13
April

How will the Militancy against Pakistan End?

Written By: Dr Farrukh Saleem

An insurgency is “an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict.” How will the insurgency against Pakistan end? There are three possible outcomes. Outcome number 1: Pakistan wins. Outcome number 2: A stalemate. Outcome number 3: The insurgents win.

In 2010, the U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) sponsored a research study to be conducted by the Intelligence Policy Center (IPC) of the RAND National Defence Research Institute (the RAND National Defence Research Institute is financed by the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Defence Intelligence Community). IPC undertook a “quantitative and qualitative” analysis of 89 insurgencies and counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns around the world. IPC, admitting that “no two insurgencies are the same”, has five generalized conclusions:

• One; sanctuary is vital to insurgents.

• Two; modern insurgencies last an average of ten years.

• Three; a “government's chances of winning may increase slightly over time.”

• Four; “insurgent use of terrorism” against civilian targets backfires.

• Five; “anocracies or pseudodemocracies rarely succeed against insurgencies”.

Two of the five conclusions are particularly relevant in Pakistan's case. One; North Waziristan is the last sanctuary left for the militants. Two; militants continue to consider Pakistan's armed forces as their primary target (Yahya al-Libi's Doctrine of not targeting civilian targets). Of the 89 insurgencies there are only four insurgencies where the insurgents won: “Fidel Castro's victory in Cuba, Mao Tse-Tung's in China, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.” Four out of 89 means less than 5 % of insurgencies are actually won by insurgents. According to the IPC, “Most insurgencies fail, since states, no matter how weak or feckless, are typically stronger, better organized, and more professional than non-state forces.”

What can be the outcome of Government-TTP negotiations? For the record, there are three models. Model 1: The East Timor Model. Model 2: The Nepalese Model. Model 3: The Sri Lankan Model.

The East Timor Model: Between 1975 and 1999, East Timor suffered more than a hundred thousand insurgency-related deaths. In 1999, a majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. On 27 September 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the 191st member of the United Nations. This model is referred to as the political autonomy model.

Under the political autonomy model, Pakistan would have to grant TTP political autonomy that TTP seeks. Release their prisoners and withdraw Pakistani troops. Let TTP declare independence and establish their Emirate of Waziristan. The Nepalese Model: This is referred to as the 'assimilation into the mainstream model'. In Nepal, the Nepalese Army and the rebel-led army known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) fought a bloody civil war that lasted for 10 years and 9 months. War-related casualties stood at around 20,000 killed and 200,000 internally displaced. By 2007, an Army Integration Special Committee was formed under which 3,129 former PLA insurgents agreed to integrate into the Nepalese Army while 6,576 insurgents chose the Voluntary Retirement Scheme with regular retirement cheques. The two questions here are: Is TTP willing to abandon its armed struggle, lay down arms and form a political party? Is TTP willing to assimilate into mainstream Pakistan?

The Sri Lankan Model. The conflict between the Sri Lankan Military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) went on for 26 years (1983-2009). LTTE demanded an independent state. War-related causalities have been estimated at a hundred thousand and economic cost of around $200 billion. By 1987, the Sri Lankan army had fought the LTTE down to its knees when India stepped in and gave LTTE another life. The Sri Lankan government was forced to give concessions to appease the LTTE. The ceasefire of early 1990 was broken when LTTE killed 600 policemen after the policemen had surrendered. In 1991, LTTE insurgents surrounded a military base and killed a thousand soldiers.

In 1994, the People's Alliance won elections on a peace platform. In 1995, a ceasefire was agreed but the LTTE broke the ceasefire by bombing two Sri Lankan Navy boats. In 1996, the LTTE killed 1,173 army troops. By 2000, a million Sri Lankan were internally displaced. In December 2000, LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire. In April 2001, LTTE cancelled the ceasefire. In July 2001, LTTE's suicide bombers attacked the Bandaranaike International Airport, destroyed eight air force planes and four Sri Lankan Airlines aircraft. In the months after the September 11 attacks, the LTTE fearing direct American support for the Sri Lankan military announced a month-long ceasefire. By October 2003, LTTE had given up its demand of an independent state and had put up a demand of a Self Governing Authority in northern and eastern Sri Lanka (with powers to impose their own laws and collect taxes). In December 2005, LTTE killed 150 government troops. By 2006, LTTE's focus had shifted to civilian targets.

