Mind of a Jehadi

30 05 2008

Mind of a Jehadi

By Amir Mir

(Appeared in Tehelka)

AL QAEDA chief Osama bin Laden has made jihad more central than ever before, sparking new global waves of inspiration to youth ready to give their all for the fight that he has come to symbolize. So blinded, often, is the commitment of the jihadi to the cause that those confronted with them are at a loss for counter-strategies.

He could be a dyed-in-the-wool product of a remote madarsa, bearded, aloof and intent on his purpose of establishing the Empire of the Faith. Or he could be a denim-clad graduate from a Western campus, modern to all intents and appearances, but equally single-minded in determination as his counterpart from the madarsa. He may have been part of the West and benefited from what it has to offer, but he also sees the “ills and injustices of its materialism, its determination to foist on the world an order and ethos it has created”; he is determined to fight it. As Giles Kepel, the leading French authority on Islamists, puts it in his important study, The War For Muslim Minds: “Al Qaeda was (and is) less a military base of operations than a database that connected jehadists around the world via the Internet… this organisation did not consist of buildings and tanks and borders but of websites, clandestine financial transfers and a proliferation of activists ranging from Jersey City to the paddies of Indonesia.”

In the final analysis, the jehadi is the same person, whether he comes from an ill-equipped madarsa or an affluent university, whether he comes from the poverty of the Orient or from the plenty of the West. He celebrates death in the service of Islam and resolutely believes that death in the service of the only cause worth serving is a one-way ticket to heaven. His biggest disagreement with the modern concept of democracy is that he does not believe religion is the private affair of a person but rather a complete way of life that necessarily includes politics.

Islam is his religion and his nation; it transcends boundaries, ethnicities, colour, creed and race. He rejects secularism and any social order other than that defined by Islam. He believes that Allah alone ——” is the sovereign and His commandments are the supreme taw of man. Of course, the theoretical reason why Islam had asked its followers to wage jehad was to create an egalitarian social order where the poor and the vulnerable would be treated with respect and dignity.

Jehad (struggle) never exclusively meant a holy war; it could have been a social, political, economic campaign as well. It was a fight against inequality, social injustice and discrimination. But today jehad has but one dimension — Kital, or violent struggle. And it has but one icon: Osama bin Laden, embattled with the Great West to establish the domination of his own realm of faith.

The mind of an Islamic terrorist is difficult for a non-Muslim to comprehend. What could lead a person to cause his or her own violent death is a question that is frequently raised. It is contrary to every human emotion that we have. Yet, we know there are hundreds of Islamic fundamentalists who are wilting to kill and be killed for Allah. An important reason is the promise that the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords.

According to most leading Muslim scholars here, personally, spirituality, politically, intellectually and emotionally, the questions that an Islamic fundamentalist faces are stark indeed. Personally, he asks himself if he loves Allah more than his own life? Spiritually, he asks whether or not he is willing to sacrifice himself in Allah’s cause against the Shaytan’s power and the infidel’s military forces? Politically, he divides the nations of the world into two warring camps. The nations under Islamic rule are termed, the Land of Peace (Dar al-lslam) while the remaining nations are called the Land of War (Dar al-Harb). Intellectually, the answers to those questions are crystal clear to him. Emotionally, his only hurdle is the fear of death. Once this emotional fear is conquered, the person joyfully takes up the sword to kill and be killed in Allah’s cause, anticipating his entrance into the gates of heavenly Paradise. Thus, martyrdom is the only assured path to Paradise.





Mind of a Jehadi

30 05 2008

Mind of a Jehadi

By Amir Mir

(Appeared in Tehelka)

AL QAEDA chief Osama bin Laden has made jihad more central than ever before, sparking new global waves of inspiration to youth ready to give their all for the fight that he has come to symbolize. So blinded, often, is the commitment of the jihadi to the cause that those confronted with them are at a loss for counter-strategies.

