Fighting terrorism

Published: June 19, 2013
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. and was a media consultant for NAB from 2011 to 2012

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. and was a media consultant for NAB from 2011 to 2012

The terrorist attack on the residency in Ziarat, Balochistan, where Muhammad Ali Jinnah spent the last days of his life has created a lot of anxiety in some parts of the country. Made by the British, the building was pleasing to the eyes and part of Balochistan’s heritage. However, the alacrity with which some people mourned a dead building as compared with the 26 people who died in various terrorist attacks the same day, was amazing. It seems that we have grown so insensitive to human loss, especially in a distant part of the country as Balochistan, that the brutality of the jihadis does not make us turn and look. Sadly, a building is more of a symbol of national ideology than the people of the country.

The provincial government has promised to reconstruct the building in three months. However, there is lesser clarity regarding the fate of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) jihadists who kill people almost every single day. Due to our peculiar focus, we will not even be inclined to ask how a province and people known for liberal religious traditions got occupied with takfiri jihadis who, like the German fascists, believe in killing anyone that does not subscribe to their values and scheme of things. Poverty and poor governance, of course, are obvious but simple explanations. These two factors can drive people towards frustration and violence but not necessarily of the kind that seems to be growing in Balochistan. People can get frustrated due to poverty and vent their anger against the state for what they may consider as brutal negligence but not necessarily become part of the religious-ideological jihadi network that has grown exponentially in the province, especially in the past few years. The state has played no part whatsoever in questioning or stopping the systematic growth of Deobandi and Salafi jihadi networks in Balochistan or even the rest of the country. Why are we so silent when we see the Salafi LeT/JuD network or the Deobandi SSP/LeJ/JeM network penetrate Balochistan and Sindh and gain ground in these territories?

Ethnic politics and nationalism is comparatively a solvable issue. The jihadis who now want to change the future of the state are far more difficult to negotiate with. The LeJ in Balochistan is busy exploiting and recruiting Baruhis to fight against the Baloch. Interestingly, al Qaeda, to which the LeJ is also connected, is trying to provoke Baloch nationalism. In the recent publication Al Hateen, the local al Qaeda has talked about an independent but Islamic Balochistan. This politics is transforming society and so, as a result, we even see some Baloch political parties aligning with the ASWJ/LeJ political network. This is certainly out of political expediency, but the formula is as bad as in any other part of the country, especially Punjab and Sindh.

While we mourn the damage done to a building where the founding father spent some time, we forget that the takfiris and their radicalism, which seems to be spreading gradually, will kill the Pakistan which Jinnah envisioned, that is if it has not happened as yet. The al Qaeda that we dislike now has local franchises that, in turn, are ingrained in society. We continue to draw a distinction between the good and bad jihadis, not understanding that ultimately, they all tend to drift together on the basis of their ideology. The explanation for giving protection to certain religious radicals or their groups is that the military leadership does not want to start a civil war in the populated parts of the country, while it is busy sorting out the war in the tribal areas. Nonetheless, this does not explain why the security establishment continues to tolerate the ideological expansion of these groups and the fact that they are constantly recruiting people. Surely, the banners calling for jihad posted on government hoardings on the National Highway in Punjab do not indicate an intention of these groups to stop their struggle to capture society.

Surely, the recipe that the new government is most likely to entertain is negotiations with these groups. But what is there to negotiate except the future of the country? Will Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, along with their gangs, settle at anything less than a drastic change in the ideological direction of the state? This is not about wanting or not wanting Islam on the basis of which this country was made but about the capture of a religious ideology by vulgar extremism.

The new interior minister has to be clear on one thing at least, that he cannot save buildings unless he can protect people from such vile extremism. This requires for him and his government to construct a solid policy on terrorism and counter-radicalism. There are several necessary steps which ought to be taken, starting from building consensus and cooperation amongst the various intelligence agencies. To get them on the same page, nonetheless, requires clarity on the issue. The government now has a tool that it can work with in the form of the National Counter Terrorism Authority and the relevant Act. There is a need to identify sources of radicalism and get various stakeholders on board, including the media, to counter such ideological forces. The government must focus on countering radicalism as this is an even larger issue than terrorism. In fact, acts of violence indicate the tip of the iceberg of radicalism. You cannot remove one without removing the other. This consistent ideological transformation that started during the early 1950s but speeded up after 1979-80 must stop if the country has to be made livable for most. It’s nothing to do with sacrificing the Islamic character of the state but is about taking the violence out and making it a place worth living for future generations.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Water Bottle
    Jun 19, 2013 - 11:28PM

    “Sadly, a building is more of a symbol of national ideology than the people of the country.”