On 8 December 2006, the Sri Lankan army undertook a full-fledged military operation. By 16 May 2009, the Sri Lankan army had cleared the entire area held by LTTE insurgents. On May 17, LTTE admitted defeat. How will the militancy against Pakistan end? How are Pakistan's force ratios? According to Quinlivan's 'Force Requirements in Stability Operations', a “standard force ratio of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 residents.” FATA with an estimated population of 5 million will thus require a force of around 125,000 counterinsurgents albeit, TTP/ Militants are mostly FATA based but in no way represent the whole population of FATA. Their numbers are a tiny fraction of the population. The standard troop-to-insurgents ratio is 9:1. The number of militants in FATA can only be estimated and most estimates fall in the range of 10,000 to 20,000. Pakistan would therefore require 90,000 to 180,000 troops. How will the militancy against Pakistan end? Pakistan's 'war on extremism' has to be fought at two levels: battlefield and ideological. Pak Army has won dozens of battles on the battlefield including the Battle of Wana, Battle of Swat, Battle of Buner, Battle of Orakzai, Battle of Kurrum, Battle of Bajaur and Battle of Tirah. At the ideological level, the war has to be fought by our politicians, the media, academics and the civil society. To be certain, there is no power that can stand up against Pak Army in any battlefield within 796,095 sq km of Pakistan. There is absolutely no doubt that Pak Army has the capability to bring North Waziristan back into Pakistan's fold and that too within weeks. But that will be another battle won; the war goes on. What do we as a nation really want? Political autonomy for TTP? TTP's assimilation into the mainstream? TTP's complete defeat?

The writer is an analyst who regularly contributes for national and international print and electronic media.

Tweeter: @SaleemFarrukh

13
April

How will the Militancy against Pakistan End?

Written By: Dr Farrukh Saleem

An insurgency is “an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict.” How will the insurgency against Pakistan end? There are three possible outcomes. Outcome number 1: Pakistan wins. Outcome number 2: A stalemate. Outcome number 3: The insurgents win.

In 2010, the U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) sponsored a research study to be conducted by the Intelligence Policy Center (IPC) of the RAND National Defence Research Institute (the RAND National Defence Research Institute is financed by the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Defence Intelligence Community). IPC undertook a “quantitative and qualitative” analysis of 89 insurgencies and counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns around the world. IPC, admitting that “no two insurgencies are the same”, has five generalized conclusions:

• One; sanctuary is vital to insurgents.

• Two; modern insurgencies last an average of ten years.

• Three; a “government's chances of winning may increase slightly over time.”

• Four; “insurgent use of terrorism” against civilian targets backfires.

• Five; “anocracies or pseudodemocracies rarely succeed against insurgencies”.

Two of the five conclusions are particularly relevant in Pakistan's case. One; North Waziristan is the last sanctuary left for the militants. Two; militants continue to consider Pakistan's armed forces as their primary target (Yahya al-Libi's Doctrine of not targeting civilian targets). Of the 89 insurgencies there are only four insurgencies where the insurgents won: “Fidel Castro's victory in Cuba, Mao Tse-Tung's in China, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.” Four out of 89 means less than 5 % of insurgencies are actually won by insurgents. According to the IPC, “Most insurgencies fail, since states, no matter how weak or feckless, are typically stronger, better organized, and more professional than non-state forces.”

What can be the outcome of Government-TTP negotiations? For the record, there are three models. Model 1: The East Timor Model. Model 2: The Nepalese Model. Model 3: The Sri Lankan Model.

The East Timor Model: Between 1975 and 1999, East Timor suffered more than a hundred thousand insurgency-related deaths. In 1999, a majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. On 27 September 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the 191st member of the United Nations. This model is referred to as the political autonomy model.