He could be a dyed-in-the-wool product of a remote madarsa, bearded, aloof and intent on his purpose of establishing the Empire of the Faith. Or he could be a denim-clad graduate from a Western campus, modern to all intents and appearances, but equally single-minded in determination as his counterpart from the madarsa. He may have been part of the West and benefited from what it has to offer, but he also sees the “ills and injustices of its materialism, its determination to foist on the world an order and ethos it has created”; he is determined to fight it. As Giles Kepel, the leading French authority on Islamists, puts it in his important study, The War For Muslim Minds: “Al Qaeda was (and is) less a military base of operations than a database that connected jehadists around the world via the Internet… this organisation did not consist of buildings and tanks and borders but of websites, clandestine financial transfers and a proliferation of activists ranging from Jersey City to the paddies of Indonesia.”

In the final analysis, the jehadi is the same person, whether he comes from an ill-equipped madarsa or an affluent university, whether he comes from the poverty of the Orient or from the plenty of the West. He celebrates death in the service of Islam and resolutely believes that death in the service of the only cause worth serving is a one-way ticket to heaven. His biggest disagreement with the modern concept of democracy is that he does not believe religion is the private affair of a person but rather a complete way of life that necessarily includes politics.

Islam is his religion and his nation; it transcends boundaries, ethnicities, colour, creed and race. He rejects secularism and any social order other than that defined by Islam. He believes that Allah alone ——” is the sovereign and His commandments are the supreme taw of man. Of course, the theoretical reason why Islam had asked its followers to wage jehad was to create an egalitarian social order where the poor and the vulnerable would be treated with respect and dignity.

Jehad (struggle) never exclusively meant a holy war; it could have been a social, political, economic campaign as well. It was a fight against inequality, social injustice and discrimination. But today jehad has but one dimension — Kital, or violent struggle. And it has but one icon: Osama bin Laden, embattled with the Great West to establish the domination of his own realm of faith.

The mind of an Islamic terrorist is difficult for a non-Muslim to comprehend. What could lead a person to cause his or her own violent death is a question that is frequently raised. It is contrary to every human emotion that we have. Yet, we know there are hundreds of Islamic fundamentalists who are wilting to kill and be killed for Allah. An important reason is the promise that the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords.

According to most leading Muslim scholars here, personally, spirituality, politically, intellectually and emotionally, the questions that an Islamic fundamentalist faces are stark indeed. Personally, he asks himself if he loves Allah more than his own life? Spiritually, he asks whether or not he is willing to sacrifice himself in Allah’s cause against the Shaytan’s power and the infidel’s military forces? Politically, he divides the nations of the world into two warring camps. The nations under Islamic rule are termed, the Land of Peace (Dar al-lslam) while the remaining nations are called the Land of War (Dar al-Harb). Intellectually, the answers to those questions are crystal clear to him. Emotionally, his only hurdle is the fear of death. Once this emotional fear is conquered, the person joyfully takes up the sword to kill and be killed in Allah’s cause, anticipating his entrance into the gates of heavenly Paradise. Thus, martyrdom is the only assured path to Paradise.





