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Posted Online on Tuesday, 8 June 2010 19:15 IST

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Muslim Islamic NewsPakistan's terrorist challenge

By Karamatullah K. Ghori

The Milli Gazette

The abortive attempt by an American of Pakistani origin to set off a home-made crude bomb at New York's busiest public place, the famed Times Square, on a week-end puts a sharp focus on America's failing 'war on terror,' which Obama has adopted as his own under the new name of the 'long war.'

The administration has tried to finesse the issue by hailing it as a success of vigilance mounted by FBI and other such agencies to keep potential terrorists at bay. President Obama himself showered praise on these agencies' vigilance that saved lots of lives that would otherwise have been lost had the bomber succeeded in his nefarious design.

However, Obama's bravado is beside the point and is, in fact, an obvious attempt to shift the public focus away from the fact that in spite of waging two wars-in Iraq and Afghanistan-over the past 9 years, U.S. is still far from achieving its target of snuffing out terrorism directed against U.S. and the safety and security of its people. George W. Bush had embarked on his ploy of pre-emptive war by raising the slogan that his objective was to keep the terrorists away from American shores. With that ruse he unleashed America's proven military might against Afghanistan, in the first instance and 18 months later against Iraq, which has had nothing to do with the events of 9/11 that triggered the U.S. wrath in the first place.

That an American citizen living in U.S. attempted to set off another 9/11 mishap, albeit on a much smaller and tentative scale, still proves the point that U.S. is nowhere near success in keeping the terrorists away from its shores. In a cynical sense, it's the terrorists which are not only confounding America's grandiose strategy but also, apparently, succeeding in planting themselves well within the U.S. heartland despite all its military muscle and intelligence expertise with a world-wide reach.

Another issue at stake-which the administration, in particular, and the establishment media, in general, have been trying to gloss over not only in this case but in all such incidents-is that the potential terrorist is an educated person hailing from a middle-class background. Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year old American of Pakistani origin, belongs to a well-to-do family from the frontier region of Pakistan. His father was a senior officer in the Pakistan Air Force when he retired from service. Shahzad's background and antecedents aren't that of a poor, under-privileged and madrassa-educated youth fitting the stereotype of terrorists from Pakistan and such other countries on the terrorism list of U.S.

This fact nails the canard and a vital cog in the American propaganda material concerning the caricature of terrorists painted routinely in U.S. and other western countries, as far as the focal relevance of Islamic countries to the issue of terrorism is concerned. Faisal Shahzad not only doesn't fit the typical description but clearly disproves the theory that Islamic education-oriented madrassas are the hatcheries breeding terrorists.

On the contrary, this latest incident highlights, in full glare of the media spotlight, what Muslim intellectuals and friends of U.S. in the Islamic world have long been trying to impress upon the American policy makers and opinion formulators. Their constant refrain, since Bush went into Afghanistan and, subsequently, into Iraq, has been that unbridled use of force targeting Muslim states and holding Islam and its teachings responsible for this current wave of terrorism is not only without justification but is also, clearly, counter-productive.

It's obvious that anger over U.S. incursions into the Islamic world is boiling over and generating the kind of backlash that made an abortive attempt to manifest itself at the Times Square on May 1. That it failed should be a cause of satisfaction not only to the Obama administration and the American people but to those peace-loving people all over the world who understand that anger in response to provocation is as unproductive and unhealthy as the unbridled use of force to stem the tide of violence and terrorism is, no matter how powerful and militarily-resourceful a country may be. The U.S. failure in its 'long war,' still being waged in all its ferocity and cruelty, is a loud and clear evidence that force is not going to rid the world of the menace of terrorism. Force only begets more force while forcing people to think of other ways to make their point. The real tragedy is that in its blind pursuit to settle the issue of terrorism with force, U.S. is showing the red rag to potential terrorists and making it easier for ring-masters and principal ideologues of terrorism to recruit more adherents to their archaic philosophy with so much ease and facility.

But while U.S. and its people deserve to be empathized with and congratulated for having averted another tragedy on the model of 9/11, it's Pakistan that has been served with another timely reminder, if anybody thought one was still needed, that it's being consumed much more rapidly than anybody thought only some years ago, by its lethal-and largely home-grown-culture of fanaticism and terrorism.

There is no denying the point that Pakistan has paid a much stiffer price than any other 'ally' of U.S. in its war against terrorism.

It's very true and can't be disputed as a historical fact that it wasn't Pakistan's war when the tin-pot dictator, Musharraf's paranoid pre-occupation with perpetuating himself in power, led Pakistan into the front trenches of Bush's war against terror. The tribal belt of Pakistan's northern province sharing a 1600 mile-long border with Afghanistan, was, then, a model of calm and tranquility, and there was no trace of terrorism of any kind bedeviling it, as it has been the norm ever since.

But while that, 9 years down a road littered with barbaric atrocities and mayhem of the worst kind, may now sound like fiction the bitter truth is that Musharraf's monumental blunder has saddled Pakistan with a gory drama the denouement of which seems far too complicated and gruesome to comprehend by the most competent of observers and tea-leaves-readers.

The Pakistan army's involvement with U.S. in Afghanistan and, in particular, vis--vis the 'war against terror,' has led to the unfolding of the previously unheard-of phenomenon of the army operating on a very large scale against its own people and well inside its own territory. It's estimated that as many as 150,000 soldiers of the army are currently engaged in combat activities in the region of Pakistan contiguous to Afghanistan.

