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Pakistan’s Oxymorons and Terrorism


By Imtiaz Gul

 Weekly Pulse, March 22, 2013


Glaring contradictions continue to eat Pakistan from within; it’s touted to be an Islamic republic, but deceit and deception at highest political and military level deny the fundamentals of an Islamic republic such as honesty and integrity, and commitment to the people of Pakistan. The armed forces are supposed to guard the geographical frontiers of the Islamic republic, but, instead, they became the guardians and defenders of what they thought was ideological ethos of the country. Jinnah’s Pakistan was supposed to be a liberal state, yet the colluding interests of an encroaching army and an oppressive, self-centered civilian aristocracy has turned Pakistan into a synonym for an obscurantist state, porous and gullible to the shenanigans of a black-mailing religious right, which also serves as the social shelter for the al-Qaeda-inspired religious extremist. 

Pakistan is clearly caught among high-placed civilian and military oxymorons – whose over riding motives appears to be self-preservation. A classic case of whimsical governance is Rehman Malik, the interior minister, who often sounds more like a care-free charlatan, throwing challenges at the militants and making ridiculous claims about them. It is ironical indeed that an elected government miserably failed in charting a medium-to-long term counter-terror strategy. It also failed in having mobilized legislators and the intelligentsia to agree on the kinds of threats that Pakistan faces today. How can terrorist groups and their social and political supporters take a person like Rehman Malik serious if the latter only believes in blustering and bullying through press statements? The other such character is the mighty Riaz Malik - who is feeding people from right and left for self-glorification with the money he has partially secured through criminal gangs and land grabbers led by Khokars/Abbasis, Chauhdrys and Maliks. 

How can you stay hopeful when an iconic figure defends his decision to stand as counsul for a particular notorious person by saying: actually the president ask me to take up the case. This has been the most disgusting point in my life, when I heard this argument coming from a legal luminary. 

The military establishment as institution represents another oxymoron. 

If one were to believe what has been attributed to General Ashfaq Kayani in recent days, one can only lament the absence of a comprehensive counter-terror or counter-extremism strategy. Is it existential threat or is it the internal threat or is it trans-national in nature because in both cases the country needs different recipes. But there is hardly any evidence of government trying to evolve consensus, even on defining terms like militancy, miscreants, Taliban (because 90 percent of the Taliban brands are directly or indirectly in business cooperation with the Pakistani military). The only state enemy is TTP, which essentially comprises militants from the Mehsud region of South Waziristan. The TTP originated in Mehsud area and largely remains a Mehsud terrorist outfit, which is mercenary in nature and really cannot be branded as an insurgent group. 

Those advocating dialogue with a mercenary group, quoting the American-Afghan example of reaching out to the Afghan insurgents, ignore the fact that Gulbudin Hekmetyar and the Haqqanis were once the darlings of the entire West and that they are sons of soil – who had been part of the Afghan conflict ever since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. 

Even Mulla Omar and several of his deputies have had their tryst with Washington and other major capitals. The TTP militants, on the other hand, represent an extremely narrow support base and thrive off the facilitating nature of its relationship with Al-Qaeda. The only legitimacy or justification the TTP top brass can offer is its support to the Afghan Taliban’s fight against what they brand as “foreign occupation.” For this they want Pakistan army and the government to break up with the US-led coalition. 

Mere opposition to the government’s cooperation with an international coalition cannot turn a mercenary group into a legitimate interlocutor, nor can the government’s refusal to demands legitimize the reign of terror that the TTP has piled on the Pakistani society. Nor can the state institutions lend credence to a group of a few trigger-happy individuals by caving into their demands. 

What is then the issue at hand? Well, the issue is lack of a clear vision on the nature of threat and a missing informed strategy to deal with this threat. Over a decade into a deadly war that has reportedly claimed close to 40,000 lives, and the Pakistani leadership appears clueless. The fact that the distinction good-Taliban-bad-Taliban still governs part of the state policy also obfuscates the reality; regardless of whether good or bad, almost all brands of Taliban draw inspiration from pan-Islamist Al-Qaeda with varying degrees. And as long as all or some state institutions ignore this fundamental reality, forces of terror will keep expanding and proliferating in the society.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk