WASHINGTON DC, July 20, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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London Bombings and Pakistani Connection: A Pakistani View

By Husain Haqqani

WASHINGTON, July 20: The July 7 terrorist bombings in London have led to greater scrutiny of Pakistan’s role in fomenting global Jihad. The London bombers were Britons of Pakistani origin and at least three out of the four visited Pakistan recently. It is natural for the international community to wonder why so many elements of Islamist extremism have a Pakistani connection.

Pakistan’s pro-US ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has responded to the London attacks by ordering a crackdown on extremist groups. Pakistan’s suave diplomats, western educated technocrats and articulate generals can be expected over the next few days to highlight their government’s cooperation in the war against terrorism since Musharraf abandoned support for Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in 2001.

The main theme of the Pakistani establishment’s argument has already been articulated by Mr. Munir Akram, Pakistan permanent representative of the United Nations. Mr. Akram told the BBC that the UK “should try not to blame foreign countries for influencing the London suicide bombers” and that “Britain had to look at its own problems to understand the root causes of terror.” According to the Pakistani UN ambassador, “You have to look at British society - what you are doing to the Muslim community and why the Muslim community is not integrating into British society,... and not try to externalize the problems Britain faces with regard to race and religious relations.”

Of course, Mr. Akram’s argument fails to explain why other communities in Britain subjected to racism or discrimination have not turned to terrorism and why the argument about not externalizing domestic problems should not apply to Pakistan.

For decades, Pakistan’s aloof bureaucratic rulers have blamed everyone but themselves for Pakistan’s problems. “The British role in partition was unfair, leaving the unfinished business of Kashmir that Pakistan has had to resolve through Jihad; The US did not assist Pakistan in achieving a decisive victory against India in the 1965 war; The Indians divided Pakistan in 1971 and the Americans did nothing to save the country’s unity; Sectarianism in Pakistan is the result of the Iranian revolution; The Taliban rose to power because the Americans lost interest in Afghanistan; Extremism in Pakistan is the result of Pakistan’s crucial role in the anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan.” Etcetera. Etcetera.

Perhaps it is time for Pakistan’s ruling oligarchy to wake up to its own mistakes and face its own history, instead of constant spin. The Muslim League’s failure to win over Shaikh Abdullah before partition probably contributed more to depriving Pakistan of Jammu and Kashmir than did the inequities of the British, who partitioned India in a hurry.

Pakistan’s generals made enormous miscalculations while blundering into the 1965 war and should have known that the US would not come to their rescue. The arrogance of Pakistan’s military-intelligence combine and the mistreatment of Pakistan’s then majority population, the Bengalis, led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s unpopular rulers chose to encourage sectarianism in an effort to contain the potential of popular support for the Iranian revolution.

Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan was a conscious decision of the country’s establishment but the establishment failed to match its ambitions with competence.

It is time for Pakistan’s ruling oligarchy to face its cumulative mistakes and start addressing the culture of blame and prejudice that has been part of officially sponsored discourse in the country. Of course, Pakistan has legitimate security interests and must pursue these with intelligent diplomacy. But the policies of constant invoking of religion in affairs of state, unconventional warfare against neighbors as a means of containing their power, and duality in dealing with the west have failed and that failure must now be accepted.

Pakistanis cannot go around seeking western aid in return for strategic cooperation while hating the west at the same time.

There is no doubt that Musharraf has selectively cooperated with the United States and other western governments since 9/11 and Pakistan has made some high profile Al-Qaeda arrests. But Pakistan has yet to acknowledge, let alone deal with, the ideology of hatred and militancy that has been cultivated as state policy for over four decades.

The threat of terrorism to the west does not come exclusively from Arabs formally affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, whom the Pakistan government has done much to pursue. Other groups organized to “avenge” real and perceived humiliation of Muslims are an equally significant menace, operating as “baby Al-Qaedas.” Afghan, Kashmiri and Pakistani Islamist groups share Al-Qaeda's ideology even when they have no direct links to bin Laden's network.

Some of Pakistan’s madrassas are no longer just bastions of medieval theology, which they were for centuries without giving rise to terrorism. They have evolved into training centers for radical anti-Western militancy. Pakistan’s school curriculum cultivates the sentiment of Muslim victimhood and inculcates in young minds the hatred of Jews and Hindus, in particular, and non-Muslims in general.

When it emerged as an independent state in 1947, Pakistan was considered a moderate Muslim nation that could serve as a model for other emerging independent Muslim states. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a Shia Muslim. Its first law minister was a Hindu. Its foreign minister belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect, which opposes Jihad. Although Pakistan’s birth was accompanied by religious riots and communal violence, the country’s founders clearly intended to create a non-sectarian state that would protect religious freedoms and provide the Muslims of South Asia an opportunity to live in a country where they constituted a majority.

Over the years, however, Pakistan has become a major center of Islamist extremism. The disproportionate influence wielded by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan is the result of state sponsorship of such groups.

Pakistan’s rulers have played upon religious sentiment as an instrument of strengthening Pakistan’s identity since soon after the country’s inception. Fears of Indian domination were addressed by embracing an Islamist ideology. Islamist militants were cultivated, armed and trained during the 1980s and 1990s in the Pakistan military’s efforts to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan and to put pressure on India for negotiations over the future of Kashmir. Although Musharraf has restrained some of these home-grown groups since 9/11, he has refused to work towards eliminating them completely.

In an effort to justify the ascendancy of Pakistan’s military in the country’s affairs, a national ethos of militarism was created. An environment dominated by Islamist and militarist ideologies is the ideal breeding ground for radicals such as the July 7 suicide bombers. In their search for identity, British-born Pakistanis have been drawn into the whirlpool of their parents’ homeland.

The United States and other western nations have put their faith in the promises of General Musharraf’s military to move Pakistan away from its Islamist radical past and towards “enlightened moderation.” But the London attacks point out the deep-rooted problems in Pakistan.

The major Kashmiri Jihadi groups retain their infrastructure because the Pakistani military has not decided to give up the option of battling India at a future date. Afghanistan’s Taliban also continue to find safe haven in parts of Pakistan as recently as the spring of 2005.

Western policy makers would rather see Pakistan’s glass as half full rather than half empty and Pakistan’s ruling oligarchy would like to keep things that way. This approach distracts Pakistan’s rulers, and their western supporters, from recognizing the depth of Pakistan’s problem with Islamist extremism and a violently irresponsible attitude towards the rest of the world.

The writer is author of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace book “Pakistan Between Mosque and Military.” He was Pakistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993 and teaches International Relations at Boston University

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