Ahilyabai Holkar:A Magnificent Ruler, Saintly Administrator

30 05 2008

Courtesy: Manushi

India has had many female rulers, warrior women and poet queens, but Ahilyabai Holkar commands more affection and respect for her accomplishments during her 30-year-long reign than any other does. She was noted for her piety, for her administrative ability, for her keen interest in all her people and for an extraordinary amount of building at holy sites all over the country. Her rule of Malwa in the 18th century is still cited as a model of benevolent and effective government. Ahilyabai was born in 1725 in the village of Chondi, in Bhid district, Maharashtra. Her father, Mankoji Shinde, was the patil of the village, a member of the proud Dhangar community. Women then did not go to school, but Ahilyabai’s father taught her to read and write. Her mother also seems to have been a well-read and pious woman. Her entrance on to the stage of history was something of an accident: Malhar Rao Holkar, a commander in the service of the Peshwa Bajirao and lord of the Malwa territory, stopped in Chondi on his way to Pune and, according to legend, saw the eight-year-old Ahilyabai at the temple service in the village. Recognising her piety and her character, he brought the girl to the Holkar territory as a bride for his weak son, Khande Rao. Ahilyabai’s husband was killed in battle in 1754. Twelve years later, her father-in-law, Malhar Rao died. From 1766 until her death in 1795, she ruled Malwa, trained in both administrative and military matters by Malhar Rao. A letter to her from Malhar Rao in 1765 illustrates the trust he had in her ability during the tempestuous battle for power in the 18th century: “Proceed to Gwalior after crossing the Chambal. You may halt there for four or five days. You should keep your big artillery and arrangeforits ammunition as much as possible….On the march you should arrange for military posts being located for protection of the road.” Already trained to be a ruler, Ahilyabai petitioned the Peshwa after Malhar’s death, and the death of her son, to take over the administration herself. Some in Malwa objected to her assumption of rule, but the army of Holkar was enthusiastic about her leadership. She had led them in person, with four bows and quivers of arrows fitted to the corners of the howdah of her favourite elephant. The Peshwa granted permission, and, with Tukoji Holkar (not a relative) as the head of military matters, she proceeded to rule Malwa in a most enlightened manner, even reinstating a Brahmin who had opposed her. Ahilyabai never observed purdah but held daily public audience and was always accessible to anyone who needed her ear. The administrator and historian, Sir John Malcolm wrote most enthusiastically about her abilities some 40 years after her death: “Her first principle of government appears to have been moderate assessment, and an almost sacred respect for the native rights of village officers and proprietors of land. She heard every complaint in person; and although she continually referred cases to courts of equity and arbitration, and to her ministers for settlement, she was always accessible. So strong was her sense of duty on all points connected with the distribution of justice, that she is represented as not only patient but unwearied in the investigation of the most insignificant cases, when appeals were made to her decision.” A contemporary American historian, Stewart Gordon, adds that a definite proof of her ability as a ruler was that her territories in Malwa were not attacked or disrupted by local battles during her reign, in spite of wars all around. According to Gordon, “Ahilyabai had one of the most stable reigns of the 18th century.” And Malcolm adds that she kept, almost to the man, the same set of ministers and administrators throughout her reign. Among Ahilyabai’s accomplishments was the development of Indore from a small village to a prosperous and beautiful city; her own capital, however, was in nearby Maheshwar, a town on the banks of the Narmada river. She also built forts and roads in Malwa, sponsored festivals and gave donations for regular worship in many Hindu temples. Outside Malwa, she built dozens of temples, ghats, wells, tanks and rest-houses across an area stretching from the Himalayas to pilgrimage centres in South India. The Bharatiya Sanskritikosh lists as sites she embellished, Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri. Ahilyabai also rejoiced when she saw bankers, merchants, farmers and cultivators rise to levels of affluence, but did not consider that she had any legitimate claim to any of that wealth, be it through taxes or feudal right. She must, in fact, have financed all her activities with the lawful gains obtained from a happy and prosperous land. There are many stories of her care for her people. She helped widows retain their husbands’ wealth. She made sure that a widow was allowed to adopt a son; in fact, in one instance, when her minister refused to allow the adoption unless he was suitably bribed, she is said to have sponsored the child herself, and given him clothes and jewels as part of the ritual. To honour the memory of Ahilyabai Holkar, in 1996 leading citizens of Indore instituted an award in her name to be bestowed annually on an outstanding public figure. The then prime minister of India gave away the first award to Nanaji Deshmukh. The only time Ahilyabai seems not to have been able to settle a conflict peacefully and easily was in the case of the Bhils and Gonds, “plunderers” on her borders; but she granted them waste hilly lands and the right to a small duty on goods passing through their territories. Even in this case, according to Malcolm, she did give “considerate attention to their habits”. Ahilyabai’s capital at Maheshwar was the scene of literary, musical, artistic and industrial enterprise. She entertained the famous Marathi poet, Moropant and the shahir, Anantaphandi from Maharashtra, and also patronised the Sanskrit scholar, Khushali Ram. Craftsmen, sculptors and artists received salaries and honours at her capital, and she even established a textile industry in the city of Maheshwar. One of her old retainers told Malcolm the facts of her daily life: She rose an hour before daybreak to say prayers. Then she had scriptures read to her, distributed alms and gave food to a number of Brahmins. Her breakfast, as indeed all her meals, was vegetarian. After breakfast, she prayed again, and then took a short rest. From two to six she was in her durbar; after religious exercises and a light meal, she again attended to business from nine to eleven. Her life was marked by prayer, abstinence and work, with religious fasts, festivals and public emergencies affording the only change in this routine. Her devotion was to Shiva, although she respected all religions. “Shri Shankara” appeared on all royal proclamations along with her signature. In spite of all that is known about the warrior queen and all that she has left behind—timeless testimonies of her imagination and beneficence—she has not, in my opinion, been given the recognition that she rightfully deserves. Visitors to Varanasi know of the golden domed temple of Vishvanath, Lord of the World, in the heart of the city. Pilgrims headed for Pandharpur, a major sacred site in Maharashtra, go a little further along the same route to Mangalvadhe, to a place called Gopalpur, a large endowment for religious travellers. Both are part of Ahilyabai’s building and charitable legacy. It is said that she even repaired the road from Varanasi to Calcutta, as well as other routes to sites of pilgrimage. Historians of the 19th and 20th centuries—Indian, English and American—agree that the reputation of Ahilyabai Holkar in Malwa and Maharashtra was then, and is, even now, that of a saint. Nothing has ever been discovered by any researcher to discredit that. She was truly a magnificent woman, an able ruler and a great queen.

