Pakistan’s patchy fight against Islamist violence sows confusion

July 10, 2011

(A man takes a nap next to a poster of Osama bin Laden at the Chauburji monument in Lahore May 13, 2011. The message written on the posters read: "The prayer absentia for martyr of Islamic nation is a duty and a debt"/Mani Rana)

At the rehabilitation center for former militants in Pakistan’s Swat valley, the psychiatrist speaks for the young man sitting opposite him in silence. “It was terrible. He was unable to escape. The fear is so strong. Still the fear is so strong.” Hundreds of miles away in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, a retired army officer recalls another young man who attacked him while he prayed – his “absolutely expressionless face” as he crouched down robot-like to reload his gun.

Both youths had been sucked into an increasingly fierce campaign of gun and bomb attacks by Islamist militants on military and civilian targets across Pakistan. But there the similarity stops.

One is now being “de-radicalized” in the rehabilitation center in Swat, the northern region which only two years ago was overrun by the Pakistani Taliban and has since been cleared after a massive military operation. He will be taught that Islam does not permit violence against the state and that suicide bombing is “haram” or forbidden.

The other had attacked the minority Ahmadi sect, declared non-Muslim by the state and subject to frequent attacks in Punjab, where many of them live. Though he was arrested after being overpowered by the retired army officer, survivors said many of their neighbors celebrated his act of violence with the distribution of sweets.

The different responses to the two are symptomatic of Pakistan’s compartmentalized approach on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism. In some parts of the country – like Swat – violent Islamists are crushed and their beliefs confronted. In others – like Punjab, the heartland province far more important to the stability of Pakistan than the more talked-about tribal areas bordering Afghanistan – they are tolerated while their ideology of religious extremism flourishes.

Read the full story here.


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[…] looked at the Pakistani army’s deradicalization program in the Swat Valley (AFP, Dawn, BBC, Reuters). Dawn reports that Afghan cell phone service is available in the tribal areas and even adjoining […]

Posted by Daily brief: U.S. suspends $800 million in Pakistan aid « | Report as abusive

Pity Myra hasn’t put the full story here because in some ways the result of this trait of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds, is slowly coming home to roost. By refusing to act impartially aginst all extremism Pakistan is simply delaying the inevitable – a state of uncontrolled violence and much turmoil.

No matter what, there can be no justification for systematically attacking one set and molly coddling the other. One may accept the argument that it is in no position to undertake action on all fronts to a certain extent. However, it is still possible to send strong signals instead of tolerating and letting extremist ideology flourish. Instead of giving sermons in SWAT, maybe Kayani would be serving his country’s cause better by giving the same sermon in the Punjab heartland – ‘on the need to fight the “political, psychological or religious” trends which lead to radicalism.’ as mentioned in Myra’s main article referred to here.

Myra also points out the confusion in the minds of the normal public caused by this dual policy of fighting radical elements. ‘ “I was quite mystified to note,” wrote columnist Kamran Shafi in Dawn newspaper, “that the very army that considers the militants its strategic assets is de-programing young terrorists programed by its own assets in the first place. How does this work, please?” ‘

Pakistan is desperately working itself into a corner. I would really love to share Umair’s optimism about its resilience and the future. I hope he is right but right now it is just a distant hope.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Wow I just spent a half hour writing a post only to have an errant contact with my laptop’s track pad send me to another page, losing it all.

Oh well. Data loss syndrome, my old friend, I hate you so much…

It’s all probably for the best, though. I tend to be long winded and was probably never going to get around to making my point anyway.

I’ll try to make this one short(er). Pakistan desperately needs/needed a figure like Attaturk to set the country on a course toward modernity. Many scholars now think the ancient world fell because when the civilization of Rome and its Greek clients were threatened from without, the brutalized populace of slaves, serfs, and subjugated freemen had no stake in the continuance of their society, and so they let it burn, in some case providing the fire themselves. The result was a long Dark Ages that only ended when the few scraps of ancient knowledge that remained, estimated at less than 1% of their total cultural output, was rediscovered during the Crusades and dutifully recorded by patient scholar monks of the Catholic Church. Yet these scraps of knowledge were eventually enough to ignite a Renaissance, followed by an Age of Reason, the birth of science, and something really new: The idea of universal human rights to dignity, freedom, and love toward fellow man, even one’s enemies! (respect for women, children, and non-European men would have to wait longer. And gay people are still waiting, although much has changed in only a few decades.

There was a time, 6 centuries hence, when the argument could be made that Islam was more tolerant than Western Christian religions of Catholicism and later the Protestant offshoots. That argument is no longer valid. Many millions of lovely, tolerant Muslims exist in Pakistan and every country where Muslims live. It is an honest fact, however, that intolerance toward the rights of others to believe what they will is a root cause of many problems in the Islamic world.

