Since the September 11 attacks, the world focus has shifted to Muslim extremism and Islamophobia. At the centre of this focus is Pakistan, a country portrayed in international media as the hub and source of extremism in the region, while some stretch it to the world.
As we talk about Pakistan's negative portrayal in terms of terrorism and radicalisation, it is ironic to see that a country which has been and is playing the role of a frontline state in the war on terror, and which has sustained more losses than any other nation part of the international coalition against terror, is being blamed for the same evil that it has been fighting for nearly two decades.
However, this is a well thought out US-India orchestrated campaign to undermine Pakistan as a nation and label it a terrorist state. Even more painful is to see that the source of these allegations is mainly the unholy nexus between America and India, whose own track record vis-à-vis using extremism, violence and religious radicalisation as foreign policy and proxy war tools is deplorable.
The United States, in particular, has made it a corner stone of its policy to hold Pakistan responsible for the mess they created themselves. They ought to be reminded that terrorism and radicalisation today is rooted in the war involving the world's superpowers in Afghanistan during the 1980s, when the United States promoted, encouraged, and even funded fundamentalism and radical indoctrination to achieve its own political agenda.
Today, when the new Trump administration sermonizes Pakistan to 'not use proxies for furthering foreign policy objectives', it becomes all the more pertinent to recall and remind that it was in fact the USA, which patented and used the strategy of recruiting and using proxies to achieve foreign policy objectives with brazen disregard for future ramifications, allowing hardcore Takfiri and Kharwaji elements from other regions find a common platform in Afghanistan.
The world also needs to be reminded that it was US congressmen Senator Charlie Wilson who rallied Congress into supporting Operation Cyclone, the largest covert black budget operation which supplied military equipment and aid to Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The same administration officially authorised aid to the puritanical Mujahideen rebels, in addition to unofficial aid that the CIA had already been funneling to Afghan insurgents for years. The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has confessed that “the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan.”
Similarly, Pakistan's immediate neighbour, which has not left any stone unturned to depict Pakistan as a terrorist state, is oblivious to its own terror and extremism-tainted history and society. It is a classic matter of the pot calling the kettle black. India repeatedly terms Pakistan as a hub of terrorism and extremism, while conveniently forgetting the mega acts of terror, including murders of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi, Indra Gandhi and Rajev Gandhi by extremist elements, the Samjhoota Express tragedy, Gujrat Massacre, Babri Mosque demolition, bloody violence against people of the occupied Kashmir, and the recent public lynching of Dalits and Muslims.
India is haunted by its extremist and terror-related tendencies that have now not only come full circle, but have become a defining characteristic of its Hindu majority. India has over the years mastered the art of deception, intrigue and subterfuge to malign the image of Pakistan and sway world perception against it. It has practiced this defamation campaign as per the classic Chanakya philosophy, which justifies various actions and policies regardless of ethical norms.
However, when a state turns a blind eye to ethics, fair play and justice, it becomes a mobocracy that India may be in near future. This disastrous approach reached new extremes under the government of Narendra Modi, which gave a free hand to Sangh Parivar and their devout followers to unleash hell on Dalits, minorities, marginalised and non-conformists as per their narrow and ultra-nationalistic Hindutva doctrine.
While India has been directing the attention of the world towards the extremism and intolerance in Pakistan, major violent trends in Hindu extremism have been ignored. Today, these violent elements are supported by Hindu extremists and their allies in the Indian government, which is currently led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), formed in the wake of the 1998 general elections and based on a Hindu nationalist agenda. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is tied to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishnu Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Bajrang Dal, and functions as the Sangh Parivar's political wing.
These organisations, especially the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have evolved into paramilitary organisations, with RSS educational wing, the Vidya Bharati, operating 20,000 educational institutes, having 100,000 teachers and two million students, and actively engaging in propaganda, virulent hate campaigns, and sometimes violence against religious minorities. Even the current Prime Minster Narendra Modi was recruited by the RSS and has served as key strategist for the BJP. Appointing Hindu cleric Yogi as CM of largest state and as heir approved by Modi shows “rise of the two from a venomous past.”
Indian politics today is riddled with the same extremist and violent elements it has blamed Pakistan harbouring over the past decades, evident by the alarmingly high level of politicians with a criminal and extremist background. From the jail sentence of India's former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, to the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi who is accused of initiating and condoning the violence during the Gujrat riots in 2002, it is clear that India needs to address the deep seeded intolerance in its own society before pointing fingers at Pakistan.
It needs to accept the fact that 24 out of the 78 Union ministers (31%) of the Narendra Modi cabinet have criminal cases related to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women registered against them. State assemblies in India are no different. 201 of the 609 ministers in state assemblies in India have criminal cases registered against them, with seven ministers with cases related to murder and six related to communal violence. Out of the 7 MP's in Delhi, 9 of 17 in Telangana (53%); 18 of 39 (46%) in Maharashtra; 11 of 28 (39%) in Bihar, and 2 of 8 (25%) in Uttarakhand have serious criminal cases against themselves in their self-sworn affidavits.
Ultra-nationalistic and intolerant elements have manifested themselves into ways that were unheard of in the past. Be it the rise in violence against Muslims who have been accused of eating and selling beef, or the rising cases of atrocities against Dalits, or the political legitimisation penalising cow slaughter through the Live Stock 10 Market Regulation Act 2017 and the 2017 notification of the Ministry of Forests and Climate Change India.
It is high time that India realises that instead of blaming Pakistan for harbouring and encouraging extremism and terrorism, it needs to address the same elements in its own society and political culture. Instead of spending its time, effort, and resources on maligning the image of Pakistan, it needs to sterilise its own society of the very ills it blames Pakistan of encouraging. The historic and recent years’ barbaric treatment of Kashmiris is one hard fact commonly ignored by Human and Freedom Rights watchers of the world. Using hundreds of thousands of army men to kill, blind and injure youth is one cruelty. Banning social media in this age and time is another example of discriminatory pick and choose policy of the US and the West when it comes to Human Rights violations.
The author is secretary Senate of Pakistan