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Why the War Against Terror" cannot be won by guns alone

By: B Shantanu
May-16-2009
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Over the last few days, as news continued to pour in about Taliban"s seemingly unstoppable march across north-west Pakistan, the question that would not go away in my mind was: Why is this not on the national agenda?

Is the Indian media really clueless? is it really so naive that it does not realise the gravity of the situation? or was this simply something that could be dismissed with a "Yeh to hota hi rahta hai" (and/or its variant: "Kuch nayee baat batao yaar") ?

And yet, the happenings in Pakistan are not only much much closer to us than the games in IPL - literally speaking - but also far more serious in their impact and the potential to threaten India"s long-term interests. As Sh Krishen Kak mentioned in an email to me:
.Amritsar & Lahore are a bare 32 miles apart.the Attari check post is about 16 miles from each city.Lahore to the Indian border is about 20 minutes. That is how far the Taliban is from us.

But if you were simply relying on the daily news for your information, the threat from "Taliban" has already passed, the Pakistani army is in "full control" of the situation, the next PM may not be Mayawati-ji and isn"t South Africa "oh, sooo beautiful!".

Chances are, most people have already forgotten "Buner". Those of you who do remember, please keep that name in your mind.. Taliban"s entry into Buner may well be the turning point in the history of Pakistan.

We are failing at two levels. One, in estimating the deep and extremely damaging impact that these developments are likely to have on India"s future - as a society as well as a country. And two, in believing that this war can be won by guns and force alone.

Sh N S Rajaram made this point in his email:

.As I have repeatedly stressed, it is a war against an ideology.in which every Indian has to be a soldier. It cannot be left only to to the security forces.

But the effete Indian intelligentsia seems more interested in the IPL and Priyanka Gandhi"s views of the world than the catastrophe just across the border that may spill over into India in a matter of weeks.

.Thanks to their (i.e. leaders of the earlier generation) lack of national vision and cowardice, the younger generation will have a major ideological battle on their hands, fighting a totalitarian ideology acting in the name of religion and being supported by soft-headed and venal politicians and the intelligentsia.

Col Dr Anil Athale echoed these sentiments.Writing in rediff, he mentioned:

This is an attempt at raising the red flag.

In India, preparation for conflict is denounced as war mongering and pacifism at the cost of realism. Indian history could well be called a chronicle of military disasters. We obviously have civilisational strengths, as our civilisation has survived for over 5,000 years while that of Greece, Egypt or Persia has vanished. But unless we understand our weaknesses and rectify them, we may not get a second chance.

.It is a reflection of Indian ennui that the impending Talibanisation of Pakistan and how to deal with it, is not even on the electoral radar.

.Malik Navid, the current IG of police of the North Western Frontier Province, told the Pakistani parliament that the Taliban and Al Qaeda "are present in every city and town (of Pakistan) in some places they are active, in others they are dormant." The IG had added that jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi.

.One of the most virulent Pakistani analysts, Shireen Mazari accepts that. "Just the sheer numbers of madrassas/students (218/25,395 in Rahimyar Khan; 185/20,780 in Dera Ghani Khan; 105/8,502 in Rajanpur) show the enormity of the task ahead - even though not all the madrassas are "jihadi" in type, according to a detailed ground survey I conducted through a local field worker in three districts of southern Punjab. But the background of poverty is rampant and even non-jihadi madrassas can in future produce militants."

But the "War" is really not with Taliban.The Talibs are merely the front, a violent articulation and an extreme manifestation of an ideology and of a populace. A populace that has been fed on a steady diet of hatred, nourished on a false sense of victimhood and has grown up amidst the stifling environment of hardcore, radical Islamism.

As Col Athale notes:

.A historical process of Islamist moral policing and militancy began almost the moment Mohammad Ali Jinnah was buried. In 1950, Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to fast during Ramadan..In 1979, General Zia-ul Haq went a step further and overhauled the entire education system in Pakistan and handed it over to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Teaching of history was abolished..Hatred of Hindus and Jews was institutionalised. Jihad and Shahadat (martyrdom) were glorified. The entire history of Pakistan prior to the arrival of Mohammad bin Qasim was wiped out.

It was only a matter of time before this poisoned generation came of age and produced today"s Taliban. The point to note is that it is not just the students of madrassas but even the so-called mainstream schools who were subjected to this brainwashing. Radicalisation of Pakistani society is comprehensive and across the board.

His conclusion in Part-I of his essay is definitive and chilling: "The Taliban takeover of Pakistan is both inevitable and imminent".

