COMMENT: Terror revisited —Salman Tarik Kureshi - Saturday, November 27, 2010

Source :\11\27\story_27-11-2010_pg3_2

In educational institutions and in the bulk of the media, even in parliament and the courts, most discussion is heavily uni-polar and seeks justification exclusively in perceived ideology, ignoring rationalism

Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghanistan war began in early 1976. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Governor NWFP Naseerullah Babar, apprehensive of the ‘Pakhtunistan’ sloganeering of Afghan President Daoud and angered by his support of the Balochistan insurrection, gave shelter to Afghan rebels like Massoud, Rabbani, Hekmatyar and others, and encouraged them to conduct guerrilla raids into Afghanistan. Following the leftist coup in Afghanistan in 1978, these forays (now additionally aided by the US and Saudi Arabia) quickly widened into a major insurrection. The USSR invaded Afghanistan, ostensibly to assist them against this ‘foreign intervention’. General Zia (who had seized power here) allied Pakistan with the US, gaining legitimacy for his government and massive finances and arms for his Afghan jihad.

This is how Pakistan’s war began, long before 9/11. Terrorism within Pakistan was to follow, long before it reared its grisly head in the US or Europe. Bombings of and attacks on places of worship and foreign cultural establishments were a feature as early as 1983. The Bohri Bazar bombing of July 1987 reduced well over 200 Karachiites to lumps of charred meat and remains to date the worst of the terror bombings to which our tragic country has been subjected. The FIA Centre in Karachi was part of a double bombing in 1991 (I was next door at St Joseph’s School with my wife, who taught there).

Today, to the eternal credit of the PPP government and the present military high command (I will not try to guess on whose initiative), Pakistan has engaged in a heroic counter-insurgency campaign against the murderous zealots who mounted a deadly challenge to our survival as a state and a society. This campaign primarily targets the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other entities, which are waging war against the state and people of Pakistan, while the primary targets of US/NATO forces are al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. This distinction is important; Pakistan’s war run parallel to that of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but the two are not congruent. This piece is not concerned with the adequacy of our military objectives.

While the armed forces have still to go into North Waziristan and parts of Khyber Agency, the point is what has actually happened in the areas in which the counter-insurgency, encapsulated in the formulation Clear-Hold-Develop, has been successful. While the first two goals have been generally met, little has been done in the militarily cleared areas in terms of development. Whether it is building infrastructure, providing education or creating businesses and jobs, development is a civilian, not a military matter. Unfortunately, our people-friendly government has cancelled the development budgets of even the nation’s urban and agricultural centres, what to speak of such politically marginal regions as Swat, FATA and PATA.

The second point regarding the cleared areas is that, as this scribe has frequently suggested, political arrangements and questions of governance and justice are core issues here. The negligence of practically every past regime in letting these areas continue to fester in backwardness has been a fatal flaw in the national fabric. These regions need to be integrated into the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. And that is itself a difficult process, with multiple constitutional, administrative, educational and ideological complexities. But has anyone in the government, parliament or judiciary even begun to envision the processes involved? Have there been any serious media discussions?

As for the rest of the country, it is supine before the unrelenting terrorist violence emanating from the FATA belt and Punjab. The systematic campaign of successful terror attacks has created a miasma of public fear. It destroys confidence and generates uncertainties that are wearing down the will of the people to strike back at these mass-murderers. It does not take a genius to appreciate that, for example, in the recent CID Centre bombing in Karachi, a huge quantity of high-tech explosive was procured, assembled, mobilised, transported and utilised. This has been the case in one terrorist act after another, but no intelligence or investigation has been able to penetrate the financial, logistical and human trails involved. And when it comes to actually bringing any of these mass-murdering enemies of the people to justice, well, we know what happens.

The point is that these issues come under the purview of civilian governments, responsible to civilian parliaments and assemblies and are adjudicated by civilian courts. Counter-terrorism is an issue of effective law enforcement, the basic task of any government. The American scholar Stephen Cohen has remarked that, while Pakistan is not a failed or failing state, the corruption and incompetence of its administrative and police apparatus and its lower courts could well drag the country down.

The last point being made here today relates to the ideological indoctrination that has taken place in this country since the time of Zia and the toxic textbooks developed at the University of Nebraska. This has created a heavily one-sided intellectual and cultural environment. Now, let me hasten to state that I do not insist on the sole validity of the tolerant, science-based values I personally favour, nor that faith-based, ideologically derived opinions are necessarily suspect. I contend only that debate is necessary and this requires articulation of opinions from opposite sides of the axis. But in educational institutions and in the bulk of the media, even in parliament and the courts, most discussion is heavily uni-polar and seeks justification exclusively in perceived ideology, ignoring rationalism. Moreover, no one qualifies these views, from which, in the absence of an ideational challenge from humanism, it takes only a few steps to arrive at the violent intolerance of the Takfiris (those who accuse other Muslims of apostasy).

The culling of the toxic textbooks, madrassa reform and presenting ideational counter-points to the prevailing orthodoxy: these are the very clear responsibility of the elected parties. But it is a responsibility our political leadership has failed to address. Even the term used for the mass-murderers waging war against the state of Pakistan, askariat-pasand, carries no pejorative connotation. No war can be successfully waged by those who have adopted without question such an ambivalent attitude towards the ideas of the enemy.

High marks to the military, then, for its sound counter-insurgency campaign. But negative marks to the civilian state institutions on their developmental and counter-terrorism failures. Are you listening, President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Chief Justice Chaudhry?

The writer is a marketing consultant based in Karachi. He is also a poet

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