Nourishing terror with US dollars by Kanchan Gupta
The Saudi-isation of Pakistan: A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan by Pervez Hoodbhoy
For Pak kids, 'J' is for jihad - PTI
India, Pak aren't neighbours; they are worlds apart by MJ Akbar
Explaining away terror by Vir Sanghvi
US will not redress Mumbai for us by Kanwal Sibal
Nourishing terror with US dollars
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Commenting on America’s response to the multiple terrorist strikes of 9/11, the most spectacular of which was Mohammed Atta and his fellow jihadis flying two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and reducing the glittering chrome-and-glass symbol of American power to twisted steel and rubble, Gen Pervez Musharraf writes in his memoir, In the Line of Fire, “I was chairing an important meeting... when my military secretary told me that the US Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, was on the phone. I said I would call back later, but he insisted that I come out of the meeting and take the call. Powell was quite candid: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ I took this as a blatant ultimatum... I told him we were with the United States against terrorism, having suffered from it for years, and would fight along with his country against it.” Gen Powell’s pronounced pro-Pakistan bias was no secret in the first Bush Administration. It is possible that his colleagues were not too sure whether he had been blunt enough while delivering what Gen Musharraf was to later correctly describe as a “blatant ultimatum” to Pakistan. So a follow-up message was sent, this time through a person who had little time and lesser patience for niceties. “When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In what was to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director-general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we would be bombed back to the Stone Age.”
It is anybody’s guess as to whether the Americans would have carried out their threat had Gen Musharraf cast Pakistan’s lot with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But being the crafty man that he is, Gen Musharraf decided to play along with the Bush Administration by pretending to be a ‘staunch’ and ‘steadfast’ ally in the war on terror, and thus get the West to acknowledge Pakistan as the ‘frontline state’ deserving of military and civilian aid, which has since run into billions of dollars, most of it contributed by the US. Seven years after Gen Powell asked Gen Musharraf to choose between America and the terrorists, and Mr Armitage made sure Pakistan chose to support the US, there is little or nothing to show for the military and non-military aid. Oversight audits have revealed that much of the money meant to modernise the Pakistani Army to fight terrorism in that country’s badlands has been pocketed by its top brass through the rampant use of bogus vouchers and fake bills.
As for non-military aid, it is obvious that generous cash transfers from Western capitals to Islamabad have not helped prevent Pakistani society’s descent into Islamic fanaticism and jihadi bloodletting. Gen Musharraf had promised to reform the education system by cleansing school curriculum of the regressive elements introduced during the Islamisation drive of Gen Zia-ul-Haq, shutting down non-registered madrasas run by rabid mullahs, and modernising those seminaries which are recognised by the Government. For all his talk about “enlightened moderation”, Gen Musharraf did nothing on this front; by the time he ordered his troops to storm Lal Masjid and its two madrasas, including Jamia Hafza, in the heart of Islamabad on July 8, 2007, thousands of clones of this Deoband-inspired seminary of hate had sprung up across Pakistan. Many more have mushroomed in the last two years and each one of them preaches a simple, one-sentence message: “Jihad is your salvation.”
Distinguished Pakistani scholar and columnist Pervez Hoodbhoy, in an article, “The Saudi-isation of Pakistan”, published in the latest issue of Newsline, laments how radical Islamism and mullah-driven Arabisation are furiously gnawing at the innards of a tottering Pakistani state. He says although the Government admits to the existence of only 13,000 madrasas with 1.5 million Taliban, the real number is likely between 18,000 and 22,000. That would mean millions of Taliban being indoctrinated by hate-mongers for whom Islam means being in a state of constant war with those who refuse to submit to oppressive Islamism that militates against human liberty, equality and dignity.