On the Counter-Terrorism blog, Walid Phares explained why Taliban"s entry into Buner was "a crossing of red lines"

.For over two years both the past government of General Musharraf and the current democratically elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari have been advised to "engage" the Taliban, or rather what they perceived as "reconcilable" leaders of the Jihadi militia in control of large areas in Waziristan and the adjacent districts. Despite the fact that the Taliban protects Al Qaeda (openly), obstruct the army from bringing legal order along the borders with Afghanistan, controls training camps for international terrorists.advice was given to high authorities in Islamabad (both from inside and outside the country) that "accommodating" some of the Taliban"s basic requirements will bring stability.This dual and contradictive approach between shouting at them and engaging them at the same time allowed the jihadi militias to survive across Waziristan and other locations between 2001 and 2008.

The missing link has always been the failure in winning the war of ideas against the radical networks. As long as the jihadi madrassas are operational, droves of "graduates" enlarge the ranks of the Taliban and their other associates such as Laskar Taibah. Jaish e Muhammed and other armed Islamist factions.

And yet, any talk of fighting this violent ideology is immediately shouted down amidst the din and noise of "peaceful co-existence", "peace and stability" in the region, "communal harmony" and engaging with the "moderates".

As Walid Phares noted,

(there seems to be).an international consensus not to "touch" the ideology of the radicals. That is an overarching problem hovering over many other areas of crises including Iraq, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, and even within Western countries.

This is the core of the problem. Sadly it receives little attention. Meanwhile the appeasement continues apace.

.the cohort of jihadists is not stopping, not reconciling, not de-radicalizing but seeking to eventually reach the capital.

First in Waziristan, then as of last year in Swat, and now seizing the district of Buner, the Taliban are conquering Pakistani land. Their technique is simple: Give us Sharia implementation or endure terror. Authorities have been choosing the morphine option: let them apply Sharia if they seize fire.

But as soon as an area is "granted" to the jihadists, a new "jihad" begins towards the adjacent district. The "forced Sharia" gives the Taliban more than just catechism: full control, broadcast, courts, training facilities, and money. It just cedes territory and people to a highly ideological force.

The hydra is expanding gradually, preparing for a massive squeeze.

Writing in the Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi observed:

What Indians find shocking is the extent to which so many educated Pakistanis seem unable to divorce their Islamic identity from political discourse.

.More worrying is that Pakistan"s civil society seems to have only the most minimal commitment to the liberal values that we in India enshrine in our Constitution. Even someone like Imran Khan, who improved his mind at Oxford and developed his loins on Sloane Street, turns into a reactionary when he addresses his own people, going so far as to praise Sharia law.

.But.we must first rid ourselves of our own illusions. Let"s stop kidding ourselves about the true nature of the enemy. Let"s recognise the magnitude of the threat - growing by the day as Taliban influence spreads - and work out a strategy to fight it.

The time for lighting candles at the Wagah border has long since passed.

Unfortunately he does not elaborate on what exactly is the "true nature" of this enemy.In the Indian mainstream media, mention of that is simply taboo.You might be forgiven for thinking that the "enemy" is the state of Pakistan, or fellow-citizens across the border.

It does not help, of course.and neither is it true. But it is convenient. Let us blame the "weak" Pakistani government for "giving in" to Taliban in Swat. Let us blame "their education system" for nurturing a generation of jihadis. Let us blame the corrupt Pakistani army that works hand in glove with the Jihadis.and of course how can we forget the ISI? It is all "their fault".

The reality is of course, far more complex and far more disturbing.We may not say the word and we may not talk aloud about it.that does not make the menace go away. Unless the intellegentsia in India, the political leadership, the common man, all of us - unless all of us - recognise the evil for what it is, the fight cannot begin.worse it may already be lost.

This is not the time for political correctness. That does not save lives.or stop bullets. It is time to call it the way it is. It is time to fight the ideology.

Back in July 2008, I wrote

The terrorist attacks in Ahmedabad and Bangalore are merely the latest consequences of a mis-guided, half-hearted approach to tackle terrorism and ignoring the root of the problem - which is the ideology of "Jihad".and Islamism.This is the ideology that led to 9/11, the massacre of Beslan and numerous attacks since then - a disturbingly large number of them in Bharat.

As long as we don"t recognise this, we will be fighting the wrong enemy (not terrorists but innocents).on the wrong front (not at the level of ideas, but at the level of physical force).and with the wrong weapons (not better policing and quick, efficient justice but Dharnas, Bandhs, Satyagraha etc..)

Diana West made a similar point in "An Ignored Manifesto" more than two years ago:

"Last month, 12 mainly European-based, mainly Muslim or ex-Muslim intellectuals, alarmed by the spell on free speech cast by Cartoon Rage 2006, signed onto an anti-totalitarian manifesto for freedom of expression published by Denmark"s Jylland-Posten.

"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism," the manifesto began.

