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The terrorism challenge

The Pakistani government must take swift, effective action to implement its will and assert its authority.


Pakistan’s terrorism challenge has burgeoned into a full-blown national crisis. Terrorism emanates from extremist ideologies that use religion to glorify violence. In addition, when there is constant marginalization of particular sections of society, people are denied basic necessities of life and any aspirations for a better life are in vain, many are driven towards violence. In Pakistan, surveys have shown that while the masterminds of extremist outfits are often well-educated, their recruiting ground is among the under-privileged.

In Pakistan the extremist narratives emanate from three main sources – the mosque-madrassah complex, school curricula, and the media. The country’s policymakers and law enforcement agencies need to take appropriate steps targeting these sources in both the short and long term, if the menace of terrorism is to be effectively curtailed.

Terrorism emanates from extremist ideologies that use religion to glorify violence

Short Term Measures:

Credible information is needed about all mosques and madrassahs operating at the district, provincial and national level. At the district level, the District Coordination Officers (DCOs) should be tasked to map and monitor all mosques and madrassahs operating within his jurisdiction. All madrassahs should be required to be formally registered with the local authorities. Information collected from each district should then be compiled into provincial and national data banks containing verified information on those running these mosques/madrassahs, their activities, their donors etc. Any madrassahs with foreign funding sources and teachers should be kept under extra scrutiny. In addition, police officers need to compile their data from each district and create national data centers which can help law-enforcement agencies to identify and monitor suspicious activity in any part of the country.

Any funding from any sources, both loc […]

Looking back at General Kayani’s Tenure

Raza Rumi

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani retired after leading Pakistan’s most powerful institution for six years. As a close confidante and successor of former president General Musharraf, General Kayani ensured policy continuity and facilitated the return of the army into the barracks. Histenures were eventful yet, turbulent and thus, he leaves behind a chequered legacy. Before his extension in 2010, Kayani led successful operations in Swat and the tribal areas against extremists, and save a few instances, did support the democratic transition. In 2008, he ordered all serving military officials in civil departments to relinquish charge. Despite these commendable measures, the military firmly set and managed foreign and security policies, and faced little or no challenge from the civilian rulers. In fact, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister(s) gave up the management of the security policy, which had serious ramifications for Pakistan’s governance and economy.

During 2008-2013, a weak democracy beset by civil-military schisms defined Pakistan’s governance. The military strongly resisted attempts by the civilian government to reform the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI. A campaign was orchestrated, which moulded public opinion against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill in 2009. The KLB bill was projected as an assault on Pakistan’s ‘national interest’). An unprecedented reaction through an ISPR press release (bypassing the ministry of defence) was given to the civilian authorities when the military aired its reservations about the KLB bill. The latter marked a significant shift in Pakistan-US relations: for the first time, an attempt was made by the Obama Administration to engage with the civilian government. Earlier, US relations with Pakistan were mediated through military cooperation, which bred domestic perceptions that the US always backed military dictators in the country. The establishment identified the orchestrator of the KLB bill as Husain Haqqani, our then ambassador in Washington. […]

December 2nd, 2013|Pakistan, Published in the Express Tribune|0 Comments

On Malala and ‘Who are the Pakistani Taliban’

I was quoted in these two pieces at CNN.

Attack on Pakistani schoolgirl galvanizes anti-Taliban feeling

“There is a groundswell of sympathy for her and also a very strong demand for the Pakistani state to do something about this issue,” said Raza Rumi..”

The second piece is an excellent report on who are the Pakistani Taliban. I am pasting it below for the readers here:

Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

(CNN) — While its recent attack on a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan brought international outrage, the Pakistani Taliban take credit for a long list of assaults on civilians and the military in the country’s mostly ungoverned tribal area along the Afghan border.

The banned Islamist group, which has intimate links to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, unabashedly confirmed it tried to kill teen activist Malala Yousufzai as she rode home from school in a van October 9.

But before that, the group, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), took the global spotlight when Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square in May 2010. The TTP took responsibility, and Shahzad testified that he had received training from them.

The following September, the U.S. State Department designated the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Are they “the Taliban?”

They are not “the Taliban” that the U.S. forces have been at war with in Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani analyst. But that they adopted the name “Taliban” is no coincidence.

Formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the group is very closely linked with its namesake in Afghanistan as well as with al Qaeda. It shares its religious extremist ideology — but is its own distinct group.

The TTP also has a different goal, but its tactics are the same, says Raza Rumi, director of policy and programs at the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani think tank.

“Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military,” he says. “It resents the fact that it (Pakistan) has an alliance with the West, and it wants Sharia to be imposed in Pakistan.”

Another terrorism analyst notes that “there is a shared heritage between the two groups.”

“The Pakistani Taliban emerged as a power alongside the Taliban as a kind of network of support,” says Matthew Henman of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, fighters from Pakistan crossed over the border to fight. They retained close relations with the Taliban after returning home, Rumi says.

There are other militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal region not under the umbrella of the TTP, who support the Taliban but do not pursue Tehrik-i-Taliban’s goals of replacing the Pakistani state with an Islamist one.

Where do the TTP’s roots lie?

