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The roads to terrorism: From General Zia-ul-Haq to Faisal Shahzad – by Kamila Hyat

What could possibly have possessed Faisal Shahzad, a wealthy, happily married college graduate with two children and everything in life apparently working in his favour, to set out to Times Square and attempt to leave a bomb behind?

His bizarre adventure opens up questions as to the nature of terrorism in our country. It is widely held that militancy is essentially the product of deprivation and the despondency it brings with it. Ajmal Kasab fits classically into this mould. A school drop-out and labourer, with few hopes of moving up in life, Kasab was the ideal target for recruitment by a militant organisation. Such organisations watch out for vulnerable young men everywhere. Smaller towns are a favourite recruitment ground; unemployment aids them immensely in their task. The prospect of possessing a gun is a big temptation for the average, down-and-out 19-year-old. The psychology of this is not hard to understand. But Faisal Shahzad came from the opposite end of the social spectrum. His motives then are something of a mystery and militancy as a phenomenon much harder to understand because of the involvement of young men such as Faisal.

There is, it appears, something within the mindset of Pakistanis – the young in particular – that favours violence and the ideas that are a factor behind militant actions. The years under the late General Ziaul Haq and the disastrous involvement in the Afghan war are of course key factors in creating this mode of thinking. It explains why there is so much support for Aafia Siddiqui and even for the Taliban. While a small number of young people, in the two-decade time span since Zia was killed in the skies over Bahawalpur, have succeeded in breaking out of this mode and are moving towards the more relaxed, more liberal style of life we knew till the 1970s, most have remained trapped in the past and the flawed notions created through the 1980s.

These ideas present a threat. The US secretary of state has made quite clear what the consequences of a terror plot would be for Pakistan. Students fear that obtaining visas will become harder; those already in the US report an increase in hostility from Americans. This is of course hardly surprising. The fact is that the world associates Pakistan firmly with terrorism. Terrorist plots of all kinds seem to emanate in the country and news with an Islamabad dateline frequently features reports about militant activity. The consequences of this have been extremely adverse.

The entrenched mindset that backs militancy is much harder to defeat than the militants themselves. It is possible, in theory at least, that the war against the Taliban may eventually, in purely physical terms, be won. Territory has indeed been wrested back from them in many places in the north-west – even though local people continue to talk of militants finding it easy to escape as little effort is being made to capture key leaders. This of course is alarming. If the nexus between the establishment and the Taliban is not broken now, there is a danger it will never be. After all if attacks on GHQ and the mosque frequented by top army officers in Rawalpindi are not enough to demonstrate what the risks of the current situation are, nothing will achieve this. But even if we assume that the operation that continues in the north-west is indeed intended to eliminate the Taliban we must ask what is being done to erase the trends that lead to individuals such as Faisal Shahzad taking up the Taliban cause.

For now, some debate continues over whether Shahzad acted alone or he had been a part of one of the many militant organisations based in various parts of the country. There are so many of them, with splinters and sub-splinters constantly emerging, that like the Pakistan Muslim League which now features groups with increasingly complex alphabetical equations attached with a hyphen to their names, it has become all but impossible to keep track. The fact that a number of these groups simply changed their names in the wake of bans after 9/11 makes the task still harder. Even veteran journalists keep the acronyms taped to desktops to enable them to identify potential culprits after each new bombing or act of terror. But the question of whether Faisal Shahazad was in some way linked to one of them is largely immaterial. The fact is that he acted along militant lines, evidently because he believed in what they espoused, and this is what is significant.

