The Deradicalization InitiativeBy amicus • Jul 18th, 2011 • Category: Features • 5 Comments
Two newspaper reports:
1. The US Embassy in Islamabad hosted an event on July 3, 2011 in support of gay rights. Speaking on the occasion, US Deputy Ambassador Richard Hoagland stated that the US would support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in Pakistan. “I want to be clear: the US Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way,” he told the audience.
2. In his key-note address at a seminar on ‘de-radicalisation’ held in Mingora on July 6, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said: “We have taken the first step here in Swat by initiating a de-radicalisation programme. It needs support and initiative of the society, intellectuals and policy-makers to take the lead and put into effect a counter-radicalisation construct, not only to sustain the de-radicalisation effort, but also to assure a free and progressive future for Pakistan.”
Could it be that these two apparently separate events had a single purpose: to change the hue and colour of the Pakistani society, which the two gentlemen think has got too ‘radicalised’. In the case of Mr. Hoagland, the motive also seems to be to provoke and then identify the pockets of resistance in the process of de-radicalisation.
According to Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus (Second Edition, 2007), the word ‘radical’ (as adjective) means:
1. Having to do with the basic nature of something; fundamental
2. Supporting complete political or social reform
3. Departing from tradition; new
Obviously, radicalisation of a society in the meanings 2 and 3 is something very positive. In fact, “to assure a free and progressive future for Pakistan”, as desired by General Kayani, it is imperative that there should be drastic and grassroots political and social reforms and a break from tradition i.e., tribal and feudal value-system and structure which is hallmark of Pakistan’s predominantly rural society.
This leaves us with the meaning 1 i.e., “having to do with the basic nature of something; fundamental”.
Since last many years, there has been a marked trend in some segments of Pakistan Armed Forces and Pakistani society to take inspiration from the fundamentals of Islam by way of response to multiple challenges that beset the country. Only a biased, stupid, ignorant or naive person would conclude that reverting to the fundamentals of Islam i.e., its purity and essence, amounts to leading a life of backwardness or cultivating terrorist mentality.
In case of ‘de-radicalisation’, or whatever euphemism is applied to the process, the idea seems to be to change the mind-set of the ‘radicalised’ (read Islamised) rank and file of Pakistan’s Armed Forces in particular and of the Pakistani society in general.
Perhaps, different instances of attacks on Pakistan’s military installations, including the General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, and the Mehran Naval Base, Karachi, have revealed that the militants who attacked these installations had sympathisers within the Pakistan Armed Forces. These sympathisers collaborated with the assailants in facilitating the execution of their missions. This led to the novel idea of ‘de-radicalising’ the ‘Islamist elements’ within the armed forces.
Before undertaking any exercise of ‘de-radicalisation’, those at the helm of affairs should answer some relevant questions:
1. How did Pakistan Armed Forces get what they call ‘radicalised’?
2. Why do elements within them cooperate with the outside ‘Islamic militants’?
3. Is it really bad that they have been ‘Islamised’?
To find the answers we have to explore the past.
The British had introduced the concept of ‘martial race’ in India. The Punjabis and the Pathans were included in the martial races that would defend India and serve British interests elsewhere. As a colonial power the British required highly professional mercenary armed forces that could kill and maim their own countrymen and co-religionists without any qualms. The British were successful to a considerable extent in their endeavour. The British Indian forces helped their colonial masters in subjugating the natives and fought for them during the Afghan Wars and the First and Second World Wars.
In what was a parallel development, conscientious Muslims resisted this trend. In early nineteenth century, Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz, the eldest son of Hazrat Shah Wali-ullah, issued a religious decree (fatwa) that to cooperate with the British in destructing Muslim lives was a mortal sin amounting to apostasy. Shah Abdul Aziz was the moving spirit behind the jihad launched by Syed Ahmed Shaheed against the Sikhs of Punjab and North-West Frontier region.
Although there had been an accumulation of grievances, the immediate cause of the War of Independence of 1857 was religious in nature: the Muslim and Hindu troops refused to use cartridges smeared with the fat of pig and cow. Even these mercenaries declined to cross certain limits.
The issue of service in the British armed forces came to the forefront during the Khilafah Movement, 1919-1924. The institution of Khilafah had a religious significance for Muslims. The British were at war with the Ottomans and had deployed Muslim Indian troops against the Turks. The situation was unacceptable to the religious-minded Muslim.
During the Khilafat Movement several ulema, including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Mohammad Ali, categorically stated that it was religiously unlawful (haram) for Indian Muslims to serve the British in war against their Turk co-religionists. The same view was expressed in the form of a resolution adopted by the Khilafah Conference session held at Karachi in 1921.
The reason why Maulana Mohammad Ali is so much admired and respected in Pakistan is that as a true Muslim he vehemently supported the fatwa that it was unlawful for Indian Muslims to serve in the British army against the Turks. The British considered it sedition. His bold advocacy of the said fatwa led to his trial and imprisonment for two years.