Eleanor Zelliott
Manushi, Issue 124 (May-June 2001)





Leftist-Islamist alliance in South Asia

30 05 2008

Amitabh Tripathi

Victory of Maoists in Nepal has two reactions in India. One which portray this victory as an opportunity for Indian government to pursue Nexalites in India to join mainstream and follow the path of their Nepali counterpart.

According to second reaction victory of Maoists in Nepal is going to deteriorate the security interests of Indian and Indian government should work hard to crush Maoist insurgency in Nepal as well preventing Maoists to make king of Nepal irrelevant in political context.

The most dangerous sign which people in Indian media have shown is that they are pleading for Maoists and it has some serious implications as well reasons. Indian media in general and print in particular has dominance of people who are indoctrinated with Leftist ideology and most of them were activists of Left in their college period. They belong to that period when Marxism was fashion for intellectuals and college campuses were full of these people. In India since 1989 social and political change took place. After Economic reform was initiated and some drastic changes came in existence at economic level it has some impact on society as well. In the mean time surgence of Hindu forces was witnessed and leftist ideology sidelined.

After demolition of Babri structure in Ayodhya in 1992 leftists collaborated with several anti Hindu forces in the name of secularism and in this composition they don’t have more say but were surviving in any way.

After 2000 situation has changed to some extent and social division of have’s and have’s not has come in debate again and it has given a chance to leftist to curse American policies as well some agencies as responsible for all this. In Indian context this development is very important because social disparity has created a vacuum in society and provided an opportunity for any organization to woo have-not’s to their side and Naxalites in India exploited this situation in very shrewd manner. They are active in remote part of India which is very poor, illiterate and geographically scattered and made of hills and forests. Because of its geographical conditions these areas are very much terrorism prone.

Two years back I journeyed one of Naxal effected area named Chhatisgarh and met with some Naxalites. They have clear edge on security forces because of geographical structure but most important thing is that Naxalites working on parallel political and social system. They have their own school in which they not only teach children of tribal but also give financial assistance to their parents. I have a chance to visit their schools also they have their text books and these text books teach that Hindus in India are in alliance with imperialistic America and we have to fight both communal and imperialistic forces because both are two faces of same coin. They talk about a new world order where there will be no disparity and there is equality. They also publish a magazine called Mukti Maarg [way of salvation]. In this magazine they have mobilized those writers and acamecians who have left inclination. Islamists also talk of new world order based on Qur’an and shriyat and both ideologies support repression and violence to achieve their goal.

This theme has also been adopted by Islamists in India against Hindu forces as well as America. This is a common point where Islamists and leftists in India come close to each other. After victory of Maoists in Nepal left academia and establishment in Indian see a chance of resurgence of communism in global perspective and this is the reason why they are pursuing Indian people and government to hail the victory of Maoists and take it as a golden opportunity to take Naxalites back in mainstream.

I want to draw your attention on one more important point about which nobody has discussed but it has serious implications on both India and America. In India leftists have very limited electoral appeal and they are confined to only three states West Bengal, Keral and Tripura and in other states their presence is negligible. In new scenario they are thinking about their resurgence with help of Naxalites. Naxalites have big presence in more than 100 districts of India with states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, TamilNadu, Jharkhnd, Chhatisgarh, Andhra Pradesh. In these states they have more influence in some pockets. When two years back I visited Chhatisgarh and met with some Naxalites and their sympathizers I was told to have a close look on the developments of Nepal and told me about their plan that when they would be able to brought down system of Nepal and construct it with their plan they will sharpen their movement in India. These sympathizers of Naxalites are almost activists of Communists parties in India and with support of Naxalites and intimidation these sympathizers have a plan to broaden the electoral power of Communists in India.

