Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind
What makes it worse for Pakistan today is that it is not just producing terrorism, but is, in fact, its worst hit target
Kiran Nazish Karachi
How a country is recognised or known around the world is largely influenced by a singular process or culture that is dominant within it, which becomes not only the constitutive but also the definitive characteristic of that country. Even as globalisation facilitates global terrorism, terrorism itself will put the brakes on globalisation, if not dealt with in time. This is a serious concern for the whole world.
Pakistan today stands accused of globalising terrorism, even as about 35,000 Pakistan is (mostly civilians) have lost their lives in various terror acts orchestrated by Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban since 9/11. These sacrifices, however, have done no good to the country’s image or to its economy as the country has failed to accomplish peace. Worse, Pakistan is seen as a betrayer, a manipulator and a failure in the decade-long war against terrorism. Indeed, this image sadly feeds on the fact that large parts of the country have fallen victim to fascist, extremist outfits.
Although Pakistan as a State has not been entirely dishonest in the fight against terrorism, it does include segments that sympathise with the extremists. Moreover, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) proposed and made many deals between the army and the Pakistani Taliban by calling the militants “Good Taliban”.
This nexus was exposed in April 2004, when the army negotiated a deal with a tribal militant leader, Naik Mohammad, granted him amnesty and the right to possess weapons. However, the militant attacks did not stop. In 2005, the Pakistani military made another agreement with leading Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, offering him about $20 million “to surrender”, but sadly learnt that generosity and trust do not work with Mehsud’s militia. Again, in September 2006 the army signed yet another deal with the militants — the Waziristan Agreement.
These deals were meant to serve as “strategic asset” to make India behave itself in Kabul— apparently the reason why Pakistan had a soft corner for the “Good Taliban”. But all that Pakistan actually reaped was the chaos it had created for itself; these proposals and deals have instead strengthened the vicious war-mongers. Indeed, it’s utterly stupid to strengthen one enemy to keep another at bay.
In fact, of the 35,000-odd lives that Pakistan has sacrificed in this war, many are those that were lost due to internal failures, if not entirely because of cooperation with the extremists.
Anyone who challenges the complex religious, economic and social ills that divide Pakistan today is killed by the Taliban. Despite the threats of blasts and assassinations, scores of people and activists in Pakistan continue to fight for freedom. Sadly, freedom would remain a distant dream unless they realise and manage the content of their discourse and perceptive judgement. As Pakistan desperately seeks peace, it is essential to look back at every step it has taken towards this hell fire.
Terrorism and corruption were the reasons why Pervez Musharraf’s government was brought down, but things only worsened under the new Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) regime. However much the people despise military rule, the fact is that the country has seen its worst under the so-called elected governments. Democracy has always failed in Pakistan and is now at its darkest eclipse as thousands of citizens fall prey to the hidden agendas of a few.
During different military and democratic governments, it is the dual policy on terrorism that has been the real reason behind Pakistan’s accelerating failure. Snapping out of this bind would be the best first step. The government must find a way to deal with it instead of deliberately feeding conspiracy theories to confuse public perception.
With more than 4,000 Pakistan is killed in 225 suicide attacks in the last two years, it’s high time people came out of the ‘Conspiracy Indulgence Syndrome’. They need to clear their minds of the unquestioned belief that American, Indian and Israeli forces are out to get them. Those who have a soft corner for the religious extremists need to realise that the 225 suicide attacks did not target ‘irreligious’ spaces such as dance parties or cinemas; in fact, they attacked innocent religion-abiding people at the mosques, hospitals, schools, markets, graveyards, funerals, religious processions etc. In fact, they did not refrain from targeting innocent people even in the holy month of Ramzan.
Among the suicide bombers, there were no Indians, Americans or Israelis. Each one of them was a practising Muslim who either belonged to Pakistan or was trained here.
Adding grist to the mill of conspiracy theories floated by the government and mainstream media is the growing anti-Pakistan sentiment around the globe. What the people are not told is that this sentiment was consolidated over a long time, and with much experience. Indeed, several major terror acts in the recent past have seen Pakistani involvement at some level.
There was unprecedented shock and anger among Pakistanis when the Mumbai attack took place. Admittedly, most, if not all, Pakistan is were in constant and prolonged denial that the perpetrators could in any way be even remotely associated with their country. It took them a long time to process the information that the planners and executors were connected with Pakistan.
