Changing Mindset?

Tahir Bhai is very dear to me. Not just because he is a friend and from the same village but also because he is a very learned man and patriotic Pakistani. Although I can hardly agree with any of his analysis, I must say that his sincerity while analyzing the present day situation is beyond doubts. His write-up below was published in two national English dailies. The same article has been published in The News on Sunday with the heading “Changing Mindset” I picked it up for Talkhaba’s readers not because I agree with what he has tried to make us believe but because I want this article should be discussed. I do agree with some parts of this article. The parts to which I agree are in blue font while the points I disagree with are in RED font. My views are bracketed. Before you read the article read this news appeared in Daily Jang Karachi on 25th December 2009, the birthday of founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

 

 There’s less and less support for militants

 TAHIR ALI

 WEEKEND MAGAZINE (December 19 2009): The frequent terror strikes seem to have caused visible shifts in public opinion. Militants and their political supporters are increasingly loosing popular support in the backdrop of an emerging anti-private jihad consensus in the country. But the fact is people are afraid of the invisible enemy and most avoid making open hostile statements against the insurgents for fear of reprisal.  [What is militancy, before that we will have to assess who is our enemy. It’s also hard to believe that all forces fighting our armies and attacking common people are Taliban. A must read article here enlighten us]

And that it is still a long way to go to achieve that terror/retaliation free environment in the country. Analysts say there are several positive signs. The security establishment has shunned its earlier policy of appeasement or support to the militants. Much of the political leadership has also given up its familiar reluctance to act against the militants. [The only ‘positive’ sign that the action by our own army against our own people has been legitimize through elements like Swati Taliban]

Religious-political parties, forced by the heat of anti-extremist sentiments, have reconciled their strategies and abandoned their Jihadi tones. [They had abandoned it the day a meerasi Army General sided with crusaders] There is increasing support to the security forces in militancy-hit zones [what is the sources, note army is a party and its press releases can not be called sources. Similarly Taliban is party so their version can not be sources.]. Jihadi charity boxes have disappeared from markets. Religious scholars avoid Jiahdi sermons. Most of the illegal FM radio stations, the biggest tool of extremist propaganda, have gone silent and so on.

Until recently, New Year nights’ programmes, cinema houses and billboards with women pictures were attacked. Music functions were forcefully stopped. Students were openly enticed to volunteer for ‘Jihad’ first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir. Picture and video shows were organised profusely to attract youngsters to ‘Jihad’. [This was also abandoned many years before the American attack on the Muslims of Afghanistan. The reason better known to those used to organized these activities previously]

However, situation has changed now. Religious parties that once talked of hoisting national flag on the Red Fort of Delhi and threatened suicide attacks against foreign naval ships avoid similar outbursts. New Year nights and night-clubs are no more attacked by baton-wielding workers. ‘Kashmir has been left to the Kashmiris’. Religious parties don’t run any Jihadi training/fund raising campaigns any more.

“Save a minority comprising a few right wing/religious parties, majority population is no more interested in the Jihadi rhetoric and culture. This could be the beginning of a new era in Pakistan marked by more tolerance and moderation,” argued a political activist wishing not to be named.

Renowned analyst and religious scholar Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan said it was a happy development that around 99 percent of population and military and political leadership were on the same frequency on how to tackle the threat. [From where did he know about 99 percent population? Had he conducted any census?]

“We had been advocating since the last 15 years that private jihad is not only against Islam but is also a dangerous strategy. We are happy that finally the establishment and religious parties have realised it. They have practically given up their practical support to jihad though the latter would hardly accept it. No doubt they have done so after bad practical experiences and were late to do that, it is a welcome development anyway,” he said.

“Musharraf and the previous MMA-led NWFP government had shown criminal negligence vis-à-vis the Taliban in Malakand which made things difficult for the coming government. But happily the operations – ‘Rah-e-Rast’ in Swat and ‘Rah-e-Nijat’ in Waziristan – have been the most successful ever operations of the world history,” Khan added. [It’s shocking to read that only previous government had shown criminal negligence. Didn’t the writer read the statements of ANP leadership especially provincial minister information Iftikhar Hussain? Was the operation ‘Rah’e’Rast in swat started by ANP government or Army? Where has the bastard Mullah Fazalullah gone? What about the cases of Muslim Khan who was brought from America by the America and For America?]

Former chief secretary FATA and security expert Brigadier Mehmood Shah agreed that an anti-private jihad consensus was developing in society. “Swatis are now openly supporting the government but the situation in Waziristan is not that encouraging. There is general fear amongst the people there militants might come back in the area.”

“But one thing is for sure that people have overwhelmingly turned against the misuse of religion for political motives. It is in this background that the religious parties have shunned militant approaches. They simply cannot go against the tide. To save society from the threat of extremism and terrorism, a civil society movement like the one for restoration for judiciary is needed. Live media has exposed the religious parties to the nation.

The religious class in simply unable to lead the nation. Modern religious scholars and intellectuals should take the interpretation of religion from them,” he commented. Dr Begum Jan, chairperson tribal women welfare association, didn’t see any positive outcome any time soon. “We are just harvesting what we had sown years ago. Security situation is worse despite claims of victory in Malakand and I think the announced surge in US troops in Afghanistan would just add fuel to fire.” [ Pls correct that we are harvesting what our army had sown]

“But one development is encouraging to see. I saw in 2001 when Mullahs agitated against the US invasion in my area that they were given generous donations for onward supply to Afghan Taliban. But if these Mullahs ask for funds today, I am afraid the people would beat them rather,” she said. Begum Jan said the people of Waziristan and other agencies had suffered badly and they would never ever support the mullahs.

