The grief and anguish that swept over India and Pakistan after the Shocking Peshawar Attacks had sparked a faint hope for a united stand against Terrorism by India and Pakistan. But that hope was quashed in less than 48 hours when Anti-Terrorism court of Pakistan granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai Attack.
This has severely disheartened the Indians; especially the families of the victims of the Mumbai attacks, who were expecting co-operation from the Pakistani side in bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai Attack to Justice. While, Pakistan has come strongly against the Taliban in Pakistan, it is also supporting Terrorist activities aimed at neighbouring countries, especially India and Afghanistan.
This duplicity of Pakistan makes us wonder if they have totally lost it. Have they not read the Frankenstein story? As Hillary Clinton had pointed out in reference to Pakistan, “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard”.
It is not that every ordinary Pakistani is a religious zealot who dreams of disintegrating India. It is not even in the interest of Pakistan to have monsters like Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed roam freely around Pakistan fermenting Hatred and religious extremism. So why does Pakistan support these Anti India terrorist organisations like Laskar-e-Toiba and others?
To know the answer to this question we have to delve deeper into Pakistan’s past and understands its complex power structure.
Powerful Independent Army and Its Interests
In 1947 Pakistan was created on the back of an anti India ideology. It was an ideology which saw Pakistan as an Islamic rival to a ‘Hindu’ India. Right from the beginning the perceived threat from a Larger and stronger ‘Hindu’ India dominated the psychic of the Pakistani leadership.
These insecurities, which were further accentuated due to the wars and existing mistrust between the two countries, made the Pakistani Army the most important organisation in Pakistan. Army was seen as the only instrument to ensure the survival of the Pakistani State from Indian ‘Aggression’. Thus from the very beginning , Pakistan, a third world state, started investing a significant amount of its limited resources on its Army.
Gradually the Army emerged as the most powerful and resourceful organisation in Pakistan. The Army started dictating terms to the Civilian leadership and when the civilian government differed, the Army staged military coups. Since the birth of Pakistan, the army had forcefully removed civilian government on four occasions – 1958, 1969, 1977, and 1999.Thus the Pakistani Army is the chief power holder in Pakistan.
To keep on receiving the lion share of the resources and to perpetuate its strong position within Pakistan, the Army depends on the troubled Relation between India and Pakistan. As long as there remains tension and mistrust between India and Pakistan, the Army will remain firmly entrenched in the upper echelons of the Power structure in Pakistan. As such it is against the interest of the Pakistani Army to have a cordial relation with India. And the Army with its dreaded ISI will keep on supporting anti India activities of the Jihadist groups even though they might fight these very Jihadists in their own backyard.
A Partnership between the Army and Islamic Terrorism
Islam is the defining character of Pakistan. Ever since Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, its leaders, civilian or military, have used Islam as a tool to achieve their own interest. Time and again Islam, particularly ‘Threat to Islam’ emanating from India has been used to divert the attention of the dissenting Populace from the issues relating to poor governance, lack of democracy and development. For an ethnically diverse Pakistan, Islam is the only uniting force.
General Zia-ul-Haq had said that “Take Islam out of Pakistan, and make it a secular state; it will collapse” and it still stands true. For the Pakistani elites it was very important to give the religious unity the paramount importance. A Pakistani had to be a Muslim first than a Punjabi or a Bengali or a Pashtun. It was this overwhelming emphasis on religion and suppression of cultural and linguistic identity that triggered the Revolts in East Pakistan against Pakistani rule.
During the genocide in Bangladesh the Army was fanatically supported by the razakars and other Islamic groups. Though the Pakistani Army was eventually routed in Bangladesh by the Indian and Mukti bahini forces, but the Army and Islamic militant organisations were quick to exploit the tumultuous situation that existed in Pakistan after the debacle of 1971.
The defeat of Pakistan overemphasize the need to defend Islam and Pakistan from India. The U.S, shocked to see their ally Defeated by India, a pro soviet state, started shelling out extensive support to Pakistani Army. The Army received more funding and the Islamic organisations got more followers. Soon the Islamists constituted a strong vote bank and every Political Party started appeasing them. Bhutto, who was the Prime Minister then, introduced new Islamic laws. The Ahmedis, a minority sect, were declared to be non-Muslims to satisfy the orthodox Muslims. The Islamists grew in strength and eventually came to form a very large support base for the Army. By that time General Zia ul Haq had dethroned Bhutto and captured power.
Zia knew the importance of Islam to be in power and started implementing new and controversial Islamic laws to win over the support of the Islamic extremist groups and styled himself as the protector of Islam. This was the beginning of a lasting partnership between the Pakistani Army and the Islamic radical groups.
Terrorism as a state policy
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan gave huge impetus to the Islamists and the Army. The Pakistani Army with the active support of Islamic groups was able to organise a large group of ‘freedom fighters’ known as the Mujahedeen. These fighters were indoctrinated in Islamic jehadi ideology. This was the start of militant Islamic Jehad that would plague the world in the years to come. Armed and financed by the U.S, the Mujahedeens were able to defeat the Soviet Army in a war of attrition. The Mujahideen, especially the emerging Taliban became a strategic asset of Pakistani Army.
With help of Pakistan, Taliban soon defeated the other rival groups and established their harsh Islamic rule in Afghanistan. Afghanistan became a backyard of Pakistani Army. The great potential of Islamic terrorism in achieving national interest greatly impressed the Pakistani Army. The Army found a new weapon in Islamic extremism and soon diverted these terrorists to India, their archenemy.The effects of Pakistan sponsored terrorism in India is known to all.
This is how terrorism became an efficient state policy for Pakistan in achieving clandestine ‘national interest’ of ‘bleeding India through thousand cuts’. Just like an efficient weapon system, Islamic terrorism has been deeply integrated into Pakistani Army’s defence mechanism. The ISI had become the secret handler of this weapon and it won’t be easily dissuaded from using it in the future.
The Pakistani elites, especially the army, depend on Islamic terrorism and anti-India activities to keep themselves in power. Even though, with the start of War on terrorism after 9/11, Pakistan was forced to fight against the extremists but they kept close contacts with Jihadi elements. They might fight the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan but at the same time extend support to Taliban in Afghanistan.With the withdrawal of U.S forces from Afghanistan, Pakistani Army would again look to establish ‘strategic depth’ at the cost of Afghan people. And when it comes to terrorist groups that are engaged in anti-India activities, the Pakistani establishment has never really tried to stop them and on the contrary is busy extending further support to the dreaded groups like Laskar-e-Taiba and others.
It is a complex game of deception and covert dealings and the Pakistani Army is a master at it. And in this game it is the common Pakistani people who have to suffer. They have been fed Pakistani state propaganda for years and even the intellectuals live in denial. They have to open their eyes and realise that their country has become the capital of Islamic terrorism. The terrorism that killed their children is also being used by their Army and secret services as a state policy in neighbouring countries. Terrorism as a whole has to be rejected and eradicated in Pakistan. This can only happen when the common people of Pakistan change the internal politics and power structure in their country. The Army and the ISI has to be brought under the firm control of a civilian leadership. The Pakistani people have to rise up and guide the destiny of their own country.
The recent protest by the Pakistanis in front of Lal Mosque is a welcome sign. The Peshawar Attack might have, after all, opened their eyes to the grim reality that exists in their country, or it might very well be my own wishful thinking. I hope it is the former.
By: Avinandan Choudhury
Pakistan Through the Lens of the “Triple A” Theory by Hassan Abbas