Sunday, July 04, 2010

      VIEW: Terrorists and their apologists -Imtiaz Alam

       The strategy that served the purpose of forcing the former Soviet Union 
to leave Afghanistan was foolishly perpetuated to serve the narrowly defined 
designs of our hawkish security structures on both the eastern and western 

      Now the holiest shrine of the most revered saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh 
in the heart of Lahore has been sacrilegiously bombed by the ideologically 
motivated terrorists of Pakistani origin. This is not a lone and unimagined 
ghastly act, as some people in Punjab may assume, but a continuation of a mad 
drive against all spiritual, cultural, democratic and material values by those 
who out of their megalomaniac and barbaric misconception of Islam are bent upon 
pushing Pakistan and the Muslim world into the bloody degeneration of a 
contemporary inquisition. Everyday terrorist assaults on the innocent people by 
these self-appointed warriors of (anti-)Islam warrant an unambiguous and 
resolute collective response at the ideological, social, political and military 

      Yet there are those apologists of terrorism, and they are plenty, who 
shamelessly and hypocritically shift the blame on to some "foreign hand" or 
somebody who is "alien to Islam". Out of their own ideological perversion and 
hatred for the west and western civilisation and/or India, they are not ready 
to accept it as the handiwork of a Muslim or Pakistani. They irrationally find 
lame excuses and concoct cover-ups for the jihadis by citing the reaction to 
the numerous injustices committed by the west or infidels against the Muslim 
world without realising the fact that they are only eulogising a suicidal 
course at the expense of their own country and the Muslim world. The most 
convenient way for the incompetent or compromised investigating agencies and a 
section of the media wired to the powers-that-be or obsessed with conspiracy 
theories, is to shift the blame on the ubiquitous 'foreign hand', RAW and 
Blackwater in particular. So far, not a single terrorist case in Punjab has 
been established against RAW and despite the arrests of many culprits, the 
investigations have moved nowhere. Even if they have found some credible leads 
in some cases, they have not been able to lay hands on the real perpetrators of 
the suicide bombings. 

      Most glaring is the view of the so-called security and defence experts, 
who are as many as you can imagine, who consider the disparate terrorist 
outfits, especially those fighting in Kashmir or in Afghanistan, as a reserve 
or 'strategic asset'. Not long ago we were told that almost all of them were 
Pakistan's 'strategic assets', but gradually it was revealed that most of them 
have turned hostile and joined the jihadi internationalist solidarity front. 
Terrorism and terrorist outfits as a tool of national security policy have been 
central to the twin strategic designs of an India-centric policy and 'strategic 
depth' in Afghanistan. The roots of this counter-productive strategic paradigm 
are rooted in General Zia's and President Regan's crusade against the former 
Soviet Union which, after the exit of the Soviet Union, was to serve the 
purpose of keeping Afghanistan as a surrogate of Pakistan and, subsequently, 
its extension to Indian-administered Kashmir.

      The strategy that served the purpose of forcing the former Soviet Union 
to leave Afghanistan was foolishly perpetuated to serve the narrowly defined 
designs of our hawkish security structures on both the eastern and western 
fronts. No lessons were drawn despite the 'betrayal' of almost all Afghan 
surrogates who turned Afghanistan into a chaotic ground for an internecine 
conflict among the brutal warlords called Afghan Mujahideen. The same policy 
continued and the Taliban were created and brought into power, who went berserk 
and put Pakistan in an unenviable position. It was only after 9/11 that under 
General Musharraf the military establishment had to beat a reluctant and 
partial retreat. 

      But the institutional constraints and his own interests kept Musharraf on 
the road of duplicity and he continued to cling to the Mullah-Military 
alliance, resulting in the loss of almost all agencies in FATA to the Pakistani 
Taliban, who were allowed to turn into a monster challenging the writ of the 
state. Benefitting from the revival of US client status, the Musharraf 
administration exploited its 'disadvantages', as seen by the international 
community, such as on terrorism, nuclear proliferation and drug trafficking, to 
its 'advantage'. Not only General Musharraf but also others developed the art 
of calculatingly using these 'assets' of national disadvantages and 
incrementally cashing them in as an advantage. And this zero-sum-game continues 
to this day without realising the strategic disadvantages and extremely 
destabilising fallouts of continuing to harbour one proxy or the other, who are 
now targeting everything in their way to turn Pakistan into yet another 

      Everybody wants the back of the US and its allies in Afghanistan - some 
out of hate for the US, others for "national liberation" or "Islamic glory" 
against foreign occupation and still others for regaining strategic (soft or 
hard) depth. What is not realised is the vexing question of who will fill the 
void created by the exit of the real world powers? Indeed, the masters of our 
security are still too keen to have a foothold in the treacherous, costly and 
dangerous quagmire of Afghanistan. Could an economically, nationally and 
institutionally fragile underdeveloped country hold together a critical mass of 
instability as its strategic depth against an emerging big power on our east, 
an enterprise that could not be tackled by the two superpowers in succession? 

      The NATO allies, especially the US, are only interested in the 
neutralisation of al Qaeda or those with international terrorist reach. If the 
Taliban and others break their links with Osama and company, the US will have 
no problem in doing business with the Taliban while closing their eyes to what 
havoc a resurgent Taliban will bring to the region, especially Pakistan and 
Central Asia. The victory we are pursuing in Afghanistan and being facilitated 
by the US stupidities and inconsistencies may result in such a great anarchy 
that may consume the whole of Pakistan and Central Asia with a variety of 
sectarian warriors killing each other in every street and village of 
Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

      For the civilian and also other Pakistan, the Taliban and the militants 
of all varieties are a real threat. Who has the intellectual or strategic guts 
to convert them into our strategic depth? And those powerful sections who are 
still pursuing the goal of bringing the Pakhtun Taliban back in power in Kabul 
are only digging the grave of a democratic Pakistan. By building an 
'excessively' Pakistani nationhood on the ideological basis of Islam while 
Islamists continue to reject nationhood or nation building as repugnant to the 
theoretical world of the Ummah, we are paying the heavy price of growing 
sectarian extremism and jihadi terrorism that is going to tear us apart as a 
people and as a nation, if we are one. Time has already run out and we are yet 
to wake up to a threat that may leave nothing to defend or relish.

      Imtiaz Alam is Editor South Asian Journal. He can be reached at


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