16
March

Counter Terrorism Force (CTF)

Pakistan Army’s Training to Balochistan Police

The provincial capital of Balochistan echoed with loud slogans as the passing out parade ceremony of Balochistan’s first Special Combat Unit (SCU) commenced in Quetta on February 19, 2015. The spirit and morale of security personnel of this unit from police, which has been raised as a part of the Counter Terrorism Force (CTF), was sky high as they pledged to face the challenges of internal security and were determined to bring peace to Pakistan. The training was held at CTF Training School Quetta under the direct supervision of Pakistan Army. The training modules included sharp shooting, sniper, planning assault, fighting room combat, rappelling, VVIP protocols, unarmed combat, quid pro quo assault fire techniques, rural and urban warfare, and post incident protocols.

Pakistan Army has been actively involved in rendering all types of assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). The police has not only been trained by army from time to time but has also been provided with equipment including weapons and ammunition. The occasion was graced by Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as the Chief Guest. General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff, Governor Balochistan, Muhammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Balochistan, Abdul Malik Baloch, Commander Southern Command, Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua, and other civil and military officials attended the ceremony along with a large number of guests.

200 Corporals including 18 women completed their training and participated in the parade that was followed by a mock exercise. The personnel demonstrated their skills and received appreciation by the audience. While addressing the gathering, Prime Minister said, “It would be a prolonged war and victory would need mammoth struggle. We have to combat terrorism with courage, tolerance, patience and wise decisions.” He also appreciated the role of Special Services Group and Pakistan Army in the training of Balochistan Police and CTF. He urged the officers and soldiers of CTF Balochistan and police to perform their duty with discipline, a sense of responsibility and impartiality. Towards the end of the ceremony, Prime Minister and COAS distributed merit certificates to the high achievers of the course. Constable Sharif Khan was declared as ‘Overall Best Male Student’ whereas Constable Palwasha Fida was awarded certificate as the ‘Best Female Student’.

09
March

Terrorism and Extremism - Let the Silent Muslim Majority Count

Written By: Lt Gen (r) Shafaat Ullah Shah

The recent spate of terrorism in Bacha Khan University Charsadda, Paris, Jakarta, Lebanon and a Russian flight from Egypt to St. Petersburg have further amplified the imminence of terrorism and how it affects our daily lives. These carven acts by ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups show their reach and wherewithal in disturbing the world peace. The prime objectives of these attacks could have been varied. While suicide attacks in Beirut are another instance in the proxy war between Salafis and Shias in Lebanon, the prime intent of multiple terrorist attacks in Paris and Jakarta could have been to internationalize the wrath of ISIS in response to the Russian-led operations in Syria and discouraging tourists, retarding economic growths. The planting of a bomb in Russian aircraft was a requite to Russian force projection in Syria. Barbaric act of terrorism against a soft target in a university in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against innocent students was the likely result of counter-terrorism campaign against terrorists in Pakistan.


Muslims are fighting a war within Islam against the outlaws of Islam, the Khawarij. Yet, as we have painfully seen, these terrorists and outlaws threaten the entire world. Though, Muslims have been and will continue to be the worst sufferers of these terrorist attacks. From statistics, maximum deaths have been caused by the radical terrorists to the Muslims besides the negative economic outfalls. Only in Pakistan, more than 60,000 lives, including civilians and soldiers, have been lost besides incurring economic losses of more than 107 billion US Dollars. Even worse, consequent to terrorist attacks in the West, there is bound to be a backlash against the Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries in terms of physical assaults, economic deprivation, hate campaign, denial of jobs etc. Thus the primary onus for addressing the issues of terrorism and extremism is both a compulsion and an imperative for the Muslim World.

 

terrandextir.jpgIslam, in essence and spirit, is a religion of peace which abhors violence. This is a belief shared by majority of Muslims but rejected today by rest of the world due to radical Islam. While there are radical elements present in other societies, their numbers and magnitude of violent acts do not make them much dominant on a global stage. Thus message of a tolerant and peaceful Islam needs to be spread both, within a Muslim society and to promote interfaith harmony.