As earlier I said growth of Naxalites in India have some effect on America also. After 911 we have witnessed several left ideologues overtly supporting Islamists but in India new nexus is building and leftists and Islamists have common enemy in India in the name of Hindu and America. If this nexus will get strength in India and south Asia finally it would damage America and West as well.

Four years back In India there were several people in Media with liberal-left inclination who were saying that Al Qaeda has launched a war against America and India has not to worry because Osama Bin Laden has said nothing against India. It was mischievous misrepresentation of facts. These are the people who want to see the victory of communist ideology at any cost and even they don’t hesitate to make an alliance with Islamists for this cause. Victory of Maoists in Nepal has emboldened leftists in India and they are dreaming of the resurgence of communism.

To counter this growing trend we have to take some initiatives. A parallel nationalist socialist movement should be promoted in India to fill the vacuum of dissatisfied people which ultimately culminates in strong anti imperialistic movement. Once nationalist socialist movement will take place Naxalites have no chance to woo dissatisfied people to their side. This is also true with Chinese hegemony in Asia. Coalition government in India of Congress and Left have some common agenda and congress is eyeing for next 10 years to stay in power. President of Congress Party Mrs Sonia Gandhi grooming her son Rahul Gandhi to hold the post of premiership for next 10 years. To make this happen Congress has to rely heavily on Left parties and this is why congress has adopted the policy of submission to leftists and Islamist. In this situation Indian government in near future is going to embolden the Islamist and leftist forces.

Taking into account the global scenario Indian and American interest has become very much common at least at strategic level. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and China could come close with a block in near future and it would have security implications for India. Nexus of Red green alliance as Dr Richard Benkin has predicted could become reality in South Asia. To prevent this India and America should come together and America should consider Hindu nationalists as their ally.





Challenges in extremist-hit areas

30 05 2008

22 May, 2008, 0000 hrs IST, TNN

Growth feeds democracy — this is the essence of the strategy of inclusive growth, in contrast to the conventional wisdom on the Left that growth and prosperity are achieved by preying upon the common people. A recent expert group report on Naxalite violence submitted to the Planning Commission echoes the philosophy of inclusive growth. This is welcome.

But the report presents development essentially as an administrative task, to be carried out by the government through wise policy, sound planning, enlightened legislation and honest implementation. What this leaves out is the political essence of the process of development.

The Planning Commission appointed a 17-member committee, including three former police chiefs and senior administrators, along with social scientists and human rights activists, to submit a report on development challenges in extremist-affected areas.

The committee’s report is available on the Planning Commission’s website. The report calls for departing from a security-centric view of tackling naxalite violence. This is a refreshing break from the mainstream approach to the problem. However, the report can be faulted for not offering a radical enough vision of what is possible when it comes to emancipation of the oppressed.
The fault, in turn, stems from inadequate appreciation of the changes that globalisation has heralded and its immense potential to change lives for the better, particularly for those at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. One crucial change is that the world is awash with savings. Investible resources are available in plenty. What is scarce is availability of profitable avenues for their deployment — the sub-prime crisis shows what happens when unregulated greed mediates the mismatch between bounteous supplies of capital and a paucity of sensible investment opportunities.

And one consequence of this abundance of investible resources is that primitive accumulation of capital, through dispossession and loot, is no longer necessary for businesses to commence and flourish. Try telling the farmers of Singur or the those being evicted from their land for the Posco project this nice story about the historical obsolescence of primitive accumulation of capital, some might sneer. True, dispossession and loot do often take place, but these are far from necessary today.

Another facet of globalised growth that needs to be fully internalised in development thought is its enormous potential for wealth creation, provided people are integrated into the global production process.

Following from this is the need to carry out enormous, sustained research into strategies of creating proactive roles for the rural poor in the process of urbanisation and industrialisation.

The simple point is that it is not enough to give those displaced by new projects from their traditional land and occupations a package of relief and rehabilitation based on the current market value of the land they lose or occupations they give up.

