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January 22, 2016

The scholar soldier


January 22, 2016

 Bacha Khan University became the latest target of frustrated terrorists, who once again chose a soft target and tried to undermine the future of Pakistan.

Although the terrorists succeeded in breaching the defences of a civilian academic institution, they miserable failed to test the resolve of the people of Pakistan. The resilience displayed by the civilians and by military first responders was remarkable. Pakistan Army troops were able to clear and mop up the entire university campus within hours.

The response this time was multilayered. The first response was from the university guards, followed by police and the Pakistan Army. This time the resolve displayed by civilians, especially the faculty and students of the university, has set a new level of resistance against terrorism.

The people of Pakistan have joined the fight directly. The shining star in this fight was a young professor from the university’s chemistry department. As described by eyewitness account, Syed Hamid Hussain fought back against terrorists with gallantry and honour – setting a very high standard of conduct by civilians in this long war on terror. The professor led the fight from the front, warning students to take cover, and like a dashing soldier charged on the terrorists with his pistol – taking a hail of bullets on his chest.

Fourth Generation wars are very complex, with amorphous fronts, multidimensional threats and hidden enemies mingled within the civilian population. Finances are managed by a surrogate system of money laundering, drugs, smuggling rackets and sponsorship by foreign intelligence agencies.

Pakistan is in the very middle of this Fourth Generation war and needs extraordinary strategy, policy and tactics, which to some extent is reflected in the National Action Plan. While we could hope for better cooperation between various law enforcement agencies and government departments, the people’s arm of this war on terror was visible for the first time.

Professor Hamid Hussain will probably go down in Pakistan’s history of the ‘war on terror’ as the ‘scholar soldier’ and should be posthumously acknowledged as such. A PhD in Chemistry from Princeton University, United Kingdom, the valiant professor had returned to Pakistan to serve the people of KP. He celebrated the birthday of his one-year-old son recently, and had dreams of taking research in chemistry to new levels.

As the first shots were heard in the early morning hours, the professor had the option of saving his life by taking advantage of the dense fog in the campus. But the brave leader inside the young scholar made him decide to save the lives of his students by offering the ultimate price – his own life.

Professor Hamid Hussain is not just an individual; he represents the new phenomenon of civilians joining the fight against terror. How can Pakistan’s security apparatus incorporate such an asset into the fight against terror? Despite the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and jerky movement on National Action Plan, Pakistan’s security establishment could not integrate the potential found in the common people of the land.

A few suggestions: conceptually people’s participation should be formalised as the fourth layer of defence against terror. Intelligence operations by our intelligence agencies could be augmented by mohallah/ward and Union Council levels of participation by civilian volunteers; this would be useful in identifying facilitators and sympathisers of terrorist groups within a locality. The ownership of this war at the level of common civilians (as displayed by Professor Hamid) could become a turning point in the war on terror. We could think of appropriate financial rewards for volunteers participating in NAP.

If we have responsible volunteers with licensed weapons available to augment the physical fight against terrorists, they could be called the first responders. Teams of first responders could train and operate with law-enforcement agencies and save lot of precious time and lives in a terror attack – as was witnessed by the gallant fight put up by the scholar soldiers of the Bacha Khan University.

Although the traditional political display of unity with the Bacha Khan University and the people of Charsadda was visible on the media, we need to become more pragmatic and proactive. If Professor Hamid Hussain could show us what a scholar soldier can do when the chips are down, we need practical display and seriousness from our political leadership as well.

NAP has to be taken to its logical end and all terrorists and, their domestic and foreign sponsors (from the East or the West), have to be defeated.

The writer is a Lahore-based defence analyst.

Email: [email protected]

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