In every Muslim society, while around 10% extremists and seculars might exist, the majority is the moderates practicing Islam to varying degrees. Yet the minority is holding the majority as hostage to their brand of radicalism. Any outside influence or measures to change perceptions or bring moderation to Islamic practices is viewed with skepticism and is not likely to improve the situation. The change and modernization has to come from within. The redeeming factor is the 'silent majority' that needs to be invoked and make its presence felt rather than being intimidated by the extremists. There is a consensus that the root causes of terrorism are unresolved disputes affecting the Muslim world, social injustices, lack of education, job opportunities and revenge for uses of force against Muslims. While it may be virtually impossible to ingress religious beliefs enshrined over a period of time, the other issues are addressable. Every extremist has a family. Any changes in his/her behaviour pattern or an evidence of radical tendencies is most likely observed and noticed by them. The initial findings of terrorist attacks at Bacha Khan University manifest involvement of facilitators in providing guns, transport and passage. If any one of them, for the sake of humanity, have divulged the intentions of terrorists to the authorities, the impending act could have been aborted. The father of Abdelhamed Abaaoud, suspected ringleader of Paris attack, after the incident, confessed that his son was a psychopath and a devil, a fact if apprised earlier, to the concerned authorities might have prevented his involvement. Similarly, he would have had friends and colleagues with whom he would have shared his views prior to the heinous act.


In the controlling of extremism, madrassa, and mosque play an important role besides parents. Clerics assigned to those institutions cast an everlasting imprint in shaping the personalities of their pupils. Some of them may have radical views which need to be checked. The state has a role in ensuring the projection of balanced views and imparting madrasa education which nurtures a responsible, enlightened individual, capable of shouldering responsibilities in a society. The pupils, their parents and the community at large also have a role to play in case the clerics deviate from the right path and unduly thrust inordinate views. Neighbours and landlords can also play a role in determining suspicious activities and its reporting to the authorities. This system of checks could create an effective deterrent to a would-be terrorist. Respective governments must also facilitate this interaction by publicizing telephone numbers, designating centres and analyse information to corroborate facts and convert it into useable intelligence.


In this age of media galore and prominence of civil society, both have a significant responsibility in providing a counter-narrative against extremism. Any reporting of impending act of terrorism by a member of society needs to be recognized and suitably projected on media instead of glamorizing the terrorist’s acts. Media should boycott messages of terrorists and its over projection as an 'internal policy' and work ethics, as much as possible. Terrorists germinate on financial support, instances of financial aid sustaining terrorists can be somewhat controlled by those working in banks and other financial institutions in identifying suspicious transactions or large volumes to unidentified clients. Individuals and non-state organizations funding extremists’ groups must also realize their responsibilities in putting a stop to these donations, likely to perpetrate extremism.


Terrorism and extremism continue to affect our lives and that of future generations and require an all embracing response from the Muslim society in particular. It is imperative for all segments to realize the seriousness of this, ‘present and real danger’ and be counted in thwarting this menace. This is the right thing to do: to stand up for our values and do everything possible to protect our religion, our people and our nation.

Lt Gen (Retd) Shafaat Ullah Shah is presently serving as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Jordan. He has also been Commander Lahore Corps and remained Military Secretary to the President. He is author of 'Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan' (published 1983). This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
09
March

Where Education Fails - The Changing Face of Terror

Written By: Salman Masood

"Youth in our universities are extremely vulnerable to such tendencies, especially in the absence of guidance and oversight. One does not even have to be part of an organised group to form political convictions that can mutate into violence and radicalisation. Internet is rife with such opportunities, through literature and easy access to chatrooms and communication with radical elements. For those willing and amenable, the drift towards extremism and militancy is easy and quick."

We often try to oversimplify complex and complicated issues and subsequently such an approach leads to even more complexities and imbroglios. The effort against militancy and violent extremism has also had one such aspect. In popular perception – often peddled by some officials and even academics – religious extremism and militancy were considered to be a by-product of a mix of poverty and narrow-focused education of religious seminaries. Students of madrassas were considered to be most vulnerable to adopt the path of religious extremism and eventually terrorism. The fact that almost all of the suicide bombers in recent history of the country have come from the far-flung tribal regions or belonged to poor families of the urban ghettos strengthened such perceptions.


But this is not the whole story of the multifaceted and complex reasons why young people resort to violent extremism. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged Al Qaeda courier and financier, incarcerated for life in US; Faisal Shahzad, convicted in the US of an unsuccessful bombing attempt in New York in 2010; Saad Aziz, a graduate of Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration, accused of being the mastermind behind killing of human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud; Tashfeen Malik, who along with her husband was accused of a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, US earlier this year, do not fit in the straightjacket of extremists indoctrinated by religious seminaries.


Educated and affluent youth, who go to the most prestigious colleges and universities, are equally prone to terrorism and militancy; religiosity and devoutness cannot be attributed as the only factors. Most often than naught, it is the extreme sense of persecution, a search for identity and political beliefs that lead young, disenchanted men and women to embark on the path to militancy and terrorism.