We need to find ways to alter the mindset that gives rise to acts of the kind seen in New York. It is a fallacy to believe that things have changed since Zia. It is true that we have seen some opening up of society, but with this has come also a hardening of lines. The parallels that can be drawn with Iran in the pre-revolution period are terrifying. It is also a fact that there is much that is deceptive about the new face of Pakistan. Many who would seem to favour liberal values hold views on key issues that fall in line with those of the extremists. Some surveys indicate almost 80 per cent of people believe religion should have a place in political life – even though, encouragingly, such views do not translate into votes for religious or pseudo-religious parties. Obscurantist religious groups, encouraged to establish a hold under Zia, have begun to elbow out the traditional, more relaxed religious orders that emerged in the subcontinent. In practical terms these trends translate into a pattern which leads to tiny schoolgirls and boys being rigged out in scarves or skullcaps and into a religious dimension appearing in the rhymes chanted by children on playgrounds even at elite institutions.

It will take very real political will, indeed a sense of mission, to alter this. At present there seems to be no force capable of undertaking such a task with the required level of commitment or good sense. Even our understanding of quite why we have become the world`s centre for militancy is somewhat obscure – and this leaves open the risk that one day a Pakistani citizen – in Mumbai, in New York, London or elsewhere — will succeed in carrying out some act of terror, plunging us all into still deeper crisis.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

Source: The News, May 13, 2010

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  • This mind set is came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt (syeq Qutub ) was introduce in Pakistan by Moulana Moududi ,50 years ago there were no such thinking in most of the religious Ulema in subcontinent like Mufti Shafi ,Ashraf ali thanwi ,syed Suleman NAdvi etc these ulema never declare “shrait by force ” or supported terrorism .When Today’s Deobandis are transformed to Jamati and Wahbism .because of the influence of Arabs and Jamatis in Afghan war ,Some former ISI and Army generals also follow the same ideology who are supporting Taliban

  • More accurate title would have been “From Jinnah the Direct Action Day terrorist to Faisl Shehazad, Time Sqaure terrorist”
    . LOL!

  • ” Success of Jinnah and Zia in Pakistan and Failure of Others.”

    In view of present scenario, when Pakistan is suffering from violent conflict between Pakistan army and Islamic Fighters and both are cutting throats of each other and killing each other mercilessly, and no one is there to stop them from this bloody madeness, In fact some ethnocentric parties and India are enjoying this bloody film continuously, and are trying to pour more fuel on this fire. In such condition it is the responsibility of Intellectuals of Pakistan to try to stop this blood shed and to analyze the past history of Pakistan and find out that why Pakistan was stable in the era of Quaid-e-Azam and General Zia, and was a most stable and strong country of the region in spite of all adversaries and enemity of British Empire, India and Soviet Union and why it has become so much unstable in the era of General Musharaf and Mr.Zardari in spite of support of World Super power USA,NATO and other nations..
    Pakistan Needs Leader Like Quaid-e-Azam.
    Quaid-e-Azam was a leader who united whole the populations of Muslims of subcontinent on one platform in spite of all their weaknesses due to illiteracy, ethnocentrism, regionalism, provincialism and conspiracies of Indian National Congress and British rulers, From each sentence of his speeches it is evident that he was the most caring and sincere leader for Muslims and for their interests. His speeches are full of words like Muslims, Musalamans and Islam, He very strongly proved that he is a well wisher of Muslims and will never compromise against the best interests of Muslims.
    This was the reason that Muslims of subcontinent have thrown all their differences and were united under his leader ship without any reservation. For the cause of Muslims his family life was destroyed, his sister never married, her daughter was separated from him, For the cause of Muslims he lost his personnel home in Bombay, India, For the cause of Muslims he refused to accept the Premier ship of India and due to his hard work for the Muslims his health was destroyed but till his death he continued to work for welfare of his peoples. These were the characteristics of Quaid-e-Azam due to which even his enemies like him and have praise for him.
    Pakistan Needs Leader Like General Zia-ul-Haq.
    After separation of East Pakistan in 1971 a critical change occurred in the demography of Pakistan and ratio of Muslims Population increased from 85% to 98%.General Zia was the first leader who comprehended this change and used this phenomena for the strength and stability of Pakistan. Due to his apparent commitment with Islam and Muslims, he was able to rule the country like an Iron Man till his death. During his era Pakistan was the Island of piece in whole region, his devotion for Islam and Pakistan made him the most successful ruler of Pakistan, Although he was a military dictator he was having a very effective influence both socially and religiously on people of Pakistan, and people were having trust on him, due to his policies there was no anti state or separation activities except that of Al-Zulfiqar by brother of Mrs.
    Benazir Bhutto.
    Islamization of Society:
    General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization policy also proved to be extremely influential, and has continued to affect the political and sectarian situation in Pakistan till the present day. Zia’s Islamizing policies restored a sense of dignity and religious integrity back to the country.
    There was no extremism and separation movements in the era of Jinnah and there were no Talibans and Extremist in the era of General Zia-ul Haq,

