Our two-faced policies on extremists

Published: October 11, 2012
The writer is a defence analyst who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Pakistan Army

The writer is a defence analyst who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Pakistan Army

The cowardly attack on Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old child, is a tragic reminder of the violent blowback that Pakistani society continues to bear and sustain at the hands of religious extremists who are extremely upset and frustrated because their creators and mentors are no more willing to support and finance them.

But unfortunately for the state, this change of heart on the part of our military and the intelligence set-up only encourages the militants to indulge in this type of religious vigilantism that we witnessed in the form of an attack on Malala. Since the state is the very source that taught these militants the lessons of jihad, it should shed little or no tears in now going after them, especially now that they have turned their guns towards the state itself.

For all those who are filled with anger and want the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be brought to justice, I ask a very simple question. Who allowed extremism to creep into our society? Who sponsored militancy and gave state patronage to jihadists to fight ‘our secret wars’? Who partnered with the CIA using its dollars and weapons to conduct the biggest covert operations ever in this part of the world? Who again rehabilitated religious extremism by asking the jihadists to occupy Kargil and brought upon us the shame of a failed operation? And most importantly, whose military coup retained and brought to power the mindset of the senior military officers who instead of being held accountable for their military failures were put in positions of authority?

The hands that today hold the weapons that fire on innocent girls like Malala Yousufzai are the same hands that were employed by the state to fight our secret war in Kashmir. The generals of that time propagated the brilliance of their military strategy that employed a few hundred jihadists to engage and hold back half a million Indian troops in Kashmir, thus blocking any Indian military design to challenge us on the eastern front. Little did the generals know that the same guns will one day be used to kill our innocent daughters.

The military in Pakistan was unfortunately allowed to work outside the fold of any central government for too long and with far too much autonomy. This enabled it to create a new ‘ideological frontier’ of which the death squads of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are an essential part. The guardians of our territorial frontiers were once the creators and guardians of this ideological frontier that has recruited, armed and trained the perverted minds that indulge in violent acts like the one that severely injured Malala.

Who will hold the state accountable for the patronage that it has given to jihadists in the past? Will those who ran the affairs of the state or the autonomous and powerful institutions within the state be ever considered as criminals who committed state crimes?

At least two ISI heads in the past, Lt General Javed Nasir and Lt General Hameed Gul, used the agency to support jihadists and militants as part of state policy. These promoters of ‘great pan-Islamism’ used and employed jihadists not for geostrategic but for ideological reasons. They promoted ‘Islamic nationalism’ by utilising huge funds at their disposal through the dollars stacked in secret ISI accounts. These generals and many others played a direct role in creating and rehabilitating these religious extremists who have today turned their guns on our society.

Utilising power but without any semblance of responsibility, military dictators used the intelligence agencies to create this ‘ideological frontier’ that sustains and feeds cowards like those who fired the shots at Malala. We will not be able to defeat the mindset that harbours and flourishes in the ‘ideological frontier’ by only conducting military operations against its believers, but by bringing to justice all those who have in the past played a role in its creation.

Those who formulated and implemented the policy in the past of supporting, arming and training militants to fight proxy wars against India and Afghanistan must be held accountable. If this is not done, we will have many more leaders playing with the future of this country, leaving Malala, her generation and the generation after that to pay the price.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (40)

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:05AM

    Cue the cries of “TTP is funded by RAW / CIA / Mossad…” in 5…4…3…2..

    Now does it finally sink in? There are no “good” or “bad” Taliban – they’re all bad. At least now will you start cleaning your house and putting it in order? The rest of the world has gone hoarse pointing this out to you…


  • Falcon
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:10AM

    Bold and hard hitting, but nonetheless the bitter truth.


  • Arindom
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:41AM

    In the strictest terms – this is an ideological war, not a military war.

    The first and the most fatal shot will be fired when the government reforms the text books that spew this hatred. Next comes bringing the mullah under control. Finally, extention of Law and Government to the tribal areas. Last , but not the least economic development.


  • Jat
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:55AM

    The best article I have read so far, from a Pakistani author and that too a retired army officer. This article to a large extent identifies the cause of the problem, the present state and perils of the problem, and as a solution, the way to move forward.


  • sabi
    Oct 11, 2012 - 4:28AM

    Why should generals commit suicide by giving up their deadly policy of security state under the sensible covers of ideology of Pakistan.They have fooled the nation for five decades only to serve their own intrests.They have employed a full brigade in media to mislead the nation so that their business go well.No nation is so missinformed than poor Pakistanis.Generals are not faithfull to the nation but to the land which fill their pockets.
    Excellant article regards.


