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Part I – Reasons Leading to Extremism & Terrorism

A terrorism struck nation, which is very happy on conquering and re-conquering own territories. Most of the times they feel proud that they are very expert in countering terrorism. Their sense of pride in this field reflects how senseless they are, and to which limits the enemy has dragged them over the past two decades. How satisfied they are, with the title of possessing one of the best armed forces fighting terrorists. The most dangerous thing to think upon in this context is not the Terrorism itself but the question; Why they are not worried that in-spite of countering terrorism, it is not finishing, rather increasing? The other question, I would like to raise here is, Have we ever tried to understand the nature of our enemy?

Failure of Vision

Few days back Pakistan’s Minister of State for Interior & Narcotics Control Balighur Rehman told Parliament that, “PM’s Youth Business Loan Program is targeting youth to tackle the menace of terrorism”. I wonder, what kind of parliamentarians Pakistan has, that no one even from the opposition benches could question the honorable minister that how PM’s Youth Business Loan Program is meant to counter terrorism? Can Mr. Balighur Rehman clear the haze from the minds of civil society as to How PM’s Youth Business Loan Program is targeting youth to tackle menace of terrorism? Why I raise this question is because I do not find answer to a basic question that How PM’s Youth Business Loan Program is addressing extremist ideology being poured into the minds of hundreds of thousands of students being taught only religious curriculum in seminaries? For a common citizen of Pakistan, PM’s Youth Business Loan Program is not actually designed to counter terrorism. Because for countering terrorism, government would be giving education and employment opportunities to the uneducated and unemployed youth being brain washed and prepared for future extremist and terrorist activities in thousands of seminaries spread across breadth and width of this country. But, this is actually a measure to counter Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) of Pakistan People’s Party and enhance Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz’s) vote bank following a strategy used by Pakistan People’s Party. If the understanding of our visionary PM and his Minister of State for countering terrorism is this, as stated on the floor of National Assembly then perhaps this nation deserves more suffering so that they reach to a stage where they can start choosing real leaders (if there are any left till that time).

Redefine National Interest & Strategy of War on Terror

First of all, a vision is needed to be developed to redefine National Interest, basing on which future objectives are to be set to meet the challenges of 21st century. It is to be realized, that when nations are mired in such turmoil as terrorism and extremism, then mere lip service cannot put things in order; It may fetch few votes, though. If Pakistan as a state wants to tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism, then a wholesome strategy will have to be worked out. It is not possible to eradicate terrorism by fighting a war against terrorists and flushing them from one land to the other. These extremists cannot be eliminated by only killing them, because in more numbers they are being produced, where government is not paying attention. More than that, a political will is needed to take indiscriminate action against extremist ideology wherever and in whichever form it exists.

Product of Seminaries

If we are still not thinking innovative ways to harness this exploitable human resource which can equally work as a positive part of this society, in Pakistan’s favor, if government pays attention towards them, and if we neglect them, then enemy may use them in their advantage. That means perhaps we have not learnt any lesson by shedding tones of blood in this dirty war. We need to realize that if we will not put our best efforts on these students they are going to be a continuous source of extremism in the society and the war on terror will be a perpetual phenomenon resulting from the nurseries breeding Taliban instead. What these seminaries are producing, are misguided moulvis. They are not even properly educated on religion, since no research work is carried out in these seminaries, therefore, their understanding of religion is very narrow. So, most of the individuals who come out of these seminaries are honestly not very useful members of the society because they have no skill-set which can earn them a job or employment. What they have learnt in many years staying in these seminaries is to eat without working. And unfortunately, their masters also teach them that God has a promise for their provisions so need not to worry (a distorted explanation of actual Islamic teachings). When they come out after getting such narrow teachings, what positive they can contribute in a society. At the maximum, they start searching a place where new mosque or a seminary could be built, because they have seen it has a good earning potential and the system goes on. Second biggest teachings in seminaries are based on Jihad. So when they get qualified from these seminaries, they are absolutely ready and completely skilled to straight walk-up to a jihadi outfit. Other things they learn in seminaries are highly immoral and thought taboo to be talked about. Most of them are involved in homosexuality and interestingly, they are taught these lessons by their own teachers and colleagues. They are taught to look at a woman as different specie which is created to be dominated and suppressed by the men. This product of seminaries also try to give exemplary look of a Muslim by keeping their trousers six inches above their ankles, by keeping beard, murmuring on beads all the times and offering prayers. It is so unfortunate, that they have actually maligned the religion and spoiled essence and peaceful massage of Islam. At times, one is forced to think, if they were actually working for furthering the strategic interests of the enemies of Islam.

