Terrorism: how we got here

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For years the West accused Pakistan of being the centre of terrorism. Now the arrest of dozens of Al-Qaeda leaders and Osama bin Laden from Pakistan convinced the common citizen to accept this as fact.

 

The nations of the world also acknowledge that Pakistan is the number one target and victim of terrorism. This is also the position adopted, and supported with quantitative data, by our minister of foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, at the UN General Assembly.

Today at international forums, where other countries sell their policies with slogans of peace, opportunities and picturesque sites, we plead that Pakistan is the most devastated country in the world due to terrorism and extremism. The present condition is the ultimate result of a confused and helpless government against organised and single-minded terrorists. The failure of state organs in combating terrorism and extremism is a matter of unmatched response. The issue is complex and multidimensional while the response is confused and weak.

 

In Pakistan the core dimension of the issue is strategic. The policies we adopted in the last three decades to safeguard our security against India, the US and Afghanistan necessitated official patronage or at least our turning a blind eye to extremist groups.

 

Thus, despite the fact that extremism is now a cancer for our national integrity, state institutions are not focused on efforts to eliminate it.

 

Another dimension is ideological. Extremism and terrorism do depend on ideology. Such ideology is provided in the literature that is available worldwide, but in Pakistan its availability and following is incomparable. To spread that literature US invested millions of dollars during the Afghan jihad.

 

In Pakistan we observe no serious or coordinated effort to combat the ideological stances presented in such literature. Secular forces try to combat it but with wrong methodology and intentions. However, there is no public policy to combat the ideology of terrorism.

 

The third important dimension is penetration of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The role of Al-Qaeda in the last one decade decreased in Afghanistan and increased in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda does not enjoy the same degree of influence on the Taliban in Afghanistan. It has active and vibrant franchises groups in Pakistan. Due to tight control and proactive policies in Western and Arab states, Al-Qaeda concentrated on Pakistan for its survival and growth. Al-Qaeda gives much importance to Pakistani policies against terrorism, and for all their terrorist activities they act upon the slogan of Pakistan First!

 

The fourth factor is the misuse of religion in the name of politics. The majority of religious parties in Pakistan, instead of spreading awareness, prefer to use religious sentiments for political mileage. Such parties mobilise their followers on the basis of sectarian fault lines. They thrust the once academic discourse of sectarian and legal divide to the level of popular debate and all this results in mutual hatter and ultimate disbelief of voters over them.

 

The fifth and perhaps the most embarrassing dimension is absence of any national combat policy. Even after ten years of 9/11, unlike many nations of the world, we don’t have any mechanism against terrorism.

 

We lack a coordination body like the Homeland Security Department of the US. So in most cases our different agencies follow policies of their own. The frontline force, the police, are kept uninformed about counterterrorism activities. At the operational level, we still have no coordinated system where intelligence-sharing could be actualised among different law-enforcement and counterterrorism agencies.

 

The last, and perhaps the most cited, dimension is poverty. Poverty, coupled with joblessness, lawlessness and bad governance, results in a situation where terrorist and extremist organisations get maximum benefit and government fails in attaining popular support.

 

Keeping in view all the six dimensions listed above, one could not refute the fact that Pakistan’s number-one problem is terrorism and extremism. The more logical outcome of such a situation could be the focus of all state organs and the media on this issue.

 

However, what we observe is preparation for new elections in Pakistan. New parties are formed and old chaps from old parties are borrowed. In desperation, old parties are trying everything for their survival. The NRO, the possible exit of some leader or Memogate are discussed in details and with vigour. Mansoor Ijaz publishes a worthless piece in a Western paper, and influences all politicians and the media in no time. The ground realties are grim and serious.

 

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.safi@janggroup.com.pk