  • Casino1127
    Oct 11, 2012 - 5:33AM

    We are reaping what was sowed in ZAB’S, Marde-Momin’s” time and the champion of “enlightened moderation”, the commando PM, Hameed Gul and his ilk should be tried for crimes against humanity, nothing less will do.


  • Raw is War
    Oct 11, 2012 - 5:59AM

    good that you guys are realizing- religion is the root of all these evils.


  • missing
    Oct 11, 2012 - 7:07AM

    This not touched by this op-ed

    Jihadis in the Ranks.
    KSA money flowing to the Jihadis
    Military owning most of land and busniesses
    liberals have been loosing for 65 years.
    if Taliban controls afghanistan then Army can make money of it.
    Pakistani Troops serve in KSA.
    Will Saudis allow godless liberals to take over pakistan.

  • wonderer
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:09AM

    Our past sins are not going to go unpunished. One can commit a horrendous crime after crossing borders but that does not mean the punishment will not visit you at home. We have been so ashamed of our history that we thought we could permanently get away with by mutilating it out of shape, Allah can not be hoodwinked. Does anyone have any doubts still that we are now facing Allah’s wrath?


  • Bonga
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:10AM

    I am surprised that someone in Pakistan can write 100% truth. Good on you!


  • Pashtun
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:35AM

    Uttery but painfully true. There are no option either eliminate Taliban or hand over Pakistan. Taliban do not believe in negitiation where some give – and -take mechanism is employed to resolve an issue. They have been indoctrinated to TAKE come what may. Our proxies want to rule us. Hamid Gul has ruthlessly played with the destiny of this nation. He has killed thousands of afghans and is now paving the way for killing all those pakistanis who do not share his worldview. He should be brought to justice.


  • Vikrant
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:50AM

    Excellent though this article is, I think it is too late now to do anything of substance because the damage done is that of a mindset, not just mere funding or traning of these scoundrels. I have observed (esp in the Urdu press and other English language newspapers — ET and one other being a couple of honorable exceptions) that majority of Pakistani readers/commentators and the like are of the same warped mindset — seeing everything as a “conspiracy” involving one or more of USA, India, and… wait for it… even Israel!! This incidentally includes the tragic shooting of Malala as well (I am trying to keep as much as a normal straight face as possible as I write that last sentence — because quite frankly I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I read such associations!)
    But back to the main point, I think if anything now the ET Editors have made themselves “marked” in the eyes of the TTP and other gutter-pigs like them (though I fervently hope that I am proved wrong) .. Best wishes to ALL civilized souls, from a well-wishing Indian.


  • Mirza
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:52AM

    I have never said that to any army officer but I feel like saluting you as you are a true soldier and a patriot. It is not surprising that you never rose in the ranks. Nice to see that some if not most of the army officers can tell the truth without fear.
    The tragedy with this country is that it is owned by the army and no matter what they do they get away with that. Surrendering half of the country, multiple defeats on self initiated wars, and selling out country’s future to the rightwing policies of the US, Saudi and other foreign powers without fear or consequences. Three popular PM of Pakistan were killed in just one Pakistani city Rawalpindi and there always was army connection. Nobody is ever punished or even tried.
    Corruption is bad because it is a crime. However, the worst crime against the entire state and population is mutilation of constitution and committing high treason. While the cases of petty crimes are talked about day and night the worst crimes in the history are kept under the rug. Unless the process of accountability starts the country is doomed. While the country is still devastated by the terrorism against our school children the terrorists and their masters must be laughing all the way to the bank.


  • Oct 11, 2012 - 10:38AM

    All Indians will agree wholeheartedly with this. Unfortunately this will make a lot of Pakistan stubbornly refuse to believe in this line of thinking..


  • vasan
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:21AM

    This is the umpteenth time, papers like ET , Dawn etc have pointed the fingers for all the problems for violence in Pakistan to the stupid policies of Pak army in raising and supporting terror indoctrinated with religion. But still the army is looking both ways. When will it fix the problems so that pakistanis can have a peaceful lives.


  • vasan
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:23AM

    This is the umpteenth time, papers like ET , Dawn etc have pointed the fingers for all the problems for violence in Pakistan to the stupid policies of Pak army in raising and supporting terror indoctrinated with religion. But still the army is looking both ways. When will it fix the problems so that pakistanis can have a peaceful lives.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:31AM

    The policies of using militants against neighbors often called strategic depth was never ever discussed in Parliament or ever sanctioned by the Courts. Citizens were too short sighted to imagine the blowback of such a policy to even call for a Parliamentary debate on it. Suo moto Judges were too busy plotting the downfall of every elected Government rather than confront the usurpers of Power. Mumbai 26/11 put the country in the dock because the fine line between State and non State actors got erased. The World could not accept the story that Osama Bin Laden took a walk and landed up near the Military training academy at Abbotabad either.
    Now neighbors are asking Pakistan to keep their militants within their own borders or face the consequences — whether they are State or non State actors no one really cares. Obviously it is now the citizens who have to face the music and bear the consequences and fruits of their creations.