Now under these circumstances, how a country without keeping check on unwanted growth of seminaries can counter extremist ideology. Since government is turning a blind eye, and neglecting these hundreds of thousands students, who are not being brought in the fold of formal education; they are thus turning hardliner moulvis on the expense of those who want them to be like that. When they are out there after graduation from a seminary, they are not able to live normal life like a common citizen therefore they look for and are only absorbed into that part of society which is extremist and mentally and emotionally unstable. Over past many decades, this group has risen to a considerable size and became a source of polarization and further fragmentation of society into more sects and sub-sects. Instead of bringing peace and stability in the society which is actually the teaching of Islam, they have unfortunately alienated the society more which is against the teachings of this peaceful religion. The Prophet (PBUH) had taught and practiced to live in peace even with non-believers. On the contrary, today’s mullah would not live and allow people of their own religion to live peacefully, just because they are not following their version of Islam. They (mullahs) are otherwise ought to do this to protect their livelihood and shining their respective religious and sectarian shops.

The Nature of Government & Its Law Enforcement Departments

Now, when you criticize government or the political elite for their ignorance, follies and vested interests, they love to counter it and this can be seen in daily night programs on Pakistani media channels. If spokespersons of these political parties, instead of countering the criticism illogically, use the same amount of time and effort for brain-storming to find a solution to the problem at hand, they may come up with some good workable strategy. Government has been claiming that they have been successful in banning hate material, hate speech and misuse of loudspeakers. I would like to ask if at all some culprits were caught or their businesses were sealed on violation of government law, what is the mechanism to make sure that they do not start their business with different name at other places? What changes in the education system have been incorporated by the government to de-radicalize the society? As we have seen doctors, engineers and other highly educated people embracing extremist ideology and joining terrorists groups. There is a dire need to revamp complete syllabus of our regular education system, especially the subjects of religious studies. Over and above, what is the mechanism of induction of religious teachers and is this aspect being given special attention? Because, either teacher or the syllabus can be manipulated by the Anti-Islamic forces to their advantage.

Interestingly, most of the points being deliberated in this write up are mainly related to policing, collection of evidence (intelligence effort), investigation and justice. Now the question arises, how many police reforms have been brought by the provincial governments and how much federal government has insisted or forced them to do that. Has the provinces been penalized for not reforming and modernizing their police force. How much investigative and intelligence setups under the jurisdiction of provincial governments have been reinvigorated? What is the on-ground change in professionalism and efficiency of police of this country? Are we only trying to satisfy civil society by airing news and programs of good briefings and presentations to PM, CMs, Governors, Secretaries & Police Chiefs at federal or provincial levels? Are we serious in conceiving and implementing new strategies to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism? I would like to ask, why some of the largest chunks of land are still ungoverned in this country? Why governance could not reach to the backward and neglected parts of Pakistan even seventy years after the British Rule? When we will realize that it is only through governance and good governance that a state can have check on their populations?

How much burden armed forces can take, who are already mired in the fight against war on terror, over stretched in countering insurgency in Balochistan and involved in operations in Karachi? Besides being called for flood relief duties, earthquake rescue and rehabilitation duties and now to conduct ‘Census’ which our civilian governments are unable to take on with the help of their police and other law enforcement agencies (LEAs) at their disposal. Isn’t it magnanimity of the army that no one has asked the federal government why civil LEAs are unable to conduct Census or are unwilling to do the job? Are they not paid like the soldiers of armed forces or they are so heavily committed on protection and protocol duties of politicians that they cannot be spared to conduct already delayed and so importantly required Census? When LEAs of this country put on disposal of civil government will come out of political influence to perform their actual and officially mandated duties? When our bureaucracy will stop putting dust in the eyes of politicians and society and stop playing this heinous game? Is it the responsibility of army to give training to police? Armed forces are not trained for policing, then how come they can train a police force for entirely a different role? What the police of this country were doing in the last two decades, when the nature of threat was changing and becoming complex? Why they did not conceive and modernize their training infrastructure to suit present day requirements? Why they are not willing to take on their job and train their men at their training facilities? Why armed forces are being taxed to train police force? Whenever there is a new wave of threat, senior police officials instead of training the existing police force start asking for creating a new setup with a different name, with more perks & privileges. This tendency has served both bureaucracy and political elite alike. One, they become available for politicians and bureaucracy as their protection fleets and for personal duties. Second, they are more prone to relax and get into corruption being away from direct supervision. They are then used for patrolling and nakas on roads in different parts of provinces in the name of eradicating and abolishing crime. By getting out of sight, instead of doing policing they start minting money from innocent people on various pretexts. And that is the place where they become earning machines for themselves and their masters. Thus previous versions of police that we have been seeing in the last three four decades are good source of income (“Haza Min Fazle Rabbi”, as they call it) for the politicians and senior police officials. If our police were really trained and dutiful the crime rate one sees in today’s Pakistan would have been much low. The extremism and terrorism which this nation is suffering would have not been there. Politicians and police need to realize that instead of creating new brands of police force we need to revitalize the existing ones; yes, their strength in numbers can be increased to counter the increased crime and terrorism. But they need to understand that by creating new setups the institutional strength, the traditions and pride goes away. The new setups will have no history, no standing operating procedures and no traditions which are very important factors to build upon. The new setups have no guide lines from their predecessors which hinder their performance in complex situations badly, so institution building is equally important for meeting complex situations and requirements. But they will not transform to the embrace good practices as the existing one serves their interests well. If this system has to go on and prevail as it is prevailing for the last fifty sixty years then I, as a common citizen of this country should not be very hopeful about bright and prosperous future of coming generations.

