(Mis)-understanding terrorism

Iqbal Khan

QUETTA carnage has once again underscored the international dimension of terrorism; and that no country could overcome it in isolation. Pakistan’s terrorism related sufferings in terms of loss of human lives, destruction of infrastructure and missed economic opportunities is colossal. Pakistan has launched World’s largest military effort for counter terrorism operations. However, this is not being duly acknowledged. For example, in response to a media question the US State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner made inappropriate remarks( Aug 04) that Pakistan is selective in targeting terrorists and does not go after those threatening its neighbours. “We have been very clear with the highest levels of the Government of Pakistan that they must target all militant groups and that includes those that target Pakistan’s neighbours. They must also close all safe havens… They’re going after groups, but selectively”.
And, responding to questions about Pentagon’s decision to withheld US$ 300 million military aid to Pakistan, Toner said, “We’ve urged the Government of Pakistan to address this and to pursue closer counter terrorism cooperation with Afghanistan against all groups that pose a long-term security threat to the region, not just to Pakistan,” Toner added. Washington Post has reported on August 03 Shamila Chaudhary, a former White House official stating that the decision could foreshadow additional steps increasing pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants causing trouble in Afghanistan. “It is a way of sending a signal to the Pakistani military of what’s to come… the United States is no longer willing to give blank checks to Pakistan,” she said.
Pope Francis has condemned the habit of linking Islam with terrorism, saying that “this is not right and this is not true…I think that in nearly all religions there is always a small fundamentalist group”, He added that “We have them,” referring to Catholicism. He went on to say that lack of economic opportunities for young people in Europe was also to blame for terrorism. “I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in ISIS,” he added.” If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence”. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said. “I know it is dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy,” he added. “That is the first form of terrorism. That is a basic terrorism against all humanity. Let’s talk about that,” he went on to elaborate.
It is nice of Pope Francis for trying to dispel the widely prevailing but wrong perception of equating Islam and its followers with terrorism. It is not for the first time, Pope has made similar remarks in the past as well which gave a loud and clear message that he believes in co-existence and is keen to make people of all faiths realize that all revealed religions stand for peace, love and brotherhood. But unfortunately, the establishment and governments in almost every country have their own mindset and agenda.
War becomes perpetual when it is employed as a rationale for achieving a specific version of peace, and or it has hidden objectives. This holds good for global war on terrorism as well; it has indeed, suffered from double jeopardy—mission creep and immorality—selective application. Since the end of World War II, the United States has been intervening in various countries for making the world safe for American corporations; enhancing financial status of its military industrial complex: and preventing the rise of any society that might serve as a successful example of an alternative way of living.
This protectionism has resulted in the rise of mediocrity; hence America is throwing up such presidential candidates that one would think twice before hiring some of them even for menial household errands. While American society could live with it, with impunity, for a couple of decades more, rest of the World would continue to pay the price, especially for the wrong wars undertaken by America over the last decade and a half in the name of countering terror. War against terror has since long absorbed the objectives of creating an Israel pliant Middle East and an India Pliant South Asia. Counties of these regions are expected to either fall in line with this American wish— wilfully, or be prepared to be made to do so forcibly.
During SAARC interior ministers’ conference, in Islamabad on August 04, India called for isolation of countries deemed to be supporting ‘terrorism,’ while Pakistan condemned brutal force against civilians resisting occupation. “One country’s terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone…Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated”, Rajnath Singh said. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar “drew the attention of SAARC member states to the use of brutal force …against unarmed civilians engaged in a struggle against foreign occupation,”— a reference to Kashmir.” We have seen brutal force being used against unarmed civilians. It is important to respect the fundamental human rights of the people and not suppress freedom struggle in the name of fight against terrorism,” he added. “Mumbai, Dhaka and other incidents like Pathankot which are highly condemnable does not mean that dozens and scores and in fact hundreds of terror incidents taking place almost on a daily basis in Pakistan are any less condemnable,” he went on to say.
The arrest of the India’s active service officer, who publicly confessed his state’s involvement in perpetrating and financing terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan, surprisingly did not prompt any statement by the US. Even though former Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had stated in February 2013 that India uses the soil of Afghanistan to finance instability in Pakistan. Earlier, General Stanley McChrystal’s 2009 Report had also mentioned India’s such activities from the territory of Afghanistan. Knowing that terrorism has regional and global linkages, Pakistan is coordinating its counter terrorism efforts with regional and global regimes. Latest addition towards this end is Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan quadrilateral counter terrorism alliance, launched, on August 03, in the Chinese city of Urumqi.
There is a need to evolve a universally acceptable definition of terrorism to differentiate it from genuine freedom struggles, like in Kashmir and Palestine. This is time for the international political leadership to pay heed to how Pope Francis interprets terrorism. Pakistan says there are limits to how much it can do as it is already fighting multiple militant groups and is wary of a “blowback” in the form of more terror attacks on its soil. Indeed terrorism is more of a concern to Pakistan than its neighbours.
— The writer is consultant to IPRI on Policy and Strategic Response.

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