    Should not people have been asking what is going on, or is it a better option to keep the head in the sand ? For years the conscience keepers of Pakistan (Kamran shafi, Najam Sethi, Farhat Taj, Nadeem Paracha, Ahmed Rashid, Ijaz Saroop, Cyril Almieda) who were crying themselves hoarse and warning the people that these policies will backfire badly were called traitors. Saleem Shahzad and numerous journalists who dared to ask uncomfortable questions were martyred, but the nations conscience remained as thick as an Elephants hide. Now the price that has to be paid to put the genie back into the bottle is so high that it boggles the imagination. We can only pray that people get the wisdom to do the right things and hope that Allah is merciful on those who have wrought destruction and shed blood using HIS name.


  • farooq
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:45AM

    Brilliant Article. However, want to add that apart from Military Generals helping in creating these monsters and getting away with it we should also identify the political forces that were in bed with the military. All the religious policitical parties (mainly JUI-SamiulHaq + JUI-F + JI) sold the idea to the general public in public sermons and they were the main force used by the Military in creating then Jihadies and now Monsters. These parties are now in the Parliament and nobody asks them, Hey! you are mainly responsible for the current state of our country?


  • ethicalman
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:47AM

    if only the americans was’nt fighting the russians..they would never have supported the mujahid in afghanistan and then 1989 when they got unemployed because the russians withdrew from afghanistan..

    The ISI stepped in and used the same money and weapons to influx these jihadis in Kashmir…having said that..another most important export was the Wahhabi thought brought from Saudi’s with the petro dollars that Pak used in just about everything in Pakistan..

    Today pakistan is what the saudi wanted it to be..initially the Pakistan thought that they will use saudi’s petro dollars to fight India but instead the saudi dollars ate Pakistan …Pakistan’s language changed, culture changed, attire changed, food habbits changed, ideology changed…

    Malala Yousufzai represnts a girl who wanted to come back to sanity..her school name is Khushal Public School…correct me if i’m wrong..it sounds Indian..Khushal mangal…


  • Religion sucks
    Oct 11, 2012 - 12:43PM

    However they are integral part of any Islamic society through out the world . Be it Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Chechnya or India or Palestine or Syria or Philippines , even now in Turkey .They call it Jihad.Probably they are the most suppressed and oppressed people on earth .I don’t blame these organizations.Some other factors to be blamed.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:31PM

    Absolutely brilliant and you could not have been more correct or clear.


  • Zuzu
    Oct 11, 2012 - 2:20PM

    Over all a good article BUT I’m not sure that the support and finance of these terrorists have been ceased by their mentors…
    Secondly why these generals,Marshalls,brigadiers etc.. don’t raise their voice while in service?


  • Ahmad
    Oct 11, 2012 - 2:30PM

    This is exactly what is going on with Pakistan and ISI doing bad things to defame Pakistan for their own interest for a long time now. Why would you create and nurture terrorists? Civilian governments should control Pak army, not the army doing everything they want to do. Armies never believe in dialogues, they only know war dialogue. I hope there is one day that we see a strong civilian government in Pakistan who could control Pak army and start a new dialogue with its neighbor so that finally the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan get rid of these stupid, stone age, illiterate and terrorist Taliban.


  • Oct 11, 2012 - 2:38PM

    @Arindom: one more that is single curricula for Madarasas and the general schools.


  • naisr
    Oct 11, 2012 - 4:29PM

    Very encouraged to know that we have people like General Ehsan with us. This article need to be translated in Urdu


  • Zalmai
    Oct 11, 2012 - 5:59PM


    “Malala Yousufzai represnts a girl who wanted to come back to sanity..her school name is Khushal Public School…correct me if i’m wrong..it sounds Indian..Khushal mangal”

    For your information Khushal means happy in Pashto and it is named after Khushal Khan Khattak, a Pashtun poet. You must be Indian because most Pakistanis even non Pashtuns know who Khushal Khan Khattak is. Khush plus hal means to be in a state of happiness in Pashto/Dari/Persian.


  • Afridi
    Oct 11, 2012 - 6:48PM

    there are no good talibans and no bad talibans. this philosophy of zia ul haq should be changed now


  • faraz
    Oct 11, 2012 - 7:08PM

    My question for the author: are your loyalties with Pakistan or India? Why do I smell so much hate for Kashmiri Muslims and their resistance to Indian occupation? I believe you went totally in wrong direction! Here are my questions:

    Who trained and prepared Mujahidin in war against USSR?
    Why did they leave war-torn Afghanistan in the hands of warlords and Mujahidin instead of rebuilding it?
    Who named them Taliban and kept quite when they were going to occupy Kabul?
    And finally, who occupied Afghanistan following USSR footsteps?
    Unfortunately, Pakistan has been paying all along for misdeeds of the US; first supporting the war against the USSR and accepting millions of war migrants which seriously damaged our socio-economic fabric and then see them turning against us when the US occupied Afghanistan and we, once again, supported the US.Our fundamental mistake: supporting the US in both wars!