This is the religious backdrop for a situation which would already be dicey due to inequality, corruption, and a dark history of war, foreign invasions, colonization and a couple of centuries of subjugation by the British Empire. This history directly effects today’s children who grow up with so many strikes against them. How are they supposed to adopt western ideas of universal rights under such circumstances. That’s not human nature, and if any of us were born into those circumstances we’d struggle to understand the forces that used us as pawns for their own corrupt power games.

The quickening pace of modernization merely exacerbates the feelings of emasculation. I’m reminded of the story a journalist gave after being held by the Taliban. He was grilled repeatedly for information. Did they want to find out about enemy troop numbers, tactics, etc? No. All they wanted to do was to get the journalist to reveal what they all believed, that the moon landings were a hoax. They simply couldn’t accept that infidels would have been given the power to accomplish something so amazing. Eventually he was released

My post is getting long again. I’m trying to show that the root causes for the extremists are two-fold. They are perhaps quite legitimately angered by what they view (correctly) as the unacceptable intrusion of foreign armies, infidels at that!, onto their territory. Secondly, they are perhaps even more angered by the triple assault on their sense of the supremacy of their religion in the face of overwhelming superiority of Western Culture (Hollywood, rock n roll, TV shows), Technology (Moon Landings, the Internet, Medicine, etc.) and Military (Stealth fighters, drones, nuclear submarines/carriers and so much more). In the years just before 9/11, you heard much complaining, even from Europe, about American Hegemony. That topic seemed to get pushed to the back of people’s minds , but the experience of comparing their own lives with the lives of those in the West, an easier thing to do now than ever before with the internet, is a powerful motivator. A choice must be made. Either abandon your fundamentalism and try to catch up with modern world, or double down and descend into cynical nihilism. For poor uneducated unemployed young men, the first option is out of reach. It is easy to understand the appeal of the second option. It is in many cases the only choice available.

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive

It is surprising to note that none of the Westerners are telling Pakistan and its military that their belief of India being enemy number one is entirely false. I have seen an article or two by some frustrated American officials who have made a passing mention of it. This desperation to keep an enemy at all costs has costed Pakistan dearly. They have dug their own deep grave by throwing stones at India and propping up the fear of retaliation. To this day, India has only reacted and not retaliated. The reaction in India after the recent Mumbai bomb blasts shows that the public are willing to wait and see who the responsible parties are rather than start accusing others with no evidence. India is an extremely tolerant society, sometimes to a sickening extent. It does not want to be anyone’s enemy. It has only been fighting those who perceive it as one. This perception s the root cause of Pakistani army’s unwillingness to do away with its proxy assets. The problem now is that these elements ave grown up and have begun to infiltrate the military system itself. It is only a matter of time before these elements and their supporters becoming dominant over the moderates in the military. Desperation can push the military to take short sighted actions that can turn on itself. All this optimism, resilience are only talk, much like the willingness to eat grass. It is vainglorious pride and nothing else. Pakistani civilians have no control over the destiny of their promised land. It was hijacked long ago. Let me see how sincere these writers are in telling Pakistanis that India is and was never an enemy. Their enemy is controlling them from within.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive


I see two things at play here.

1) Culture. Unfortunately, inter-sectarian and inter-ethnic violence has a long history in South Asia. At the end of the day, how different are anti-Ahmadiyya attacks compared to say attacks by the Bajrang Dal type Hindu extremists against Muslims and Christians all over India?

2) Government tolerance. And this is the big problem. The government tacitly (and sometimes overtly) tolerates some form of violence. Just look at the conviction rates for those who attack minorities in Pakistan. India may not be perfect, but it’s certainly a not better on that front. And that effort has helped the Indians reduce communal tensions. No such hope in Pakistan.

The only way to stop the violence is to make it clear that those who engage themselves in such will be prosecuted and punished severely. India is slowly getting there. The Pakistanis don’t even really seem interested in the matter.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

7.5 Billion
This is a great example of fraud,waste and abuse.ADD UP all the AID money to foreign countrys and CALL YOUR SENATORS + CONGRESSMAN. Tell them you prohibit them from giving your tax dollars to foreign countrys.Tell them if they dont listen to you,they wont get your vote.

Posted by nhfisherman | Report as abusive

Islam is intolerant to criticism and this has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history. It is most evident in the recent past as demonstrated by fatwa’s against the Danish cartoonist who drew your mighty prophet followed by attempts on his life by peace-loving Muslims. The “religion of peace” is responsible for virtually all terrorist attacks of today.

Even the most tolerant countries like Sweden and Denmark are realizing that Islamists will not treat them like in the same inviting and accepting manner that they have been accepted into western society.

Most immigrants are grateful for having the privilege of being accepted into such a society, but the Islamists turn back and join jihadists, donate money to their causes and further the destruction of the very countries that took them in. It is time to stop immigration of Islamists.

Their hypocrisy of peace has been evident for centuries but they still continue to insist that they are peace-loving.

Posted by 3sCompany | Report as abusive