Will somebody wake up, please?
What Pakistan does or does not do with regard to terrorists operating within its national boundaries is not going to affect Pakistan alone, it will hurt the whole world particularly its neighborhood. It is clear that Pakistan lacks both capability and moral authority to rein in the terrorists whom it has bred and reared. Now it is for the world community to intervene to contain the scourge of Pakistani Taliban who are no less dangerous than the Afghan Taliban. -- Arif Mohammed Khan
Confusion over basic facts
The history of ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan must be understood before forming an opinion on the contours of the Swat deal . General Yahya Khan, the military dictator of Pakistan of the late 1960s-early 1970s, reformed family Laws in Pakistan. He made it extremely difficult for a Pakistani man to have a second wife. They had to take the Court’s permission and the application had to include the first wife’s written permission along with the compelling reasons for marrying a second time. This encouraged Pakistani feminists and they soon became a strong force to contend with. They even resisted General Zia’s attempt to scuttle the gains extracted under Yahya Khan. -- Irfan Ali Engineer
A double game financed by Uncle Sam
Last week America professed shock at the ‘peace deal’ but this week Sen. John Kerry said Pakistan deserves extra billions to fight the same Taliban -- Will the real Uncle Sam Please stand up? -- Khwaja Ekram
Will somebody wake up, please?
Arif Mohammed Khan
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Instead of treating the Talilban’s rise in the Swat valley as another Pakistani domestic problem, the world community must see it as a deadly virus about to affect them all
The truce between the Pakistani government and the Taliban, who have been engaged in hostilities since Pakistan officially joined the United States -sponsored war against terror, has been concluded on the condition that the Taliban will be permitted to enforce ‘Shariat’, that is Muslim law, in Malakand division of North West Frontier Province including the district of Swat. It is important to bear in mind that the Talibani version of Shariat includes banning girls from schools, forcing women inside homes and outlawing all forms of entertainment and music.
A week before truce was reached, the Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, had ‘stunned’ the western media by his honest confession that it was not his government but the Taliban who were controlling “huge amounts of land in Pakistan”. He had told Steve Kroft, correspondent of 60 Minutes, that his government is engaged in a battle of survival against Taliban “who are fighting to put an end to our way of life”.
Zardari had admitted that for years the Taliban were permitted to operate in the border areas. This resulted in their controlling large swaths of the north-west tribal areas and now they have succeeded in making inroads into areas of Balochistan, Sindh and other parts of Pakistan.
It is surprising that after making these “stunningly honest” statements which warranted a relentless fight against the terror outfits, Zardari has made peace with the Taliban on their terms. Permitting the Taliban to enforce their version of the Shariat means conceding legitimacy and credibility to terrorists and their ideology.
Now the question is whether the world community can hope to succeed in its fight against terrorism if it allows some countries to make concessions to the terror outfits? The policy community world over has repeatedly highlighted the need to counter ideological support for terrorism as a vital priority in the overall effort to combat terrorism. The policy makers have been devoting greater attention to the significance of the “battle of ideas” as part of their response to the challenges posed by the radical religious outfits who provide ideological support to the terrorists. The international collaboration to counter ideological support to terror is not of lesser significance than the international alliance to take military action against the terrorists.
The strategy and tactics of the terror outfits has been to use force and fear as instruments to achieve their political objectives. Whatever may be their ideas and ideals, they do not believe in mobilising public support to make them acceptable. Instead they pretend to be working under some divine sanction and arrogate to themselves the role and duty to impose their version of religion by force on the willing and the unwilling both.
It is through this strategy that the Taliban in Pakistan succeeded in creating a reign of terror by using an illegal FM Radio channel to make their proclamations and carrying out public executions of those who dared to defy their edicts. They not only imposed ban on girls going to schools but brutally punished men who refused to adhere to the dress code or the moral code that they have prescribed.
If Pakistan has a Constitution and an elected government in place, then the Taliban deserved to be treated as a band of outlaws inviting penal action for undermining the law and sovereignty of Pakistan. Instead, the Pakistan government has covered them with glory and credibility by making peace with them.
Admittedly the Pakistani Taliban have been hosting the Afghan Taliban and providing them safe havens since 2001, despite political and military pressure by the Pakistani government. Now that the Pakistan government has officially recognised them as the law enforcement agency in the border areas, one can imagine the boost it will give to the terrorist activities in this region.
