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Have Pakistanis Forgotten Their Sufi Traditions? Part – 5


By Rohan Bedi

April 2006

11. The Indian View of Pakistan and Pakistanis

KPS Gill, India’s leading former cop who fixed the Sikh insurgency, says in his book ’Freedom from Fear’ - “ The ‘footprint’ of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from 9/11 – where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan (The 9/11 Commission Report, July 2004 states “Almost all the 9/11 attackers travelled the north-south nexus of Kandahar–Quetta–Karachi”) – to major acts of terrorism across South Asia and South East Asia, as well as major networks of terror that have been discovered in Europe.” Gill says that Pakistan has chosen the pathway of nuclear escalation to secure incremental aid from Western donors and this strategy is “at the heart of Pakistan’s case for concessions, aid and a heightened threshold of international tolerance for its sponsorship and support to Islamist terrorism. Pakistan has made a big case out of the fact that some of the top line leadership of the al Qaeda has been arrested in the country with the ‘cooperation’ of the Pakistani security forces and intelligence. The fact, however, is that each such arrest only took place after the FBI and US investigators had effectively gathered evidence to force Pakistani cooperation, and little of this evidence has come from the Pakistani agencies.”

Some Western media reports support the above view 49 - “ The enormous Islamic extremist infrastructure that the military maintained before September 11 to fight its wars in Taliban controlled Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir have not been broken up, only put to temporary sleep while clandestine training camps still spring up at new locations.” On the arrests of militants and Musharrafs speech asking the public to join him in a “ jihad against Islamic extremism”, the medias comments are “ Pakistanis now respond to such speeches with a wave of the hand and a bored look, commenting that it is all for the gallery of Western onlookers. Madrasas controlled by militant Pakistani groups who work for al Qaeda continue to function freely. One of the largest extremist groups in the country, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, has members who have helped al Qaeda. It now operates under a new name and has even changed the look of its largest Madrasas complex to become a model it can show to the Western press.”

While in fact 600 al Qaeda operatives and foreign militants have been apprehended (around 300 killed) since September 11 and transferred into US custody, including some important leaders, the vast majority of those captured - nine out of ten, are reported to be non-Pakistani. Nonetheless, the government has cracked down on domestic terrorism with full vigor including the few jehadi Kashmiri groups also linked with domestic violence. However, its broader approach to other jehadi Kashmiri groups has been “ hesitant” with arrests followed by quick releases. 50 Media reports state “…those arrested are invariably freed after 90 days in jail. Other reports suggest that most detainees are low-level organization members. Also, the government does not present enough evidence in court resulting in the release of any key leaders arrested 51 . Furthermore, the extensive madrasa system has been left untouched.

India has a larger Muslim population (total 170 million) than Pakistan and Kashmir combined, second only to Indonesia. Interestingly, there are no Indian Muslims in al Qaeda or the Taliban.

“The two probable reasons are firstly the assurance of a level-playing field for all citizens in India because of the success of the democratic system. India's 'noisy democracy'ensures that all segments of public opinion — anti-US, pro-US, neutral — are routinely aired. The second is the absence of American influence on Indian policy all through the Cold War years and, to a large extent, even now. A majority of the terrorists come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and some of the North African countries. What is common about these countries is the lack of a genuine democracy, despite the adherence to form, and longstanding virtual patron-client links with the US. These two factors are interconnected. The result was that while the governments of these countries were proAmerican, most of their people were not.” 52

49 ‘Nothing will change until Musharraf closes Pakistan’s militant madrassas’, Ahmed Rashid, Telegraph UK, 22 July 2005

50 ’The Terrorist Threat and the Policy Response in Pakistan‘, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 11, September 2005

51 ’The Terrorist Threat and the Policy Response in Pakistan‘, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 11, September 2005

A review of online Blogs further underscores the difference in the psyche of Indian Muslims and Pakistani Muslims today. It is apparent that the more extreme-minded educated middle-class Pakistani’s are interested in befriending/ influencing/ patronising Indian Muslims. But the Indian Muslim is increasingly mistrusting of Pakistani motives. The middle-class educated Indian Muslim is increasingly secular and content in a robust democracy/ economy, proud to be called an Indian, and treats the Pakistani approach with suspicion. This is not something the more extreme minded Pakistani Muslim likes, or even understands, as it contradicts with the Islamic concept of the umma (‘family’ of believers). In fact, in many of the Blogs, there is a clear expectation by extreme-minded Pakistani Muslims from Indian Muslims that their loyalties should be towards Pakistan and not India because of the brotherhood of Islam. The total lack of involvement of any Indian Muslim (outside of Kashmir) in the Kashmir struggle provides a clear answer.