Under the political autonomy model, Pakistan would have to grant TTP political autonomy that TTP seeks. Release their prisoners and withdraw Pakistani troops. Let TTP declare independence and establish their Emirate of Waziristan. The Nepalese Model: This is referred to as the 'assimilation into the mainstream model'. In Nepal, the Nepalese Army and the rebel-led army known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) fought a bloody civil war that lasted for 10 years and 9 months. War-related casualties stood at around 20,000 killed and 200,000 internally displaced. By 2007, an Army Integration Special Committee was formed under which 3,129 former PLA insurgents agreed to integrate into the Nepalese Army while 6,576 insurgents chose the Voluntary Retirement Scheme with regular retirement cheques. The two questions here are: Is TTP willing to abandon its armed struggle, lay down arms and form a political party? Is TTP willing to assimilate into mainstream Pakistan?

The Sri Lankan Model. The conflict between the Sri Lankan Military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) went on for 26 years (1983-2009). LTTE demanded an independent state. War-related causalities have been estimated at a hundred thousand and economic cost of around $200 billion. By 1987, the Sri Lankan army had fought the LTTE down to its knees when India stepped in and gave LTTE another life. The Sri Lankan government was forced to give concessions to appease the LTTE. The ceasefire of early 1990 was broken when LTTE killed 600 policemen after the policemen had surrendered. In 1991, LTTE insurgents surrounded a military base and killed a thousand soldiers.

In 1994, the People's Alliance won elections on a peace platform. In 1995, a ceasefire was agreed but the LTTE broke the ceasefire by bombing two Sri Lankan Navy boats. In 1996, the LTTE killed 1,173 army troops. By 2000, a million Sri Lankan were internally displaced. In December 2000, LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire. In April 2001, LTTE cancelled the ceasefire. In July 2001, LTTE's suicide bombers attacked the Bandaranaike International Airport, destroyed eight air force planes and four Sri Lankan Airlines aircraft. In the months after the September 11 attacks, the LTTE fearing direct American support for the Sri Lankan military announced a month-long ceasefire. By October 2003, LTTE had given up its demand of an independent state and had put up a demand of a Self Governing Authority in northern and eastern Sri Lanka (with powers to impose their own laws and collect taxes). In December 2005, LTTE killed 150 government troops. By 2006, LTTE's focus had shifted to civilian targets.

On 8 December 2006, the Sri Lankan army undertook a full-fledged military operation. By 16 May 2009, the Sri Lankan army had cleared the entire area held by LTTE insurgents. On May 17, LTTE admitted defeat. How will the militancy against Pakistan end? How are Pakistan's force ratios? According to Quinlivan's 'Force Requirements in Stability Operations', a “standard force ratio of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 residents.” FATA with an estimated population of 5 million will thus require a force of around 125,000 counterinsurgents albeit, TTP/ Militants are mostly FATA based but in no way represent the whole population of FATA. Their numbers are a tiny fraction of the population. The standard troop-to-insurgents ratio is 9:1. The number of militants in FATA can only be estimated and most estimates fall in the range of 10,000 to 20,000. Pakistan would therefore require 90,000 to 180,000 troops. How will the militancy against Pakistan end? Pakistan's 'war on extremism' has to be fought at two levels: battlefield and ideological. Pak Army has won dozens of battles on the battlefield including the Battle of Wana, Battle of Swat, Battle of Buner, Battle of Orakzai, Battle of Kurrum, Battle of Bajaur and Battle of Tirah. At the ideological level, the war has to be fought by our politicians, the media, academics and the civil society. To be certain, there is no power that can stand up against Pak Army in any battlefield within 796,095 sq km of Pakistan. There is absolutely no doubt that Pak Army has the capability to bring North Waziristan back into Pakistan's fold and that too within weeks. But that will be another battle won; the war goes on. What do we as a nation really want? Political autonomy for TTP? TTP's assimilation into the mainstream? TTP's complete defeat?

The writer is an analyst who regularly contributes for national and international print and electronic media.