The common belief is that the religious radicalism giving rise to terrorist activities in Pakistan is the product of US-backed jihad waged to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. It was during this period when more than 25,000 fighters from about 30 Muslim countries were trained in Pakistan to fight the Soviet forces. After the Soviet withdrawal most of these fighters were encouraged by the Pakistani military establishment to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir to indulge in terror activities. Pakistan insisted to describe them as freedom fighters. But after the 9/11 attacks, when the US identified al-Qaeda and Taliban as the perpetrators of the crime and decided to dislodge the Taliban government, Pakistan was forced to jettison the child it had itself conceived. This naturally angered the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters and resulted in spurt of terror attacks in Pakistan.
This story is only partially true. The fact is that Pakistan, since its inception, has relied heavily on use of irregulars whom it instigated in the name of Jihad to fight its battles against India. Husain Haqqani in his book, Pakistan between Mosque and Military, quotes a senior official of Ayub Khan’s intelligence outfit as saying that: “In its manpower, Pakistan is very fortunate. In some of the regions, people have long traditions of irregular fighting. Now that they have got a homeland and a state based on their own ideology they are bound to show great courage and determination to defend them…. the essence of this irregular warfare is to deny the enemy the target and keep attacking him again at unexpected places … lack of military formalities in the eyes of military experts seems to detract from the respectability of irregular warfare. But actually, it is this lack of formal logic and system which is making it increasingly important in this age of missiles and nuclear weapons.”
If we examine the facts objectively, then the 2,000 tribals who infiltrated into J&K in October 1947 or the thousands of Razakars who perpetrated the most heinous crimes in Bangladesh in 1971 or the so called Mujahideen in Kargil in 1999, all fit the description of modern day terrorists.
What has radicalised Pakistani society after 1980 is the new education policy and curriculum particularly at the school level underlining Jihad and martyrdom as lofty ideals. A leading Pakistani academician, Parvez Hoodbhoy, in a long piece on education in Pakistani schools says that: “Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state. It sounds like a blueprint for a religious fascist state.”
It is axiomatic that poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere; disease anywhere is threat to health everywhere. In the same vein, the promotion of terrorism anywhere is a threat to security everywhere. What Pakistan does or does not do with regard to terrorists operating within its national boundaries is not going to affect Pakistan alone, it will hurt the whole world particularly its neighborhood. It is clear that Pakistan lacks both capability and moral authority to rein in the terrorists whom it has bred and reared. Now it is for the world community to intervene to contain the scourge of Pakistani Taliban who are no less dangerous than the Afghan Taliban.
-- The writer is a former union minister and columnist
Confusion over basic facts
Irfan Ali Engineer
Saturday, February 28, 2009
The history of ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan must be understood before forming an opinion on the contours of the Swat deal
Taliban is celebrating its victory in the Swat Area after forcing the Pakistan government to agree to implement Sharia jurisprudence in their region. This begs some questions. If Sharia is to apply in Swat, what Law is applicable in the rest of Pakistan which proclaims itself an Islamic State? Most Indians believe Pakistan is a theocratic state. Zia-ul-Haq, the late military dictator, ensured that. But now we learn that the Sharia did not apply in Pakistan because it is being enforced through a special treaty and that too in a limited geographical space.
In 1937, the Sharia Act was passed in the Legislative Assembly during colonial rule covering all Muslims in undivided India.Before the Sharia Act of 1937 Muslims were governed by customary laws in the matters of inheritance and succession. Muslim zamindars in Punjab and Sindh refused any share in their property to their daughters, though under Islam a woman is entitled to inherit one-half the share of their brothers. But the Punjabis and Sindhis cleaimed that they were governed by customary Laws in matters of inheritance and succession. The Sharia Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly by Muslim League leader MHM Abdullah with the support of progressives belonging to other parties. While introducing the Bill, he said, “The Bill aims at securing uniformity of Laws among Muslims in all their social and personal relations…it also recognises and does justice to the claims of women for inheriting family property who under customary Law are debarred ”
General Yahya Khan, the military dictator of Pakistan of the late 1960s-early 1970s, reformed family Laws in Pakistan. He made it extremely difficult for a Pakistani man to have a second wife. They had to take the Court’s permission and the application had to include the first wife’s written permission along with the compelling reasons for marrying a second time. This encouraged Pakistani feminists and they soon became a strong force to contend with. They even resisted General Zia’s attempt to scuttle the gains extracted under Yahya Khan.