The preaching of hate and the teaching of ‘virtues’ of jihad are not limited to Deobandi madarsas alone. Such has been the all-pervasive influence of state-sponsored Islamisation since the days of Gen Zia’s dictatorship — contrary to popular belief Benazir Bhutto did nothing to reverse the trend after the dictator met a justly deserved fiery death (those with an evil mind insist the CIA did him in), nor did Mr Nawaz Sharif bother to halt the onward march of radical Islam while Gen Musharraf tricked the Americans into believing he was working on education reforms but it would require a few more million dollars, please — that private schools have now begun adopting offensive textbooks. Rezaul Laskar of PTI has filed a report from Islamabad which is worth quoting verbatim: “Thousands of Pakistani schoolgoing children are growing up learning that the Urdu equivalent of the letter ‘A’ stands for Allah, ‘B’ for bandook (gun) and ‘J’ for jihad. Though not officially prescribed for pre-schoolers, books printed by Iqra Publishers are being used in several regular schools and madrasas across Pakistan. The three examples of Allah, bandook and jihad are not the only ones which sound like a ‘blueprint for a religious fascist state’. The Urdu letter for the ‘T’ stands for takrao (collision), ‘K’ for khanjar (dagger), H for hijab (veil) and ‘Z’ for zunoob (sins) which include watching television, playing musical instruments and flying kites.
Which takes us back to Peerbhoy’s lament: “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.” Not given to grand pronouncements, Peerbhoy has been cautious with his words. For, Pakistan has not only set itself on a self-destructive course, it is also headed for a catastrophe whose victims shall not be Pakistanis alone. Tragically, the Americans refuse to read the writing on the wall. If the Bush Administration erred in trusting Pakistan, the incoming Obama Administration has compounded that error by promising to treble aid to a criminal state whose ruling elite, both military and civilian, is a complicit partner in promoting a particularly virulent form of radical Islamism. Little does the Pakistani elite realise that it too shall be devoured by the beast it is nourishing with American dollars.
The Saudi-isation of Pakistan
A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan.
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. 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.
For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.
A full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths. It is only a matter of time before this fighting shifts to Peshawar and Islamabad (which has already been a witness to the Lal Masjid episode) and engulfs Lahore and Karachi as well. The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy.
Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals and ordinary people praying in mosques have all been reduced to globs of flesh and fragments of bones. But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of the army operation against the cruel perpetrators of these acts because they believe that they are Islamic warriors fighting for Islam and against American occupation. Political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have no words of solace for those who have suffered at the hands of Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved exclusively for the victims of Predator drones, even if they are those who committed grave crimes against their own people. Terrorism, by definition, is an act only the Americans can commit.
What explains Pakistan’s collective masochism? To understand this, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have rendered this country so completely different from what it was in earlier times.
For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula. This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a magnificent Muslim culture in India for a thousand years. This culture produced Mughul architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam (Wahhabism) is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.
This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state used Islam as an instrument of state policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts in universities required that the candidate demonstrate a knowledge of Islamic teachings and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – still in an amorphous and diffused form – is more popular now than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state.
Villages have changed drastically; this transformation has been driven, in part, by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrasas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other sects, who they do not regard as Muslims. The Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, are now beginning to take a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from the recent decisions of the Lahore High Court.
In Pakistan’s lower-middle and middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement that frowns on any and every expression of joy and pleasure. Lacking any positive connection to culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.
“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichitraveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. So the university has been forced to hold its music classes elsewhere. Religious fundamentalists consider music haram or un-Islamic. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has few teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence. Nevertheless, the Pakistani elite, disconnected from the rest of the population, live their lives in comfort through their vicarious proximity to the West. Alcoholism is a chronic problem of the super rich of Lahore – a curious irony for this deeply religious country.
Islamisation of the state and the polity was supposed to have been in the interest of the ruling class – a classic strategy for preserving it from the wrath of the working class. But the amazing success of the state is turning out to be its own undoing. Today, it is under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jihad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers.
Pakistan’s self-inflicted suffering comes from an education system that, like Saudi Arabia’s system, provides an ideological foundation for violence and future jihadists. It demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of a school-going child a sense of siege and embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.
On the previous page, the reader can view the government-approved curriculum. This is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an act of parliament passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It was prepared by the curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education, government of Pakistan. It sounds like a blueprint for a religious fascist state.
Alongside are scanned pictures from an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet. The masthead states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines.” Although not an officially approved textbook, it is being used currently by some regular schools, as well as madrasas associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Musharraf. These picture scans have been taken from a child’s book, hence the scribbles.
The world of the Pakistani schoolchild remained largely unchanged, even after September 11, 2001, the event that led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jihad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation,” General Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned down version of the curriculum that existed under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto who had inherited it from General Zia-ul-Haq. Fearful of taking on the powerful religious forces, every incumbent government has refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be moulded by fanatics. What may happen a generation later has always been a secondary issue for a government challenged on so many fronts.
