Paths of terrorism lead but to Pakistan – by Ardeshir Cowasjee

“Can some bright psychologist work out why Faisal Shahzad, a college graduate, son of a Pakistani air force officer, married with two children, was prompted to do what he did on May Day?” – Photo by AP.

The adoption of terrorism tactics can no longer be merely attributed to ignorance, poverty, deprivation or hardship.

Many of our neo-terrorists are schooled and brainwashed beings, with a grudge, or several grudges, imbued with bravado, intent on disrupting what is left of civilised life, with nary a care as to how many complete strangers they either blow to smithereens or maim, or how much they destroy.

Pakistan of course has its daily dose of terrorism, in one form or another. Schools are blown up with regularity in the newly-named K-P province, bodies of men executed by the local Taliban are found, men have their hands chopped off, women are ‘dishonoured’ and our main cities are under siege, bunkered and concreted, awaiting the suicide bomber from up north or from down south in Punjab where they are said to be heavily congregated (for one, Ajmal Kasab).

Unless one of those strange and much despised creatures known as VIPs or often VVIPs are targeted, suicide and other bombings no longer earn headlines in the media. They are now taken as a matter of course.

But apart from terrorism connections within Pakistan, we have those outside Pakistan, the paths of which lead straight into our heartland. The latest New York Times Square failed car bomber is but one of a string of notable Pakistanis who have garnered academic degrees and are not materially down and out in any way. What is it about Pakistan that it manages to produce so many young men who are violence prone, caring neither for their own or other people’s lives? We seriously need to ask ourselves this question.

It was asked and partially answered in the Wall Street Journal of May 3 by Sadanand Dhume under the heading ‘Why Pakistan Produces Jihadists’. He firstly asks: “Why do Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora churn out such a high proportion of the world’s terrorists?” He cites Mir Aimal Kasi, the CIA shooter, Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Centre bomber, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of 9/11 fame, Omar Saeed Sheikh, the Daniel Pearl kidnapper, and three of the four July 2005 London train bombers as being ‘made in Pakistan’.

He goes on to list a few “whose passage to jihadism passes through” Pakistan — Osama bin Laden himself, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, Richard Reid and his shoe, and John Walker Lindh of the so-called American Taliban. These are not lists to be proud of. Something is radically wrong and heaven alone knows how long it will take to even start to put it right. With the governments and leadership we have suffered and still suffer it is not likely that in the foreseeable future our production line will decrease, let alone cease.

Dhume puts much of it down to the distant past, to the formation of the country when he claims it “was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism”, with men such as Muhammad Asad (an early ambassador to the UN), Said Ramadan who collaborated with Abul Ala Maududi and with the 1949 establishment by Pakistan of the world’s first transnational Islamic organisation, the World Muslim Congress.

All this possibly may have set the trend — with massive help from Liaquat Ali Khan’s 1949 Objectives Resolution — but it was not until Ziaul Haq, army general and devout worshipper at the altar of his own dangerous brand of Islam, that bigotry and the inevitable violence that must accompany it truly set in. Even the mighty army was tainted, to a certain extent brainwashed by the joys of jihad.

The seal on the full conversion of the Pakistani mind towards militancy was stamped by the support given by Zia to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and then by the adoption of the Taliban by Benazir Bhutto’s second government.

No one, not even the most nationalistic Pakistani, can deny that the country is used as a training ground for terrorists or jihadists or whatever.

It is open knowledge that both the ignorant poor and deprived and the university-educated youth, and even adult men, can come to Pakistan and learn how to make bombs to blow up themselves, if they so wish, and as many others that they can either take with them or leave dead and maimed while they flee.

Can some bright psychologist work out why Faisal Shahzad, a college graduate, son of a Pakistani air force officer, married with two children, was prompted to do what he did on May Day?

Friend I.A. Rehman has written an excellent column, finely tuned and finely balanced, published in this newspaper on May 6 on the subject of anarchy in Pakistan. It sets out many of the acts of government in recent days which come under the heading of anarchy. It should be widely disseminated so that people realise just what their lives are all about under this present dispensation which is at as much a loss with itself as it is with the governance of this unruly country. It is a sad commentary on the seemingly deliberate acts of commission and omission which so relentlessly beset us.

Strangely, the sole anarchic activity he has missed out on is the terrorism and jihad factor. Perhaps he, like so many, is hardened to the fact that it exists, that it has become a way of life and that it seemingly cannot be dealt with by the civilian government we have lurking on the ground, or will not be dealt with, for reasons we can but guess at, by the army that is the de facto ruler of this country for which the world at large has no love lost.

Source: Dawn, 09 May, 2010

3 responses to “Paths of terrorism lead but to Pakistan – by Ardeshir Cowasjee”

  1. Youth and militancy —Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi

    Friday sermons in a large number of mosques preach how the West is out to undermine the Muslims and the Islamic world. It is easy to get radical ideological inspiration in Pakistan because Islamic orthodoxy and militancy have seeped deep into Pakistan’s state system and society

    The failed bombing attempt in New York City has once again focused attention on Pakistan as an inspirational centre for Islamic radicalism and the vulnerability of young people of Pakistani origin to Islamic radicalism and militancy.

