all resorted to group or state terrorism to achieve their political, economic and territorial objectives. The emergence of Baader Meinhof Gang in West Germany, the Irish Republican Army in Ireland, ETA in Spain and the Red Brigades in Italy are quite recent examples of group terrorism in the civilized Europe.
The modern states and republics even used nuclear, chemical and biological agents against their purported enemies. The use of atomic bombs by the USA against Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the British attack on Dresden in the Second World War are counted as one form of state terrorism. Japan also used chemical and biological agents in the Sino-Japan war in the early 1940s. The methods employed the white regime in South Africa and the French in Algeria were admittedly state terrorism. Similarly, the war in Vietnam; the displacement of the Palestinians from their land and their massacre by the Israeli troops in Sabra and Shatila camps; the enforced disappearances in Chile; the violent suppression of the Kashmiri uprisings by the Indian regime also fall in the broader definition of state terrorism. One of the popular forms of state terrorism is to patronize armed groups to use them against insurgents within its territory or infiltrate them into a purported hostile state to destabilize it.
All African freedom fighters and their movements particularly the Algerian National Liberation Front, the African National Congress in South Africa, and the Zimbabwean National Union (ZANU) or the Zimbabwean Peoples’ Union were dubbed by the occupying powers as terrorist groups. Throughout the war in Vietnam, the Vietcong was projected as Communist terrorists. The nationalists of Northern Ireland in the UK; the autonomy seeking Barcelona-based ETA in Spain; the East Timorese Freedom Movement in South East Asia were all labeled as terrorists by the rulers. In our continent all those nationalists who sought to overthrow the illegitimate British Imperial authority by resorting to subversion and violence were dubbed as terrorists. They were pursued, arrested, tried in kangaroo courts and executed. The world fame cases of Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi of Sindh in the early 1940s and the young socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singh of Lahore in the 1930s were illustrative of the state policy of British India against violent nationalists.
The group terrorism, state terrorism, liberation and secessionist movements, and revolts against illegitimate or authoritative or autocratic rules, ideological and revolutionary warfare are so inextricably intertwined that scholars and experts and even the United Nations Organization have so far failed to evolve a definition of terrorism that has evoked a broad consensus. Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi defines terrorism that the “method or the theory behind the method whereby an organized group or party seeks to achieve its avowed aim chiefly through the systematic use of violence”. And that “it is premeditated violence propelled by ideological or political causes”. The Institute of Strategic Studies, London terms terrorism as the “use of violence, often against the people not directly involved in a conflict, by groups operating clandestinely, which generally claim to have high political or religious purposes, and believe that creating a climate of terror will assist attainment of their objectives”.
In the recent past, the terms of international terrorism and international organized crime were introduced in the parlance of the world diplomacy to cover hijacking of airplanes, drug trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering, and currency faking, flow of funds to terrorist organizations. From the above definitions, it could be inferred that the causes stimulating terrorism are multiple and well-grounded in political, economic, socio-cultural, religious and ideological aims or psychological factors.
The terrorism as viewed in the context of the above definitions does not have a long history in Pakistan. There used to be some sectarian tension in the country at the time of the commemoration of the martyrs of Karbala in the Islamic month of Muharam by Shias. The Islamist Parties like Jamaat Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam of the Devband school of thought were in the politics of the country. Later, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan of Braveli Sunni joined the ranks of Islamist political parties. The Khaksar Tehrik was in a state of decline. The Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba was the student wing of the Jamaat Islami that was very active in colleges and universities. It had an organizational structure like Jamaat Islami. It aggressively promoted the Jamaat’s brand of Islamic political thought among the new students. It had frequent indoctrination sessions. It had to compete with the liberal, democratic and secular student organizations. Sometimes, the Jamiat had violent clashes with opponents particularly during the elections of student unions in various universities. However, all this was restricted to university campuses and did not spillover in the country.
