“The war we are fighting today against terrorism is a multifaceted fight. We have to use every tool in our toolkit to wage this war — diplomacy, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and of course, military power — and we are developing new tools as we go along.”
Richard Armitage, 13th United States, Deputy Secretary of State
It is no more difficult even for a layman to understand as to what is terrorism. This monster has shaken the roots of superpowers and snatched comfort and composure of even the destitute across the globe. In 19th century, Americans, Western Europeans and Russians used the brutal tool of terrorism for their vested interests. They callously killed the bigwigs of societies holding powerful positions.
Time passed. In 20th century, the emerging technology made it easier for the terrorists to commit most heinous terror acts. Automatic weapons and firearms served as an impetus for the terrorists to speed up their gory acts. The dawn of the 21st century saw even more harmful weapons such as nuclear bombs, suicide operatives and WMDs which have made terrorism severer and deadlier. Take 9/11 incident, for instance, when planes were hijacked and two of them flattened the World Trade Center within minutes, and another hit the Pentagon. This fateful incident shook the world just like the brutal assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 propelled the world into the First World War.
Though terrorism has no consensus definition, yet it can be defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aim or the calculated use of violence or threat of violence against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation or coercion or inciting fear. According to FBI, terrorism is the “unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Islam is Peace
Islam is the religion of peace and it advocates freedom, peace and harmony and admonishes aggression. In Surah al-Maeda, Allah ordains Muslims:
“… do not exceed limits. Indeed, Allah does not like those who transgress the prescribed bounds.” (Quran 5:87)
Further, in Surah al-A’rāf, it has been said:
“Adopt forbearance, always command piousness, and keep aloof from the ignorant.” (7:199)
The relations of Muslims with others are based primarily on peace, mutual respect and trust. The theme in the Quran is peace and Islam forbids the killing of innocent people.
“And do not kill any soul whose (killing) Allah has declared unlawful unless (killing him) is just (according to the law and decree of the court).” (17:33)
In Islam, an amazingly powerful emphasis has been laid on developing love for mankind and on the vital importance of showing mercy and sympathy towards every creature of Allah Almighty, including human beings and animals. For indeed, love and true sympathy are the very antidote of terrorism.
Causes of Terrorism
Injustice is one of the foremost factors that breed terrorism. When the grievances of the people are not redressed they resort to violent actions. So this is the case with Pakistan where timely justice has always been a far cry.
In Pakistan, more than one in five men aged 15-24 are unable to read or write, and only 1 in 20 is in tertiary education. Such a high illiteracy rate has made Pakistan vulnerable to terrorism. Illiteracy and lack of skills provide fertile ground to those who wish to recruit people for implementing their nefarious designs.
Poverty is also a major cause of terrorism. It is said that “a hungry man is an angry man.” Notably, majority of people in Pakistan are living below poverty line. While especially for the youngsters, unemployment has made the matter worse. In these adverse circumstances, some people go to the level of extremism and even commit suicide. These people become easy prey to those who are out to commit acts of terrorism.
Food insecurity is also linked with militancy and violence and analysts are increasingly describing it as a non-traditional security threat. When people remain unable to afford food and cannot meet their basic needs, civil strife grows. A report by the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute said that the highest levels of food insecurity, for instance, exist in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where 67.7 per cent of the people are food insecure. Extremists exploit the feelings of food insecure people of lower and lower middle class.
5. Distrust on Rulers
Another reason of terrorism is dissatisfaction with the rulers because when a person is dissatisfied with the rulers and thinks that his rights are being violated or infringed, his living of life has not been compensated and he is deprived of his fundamental rights, he may join the radical forces.
6. Lack of Democracy
Today’s Pakistan is facing a democratic turmoil. All military interventions in the past have only resulted in political instability, poor governance, institutional paralysis, disregard for the rule of law, socio-economic downfall, so on and so forth. These fragile conditions along with deteriorating law and order situation have provided a fertile ground for terrorism to grow.
7. Poor Governance
Furthermore, in proper government functioning, poor governance and lack of coordination and information-sharing between various government institutions is another major cause behind the escalating terrorist activities. Not to talk of providing security to common people, our law-enforcing agencies (LEAs) have miserably failed to protect even the high-ups of the country. In the absence of law and proper trial, the terrorists are entrenching their roots firmly.
