Author : Vikram Sood

Originally Published 2016-07-11 12:35:04 Published on Jul 11, 2016
Pakistan and its obsessions

These are busy times globally. Americans are busy with their elections with terrorism on their minds, the Europeans have Brexit and terrorism on their minds, and West Asians have only radical Islam and terrorism on their minds. China is busy taking on America in the South Seas and the Indians, basking in their new found bonhomie with the Americans, are not paying much attention to Pakistan.

At a time like this, Pakistan's rulers have run into adverse weather after the droning of their protege — the newly appointed Taliban leader, Mullah Mansour, by the Americans and the killing of Sufi singer Amjad Sabri by some home grown sectarian terrorists. Even worse, the Afghans bested them in the border clash at Torkham when the Pakistanis tried to assert the sanctity of what they call the Durand Line but which the Afghans do not, and will not recognise.

The most disturbing aspect has been the attacks on religious minorities, indicating growing intolerance. Recent months have witnessed a number of terrorist attacks on civilians. In January 2016, terrorists attacked a ceremony at the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda close to Peshawar and killed at least 22 students along with others.

A suicide attack on Christians on Easter < class="aBn" tabindex="0" data-term="goog_1272219170">< class="aQJ">Sunday in Lahore last March killed at least 69. Human rights activist Khurram Zaki was gunned in Karachi in May who, along with Jibran Nasir, had dared to oppose Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid notoriety, and Dr. Chaudhry Abdul Khaleeq, an Ahmedi was gunned down in Karachi earlier this month.

Last year, the authorities worked out a detailed National Action Plan, to tackle terrorism on a national level after Pakistan Taliban killed 122 school children in Charsadda last year. For these primarily Sunni and or sectarian attackers there is no place for a softer syncretic Islam in Pakistan; nor for liberal values like modern education or equality for women. Their interpretation of Islam is an exclusivist Islam.

This month, the provincial government of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf of Imran Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, donated Rs. 30 crores to Darul Uloom Haqqania also known as the University of Jihad. Imran Khan followed this with a statement that the Taliban's Holy War in Afghanistan was justified by Islamic law. And the former cricket captain has political ambitions to be Prime Minister.

There have been voices of reason and sanity from inside and outside Pakistan that seek normalcy within Pakistan and normal relations with its neighbours. Former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently commented that Pakistan could not conquer Kashmir through war and urged dialogue to solve all bilateral problems.

Incumbent Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, however, sings a different tune — all notes dutifully belligerent; sometimes amusingly too, if one can see the humour in such dire threats. There was concern among Pakistani analysts that their country could become the test tube in which the next jihad (of the ISIS) is born.

These and other warnings from Pakistanis, who worry about the direction Pakistan is taking, do not seem to have had any effect. Instead, the Deep State sees this international preoccupation as an opportunity to correct its image domestically and its own diminishing value in Washington DC as the reason for raising the ante in Kashmir and hoping a revival of US interest.

Terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and Pathankot have now been followed by another Lashkar-e-Tayyaba attack. This time it was in Pampore, Southern Kashmir and killed eight CRPF jawans. Given this, it seems that the Gurdaspur-Pathankot belt leading to the Southern Kashmir of Anantnag-Pampore is the new axis of jihadi concentration. Simultaneously, or maybe coincidentally, there was a Hizb attack in Kupwara in North Kashmir. One terrorist was killed and media reports say that a mob set fire to a police vehicle in protests.

The ease with which terrorists were able to reach Pampore is worrying. What should also be of concern is that this stretch between Bijbehara Pampore has been particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks in the past few months, and obviously, we have not been able to plug the gaps. The reaction of the crowds to the killing in Kupwara should be a matter of concern to the government in Srinagar and New Delhi. Even more worrying should be the open spat between the army and the CRPF with both claiming credit for thwarting the attack. And finally, counter-terrorism is not solely about militarily defeating terrorism.

At an important psychological-societal level, counter-terrorism is also about perceptions and ideas. Terrorists are vile persons who believe in violence of the worst kind against the state and against the people. They are definitely not rebels, they are not militants either; nor are they Fedayeen because that is a term terrorists use to describe themselves. For them, it is an honorific, a term of endearment that they are sacrificing their lives in the name of Allah. As far as we are concerned, they are killing innocents and attacking state authority. Quite simply and unequivocally, they are terrorists. There is no other description that fits.

The Jammu and Kashmir government also disclosed that in the last 14 years, i.e. since 2002, the authorities have recovered over 8000 AK series rifles and nearly a million rounds of AK series ammunition from terrorists apart from huge quantities of ammunition, magazines, pistols and revolvers. Those who held these lethal weapons were not rebels, they were terrorists.

Let us not become complacent even when we have the confidence that we will prevail. It is the cost that is important. As of now, the mindset of the present Pakistan rulers towards India and Afghanistan has not changed and there are no signs of a change yet. The reality for them is that jihad is a useful money spinner and a means to keep eternal control over Pakistan. Were peace between India and Pakistan and between Afghanistan and Pakistan to break out, the Army would lose a profitable business venture. Islam and Jihad were useful tools for control once, but now have a life of their own in Pakistan's body politic. Besides, it has been standard Pakistani policy to resort to terror to try and force India to talk and when that happens, or, is about to happen, resort to more terrorism to prevent talks.

It would be wise to hunker down and be prepared to deal with a long hot summer, resisting all the while, the temptation of playing to the galleries.

This commentary, distributed by the ANI, originally appeared in The Business Standard.

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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&amp;AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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