  • Syed
    Oct 11, 2012 - 7:30PM

    We need an all out operation against Taliban. Arrest whoever they can arrest and then try to rehabilitate them. Give them the real knowledge of Islam as most of them are truly very misguided and brainwashed by their superiors. Establish strict law an order in every part of Pakistan and hold everyone accountable. The Pakistanis are just so very tired of the killings and we must act now!!!Recommend

  • gp65
    Oct 11, 2012 - 8:09PM

    @ethicalman: “Khushal Public School…correct me if i’m wrong..it sounds Indian..Khushal mangal…

    Khushal is related to Khushi which I think has EPrsian origin. The word you are thinking of is Kushal which means safe.


  • Arijit Sharma
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:46PM

    @faraz: ” … Why do I smell so much hate for Kashmiri Muslims and their resistance to Indian occupation? … “

    Read what the author has written and re-connect the dots. The much romanticised “Kashmir Resistance” started when your generals decide to use the surplus mujahedin in Indian Kashmir. Until then, “Kashmir” was peaceful.


  • wonderer
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:27PM


    You seem to know a lot, but your knowledge about Kashmir is half baked. I suggest you listen to a Pakistani citizen from Azaad Kashmir, and learn the truth, on this link:



  • ethicalman
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:37PM

    @ Zamia, @gp56

    thanks for the correction..but I still belive pashto word came frm the sanskrit word like so many central asian, european language has words from the Sanskrit offshoots..Persian is also a branch of Indo – European language..

    Salman Rashid you’re needed here to clearify the words..


  • Shahid
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:49PM

    There is nothing new in this article and while the author correctly blames the military and Musharraf in particular he fails to mention that even under a democratic government for the past 5 years nothing has changed.

    Okay they cannot order the army although they should – see what the elected government did in Turkey. What about the political parties and the non jihadi religious leaders? Has anyone called the TTP – who claimed the attack on the girl – terrorists? starting with Imran Khan who bristles at being called Taliban Khan and yes what about the civil society have they come out on the streets like they did against the movie.

    Is hamam mein sab nangay hain.


  • Jat
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:42AM

    @Shahid: “Is hamam mein sab nangay hain.”

    Have some shame – remember the ‘big bird’ satellites of United States and Russia.


  • Oct 12, 2012 - 6:21AM

    This article needs to be in urdu!


  • Raza Khan
    Oct 12, 2012 - 3:32PM

    We just talk BIG in eliminating terrorism from the country but happens on ground. Just like yesterday statement of COAS who talked big but in reality nothing will happen. Nada!Recommend

  • Ahmad Kamal Rahman
    Oct 13, 2012 - 3:00AM

    We are reaping what our “Mard -e- Momin” Zia ul Haq had sowed some two decades ago. The fire that he had started around our beautiful country had started to consume the country itsel. The only way to stop it would be to denounce the policy of hatred and intolerence and by educating the masses!


  • noni
    Oct 13, 2012 - 9:58AM

    You might be very true about all the reasoning of this Islamic extremism that you have presented. I have an idea to share about how we could have prevented this disaster. Well it more sounds like an idealist approach but you know all the real life applications come from ideals.
    When the Soviets were over and still all the jihadis and taliban were there in the region to grow, but with limited funding and patronage from our “strategic scientists”, specially after 9/11, what we could have done was not to indulge in Afghanistan to use it as tool for our strategic depth. And at same time we should have tried to mainstream the jihadis we had trained, because they were not well aware of any other thing except guerrilla warfare as they had invested all their youth in it. When they returned home they had very little prospect to contain on with normal earning and family life (as is the case with majority of Pakistanis, but they are not trained, fortunately). We could have offered them with jobs, especially in security related activities or any other opportunity to earn a respectable life. And I suppose we would have left with 50% less taliban fighters (not their masterminds). So when we talk or think of operation or removing taliban from the face of earth, its sounds ridiculous, as we have produced them by ourselves.


  • Ashfaq
    Oct 27, 2012 - 4:19AM

    Hamid gul was scoffing in a tv interview when the US made a 5m bounty announcement eatlier this year on Saeed Hamid jaish-e-Mohammed and Mumbai attacks mastermind. He was sarcastic and like ..you can make a bounty call but this guy is walking around openly under our protection.


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