8. Lack of Tolerance and Forbearance
Religious intolerance is another factor that is adding fuel to the blazing fire of terrorism. Youth, educated through some religious seminaries, are indoctrinated with extreme ideas. They become intolerant towards other religions and even other sects of their own religion. They impose their own extremist ideas and vent their fanaticism through violent actions. Intolerance turns society into a jungle.
Religious extremism, which took its roots in the country after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, is proving hazardous for Pakistan. The increased acts of sectarian violence have overwhelmed Pakistan in the recent past. External as well as internal influences have impacted the sectarian issues and have served to further intensify the magnitude and seriousness of the problem.
10. Drone Attacks
American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, as well as the covert military operations in Pakistan, along with drone attacks, have served to fuel religious radicalism inviting a violent reaction. Drone strikes have increased anti-Americanism in Pakistani society as well as the region due to the collateral damage they cause. The terrorists have used the collateral damage to exploit the environment and society to their benefit. Families of people killed in drone attacks become ideal nursery for suicide bombers. In Pakistan, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually claimed.
Pakistan’s Role in War on Terror
Pakistan has done its best to rid its soil of terrorism and terrorists. In first step, many terrorist organisations were banned by the Musharraf government. Military operations like Rah-e-Nijat and Rah-e-Rast were hugely successful and Pakistan army fought bravely against terrorists and has destroyed their safe havens. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has also been instrumental in breaking the back of the terrorists and has forced them to flee. It is worth mentioning here that public support to military operations is very essential, and sans people’s backing, no army can win this ‘different war’ against terrorism.
Terrorism in Today’s Pakistan
At present, the state and the people of Pakistan are tangled in an intricate web of terrorism. Unfortunately, the ‘Land of the Pure’ is most affected by this global issue. Our involvement in the war against terrorism has brought us to a point where the fire of miseries and deprivations is being fuelled. This intimidating state of affairs resulted from religious intolerance, political instability, economic disparity, social injustice and, of course, internal and external intrigues. A small group of some misguided people is out to accomplish its fiendish motives and is slaughtering innocent people in the name of religion. They have even distorted the real, soft image of Islam.
How to Eradicate Terrorism?
The phenomenon of terrorism has not come to fore overnight; it has taken decades to flourish and involves many factors. Since it is multifaceted, the solution has to be multi-pronged. In view of the root causes described above, some appropriate remedies are as follows:
- A national commission should be set up and assigned the task of identifying the fault lines and the root causes of the rise of extremism in Pakistan taking into consideration the post-9/11 developments. It should also take up the question of madrassa reforms.
- Heads of all the major religious groups should be engaged to explore short- and long-term solutions.
- Country’s universities and research institutes should take up the intellectual task of re-interpreting the Islamic injunctions in the light of modern knowledge and 21st century challenges (with emphasis on social justice).
- The government must improve its performance. Poor governance and corruption have lowered its credibility.
- Parliament must debate Pakistan’s present relationship with the US, with particular reference to the American war in Afghanistan and operations in Pakistan.
- Providing ample employment opportunities will play a crucial role in eliminating poverty in the country.
- Terrorists are basically of two types: extremists and moderates. In order to cope with terrorism, the government should neutralise moderate terrorists through reconciliation by offering them general amnesty and forcing them to renounce terrorism. Even extremist insurgents can be offered mediation. Nevertheless, those militants who reject the offer should be fought through military operations.
- For their global and regional interests, US-led western allies must not only increase the military and economic aid for Pakistan but should also provide direct market access to Pakistani products to help stabilize the country’s economy.
- US should help in resolving the Kashmir dispute to deal with the problem of militancy in the region.
- Media should also play its due role. It must not publicize the criminal activities of the militants and should present Islam’s true picture as a religion of peace.
To conclude, Pakistanis are a peace-loving nation and the country is playing its important role in combating terrorism. Recognition of efforts to fight this menace and sacrifices rendered thereof are testimony to the commitment and resolve to bring peace in the region. Pakistan has committed large forces to combat menace of terrorism more than any other country.
All citizens of Pakistan must propagate moderate, vibrant culture of Pakistan to promote good will of world community and shun misconstrued beliefs.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
( Jimi Hendrix)