The Islamists wielded enough street power to influence the decisions of the state from the inception of the country. Soon after the death of the founder of Pakistan, they pressurized Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to adopt the Objectives Resolution based on the ‘Basic Principles’ framed by the Ulema, as the preamble of the Constitution of the country. The Constitution was adopted in 1956 with the Objectives Resolution as its preamble. For the first time, the religious riots took place in the Punjab against the Ahmadis in the early 1950s. The riots paralyzed the provincial government. The Martial Law was clamped in the province and General Azam appointed as the Martial Administrator. The riots sealed the fate of the Ahmadis as equal citizens of Pakistan intensifying the hostility against them in the rank and file of the Islamists and their political and religious organizations.
Notwithstanding the violent political events in KPK in the early years of our independence or the agitated demonstrations of Bengalis on the question of language or the violent uprising of Baloch against the Federal authority in 1948 and in the mid-1950s, there was no known terrorist group operating on our land. We came to hear of fire crackers and bomb blasts in the first government of the PPP in the mid-1970s particularly after the dismissal of the National Awami Party Government in Balochistan and the subsequent use of force to suppress the insurgency in the two regions inhabited by Marri and Mengal tribes. By the time, Sardar Daud had deposed his brother-in-law, King Zahir Shah, and declared Afghanistan a Republic. He was harboring some NAP leaders.
He revived the slogan of Greater Pakhtunistan and the controversial question of Durand Line. Some of his opponents including the young Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar, Abdul Haq Haqqani and Ahmed Masood had crossed over the border and took refuge in Pakistan. Since Sardar Daud was extending all help to the Baloch insurgents, the Bhutto regime retaliated by patronizing these Afghan activists. This was the time we witnessed acts of violence and sabotage in Balochistan and KPK. We lost the veteran Pakhtun nationalist, Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai of Balochistan, and the young Chief Minister of KPK, Hayat Muhammad Sherpao, in bomb blasts. There were a few events of political violence or attacks on political gatherings causing loss of life and property. Two politicians, Dr. Nazir Ahmed of Jamaat Islami and Khwaja Rafiq Ahmad of Muslim League, were murdered. However, these were isolated events and did not reflect any evolving form of organized terrorism. Bhutto’s popular politics and his liberal and socialist political discourse had scared the traditionally powerful political dynasties and the religious political parties. They were all ganging together to oust him from power. Their activities were within the bounds of law and did not smack of any violent opposition. Bhutto too indulged in the traditional strong arm politics, arresting and jailing opponents on flimsy grounds. They included prominent politicians. This was all part of the political game played out in the country between Bhutto and his political foes.
The elected government of Z.A. Bhutto was overthrown by his handpicked General Zia ul Haq in a bloodless coup in July 1977. The General resorted to en mass arrest of the political activists belonging to the National Student Federation, the People’s Student Federation and the Pakistan People’s Party. He also targeted the nationalist parties and groups; purged higher educational institutes of socialists and secularists; weakened student and labour unions; extended state patronage to the Islamists and Islamic political parties. Thus, the society was politically polarized and ideologically divided.
The mock trial of Bhutto and his execution further aggravated the political polarization and triggered violent resistance to Zia rule to avenge the death of Bhutto. The creation of Al-Zulfiqar and its involvement in the violent murder of Chaudhry Zahoor Illahi and the wounding of Justice Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain; the successive attempts on the life of General Zia; the hijacking of the PIA plane and the murder of a young Pakistani diplomat were the unfortunate outcome of this political polarization. The subsequent violent MRD movement in which the Sindhi nationalists fought pitched battles with the security forces in the small towns of Sindh in 1984 went a long way to change the political culture of the country.
Within the first five years of his rule, General Zia built the rightist forces of the country into formidable centers of power through state patronage. The process of Islamization under the guidance of Salafi Ulema alienated Braveli Sunnis and Shias. The minority Shias organized themselves intostructured groups to resist the imposition of Islamic codes on them against their avowed jurisprudence specially the enforcement of the Zakat ordinance. Following the agitation of Shias against Zakat, the Jhang of Sultan Bahoo was transformed into a stronghold of militancy. We saw the birth of the sectarian militant group, Sippah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which, over two decades, spawned into numerous militant groups of greater size and power operating from all the provinces of the country. Thus, within a short span of three years, the General was successful in laying the foundation of political violence and sectarian intolerance and religious militancy in the country which would haunt the nation as his legacy.