The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jihad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, they invited students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers and declared a war which knew no borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jihad. Post-2001, this ceased to be done openly.
Still, the primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrasa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates back to the 11th century, with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as ‘maulvi sahibs’ teaching children to read the Quran.
The Afghan jihad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrasas provided the US-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder they needed to fight a holy war. The Americans and Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrasas across the length and breadth of Pakistan. A detailed picture of the current situation is not available. But according to the national education census, which the ministry of education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrasas followed by the NWFP with 2,843; Sindh has 1,935; the Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA), 1,193; Balochistan, 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 586; the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), 135; and the Islamabad capital territory, 77. The ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are acquiring religious education in the 13,000 madrasas.
These figures appear to be way off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrasas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free boarding and lodging plus provision of books to the students, is a key part of their appeal. Additionally, parents across the country desire that their children be “disciplined” and given a thorough Islamic education. The madrasas serve this purpose, too, exceedingly well.
Madrasas have deeply impacted the urban environment. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from the rest of Pakistan. Also, it had largely been the abode of Pakistan’s elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrasas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students, sporting little prayer caps, dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm the city, making women minus the hijab increasingly nervous.
Total segregation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists, the consequences of which have been catastrophic. For example, on April 9, 2006, 21 women and eight children were crushed to death and scores injured in a stampede inside a three-storey madrassa in Karachi, where a large number of women were attending a weekly congregation. Male rescuers, who arrived in ambulances, were prevented from moving the injured women to hospitals.
One cannot dismiss this incident as being just one of a kind. In fact, soon after the October 2005 earthquake, as I walked through the destroyed city of Balakot, a student of the Frontier Medical College described to me how he and his male colleagues were stopped by religious elders from digging out injured girl students from under the rubble of their school building. This action was similar to that of Saudi Arabia’s ubiquitous religious ‘mutaween’ (police) who, in March 2002, had stopped school girls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing their abayas – a long robe worn in Saudi Arabia. In a rare departure from the norm, Saudi newspapers had blamed and criticised the mutaween for letting 15 girls burn to death.
The Saudi-isation of a once-vibrant Pakistani culture continues at a relentless pace. The drive to segregate is now also being found among educated women. Vigorous proselytisers carrying this message, such as Mrs Farhat Hashmi, have been catapulted to the heights of fame and fortune. Their success is evident. Two decades back, the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu. Today, some shops across the country specialise in abayas. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, the female student is seeking the anonymity of the burqa. And in some parts of the country she seems to outnumber her sisters who still “dare” to show their faces.
I have observed the veil profoundly affect habits and attitudes. Many of my veiled female students have largely become silent note-takers, are increasingly timid and seem less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. They lack the confidence of a young university student.
While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the distance. The socially conservative are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine – the list runs on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims, and if presented with incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression.
The immediate future does not appear hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control of the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Baitullah Mehsud, Maulana Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh. Poverty, deprivation, lack of justice and extreme differences of wealth provide the perfect environment for these demagogues to recruit people to their cause. Their gruesome acts of terror are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis merely as a war against imperialist America. This could not be further from the truth.
In the long term, we will have to see how the larger political battle works out between those Pakistanis who want an Islamic theocratic state and those who want a modern Islamic republic. It may yet be possible to roll back those Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years and to defeat its hate-driven holy warriors. There is no chance of instant success; perhaps things may have to get worse before they get better. But, in the long term, I am convinced that the forces of irrationality will cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls only in one direction. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and the evolution of the humans into a higher and better species will continue. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, they will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religiosity and nationalism. But, for now, this must be just a matter of faith.
The author teaches physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.
For Pak kids, 'J' is for jihad
16 Jan 2009, 0110 hrs IST, PTI
ISLAMABAD: Thousands of Pakistani schoolgoing children are growing up learning that the Urdu equivalent of the letter A stands for Allah, B for
'bandook' (gun) and J for jihad.
Though not officially prescribed for pre-schoolers, books printed by Iqra Publishers are being used in several regular schools and madrasas across Pakistan.
