By Rohan Bedi
Of course the whole package is not an easy one to implement and needs political will along with significant financial support. Terrorism has become an industry with powerful vested interests in sustaining it. When General Musharraf took over in 1999, he underestimated the task ahead. In spite of his Indian agenda, Musharraf remains the best bet for the US and its allies in his professed belief in a progressive Islamic state. The issue is whether the system will allow him to survive? And how genuine is he really?
The US is working with many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia on reforms. Importantly, US foreign policy has to focus more on the cause side of the cause and effect relationship. ‘In Pakistan over the next five years, the US will provide more than US$3 billion in security, economic, and development assistance to enhance counterterrorism capacity and promote continued reform, including of the education system’ . 63 While funding the public education system, it must proactively replace Saudi Arabia charities as the source of funding Madrasas so as to be able to legitimately control the Islamic philosophy being advocated in these institutions to bring it in line with majority beliefs. Just as important is the whole issue of accountability for funding monies to ensure that there is no misuse and leakage. Of course, the US should also continue to work with Saudi Arabia to enhance the functioning of the Charities Commission to regulate all charitable donations leaving the Kingdom/ bring in better anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing standards.
Correct the focus. The US must take a firm stand to ensure that the Wahhabi philosophy does not get propagated disproportionately in Muslim countries around the world particularly in Pakistan. The US must ensure that the philosophy of Sufism is given the share of voice that it deserves as the belief system of the majority. ‘In a 2004 study 80% of Pakistanis held an “ unfavourable view” of Jews and 62% on Christians. The new education minister, a former ISI head has stated on record “ The Jews are the worst terrorists in the world.” Osama Bin Laden is viewed favourably by 65%. 64 ’ . This sort of world view must be corrected.
Rohan Gunaratna Director of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, IDSS Singapore adds “ When critical, the US government engaged other governments like Pakistan but not their people. Pre-2003, the US government was reluctant, unable, and unwilling to engage in public diplomacy in the Muslim World albeit this changed with the need for propaganda to support the Iraq war. American leaders have understood that future threats to the US are primarily from non-state actors spawned, strengthened and influenced by virulent ideologies preached by nongovernmental leaders. The future will see more public relations campaigns addressed to the Muslim world.”
There is also work back home in the US and the UK: “ Since the London bombings there has of course sprung to centre-stage the notion of a sense of hopelessness or alienation, combined with the impact of particular religious mentors or role-models, as a significant cause of terrorist commitment among young, second generation immigrants who have not succeeded in their new world but who have lost the cultural moorings of their old. We are dealing with a complex, multidimensional phenomenon, which demands a complex, multi-layered response.” 65
Broader Reforms in Pakistan
More broadly, for anti-terrorism measures to be effective in Pakistan, there is a need for wider reform such as significant land reforms to reduce the powers of feudal landlords, empowerment of the judiciary, reform of the civil service, literacy, education and empowerment of women, and a long-term phased democratization process that puts emphasis on anti-corruption measures and institutions. The ICG underscores that “ Ultimately, terrorism can only be eliminated through pluralistic democratic structures”.
The 9/11 Commission report states “ Economic openness is essential. Terrorism is not caused by poverty. Indeed, many terrorists come from relatively well-off families. Yet when people lose hope, when societies break down, when countries fragment, the breeding grounds for terrorism are created. Backward economic policies and repressive political regimes slip into societies that are without hope, where ambition and passions have no constructive outlet… Economic growth expands the middle class, a constituency for further reform.”
63 ‘Fact Sheet: Progress on the 9/11 Commission Recommendations’, White House, December 2005
64 ’Can Pakistan Reform?’, Robert T. McLean, FrontPageMagazine.com, January 5 2006
65 ‘The Global Response to Terrorism’, International Crisis Group Lecture, University of New South Wales, 27 September 2005
Ultimately, the fruits of modernity and economic progress need to be more widely available for the benefits of a progressive Islamic state to be transparent to the masses.
In spite of this paper’s overall critical review of Pakistan, the researcher must add that no leader in Asia, perhaps in the world, has survived the number and magnitude of political crises and threats to his life that General Musharraf has endured in his tenure in office. To not acknowledge that he has perhaps the toughest job in the world would be unfair. His personal bravery as a soldier has clearly reflected in his role as the President of Pakistan. However, the world is counting on Musharraf to help steer South and Central Asia from local chaos to regional security. His role is that of a world leader in a world war. Whatever his past may have been, whatever his personal views and agenda on Kashmir, he has to cast these aside and rise to the occasion. It’s not about Islamic Pakistan, it’s about humanity.
The Pakistan government has done a lot for the US in its fight against al Qaeda and has also cracked down on domestic violence. However, Kashmir remains as the national core issue as a result of which very little has been done to curtail jihadi Kashmiri groups, or to reform the ideology being propagated through the education system – whether public schools or madrasas. Enforcement has been weak. There is much misrepresentation with statistics being used to project a half-truth while keeping the Kashmiri jihadi movement alive on the side.
Without a complete resolution of the Kashmir issue, the author of this paper does not see any final solution to the problem of world terrorism which has a key supplier in Pakistan. In the current scenario, peaceful Sufi type philosophies will surely be slowly eradicated from Pakistan in order to keep up the jihadi Kashmiri movement.
The US must act fast with a focus on the correct issues including reform of the education system to bring in Sufi type Islamic thinking. India also needs to necessarily get involved including being open to new approaches on Kashmir, even if they tilt to what was unthinkable a decade ago. More than India and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir deserve a solution.
In summary, while the symptoms of global terrorism are being treated, a key root of the problem remains in the unresolved Kashmir issue.
This paper is written by Rohan Bedi (www.rohanbedi.com).
The opinions in this article are the authors own and does not represent the organisation in which he works and is/was associated with.
i Rohan Bedi is closely associated with the ICPVTR and has coauthored a July 2005 paper “AML/CFT – New Policy Initiatives” with Arabinda Acharya, Associate Research Fellow and Manager Strategic Projects, ICPVTR, IDSS, Singapore.
ii References - this paper is based on facts from the book ‘Pakistan – Eye of The Storm’ (2002) by Owen Bennett Jones and other sources credited separately in the footnotes. The book is a detailed account of the history, politics and religious beliefs of Pakistan and is an excellent and riveting reading.
The author of this paper makes no claim on being an Islamic scholar and has used the different sources attributed in the paper to construct an agenda for reform. He believes that the problem of terrorism in Pakistan must be viewed in a historical context with an in-depth understanding of the religious sects and the philosophical beliefs of the majority of Pakistanis.