People and politicians of this country need to stop thinking and expecting that every job is of military. Unless they come out of this phenomenon, and start making, upgrading and training civil LEAs to counter the threat in all its forms and manifestations, this country will never be able to counter it in its entirety. Dedication and loyalty with job is not only the responsibility of armed forces. As a nation, everyone holds equal responsibility for their stated and mandated responsibilities in their respective departments. Armed forces are meant to deter and beat back foreign aggression; in cities and streets, it is the responsibility of civil government and their law enforcement agencies. I strongly think, this is the place where actually we are failing.

Weak Judicial System

If government were serious in countering extremism and terrorism, civil society would like to see how swiftly the cases registered against people or organizations involved in terrorist and extremist activities are being pursued and disposed of? How many individuals have been made example to deter others and stop reoccurrence. It is only through deterrence that you can stop someone from doing heinous crime. If it were not the deterrence, then there was no need for God to create the concept of Heavens and Hell (i.e. reward & penalty). Government needs to understand that by mere registering cases against people or organizations the evil cannot be eliminated. It is by timely administering the justice to the common and poor people of this country that you can bring some peace in the country. Unless people are not taken to the task and examples are not set through our justice system this evil of extremism and terrorism cannot be uprooted from society. For administering timely justice and disposing cases smoothly, investigative skills and evidence collection mechanisms of investigation agencies needs to be modernized. Therefore, this is an equally important area for emphasis on training and capacity building of LEAs.

Part II – Counter Terrorism Strategy

Provide Alternatives

There is a need to have strict check from the state, if we want to develop a harmonized and moderate society. If we do not take necessary measures at an appropriate level at a right time then by mere shutting down suspected seminaries will not work. As you are not providing any alternative to the students and staff of the shut-down seminary. They are likely to retaliate more strongly when you close their shop and livelihood. There has to be a system to take care of those, who were part of that seminary, than that of the building. There is also a need to keep these individuals under some kind of radar so that they do not start working at other places with changed name(s). If you do not give them alternatives, they are most likely to be exploited by the centrifugal forces. This is possible, only if the government is sincere to the future of this country. Merely attending NCA meetings by the PM and his Cabinet Ministers and getting happy on the Nuclear Capability would not put the things on right track. Scientists and Military are doing their job, Political Leadership needs to show their resolve and go after this insurmountable task with resilience. Twenty points of National Action Plan cannot be termed as strategy because there is absence of a strategy in the implementation of every point. It is a flawed document prepared by civil-military leadership in haste but it can still be improved and made achievable by certain additions and deletions. Nonetheless, dragging feet on National Action Plan would be highly counter-productive, therefore, is not an option.