The three examples of Allah, 'bandook' and jihad are not the only ones which sound like a "blueprint for a religious fascist state". The Urdu letter for the T sound stands for 'takrao' (collide), K for 'khunjar' (dagger), H for 'hijab' (veil) and Z for 'zunoob' (sins) - which includes watching television, playing musical instruments and flying kites.
According to the National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks, Class 5 children are expected to "acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan", "make speeches on jihad and shahadat (martyrdom)", "understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan", "India's evil designs about Pakistan" and "demonstrate by actions a belief in the fear of Allah", said a report in Newsline magazine.
India, Pak aren't neighbours; they are worlds apart
18 Jan 2009, 0043 hrs IST,
1947 divided us, but did not separate us. We still met, through family and media. Separation came with war in 1965, instigated by fantasists like General Ayub Khan and Z A Bhutto. It extinguished the flickering embers of trust. Walls of regulations were raised to block knowledge, and then vision. If you do not see a neighbour he is not a neighbour. There are no neighbours in the huge apartment blocks of Mumbai, only adjacent numbers.
The middle class Indian's true neighbour is America, sharing culture, language, consumerism, celebrity-worship and an insatiable desire for upward mobility. He knows more about the intricate processes that make Obama president than it does about the hop, skip and jump that Zardari used to acquire the same title.
India and Pakistan share a past but not a present; the future is vulnerable to imagined realities. Those with goodwill sell notions of excessive, even emotional hospitality. Those with ill will, the preponderant majority, provoke images of demonic horror. The young Pakistani men sent to Mumbai on a killing spree were fed on lies salted with evil; they had no independent reality check.
For four decades an investment in ignorance has nurtured an incremental interest in hatred. Pakistan has become a breeding ground for permanent war against India. Indians have developed a deep aversion for Pakistan. If a poll were taken in India asking whether Pakistan should be relocated in Latin America, the answer would be an unanimous yes.
Neighbours do not need to be permanent friends. France and Germany fought each other with a deadly bitterness that was once synonymous with Europe, but there was always individual, social and intellectual discourse between the two. Neighbours do not need to be equals. The US and Britain have been the best of neighbours since 1918, dining and hunting together. They have replaced each other as Emperor of Most of the World Worth Ruling, and the relationship has survived the trauma of self-appraisal. Neighbours may not share the same language, but they must know how to communicate, to understand what the other is doing, and why. Peace is impossible without understanding. The fog of ignorance only induces conflict through the illusion of victory. Ironically, the real deception is that the deceiver never knows how much he has deceived himself.
Knowledge of the other is impossible without free flow of media.
Newspapers and television stations may be terrible, but they are not terrorists. They may occasionally bore you to death, but they do not actually kill anyone. Indians and Pakistanis can see CNN at the flick of a finger but not each other's channels. So what if media sometimes gets hysterical: it never takes too long for hysterics to make fools of themselves. Sadly, hysteria can also influence policy, so it is important to know what the other is ranting about. Moreover, information cannot really be kept in solitary confinement; it always dribbles out as misinformation. It makes sense to offer it as information.
I saw the January 10 issue of Pakistan's most important English newspaper, Dawn, purely by accident. Page 1 had a report from Lahore about five low-intensity explosions that ripped through five theatres. This was the work of the same fundamentalist minds that sent terrorists to India; their enemy was not just India, but any sign of modernity in Pakistan. No one accused these bombers of being RAW agents.
From Kohat came a story of heavily-armed Sunnis attacking a Shia procession with rockets. Five died. Communal riots do not necessarily need men of different faiths.
The edit page had a brilliant piece by Shandana Khan Mohmand. It asked Pakistan to get real, and acknowledge that terrorist organizations were sustained by popular funds. It also noted, calmly, that "Pakistan needs to accept a very harsh reality - it is not India's equal."
Far from being banned, Dawn should be made compulsory reading in India.
The United States and the Soviet Union also blocked information during their Cold War and paid good money to mislead. But distance reduced flashpoints to a minimum. India and Pakistan have become enemies cursed by a common frontier.
The ground has been frozen on the frontier into a glacier, but the air is still free, albeit polluted. If we want to clear the air - if - we have no option except to use that inconsistent broom called media.
Explaining away terror
Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times
January 17, 2009
Are you as fed up as I am by attempts to explain away the Mumbai attacks? Ever since the attacks occurred, the Western press has informed its readers of the terrible condition of India’s Muslims and suggested that minority frustration led to the terrorism.