Tweeter: @SaleemFarrukh

18
April

Financial Lifelines of the Terrorists and Terrorism

Written By: Dr Shabana Fayyaz

“Terrorism has a purpose, writing it off as a mindless and irrational activity is not useful at all” (Bruce Hoffman) Men, Mind and Material are critical elements in pursuing political violence by the non-state actors (in this case, the terrorists) against the state. The challenge for inn2the governments is always to dismantle the public support, infrastructure, counter the narrative and cutoff the financial lifelines of the terrorists whether of the developed or the developing world equally. Terrorism today is a fully acknowledged and evaluated threat especially since the 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) incident in the United States. Consequently, the states have been developing the sophisticated security structure that involves legal, political, social and financial aspects. However, a holistic and comprehensive Counter Terrorism (CT) policy remains a constant challenge for the governments.

To understand the gaps in the counter terrorism policies of the states one needs to comprehend the fluid nature of the terrorist organizations working within and beyond the territorial boundaries of the states. The fact is that terrorism in the contemporary world is a highly globalised and transnational phenomenon. This in turn requires coordination between the states to counter this threat. To deny terrorists the means to finance their activities, we must know how terrorists manage their finances. The possible means for them to move the money to operational levels include: formal banking channels, non-banking channels like physical smuggling of cash (self / courier), NGOs and Charity Organizations, and, alternative remittance systems.

In the South Asian scenario, the Hawala and Hundi describe the ways used by the non-state actors, both militants and non-combatants, to sustain their activities financially. Hawala means trust or reference, is historically more recent as compared to Hundi, which means – bill of exchange, promising note; existed as early as 5000 BC – several legends associated with its usage. The presence of such a diverse and deep rooted mechanism call for a holistic anti-terrorism policy-making, comprising all short and long-term measures. Unless the nature of the black money used by the terrorists at the sub-national, national, regional, and international level is fully grasped, no policy can be instituted on the sustainable footings. The terrorists in this globalised world are very intelligent and are aware of the means to manipulate the loopholes in the contemporary international financial landscape. The snapshots of the different ways and means of the financial tracks of the terrorists are as depicted in figures 1 to 4. These figures show that financial support mechanism of terrorism is not an isolated phenomenon, rather it has well entrenched and well spread roots in society. Due to various reasons, terrorists find sympathizers and supporters among common masses, and use this soft niche for their terror motives. Therefore, role of public support and public opinion is essential in stemming terrorism. The fact is terrorists’ narrative thrives in the sea of perceived injustice. When population suffers from continuing social or economic hardships, especially as a result of incompetence and corruption of the governments, it tends to provoke widespread unrest. In the developing states where there is little chance to institute an alternative governance mode particularly in case of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it can (and has) result in the formation of societal groups who stand by non-state actors groupings against the government and the rest of the country's population respectively.

fin3It is considered opinion amongst experts on terrorism that economic hardship is, and will be, an indirect factor and one of the underlying cause of terrorism in the world. This is because the world's wealth is in so few hands; developing nations have little chance to make significant economic progress. This causes widespread resentment which often, when coupled with government corruption, results in revolt, insurrection and terrorism. Thus, the real battle and challenge for the governments is to change the militant as well as public mindset through creation and provision of economic opportunities to people.

In case of Pakistan, the challenge for the government is to dismantle the militants (particularly Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan – TTP) supply chain and carrying out a financial vivisection that dries up militant cash flows. Service delivery vacuums and tattered governance structures in the tribal areas of the country have allowed the TTP to forge patronage networks, profiteering from kidnapping, extortion and bank robberies in the mainland as well. A secondary, but equally vital financial lubricant comes from smuggling and a flourishing drug trade through Afghanistan. To stem this flow of capital, the government will have to surgically subvert fraudulent religious charities and introduce intelligence monitoring in local thanas (police stations)and, stringent border regulations and narcotics control will have to be brought under a centralized intelligence apparatus. There is no magic bullet to end the terrorism from the contemporary world. Similarly, no universal formula exits to be applicable to all the states to combat the quagmire of terrorism in one go. Each state has to devise its own counter-terrorism policy keeping in view its peculiar environment. Few of the measures to effectively combat the menace of terrorism are suggested below.