‘Historically, the Indian Muslim's perceived sentimentality for Pakistan (eg, at cricket matches) was seen as vindication of the concept of Pakistan. However, today, to the Pakistani hard core jihadi, Indian Muslims have become too nationalistic and India-centred, as against the Pakistani archetypal of a Muslim fundamentalist first and foremost, and a Pakistani merely by accident of geography. The Indian Muslim has been tethered, for all these five decades, to the concept of democracy and secularism in its fullest sense. The Pakistani, by contrast, has been raised on militarism which sees democracy as an aberration at best. The Pakistani mind, dulled in its senses due to a relentless barrage of religious sermons castigating nationalism for being hostile to Islam, cannot simply understand, much less appreciate, that a shared democratic and secular experience cuts across religious divide as much as any. And much as the Jehadis and their militant ilk may remonstrate, the Indian Muslim has not, to an iota, compromised or diluted his basic religious values by being moderate and non-fanatical.’ 53

From the Sikh insurgency to the repeated terrorist attacks in India across the years - the role of the Pakistani ISI in instigating, sponsoring and training fringe Indian Islamic radicals; has been both alleged and in many cases proven.

The desecration and destruction of sacred Sufi shrines and religious artifacts has been an objective for sectarian Sunni terror groups in Pakistan. In the Indian Jammu & Kashmir state, Sunni muslims are in majority (60%) and ShiaSunni tensions exist in the Kashmir valley aggravated by Wahabbi influences on the Sunni community. Kashmir has historically had a rich tolerant Sufi Islamic culture developed over the last one thousand years. Indians believe that if Kashmir is allowed to fall into the hands of the Deobandi-Sunnis who dominate Pakistan today, this Sufi culture and heritage may not be allowed to survive. The impact of militancy on this culture of tolerance is already being experienced in the valley.

Having said all the above, many educated Pakistanis live abroad; they are little different from educated Indians and many are moderate in their approach. But these are just a handful and do not accurately reflect the masses being indoctrinated through the public education system and the madrasas into a puritanical Islamic viewpoint.

52 ’Why no Indian Muslim is in Al-Qaeda’, Amulya Ganguli (IANS), Hindustan Times, July 31, 2005

53 The Muslims of India and Pakistan- two different peoples, By Karamatullah K. Ghori, The Milli Gazettee, 1 Sept 2001

12. Way Forward

In conclusion, any effort to fight terrorism in Pakistan must be broad based and must focus on a number of fronts:

Education Reform

      Significantly reform the agenda of the madrasas to bring in a modern pluralist worldview besides reforming the educational content.

      Correct the ratio of the madrasas to represent the demographics of the population. The Barelvi Islamic tradition needs to be propagated as this is the belief system of the majority of 60% of the population (with Shias also being influenced by Sufism). The Pakistani government is taking the middle road of removing extreme messages but not going beyond this to relook at the basic philosophy which actually only represents 19% of the Deobandi-Salafi-JI population propagated through over 70% of the madrasas.

      In line with the above demographics argument, the Saudi charities need to be replaced as the source of funding madrasas so that more madrasas of the tolerant sufi-minded Barelvi sect can be setup. The key countries that can provide such funding is of course the US and its allies. The reality is that like the Saudis, the Americans can only control what they fund. Iranian funding would similarly need to be reviewed. US strategists have also talked of “ backdoor” US support to reformers tied to Sufism 54 - the author does not like this approach at all. The US has got itself into this mess in the first place through such backdoor approaches in Afghanistan. A forthright and transparent approach is needed.

      The controls on the process of setting up new madrasas including a pre-screening process and registration of the madrasas need focus on as does the control on foreign donations through compulsory audits of madrasas. The more extreme of the puritanical Deobandi – Salafi – JI madrasas should be closed down. The current registration process is a voluntary one and there is no mechanism of enforcement or punishments for violations. Direct and permanent oversight, rather than occasional raids and crackdowns, is required if the madrasa system is to be kept free of militancy. Furthermore, madrasa reform should not be confined to urban areas but also cover small towns and villages. 55

      Invest more in mainstream public schools. The madrasa system should not be thought off as a replacement for public schools and are only a system for educating Islamic clerics. The USAID project will hopefully help in this direction by offering the poor an alternative. Girls are largely out of the madrasa system and focus needs to be put on their education and empowerment. While in India 65 percent of the population is literate, and the number rises every year; in Pakistan only 42 percent are literate and the proportion is falling. Instead of focussing on education, the Pakistani government is preoccupied with the Kashmir issue/ defence spending.