The so-called “Islamisation” drive of Zia was more of a measure to attract Arab petro-dollars to the country under the pretext of driving Soviet forces out of Afghanistan. Military dictators are not so consistent with cultural and religious agenda. It also became a favourite tool for domination. In Pakistan the same people who enforce “Islamisation” do a 180-degree turn under pressure from the United States and hound out the very creatures they had originally promoted as their agents.
So, the Sharia that will now be implemented in Swat Valley will have a broader sweep than just family matters. It would include typical forms of punishment for crimes. The Sharia agreement will deter barbers from shaving beards, selling certain goods to women in open market place out of fear of the Talib. The implementation of Sharia will be more detrimental to women, denying them access to the mainstream of life. They cannot participate in economic affairs. Education of the modern variety would be denied to them. Nor can they freely walk about for shopping, visit cinemas, or, for that matter, even religious places. They will be confined to very basic roles in the household. They would be reduced to chattels
Sectarian minorities like the Shias and liberal sects within Sunnis like Barelvis would face either persecution or marginalisation. Generally speaking, extremist groups are quite aggressive within the community or the nation they claim to represent while simultaneously maintaining a policy of accommodating foreigners, even external enemies. This helps maintain their hegemonic position within the community/nation.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Taliban and Jamat-e-Islami are trying to hegemonise the political space within Pakistan. However, after achieving that space, they tend to be more pleasant towards outsiders for fear of losing their power/hegemony in the long run. Cultural nationalists and those desiring theocratic states in South Asia are more of a threat to women, minorities, liberals and non-conformists within the nation state rather than to other nations due to delicate power balance.
Some argue that religious extremists in both Pakistan and India are in a better position to resolve contending issues between the two countries. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was able to start the peace process with much more authority and support from the entire nation – including the Shiv Sena which thrives on opposition to any relations with Pakistan. Fazlur Rehman, the ex-Member of National Assembly and leader of the hardline Islamist MMA visited India when his party was the major opposition party in the Pakistani National Assembly and supported the peace process between the two countries at a time when even General Musharraf was reluctant to smoke the peace pipe with India.
The strengthening of Talibani forces in the Swat Valley and other areas bordering Afghanistan is a direct result of US bombings carried out on Pakistani territory in the name of fighting terror. As the Pakistani government was not in a position to provide security to its citizens, they turned to the natural enemies of America – the fundamentalists.
To control the Talib, various regimes had to enter into peace agreements with them. The present agreement too aims to contain the growth of Talibani forces rather than encourage it. Its influence is presently restricted to some areas bordering Afghanistan in NWFP. Even within the NWFP, the tribal solidarities and identities are far more overarching to allow the Taliban to hegemonise the political space within their state. Confined only to certain areas in NWFP, Taliban poses no serious threat to India.
The Kashmiri militants were never supporters of Taliban, nor did the Talib ever support them. They are focused in their own fight with NAGO forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban has no admirers within Indian Muslims. Osama Bin Laden was never a hero of any section of Indian Muslim. Muslims cutting across sects, regions and classes have condemned the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden in unequivocal terms. Some misguided youth in Malegaon carried the portrait of Osama Bin Laden in the tail end of the procession led by Nihal Ahmed after 9/11.
However that was an isolated incident. There is not even a remote possibility that Taliban will wield any influence over any section of Indian Muslims, even in Jammu and Kashmir. Muslims women in India have enjoyed far better privileges and are better organised to resist any attempt to give up their rights and privileges which they already enjoy.
The worst case scenario emerging for India due to emergent Taliban is the disintegration of nuclear Pakistan. In that case India will have to deal, engage and negotiate with several states competing in extremism and possibly fratricidal war leading. It is in the interest of India that Pakistan survives as a democracy and a stable state. The Indian government should do nothing that weakens the democratically elected government in Pakistan.
-- The writer heads the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
A double game financed by Uncle Sam
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Last week America professed shock at the ‘peace deal’ but this week Sen. John Kerry said Pakistan deserves extra billions to fight the same Taliban -- will the real Uncle Sam stand up?