That land use will change extensively across India has to be accepted and welcomed, if India is to build the new roads, railways towns, factories, mines, power plants, ports and airports that would create new prosperity. Millions of people will be uprooted from their traditional habitats, physical as well as economic. It is not enough to offer them ‘compensation’ linked to the current market value of what they lose. Those categorised today as ‘project-affected’ must be transformed into stakeholders in the project. This calls for concerted efforts in skills creation, creating new companies or cooperatives of the ‘project-affected’ to carry out essential services for the new project such as transportation services, construction, maintenance, etc.

But all this cannot happen, merely on account of enlightened policy. The first precondition for any pro-poor policy to work is political mobilisation of the poor, so that they have agency, a sense of entitlement and the will to enforce their rights. This cannot come from government schemes or better planning or honest administrators. Voluntary organisations can help. But there is no substitute for the intervention of a political party with the right vision, when it comes to political mobilisation.

Even today, we read reports of six-year-old girls being thrown into the fire for the crime of overstepping their Dalit boundaries and daring to walk on a road frequented by upper caste Thakurs. Scheduled caste panchayat presidents dare not assume office in some parts of the country. Tribal people are cheated, their lands are sold, they themselves are sold by their social superiors. Such violence and oppression feed the naxalite movement in this country.

Policing can tackle the core activists who preach and practise violence as the only solution. But unless redemptive politics removes the grounds for rural violence, mere policing will only breed more violence.





An ostrich mentality

30 05 2008

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=115304

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ikram Sehgal

Whenever the economy is in trouble, central banks the world over take measures to ease pressures on the business community by lowering discount rates, as done recently by the US Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England. Intervention is normally anathema to “free market” theory but the fear of a domino effect on the economy evoked a rescue effort. Raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy does fight inflation. In Third World countries with large blue-collar workforces fighting unemployment must be the moral objective. This is at variance with IMF practices and beliefs. While inflation lowers the buying power of salaries, it is still preferable to be employed and have some food on the table for the family than not have any money to buy food.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has woken up from years of slumber, raising the discount rate and banking charges. And that is meant to control inflation? Manufacturers and merchants will simply pass the rate rises onto the consumers, the common man has had it. Did Governor Shamshad Akhtar consult the government-in-power, what will the PPP answer to the populace? She should have anticipated the rise in inflation. The last SBP Quarterly Report was oblivious to it. Lack of anticipation also failed to prevent a run on the Pakistani rupee and enact pre-emptive measures when the world economic situation was staring us in the face for months. The US dollar was already taking a pounding because of oil prices, and food shortages worldwide were front page news. While the sudden SBP frenzy is not by itself responsible for the stock market downturn, it is certainly a contributing factor. Her recent “Asia Banker” award notwithstanding, is Dr Akhtar up to facing national economic crisis on this scale?

There are signs we may weather the “atta” crisis because of (1) early measures regulating the internal flow (2) reducing smuggling to Afghanistan (3) a bumper wheat crop expected shortly and (4) staggered wheat imports for bolstering buffer stocks. Despite protests from the NWFP and Balochistan, we must keep on hanging tough about internal movement of wheat and atta stocks while keeping supply pipelines open. Why are we being generous in giving Hamid Karzai 50,000 tons of wheat when he badmouths us all the time?

The US is impatient with the peace initiatives in FATA and Swat. While one must not negotiate with terrorists, we must differentiate between terrorists and militants. Those crossing the border into Afghanistan are mostly militants but could also be “equal opportunity” terrorists, Baitullah Mahsud’s forays reaching innocents in cities and towns deep inside Pakistan. Since he has publicly boasted about sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan, with what credibility do we oppose “hot pursuit” and Predator strikes on locations in FATA’s terrorist-infested areas? The unfortunate Catch-22, further radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. Both the US and Pakistani interest lie in stopping militant activity on either side of the border, with Mahsud’s terrorists faction isolated from other militants. This fine balancing act is a calculated risk, requiring both understanding and patience from the US. Incidentally our media are accessories to murder, giving media time to terrorists. Pakistan’s must be the only fourth estate in the world that helps spread the terrorist message of hate and suicide bombings. We must act more responsibly, the blood of innocents pays for the media space given to terrorists.