Islamabad made a futile attempt to disown Kasab before being shown up by Pakistan’s own media. Within Pakistan, it is now fashionable to argue that there must have been extensive local involvement and that the attacks were an essentially indigenous operation. And now, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has claimed that the world has double standards. Why go on and on about the Mumbai attacks when so little is said about innocent children dying in Gaza, etc. etc.?
Some things need to be said clearly. First of all, the attacks were not carried out by India’s Muslims. They were carried out by trained terrorists from Pakistan. Secondly, even if it is true that Indian Muslims have been involved in terrorism, it does not follow that they have been forced to turn to violence because of the hostility of India’s Hindu majority. Thirdly, there are no parallels at all between Gaza and Mumbai, and the attempt to draw them reveals the hollowness of Pakistan’s position.
Let’s start with the identity of the attackers. Does anyone seriously doubt that they were Pakistanis? Islamabad made a futile attempt to disown Kasab before being shown up by Pakistan’s own media. Despite a certain amount of double-talk (including the sacking of the National Security Advisor for owning up to Kasab), the official position of the government of Pakistan, as expressed by Information Minister Sherry Rehman, is that Kasab is in fact a Pakistani.
Once we accept that Kasab is who he says he is — a young man from Faridkot, brainwashed and trained by Pakistani jihadi elements — many other things also follow. Clearly, there are outfits active in Pakistan that pick up people like Kasab, train them in mayhem and then export them around the world. The extent of the jihadi brainwashing can be gauged from a statement that Kasab’s father made to the Pakistani media. He said his son left home after quarrelling with him. Young Kasab had wanted his father to give him money to buy new clothes for Id. When the old man refused, his son stormed out of the house.
How much must a hot-headed youth who was prepared to abandon his family over a set of new clothes been brainwashed to reach the stage where he was ready to give up all worldly possessions, and even his own life, in the pursuit of jihad?
That gives us some idea of the strength of the jihadi machine in Pakistan. Young boys are picked up and encouraged to give up their lives for the cause. They receive military training — judging by the expertise the terrorists demonstrated in Mumbai. And they have access to sophisticated arms.
You can argue that all this tells us something about the condition of Pakistani Muslims. But it says nothing about the state of Indian Muslims. So, all attempts to link the Mumbai attacks to the so-called ‘anger of India’s Muslim minority’ are no more than lazy, knee-jerk journalism.
Secondly, let’s accept that even if there was no real Indian involvement in the Mumbai attacks, there have been other cases where the terrorism has been home-grown. So, yes, some Indian Muslims have turned to terrorism.
But there are many kinds of terrorism and violence. The kind we are used to is the variety that uses assassinations and attacks on civilian targets in pursuit of a political goal. Such as, say, Al Fatah or the Sikh militants of the 80s.
The distinguishing characteristic of 21st Century jihadi violence is that, unlike much of what has gone before, it has no clear political aim. When Osama bin Laden sent the planes into the twin towers, he did not think that America would collapse as a result. The British-born Pakistani, who carried out the London bombings did not think that Tony Blair would step down because of their actions.
The new kind of jihadi terrorism is random. It seeks to do no more than inflict pain and suffering on those who are identified as enemies of Islam. And it has found adherents all the way from England to Indonesia.
In this situation, it is not realistic to expect that India, with the world’s second largest Muslim population, will entirely escape this trend. Even if 0.1 per cent of India’s Muslims catch the jihadi bug, the number of potential jihadis could run into lakhs.
Fortunately, we have seen nothing on that scale. Even the Intelligence Bureau’s own estimates limit the numbers of jihadis and their sympathisers at a few thousand. In the circumstances, we have been luckier than any other country, luckier certainly than Britain, where jihadi sympathisers form a far higher proportion of the Muslim population.
Nor does it make any sense to claim that the reason we have some indigenous Muslim terrorists is because they are discriminated against by Hindus.
If that is so, then what about Britain? And what about Muslim majority countries that are the actual breeding grounds of jihad? Surely, nobody is claiming that Muslims face discrimination in countries where they are the majority?
Nobody disputes that India’s Muslims face discrimination. Nor do I deny that they are under-represented in government, in the top echelons in industry and in the police. I concede, too, that they have less access to education than they should.