Pakistan’s army began hunting various militant groups in the semi-autonomous regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in 2002.

In reaction, militant “supporters of the Afghan Taliban in the tribal areas transitioned into a mainstream Taliban force of their own,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2007, like-minded militias in Pakistan’s tribal region came together under the command of Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2009.

As a result of its beginnings, Tehrik-i-Taliban are not a unified fighting force but a coordinated coalition of militias.

“Since its formation, the TTP have been dominated by one tribe,” Henman says. “That is the Mehsud tribe.” When Baitullah Mehsud died, factions competed for Tehrik-i-Taliban’s leadership.

The militant groups control different regions within the tribal area and often have different agendas and political objectives. The factions don’t always speak with one voice, although it is widely believed they now recognize Hakimullah Mehsud as their leader.

The TTP may have started in the tribal regions, but have since expanded their network.

They are “not just guys hiding in mountains or caves.” They maintain loose factions spread out as far as Punjab province, Rumi explains.

“And they have also been joined by criminal gangs” to raise money through kidnappings and extortion. But the TTP have maintained the coalition nature of their roots, which leads to internal strife.

The TTP’s opposition to the government and its allies, particularly the United States, has galvanized them beyond their differences.

“When (former president Gen. Pervez) Musharraf sided with the U.S. in 2001 after the ‘you are either with us or against us’ line from (then-President George W.) Bush, this is when the Taliban began to resent the military,” Rumi says.

The TTP do not encompass all militant groups in the tribal regions but does work together with some, such as the Haqqani Network.

What is the Pakistani Taliban’s mission?

The TTP are fighting to overthrow Pakistan’s government via a terrorist campaign, according to the U.S. State Department.

“They reject the Pakistani constitution,” says Rumi. “They reject the democratic process in Pakistan.” […]

October 23rd, 2012|Afghanistan, Pakistan|2 Comments

Abject surrender

My piece published in The Friday Times
How can I remain unaffected and quiet after seeing that my country might be disfigured and my roots pulled out, to be replaced by an ideology alien to my thousand-year old consciousness?

April 13 will be remembered as a black day in Pakistan’s history. This is the day, future historian will write, when its pampered and stuffed-up political elites opted for a grand surrender. We have to live with the pain, infamy and ignominy of the December 1971 surrender at Ramna Park, Dhaka. That black moment was faced by a General who shall remain the face of Pakistan’s atrocities against its own citizens, the interference of an irresponsible, vengeful neighbour and the bravado of Bengalis who had been excluded from the privileged ‘martial race’ category by none other than Field Marshal Ayub Khan and his junta. This exclusionary act by the Field Marshal, later recorded in his memoirs, set the tone for an agenda of discrimination that was subsequently responsible for the second amputation of South Asia in less than 25 years. […]

April 26th, 2009|Islam, Personal, Published in The Friday Times|4 Comments

Ah, the deal

Much has been made of this NYT article on the class inequalities in NWFP that are fuelling the Taliban movement. However, I would like to ask where in Pakistan class inequalities do NOT exist. They are everywhere. By using this argument then the Taliban takeover becomes a natural conclusion as a social revolution is required everywhere to correct the exploitative structures and provide ‘speedy justice’. Therefore, our political class has to rise to the occasion and provide the kind of leadership, delivery against their manifestos and restore the fading writ of the state. […]

April 18th, 2009|Personal|4 Comments

Civil society speaks

Zinda dilaan-e-Lahore say no to Talibanisation, reports Raza Rumi

Never before have we citizens been traumatised with an uncertain future and the knocks of destruction at our door as is the case in the year 2009. The celebrated twenty first century has, if nothing else, blown the contradictions of Pakistani society and state right into our faces. One hundred and eighty million people cannot be spectators to the imperial great games and a callous state that gropes in the dark trying to locate the ‘enemy’ outside, instead of looking into its own crevices and cracks.

Not that Lahore has been a haven of peace in recent years – the inequities, the crime levels have been on the rise. However, March 2009 witnessed two full-scale terror attacks in the city of gardens, shrines and a centuries-old tolerant culture. Media gurus were quick to involve India, RAW, the Americans, everyone under the sun except the enemy within. First the friends of Pakistan – the Sri Lankans and then the ill-equipped and vulnerable Police Academy at Manawan, were attacked by trained assassins who espouse a version of Islam that no sane Muslim can ever live with.The panic and fear generated by these two incidents had not ended when the brutal video of Chand Bibi getting lashed on the streets of Swat was released. […]

April 14th, 2009|Islam, Personal, Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|4 Comments

Brutalities have swung public opinion in Pakistan

I have been quoted in this brave piece of reporting:

Girl’s flogging exposes Pakistani rift

Salman Masood (writing for The National)

ISLAMABAD // The video of a teenage girl being whipped in public by the Pakistani Taliban has riveted the country and has highlighted an ideologically strained and divided society faced with the growing threats of Talibanisation and extremism, analysts say.
The video, broadcast last week on Pakistani television and widely posted on the internet, showed a 17-year-old from the Kabal area of the restive Swat district. The Taliban publicly flogged her after she was accused of having an illicit relationship with a neighbour. […]

April 8th, 2009|Personal|4 Comments