It doesn’t help the youth when they see themselves growing up in a society that is rampant with corruption of the politicians and rulers, where the elite manage to get away with the most heinous of crimes. It can be extremely frustrating to come to grips with the reality that official malfeasance is seen as an acceptable way of bureaucratic life and religion is mostly left in the hands of bigoted clergy and charlatans. Adding to this combustible mix is the constant talk about politics and persecution, about plight and helplessness of fellow Muslims in other far-off regions of the world. Youth are constantly fed with notions of an irreconcilable clash and attempts of subjugation and dominance by the others.

 

whereedufails.jpgEmpowerment, both political and religious, then seems like an ideal that has to be achieved through every possible means. Such ambitions fill the young minds with a burning sense of purpose. Devoid of such purpose, life and existence seems meaningless and pointless. And, within their own minds, religious orthodoxy and political radicalisation unite to form a potent mixture. Such a calling becomes so strong and so heady that nothing else matters – and blinded and driven by this radical rage, the youth decide to take on the world.


The sense of shame and humiliation at the hands of the western world is the driving factor that leads educated, middle class youth to violent extremism. The conflict in the Middle East, neighbouring Afghanistan and Kashmir have remained constant sources of inspiration and anger within the youth. For long, Al Qaeda used the presence of foreign troops in the Holy Lands as a pretext to wage their version of Jihad. Local so called Jihadi groups have used similar sentiments to fill their cadres.


When Faisal Shahzad defended himself before a US court in 2010, he glowingly spoke of Osama Bin Laden, terming him as a modern-day Salahuddin Ayubi, accused American forces of attacking Muslim lands and vowed to lay down his life a thousand times for his cause. Shahzad came from a privileged background, immigrated to the US and yet he veered towards extremism, taking the first steps when he saw the siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007 and concluded that it was an act of war against Islam. The radicalisation within him was conscious and self-taught.


Youth in our universities are extremely vulnerable to such tendencies, especially in the absence of guidance and oversight. One does not even have to be part of an organised group to form political convictions that can mutate into violence and radicalisation. Internet is rife with such opportunities, through literature and easy access to chatrooms and communication with radical elements. For those willing and amenable, the drift towards extremism and militancy is easy and quick.


Organisations like Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), which claim to be striving for establishment of Khilafat, scour through the internet and university campuses to look for potential recruits. Affluent and middle class students are lured by a vast array of propaganda literature distributed both on and off campus. Many are impressed by the fact that those propagating such views are themselves western educated and highly qualified professionals.


For Pakistan, where the writ of the state has gradually diluted and extremism and radicalisation has been steadily on the rise, the challenge to ensure that its youth do not embark on the course of violent radicalisation is immense. It would need a concerted effort both at the societal and governmental level to face this challenge. The national curriculum would have to ensure tolerance and enlightenment. The law enforcing authorities would have to ensure supremacy of the law and disallow any militant or ideological group to have any public space. Dissemination of hate and violent literature on the internet would have to be checked and monitored.


Most importantly, the quality of education, employment opportunities and a system that promises fairness and merit can ensure that youth don’t get disillusioned. Furthermore, the country needs to be seen working with the international community in diplomatic efforts to mitigate regional and international conflicts. Once an individual sees the state doing its job, there might be little less of a desire to take things in one’s own hands.

The writer is Resident Editor of a leading national daily. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Most importantly, the quality of education, employment opportunities and a system that promises fairness and merit can ensure that youth don’t get disillusioned. Furthermore, the country needs to be seen working with the international community in diplomatic efforts to mitigate regional and international conflicts. Once an individual sees the state doing its job, there might be little less of a desire to take things in one’s own hands.

*****

 
05
April

Combating Extremism

Written By: Arif Nizami

The state is engaged in crucial talks with ‘Islamic’ militants to bring an end to rampant terrorism eating into its very entrails. Negotiations with the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) are still very tenuous and at an incipient state. No one is sure they will bear fruit or not. Whatever the outcome, in the end analysis, the Pakistani state and society will have to grapple with the endemic causes of extremism and intolerance afflicting it. With the passage of time however, alarming trends promoting extremism are becoming more pronounced. Of course, the immediate objective of talks with the TTP is to bring the spiral of violence to a closure. Nevertheless having a grip on religious extremism should be the end objective of any anti-terrorism policy. Absence of such a strategy will be tantamount to missing the wood for the trees. Making Pakistan a free, open and tolerant Muslim nation should be our ultimate goal. Right now we are far from achieving it.