But two points are worth making. The first is that even in Muslim majority countries, education remains a problem. In last Sunday’s Times of India, M.J. Akbar provided some interesting statistics. There are only 500-odd universities in the Muslim world. India has nearly 8,500. Literacy in the developed world is 90 per cent as against 40 per cent in the Muslim world. High-tech goods and services constitute only 0.90 per cent of Pakistan’s exports. They add up to 68 per cent of Singapore’s exports. Azim Premji, one of India’s high-tech gurus, is a Muslim — no Pakistani has reached that level.
Secondly, as long as we continue to make a link between so-called grievances and terrorism, we will never successfully fight the terrorists. Pakistan wants to have it both ways. It says that political violence in India comes from disaffected Muslims. But it argues that Pakistan is also a victim of terror.
Why do Pakistanis try and kill their own President? Is it because they are discriminated against? Clearly not. Jihad has nothing to do with grievances, or with any kind of political objective. And that is as true of India as it is of Pakistan.
I’ve always said that Pakistan is the greatest enemy of Indian Muslims, shedding crocodile tears over their fate and trying to forge a bogus pan-Islamic unity. Its response to the Mumbai attacks has once again demonstrated this.
When Pakistani politicians go on TV and say that the terror strikes were indigenous, they are — in effect — saying that Indian Muslims are terrorists, something that no responsible Indian politician would ever consider saying.
And when the likes of Gilani compare the Bombay attacks to the Gaza operation, they are playing a dangerous game, by seeking to forge some pan-Islamic sense of victimhood.
Pakistan’s basic problem is that it is a country based on nothing more than religion. But religion has not proved strong enough to hold it together (as Bangladesh’s secession demonstrated), or to provide a basis for democracy. And now, religion has come back to haunt Pakistan in the form of jihad.
The Pakistanis think they are being clever by manipulating the jihadis into attacking India. But ultimately, jihad always backfires on those who sponsored it. That is the lesson Pakistan is learning the hard way.
We, in democratic, secular India, on the other hand, may have our own problems. But our society is not built on religion or torn apart by religious violence.
In the short run, this may leave us at the mercy of a ruthless neighbour. But in long run, it will ensure we flourish, while Pakistan slides deeper and deeper into chaos.
US will not redress Mumbai for us
By Kanwal Sibal
INDIA has been a victim of state- sponsored terrorism by Pakistan for years. The United States too has been targeted for long by international terrorism with a Pakistani connection in many instances. Despite the obvious community of interest between them to end Pakistan’s terror links, India and the US have not been able to forge a common understanding of the problem, much less develop a common strategy to deal with it.
At the core of US reluctance to address Pakistan’s terrorist affiliations frontally has been its longstanding policy of balancing India and Pakistan and maintaining political “ even- handedness” between the two. Artificially equating countries so different in physical size, population, economic potential and political values inherently meant a pro- Pakistan bias. Parity in approach distorted realities in Pakistan’s favour and resulted in flawed US policies in the sub- continent. The US linked our demands for pressure on Pakistan on terrorism to a “compensating” point of pressure on us to satisfy Pakistan.
Accordingly, it pressured India on human rights in J& K, alongside its muted cautioning of Pakistan on terrorism.
An unambiguous recognition of Pakistan’s complicity in terrorism would have compelled the US, politically and legally, to cease tolerating Pakistan’s conduct and impose sanctions.
To fudge the issue, it adopted the posture that Pakistan’s terrorist onslaught against India was an extension of the Kashmir problem and India’s failure to adequately address the grievances of its Muslim minority. Such violence therefore fell outside the category of “ international” terrorism, the target of US action globally. This contradicted the broader US position, developed to politically shield Israel against Palestinian terrorism, that no cause, political, religious, ideological or economic, justified recourse to terrorism. Moreover, if India’s mishandling of Kashmir justified jihadi terrorism against it, did US policies in Palestine and elsewhere in the Islamic world then justify terrorism directed against it? In recent years the epicentre of international terrorism has moved into the Pakistan/ Afghanistan borderlands.