      Successful reform of the Curriculum Wing of the Ministry of Education, and the Textbook Boards is needed in line with the SDPI 2003 Report. Textbooks need to be purged of sectarian material that promotes or undermines specific sects. Importantly change must be genuine and not just cosmetic; controls should be there to ensure sustainability/ transparency. As the founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah said "the importance of education and the right type of education cannot be over-emphasised”. “ This is also particularly important considering that while two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership has been captured or killed, diminishing their organizational capacity, this has not done anything to diminish their global following. The struggle against violent extremism starts with the battle of ideas” 56 . Once a man has grown into a terrorist, reversing this process may prove impossible – eventually they would probably be either captured (and locked up) or killed – this is a stark reality.

Control Jihadi Propaganda

      The government must be more effective in limiting jihadi propaganda and ability to disseminate such ideas through newspapers and other publications.

Renounce Terrorism

      Though many welcome changes in Pakistan’s strategic direction under General Musharraf have been made since September 11, they have not extended to completely renouncing terrorism as an instrument of national policy. Hence, it is critical to consider a solution for the Kashmir problem as part of the Global war on Terror in order to remove the cause from the root rather than just treating it superficially. The solution is difficult to see but economic dependencies and free travel/work rights (for pre-screened persons fulfilling economic criteria) between India and Pakistan may yield results.

Minorities Rights

      While the government has taken various steps to bring in the minorities and women into the main political stream, the Punjabi bias in the political sphere and in the army needs to be focused on to better represent the ethnic communities so as to give them more equity/power and thereby stop exploitation by the Punjabis.

      The government should provide constitutional and political rights to the FATA and the Northern Areas 57 .

      The government should ‘repeal all laws, penal codes and official procedures that reinforce sectarian identities and cause discrimination on the basis of faith, such as the mandatory affirmation of religious creed in applications for jobs, passports and national identity cards’ 58 .

      The government should take firm action against abductions and forced conversions of non-Muslim women to make a credible public statement that the world can hear. The standard used to prosecute such cases should be “reasonable grounds to believe” rather than the prosecution standard of “knowledge”. Harsh criminal sentences and fines are the only way to stop this.

Armaments and Army

      Regulate the arms industry in FATA to prevent the proliferation of weapons countrywide 59.

      De-Islamise the armed forces by changing the kind of person being recruited and change the armed forces preachers to the more moderate Sufi-minded Barelvi’s to ensure that the forces of radical Islam do not have an opportunity to take over the government through the support of the army.

Repeal Certain Laws

      Propagate religious tolerance, including removal of blasphemy laws by which non-Muslims could easily be imprisoned on fictitious charges of anti-Islamic behaviour.

      Islamic laws propagated in Pakistan are those of the Sunni-Deobandi sect. In line with a progressive approach, repeal Islamic laws that are not modern/moderate or wrongly interpreted. (For example, rape is to be punished by the public flogging of the woman as well as the man. This anomaly is because the legal definition of zina (sex outside marriage) blurs the distinction between zina and rape (Hudood ordinance). 60 The government has taken some cosmetic action on this issue although activists are not satisfied – “ Pakistan has not only systematically failed to implement and enforce laws to protect women from violence, but the system that is in place revictimizes victims of violence rather than delivering justice.” 61

56 ‘The Global Response to Terrorism’, International Crisis Group Lecture, University of New South Wales, 27 September 2005

57 The state of sectarianism in Pakistan, ICG, Asia Report No 95, 18 April 2005

58 The state of sectarianism in Pakistan, ICG, Asia Report No 95, 18 April 2005

59 The state of sectarianism in Pakistan, ICG, Asia Report No 95, 18 April 2005

Controls on Terrorist Financing

      Both jihadist fund raising from Pakistani citizens and also their travel/networking eg, with the Saudis, need focus on. The latter appears unlikely with the current policy on Kashmir. In the absence of proper madrasa controls, monies can also be taken by these groups directly from the donations to the madrasas they control.

      ‘A nexus of private, unregulated charities has also emerged as a major source of illicit funds for international terrorist networks. In light of the role that private charities have played in terrorist financing, Pakistan should develop a system to regulate the finances of charitable organizations and to close those that finance terrorism.’ 62

      ‘Smuggling, trade-based money laundering and physical cross-border cash transfers are prevalent methods used to launder money and finance terrorism in Pakistan. The proceeds of narcotics trafficking and funding for terrorist activities are often laundered by means of the alternative remittance system called hawala. Pakistan needs to exert greater efforts to track and suppress cash couriers and trade-based money laundering. Pakistan should become a party (both sign and ratify) to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing, and the UN Convention Against Corruption. (62)

Controls on Fatwa Issuance

      As part of the agenda, reform the process of Fatwas being issued across all sects, to ensure proper controls and balances so that there is adequate debate on issues. Fatwas issued should reflect a modern and moderate viewpoint. [This point needs a separate paper to come up with a workable model specific to Pakistan’s circumstances.]


URL of Part 1:

URL of Part 2:–-2/d/102197

URL of Part 3:–-3/d/102219

URL of Part 4:–-4/d/102260