Whilst all this was going on in our country, the General grabbed another opportunity to break out of the isolation caused by his unconstitutional rule, the judicial murder of Bhutto and his regressive policies. This opportunity was provided to him by the violent Saur Revolution in Afghanistan overthrowing Sardar Daud and bringing into power Noor Muhammad Taraki of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The Saur Revolution struck the ultra-conservative and dogmatic Afghan society as a thunderbolt and caused many religious political leaders and a large Afghan population to flee to Pakistan. Almost 5 million Afghanis crossed over to Pakistan to take refuge on our land. The Saur Revolution turned more violent in the aftermath of the successive violent overthrow of Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. The Soviet leaders were finally compelled to roll their tanks into this rugged country to install another protégé, Babrak Karmel, in Kabul.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan came as a Godsend opportunity for the Western world to settle their score with the Soviet Union. Thus, we came to witness the spectacle of the first Afghan war after the Great Game. The USA, its Western and Gulf allies needed the help of Pakistan to organize guerilla warfare against the Soviet forces. We became the willing partners in this Afghan war turning our country into a rentier state with General Zia presiding over it and masquerading as the liberator of a Muslim country. The military leaders were riveted by the shine of weapons and dollars. Nobody had time to think of the long term consequences of this mindless adventure.
The USA offer of military hardware, economic assistance and financial handouts was enormous. However, the task we were entrusted with was also horrendous and clearly portended long term consequences for the country. We agreed to recruit Mujahidin out of the Afghan and Pakistani populations and other Arab countries, train them in guerilla warfare and launch them in Afghanistan. There was enormous disbursal of cash if we believe the claim of Steve Coll, the author of ‘Ghost Wars’. The Mujahidin were also sourced from many Arab and Muslim countries. They were trained to handle modern fire weapons, indoctrinated, radicalized and launched in Afghanistan for guerilla warfare. Within four years from 1982 to 1985, a force of over 85,000 Jihadists was trained in these camps. The credit of this spectacular feat was claimed by General Zia and his confidante, General Akhtar Abdur Rehman.
There were many young Pakistanis fighting this holy war along with the Arab Mujahidin. The Jamaat Islami along with Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammadi of Sufi Muhammad, Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania of Samiul Haq and Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) of Islamabad of Moulana Abdullah,were busy in helping recruit Mujahidin from Pakistan. Many young members of the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba including Najamuddin Abbassi, the youngest son of Moulana Jan Muhammad Abbassi, Amir Jamaat Islami Sindh lost their lives in this war. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Amir Jamaat Islami, had emerged as the ardent supporter of the Afghan Jihad and the patron of the Hizb-e-Islami and its ferocious leader, Gulbadin Hikmatyar.
The 5 million Afghan refugees were supposed to live in refugee camps. We failed to manage their movement. Gradually, they spread to every nook and corner of the country creating demographic imbalance in many regions of the country. Among them, there might have been spies, saboteurs and subversive activists. They were adherents of the ultra-conservative and dogmatic variant of Islam and bound to affect the flexible and liberal religious beliefs of the local populace. Madressahs began springing up and replenishing the supply of Mujahidin. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States loosened their purse strings and started doling out huge amounts to these Madressahs to promote Salafi political Islam. Thus, the Sufism was gradually giving way to dogmatism. The liberal and secular political organizations had fallen flat under the stifling weight of the assertive political Islam and the sudden onslaught of the spirit of Jihad sanctioned by the state. The neighboring Iran also took a huge population of Afghan refugees. They were smart enough to restrict the refugees within specified camps, managing their registration and closely monitoring their movement. They saved their country from the adverse consequences of jihad.
The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988 as a result of the Geneva Accords signed in June that year, leaving behind the shaky administration of Najibullah. The Soviet withdrawal left the radicalized Mujahidin from many Muslim and Arab countries without a work or purpose. Their parent countries were quick in disowning them. They feared that these crusaders – radicalized and trained in guerilla warfare as they were – would be a potential threat to their shaky administrations back at home. We could not push them out. They settled down in the North Waziristan and the surrounding tribal agencies. However, their mercenary spirit never died down. The USA and the Western countries washed their hands off Afghanistan leaving Pakistan to deal with the post-war consequences. General Zia had already perished in a plane crash. The two successive civilian administrations of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were caught in the Afghan mess listening to Jihadi Generals.