During 1940-47 communal feelings were at its height in India. The British Indian troops could not remain unaffected from this ‘great divide’ (although credit goes to Subhash Chandra Bose that his Indian National Army comprising deserters was multi-communal in character).
At the time of partition of India, the British Indian troops were offered choice to join Pakistan or Indian Armed Forces, irrespective of their place of residence. This was an admission that Pakistan was not going to be a ‘nation-state’ as the concept is understood in the West.
Pakistan was born with Islamic moorings. The Indian Muslims had given sacrifices not for ‘democracy’, ‘separate electorates’, ‘reservation of seats’, ‘quota in government jobs’ or ‘provincial autonomy’ but because they had been mesmerised by the lofty idealism and romanticism of creating an ‘Islamic State’, or the fortress of Islam, Pakistan.
After independence, Pakistan Armed Forces adopted Islamic nomenclatures, symbols, insignia and anthems. Victoria Cross was the thing of the past. The most cherished award now was the Nishan-e-Hyder. War ships and submarines were named Babur and Ghazi. Time came when missiles became Ghuaris and Abdalis. Pakistan’s nuclear device was informally referred to as ‘Islamic bomb’.
No doubt it was the Islamic spirit that helped the Pakistan Armed Forces and the nation unite against all odds in the India-Pakistan War of 1965. Just a single sentence of President Ayub Khan’s address that appealed to Islamic character of Pakistan electrified the nation. Blood started running fast in the veins of Pakistani Muslims. The middle level army officers and the rank and file fought the war as a jihad. A mercenary army of British Indian type could never have withstood the Indian onslaught on the fateful day of September 6, 1965.
The same armed forces faced great humiliation in 1971 because their war was illegitimate like the present so-called ‘war on terrorism’. The troops, misguided and confused, fought a losing war against their oppressed Bengali co-religionists who were duly assisted by the Indians. They lost because Islamic bond and fervour were lacking.
In the midst of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (December 1979-February 1989), President and Chief of the Army Staff General Mohammad Zia-ul Haq initiated a programme of ‘Islamization’ of the armed forces.
Alcohol was prohibited. Sporting beard, offering five-time prayers, fasting and performing Hajj was appreciated and rewarded. Those who embraced the concept of jihad and had ‘Islamic mind-set’ got easy promotions. Whatever might have been General Zia’s other failings, he imparted an Islamic colour to the Pakistan Armed Forces. In other words, he completed the process of ‘radicalisation’ of the troops and converted them into a highly motivated and formidable force.
Pakistan’s sponsored and supported militant groups, first in Afghanistan and subsequently in Kashmir. Pakistan Armed Forces forged close ties with these militant outfits and cooperated with them. They came into contact with the Taliban as allies and friends. They also came into contact with Arab, Chechen, Uzbek and Uighar militants and learned about the ideas of international Islamic movements.
The jihadi culture was at its height when 9/11 happened and all of a sudden the United States built–up pressure to reverse the trend and to ‘de-radicalise’ the Pakistan Armed Forces. The United States needed mercenaries. Pakistan Armed Forces were to be pitched against their co-religionists and erstwhile allies.
For the rank and file of the Pakistan Armed Forces who perceived India as the arch enemy, who sincerely believed that the Christians and Jews could never be the true friends of Muslims, who subscribed to the view that the Al-Qaeda was waging jihad against the crusaders and who regarded the Taliban as their brothers in religion, this was psychologically disastrous.
Thus the answer to our second question is to be found in the policy shift that was made by the Musharraf government in the aftermath of 9/11 and continues to this day.
Taking lessons from the past, including the British period and the India-Pakistan War of 1971, the military establishment should and the Government should shun seeking refuge with the Americans.
In matters of religious convictions, no ‘de-radicalisation’ can work. By siding with the United States, Pakistan’s military establishment has tarnished its own image. It has emerged as hypocrite. It has, in the process, created a hype and offered the propagandists an excuse, that that there is un ease within the Pakistan Armed Forces and some cases it is even alleged that some collaborate with the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and others against the infidels and their stooges. Pakistan’s enemies are taking undue advantage of this situation.
Can those who hold gay events in Islamabad be Pakistan’s friends? Never. They do not even comprehend the catharsis of Pakistan, its value system and the culture, where we have all the vices prevalent in the society, but owing to our faith and belief system, no attempt at legitimising or legalizing those could be acceptable or implemented. Besides, for taking Pakistan forward as a progressive democratic and tolerant nation state, Pakistan does not need to legitimise such fringe groups.
Pakistan needs is a sustained and lion’s share of development funds in the areas of education and health. There in lies the remedy for the disease called illiteracy, we in Pakistan suffer.