Revise Curriculum of Seminaries

Instead of simply shutting down seminaries and registering cases against those who have violated the law on pointation of intelligence agencies, there is a need for a political strategy to descend from the parliament for LEAs’ implementation. Basing on a comprehensive strategy, involving political wisdom, federal and provincial governments should work hand in glove with federal intelligence agencies to take concrete steps. Otherwise, it is unlikely that Pakistan can overcome this monster. Remember, in the absence of an effective mechanism to keep the individuals of a shut-down seminary under observation, they are most likely to function under different names at other places. It is a continuous and tiring job that LEAs has to take on, as there is no easy solution. Similarly, there is no information from the federal as well as provincial governments that could illuminate civil society on how much syllabus or literature being taught in seminaries have been screened and moderated with the joint effort of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and the Provincial Governments. The responsibility of looking into the literature being taught in seminaries should rest with religious and education ministries of respective provincial governments. This work though looks very easy and simple but is actually a daunting task where cohesiveness and unity of aim is required at federal and provincial levels. Countering extremism and terrorism has to be set as number one National Objective. And, to ensure this being achieved in an apt manner, federal government and its intelligence agencies can be delegated an overarching responsibility to act as watch dog. Non-compliance with such important National Objectives should lead to penalties for provinces in NFC award. A step by step approach for achieving certain laid down goals would have to be adopted as is being done at international level for achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or to implement WTO.

While revising and moderating present curriculum of seminaries, it should be made mandatory for respective governing bodies to include a balance mix of sciences, religious studies and social subjects. Because, by moderating syllabus, we not only want to achieve balanced and healthy generations to come out from these seminaries and become a positive part of the society but also want to create a good technical human resource to meet country’s future needs. These hundreds of thousands students studying in seminaries are actually a very valuable component of our society which merely by neglecting and due to weak focus of government is diverting to the other side. Here I think both PPP & PML(N) need to think logically and critically, because both parties have kept largest chunks of funds allocated for making votes in the shape of BISP and PM’s Youth Business Loan Program. Has someone at national level ever thought truly for the future of this country? If yes, then these funds should have been very meaningfully used to take care of the youth and the part of our society we are fighting in the mountains of our frontiers and streets of our cities. When our political leadership will come up from their personal and political gains and start working to save this most vulnerable stratum of society?

Amalgamate Vocational Training Institutes with Seminaries

By diverting these sums of money (BISP & PM’s Youth Business Loan Program) and part of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), Pakistan can convert this huge reservoir of human resource into moderate Muslims. We should also be aiming at giving them technical know-how and basic employment skills so they are not exploited for their obvious vulnerabilities. In this regard, all seminaries may be incorporated with vocational training institutes of respective provinces to form unified bodies. A provision may be created under provincial education ministries to form governing bodies and they should be mandated to award certifications or diplomas for acquired knowledge/ skills. Vocational training institutes are permanent structures in Pakistan which have space and staff. Why not to use these facilities which already have technical base to impart technical education and skills to students of seminaries. Faculties of these institutions could be increased to include new subjects. Similarly, labs could also be made, if required. By adopting this approach, we can create a huge source of employment opportunities for teaching staff (may be on contractual basis). And by doing so, the same facilities can be used as vocational training institutions in vocations but to teach seminaries’ students for rest of the year.

Copy India, Be Smart & Don’t Get Caught

If you want to wage proxy war, by all means do that, but use human resource of the enemy. Since how many years India is involved in various kinds of proxies against Pakistan. Even the latest book “Faraib-e-Natamam” authored by Jumma Khan Sufi amply highlights the Indian Strategy and validates the times since when they were using our people as their intelligence assets for destabilization and creating turmoil in our country. How many times MQM associated RAW agents have been caught along-with literature and made confessions for targeted killings in Karachi. It is here that intelligence agencies of this country need to copy Indian strategy to counter them. I want to ask a simple question: why after every terrorist attack on the Indian soil the call records, technical evidences and chain of events are traced back to people in Pakistan? Why the FIR of Pathankot incident has been registered in Pakistan against the so called perpetrators of terrorists attacks? Why every time international pressure mounts only on Pakistan? These are some of the very important questions that come in the minds of a common Pakistani, now. State has to either answer these questions to satisfy own people or devise strategies like Iran and India, whereby you are not directly implicated in any such activity. Is there no resource and space on the periphery of India from where you can pull wires? Think, you will find the solution…!

Last Word

Government needs to look into the important issues confronting this country, more seriously than before. Time is passing fast and a dead end is approaching, whereby this country would most likely slip into chaos and civil war. Now is the time to address some of our critical issue at hand. Until we apply corrections to ongoing dilemmas of the nation, we cannot do much to further our national interests. When will we understand the nature of our enemy? Because ramifications of not understanding this are too dangerous…..!But, if our government is on-board with Saudi-US strategy of destabilization of the region including this country, then I apologize for offering sincere remedial measures…..!!!

By Saeed Muhammad

27 Feb 2016.

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