Sunday, February 5th, 2023 07:18:46

Inside Pakistan

Updated: September 25, 2015 12:00 am

The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a Shia and about 30–35 million people in Pakistan are Shias, but as fundamentalism has grown, a few extremist Sunni organisations, like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jundullah, massacred many Shias. The Shias have also constituted a few organisations to counter the Sunnis. Hence the divide between both sects has augmented. Pakistan possesses nuclear warheads, and radicalism is increasing. Hence the whole world is worried that the nuclear warheads may fall in the hands of terrorist organisations. Sometimes back, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed that they are very near procuring nuclear warheads from Pakistan. The Pakistan government may not hand over nuclear weapons to terrorists, but extremists can procure these through some rogue employees.

Rise of Fundamentalism and Terrorism

The general public of Pakistan was neither fundamentalist nor extremist when Pakistan was created in 1947. However, with passage of time, the rulers of the country began using Islam as a tool to give legitimacy to their rule. General Zia-ul–Haq, who dethroned and hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and never conducted free, fair and democratic elections during his regime, gave utmost importance to the promulgation of Islamic laws and radicalised Pakistani society.

The rulers of Pakistan, as well as the notorious ISI, also helped in enhancing fundamentalism and extremism in the country as they wanted to send religious fanatics to Afghanistan and India, especially Jammu and Kashmir, for terrorist attacks. Fundamentalism also increased due to illiteracy, poverty, rampant corruption and apathy of the administration to provide basic necessities to the masses.

General Zia-ul-Haq and other Pakistani rulers wanted to obtain financial assistance from the Muslim world. Therefore, they enforced Sharia laws in the country. One Muslim country gave financial assistance to spread Sunni faith, while another Muslim country helped the Shias to counter the Sunnis. This radicalised both Sunnis and Shias in the country.

Role of Madrassas in Fomenting Terrorism

Madrassas, which impart religious education, became jihadi factories where extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers were produced, who were trained to slaughter their rivals and were spreading terrorism in the whole world. There is a definite linkage of terrorists and Pakistani madrassas.

According to a rough estimate, there are approximately 24,000 registered madrassas in Pakistan. But the number of unregistered madrassas is much larger. These madrassas officially teach only Quranic Arabic and Islamic tenets. The rampant poverty and large number of children force parents to send their sons to these madrassas as they get free boarding, food and education.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, etc., the religious schools are controlled by the government, so these schools do not tutor extremism and hatred towards other sects. However, in Pakistan, there is no control on these madrassas, which teach and preach only fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism.

These madrassas shelter not only terrorists but also criminals. The visas of more than 90 per cent of foreigners studying in the madrassas are expired. The inhabitants of madrassas are involved in extortion, loot, torture, terrorism, rape and several other heinous crimes.

The Pakistan government had sanctioned large amounts to modernise the registered madrassas and demolish the unregistered ones, but the government could not proceed because of opposition from fundamentalists.

Not only the students of madrassas become radical, so do their families, as well as their extended families. Several top commanders of terrorist organisations were either products of these madrassas or closely associated with them.

The Pakistan government should include scientific and modern education in madrassas. Their syllabus should be changed, modern teachers should be recruited and teachings of hate and extremism should be stopped. The government should also regularise the funding of madrassas.

Important Terrorist Outfits in Pakistan

Pakistan became the epicentre of terrorism. The society became radical, and the secular-minded persons became silent spectators. Several terrorist organisations and their splinter groups emerged in the country. The most powerful terrorist outfit is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which came into existence in 2007, when several terrorist groups joined the TTP. This Sunni outfit, which has more than 20,000 trained cadres, states publicly that the organisation would impose Deobandi form of Nizam-e- Mustafa in the country.

TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurassani asserted on 8 May that the TTP shot down an MI-17 helicopter and killed the ambassadors of Norway and Philippines while the wives of Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors also lost their lives. The Dutch and Polish ambassadors were grievously injured in the crash. The TTP spokesman claimed that they used a surfaceto- air missile, which was fired from the shoulder, and that their target was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was also visiting that area.

Again on 20 April 20 2015, TTP spokesperson Khurassani claimed that the outfit has tested a missile namely Omar 1. He also mentioned that the missile, which was developed by the TTP, has a unique design and it can be assembled and dissembled very easily. The spokesman also emphasised that the outfit has machine guns, suicide vests, hand grenades, anti-jammer devices and several other latest arms and ammunition.