.Among the dozen signatories were Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ugandan-born Canadian writer Irshad Manji, Indian-born British writer Salman Rushdie, and Pakistani-born writer Ibn Warraq. Rounding out the list were a few French writers, a Bangledeshi, a Lebanese and several Iranians.

What is striking is that.the manifesto was printed, "not in the New York Times, Le Monde or the Times of London, but of all places, in a provincial Danish newspaper of no particular fame." All of which should shove a big, fat question mark onto the "world" stage to ask where these brave signatories" writerly, journalistic and intellectual brethren are on this one, not to mention Big Media coverage. After all, the world didn"t overcome fascism, Nazism and communism with the silent treatment, restrained rhetoric, or exquisite editorial discretion.

In August 2008, in a long post on Tackling Terrorism, I talked about the ideological battle:

Finally, the ideological battle must be fought.At the root of all these attacks is the chilling ideology of Islamism and the fanatic agenda of Islamists who are bent on imposing their version of Islam on the whole world and get it rid of all Kaffirs and infidels.I have talked about this issue on my blog on numerous occasions.

Sadly, the mainstream media prefers to ignore this aspect and pretends it is not a problem at all.Unfortunately a large section of (otherwise politically astute) commentators and observers share this view too.

I think unless this ideology is challenged headlong in an open and public debate, we will continue to believe that terrorists are merely some misguided youth and their acts are merely "reaction" to some real or imagined grievances. Tellingly, almost none of the press reports mentioned this last sentence from the email sent to media outlets just before the blasts: "We the terrorists of India - the Indian Mujahideen - the militia of Islam whose each and every Mujahid belongs to this very soil of India, have returned to execute the compulsion of Allah"

The important - and this is critical - thing is not to direct our anger against Indian Muslims. Although the community does share some responsibility for what has happened, if we start painting the whole population as suspect, that would not just be wrong but plain dumb stupid.

Sadly, few commentators recognise the need for this fight.fewer still are willing to wage it.

But the "War on Terror" cannot be won by guns alone.The ideology must be challenged.

In the meantime, the Talib"s advance deeper into Pakistan

KARACHI: Panic has spread in the city"s co-education institutions after receiving threats, believed to be from the Taliban, in which they have been warned to close down or face the consequences, Daily Times learnt on Monday.

Various educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities have received threatening letters and phone calls by the Taliban. A source privy to the matter revealed that mostly schools having affiliation with the Cambridge Board where male and female students are studying together without any discrimination have received threatening phone calls and also letters posted by the militants.

The source further pointed out that the sender of the threat posed themselves, either on the phone or in the letter, as the Taliban while demanding the end of the co-education system or prepare for an attack.

It was also learnt that the vice chancellor of the largest university of the city had also received phone calls by intelligence agencies inquiring about the possible threat of the Taliban. The source revealed that the agencies suggested to the VC of the university to make the veil (burqa) compulsory for all girl students as a precautionary measure.

.even as Pakistani"s continue to worry about a "war" with India

At least 11 per cent of Pakistan"s landmass has been ceded to the Taliban. Where is the Pakistan army? I Corps is in Mangla, II Corps is in Multan, IV Corps in Lahore, V Corps in Karachi, X Corps in Rawalpindi, XI Corps in Peshawar, XII Corps in Quetta, XXX Corps in Gujranwala and XXXI is in Bahawalpur, In effect, some 80 to 90 per cent of our military assets are deployed to counter the threat from India. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and sees its inventory of 6,384 tanks as a threat. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian air force and sees its inventory of 672 combat aircraft as a threat. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and notices that six out of 13 Indian corps are strike corps.

The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and finds that 15, 9, 16, 14, 11, 10 and 2 Corps are all pointing their guns at Pakistan. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and discovers that the 3rd Armoured Division, 4 RAPID Division and 2nd Armoured Brigade have been deployed to cut Pakistan into two halves.

The Pakistan army looks at the Taliban and sees no Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBT), no armoured fighting vehicles, no 155 mm Bofors howitzers, no Akash surface-to-air missiles, no BrahMos land attack cruise missiles, no Agni Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, no Sukhoi Su-30 MKI air superiority strike fighters, no Jaguar attack aircraft, no MiG-27 ground-attack aircraft, no Shakti thermonuclear devices, no Shakti-II 12 kiloton fission devices and no heavy artillery.

Pakistan is on fire and our fire-fighters are on the Pakistan-India border.

Too bad. What more can one say?

Time for another candle-light vigil by the border perhaps? Oh, I forgot.August is still three months away.

Also read:

Will the Darul Uloom now declare war on "Islamism"? and

How do you distinguish between an Islamist and a Muslim?


B Shantanu

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