Unabated wave of terrorist incidents, which have killed over 200 innocent fellow countrymen in this year alone, has once again brought the issue of terrorism to the forefront. While electronic media has taken a lead by initiating the debate on this sizzling issue, the politicians are just stuck with the judiciary tangle.
Simplistic solutions are being presented by some popular talk show hosts and a number of politicians. An easy and populist line is just to blame the government for towing the American ‘war on terror.’ There is little appreciation that one cannot walk away by just blaming the US and its allies for dividing our society into those who believe in radical Islam and moderate Islam. This is a clash of ideologies within Muslim societies.
On one side is ‘Fundamentalism’ and on the other, moderate Islam. Fundamentalism is also a foundation of the Radical Islamic movement. It is well explained by Prof. Peter van de Veer of University of Amsterdam in his paper published by South Asian Policy Analysis: “Fundamentalism is a social phenomenon that occurs during rapid social change, is marked by a profound experience in crises by revitalization of religion and a search for authenticity. Fundamentalism is a global phenomenon in so far it is a response to global transformation.”
Now this explains the wave of fundamentalism in almost all the religions of the world. Globalisation, spurred by information explosion, is building new global values, culture and economic relations. All this is sweeping away the old way of life. People who feel threatened and want to resist change always invoke the fundamentals and fight back. We have seen this in the past: for example when the industrial revolution started; we are witnessing the reaction today not only in monotheist religions but also in pluralistic Hinduism.
Islamic fundamentalism and the Islamic militant movement in Pakistan and globally should not be studied in isolation as a theological issue only. It has to be studied in the light of social, political and economic environment of our society and our geo-strategic condition. In the post-USSR period the have-nots are living in an ideology vacuum. Even the liberation movements like that of Palestine which used to draw strength from socialist ideology has drifted towards the Islamic alternative being offered by organisations like Hamas.
Dr. Iftikhar Malik, who teaches at Bath Spa University in the UK has described, “This kind of political Islam promises the return of the lost glory; stipulates holistic answers to socio-economic stratification; and is mostly subscribed by under-privileged whose unfulfilled mundane needs and desires converge with a yearning of a collective comeback.” The trouble is that this is a mirage. So far we have not seen any success story, whether it is Shia Iran, Wahabi Saudi Arabia or Taliban’s Afghanistan.
Unless we understand this phenomenon with its domestic and international perspective, the issue cannot be resolved. Most politicians who appear on the television channels are looking at this issue as a reaction to Musharraf and US doings.
There is a general consensus that we should talk with terrorists. But the issue is who do we talk to? Without deciding what we want from them and what can we give them on the table? Let’s see who are the people promoting terrorism in the country. First and most lethal is Al Qaeda and a number of its franchisee Jihadi groups. What are their major demands?
1. Pakistan should not support the Western policy in Afghanistan.
2. Pakistan should not stop Taliban from using it as hinterland for their war against Afghanistan government and its Western supporters.
3. Pakistan should not stop its people from joining Jihadi groups, getting trained and participating in the Jihad declared by Al Qaeda and its associates against all such governments which falls in the category of Jahiliyya. (See Sayyid Qutb’s Signpost and Zawahiri’s speeches).
4. Pakistan should support all Muslim militant groups Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish Mohammadi’s who fight in India.
5. Pakistan should let the local Taliban enforce their version of Salafist Islam in the country. (Mullah Fazlullah and Aziz’s edicts)
Recent elections have shown that the verdict of people of Pakistan is against this agenda. Any sane elected government would not have much to offer to these terrorists. None of these demands are in the interest of the people of Pakistan. By letting Afghanistan and Pakistan becoming a haven for Al Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups to launch a global Jihad, we can only destroy ourselves economically and militarily. The poor people whose interest these politicians and anchor people talk about would be the first to suffer the economic crunch. Governments cannot afford idealistic principled stand, the only principle they should follow is what is good for the people.
The militants are welcome to join the mainstream politics and preach their version of Islam peacefully. They cannot be allowed to enforce their way of life on the majority by intimidating people by blowing video and barber shops.
I am amazed at the short-term memory of the people who blame the government for breaking the accord in Wazirstan under US pressure. No doubt US pressure was there. But we should remember that after the accord local Taliban force emerged and started forcing people in FATA and in settled areas to change their way of life. At the same time they did not honour the agreement that they will not provide safe haven to local and foreign Taliban in Wazirstan.
No government can strike an appeasement deal with them. Any such move would strengthen the extremist who are spread all over the country. We have seen this in Islamabad and Swat, where a long drawn appeasement policy did not work. The only way forward is to isolate them from the people. To achieve this objective the government and people of Pakistan will have to vigorously counter the dangerous ideology of these fundamentalists. They have strong hold on the madrassas, where young minds are influenced and prepared for suicide bombing. (Excellent book ‘A-Z of Jihadi Organisations in Pakistan’ was written by Amir Rana in 2004 on this subject. Politicians and anchormen should also read Khaled Ahmed’s paper published by SAPNA to understand what we are faced with).
New government should merge FATA areas in NWFP as suggested by many politicians of this province including some newly elected MNAs from this region. It might create some ripples in Afghanistan as is linked with Durand Line issue. They can be told off that if they want us to handle the Taliban safe haven issue, we will do it our way. It is an opportune moment as Afghanistan cannot do anything but give a few statements.
Modern education should be provided to children giving them better facilities than madrassas. On the national level poverty alleviation and inequality should be dealt with on a war footing as unemployed youth is also lured in by the Jihadists.
One time general amnesty should be given and all those who are involved in these organisations should be asked to disband their militant wings. Offer them to join the mainstream. And thereafter if they still violate the writ of the government, as given in the constitution, fight it out with people’s support. A small militant minority should not be supported by the media and politicians to jeopardise the whole nation’s future just because we do not like Musharraf’s or Bush’s policies. Please think positively and not reactionary. (firstname.lastname@example.org)