    There is no evidence available so far to suggest that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups based in the tribal areas or in mainland Pakistan have now embarked on spreading out into North America and the UK.

    The young person accused of the unsuccessful NYC incident may have been inspired by the militant discourse on world affairs and he may have got some bomb-making training in Pakistan, but he does not appear to be an extension of the TTP or other militant groups. The details of the unsuccessful effort show that the young person’s knowledge of explosives was rudimentary and one does not have to go to Pakistan’s tribal areas to get such training. The young Pakistani-American may have interacted with some militant group for ideological reaffirmation. There are a host of militant groups: the TTP, other militant groups in the tribal areas, and the Punjab-based militant and sectarian groups.

    These militant groups are not the only source of Islamic radicalism in Pakistan. Islamic political parties and a large section of the Islamic clergy based in mainland Pakistan preach radical Islamic perspectives of Pakistan and the rest of the world. Friday sermons in a large number of mosques, especially those whose prayer leaders are affiliated with Islamic parties or militant groups, preach how the West is out to undermine the Muslims and the Islamic world. It is easy to get radical ideological inspiration in Pakistan because Islamic orthodoxy and militancy have seeped deep into Pakistan’s state system and society.

    However, acquiring a radical Islamic perspective does not necessarily mean that a person will certainly engage in acts of violence and terrorism. A small number of radicalised youth engage in violent activity either because of the long and persistent experience with militant groups or through self-introspection based on a radical and militant mindset. This is done either as a manifestation of alienation or as a religious obligation acquired through interaction with militant leaders.

    Pakistan is experiencing the ‘youth bulge’. More than half of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30, whose socialisation is heavily loaded with Islamic orthodoxy and militancy. Since the early 1980s the state pursued an agenda through education and the mass media to Islamise the state and society. Pakistan’s military and the intelligence agencies continued to patronise a religious hard line and militancy as an instrument of domestic and foreign policy towards Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir.

    By September 2001, at least one and a half generations had been socialised into religious orthodoxy and militancy as a desirable mindset and a frame for action. These people have reached the middle level positions in government, the military, and other services. They may not directly get involved in bomb planting, but they have sympathy for Islamic radicals who engage in violence in the name of Islam. In this way the political discourse of Islamic radicalism and the political right has become integral to the mindset of countless people who tend to view national and international affairs in purely religious terms.

    An Islamic and politically rightist mindset dominates the youth and post-youth generation in Pakistan. This mindset views Muslims and the Islamic world as victims of international conspiracies by the US and other western countries. They also think that Pakistan’s military action against the Taliban and other militants is not justified and it serves US interests. They strongly believe that there is a persistent international effort led by the US and India to undermine and destroy Pakistan and that Pakistan’s adversaries are not the Taliban. Islamists argue that the suicide attacks in Pakistan are undertaken either by the agents of foreign powers in the garb of the Taliban or, at times, the Taliban retaliate against Pakistan’s alignment with the US, or its military actions in the tribal areas.

    This mindset has caused two most serious problems with the psyche of the youth. One, the concept of the nation-state and the notion of citizenship has been greatly undermined for them. Most are alienated from the state and do not feel obligated to respect its primacy and obligations as citizens. Their affiliation ladder starts from a person being a Muslim with religious obligations. It moves on to Islamic movements (non-state organisations) that uphold the primacy of Islam and moves on to an Islamic ‘ummah’ — universal Islamic community or brotherhood. It is a transnational religion-based identity. The state is relevant to the extent it helps to achieve the goals of a radicalised Muslim vis-à-vis others who do not share their Islamic-orthodox worldview.

    Second, the notion of collective good or societal responsibility is replaced with the obligation of a Muslim towards God and the Muslim community represented by Islamic movements. The notion of a person or a group undertaking some steps for the welfare of the ordinary community or the nation-state is not important. Similarly, a radical Muslim may use violence without paying any attention to the cost of his action to other human beings, including other Muslims, or to Pakistan as a nation-state.

    A large number of Pakistani youth are attracted to Islamic radicalism and do not feel obligated to the imperatives of collective good or societal responsibility except in an Islamic context because the majority of them have nothing else to look forward to in their life. The state of Pakistan pays little attention to their welfare and it is unable to ensure a secure future for them.

    All those going abroad do not find it easy to obtain a secure and stable life. This also applies to a good number of male children of Pakistani parents in adopted countries. These youngsters have a tendency to develop alienation from the adopted country and become vulnerable to religious hardline appeals. They adopt an Islamic way of life and mindset that shapes their disposition towards the adopted country and the international system. These trends have become more pronounced after September 2001. A small minority among them may opt for violence against the state and society that is seen as nasty, unsympathetic and anti-Muslim. Their visits to Pakistan are for reaffirmation and reinforcement of the rediscovered Islamic identity.

    Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi is a political and defence analyst\05\09\story_9-5-2010_pg3_2

  2. Every muslim will be ask about his own deeds, action and saying on the Day of Judgement., Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions.
    Say your prayers and help the humanity without thinking of muslim or non muslim.
    Is there any one who can hear me……………………………….