The media plays (has to play) a critical role in de-legitimizing the militants’ ideology. The fact is that, society, particularly in case of Pakistan, suffers from 'information deficit' despite access to a large number of information sources. From the perspective of changing the way people think, all we need is an information battle – to change how people think. Public campaigns by the terrorist outfits who advocate for zakat, hides and so on – on television, radio, newspapers and pamphlets – need to be monitored on regular basis. The media should expose the sources of black money that adds to terrorists’ viability/ability to survive and execute their attacks within and beyond Pakistan. Constructive role of media needs to be harnessed to the maximum. In short, media must act as bridging the gap in perceptions on the issue of terrorism and bring forward the true stories of public disenchantment with the on-going violence. Here, the government must ensure the security of the independent media. Pakistan's Counter-terrorism policy should be a reflection of multilateral strands of political, social, cultural, economic, and developmental measures. It must hinge around following strands:

Prevention: The first objective should be to prevent people turning to terrorism by tackling the factors or root causes particularly economic in nature which can lead to marginalization and radicalization of the society as a whole. Protect: Secondly, the government must aim to protect citizens and economic infrastructure and reduce vulnerability to attacks by the terrorists. This includes improved security of borders, cities and critical infrastructure.

Pursue: Thirdly, to pursue and investigate terrorists’ activities across borders and globally; to impede planning, travel, and communication; to disrupt supportive networks; to cut off funding and access to attack materials, and to bring terrorists to justice. Respond: Lastly, to prepare the regional states in the spirit of solidarity; to manage and minimize the consequences of terrorist attacks, by improved capabilities to deal with the aftermath; the coordination of the responses, and; respond to the needs of the victims of the terrorist attacks. Counter-terrorism is essentially a joint work of different state institutions and society based on judicious mix of military, political, social, cultural, and economic elements of national power. An integrated approach of counter-terrorism must be pro-active and preventative in nature and sustainable on long-term basis. Reactive and only military based tactical measures are counter-productive and often result in the creation of more sympathy pools for the terrorists. “Reach-out” measures needs to be included in the counter terrorism policies. That is, vulnerabilities, sore points and grievances of the people needs to be seriously addressed. Mutual stakes – political, economic, legal, and social – must be created through engagement.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, not establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate .... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The writer is on the faculty of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

07
May

I Shall Rise and Shine

Published in Hilal English May 2015

Written By: Dr. Amineh Hoti

The sister showed me the boys’ schoolwork – the writing was neat, logical and it had the teacher’s remarks in red, “well presented work!” On the cover of the schoolbook it read, “I shall rise and shine.”

mages are based on histories, encounters, and the ability of those represented to fight for an equal voice to express themselves. Creating negative images of “the Other” is deeply problematic for the idea of human morality, as it implicitly rationalizes the condoning of violence against “the Other”.

Similarly, images are built of countries as images are built of men and women: this one is a “good”; that one is “bad”. This one is “friendly”; that one is an “enemy”. Beneath this surface of media world and propaganda in which each country perceives itself as inherently good and “the Other” as inherently evil, there are real people struggling to survive, to find their next meal, to live a life of dignity. In Pakistan, loving grandparents, self-sacrificing parents with babies, innocent children and know-it-all teenagers must search for tools of peace building to heal our fractured but shared world.

Frankie Martin, an American researcher, and a student of my father, Professor Akbar Ahmed at the American University in Washington DC accompanied my father on his research project, Journey into America. Sharing his experience with me about same trip, he told about his meeting during a walk in Florida with a friendly elderly woman who was gardening. During their conversation, he told her about previous exciting learning research project called Journey into Islam, where we visited nine Muslim countries, including Pakistan. He told me that lady stopped him after listening the name of Pakistan, exclaiming, “Wait! What? Pakistan!” then after a pause she said, “Do people there love their children?”

Frankie, who has been involved in a lot of bridge building work with Professor Ahmed calmly replied, “yes, they do – just like us. They are very family-oriented and are indeed very loving to their children.” The woman shouted back in the direction of her husband in the house, “See darling, I told you they love their children there.” She explained that violent images of Pakistan dominate local news. However, she owned a sweater that bore the tag, Made in Pakistan, which gave her hope that people “out there” did normal things (not, as the news reflected, kill and hate). She felt deep down that people everywhere were good and productive – her sweater spoke more to her, in this case, than the image of Pakistan that, unconstructively for all of us, has systematically been conveyed through the media.