“Now we should save our children in the given scenario from religious seminaries and offer them religious education at home. The government should bring FATA at par with rest of the country through fast track and corruption free development schemes. It should provide jobs to the youth in the region to save them from extremists who give them lucrative offers in return for support,” she said.

Militancy hit areas like parts of Malakand division are experiencing shifts in general perceptions. Security agencies are having the greatest ever popular support.

Former federal minister and nationalist leader Afzal Khan Lala said people had supported the militants not out of love but for fear because they killed their opponents. “They may give even more support to army and the government if they are emboldened and ensured of safety. There is not yet hundred percent supports to security forces. For example, one of the two main tribes in Shah Dheri Kabal has formed a lashkar against the militants but the other is reluctant to do so.

The security forces have more communication and interaction with the general public,” he opined. Lala also chastised the religious parties for not opposing militants. He praised Army for getting the area rid of insurgents. Amir Muqam, president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) NWFP and a parliamentarian, observed how the nation could support those who killed their children, brothers and destroyed their businesses.

Muqam said that the army had established writ of the state for which the nation stood indebted to it. “But this now will have to be maintained by the civilian forces. Basic amenities would have to be provided and problems solved. There should be a sound plan to deal with the post-operation situation. There is still fear of return of militants. Militants after all have not been eliminated altogether. The government must safeguard those who side with it,” he said.

Sadullah Khan from Buner said the army has won us the area back. “It has done that in Swat and Waziristan too. The notion of invincibility of militants has been buried for ever.” An old man from Kabal Swat, wishing anonymity, said Swatis followed the extremists because they talked good.

“They disappointed us when they took over the area. We will never support them and would rather support the government. Let us hope that it would be the old tolerant Buner and Swat where different religious groups have lived peacefully for centuries,” he said. The man narrated a family of Syeds in his area commanded respect. “We always accepted their arbitration in our controversies. But the family joined the Taliban. And the people of the area then killed several of them with their own hands,” he said.

US president Barrack Obama also alluded to the fact in his last address. “In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, public opinion has turned,” he said. There is a growing national pride. “The tragedy was huge. The state acted like a mother.

Had it not come up to the expectations, the tragedy would have been more devastating. The militants wanted to create disbelief but miserably failed,” argued Shakir Khan, a former IDP from Swat. There were frequent desertions from the army and police in initial days. Around 80 percent persons in Swat and Buner had deserted for fear of militants. That trend has reversed. And recently there has been a new urge in the youngsters to join the security forces.

“When enemies are bent upon destroying the society, why should I lag behind? Though I didn’t want to join army or police in the past, I now am for it. I want to fight Pakistan’s enemies and take them head on,” declared Saeed Khan, a college student in Charsadda. Collection of donations by jihadi organisations has also declined. There are indeed Chanda boxes in shops and markets but these are of Sahara Trust, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and other genuine humanitarian organisations.

“The phenomenon has weakened for various reasons: People don’t like to give donations as they did in the past. They are fed up of a mushroom growth of jihadi outfits. Poverty is also a factor. They avoid it for fear of arrests too,” said a shopkeeper in Mardan who wished not to be named. Swat Taliban also collected huge sums through donations given by the people especially women. Jehanzeb from Mingora Swat said they didn’t know they would buy arms with their alms.

“They were given generous alms to build, as they had promised, mosques and madrassas. But look! Where did the money turn out at the end? We had no idea that they would buy arms with our money to wage war against Pakistan and kill our children,” he added. There were numerous FM channels in the air before the latest onslaught against the extremists in Malakand and the tribal belt. These were blatantly used for anti-state and extremist propaganda. Almost all of these stand closed now.

However minorities living in the Malakand and tribal belt have also been severely affected by the ongoing tensions. Buner and Swat had a sizable presence of Hindu and Sikh people. Atleast 15 families, including some known professionals, have migrated to India of late. Ashok Kapoor, the general secretary of the Hindu-Sikh Sudhar Sabha, said though the violence was not specific to them, minorities have suffered badly.

“We know how the minorities could be safe when majority was not. But that ensuing lack of security and slump in businesses has led to migration of quite a few of them to India is agonising to say the least. Jagdesh Lal, the son of Bhajan Lal, was kidnapped in 2003 but he is yet to return homes. Tilak Raj left Mingora for India when his brother was killed last Ramazan and his own life was endangered.

The family of Dr Mohan Kumar, a notable doctor from Buner, has also shifted to India. Dr Jian Parkash, also from Buner who ran a big hospital there, also plans to go because of his brother’s murder. Others are also considering departure which would be a tragedy if materialised. Pakistan is our country. We want to live here.” Kapoor said the mainstream population was very caring for their community. But community needs motivation, support and co-ordinated efforts on part of district administrations, NGOs and security forces to change their minds away from leaving the country.[These minorities may be right but it may be exception or the situation may be not that serious. Read the news uploaded as picture]

Siraj-ul-Haq, former senior minister and ex-amir of Jamat-e-Islami, however, declined to accept that jihadi culture had weakened and that new developments had forced them shun jihadi enticements. “Jihad continues in Afghanistan. We think that US interference there and in Pakistan is the root cause of the problems. We have started our jihad against the USA – the “go America go” campaign – by organising political rallies and train marches.”

Haq said JI believed in political and constitutional means. “JI never had any military wing. We don’t believe in under-ground activities. If any one thinks JI is a B-team of agencies, he should remove this misconception.”

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