The Afghan political leaders could not come together to give Afghanistan a stable interim administration. The bloodshed continued unabated and gave rise to a new Taliban militia. They sprang from the southern Afghanistan and, with our help, expanded their ranks, amassed weapons and began moving to Kabul under Mulla Omar. Finally, they took over Kabul. They retrieved Najibullah from the UN Mission and killed him. The Taliban administration restored peace in Afghanistan. They were radicalized Islamists and believed in the expansion of their Islamic Emirate. They established contacts with the Islamists in the neighboring States – Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Later, Osama Bin Laden and senior leaders of Al-Qaida were allowed to enter into Afghanistan and set up the Al-Qaeda training camps. These camps attracted Islamists from the above countries and Dagestan and Xinjiang.
Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda had declared the USA as the biggest enemy of the Muslims. The Al-Qaeda had bombed many USA military and diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tanzania and Kenya causing huge loss of life and property. He survived one USA missile attack in Khartoum. His training camps in Afghanistan were now freely disseminating the ideology of Al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda considered all the Muslim rulers toeing the policies of USA and hampering Sharia-based governance as liable to removal from power. This was an additional stimulus for the Jihadists of foreign and local origin. Thus, keg powder of jihad was substantially and firmly planted in our soil and what it needed was a small spark to explode. This spark was provided by the second Afghan war triggered by the attacks on the World Towers and parts of Pentagon on September 9, 2001.
The 9/11 attacks turned the USA into a mad elephant. The Al-Qaeda leadership was suspected to have sponsored the attacks. Rather, Al-Qaeda leaders owned the horrendous attacks. The Taliban failed to gauge the American shock and anger. They refused to listen to every sane and wise counsel to expel Bin Laden from their country. The USA hurriedly put in place a coalition force of NATO to attack Afghanistan. The military ruler of Pakistan was coerced by barefaced threats of use of force against the country to become unwilling partner of the impending NATO war. The NATO air attacks on Kabul upended the Taliban rule. The Taliban and the Al-Qaeda members fled Afghanistan and crossed over into Pakistan to dissolve into the Pashtun population.
In the tribal agencies of Pakistan, they regrouped, embraced the foreign Mujahidin already settled there, resorted to local recruitments, revived their links with the Islamists from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya and Dagestan to organize a resistance force. The Musharraf regime in his partnership with NATO was bound to help the USA capture Al-Qaeda activists. As put it by General Musharraf himself in his autobiography, hundreds of Al-Qaeda activists were pursued, apprehended from towns and cities deep in the country and handed over to the USA. Later, the erstwhile Director CIA, George Tenet in his autobiography ‘At the Center of Storm’ confirmed that senior Al-Qaeda leaders who included Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj Al-Libi, and Hamza Rabi, Abu Zubaydah, and Al-Shibh were picked up from different cities in Pakistan. Only Hamza Rabi was killed during the encounter. The remaining Al Qaeda leaders were captured alive.
The Al-Qaeda came to look upon General Musharraf as the ally of the biggest enemy of the Muslims, the USA and liable to physical elimination. General Zia’s earlier policy of enforcing the Islamic code of conduct in the institutions of the country had already transformed some cadres of the armed forces into Islamists having empathy for the cause of Al-Qaeda. Some of the Islamists political parties were clearly sympathetic to the Al-Qaeda cause. We may recall the Al-Qaeda leader, Shaikh Khalid Mohammad was picked up from the house of a known Jamaat member. The former Amir of Jamaat Islami had declared the death of Hakimullah Mahsud, the successor of Baitullah Mahsud, in a drone attack as shahadat (martyrdom) in 2013. The successive attacks on the life of General Musharraf and of his Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, and the subsequent invasion of the GHQ in which certain former ranks of the Air Force were involved demonstrated the penetration of Al-Qaeda in our institutions.
