New Age Islam
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Current Affairs ( 21 Aug 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Evil of Extremism in Pakistan, a Fate Foretold: New Age Islam’s Selection from Pakistan Press, 22 August 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

22 August 2015

Evil of Extremism in Pakistan: A Fate Foretold

By Abbas Nasir

Pakistan: A Fragile State

By Dr Haider Shah

Through The Cracked Hourglass of the Muslim Brotherhood

By Arshmah Jamil

Dear Imran Sahib, Don’t Put an End to Bhabhi’s Political Aspirations

By Aalia Suleman


Evil of Extremism in Pakistan: A Fate Foretold

By Abbas Nasir

August 22nd, 2015

THE challenge facing Pakistan in cleansing itself of the evil of extremism was underlined in no uncertain terms by the killing of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada last Sunday at his village home near Attock and the reaction to the death of retired Lt-Gen Hameed Gul.

Khanzada, a former army colonel who had put in a long stint in the ISI before his retirement, was said to be spearheading the campaign against terrorism in Punjab and was directly overseeing the Counter-Terrorism Department of the police.

He was vocal in saying that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi terrorists would be given no quarter and the terror group had threatened him when their leader Malik Ishaq and several other LJ members were killed in what was claimed as an ‘encounter’ with CTD in southern Punjab at the end of last month.

The sort of jihad Hameed Gul stood for discredited the Kashmiri liberation movement and led to death and destruction for many Afghans.

It isn’t clear why the former soldier and intelligence officer, who must have been aware of the dangers of leading the anti-terror campaign, wasn’t as well protected as he should have been. Many explanations have been offered.

The foremost among these was that the culture of the area he belonged to precluded frisking any visitor as it would be tantamount to disrespecting them and, therefore, the suicide bomber breached the minister’s already thin security and got in unchallenged.

Nobody thought the fight against terror in Pakistan would be painless. Blowback was anticipated, so much so that reportedly such fears made the last army chief shy away from taking action. It is incumbent on the security apparatus to better protect high-profile personalities in the vanguard of the fight as when the leaders are targeted the morale of the force inevitably suffers.

The government would do well not to let its foot off the accelerator pedal as the fight needs to be relentlessly taken to the safe havens of the terrorists in Punjab as it was in Fata and KP.

There isn’t another option. Any let-up will be seen as a sign of weakness, of tentative policy implementation and will serve as a fillip to the terrorists who seem to be desperately thrashing about as we speak. Admittedly, this would still be but one prong of the fight.

Take for example the tributes being paid to another ISI officer, the agency’s former chief, retired Lt-Gen Hameed Gul, who died the day before Col Khanzada’s assassination. The nature of the tributes was articulately analysed in this paper on Friday by Asha’ar Rehman.

Apart from notes of dissent from the usual suspects in sections of the English press, what one saw and read in the wider media were not obituaries or even balanced profiles of the man but outright eulogies.

Having interviewed him once for the BBC at his Rawalpindi home in the late 1990s, I found him to be a courteous and gracious host. My quarrel with him wasn’t because he was impolite to me, rude or curt. It was his agenda.

If his passion had been theoretical for jihad transcending national boundaries and the glory of a religion he thought ought to replace democracy, one would have ignored it by saying anyone is entitled to dreaming a dream.

But his actions whether in trying to engineer, what his mentor Ziaul Haq used to call, ‘positive’ results in the elections at home as the IS chief or his blind support to ruthless and murderous Afghan militant leaders such Gulbadin Hekmatyar can hardly be ignored.

The consequences of each of these actions need no reminder. His meddling in internal politics and the electoral exercise ensured a weak, shaky civilian government followed the darkest dictatorial night of 11 years in the country’s history, discrediting civilian rule. If this wasn’t enough, intelligence officers inspired by him continued to undermine and demonise the elected prime minister.

On the other hand, his favourite Afghan ‘resistance’ leader is said to have singlehandedly destroyed Kabul by raining thousands of rockets on it in his quest for power when the Soviets and the Soviet-installed regime were long gone and the so-called Mujahideen were in power.

This destruction outstripped any damage the Afghan capital suffered during the several years of the war against the Soviet army. Such adventurism, which continues to this day, cancelled out the enormous goodwill Pakistan may have earned by hosting three million Afghan refugees and helping the country expel Soviet troops.

Very few focused on how rash and impulsive Hameed Gul was. His own dream of seeing the ‘sabz hilali parcham’ (the green Islamic flag) flying over not just Pakistan but also Kashmir, Afghanistan and the former Soviet Central Asian Republics was shattered at the gateway to Central Asia in the spring of 1989.