    Pakistan has lost all sense of priority.


  • Mirza
    Jun 19, 2013 - 11:48PM

    A very timely and thought provoking analysis by A. S. It truly is shameful that some rightwing forces tried to make Ziarat building a major issue to cover the atrocities by religious extremists. How could attack on a building made and used by colonial masters (Quaid only stayed there for a few days) be equated with an attack on a female student buss and hospital? In a country where even the schools, female students and hospitals have no sanctity and protection from religious extremists the future does not look promising. While the terrorists ruthlessly plunder Quaid’s country we are talking about a building he only visited.Recommend

  • Nadir
    Jun 19, 2013 - 11:49PM

    Sir Zaid has declared this 5Gs warfare as building was destroyed under guidance from US/UK/India/Israel because they are jealous of our potential. We must pray that we can look them in the EYE!


  • Avtar
    Jun 20, 2013 - 12:30AM

    Unfortunately, stopping terrorism is not a government priority.


  • lalai
    Jun 20, 2013 - 4:30AM

    We must destroy this grand illusion that the real cause of violence in the country are the drone attacks and presence of western forces in the region. Fighting terrorism needs strong political will and resolve. The result of May 11 elections is a clear mandate on behalf of people but unfortunately both political and military leadership are afraid of choosing the right path.


  • vasan
    Jun 20, 2013 - 6:18AM

    You hit the nail on the head.


  • Water Bottle
    Jun 20, 2013 - 6:41AM


    “Sir Zaid has declared this 5Gs warfare as building was destroyed under guidance from US/UK/India/Israel because they are jealous of our potential.”

    Is this a joke or has he really said so?Recommend

  • Polpot
    Jun 20, 2013 - 7:25AM

    @Nadir: “building was destroyed under guidance from US/UK/India/Israel ”
    I wish to highlight this. A peaceful, Pious and Noble Pakistan is being made a victim again and again. I think the Power Crisis is also due to the gang of US/UK/India/Israel…..


  • Gp65
    Jun 20, 2013 - 7:49AM

    Killing girls in a school bus, killing patients in a hospital, killing mourners in a funeral, killing worshipped in a mosque, killing Red cross workers, killing lady health workers admi inserting polio drops, killing children on a playground? Is there no red line that must not be crossed?

    Yes there is one, TTP leaders must not be killed. A lot more political leaders said it was unacceptable when Wali-Ur-Rehman was droned than when these young school girls were killed.


  • Gujesh
    Jun 20, 2013 - 8:00AM

    Punjab Govt. has allocated Rs.61 M to Hafiz Saeed. This will be used for terrorist activities in India and Pakistan will also be affected. Not a good start by New Govt.


  • Arsalan Mujahid
    Jun 20, 2013 - 9:51AM

    Madam…. If someone forgot innocent people who were killed in Quetta…

    You also forgot 6 Jawaan of FC, the Provincial Law Enforcing Agency, who laid down their lives while combating those TAKFIRI terrorists…..

    Madam why you are against Pakistan Army ?


  • nadeem
    Jun 20, 2013 - 11:33AM

    A murder is a murder is a murder. Does not matter who killed who for what reason, he must be arrested and tried. Murder can only be committed by the State acting upon a Court’s order.

    Unless the Pakistani state fully subscribes to the simple rule above, we will keep drifitng downward.


  • Rana
    Jun 20, 2013 - 5:10PM

    CIA, RAW and MOSSAD are responsible for such attacks within Pakistan. They are trying to stir up trouble within our nation by stoking the flames of nationalism which by the way happens to be non-existent. It is only a matter of time before our intelligence agencies capture these criminals and expose their true motives to the rest of the world.


  • Syed
    Jun 20, 2013 - 6:04PM

    Another brilliant piece. Even on social media our people were mourning the loss of a building. I believe with the amount of killings, people have become immune, otherwise how would you explain this Bayhisi? If the people happened to be the Shias then forget it. It is time the majority sane minded Sunnis realize that Shias are not their enemies. The Takfiri Salafis has killed more Sunnis and they will also be perished until they become Takfiri themselves.


  • Sheikh Saadi
    Jun 20, 2013 - 8:24PM

    A. Presided by Justice Tariq Masood, the bench dismissed bail applications of Khalid Asfhaq and Tahir Mahmood after listening to cases presented by both the prosecution and the defendant.

    B. Police officials had registered an FIR on the complaint of Muhammad Hassan Muavia under Pakistan Penal Code and Anti Terrorist Act.