Under pressure from the USA, the Army conducted its first operation, Rah-e-Nijat, against the Taliban and their affiliates in North Waziristan in 2004 by deploying 70,000 troops. There was no breakthrough. The security forces were compelled to sign a pact with them. The pact did not work. In the meantime, inspired by the Afghan Taliban and the foreign militants, a new force of Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan was formed with Mahsuds from North Waziristan in command and the followers of Sufi Mohammad and battle hardened Chechens, Uzbeks and Uigurs as its hardcore fighters. This force spread its tentacles to the Malakand and Swat divisions where Mullah Fazalullah aka Mullah Radio was openly running camps for recruitment and training of Mujahidin for Jihad in Kashmir. Our security forces resorted to the policy of divide-and-rule by supporting and launching favorite militant groups against unruly groups. We saw the birth of Mangal Bagh group, Khalid Khurasani group, Punjabi Taliban group and Ahrar-ul-Islam group. Finally, all these groups turned against the state of Pakistan killing and maiming innocent civilians and members of our security forces.
The USA attack on Iraq gave fillip to the crusading spirit of the militants against the so-called perpetrators of crime against the Muslim lands and their allies from the Muslim world. In their view Musharraf was now the biggest protector of the USA interests in this region. Therefore, the terrorist attacks on civilian and security targets reached a crescendo from 2003 to 2013. Over 50,000 civilians and over 2000 security personnel perished in these attacks. The strength of the militants against the state was further galvanized by the Jihadi groups fighting for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir. There was a good number of these groups based in the occupied Kashmir as well as in Pakistan such as Hizb ul Mujahidin, an affiliate of the Jamaat Islami, Jammu and Kashmir, Harkat ul Jihad Al Islami, Harkat ul Mujahidin, Harkat ul Ansar under Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba commanded by Hafiz Saeed Ahmed.
According to Riaz Muhammad Khan, the former Foreign Secretary and author of ‘Afghanistan and Pakistan barring the Harkat ul Jihad Al Islami, all the other groups were created in 1990-1991. They were all based in Pakistan. These groups were created to help the indigenous uprising in the Jammu and Kashmir, triggered by the rigged elections in 1989 and the subsequent murder of the prominent Kashmiri leader, Moulvi Mohammad Farooq Waiz. India had deployed over half a million troops to subdue the uprising. By encouraging and supporting the above Mujahidin groups, the security forces had the twin purpose of getting the Indian forces bogged down in the valley and raising the intensity of the uprising to attract the world attention to the plight of the Kashmiris. We could not achieve the desired results. The launch of the Mujahidin from our soil divested our position on the Kashmir dispute of the high moral ground which had hitherto been the bedrock of our policy.
In the absence of regimental discipline and strong command, some of the Mujahidin groups indulged in blatant terrorist acts. For instance, Al Faran kidnapped a group of foreign tourists from the valley and later beheaded one of them to the horror of the world community. After the hijacking of the Indian passenger plane in 1999 and the militant attacks on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, the tension between the two nuclear states rose to alarming proportions. The two armies were virtually facing each other eyeball to eyeball with the spectre of immediate war looming large which prompted the world leaders to intercede to defuse the tension. General Musharraf came under intense international pressure to act against the militants groups involved in the attack on the Indian Parliament. In January 2002, General Musharraf went ahead to ban most of these groups including the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. While the Mujahidin attached to these groups went underground, Moulvi Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed revived their organizations as Jaish-e-Muhammad and Jamaat u Dawa.
Under pressure from the world leaders, Pakistan and India agreed to initiate the process of negotiations for the resolution of all the issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Wajpai decided to attend the South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC) Summit held in Islamabad in 2004. During his stay in Islamabad, the two leaders agreed to start the process of composite dialogue. The apparent thaw in bilateral relations between the two countries did not go well with the Mujahidin of the banned groups. They turned against the state of Pakistan. The militants from these groups joined hands with the TTP challenging the writ of the state. However, Jaish-e-Mohammad of Azhar Masood and Jamaat u Dawa remained loyal to the state.