Indeed, Pakistan as a nation was grieved by 26/11, and it couldn’t be told whether the shock was greater than the grief. For six decades Pakistan is have believed that they mean no harm to India, and have only blamed their neighbour for all the ills, disputes and rivalry. What happened in Mumbai ran contrary to this belief, and many of those who were in favour of Indo-Pak friendship bowed their heads in shame.
So when and how did Pakistan get so deeply involved? What made it so convenient for extremist groups to dwell here? If the world calls Pakistan the global exporter of terrorism, then whose fault is it?
It’s not just the current government that is to blame. Pakistan has a two-and-a-half-decade-long history of producing, maintaining and utilising terrorist outfits, going back to 1979 when the General Zia regime collaborated with some Rightwing Jihadist groups to defeat the Russian forces in Afghanistan. It was then that an enormous Jihad factory was established with Rightwing parties that motivated, recruited and transported the Mujahideen. Once Russia was beaten back, these forces that had been unleashed became available to be used by the army to fight its battles elsewhere. Mujahideen were sent to Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and other conflict zones. They came out with different names every time, seemingly apart from each other, but were nonetheless operating with a single motive.
What makes it worse for Pakistan today is that it is not just producing terrorism, but is, in fact, also its worst hit target. It would, however, be unfair not to recognise and support those forces within Pakistan that have been determined to fight terrorism from the very beginning. No doubt, the country has been suffering from a great ideological divide. So where some say, “Hazrat-e-Osama Shaheed”, others say, “Good riddance”.
Pakistan has been self-destructive for inexplicable reasons. There is economic corruption and regional dislike too; Sindis don’t like the Punjabis, nobody likes the Balochis. Everybody hates the frontiers that are dominated by fundamentalist and pro-Taliban groups.
If Pakistan honestly wants to come out of this overwhelming oblivion, it needs to identify all that has been responsible for dragging the country into this morass. The State, including the army, needs to establish a unitary policy and give priority to the people over its perceived fears. Global terrorism aside,Pakistan’s inner foundations are weakening and it’s indeed high time the country took due notice. The political and military leaders of Pakistan need to take the people along with them in fighting terrorism and other forms of extremism.
Pakistani footprints in major terror acts
December 5, 1986: Pan American plane hijacked from Karachi by five Palestinians and few Pakistanis.
June 25, 1993: CIA headquaters attacked, killing two CIA officials. Accused Ajmal Kansi arrested.
August 7, 1998: Attacks on American Consulate in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 212. Alleged conspirator, Ahmed Khulfaan, caught in Pakistan on July 25, 2004.
October 13, 2000: USS Cole attacked in Yemen, killing 17 US soldiers. An alleged conspirator arrested in Karachi on April 27, 2003.
May 8, 2002: Attack outside Sheraton Hotel, Karachi, killing 11 French engineers working with Pakistan Navy and two Pakistanis. Accused Mufti Mohd Sabir arrested in Karachi on September 8, 2005.
October 12, 2002: Suicide attack in Bali, killing 202. Alleged mastermind Umar Patek arrested from Abottabad, Pakistan, on January 25, 2011 and now in Indonesian custody
July 7, 2005: Four suicide attacks on London tubes, killing 56. Three of the suicide attackers were Pakistanis. The non-Pakistani planner of these attacks was arrested from Peshawar on January 20, 2009
Moreover, major Al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been arrested or killed in Pakistan. It can be argued, of course, that these successful counter-terror operations wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus. However, as they were discovered in Pakistan, what is equally evident is that it had been possible for them to hide themselves or train their cadres here. Examples range from Abu Azad, who was arrested from Faisalabad in 2002, to Abu Faraj en Libbi — Al Qaeda number 2 — who was arrested in Mardan in 2005, to the arrest of Umar Patek from Abottabad in 2011, not to forget the historical killing of Osama bin Laden in the same city. Pakistani footprints can almost always be found in any terrorist act, whether it takes place in Mumbai, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen, Indonesia, USA or the UK. Sadly, Pakistanis do not like to think about those facts that reflect how their country is being used by terrorists as a launch pad. A proof of this denial is their reaction to the Mumbai attack.
Kiran Nazish is a freelance journalist, interactive reporter and social activist based in Pakistan