Reasons behind growth of religious extremism
The people have lost trust in their leaders because they have repeatedly betrayed them in the name of democracy. While democracy was sold as the remedy for all their ailments, democracy made the lives of the lower class of society miserable. The elites enriched themselves by using state resources and looting the national wealth but did little to allay the sufferings of the under privileged. Widening gap between the rich and the poor and vast difference in lifestyle of the two distinct classes have created a gulf between the two. Justice system is pro-rich and anti-poor which adds to the wretchedness of the poor. Deprived of justice, they take law in their own hands to kill their tormentors. The police instead of helping the needy fleece them and collude with the criminals. While the rich do not care about the underprivileged, the latter hate the privileged class and have become lawless. To give vent to their frustration and anger, the rebellious youth within the poor class living below poverty easily get easily induced by criminal and terror networks and give in to robberies, criminal acts and terrorism. These adventures are also proving too costly for them. Rudderless and bereft of hope, they have reached the breaking point.
The people of FATA who have blood relations with Afghan Pashtuns joined their war whenever Afghanistan was invaded by foreign forces. They strongly believe that unlike Gen Ziaul Haq who stood up to the Soviet challenge and provided full support to the Mujahideen and won the war, Gen Musharraf buckled under US pressure and betrayed the Muslim neighbor by granting airbases, supply routes and intelligence to US-NATO forces in return for $10 billion and US patronage. They do not forgive him for arresting hundreds of Mujahideen and handing them over to USA to earn head money. They say that the security forces are fighting America’s war and killing their own people in FATA to earn dollars and goodwill of USA.
The banned religious extremist groups who have blood relations with Kashmiris in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) and others having religious and cultural ties felt aggrieved when they were prevented from undertaking Jihad in Kashmir since they consider it their religious obligation to help their relatives in distress. For too long the Muslim Kashmiris in IOK have suffered at the hands of Indian security forces. Their life, belongings and honor are unsafe and are leading a wretched life. The Jihadists feel that had they not been reined in from helping the Kashmiri Mujahideen in their just struggle against the Indian occupation forces, by now Kashmir could have been freed. They say that Musharraf stopped them to please India and USA but at the cost of Kashmir cause and aspirations of people of Pakistan.
They nostalgically recall Gen Ziaul Haq’s efforts to link Khalistan movement in India with Kashmiri movement. Thousands of Kashmiris had participated in the Afghan Jihad against Soviet forces and had learned the art of fighting guerrilla war. Afghan, FATA and Kashmiri Mujahideen as well as Mujahideen from other Muslim countries developed deep camaraderie and respect for each other. Mullah Omar wanting to repay the sacrifices rendered by Kashmiris in Afghan war offered to Gen Zia any number of Afghan Mujahideen to help them gain freedom from India.
The grand plan died its death with the death of Gen Zia in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances. Afghans who loved him felt orphaned. Benazir regime not only stepped back from Kashmir and Afghanistan but also provided list of Sikh leaders involved in Khalistan movement to India which helped the latter in crushing the most dangerous movement that had the potential to cut India to size. Nawaz Sharif regime also paid lip service to the Kashmir struggle and got involved in meaningless composite dialogue and then in futile track-2 diplomacy to solve the tangle. These maneuvers helped India in gaining time and in keeping the core issue on the backburner.
Islamic revolution in Iran and successful Afghan Jihad against the Soviets inspired the Kashmiri youth to pick up arms and seek independence from India which had refused to honor Nehru’s pledges and UN resolutions and Pakistan’s overtures for a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute. They picked up arms in 1989 as a last option. The armed movement unnerved India and in panic it started to pump in huge numbers of security forces into the small valley of Kashmir. When India’s 700,000 security forces failed to quell the movement and it reached a critical stage, the movement was given a severe blow by Gen Musharraf by changing the Kashmir policy and suggesting out of box solution.
Azad Kashmir that acted as the operational base for the continuation of struggle for right of self-determination of Kashmiris was winded up and Jihadi groups providing assistance to the freedom fighters were banned and their accounts ceased. India was allowed to fence the Line of Control (LoC) and guns deployed along the LoC were silenced. These steps left the Kashmiri Mujahideen in IOK high and dry with no moral or physical support from any quarters. It enabled India to split All Parties Hurriyat Conference thereby weakening the struggle. Geelani group not agreeing to change the original stance based on UN resolutions was dubbed as an extremist and flexible Mirwaiz group as moderate and reconcilable. Indian military started to crow that because of its sustained efforts and stoppage of cross border infiltration insurgency had died down.
Musharraf got inclined to Indo-US suggestion of accepting LoC as the permanent border and allowing free movement and trade between the two Kashmirs but retracted his steps under severe home pressure. Despite such huge constraints the fervor for Azadi never waned in IOK and it once again bounced back in 2008 in the form of massive unarmed protests following Amarnath land case which paralyzed the valley. It was followed up by the teenager’s movement in which boys as small as eight years old took part. Several hundreds died at the hands of Indian security forces.
Unable to enter IOK because of sealing of all exit points by Pak security forces and fully manned electronic fence by Indian forces, the Jihadi forces in Pakistan felt highly pained over the sufferings of Kashmiris in open prison and blamed Gen Musharraf and Pak Army. In retaliation they decided to join al-Qaeda and TTP with whom they had old connections and to fight Pak security forces to give vent to their Jihadi vehemence. As a consequence, all the forces that were focused towards Afghanistan and IOK got on one page and turned their guns inwards. Collectivization of so many well trained and motivated groups has given added muscle to the TTP which acts as the mother hen and made the task of our security forces that much difficult.
Patronization of western liberal secularism by Gen Musharraf regime and then by PPP regime and promotion of obscenity through liberal media was viewed by Islamists as an attempt to undermine Islamic values. Islamists complain that the liberals projecting themselves as progressive, enlightened and moderate are in reality liberal fascists and want to push out Islamists and make Pakistan secular. To give weight to their argument they cite the fascism of liberal parties in Karachi where 8000 innocent people were killed by their target killers in five years. They argue as to why liberals and seculars are so allergic to Maulvis and anything related to Islam when Pakistan is a Muslim state and was created on the basis of Islam for the supremacy of Holy Quran and Sunnah. Rasping attitude of the liberals against Islam and Islamists and their love for Indian and western cultures also resulted in intensification of religious extremism and antagonism against the government perceived as secular, tied to the aprons of USA.
Liberals say that religious extremists and not India pose an existential threat to Pakistan and hence must be fought tooth and nail to the very end. Full support given by liberal political parties and liberal media to the war on terror against TTP and its affiliates has given reason to the militant forces to brand them as American touts. Islamists say that the war had been imposed by USA with a view to pitch Muslims against Muslims to weaken their physical and moral strength and then enslave them. These conflicting perceptions failed to develop a consensus on war, one side saying it is US imposed war and the other saying it is our war. This incongruity in approaches came in the way of formulating a national counter terrorism policy, which impacted security forces the most.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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