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Opinion

Saleem Safi
February 21, 2017

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How to strike at the root of terror

How to strike at the root of terror

The country bleeds and the nation mourns the loss of innocent lives that were lost in terrorist attacks from Charing Cross in Punjab to Quetta in Balochistan and from Mohmand Agency in Fata to Sehwan Sharif in Sindh. The monster of extremism is once again spreading terror at will and with impunity. The recent wave of terrorism has shattered our short-lived celebration of the so-called success against extremism. It is indeed a long drawn-out battle that seems difficult to win with the current strategy.

Time and again I have emphasised on the strategy of cutting the roots and trunks of extremism instead of just trimming the branches. Though military operations may be effective in a few cases, they will only offer temporary solace instead of a permanent solution. Until we focus on the root causes of extremism and militancy, the nation will live at the mercy of the terrorists and will remain exposed to a periodic reign of terror. There are many root causes of extremism in the country.

The use of religion for politics and strategic goals has been one of the prime causes of extremism. Since the inception of the country, religion – a message of peace – has been exploited and used for politics and other vested interests. In the 1980s, thanks to cold-war politics, it began to be used for strategic goals as well. That proved to be a risky gamble since the country failed to extract anything positive from it. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that we have failed to learn from our past strategic blunders. The misuse of religion for political ends – not only by the traditional religious forces but also by newer forces – is still a common practice.

Another cause of extremism is the presence of a specific jihadi narrative. At the pleasure of the US and with the generosity of the Arab countries, we developed a specific jihadi narrative and brainwashed an entire generation to fight against the Soviet Union and Communism. Resultantly, jihadi groups emerged in the country, training centres were opened and jihadi literature was developed. The same jihadi narrative still exists in the country. Unfortunately, we have failed to produce a counter-narrative. Alarmingly, the same narrative still being retold and propagated through different books, newspapers, sermons in mosques, TV channels and social media. No one can dare challenge it. Those who are courageous enough to do so quickly face the music. Unfortunately, those who are at the helm of power have failed to prioritise the need for a counter-narrative.

Hostile relations with India and Afghanistan have also contributed to the rise of extremism in Pakistan. Islamabad’s relations with Delhi and Kabul have never been ideal and have now reached a level of extremely high tension. Both countries seem to be on the same page and are united in their proxy war against Pakistan. Though the army has conducted multiple military operations internally, the nation has failed at the diplomatic front to tame Kabul and New Delhi.

Moreover, power politics in the Middle Eastern states also has a direct impact on Pakistan. The Arab countries and Iran are embroiled in a proxy war in the Middle East, flames of which have reached Pakistan. Pakistan also seems to be on the brink of becoming the battlefield for the proxy war between China and its rivals. If Pakistan does not strengthen its act and refuse to play in the hands of all the external powers and their proxies, the situation at home will become dangerous.

Despite all the rhetoric, the civil and military establishments are still not on the same page on issues of great national importance. Both have failed to develop a mechanism of effective and productive cooperation. Previously, the divide was based on their different approaches towards foreign policy, but in the last few years, national security policy has also become a bone of contention. In the past, differences in foreign policy and national security used to affect domestic politics, but now domestic politics affects our foreign and national security policies as well. In addition to this, our political forces are involved in blame games and even try to use the security establishment against each other. They question each other’s patriotism and thus impair unity at critical moments.

There is also a lack of unity and trust among state institutions. The military has reservations against politicians while the government and other institutions question the role of the judiciary. In return, the judiciary is angry at and even sceptical of the government machinery. The executive, judiciary and legislature also have reservations against the media. Instead of jointly fighting against terrorism, every state institution seems busy in a struggle for self-survival.

The lack of productive coordination between the law-enforcement agencies can also help extremism’s cause. This is because the war against terrorism is a gigantic task and cannot be achieved without effective and productive coordination among these agencies. Unfortunately, no concrete step has been taken towards bringing these agencies together. Though Nacta was formed, it has been sidelined and made powerless.

Economic disparity is widespread in Pakistan and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, leading to a feeling of deprivation and alienation among the people. The state seems to have failed to address this economic injustice. The current government had a chance to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the deprived regions through CPEC, but due to the vested interests of the ruling elite, some areas remain ignored. It is a historical fact that economically deprived people and regions can be easily exploited and used by hostile powers against the peace and stability of any country.

In a nutshell, our current approach towards extremism has serious flaws which need to be fixed. Instead of trimming the branches, we must focus on the root causes of terrorism. We desperately need to develop a strong counter-narrative against extremism and against the misuse of religion for political and strategic ends. We should engage India and Afghanistan through aggressive diplomacy and also refuse to become a battlefield for external powers and their internal proxies.

There is also a need for a meaningful civil-military dialogue and effective coordination among the state institutions. Nacta should be made an effective institution on the pattern of the US’s Department of Homeland Security. Economic disparities and injustices should be eliminated with a special focus on deprived regions and their people.

Unless we address the root causes of this menace, the problem will continue to exist. The current strategy can only give temporary peace but does not offer a permanent solution. It is high time we gave up self-deceiving slogans and focused on eradicating the root causes of extremism.

 

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: [email protected] com.pk

 

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Comments

    Well said Sir Appreciated. commented 10 months ago

    Well said Sir Appreciated.

    1 0

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