Negative images of “the Other” are harmful to the ones that are the object of this construction as it can drive them into self protective behaviours that push them towards the periphery and further marginalization. Muslim immigrants to the West encounter the differences between cultures more sharply which are often exacerbated by media depictions of Muslims (all South Asians get affected – Sikhs and Hindus included – and we hear stories of them being beaten up by local people thinking they are all “Pakis”). The media’s depictions of “the Other”, at present, especially Muslims, drive people apart, create walls of misunderstanding, increase stereotyping, and degrades mutual respect. Instead, I think, media can and should bring the world closer together through fair and equal representation of all sides within conflict stories, and more scholarly and positive analysis.

The outcome of this gap between how different people perceive each other is a propagation of dislike and intolerance of “the Other”, which can lead to the kind of violence we see today in the world. Violence begets violence and locks people into cycles of revenge. A famous tribal Pukhtun proverb is: “he took revenge after a hundred years and said, ‘I took it too soon!’.” In this scenario, when tribal people and modern states encounter each other through violence and force, the masses who suffer the most are the ordinary helpless people and children as seen when the Taliban took revenge on Army Public School in Peshawar killing 150 children and teachers. The Taliban had announced that they would take revenge on the children from army families for carrying out operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). In all eventualities, there are civilian casualities including children in addition to the soldiers participating in the “war on terror” – they happened to be in the right place (schools) at the wrong time (time of global war not of their choice). Ironically, the Arabic-Urdu word “Taliban” is plural for “students” and students symbolize a thirst for learning and development and is something we, in the educated Muslim world, regret being associated with violent extremist fringe groups. The Attack on Army Public School (APS)

The seven armed men who attacked the army school in Peshawar were not of mainstream Pakistani origin (they are said to be speaking a non-local language – this was confirmed by all the parents to me). One of the parents told me that, they had blackmailed the canteen worker, who was an Afghan immigrant, by kidnapping and threatening his children. I was told by the parents of the boys that on entry, they first killed the canteen men, armed themselves, and proceeded to the female Principal’s office. They demanded the list of the boys who were sons of army men (the majority of the children were of civilian parents). The Principal, a dedicated educationist like so many other brave and bold female principals in Pakistani schools, refused to give the men any names. When we saw her husband in his apartment in Peshawar to offer Fateha, he described her as, “determined, kind and a dedicated educationist.” Her son pointed out, “she was more dedicated to her work, school and children than her home.” During the incident, she wanted to protect all the children. For her, they were all her responsibility as precious young adults. They threw petrol on her and burnt her alive just as they did with another 24 year old female teacher in front of her students who resisted while trying to protect her young students (this was narrated to me by the parents and friends of the boys killed).

I was shown the beds of two deceased brothers (one 15, the other 19) by a young sister who shared the same room. She felt lonely without her brothers, and now every night she hoped they were there in their own beds before she slept – the pain was horrendous for her.

The men were well informed about the school’s layout and timetable it seems, for they came into the hall at a time when all the senior classes of boys (Class 8 & above i.e. 15 to 18 years old) had gathered for an assembly that morning. Dressed in their crisp white shirts and green sweaters, the Army Public School boys – I reiterate most of them children of civilians – ended this morning’s assembly in terror. Every boy in Class 8 was killed – 15 years old in their prime – innocent of the world around them and not involved in the politics of people that had killed them. Some were shot in the limbs then savagely killed with knives. Pakistanis are asking who these ‘people’ were and who funded them?

Accompanied by family and a friend, I went to offer condolences to the mothers of the boys massacred in Peshawar. I did not know them personally, but as an act of humanity and compassion, we wanted to share their terrible loss and deep grief. When I sat with the mothers in their homes, I saw the deepest of human pain, impossible to express through mere words. After the traditional prayer offered for the souls of the boys, there was a struggle to find the right words. The pictures of the boys were freshly mounted on frames on the walls. These were middle class homes – people not involved in the politics of war but wanting to better their everyday lives and that of their children. The boys wore western clothes to school, spoke and wrote fluent English and had dreams. Mothers and sisters told me how intelligent, hard working, and wise these boys were – some wanted to be engineers, others doctors, and few others scholars.