The Army launched yet another operation – Rah-e-Rast – against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2009 to rid the settled regions of the country including the scenic valley of Swat of the militants. The operation was a tremendous success. However, the civilian government was sluggish in extending its writ through good governance and effective policing. While this battle was ongoing in Swat and tribal agencies, the TTP was courting militant Islamists including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the Punjab and creating its sleeper cells in the big cities of Lahore, Karachi and Quetta. The security situation in Karachi had been rendered rife for the penetration of the Taliban by the violent infighting between the militant wings of different political parties indulging in kidnapping, torturing and killing each other. The Lashkar Jhangvi was intruding in Balochistan and the bordering districts of Sindh with the help of Salafi political Islamists creating Ramzan Mengal and the Shafiq Mengal groups.
There was greater hike in the attacks on Hazara Shias and Shia pilgrims travelling by road to Iran. The Shafiq Mengal group remained in the good books of the security forces for some years to fight against the Baloch insurgents. They generated their own funds by kidnapping for ransom. These groups found their sympathizers and facilitators in Jacobabad and Shikarpur districts of Sindh. The militant attacks in these districts were claimed by Lashkar Jhangvi or its affiliate Ramzan Mengal group. The later addition to these militant groups were the IS Khorasan and its affiliate Jamaat-al-Ahrar which claimed the terrorist attacks in Quetta and Lahore. IS Khorasan is an offshoot of the Daesh which claims to have established itself in 20 Muslim countries of Asia and the Middle East.
This is how the cobweb of terrorism was weaved, expanded and spread to all the four provinces of the country.With the appointment of General Raheel Sharif as the Army Chief, the third operation, Zarb-e-Azb was launched in the country in 2014. Despite our pleadings, the Afghan regime allowed the TTP to cross the border to have sanctuaries in the border districts of Afghanistan. The terrorist attack on the Army Public School in December that year forced the political leaders to adopt the military sponsored National Action Plan (NAP). While the Army successfully carried out the operation against the militants, destroyed their nerve center and flushed them out of the South and North Waziristan, the civilian governments failed to implement the 20-point NAP, even its main points relating to the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA); the reforms of Judiciary and Madressahs; the monitoring of the terrorist designated elements of the banned organizations under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorist Act and the revival of the Military Courts.
During his three-year tenure, General Raheel remained on constant move reaching out to the combating troops, visiting the scenes of terrorist attacks and sympathizing with the victims of terrorism. He seemed to be leading the war on terrorism as well as the government. His person and clout as a ruthless commander was a great deterrent to the terrorists. After the terrorist attacks in Lahore, he wanted to do surgical operations in certain districts of Punjab also. The federal as well as the provincial governments of Sharif brothers resisted his plan. Since he was approaching the end of his tenure, he compromised on this critical operation leaving his task half done. This must be the biggest regret of his career. After his exit, the terrorists struck back in Lahore and Sehwan bringing back the specter of blood, gore and mayhem. This brought us to the fourth ongoing operation, Raad ul Fasad, under General Qamar Javed Bajwa who maintained the tempo of our fight against terrorism.
Offence alone never wins. We need a holistic approach to eliminate terrorism. All the instruments of power of the state have to play their assigned role. Political expediencies marred the earlier counterterrorism operations. The country should come first in our considerations. The state was bruised and the country battered and the ordinary citizens frightened. Our new generation was growing in an environment of fear and violence with complex psychological problems. The political class was immobilized by their narrow political and self-serving interests. They were failing in their duty to the country and to the nation, unfortunately. This did not deter General Bajwa to take head on the terrorists.
The Musharraf regime failed to carry out the Madressahs reforms though he had the international backing. He compromised to defer them under pressure from the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal ruling the terrorist KPK. The successive PPP and ML Governments proved gutless to do the job. The Ulema are not willing to change the curriculum of their Madressahs. They are ready to resist any move for the reform of the Madressahs. The current judicial system does not cater to the pressing need for the speedy trial of terrorists. The judges and witnesses come under greater security threat. In-camera trial of terrorists could have been one answer. However, the witnesses remain too scared to come forward to make depositions against militants even in the in-camera trials. This made it imperative to create military courts for speedy trial of terrorists to bring them to justice.
Over the years, the police have been completely politicized. Political appointments, transfers and shoulder promotions in the police cadre reflect the worst form of cronyism usually associated with the medieval monarchies or the utilitarian states of the past centuries. All this is crowned by the traditional corruption and incompetence in the rank and file of the police. Police stations have been torture cells for the ordinary citizens of the country and tools of power in the armory of the privileged class or the rulers to settle scores with their opponents. This centuries-old anti people culture of police posts leaves much to be desired what to speak of their competence to provide security to the citizens of the state or monitor the movement of the terrorist designated elements of the banned militant outfits under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorist Act or their working as the eyes and ears of the civilian rulers.