The United States, instead of giving Pakistan a dressing down for compromising the so-called ‘war on terror’ (in which, seven years back Pakistan was included as an ‘ally’)by sealing an agreement with the Taliban, is seen bending to please. This week, Senator John Kerry, who is a key player in the Obama administration’s foreign policy establishment, surprised everybody on Wednesday by calling for release of more funds for Pakistan. He said “time is running out” and that the US must help Pakistan survive. Kerry went on to endorse a new US think tank report that called for an increase of $4-5 billion per year in new help for Pakistan. Time “There is still time for us to be able to help the new government, turn around its economy, stabilize the political system and address insurgency festering in its tribal areas.”
This is sweet music to the ISI. Its exactly what it had bargained for. The generals in Islamabad had reckoned that their double game would initially be criticised, but eventually America would have no option but pump in more money. And much of this money would line their own pockets. Meanwhile, ordinary Muslims would die under a repressive regime.
This week, an American writer, Thomas Rick, whose new book on Iraq has created ripples, said that Barack Obamas’ Vietnam is neither Afghanistan nor Iraq, butPakistan.He told Newsweek: “We could lose Afghanistan, and it would be bad but it would not present an existential threat to this country. If you ‘lose Pakistan’ — and by that I mean if Pakistan collapses or is taken over by Islamic extremists — you face the prospect of Islamic extremists having nuclear weapons. That’s al- Qaeda’s dream. It’s our nightmare. That’s why Pakistan is Obama’s potential Vietnam.”
For the moment, however, the Taliban and Pakistan are up to the height of chicanery. The world is shocked to see that the Taliban and Pakistani forces have joined hands instead of fighting each other. The Tahreek-e-Taliban’s head of the Bajaur region, Maulvi Mohammad Faqir, has announced on FM Radio that Pakistan is their country and to safeguard her is their prime duty. He said: “We are declaring ceasefire for the interests of Pakistan and our region.” He added that he had instructed his fighters not to take any action against Pakistani Security forces.
Meanwhile, Mulla Umar, the supreme head of the Taliban, has also written a letter to the newly found Taliban alliance and forbade them from fighting Pakistani forces. It is learnt that Mulla Umar has instructed Taliban guerillas who are fighting government forces in North and South Waziristan to stand down. He has written in this letter that waging a war against Muslims could not be justified as a jihad. He told the Taliban militants that if they really want to do jihad they could do it in Afghanistan, against US and NATO forces. He has written that their aim is to liberate Afghanistan from outer forces and it was never their aim to continue murder and killing within Pakistan.
This statement of Mulla Umar has come at a time when the attempts to restore peace in the Swat Valley by the ‘Tahreek-i-nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi’ of Mohammad Sufi are in full swing. However there are doubts over how long this peace would stick because of the inherent contradictions in the agreement.
But the question that comes up here is: How much Islamic is this peace process? The Taliban is raising slogans like ‘Jiski Dharti Uska Nizam’ (The local Laws are supreme) and ‘Rab Ki Dharti Rab Ka Nizam’ (God’s soil, God’s system). But, in reality, the opposite is happening. There is long history of murder and killing in the frontier region of Pakistan. Incidents of murder and killing are commonplace in the border areas; even the funerals are being bombarded. On the very first day of peace, the Taliban executed a Geo TV reporter, Sufi Mohammad.
Mulla Umar is now claiming that there is no war with Pakistan and that it would be un-Islamic to attack Pakistani forces. Why did Mualla Umar not declare it before? The Taliban was not only targeting Pakistani soldiers in the past, but also the general public. Now, if they succeed to restore peace there, would they be able to eliminate racial differences? If they really want to restore peace in Pakistan, they would have to eliminate all racial indifferences because every community considers Islamic laws according to its views. For them the other community is kafir and un-Islamic. If these problems are not sorted out then more confusion and indifferences would emerge.
There are major differences between Shias and Sunnis of the Frontier region. Both sects want to prove its supremacy on the others. Suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism are waged by Sunnis on Sunnis and vice versa.
The attack on a funeral in Dera Ismail Khan was a fresh example of the ongoing sectarian conflict. Believers of other faiths are feeling threat and are forced to leave their homes. The differences between the Ulemas of these two communities have destroyed the peace of Dera Ismail Khan. But they do not bother about the peace of the region. They just want to prove their supremacy and implement their brand of Islam. There is little possibility of peace being restored as neither the government nor the so-called upholders of Islamic Law have the intention of stopping the bloodletting – as long as Uncle Sam is willing to send money.
In the 1960s, self-serving South Vietnamese generals in Saigon fooled three US Presidents. Now we see that history repeat itself in Islamabad.
-- The writer is an Asst. Professor in JNU