    While recent non-religious and ethnocentric rulers such as Musharaf and Zardari nor have any Ideology and neither have any courage to go in masses and are even unable to control the affairs of the Capital of Pakistan,Islamabad and the city of Rawalpindi where the General Head Quarter of Pakistan Army is located, because these rulers have chronically failed in proving their sincerity with Islam, Muslims and the people of Pakistan ,Which was proved on the day of Death of Benazir Bhutto,when workers and supporters of these non-religious leaders committed each and every crime against the innocent and peaceful citizens of Pakistan, both Musharaf who was in power at that time and Zardari who was the successor of Benazir chronically failed in protecting the assets and citizens from their violent supporters, therefore now how people of Pakistan can support and trust such selfish and deceptive leaders.
    while secular rulers such as Musharaf and Zardari even are not aware with the teachings of Islam,which is a religion of 97% population of Pakistan, how these rogue secular rulers will be able to successfully run the affairs of a country without having any expertise about their religion and sensitivities..

    Industrial Development.
    Although General Zia was supporting Afghan Jihad against Soviet Union his relations with Soviet Union were surprisingly good, and Pakistan Steel Mill in Karachi was completed with the help of Soviet Union. While secular leader like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was using that project as a job bank for members of his party, and other two secular leaders Pervez Musharaf and Zardari were found by courts of Pakistan guilty of abusing and selling this mill less than the price of land of this Mill.
    General Zia greatly favoured egalitarianism and industrialisation. Between 1977 and 1986, the country experienced an average annual growth in the GNP of 6.8%, one of the highest in the world at that time.
    While in the era of Secular leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Pervez Musharaf Pakistan became one of the most poor nation of the world.
    Strengthening Defense of Pakistan.
    Zia brought the Pakistan Army up on modern weaponry using the money that US gave for fighting in Afghanistan- so that in 1986 when Indira Gandhi was ready to invade Pakistan-
    -(Operation Brass Tacks) she was informed as to what waited for her soldiers and she withdrew from the borders. It was his commitment with the nation that he lost his life when observing performance of Abrahm Tank for defense forces.
    In the era of Zia,30 years ago Pakistan was having F-16 fighters,and Pakistan was able to have Nuclear arms. While after 30 years secular leaders like Benazir, Pervez Musharaf and Zardari were unable to gain such fighters but infact capped Pakistan nuclear program and kept Pakistan nuclear scientist under arrest, and were found with allegations of taking bribes and commissions in defense equipment deals such as Augusta submarine from France.