I was shown the beds of two deceased brothers (one 15, the other 18) by a young sister who shared the same room. She felt lonely without her brothers, and now every night she hoped they were there in their own beds before she slept – the pain was horrendous for her. She showed me the boys’ pictures, school bags, piles of books with a prayer mat on top of them and a scrabble board right at the bottom of the pile – the 15 year old had three bags full of books which now lay there in the entrance to the house newly built by their parents – the father a banker and the mother a school teacher. They had worked all their lives for their children and moved from the village to the city of Peshawar to give their children a better future. The mother held their pictures to her eyes and cried her heart out for her beloved sons. It was unbearable – and deeply heart breaking. Together we cried and cried again – she for her sons, and I for the loss of such truly beautiful and brilliant young boys. The sister asked me crying, “Can someone tell me why they were killed, tell me one thing they did wrong? They were the best boys – so good, they were so loving and so caring.” Shamowail Tariq loved bringing people together. He dreamt of making a multilayered house to bring all his relatives together. With him, there was “ronak” (liveliness). He would tell his younger sister when she would say let’s do this tomorrow, “don’t leave it till tomorrow” (da maze bia bia narazee (this life/fun may not be there tomorrow). He would tell his younger sister, “I want to challenge you so that you think beyond the average level.” When he had typhoid and was out of bed in winter, ready to go to school, his elder sister scolded him. He replied, “we are zinda (alive). We are not affected by the cold. These all (who are living as a disconnected world community and are dominated by hate and divisions) are murda (dead: not mentally challenged and connected enough). He loved education, peace and faith. He would say his five times prayers and sit for long in the mosque behind our father.” His sister said that he told her, “something would happen and the whole world will remember us.” She cried, “Why! Why! Why!” The sister showed me the boys’ schoolwork – the writing was neat, logical and it had the teacher’s remarks in red, “well presented work!” On the cover of the schoolbook it read, “I shall rise and shine”.

The mother softly told me “I do not want any compensation for my sons – no money; nothing from the government. I just want the honour for them of the Nishan-e-Haider.” Martyrs are given this honour upon the ultimate sacrifice of life for their country. In another house, a Pukhtun army officer and father of a 18 year old boy, Saqib Ghani, who was killed in the massacre told me that, while he puts on a brave face in front of his family, when no one is looking he goes into the bathroom and cries his heart out for his precious and youngest son, whom he lost at such a young age. The father from Mardan said, “for our country we have done qurbani (sacrifice). When we first joined the army, we wanted shahadat (martyrdom) – it was a matter of fakhar (pride). But now I am a shaheed’s father. He was Allah’s amaanat (belonged to). He was the youngest of my five children. His way of talking was very pleasing. Sons bury their fathers but I buried my son! He was good in studies – he was brilliant at computers – he never teased us – he had very pleasant manners.”

This father told us of another boy who was kidnapped and released for ten million rupees. “His parents put him in APS where he became shaheed. He was doing hifz-e-Quran – he was brilliant and very good boy.” The Problem with Our Global Panic over Terrorism

This is indeed a deeply sad comment on the nature of humanity – when people become so brutal that they use force and kill because someone holds a different point of view or is born in a different family. It is important to highlight the point that although the media has created a panic over terrorism, it is these Pakistanis (the families of the people killed in terrible acts of terrorism) who are the real victims. While the Western media tends to paint a simplistic image of Pakistan as the hub of extremist activities, in reality the majority of Pakistanis are the victims of terrorism (thousands of innocent people in Pakistan have died since 9/11). A terrorist cannot and should not define Pakistan to the rest of the world. Consider an instance of the reverse – the man who killed three Muslim students in North Carolina. If that was the only person or story we heard around the world and in America, then he, as a white American, would define every white American for the rest of the world, ignoring the reality of his particular extremist view. Similarly, the Taliban cannot and should not define Pakistan. If this is allowed unthoughtfully, then it provides no moral support, understanding, or compensation from the international community for the families in Peshawar. As human beings, we are connected across borders to each other’s pain – we cannot deny this natural instinct in ourselves or the responsibility of connecting to others across borders as fellow human beings. What Can be Done