Our geographical proximity to it has not led to greater practical US receptivity to the enhanced terrorist danger we face as crucial US dependence on Pakistan to deal with increased US vulnerabilities in Afghanistan has off- set it. Pakistan has garnered almost $ 10 billion in assistance from the US in recent years, much of it military. Another $ 15 billion is in the offing, with a military component. Under the cover of acquiring greater capability to combat terrorism, the Pakistan military is strengthening itself against India with US help. President Bush has for years invariably applauded Pakistan’s strong contribution to the global combat against terrorism, rebuffing Indian complaints, even as he, otherwise, de- hyphenated India and Pakistan on the nuclear front.
The crux of the problem is that while India sees Pakistan as an adversary, the US does not. US policies towards Pakistan will reflect this difference in posture, and will be grounded in its own larger regional interests, whether or not congruent with ours. Our respective attitudes to Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism cannot be the same, even if the US chafes at Pakistan’s behaviour at times. We see a malevolent Pakistan using terrorism against us as an instrument of state policy. The jihadi organizations participate not only to provide official deniability, but also to further the agenda of dismembering India that Pakistan cannot openly espouse officially. Pakistan has no such destructive agenda against the US at the governmental level. It cooperates with the US in fighting Al- Qaida elements straddling its border areas, but, for longterm strategic reasons, withholds full support in combating the Taliban forces targeting the international forces in Afghanistan from its soil.
The US values Pakistani support, stinted though it is, because it is indispensable to its combat in Afghanistan, even as it continues to prod Pakistan to do more to suppress the activity of extremist groups across its western frontier. US frustration at Pakistan’s ambivalent response surfaces publicly at times in official statements and press briefings, but their import is limited for us.
The US has dealt pragmatically with Pakistani footprints in some terrorist attacks against US targets, blaming rogue elements or non- state actors for them rather than the government.
Even in instances where the evidence of involvement of state agencies in terrorist attacks against Indian targets has surfaced, as in the case of the blasting of our embassy in Kabul, the US has sought to shield the Pakistan government from responsibility. When India blames Pakistan for terrorism, the US tries to exculpate its government, blaming rogue elements within the system or extremist groups outside the control of the authorities. The outgoing US Ambassador has indirectly chided the Prime Minister for accusing state agencies in Pakistan for Mumbai. Terrorist attacks against General Musharraf for doing its bidding against the Al- Qaida gave the US additional reason to propagate the thesis that Pakistan itself, like India, was a victim of jihadi terrorism, a line that we short- sightedly adopted later. The quantum of cooperation the US gets from Pakistan on terrorism, added to all the other ways that Pakistan is important to US interests — its geo- strategic location bordering India, China, Iran and Central Asia, its diplomatic weight as a major Islamic country, its possession of nuclear weapons- means that the US— Pakistan relationship will continue to pose challenges to us even as our own ties with the US improve. Pakistan has mastered the art of extracting unmerited benefits from its US relationship through a combination of strategic services and strategic blackmail.
In this background, our post- Mumbai policy of relying almost exclusively on the US to deliver satisfaction to us is perplexing. Past experience and an objective assessment of various elements of the current situation go against the assumptions underlying this policy. Our expectations from an outgoing US Administration seem unrealistically high. Can we really expect them, in their dying days, to drastically alter course on Pakistan simply because the Mumbai attack took place? More so when President- elect Obama has repeatedly spoken of a more robust Afghanistan policy based on increased pressure on Pakistan to perform on the western front and increased pressure on India on Kashmir to ease the situation for Pakistan on its eastern flank — a continuation of the old policy of developing parallel points of pressure on both countries in order to maintain political even- handedness. Mumbai may have been traumatic for us, but for the US and others it is another bloody blip on the terror screen. The argument that because six Americans were killed, the US will extract justice from Pakistan overlooks the loss of many more American lives to terrorist attacks in Afghanistan mounted from the Pakistani soil and US inability to cow down the Pakistani establishment.
Pakistan Premier Geelani’s gall and insensitivity in questioning the fuss being made about Mumbai shows the hard- headed assessment Pakistan has made about the limits of US and Indian pressure on it. Pakistan knows that India, lacking the stomach to take hard decisions, has chosen the soft option of outsourcing the problem to the US, which gives cushion to Pakistan as the US will perforce place those Indians who perished at the hands of Pakistanis in Mumbai within the cold calculus of wider US- Pakistan relations. Alas! (The author is a former foreign secretary)