Besides the TTP, there are several other terrorist organisations and their splinter groups, like Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). The outfit is active on Pakistan– Afghanistan borders. Hafez Saeed, who is a protégée of the ISI, is the founder member of Lashkare- Taiba (LeT), which is considered to be one of the most powerful terrorist organisations in the region. It is involved in several terrorist attacks in India. Sipah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, al-Qaeda, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehri ul-Furgaan, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen and Harakat ul Jihad-i-Islami are other important terrorist groups. However, it is not feasible to give the names, areas of influence and active memberships of the terrorist organisations in Pakistan. New terror groups and their splinter groups emerge and finish when their leaders die, or they merge into other terrorist outfits.

There is a need to eradicate extremism from the country. Terrorist organisations will die their own deaths if they do not get new recruits who are ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of religion.

ISI, The State within State

The all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was constituted in 1948 to collect intelligence against Pakistan’s arch rival India, but soon it enhanced its sphere, and now it is involved in subversion and sabotage, murder and smuggling of drug, arms and ammunition. The ISI is headed by a serving lieutenant general who is the most powerful person after the chief of army staff. However, analysts mention that the ISI chief has more financial clout and extra constitutional powers.

The accurate strength of the ISI is not in public domain, but analysts claim that it has strength of more than 10,000 officers and men. Besides the regular employees, the organisation has numerous sources, contacts, diplomatic contacts, strong-arm agents, support agents, saboteurs, smugglers, etc.

Several terrorist groups were raised, funded and sheltered by the nefarious ISI. In fact, al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was residing in a cantonment area under the patronage of the ISI.

The ISI warned the terrorists funded and trained by it before the launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb; hence they left the North Waziristan area much before the army started the operation. Therefore, only those terrorists who are opposed to the ISI are being killed in the operation. The ISI applies rules unfairly to the terrorists. The terrorists who toe the ISI line are protected and financed by them while the terrorists who are not implementing its orders are arrested, tortured and killed. In fact, according to the WikiLeaks website, US authorities consider the ISI to be a terrorist organisation. There are ample proofs that the ISI supports terrorists; the Jalaluddin Haqqani group is a protégé of the ISI.

The ISI, which is deeply involved in drug smuggling, also subverts the elected government if the government is working against its policies. It is also an open secret that the ISI plays an overriding role in the internal politics of the country. President Ayub Khan, after the coup, started using the ISI against his opponents.

At present, the ISI is extensively used against various nationalities, like the Balochis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Muhajirs and residents of Waziristan and other areas. The ISI not only collects information about them but also is involved in extrajudicial killings at the behest of the Pakistani army. The ISI not only collects intelligence of the activities of opposition but also keeps an eye on the ruling party so that the elected government does not work against the interests of Pakistani armed forces.

Analysts mention that Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI), and Tahir-ul-Qadri, of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), had launched an agitation against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif only to weaken the prime minister. Both these leaders demanded the resignation of Sharif and agreed on the mediation of the army chief, Raheel Sharif. The agitation diluted the position of elected prime minister in comparison to that of the army chief. Analysts mention that the ISI was behind the agitation because agitators cannot reach Islamabad without the tacit approval of security agencies.

The ISI played a vital role in making Pakistan a nuclear power. It is also responsible for enhancing extremism in the country. The ISI sponsored several madrassas in the country, especially in frontier areas, where terrorists were trained to carry out bomb blasts in India and Afghanistan.

A large number of terrorist groups and ISI-trained terrorists became disillusioned by the ISI and started violent activities in Pakistan. In fact, the TTP is killing Pakistani security forces personnel more than anybody else.

The Way Ahead

Pakistan ranked 127th in the list of 175 countries in the Corruption Perception Index of 2013. It is very demoralising for the countrymen; hence, many times, seeing the rampant corruption, inefficiency and lack of basic services, the Pakistani masses feel that military dictatorship is better than the democratically elected government. But this pessimism must end as the country remained under direct military rule for more years than under a democratic government and even when civilian rulers were there, supremacy remained in the hands of military junta. In fact, military rule is not an alternative to civilian rule. The public must elect honest and competent persons who take the country out from the present impasse.

