Pakistan’s Menace Within

[Extremist violence committed in the name of religion IS TERRORISM.  As long as Pakistanis think that there is some subtle difference between the two there will be no escape from the terror within.]

The menace within

The word ‘calm’ is a relative one. More so in Pakistan. A lull in acts of terrorism reinforces the feeling of calm. But even this is relative. If Karachi, Lahore and the twin cities of Islamabad / Rawalpindi are calm, Pakistan is considered calm. That is how the policymakers and opinion-makers perceive it.

They are wrong.

Just because the likes of TTP haven’t targeted a major location (and I use the term ‘major’ loosely), doesn’t necessarily mean they are out of business. Neither does it mean the State of Pakistan is prevailing in the fight against them. In fact, when we equate the most violent type of violence with terrorism, we tend to box in an un-boxable problem. Terrorism is one aspect of extremism, which in turn is one off-shoot of intolerance.

Confused? A new report helps us understand. Titled “Extremism Watch: Mapping Conflict Trends in Pakistan 2010-11”, it has been produced by Jinnah Institute.  [Click here to download the report.]   The report has put together a wealth of data about the scale of organised violence that wracked Pakistan in this one-year period. It is divided into six segments detailing different themes ably penned by Salman Zaidi, Raza Rumi, Sabina Ansari, Sehar Tariq, Fatima Mujtaba, Madeeha Ansari and Mishal Khan, and supervised by Executive Director of the institute Ejaz Haider. The report was launched yesterday in Islamabad.

This report comes at a time when public discourse on terrorism and extremism in Pakistan is at a critically sensitive juncture. The American deadline for evacuating Afghanistan is nearing, and senior US officials have hinted at an even earlier timeframe than 2014 given by President Obama. Linked to this is the attempt at negotiating with the Afghan Taliban to try and draw them into some form of a post-American governance structure. The opening of the Taliban offices in Qatar seems to have institutionalised, if you may, this nascent effort to engage the adversary.

As these developments gather momentum, Pakistan finds itself at an “I-told-you-so” moment. “See we told you its best to engage the Taliban because they cannot be wished away,” Pakistani officials seem to be saying to their frustrated American counterparts. It may be fine to bask in the moment for a while, but sadly the blowback of such a mindset-driven policy is yet to reach its peak intensity. One such effect is the gradual change in perceptions within Pakistan itself. The obvious question is: If the Americans – of all the people – can negotiate with the Afghan Taliban, why should not we negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, aka TTP?

The linear logic may be sound, but sadly it’s not that simple. The Afghan Taliban are connected to the Pakistani Taliban, who in turn are connected to Al-Qaeda, both of whom are connected to the likes of Sipah Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc. And these organisations – supposedly banned – are continuing to unleash sectarian and inter-faith violence across Pakistan.

Sometimes even logic has its limits.

These are some of the grim lessons that emerge from the Jinnah Institute report. The primary lesson is that while terrorism may be battled with heavy firepower and military operations, extremism is a deeper and more malignant problem which pervades the Pakistani population in greater strength than we would like to admit.

In the report’s own words, it: “looks at recent incidents of violence rooted in religious extremism to determine trends in an increasingly militarised public space. The report seeks to isolate incidents of extremism from terrorism – notwithstanding the academic debates on definition for both terms – to identify the broad overlap in the cause, nature and agents of both phenomena and to show that in addition to acts of terrorism this mindset has also become a social norm.”

So we see increasing frequency of bloody incidents like the gunning down of Hazaras in Balochistan, we see the depressing trend of schools being dynamited, we see the shocking acts of shrines and mosques being bombed and the deep scars of such violence being burnished on innocent men, women and children.

The bitter reality then is that if Pakistan’s policy is ambivalent on tackling extremism, so is Pakistani public opinion. This ambivalence and confusion also pollutes public discourse thereby further reinforcing a confused public mindset. When the media shows images of Salman Taseer’s assassin being garlanded, what message does it send out to the viewers and readers? When major political leaders refuse to condemn the assassin, or the violent and intolerant ideology he espouses, what message does this send out to the voters?

The State of Pakistan has done precious little to even begin to battle this creeping menace. Short term political calculations have always trumped long term concerns. If intolerance raised its head in the 1950s (as Raza Rumi details in his excellent essay in the report) then more than half a century later it continues to dig its claws deeper into Pakistani society.

They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. We seem to be doing just that.

The writer hosts a primetime talk show on ARY News. He has worked as Director News of Express News and Dunya News and Editor The News,Islamabad. He can be reached at fahd.husain1@gmail.com or on Twitter @fahdhusain

It Would Not Be “Preposterous” To Expect Pakistan To Deliver Mullah Baradar, the Big Fish They Already Have

Pakistan cautions Kabul on Taliban peace hopes

Afghanistan has not explained how exactly Kabul wants Islamabad to help: Hina Rabbani Khar. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has cautioned Afghanistan that it would be ”preposterous” to expect Islamabad to deliver Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks.

