26 November 2006

"The true face of Jehadis: Inside Pakistan's network of terror" by Amir Mir

Several Pakistanis have written courageously critical analysis of intolerant dictatorships and terrorism in Pakistan.

Hassan Abbas’s book “Pakistan’s drift into extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s war on terror” and Hussain Haqani’s book “Pakistan between Mosque and Military” are two good examples. So are Tariq Ali’s “Clash of Fundamemntalism” and “Jehad and Modernity”.

However, Hassan Abbas and Hussain Haqani were part of Pakistan’s politics and policy for a while and have written their books from the safe shores of United States. Tariq Ali wrote his books from the free and safe environment of England. (To be fair to Tariq, the man who inspired Rolling Stones to write their song “street fighting man”, he was critical of Pakistan even when he lived in Pakistan; but his family moved him to the UK for higher education and his years in Oxford have only rendered him a more balanced and more respected critic. Yet his best books were written when he was in the UK).

Amir Mir is different. He lives in Pakistan. He is no politician and has the reputation of being Pakistan’s leading investigative journalist. It is quite difficult for Amir Mir to be honest without fear of reprisal – by the State, by the power brokers or by the offended terrorists. It is difficult to “not belong” in Pakistan. Imagine if its Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had to swear in public that he was instructed in his childhood by a certified orthodox Sunni cleric to avoid the dangerous allegation of being a Shiite.

Amir Mir’s courage in writing this critical analysis of Pakistan’s network of terror while living in Pakistan is a vindication of his love for his country.

Elected prime ministers as well as Military dictators are influenced by “public opinion”. One conforms to it to win popularity. Another conforms to it for “legitimacy”. Public opinion in Pakistan hovers around "religion" and "Kashmir".

The Jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan ended up empowering the “religious right” as a major influence of public opinion in Pakistan. The religious right used zakat funds to harvest a crop of fighters willing to die for pet causes. United States was myopic to believe communism is worth thwarting using communalism. Pakistan’s ISI provided the institutional framework to assemble all this together and execute the objectives.

The current Jihad against a wider array of enemies – the United States, Israel, Afghanistan and India is an improved version with a public opinion even more supportive of religious right and intolerant of alternative view points. The State is trying to be a supporter of international opinion in containing terrorism and a supporter of Pakistan public opinion by not overdoing it. End result: an assorted list of small groups, all equipped with very powerful motivation to destroy civilization elsewhere for causes the groups firmly believe are moral and honourable.

Amir Mir provides a mosaic of news about the rise of various terrorist groups, their pet causes, operations etc.

The picture one gets makes one feel sad for Pakistan. Because terrorism has always failed in achieving its objectives and has alienated the vital support of public opinion to causes that otherwise would have been very moral and very supportable. On the other hand, terrorism has rarely failed to suppress quality of life at its point of origin. This is true of almost every theater where terrorism was practised.

Amir Mir is rightly frightened of terrorism’s impact on Pakistan.

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