Once Pakistan jumps down from the American bandwagon, concedes legitimate demands of the militants and offers olive branch to them, the ball will be in their court. If any faction/s of the militants continues to mount attack against Pakistan Armed Forces after peace offer is made, it will be at fault and Pakistani troops will fight against misguided militants with religious zeal and fervour. There will be no hesitation. No fear of committing any mortal sin. No apprehension of becoming apostate. Such enemies would find no collaborators within Pakistan Armed Forces.
Any forced ‘de-radicalisation’ is bound to be counter-productive. It would be perceived as ‘de-Islamization’. It would create more fissures. It would weaken the armed forces and the society. It would be suicidal. It would unleash centrifugal forces. It would prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Pakistan’s military establishment is just a puppet whose strings are in the hands of Americans.
Pakistan needs armed forces that are imbibed with Islamic ideas and imbued with Islamic spirit. Mercenaries cannot defend it. Pakistan is not a ‘nation-state’ in traditional sense. Its ethos is different. Only Islam can cement the Pakistan Armed Forces, the society and the nation and ensure Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity.
Our Military Leaders need to revert to their fundamental moorings before it’s too late. Otherwise we will meet a fate far more terrible than what happened on December 16, 1971.
Has existing temperament, conviction, motivation and commitment to their MOTHER LAND PAKISTAN, impeded the Pakistan Armed Forces from being professionally the best army in the world. Have they not received laurels from the world community in its international missions under the UN, besides, all time love affection of the Nation. Before diving in to “de-radicalise” and reform, consider the notion of introspection and try to find out what went wrong? When and Why?
The tinkering with the ideology, belief system, and attitudes, constructed over a period of decades, particularly for the last three, is extremely sensitive, delicate and dangerous.
The situation in India in the late 1980s and 90s is very similar to most of the rest of the world today where we see, on the one hand, a militant Islamic revival, which has caused the deaths of thousands of people in different parts of the world.
Moderate Muslims have seen themselves sidelined in many countries and countries that have moderate Islamic beliefs like Egypt and Jordan find themselves fighting bloody battles to keep groups like the Islamic Brotherhood at bay even while other countries that have secular constitutions but Muslim majorities like Algeria and Turkey find their very existence threatened by religious fundamentalism.
It is believed by many in India that Indira Gandhi allowed the Sikh fundamentalists to become powerful because she was worried that in the Punjab the communists were working to organise the farm labourers since she believed that a religious fundamentalist would be the best force to fight an anti-religion communist government.
The west supported mujaheddin groups to fight the former USSR who would later join the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the world saw the horrors of 9/11.
The rise in Islamic fundamentalism has been paralleled in a rise in Christian fundamentalism in the USA, the country that suffered from the attack of 9/11 and previous attacks on it’s embassies, ships and citizens in different parts of the world, albeit owing to its own self serving policies of world domination and occupation of Muslim and other nations’ lands. There are as open calls in the USA to make the system more “Christian” as there have been in India by the BJP and it’s VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS allies to make it more “Hindu.”
On the one side, India leaves no stone unturned in tarnishing the image of Pakistan by indicating the subversive acts of terrorists, which occur in the country intermittently, while Pakistan’s security forces have broken the backbone of the militants through successful military operations.
On the other side, New Delhi is quite silent about Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) terror, which has obtained a new face as Indian secret agency RAW, Indian high officials, and fundamentalist parties of the country have co-relationship.
It is of particular attention that historical background and religious beliefs, which have formed the habits and national character of Hindus, are quite different from the other ethnic and religious communities. Indians still have a strong belief in the superiority of their race.
Indian Hindus are followers of Chanakya (Say some thing and do some thing else). This fact has been verified by the misdeeds of Hindu fundamentalist parties like BJP, RSS, VHP, Shiv Sina and Bajrang Dal, which have missed no opportunity to communalise national politics of India even under the Congress rule. With the support of Indian officials and RAW agents, these parties have intensified anti-Christian and anti-Muslim bloodshed in the last decade coupled with the dissemination of Hindutva.
Israel, a major flashpoint, has seen a militant Jewish government fighting militant Palestinians who have chosen to abandon their more moderate leaders and embrace violently fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jehad.
The danger of an intolerant world where the major religionists fight each other after being hijacked by fundamentalists looms large before us like an India magnified several times and made infinitely more dangerous. For, in the various militancy and mini wars that have been fought in India since the 1980s about 200,000 people have been killed.
Hence announcing such intention is doomed. Announcing or cutting a ribbon cannot deconstruct the constructed mindset. Look at Saudi Society they are still struggling with digesting women drivers. At the same time look again they have addressed the required deconstruction of their radicals.
Take a leaf. Being religious is not the problem its militant manifestation in any Society is. Look at Malaysian Model for inspiration.
Pakistan and its armed forces needs to be saved from becoming Afghanistan and moved to become Malaysia like Modern Muslim state, instead de-radicalisation and de-Islamization, we need to opt for reconstruction. No need to look for a phoenix rising from the ashes, it already did rise in 1947.
WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY THEY FIRST MAKE MAD