For that was when he considered piety and religious zeal enough to offset lack of military planning, and assembled hordes of zealots to march on and capture Jalalabad, the first major Afghan town across from the Khyber Pass, in the belief that the goal would be achieved in under a week since the Red Army was long gone.

Troops loyal to Afghan president Najibullah are said to have fought hard against the attacking forces and inflicted heavy casualties on them. What Najibullah’s soldiers couldn’t do was achieved by infighting among groups assembled by Hameed Gul to take Jalalabad.

Ironically, the sort of jihad he (and many others in the military) stood for damaged and discredited the Kashmiri indigenous liberation movement; it also meant death and destruction for so many Afghans; and its fallout has drawn an unthinkable amount of blood in Pakistan and caused untold pain to thousands.

An indication of Pakistan’s challenges and Gen Gul’s powerful legacy came at his funeral. It was attended among other militant leaders (presumably all ‘good’ Taliban) by Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Syed Salahuddin. Also in attendance was the COAS Gen Raheel Sharif.

Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.


Pakistan: A Fragile State

By Dr Haider Shah

August 22, 2015

The country celebrated its 69th Independence Day with a festive mood. This carefree jubilation, however, proved to be short-lived as the militant and fanatic followers of a Sunni banned outfit exacted their terrible revenge on the state for killing their leader, Malik Ishaq, and his associates by murdering the home minister of Punjab.

Nations have faced challenges in difficult times of world history. The Soviet Union suffered a human loss of about 26 million — 15 percent of its total population — in World War II. In comparison, the human loss in our war of survival is, therefore, insignificant. From, mainstream politicians like Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Bashir Bilour and Shuja Khanzada to high-raking army and police officers, faith-inspired militant extremists have struck repeatedly but the state is still unclear about the chemistry of the problem. It naïvely thinks that it can fix everything with the haphazard use of guns alone. As a result, the state, despite brandishing its powerful muscle, is getting more fragile with the passage of time. This fragility can be attributed to two overlapping reasons. First, there is a lack of strategic clarity and poor sense of strategic alignment. Second, there is a lack of institutionalism in running the affairs of the state.

I wrote an analytical piece after the National Action Plan (NAP) was announced by the government to deal with situation after the Army Public School (APS) attack in Peshawar. In order to make some sense of the haphazardly listed 20 points in the plan I suggested a rearrangement of the points. Six aspirational points should have topped the list as strategic objectives with the seventh point of “zero tolerance policy for extremism across Pakistan” (appearing as point number 15 in the plan) should have been the first point, serving as an overarching strategic aim of the plan. I had argued that this point of doctrinal importance should have topped the list as militancy and terrorism are the consequences of an unbridled culture of extremism. The national policy is an organic whole that cannot be developed in disjointed pieces. No government can make any meaningful national policy unless it has the final say in the interconnected realms of economics, law and order, and foreign affairs. If home-grown militancy is to be exterminated then the source of militancy should be first dealt with on an urgent basis. Religious radicalisation is the embryonic stage of any subsequent militant action. Indoctrination in turn can be traced to the syllabi taught in our educational institutions and Deeni madrasas (religious seminaries). The state also promotes the cause of faith-propelled extremism by the active projection of groups that use jihadi slogans in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir. While trying to pursue its claim over a disputed land, the Pakistani state has allowed the germs of religious extremism to spread throughout the entire body. Since jihad is the motivational slogan for the Kashmir cause, the state is obliged to entertain clerics and shady characters that have polluted the national narrative with their obscurantist discourse.

Banned outfits were once avenues for recruiting irregulars in our proxy war with our neighbours. Foreign relations managers did not bother too much if outfits used sectarian hate speech to carry out their recruitment. A multifaceted problem that has its tentacles in our foreign policy cannot be resolved with isolated military action. The foreign policy, internal security policy and socio-economic policies must be in strategic alignment, trying to achieve the same aims and objectives. If our India policy is based upon jihadi doctrines while we play anti-jihad tunes for internal policy then there is a mismatch and the policy is bound to remain fruitless in the long run. The half-baked paradigm shift in our Afghan policy is also faltering due to our over reliance on using militants as strategic assets in the regional tug of war game. Using the two-year-old ghost of Mullah Omar for negotiations purposes we apparently have lost the trust of both the Afghan and US governments. While the Afghan government has expressed its misgivings about Pakistan’s continued support for terrorist activities for Afghan militants based in Pakistan, the US has also cast a vote of no confidence by withholding the tranche under the Coalition Support Fund as it refused to certify that Pakistan was doing enough to damage the Haqqani network.