Pakistan is considered one of the most heroin-addicted countries in the world. According to an estimate, illegal drug trade in the country is worth $2 billion a year and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2013 report mentions that more than 6.7 million Pakistanis use heroin and more than 5 million persons use charas. The reprehensible ISI is deeply involved in the drug trade. It smuggles drugs to India. The money generated through drug trade is used to finance several terrorist outfits. However, in the process of smuggling drugs to India, substantial amounts of drugs are consumed by Pakistanis and a sizeable number of youths have become drug addicts. Pakistani authorities must stop this dirty game; in a bid to harm its arch-rival India, the ISI has damaged its own country more. Therefore, drug peddlers must be punished severely and earlier the better.

Pakistani rulers, both military and civil, must try to eradicate the menace of terrorism from the country. Analysts point out that operation Zarb-e-Azb is a farce. Pakistani authorities cautioned the terrorist groups five months before the launch of the operation so that the terrorists could migrate to Afghanistan and carry out terrorist activities there. The so-called good Taliban, including the Haqqani group, migrated to safe places. Jalaluddin Haqqani and other senior leaders stay in Islamabad; hence any offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is of little relevance. The Pakistani army must try to eradicate the hazard of terrorism.

The ISI, which is described as a rogue organisation, should stop distinguishing between ‘good’ and bad Taliban. It must realise that terrorists have no religion and they have only mastered the art of killing people. Previously, they were involved in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, India and other places; now they have targeted Pakistan. Law-enforcing agencies should arrest and eliminate terrorists of all types and restore peace in the country.

It is high time that Pakistani authorities take the resentment of various ethnic groups, minorities and underprivileged persons more seriously and try to solve their problems amicably and honestly. The secessionist tendencies among ethno-linguistic groups are enhancing very fast and if the dominant Punjabis do not share the resources of the country, Pakistan may face another partition and then another separation. Pakistan, instead of blaming foreign powers, should reform its house.

Judiciary is an important pillar of democracy. However, analysts mention that due to rampant corruption, political and financial manipulation, the independence of the judiciary remains under a cloud. The judiciary keeps checks and balances on executive and legislature; hence Pakistan must restore the independence of the judiciary.

The fundamentalists have explained religion in such a way that all rights of women have been snatched away and they are discriminated against in all fields of life. Pakistan is at number 135 out of 136 countries covered in the Global Gender Gap Report 2013. No country can progress if 50 per cent of its population is considered as second-rate citizens. The condition of women must be improved. Last month, women were not allowed to cast their votes in the local bodies’ election in Lower Dir in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. The election commissioner declared the election null and void after women rights groups and civil society groups raised objections. However, it indicates the mentality of the residents of these areas. The thinking should be changed.

Pakistan erroneously feels that India was behind the creation of Bangladesh and it must take revenge from India. Bangladesh disaffiliated from Pakistan because of atrocities committed by the army. The time has come when India and Pakistan should inculcate friendly relations with each other. Pakistan should discontinue sending terrorists to India; the training camps run by the sinister ISI must be closed. Pakistan, as a good gesture, should hand over Dawood Ibrahim with all his accomplices. Pakistan should also accord the Most Favoured Nation status to India so that legal trade between both countries enhances as it will help both countries.

The People’s Republic of China wants that India should not progress economically; hence it extends all types of assistance to Pakistan. In this way, Pakistan considers China as its best friend and helps terrorists to carry out terrorist activities in India. Although this harms India, these terrorist activities are more harming to Pakistan now.

Pakistan should also try to solve the Kashmir issue bilaterally with India. If the issue cannot be sorted out amicably, then it is better to sort it out later; but both countries should avoid utilising their scarce resources to purchase arms and ammunition; this money should be spent in the development of the countries and in poverty alleviation. However, Pakistani generals as well as leaders continue to issue statements and infiltrate terrorists into the country, which vitiates the atmosphere.

The statement of Pakistan chief of army staff, Raheel Sharif, of 3 June, at the National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, that Kashmir was ‘an unfinished agenda of partition’ and ‘Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable’ is highly objectionable. These types of statements may please the fanatics in Pakistan but are very unfortunate for peace. Pakistani leaders must desist from such statements and concentrate more on the development of the poor masses.

By Jai Kumar Verma

(Indian Defence Review)

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