    Collapse of Super Power Soviet Union:
    Due to General Zia support for Afghan Jihad Soviet Union was broken into pieces of more than dozen countries and Pakistan was able to take the revenge of separation of East Pakistan from Soviet Union in which Soviet Union was nakedly involved .
    Due to General Zia policies so many countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia were liberated from the claws of Soviet Union and both East and West Germany were reunited.
    He refused to accept any pressure with reference to Nuclear Program from USA.
    India:
    In the era of General Zia ,India was highly frightened from stability and progress of Pakistan and lost all its credibility and diplomatic respect due to support for Soviet Union for invasion in Afghanistan and Indira Gandhi a foolish leader of India who was involved in aggression and terrorism for taking the advantage of foolish acts of General Yahya Khan in 1971 in East Pakistan , was totally failed in controlling the affairs of East Punjab due to her foolish policies and in fact lost her life in that crisis.
    Service to Humanity:
    In the era of Quaid-e-Azam Millions of Indian refugees took shelter in Pakistan as a safe heaven and in the era of General Zia-ul-Haq three millions Afghan refugees took shelter in Pakistan and Bihai faith religious Minority of Iran,and Rohingya people of Burma were also given shelter in Pakistan.
    While in the era of secular leaders General Yahya Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto,Ten millions citizens in East Pakistan were forced to take shelter in India, and in the era of Musharaf and Zardari millions of Pakistanis were displaced internally in Pakistan, and were also humiliated fby preventing them from going to safer places,and situation is so much alarming that each and every citizen of Pakistan want to flee out of Pakistan in the era of these non religious and secular leaders.
    Success of Jinnah and Zia was witnessed by their smile and satisfaction and their body language while those secular and non religious leaders such as Musharaf, Zardari are having no smile in any of their Photographs their failures are just evident from their faces.
    Reasons for Success of Religious Leaders and Failure of others:
    In this article a comparison has been made between Two Ideologies on one side Pro-Islamic Democratic leader Quaid-e-Azam and another Pro-Islamic Dictator General Zia-ul-Haq have
    been compared with non-religious Democratic leader Mr.Zardari and another non-religious leader Dictator Pervez Musharaf.
    Both pro-Islamic leader ruled the country till their death and also mysteriously Quaid-e-Azam defeated to British Empire and United India,Another pro-Islamic leader Zia-ul-Haq defeated world Super power Soviet Union where as non-religious leaders like Zardari and Pervez Musharaf were even struggling to control and safeguard the capital Islamabad and GHQ in Rawalpindi.

    All success of Quaid-e-Azam and General Zia-ul-Haq were due to trust of Pakistani Nation on them due to their commitment with Islam, Muslims and Pakistan, in proving that commitment both were very proactive while present rulers are devoid of such characteristics, due to which today tribal people who have helped Pakistan in liberating 1/3 of Kashmir, and Mujahideen who helped Pakistan in Afghan Jihad are now attacking Pakistan security forces and national assets.
    Due to Quaid-e-Azam commitment and support for Islam and Muslims,he was able to compete both British Empire a World Super of that time and India second largest country of the world. In the same manner General Zia was able to give the defeat to Soviet Union a world super power, just by sensing the psychology and religious culture of people of Pakistan.
    While recent non-religious and ethnocentric rulers such as Musharaf and Zardari nor have any Ideology and neither have any courage to go in masses and are even unable to control the affairs of the Capital of Pakistan, Islamabad and the city of Rawalpindi where the General Head Quarter of Pakistan Army is located, because these rulers have chronically failed in proving their sincerity with Islam, Muslims and the people of Pakistan ,Which was proved on the day of Death of Benazir Bhutto,when workers and supporters of these non-religious leaders committed each and every crime against the innocent and peaceful citizens of Pakistan, both Musharaf who was in power at that time and Zardari who was the successor of Benazir chronically failed in protecting the assets and citizens from their violent supporters, therefore now how people of Pakistan can support and trust such selfish and deceptive leaders.
    It is the responsibility of world leaders specially western nations to analyze the situation scientifically, because even for Western Nations Jinnah and Zia , were more beneficial while it is quite obvious that Musharaf and Zardari who are just using guns to gain their objective will just fail, and Musharaf already had failed and the situation is highly volatile at present, therefore it is the need of time to encourage those people to come forward who can solve the crisis of Afghanistan and Pakistan peacefully with Ideological Warfare and not with deceptive politics and Guns.
    Written By: Muhammad Akram Khan Niazi.
    Karachi,Pakistan.,
    Email:akrumniazi@hotmail.com