If no paradigm shift has so far been noticed in foreign affairs policy, no significant change has been witnessed in the social policy of the government either. Acting like an extremist itself the government has deprived citizens of access to YouTube, which is just one example. The syllabi of educational institutions are still teeming with the germs of extremist ideas. For leaders of banned outfits it is business as usual.

Another source of fragility is the fast erosion of institutionalism. Khakis are good, civilians are bad, much like the sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm; this we get to hear in the scripted national narrative. Supposedly, the 18th Amendment implemented federalism in its true spirit but what we see now is that Islamabad and Rawalpindi are effectively running all provinces. This desperate situation needs desperate remedies. Take any newspaper from the archive and you will find that throughout Pakistan’s history we have always faced a desperate situation. Without an institutional form of government, the state remains under-developed and hence remains fragile. I sincerely hope that those who run the affairs of the state address these two interconnected sources of fragility of the state.

Dr Haider Shah teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan.


Through The Cracked Hourglass of the Muslim Brotherhood

By Arshmah Jamil

August 22, 2015

A sharp crack has appeared in the hourglass of Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement due to the unprecedented crackdown of the security state that has led to the pouring of young assertive youth through the splintered pieces. A unification of youth voices in the brotherhood is prominent, an immediate action against Sis’s regime must be undertaken and they are not willing to settle for less. But these voices were repressed in the past as the regime was aware of the repercussions associated with the freedom of letting this spark mismanaged.

This burning spark escalated into a conflagration in 2015 when Hisam Barakat, state high level official was assassinated leading the state to take severe action against Brotherhood involving death sentences against members. The Brotherhood in retaliation has managed to reorganise and rejuvenate itself and this transformation of this organisation occupies an important place in Egypt’s opposition.

Visible changes, in the Brotherhood with broad implications have occurred. These include; creating structural changes with lesser focus on hierarchy, reassessing the viability of the organisation and accepting the organisation’s homogeneity with other Islamist and revolutionary groups. The Muslim Brotherhood that was once characterised by its rigidity, hierarchy and cautiousness is no longer the same.

The transformation from a hierarchical structure to the one that is imbalanced will pose significant problems for the organisation. Previously this order offered implementation mechanism for important decisions, sustainable platform during conditions that were unfavourable and a pathway to deploy its resources strategically. Breakdown of this system would mean that most decisions and actions will lack coherence as differences would exist between daring youth, filled with a desire for vengeance on one hand and rational elders on the other.

Secondly the mechanism of self-protection that the Brotherhood strongly abided by has fizzled away. The mission that the members were taught from the 1970s was to continue this movement from generations to generations, come what may. The sole aim of protecting the Brotherhood was to carry on the organisation legacy and take lesser risks that would challenge its sustainability. However, the movement is more open to take risks and this is evident by the young energetic youth that have been elevated to leadership positions.

Lastly, the uniqueness that characterised Brotherhood from the other opposition groups has disappeared. Previously, there was a clear demarcation in the Brotherhood regarding its membership. In the past, joining this organisation was a commitment in terms of finances, energy and time which lead to tight personal bonds that ensured its sustainability. Currently, the new environment gives chances to those spending lesser time with the organisation and might not have the same zeal or commitment. Homogeneity of this organisation with other movements has tarnished its reputation as an organisation where dedication and history were strongly valued making it unique.

All is still not lost. Due to the increasing number of young members, the brotherhood has acquired a strong element of self-criticism. A cause of past failure is being diagnosed by the present leadership as a result of hasty generalisation regarding real change makers of the Egyptian state. Leaders of the brotherhood admit that they failed to reconcile with those who wanted real change and opted to gain entry through fast election procedures, a plan that failed substantially.

Reviewing past errors would be essential for the sustainability and success of his movement. There is a dire need for to reform the security sector and civilian bureaucracy which has been ignored largely by the Brotherhood. At the heart of the brotherhood problem was its ability to act too aggressively, make too many enemies and failure to communicate with mainstream opposition and inaptitude of the members.

The tensions within the brotherhood are exacerbated by the divergence that exists between the secular youth activist and the brotherhood. These secular youth members blame the latter for ruining Egypt’s chance at a real democratic transition. Brotherhood, on the other hand holds resentment against the former secular allies for the treacherous act of initially supporting July 2013 coup and later turning anti-Sisi post the bloody crackdown.

One thing remains certain, Post July 2013, Brotherhood is going through metamorphosis where its traditional approach of causing change in the society is being transformed to a one focused solely on the state. Re-invigoration of the movement by its youthful supports with the aim to change the culture of the state based on self-interest, nepotism and domination is a positive step.  Change remains on the highest agenda of the organisation which previously talked about reform and gradualism deeming political change as downright impossible.

