The war on militancy that cannot be won

Fundamentalism cannot be fought with force. Its scope is wider and more complex than any subterranean skirmish.

Syed Raheel Aijaz October 21, 2010
I admire the sheer abundance of the rhetoric that we are producing. It makes me believe that we have finally decided not to succumb to the ridiculousness we are confronting each passing day.

However,  I often find this very rhetoric nothing more than a  colouring of the same biases and ideas that our ill-informed drawing room folk raise their voices about.

The terrorists' point of view

I recently saw a video of an interview of a terrorist by a local private channel. I’m sure most of us have seen it, but for most of us, it was just another brick in the wall. To summarise the interview, the terrorist wanted Shariah to be imposed in Pakistan and believed that everyone outside Waziristan is not innocent and thus deserves to die. He did not believe any of Islamic scholars in our country and was basically convinced that he was on the path to take revenge on infidels and hypocrites (read: government). He also said that most of these “jihadis” were from Punjab and were between the ages of 15 and 25. He also claimed that the majority had absolutely no madrassa background and were “dunyadar” (worldly). The content was shocking, to say the least. I was convinced more than ever that the war on terror, in one form or another, needs to continue to suppress such fundamentalist factions. However, logic struck me with an appalling realisation.

Self-destructive dormancy

We are  ignoring the persistent growth of fundamentalist sentiment in rural and largely tribal areas. The causes are not that hard to determine and are in fact known. These fundamentalist groups are continuously increasing in number. Their recruitment, regardless possible support from foreign intelligence agencies, is rapid.

The absolutely nonsensical way our people pivot so many of their activities on Shariah and Islamic law is irrationality at its extreme. Needless to say, this tendency is the impetus for the mess we’re facing in the tribal areas. Even with the most ludicrous amount of optimism, I cannot fathom how any kind of change for the better will ever come about, given this attitude. The differences and hard-wired intolerance just makes it uglier. We could stoop to the lows that the French did in their revolution,  when they executed all of their leadership. Or we could keep clinging to our hopes that a messiah will save us from the hell we that have brought upon ourselves. I personally feel that no amount of political change can alter the present course of our nation. We have evolved into a species which remains unperturbed by the countless shocks it experiences. I think it would take something much worse than the earthquake and floods  to pull us out of our self-destructive dormancy and get us on track.

A futile effort

The operation against insurgents is absolutely useless in the face of this menace, which derives its strength from religion-sanctioned violence. The pressure upon the Pakistani army to initiate an offensive in North Waziristan, which many claim to be a safe haven for Taliban and al Qaeda militants, will only serve to strengthen their ideological fervour. That is exactly what the aforementioned video clearly shows. Thus, it is mature and bold of our Foreign Minister to defend our position (read reluctance) in this regard. It needs to be understood that no matter how hard NATO and ISAF or any other force tries to counter insurgency on the Durand line and beyond, we are in no position to argue that the war on terror can be won with one strategic manoeuvre or another. Fundamentalism cannot be fought with force. Its scope is wider and more complex than any subterranean skirmish with tribal insurgents.

Promoting dialogue

The idea of a dialogue warrants more support. Recognizing this extremist entity and dealing with it through dialogue, instead of just trying to banish it, is one lesson we should have learnt from the Afghan war. The nine-year battle has not visibly borne any fruit yet and even western circles are now pondering a change of strategy. Although there isn’t much room for the persuasion of thousands of armed and resolute fundamentalists who derive their strength from promises of paradise and seventy virgins, avoiding armed confrontation can potentially open doors for major bargains. Therefore, we would be in a better position if we step back from this offensive position and pacify things a bit. Though the wisdom of this suggestion is certainly arguable, it is the lesser of the two evils. It will bring temporary peace to an otherwise chaotic situation and buy us more time to think of a more prudent solution.
Syed Raheel Aijaz An engineering major who writes about socio-political issues in Pakistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


author | 13 years ago | Reply The army should not back away. It needs to keep its position and try to improve it. I'm not opposed to any kind of violence against the insurgents. However, the war is costing us a lot of money and a lot of lives. Extremism is a bane to our country's existence. Having said that, I don't agree with the fact that every single Pakistani has to be a part of that war. Suicide bombing and other terrorist activities are leaving our urban and rural areas in tatters. It all comes down to this. The army needs a major strategic victory against these insurgents then only will it be feasible for us to have a dialogue. Otherwise, the war will continue on either side of the border with collateral damage throughout Pakistan. We are in desperate and chaotic times. Everything needs to be put into perspective before doing anything and I trust our army to do that.
faraz | 13 years ago | Reply Well Americans dont live in Afghanistan, they'll simply pack their bags and leave. While extremism is tearing apart the social fabric of our society; if it is allowed to spread, the state will finally collapse. So comparing a foreign invasion with a local insurgency doesnt make sense. I dont think its about army ego, army never wanted to eliminate its strategic assets; it only undertook operations when the taliban literally took over the state in Malakand and carried out suicide attacks at the place of their choice. How to counter the ideology; thats the post operation phase i was talking about. How can you compromise with people who blow up schools; can you give any example of "slight budge". And when you dont have writ in those areas, how can ensure that their ideology is being imposed within certian limits. How do sufi shrines portray a dajjalic image, or Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and other minorities? If we hand over FATA to taliban, it will become a safehaven and will attract more and more people towards militancy. In a failing state like ours, such a precedence will encourage dozens of other groups to follow the same course. I am not opposed to dialogue but no compromise should be made over the writ of the state.
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