    C. The complainant had accused them of printing and distributing Jamaat-i-Ahmadia’s community newspaper, Al Fazal.

    Read the above news carefully.

    A man has been charged with ‘Blasphemy’ and ‘TERRORIST activity’ for ‘printing and distributing’ a ‘community news paper’, meant for distribution to fellow believers.


    Mind you, this has not been done by some illiterate Yahoo in the badlands of Waziristan, but in a learned Court of Law in Lahore- presumably the ‘Intellectual Capital’ of Pakistan.

    the learned courts start supervising the persecution of Christians for ‘Printing and Distributing’ the Bible amongst fellow Christians.

    And before,
    the same brand of ‘Justice’ is meted to other communities in Pakistan, the world needs to sit up and take notice.


  • np
    Jun 20, 2013 - 10:19PM

    @Sheikh Saadi: Buddy where were you when the land was being made Pak of Hindus and Sikhs.


  • Rex Minor
    Jun 20, 2013 - 10:34PM

    I find the article very interesting to read and the cmments are even more interesting. But I could not detect whether the author and the commenators are Inians or Pakistanis. Mind you I can follow those who speak against the religious institutions since the divisive concept of Pakistan did not receive their blessing, but I cannot understand those who do not have a shared culture with Baluchi and Pashtun folks and calling names after the experience of Bangla Desh?

    Rex Minor


  • Rex Minor
    Jun 21, 2013 - 3:54AM


    Stop the drifting:! Though shall not kill is the God’s commandment! Neither the State or the court nor any indiviual.. It is much simpler than your complicated jibberish!

    Rex Minor


  • Manoj Joshi India
    Jun 21, 2013 - 8:11PM

    The evolution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan that should have been a liberal and moderate Islamic state as had been envisaged by their creators moved into the path of hard core Islamisation wherein the fundamentalists began to assert their influence towards the end of the seventies. The Pakistan leadership alone does not stand responsible for this situation but the Western nations led by The United States of America and the other Western European nations too are to a considerable extent responsible as it was they who used Pakistan as a tool against the Communist Afghanistan thus having created the problem of terrorism and religious fundamentalism. Although the leadership of Pakistan allowed themselves to be used by these forces due to various political reasons and political interests they perhaps were not able to perceive the future with regard to these problems in other words the future threat was overlooked by the leadership of that time. The problem that has brewed to have become a menace now needs to be tackled by the present leadership and the task is not simple. There are efforts being made by the Government of Pakistan to resolve the problem wherein to work out a clear cut solution or frame a strategy is a challenging task. Talks, dialogue is one way of doing things and usage of armed force is another. However the efficiency of governance lies in finding a middle path wherein one cannot and should not entirely rule out the process of a dialogue. Although the Taliban cannot be classified among the good and bad categories nevertheless a stratification between the fanatic and not very fanatic Taliban can be should be given consideration wherein off course there should not be adherence to a policy of appeasement unless that serves Pakistan’s national interest. Armed action cannot be ruled out as it will be required but a chance should be given for the fanatic groups to come to the negotiation table if they agree to renounce their fanaticism and abjure violence as their path of working. Democracy is not just a replacement of one ruling political party replacing the other but a process of evolution of a nation and society which Pakistan is going through. The fight against terrorism is not a simple and short process but a complex long term exercise wherein the carrot and stick both have their distinct roles to be played. Administration is a task most challenging as well as demanding which the newly elected government in Pakistan will have to execute with care, caution and sincerity which alone shall prove their efficiency with regard to governance and shall further modify the people’s confidence in democracy.


  • Sher Shah
    Jun 22, 2013 - 3:47AM

    What is Al-Qaeda? The whole article somehow perpetuates Neo-liberal notions of so-called justice that conveniently ignores the Imperial factors that are root cause of militancy all over the world, let alone Baluchistan. Has the writer been less prejudiced her critique on Pakistani security establishment, she might have been able to depict the violence of BLA and patronage of Imperial forces.
    “Sadly, a building is more of a symbol of national ideology than the people of the country. Pakistan has lost all sense of priority.” May be this is true, but for sure, the writer has a clear priority of proving support for safe passage to NATO forces exit through Baluchistan.


  • Sher Shah
    Jun 22, 2013 - 3:53AM

    @Water Bottle: “Sadly, a building is more of a symbol of national ideology than the people of the country.” Pakistan has lost all sense of priority.

    The above may be true, may be not. But the matter of fact is that the writer’s sense of priority is very much clear. She is extending full help in her capacity to provide safe passage to NATO Forces for their exit through Baluchistan.


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