Thus, the depoliticizing and the capacity building of the police along with judicial reforms is the utmost need of the day that brooks no delay. The current Thana culture creates hardcore criminals and fills the ranks of militants though the police force has been the target of terrorists considering it one of the pillars of the power of the state. The force has received equally hard blows from militants. According to credible reports, they have killed 2500 and seriously injured 3900 policemen since 2009.
The Government has thus far failed to give an alternative national narrative to rally the nation for an all-out war against terrorism. The Ulema of the country also have failed to evolve an Islamic discourse to rebut the terrorists’ warped and violent ideology or their jihadist narrative except a few edicts. The militants are committed to their self-righteous, ultra-conservative and obscurant ideology and have been ruthlessly busy in projecting their extremist version of Jihad targeting all the segments of the society by the optimal use of the modern means of communication. The adherents of their ideology include not only the seminary students but also graduates from the premier institutes of higher education. The involvement of the graduates of the IBA in the massacre of Agha Khani community in Karachi was an eye opener for us. After the initial edicts against the extremist jihad of militants, the Ulema were coerced into silence by target killing of prominent scholars including Mufti Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi and many others.
We should come out of our delusion that terrorist attacks are carried out in isolation by different militant groups without an agenda. This is the biggest mistake we have been making since the past two decades. The militants have a broad consensus on the political agenda of overthrowing the rulers of the Muslim states who supposedly safeguard the interests of the Western states hostile to Muslim causes, and establishing a caliphate that in its national ideology knows no borders in line with the Pan-Islamist discourse of political Islam. From Hizb-u-Tahrir to the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Daesh or ISIS, IS Khorasan to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, all are committed to the establishment of a caliphate.
Their ideology has attracted militants from Muslims living in different parts of the planet especially from the Arab and African, Central Asian and Caucasian Muslim states or regions. We find among their ranks Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Dagestanis, Uigurs and jihadists from the Muslim Diaspora of the European states. This brings me back to the Memoirs of George Tenet, in which he has observed that ‘terrorists are as interconnected as rest of us in this borderless cyber world’. They have their communication systems, communication experts, financiers, facilitators and sympathizers in every city and town. It is very expensive to maintain huge militias and organize terrorist attacks without homegrown financial and logistic support. They generate their funds through extortions, ransoms, bank robberies and donations by local and foreign patrons. They have their own ways of communication, coordination and transfer of funds. They purposely remain diffuse, scattered and clandestine working under different banners to hoodwink the security forces. These are well-known tactics of guerrilla warfare. Their strategy is to target civilians to create fear, tie down the security forces in low intensity warfare and tire the state. The Government has to crack down hard on the non-traditional banking channels or Hundi system in the country. This system is going on unobtrusively with the connivance of FIA in all the provincial capitals of the country.
They live ascetic and hard lives. Their ideological discourse and commitment to their cause have a motivational attraction to the devout Muslims without knowing their real intentions. They have the time on their side. We are coming to the end of our options. How many more military operations could we afford to launch against them after the Raad-ul-Fasad? The nation, as a well-knit body, will have to stand by the security forces to make the Raad ul Fasad as the last blow to these retrogressive forces or be ready to go down in history as a failed state like Somalia, Libya and Syria. As a nation, we have been very ungrateful after having this beautiful land. Remember dear men, the Almighty forgives individual lapses of morality but not the collective ingratitude of a people. We have been an ungrateful nation and continue to be so, unfortunately, living in self-delusion and in our selfish world refusing to look beyond our nose. This is not the way societies have developed into formidable nations.
It will be pertinent to revert to Khalil Gibran who, with a sense of melancholy, talked of such a nation in his everlasting diction, “Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation”. We still have time to reawaken, forgive our past blunders, and stand up as a spirited nation against the enemies of our country.
— Written by: M Alam Brohi. The writer was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books. Published in Daily Times in October-November 2019.