The terrorist question: Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistani establishment — by Dr Manzur Ejaz

The terrorist question

No other Muslim country sponsors private religious and sectarian militias for domestic use or to achieve strategic goals. Probably, every state, other than Pakistan, knows fully well that the rise of private militias is bound to threaten the state’s monopoly of using power and coercion

We may console ourselves by parroting the ‘conspiracy against Pakistan’ mantra over and over but the fact remains that most bombers are traced back to Pakistan. American-Jewish-Hindu conspirators may be out there to target Pakistan, but how does one explain the failed Times Square bombing attempt by Faisal Shahzad, or Aimal Kansi, all originating from Pakistan? It is a puzzling question if one goes a bit deeper.

Afghanistan is occupied by the US, Palestine by Israel and Kashmir by India, but how come none of the terrorists caught in Mumbai, Washington or New York is an Afghan, Palestinian or Kashmiri? Why do the nationals of these countries struggle on their own land instead of throwing bombs in far off places like Mumbai and New York? Therefore, the claim that terrorism, emanating from Pakistan, is triggered by the oppression of Muslims does not hold. If it was so, the bomber should be coming from occupied lands or other Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia as well. Therefore, an explanation other than ‘Muslim oppression’ has to be sought.

The main difference appears to be the perpetual indoctrination of morbid ideology and state sponsorship of private religious militias in Pakistan: no other Muslim country, even theological states like Saudi Arabia or Iran, sponsors private religious and sectarian militias for domestic use or to achieve strategic goals. Probably, every state, other than Pakistan, knows fully well that the rise of private militias is bound to threaten the state’s monopoly of using power and coercion.

In addition, the US funding and concoction of international jihad — never a part of Muslim ideology before the anti-Soviet crusade in Afghanistan — broke the camel’s back. Pakistani Muslims were always vulnerable to such a disastrous worldview because of the indoctrination based on fictional history of the Muslim invasion and conquest of India.

Most importantly, the Indian Muslims led by immigrants from north and central Asia had a streak of pan-Islamism. They seriously believed that they had conquered India, not for economic gains, but to spread Islam and end ‘kufr’. They had a typical imperialist mindset to perceive themselves as civilisers of the pagans and backward people. Like all colonists, the idea of universality of their faith or worldview and its imposition was essential to justify their occupation. The British, and later on the Americans, have used similar logic for colonialism and imperialism.

The Muslim intelligentsia, particularly the historians, presented exaggerated and distorted characterisations of their invading patrons. Every Muslim ruler was presented as a destroyer of idols and appropriator of pagan wealth. The numbers were fudged and exaggerated to make their patrons more palpable to occupiers/ immigrants and the audience back home in north and central Asia.

For example, Mahmud of Ghazni is presented as the destroyer of the Somnath Temple, who took back home gold and silver loaded on 100 camels and horses. Ms Thapar, an Indian historian, has proved that old manuscripts (Pali, Gujrati, etc) do not show that Mahmud ever reached Somnath or it was ever a significantly wealthy Hindu temple. Instead, it was a local temple rarely maintained by the local Hindu rajas. Furthermore, given the size and impoverishment of the population of those days, the amount of gold looted from Somnath does not make any sense. Most probably, it is a make-believe story concocted by Muslim court-historians. It suited Hindu nationalists too to make a case against Muslim occupation and, therefore, they did not challenge it either.

The converted Muslims remained backward and looked up to the invader/immigrants’ intellectual leadership and adopted their worldview. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Muslim intelligentsia never gave up the idea of Muslim domination and was always keen to start revivalist movements. Like their perception of fictional history, they were so detached from world reality that while Turkey was taken over by the secularist Kemal Atatürk, Indian Muslims were demonstrating for the restoration of the Usmania (Ottoman Empire) caliphate. The movement for the restoration of the ‘Khilafat’ was the most farcical, to say the least. In those days a ‘danda force’ led by a lunatic named Ilam Din in Lahore exhibited the crude violence a Muslim revivalist movement can resort to.

Whichever way one interprets the twists and turns of the history of the Pakistan movement, the new Muslim state inherited the traditional Indian Muslim mindset. The invader/immigrant worldview of history was the ethos of the Pakistani state from the very beginning. Even Jinnah’s personal secular thinking and lifestyle could not sway the traditionalists and in a couple of years Islamisation was put on the agenda through the ‘Qarardad-e-Maqasid’ (Objectives Resolution). School curriculums were structured by the traditionalists, specifically the Deobandis, portraying the Muslim invasion of India as an act of benevolence by great Muslim emperors. Even invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, who just came for loot and plunder, were portrayed as great men. Pakistan’s naming of its missiles after these invaders’ names shows how much the morbid worldview of traditionalist Muslim history has been transferred to our new generations.

The core of the Pakistani establishment has always remained loyal to the traditionalist Indian Muslim skewed worldview. Even secularists like General Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not change this discourse in a substantial way. In this backdrop, when Ziaul Haq intensified the process of Islamisation and private religious/sectarian militias were sponsored by the state, the dynamics of theocratic radicalisation and destabilisation were unleashed. The US funding and training of these militias transformed them into a lethal force. They were deployed against the Soviets and then against India, but ultimately they were going to threaten the state of Pakistan and its cohort superpower, the US.

The Pakistani establishment is forced to undo these private militias but at the same time it is trying to stick to the core traditionalist ideology. It has not confronted the essence of its self-created problem and has not found an alternative ideology to govern and achieve its strategic goals. The entire political establishment has grown up with the traditionalist Pakistan ideology. Therefore, sometimes, the National Assembly committees are more conservative than the bureaucracy and military establishment.

All in all, Pakistan remains very far from undoing the debilitating received traditionalist worldview that is the mother of every kind of religious extremism, sectarianism and proliferation of religious monasteries and militias.

The writer can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 12 May 2010



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