Looks Two Ways in Extremist Fight
Aamer Ahmed Khan
August 5: President Pervez Musharraf's latest crackdown on extremism,
outlined in his July address to the nation, appears to have been
aimed in two directions, inwards to his fellow Pakistanis and
also to the rest of the world.
of his time was taken up with painting a picture of the country's
contemporary realities - not all of which may be visible from
what is most significant was the subtext that strongly suggests
that there is little Pakistan can do to tackle its problem of
extremism without active assistance and support from the outside
One significant departure from
President Musharraf's earlier references to extremism relates
to his candid admission of Pakistan's "direct or indirect"
linkages to the scourge of extremism.
"No matter where something
happens, we end up being directly or indirectly involved,"
he said. Involved, he said, and not blamed.
turns out that they [extremists] have either visited Pakistan
or passed through it on their way to Afghanistan."
is a marked departure from the country's existing policy of flatly
denying any linkage with Islamist extremism.
Gen Musharraf then elaborated
on the extremism-related realities within the country.
20,000 to 30,000 Muslim militants, he said, flocked to Pakistan
from all over the world during the US-backed war against the Soviets
in Afghanistan through the 1980s. He
said all their finances and logistics were routed through Pakistan.
"Where are they now?" he asked. "Not all could
have stayed on in Afghanistan." The
president let the question hang there.
If one were to assume - even if
purely for the sake of argument - that many of these subsequently
found their base in Pakistan, then what was the environment that
to President Musharraf, the fallout from the Afghan war has divided
Pakistani society into roughly three categories.
There are those who subscribe to what he called orthodox Islamic
thought. Then there are those that are enlightened and educated
and finally there is the vast majority who have been left terribly
confused about Islam by the Afghan war.
The president said that the orthodox group had for 26 years been
raising funds, recruiting manpower, providing military training
and spreading hate literature in aid of the extremists.
At times the extremists also draw
support from Pakistan's mainstream religious parties, he said.
It is hard to avoid concluding
from his remarks that the country has been providing an ideal
sanctuary for Islamic extremists.
Not many are likely to find fault
with the picture of Pakistan painted by General Musharraf in his
address to the nation.
the head of the Pakistan Army - an institution credited with crafting
and carrying Pakistan's pro-jihad policy in Afghanistan - few
know more about what goes on in Pakistan than the army chief.
is important is how the world reacts to the problems outlined
by the president. His
own prescription is multi-pronged.
Musharraf wants a far more dynamic role for the Organization of
Islamic Conference in the affairs of the Muslim world.
He also wants active assistance
and support from the West - not only in tackling extremism but
also in helping many Muslim nations in the developing world out
of their vicious cycles of public poverty.
But lastly, and perhaps most importantly,
President Musharraf wants the West to give a deep think to the
festering disputes that involve the Muslim world.
subtext of all that he said seemed to indicate his conviction
that only after the West and the Muslim world are able to resolve
their disputes can the latest measures he has announced against
extremism be expected to bear fruit.
writer is a senior Pakistani journalist and wrote this analysis
for the BBC World Service Web Site