Khar spoke Friday after talks between the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan about what Islamabad could do to help the peace process.

Pakistan is seen as key because many of the Taliban’s leaders, including Omar, are believed to be based on its territory.

Khar says Afghanistan has not explained how exactly Kabul wants Islamabad to help.

Her remarks suggest little progress had been made in the meetings in Islamabad.

She said that if Kabul has ”unrealistic, almost ridiculous expectations,” then there is no ”common ground to begin with.”

Pak Army Cannot Undo Religious Brainwashing–Big Surprise

De-radicalisation of militants: Army effort didn’t work

Pakistani army soldiers patrol a street in Mingora, the capital of Swat valley, where Pakistani forces launched an operation and had cleared a Taliban militant stronghold — AFP (Filephoto)

PESHAWAR: An official of Pakistan Army’s judge advocate general (JAG) branch informed the Peshawar High Court on Thursday that several of militants in Swat Valley had rejoined their groups despite de-radicalisation by security forces.

An assistant director of JAG Branch, Colonel Noor Ahmad, informed a two-member bench that security forces had been spending money and resources on de-briefing and de-radicalisation of militants and had even provided them with money for restarting new lives, but they had reports that several of them had joined back militant outfits.

The official was responding to queries put by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Azmatullah Malik during the hearing into several habeas corpus petitions pertaining to missing persons.

The chief justice observed that the security forces’ de-radicalisation programme might be defective due to which these people returned to their former comrades.

He also said security forces should hire services of competent psychologists and psychiatrists and for that purpose the government should provide them with appropriate funds.

“How is it possible that youngsters brainwashed by ignorant clerics could not be reformed by competent psychologists,” he asked.

Mother of a missing taxi driver made a desperate appeal to the court for the recovery of her son and said if that didn’t happen, she would leave his wife and children at the court for being unable to face them and keep them on false hopes and promises anymore.

Clad in traditional shuttlecock burqa, the woman said the wife and children of her son, Sanam Gul, stayed awake at night in the hope that he would return back.

“We should be at least told whether he is dead or alive following which we will never disturb the court,” she said.

The woman was accompanied by her husband, Redi Gul, who is petitioner in the case.

Mr Redi of Kajori area of Bara tehsil in Khyber Agency alleged that his son was picked up at Hayatabad Township in June 2011 by local police and since his whereabouts had been unknown.

The court asked deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand why the government had not been making public the whereabouts of the detainees.

It observed that Action (In Aid Of Civil Power) Regulation had been introduced which was a tough law and under it such like persons could be detained.

Mr Mohmand said several of the missing persons had returned home and only 70 to 80 cases were left. However, the court disputed the figures given by him observing that still a large number of cases were pending with the court.

The court directed him to try to trace out Mr Sanam Gul.

It summoned the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa advocate general, Asadullah Khan Chamkani, and asked him about the outcome of the Wednesday’s meeting of the apex committee comprising the governor, chief minister and Peshawar Corps commander.

Mr Chamkani presented details about the meeting saying threadbare discussion took place on the issue with the government saying it’ll follow court orders.

The court asked if the meeting was only for media consumption or any concrete plan was made to attend to the issue.

Mr Chamkani said some detainees were hardened militants and that principal of a school in Khyber Agency had informed security agencies in custody that chemicals meant for laboratory in his school were provided to militants by him.

The court observed that it had no sympathies for militants and that even suspects cleared by security forces were bailed out by courts after attaching tough conditions to their release.

Meanwhile, the court allowed more time to the government for tracing whereabouts of two minor brothers allegedly taken into custody from their school at Lal Jan Kalae in Bara on January 7, 2011.

The petition regarding their detention is filed by their mother, Shan Bibi.

The two, Said Nazeem and Mohammad Ijaz, were 11 and 12 respectively at the time of their arrest.

The defence ministry has already informed the court that detainees were not in custody of any of the agencies functioning under its supervision.

In another petition filed by Imran Khan, brother of missing lawyer Aurangzeb Khan, the court summoned the commandant of elite police force and head of criminal investigation department (CID).

The petitioner alleged that the lawyer was picked up by security forces at a checkpost on July 14, 2011, along with another lawyer Fazal Ilahai Khan, who was later on freed.

Advocate Fazal Ilahi informed the court that he and Mr Aurangzeb were taken away either by elite force or CID not security forces. Hearing into the case was later adjourned for January 14.

The court also disposed of another petition filed by a resident of Nowshera, Gul Naz, who said her son, Kamran, was arrested by plainclothesmen on January 26, 2010, in Badrashi area of Nowshera.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Asthagfirullah Khan, informed the court that another petition of the woman had been pending with the commission of missing persons in Islamabad.