Maulana Fazlullah and his “holy army” in Swat terrorised the local population, imposing brutal authority with great savagery in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. They had to be militarily eliminated; this was done in brilliant fashion by the Army. Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, has been in government custody since returning from Afghanistan (of his own choice for self-survival because he got his “volunteers” slaughtered by the Coalition air strikes and Northern Alliance during the short, sharp Afghanistan war post 9/11). Rashid Dostum buried thousands of surviving Pakistanis, handed over by Mullah Dadullah in Konduz during Ramzan in 2001 for his own freedom and that of his Afghan followers, alive in containers in Shebergan. Estranged from Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah took over the TSNM during his absence. The ANP government in the NWFP acted pragmatically in releasing Sufi Mohammad and entering into a peace deal with him to counter Fazlullah’s residual influence.

Trying to push the 62-clause Constitutional package through Parliament in one go is not advisable, some points will likely get short shrift. Can the PPP muster a two-thirds majority? Even in a joint session of Parliament the numbers don’t add up! The major stumbling block is the proposal to reduce the Chief Justice’s tenure to three years, making him retire before he becomes active, in effect the “minus one” formula. The president will hardly agree to giving away his powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner and the services chiefs.

We should not allow Musharraf-specific emotion and prejudice overwhelm our good judgment, Article 58 (2) (b) and the National Security Council (NSC) should be retained. Without these the Armed Forces would have to declare martial law (thus committing treason technically) when the situation spins totally out of control. Any presidential move should be qualified, if imposing 58 2(b) fails due judicial scrutiny, the president should resign. The appointment of the services chiefs should not be politicised in the manner Mian Nawaz Sharif did when he was prime minister. Even though Musharraf certainly had merit, two course-mates senior to him, Ali Quli and Khalid Nawaz, had no less. The choice of Musharraf was political for Mian Sahib’s own personal benefit, it rebounded in his face. The president should forward three choices to the prime minister for public scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee. If their recommendations are in variance to his, the president should consult with the prime minister and the committee. The same process can be followed for the post of the chief justice, as well as for the CEC.

When denials to outlandish rumours without any foundation are not handled professionally, the perception will be “the lady doth protest too much,” as my good friend and colleague Kamran Shafi has duly noted. The ISI’s political cell undercuts (in public perception) the Army’s firm (and welcome) resolve to stay away from politics. Col Skorzeny, Germany’s “Commando Extraordinary” during World War 2 had it right when he said, “Politics is the soldier’s curse!” Deviation from the ISI’s primary mission is not only a waste of public money, time and effort, it undermines this national asset’s tremendous potential (and successes) in keeping the country secure from external dangers, demeaning the achievement of the vast majority of the agency’s magnificent rank and file who get a bad name simply by association.

With its political wing transferred lock, stock and barrel to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI must be actually (not theoretically) under the prime minister’s control. Rather than honestly facing unpalatable facts, this country excels in burying its head in the ground and circumventing the truth as they did in 1971. For the sake of the country we profess to love, stand up and be counted, instead of continuing to put our heads in the ground and closing our eyes and ears to existing realities.

We do not need an ostrich mentality!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder 9.com





The unseemly politics of terrorism in India (Commentary)

25 05 2008

The unseemly politics of terrorism in India (Commentary)

May 25th, 2008
Courtesy: thaindian.com

By K. Subrahmanyam
Following the Jaipur terror blasts resulting in over 60 deaths, there is an intense debate in the country on how to deal with terrorism. As is very characteristic of the political culture of this country, this outrage, instead of bringing our political parties together in a united effort to fight terrorism, has led to mutual recrimination. This would give a great deal of comfort and encouragement to the trans-national and intra-national terrorist organisations that target this country. The debate is about the policies towards terrorists advocated by different parties, the laws available to counter them, the jurisdiction of various central and state agencies, adequacies and capabilities of organisations at centre and states etc. All these are very legitimate issues needing to be debated constructively. Instead of using those arguments to score points against political rivals there is an imperative need for political parties to get into a meaningful dialogue among themselves.

Contrast the behaviour of Indian political parties with that of parties in other mature democracies such as the US, Britain and European Union countries. In no other country claiming to be a democracy do we see as much acrimony in facing what is recognised as a national threat. This is the situation in a country that has been engaged in fighting terrorism for well over a quarter of a century.