This followed by President Obama hosted a global summit on Countering Violent Extremism (now called “CVE”) with the aim of dealing globally with the growing threat extremism poses to all societies and states. Currently, as pointed out by Moeed Yusuf (United States Institute of Peace and also In Dawn, Feb 24, 2015) the number one, two and three strategies of states (such as the USA) dealing with violent extremism is by the use of force, and mostly in Muslim societies and countries. This will not work and can lead to creating more, not less, terrorism in on-setting cycles of revenge amongst tribal peoples who use a distorted understanding of religion to exploit impoverished and disadvantaged people in a vacuum where their own states fail to protect them. Non-violent policy options, for Western states, unfortunately are only at the stage of talk and not action. I agree with Moeed, that CVE can only be rooted out by changing mindsets through communication – dialogue, mediation, persuasion, deeper understanding, and above all peace building education, which introduces potent counter-narratives. In Muslim countries, one way is to educate students in counter-narratives by discussing and holding up heroes as role models who challenge the frame work of extremists – those role models who within an Islamic frame work of middle path represent moderate religious voices. The dialogue of civilizations, not clash is what states like the US need to promote. The world needs to be better informed about the array of Muslims and Islam, and Muslims themselves need to know much more about the Islamic culture of tolerance and their own rich history of co-existence. This knowledge will help end the cycle of extreme hate against “the Other”.

Before we take the first step towards creating a peaceful world, we have to stop building barriers of “us” versus “them”. There is much more to the story than simply “good guys” and “bad guys”; “good countries” and “bad countries”. Reality is far more complex and there is both good and bad in every story and history of nations. Understanding history and reading about the perceived “Other” helps. In Pakistan particularly, as the everyday life goes on: a country of two hundred million people where mothers drive their children to school, teachers begin the effort of teaching little reluctant 4 year old children how to read and write, and where female friends in beautiful lawn clothes “made in Pakistan” meet up at homes over coffee worrying, in English, Urdu and Pashto, about the safety of their beloved children. Teachers, students, and staff are worried and concerned about the way demonization of the “Other” and the growth of violent extremism in their lives is shaping world events. The principals of educational institutions worry about terrorism and the continuous cycle of revenge: one principal said she could not function for ten days after the Peshawar incident, despite a pile of papers demanding attention on her desk.

Mrs. Pracha a seasoned and dynamic Pakistani Principal said, “I am reminded of what Abraham Lincoln wrote to his son’s teacher: ‘Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend’.” She continued, “We in Pakistan need to remember this during current atmosphere of distrust and fear.” She said, “people in Pakistan are not all black and white – fundamentalists and liberals – we did not become Muslims in 1979, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan and the jihadis (as the west calls them) were created, nor will we stop being Muslims as the world turns in revulsion from the ISIS outrages. The state of being Muslim is not dependent on the depiction of a fringe splinter group. Its essence is more diverse and inclusive – welcoming of all sects, races, colours, and creeds. Witness the Moors in Spain: a pluralistic, highly civilized, and creative society. We must build bridges of economic hope and educational outreach.” She ended by saying, “Our hope lies in the extraordinary courage shown by those children who survived the Peshawar school attack. They, along with the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and his wife, re-entered the building, saluted the flag, and went back to work.” General Sharif in his character and behaviour has displayed two of the key qualities of heroes – great strength combined with gentleness and understanding. All these examples provide us a glimpse of hope and of human courage when the threat is enormous and humanity seems to be at its lowest ebb. And from the perspective of a young Pakistani student, your nation seems to be misunderstood, your fellow students killed for attending school, and yet you continue to struggle to learn and participate in the idea of schooling, knowledge, and peaceful education. Many ordinary citizens and scholars working hard to change their world around them for the better. Because of these and many more reasons we can say, Pakistan is fighting hard for peace. And as the APS text books rightly say, I [we shall rise and shine].

The author is a PhD Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Presently she is Director at Centre for Dialogue and Action.

Follow Us On Twitter