Thousands of people have been killed in the process, tens of thousands have been uprooted from their homes and hearths and countless others have been rendered refugees within their homeland. The army, in taking on the tribesmen suspected of harbouring the much-hunted and sought-after Al Qaeda operatives, has itself suffered thousands of casualties; their exact count is, of course, a closely guarded secret because of the sensitivity of the matter.

But the crux of the matter is that the Pakistan army's involvement in the war alongside U.S. remains critically unpopular in Pakistan and with an overwhelming majority of the Pakistanis. Their anger boils over the critical point all the more because of the nightmare of regular 'visitations' by unmanned American aircraft, the much-dreaded Drones. These stealth strikes over the tribal areas of northern Pakistan have, invariably, resulted in more civilians being killed than suspected terrorists, whose presence is the main alibi for these clandestine strikes. The ratio of innocent men, women and children killed in indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, to those of the alleged terrorists targeted is infuriatingly large and is the principal cause of the popular unrest and anger against the Americans.

The government of Pakistan is, in equal measure, a target of vilification by the man-on-the-Pakistani-street because, in his perception, the government is fully complicit with the Americans and, thus, deserving of the popular wrath. Indeed the government isn't only incompetent and corrupt but its most glaring failure, so far, is that it has failed to explain its role to its people in the war against terror.

By the same token, it has not been able to convince the people-and even a segment of the intelligentsia-that what wasn't, initially, Pakistan's war has, by now, become very much its war and Pakistan's well-being and homogeneity as a nation depends, unfortunately, on its favourable outcome.

So, this, by far, is the number one problem of Pakistan: its ruling elite's incompetence to explain to its people the rationale of the country's involvement in the ongoing 'long war'; and the inability of the people to realize that Pakistan's survival as a nation is now hinged, irrespective of their liking or disliking it, on its earliest resolution in a manner that doesn't rub down negatively on Pakistan's integrity.

Accepting its national failures has never been a strong suit with the Pakistanis. They are still in a collective denial, for instance, that the eastern-half of the country was lost-and spawned the independent country of Bangladesh-in 1971 because of the abysmal failure of the then ruling elite from the western-half to come to terms with its eastern opposite number. The conventional wisdom in Pakistan still blames the Bengalis for being disloyal to Pakistan and for conspiring with a hegemonic India to dismember Pakistan.

The collective national denial in this latest episode is equally appalling, if not worse than what it was 30 years or so ago. Finger pointing is facile. It's easy as an escape route to point the finger at the Americans unleashing a war on Pakistan's borders and thus triggering a domino effect. But in pursuing this line of argument-and holding the American proclivity of shooting a fly with a shot-gun responsible for igniting a tinder-box within Pakistan-the nay-sayers conveniently overlook the fact that the tinder of religious fanaticism and obscurantism in Pakistan is not of recent origin or provenance. This tinder had been gathering mass ever since General Ziaul Haq, with his overly-zealous religious pretensions, opened the portals of Pakistan to the influx of Afghan refugees and the induction of the lethal philosophy of religious orthodoxy on the heels of the American-abetted Afghan jehad against the then Russian invaders of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has failed to tame the monster of religious extremism which, in turn, has led to its society being polarized between an effete and voice-less majority of saner elements understanding the implications of endemic violence, and a strident minority of fanatics and obscurantists who have been dictating the national agenda on the strength of raw power and its unabashed demonstration.

It's not only that violence is becoming endemic in the Pakistan society but, concomitant with it, the shirking by its people to face up to the new reality. The most regrettable phenomenon of present-day Pakistan is the tendency among its people, notably a sizeable segment of the intelligentsia to deny that the nation is in error. Instead, the proclivity to pin the blame on others is becoming a common malady.

Take for instance the Mumbai mayhem of November 2008 of which a hefty segment of Pakistanis is not prepared to own responsibility for. There are, already, similar voices murmuring belief that the Times Square incident is nothing but a conspiracy by the Indian Raw and Israeli Mossad, in cahoots with CIA, to implicate Pakistan and thus malign its name with impunity. It's hard to think of a greater folly than this.

This is a nihilistic attitude which must be shunned if salvation from the current cycle of vicious violence and murderous terrorism is what every Pakistani covets. Facing up to its weaknesses is proof of a vibrant and alive nation. The Americans may have failed to win the hearts and minds of the people in those countries invaded by them because of their still firm belief in the feasibility of force as the ultimate weapon. However, the Pakistanis are no less guilty of not sweeping the dirt in front of their own door-step. Angry men like Faisal Shahzad may think they have all the justification to settle score with their tormentor, in its own home, as best revenge. But in taking to this self-defeating course they are doing the greatest disservice to their religion that only believes in sharing with man-kind the universal gospel of peace. The sooner the Pakistanis also remembered this, too, the better would be their prospect of coming out of the present cycle of violence and terrorism as a united nation.

Source: The Milli Gazette, 16-31 May 2010

This article appeared on page no. 26 of the 16-31 May 2010 print edition of The Milli Gazette.
Subscribers of print edition The Milli Gazette are now reading the 1-15 June 2010 issue



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