This calls for a serious introspection among our people, academia, media and politicians on the basic features of our society and political culture that makes this country so vulnerable to terrorism and so difficult to unify in countering it.

Though the UN may not have succeeded in formulating an agreed definition of terrorism, there is commonly accepted definition largely acceptable to the social scientists. Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies often to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives.

While explosions like those in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Malegaon, Bangalore and Varanasi are recognised as terrorist acts, the killing of people during the election violence (as in West Bengal recently) has been happening routinely and is not considered as terrorism for some inexplicable reasons. Similarly, when civilians are killed in ‘bandhs’ called by political parties, they are also not described as terrorism.

But since terrorism is violence or threatened violence against people and property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious or ideological purposes, in fact all such violence should be treated as terrorism. Further, when the presiding officer of a legislature is prevented from discharging his legal duties by members storming into the Well of the house or through various moves such as shouting, that too amounts to violence to intimidate the presiding officer to achieve political objectives.

In other words, the behaviour of legislators amount to terrorism. One does not see such behaviour of parliamentary terrorism, bandh terrorism and electoral terrorism in other mature democracies. It is submitted here that all these categories of terrorism form a continuum and to arrive at the place and role of religious extremist terrorism, one must look at the whole spectrum of terrorism.

When parliamentary terrorism, bandh terrorism and electoral terrorism are tolerated by the majority in the country, that too often in the name of democracy, freedom, right to protest — all of which are permissible only if violence is scrupulously avoided — then some others push the envelope further and resort to political, religious and ideological terrorism.

It must also be clear that violence does not necessarily mean inflicting bodily harm to another person. It also means preventing and intimidating the other person’s legitimate freedom of action or legal functions. Preventing the presiding officer from discharging his legitimate duties by slogan shouting and storming the Well of the house are clear cases of violence. Stopping traffic on roads and compelling shopkeepers to shut down through intimidation are also acts of violence. They are being undertaken for political, ideological or religious purposes. Therefore they are all acts of terrorism.

While in some other parts of the world it has been argued that one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, it would appear in India that one man’s terrorism is projected as another person’s legitimate democratic political activity: Often it becomes a matter of double standard that one’s own terrorism is permissible political activity the other person’s is not.

Which decent democracy will need hundreds and thousands of police and paramilitary personnel will be required to guard the elementary right in democracy — voting in the election — to be exercised? We take pride that the country has held successive free and fair elections under such conditions of strict policing to avoid largescale political terrorism being resorted to by our political parties. Our Election Commission is not in a position to assure our people that they will be in a position to hold a one-day poll all over the country without terrorist violence resorted to by political parties. There is yet no sense of shame or remorse among our political parties on this kind of political culture nurtured in this democracy.

In other genuine democratic countries, it is easier for security services to gather intelligence about preparations to resort to terrorism from the common citizen since such activities involving potential violence will be an aberration in the society. In India there is no rapport between the common citizen and the police force as the latter has been politicised and made an instrumentality of the ruling party.

Secondly, given the Indian political culture where local dons turn into ‘netas’ and often enjoy political power and patronage, the common citizen is not willing to take the risk of communicating to the police or security services such aberrant activities.

The politicians themselves have denigrated the reputation of the police and security services with their charges that all cases against political persons are foisted ones at the instigation of the parties in power. We have situations in which political dons are able to run their criminal empires dealing with extortion (which invariably involves terrorism) from jail cells.

While terrorism is a specific threat in other democracies, in India it is part of our present political culture. In these circumstances it is difficult to expect terrorism of the Jaipur, Bombay, Hyderabad type to be overcome before the country is able to cleanse our parliament of the scourge and to a significant extent our electoral process. But there is not even adequate awareness in the country about the nature of terrorism that is afflicting the country.

It is extremely unlikely the present generation of senior political leaders can be expected to be de-conditioned from their mindsets that accept terrorism of certain categories as part of politics. It is now up to the civil society to bring about a basic change in the perception of our politicians.

(K. Subrahmanyam is India’s pre-eminent analyst on strategic and international affairs. He can be contacted at ksubrahmanyam51@gmail.com)