On the contrary recent trends point out towards a disturbingly rising trend of extremism and intolerance in society and our body politic. Unfortunately absence of a vision and the political will to combat the menace is becoming more pronounced. Take the case of religious minorities. Incidents of violence against them threatening their very life, property and livelihood are becoming more and more common.

Not only non-Muslim minorities are being targeted with impunity, sectarian violence is also on the rise. Shia and Hazara Muslims are continuously, and increasingly, on the receiving end of the militants' wrath. The question is: what is the state doing to combat this alarmist situation? Mere lip service is paid to the teachings of the founding fathers as a source of inspiration for our policy makers. There is no long-term policy framework to combat the menace. Take the case of performance of the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII). The advisory body composed of clerics and scholars should be a contributory factor in providing the nation with an enlightened vision of Islam. However, its recent edicts mostly against women have generated nothing but controversy. The council headed by a cleric who also happens to be a member of the parliament, recently generated unnecessary controversy by making the fantastic claim that marriage of even minors can be solemnized, but with consent of the guardians.

When a lady member of the parliament belonging to the ruling party moved a private bill against child marriages, the CII chairman opposed it on the grounds that it was unislamic. To add insult to injury, the parliamentarian did not get any support for the proposed bill from her own party. A large swath of opinion believes that an elected parliament representing the will of the people is the perfect forum for interpreting Islam in the light of modern times. Going a step further, the Sindh Assembly through a resolution has demanded the disbanding of the CII. Misplaced priorities and lack of courage or conviction of our policy makers has promoted extremist trends in the society at large. On a macro level, budget outlays as a percentage of the GDP on the sectors like health, education and providing a social safety network for the poor and the downtrodden, are dismally low.

A mixture of increasing poverty and high rate of population growth, coupled with a dismal economic performance is a recipe for disaster. Lack of income generating opportunities and an absence of a level playing field for the underprivileged has given rise to the Madrassa culture. As a result, a large number of such institutions have become breeding grounds for extremism. Many of the seminaries impart religious education. But others, in the name of imparting religious education, are actually producing extremists to become a willing tool of terrorist outfits. The National Assembly recently adopted an opposition resolution demanding that the government take steps to improve and regulate education in seminaries. Such efforts in the past have come to naught owing to opposition from the religious right. Hopefully they will be brought on board and made to realize the urgency to reform and regulate. Unless urgent measures are taken to combat this alarming trend, the hydra headed monster of extremism will simply devour the state as envisaged by Allama Iqbal and the Quaid-i-Azam. It is not coincidental that implementation of Sharia much beyond the scope of the 1973 Constitution has been demanded off and on by the TTP and its affiliates.

Over the years, a general perception has set in that Pakistani society, as a whole, has become more conservative. In the backdrop of the prevalent trend in the Isalmic world, this may be true to a certain extent. However, to confuse conservatism with extremism is erroneous. Even the Secretary General of the OIC (Organisation of Isalmic Countries) Iyad Amin Madni, in his recent address had to admit that extremist voices and groups have hijacked Islam and misappropriated the right to speak on its behalf.

Pakistani society and the military have shown a tremendous resilience in the face of rampant terrorism and growing extremism. The nation has adequately risen to the challenge posed by the terrorists. There are various tales of bravery and valour in resisting the gauntlet thrown by the extremists. The spirit shown by the people of Swat in flushing out the TTP is exemplary. The resilience shown by Malala Yousafzai despite being targeted by the terrorists for standing up for girls' education has become a legend now. Similarly military personnel have resisted terrorism bravely even at the expense of laying down their lives.

Another very important element of the complicated matrix of combating extremism is the role of the media. A number of media persons who have been outspoken against the extremist mindset have been intimidated and threatened with dire consequences by terrorist outfits. Some have even been brutally attacked. And few have even lost their lives at the hands of the terrorists for their courage of conviction. But on the other hand a large swath of the media is also responsible for promoting the extremist agenda. The extremist agenda has been lent too much space and airtime on the print and electronic media.

There is an obvious reluctance to properly accommodate the alternative agenda of the enlightened strata of the society, partly perhaps owing to the fear of retribution. Law enforcing agencies, by being unable to provide adequate security to journalists, has exacerbated the malaise. It is obvious that converting Pakistan into a tolerant society is an uphill task. Without developing a consensual and enlightened narrative, war against extremism cannot be won in the long run. The power that be, perhaps lacks vision and the political will to develop such an agenda that promotes tolerance and respect for opposing views. In doing so without further delay lies our salvation as a nation.

The writer is a former Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting. He is an eminent personality of electronic and print media. He is also the Editor of an English Daily.

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