In essence, as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rejuvenated itself, inside its intricacies, lie a large number of discontented youth that are eager to push against state structure that have failed to deliver appropriate opportunities regarding education, employment and freedom of expression. Despite the large scale damage that occurred to the brotherhood by the post-2013 crackdown, the movement has survived. What remains to be observed is when this change will actually occur.

With eyes filled with the mist of past revolt, the Egypt’s Brotherhood watches carefully, the unravelling of the waves of Egypt’s uncertain future, waiting for the perfect opportunity to act.

Arshmah Jamil is a specialist in international relations.


Dear Imran Sahib, Don’t Put an End to Bhabhi’s Political Aspirations

By Aalia Suleman

August 21, 2015

Dear Mr Khan,

After being bashed by your supporters over my last blog on Mrs Khan, I had decided to stay absolutely clear of the confusion that your simultaneously contradictory announcements create in the media.

However, after losing NA-19 to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), your most recent, and quite melodramatic, announcement that Mrs Khan will not contest in any elections on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ticket nor will she attend any PTI events, henceforth, I had to address you. Even at the cost of getting bashed on the foot again by your raging torrent of well-wishers, who obviously only read the good stories about you in the press.

To start with, the first feeling anyone would get from this announcement is that if there is a list of ‘sore losers’ and you’re definitely at the top. Perhaps your years as a successful cricketer have spoilt you Mr Khan, because you certainly don’t believe in losing.  However, the fact of the matter is that politics has always been a dirty game and once you’re in this field, you can’t avoid the grime from getting on you sooner or later. The best you can do is overlook the negative comments on Mrs Khan.

So you lost, but there really is no need to take it out on your poor wife. Mrs Khan has always been your ardent supporter. Give the lady a break!

On a general note, on one hand, you continuously deny any intentions of her political involvement. Yet, her actions continue to prove otherwise, not only in the NA-19 case, but in other instances too. Furthermore, you have stated that Mrs Khan is a ‘politicised figure’. It seems that completely ‘un-politicised’ family members of the political leaders are free to jump on and off the political bandwagon continuously.

Thus, what’s the big deal if the ‘politicised’ Mrs Khan does the same?

Come on Mr Khan, it would be so unfair to curtail the lady’s talents. Don’t relegate an educated, worldly woman to the Handi-Choolha of Bani Galla and close the doors of politics on her. We sympathise with you for being sore over the NA-19 loss, but don’t take it out on your wife. This is a typical, childlike, sulking attitude, that doesn’t suit a politician at all. Rise above the ranks of the general Pakistani male mentality. Give equal footing to the wife.

Not only this, but you go another mile to shut the doors of PTI events on Mrs Khan too. Come on Mr Khan, stop being so unreasonable. The lady has herself claimed that she supports you fully in your political cause. So why shut her out of the party events by stating that she has enough on her plate with street children?

That is so not fair on your supporters, whose number at these events has undoubtedly bolted leap years ahead after your marriage. They want to see Mrs Khan too. Have a heart, Mr Khan.  Be a good sport.

Also, I believe you need to draw the line at the ‘acceptance and denial’ of news related to Mrs Khan. For instance, while there are statements that Mrs Khan will not participate in PTI politics at all, other news states that she is fully on board with party politics. With specific reference to NA-19, there were news stating that she had ‘grabbed the steering wheel’ of the campaigning events with statements like,

“Gift your Bhabhi the NA-19 seat in return the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government will give you prosperity.”

Along with,

“PTI has Khan, Jawan and Bhabhi.”

Admit it Mr Khan, these are quite witty and catchy statements and certainly do not reflect a half-hearted enthusiasm of a supporter, who is just there for the sake of being there. This is a supporter who is vehemently and passionately involved in the cause that she is supporting. So let’s not undermine, underrate and belittle Mrs Khan’s efforts.

Despite her very evident enthusiasm, you rudely dropped the axe on Mrs Khan’s political aspirations with your recent announcement. Your supporters aside, your announcement must definitely have broken her heart too.

Is it because Amir Zaman lost to Babar Nawaz, leading to a lot of bashing for Mrs Khan?

Another proverbial million dollar question this announcement raises is, would you have made the same announcement had your candidate won?

This is part of the game Mr Khan. Let’s learn to be magnanimous losers when we lose. And please keep the dear wife out of the frustration-release-cycle.

I will now end my letter and get ready for another thrashing from the PTI supporters who see no wrong in their leader.

Wake up guys, no one’s perfect.

Aalia Suleman is a freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a Masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'.