Sunday, 14 December 2008

Terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, Dr Shabir Choudhry
Presentation of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a conference organised by Baroness Emma Nicholson in European Parliament on 10/11 December 2008

It is an honour to be here and express my views in a conference on issue of Kashmir organised by Baroness Emma Nicholson, who has already made enormous contribution to the cause of Jammu and Kashmir by authoring the EU Kashmir report, which was passed by the EU Parliament with a massive majority.

Ethnic and cultural identity is important for people as it gives them a sense of belonging. But cultures and civilisations can only flourish when there is no oppression and intimidation in society. Majority of people in every society are good and want to live in peace and harmony, but in every society there is a small minority which is criminal minded.

It is this small group which makes life difficult for every one. They promote violence and terrorism in order to advance their political or personal agenda. They conceal their agenda by using name of religion or some ideology, which helps to raise funds and recruit people. It is imperative that all those who believe in peace, democracy and rule of law must work together to counter and defeat these criminals.

These terrorist groups are highly organised and ruthless. They have no religion and no nationality. Their activities are not limited to one country – they are transnational organisations with close working relationship with terrorists in many other countries. These terrorist groups are the biggest threat to peace; and in order to root out this menace international strategy and approach is required.

Terrorists have more than once brought India and Pakistan close to a full scale war. Once again both countries are going through very difficult time as a direct result of terrorism in Mumbai, which no religion or civilised person can justify. One can understand the civilian government of Pakistan is not directly responsible for the Mumbai attacks, but those who committed this horrible crime came from Pakistan and allegation is that they were trained by some junior officers of the ISI.

Many people believe that the present civilian government could be ‘innocent bystander’ in the current crises. As the government had no role in the Mumbai attacks, and offer of full cooperation was made, and even agreed to send ISI Chief to help in the investigations. But when the real rulers of Pakistan heard what was going on, they were furious over this and once again demonstrated that they hold key to power and strategic decision making. Soon after this pressure both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani changed their tone and withdrew their offer.

In Pakistan those who have power to fight terrorism are not willing to commit themselves; and those who are in government and wish to effectively fight terrorism have no power to carry out this gigantic task. As a result of this many experts on South Asia and terrorism believe that the Pakistani governments never abandon policy of jihad, and training and promoting terrorism.

David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency expert, while commenting on the Mumbai attacks said: "It looks more like a classical Special Forces or commando operation than a terrorist one. No group linked to al-Qaeda and certainly not Lashkar has ever mounted a maritime attack of this complexity." So in view of many experts some kind of ‘official’ help and support cannot be ruled out.

In any case people ask which is worse: the Pakistani military had knowledge of this planning in advance, and decided to turn a blind eye; or they didn't know about it which shows their negligence and inefficiency. In the case of the latter it also shows that the Pakistan military and intelligence services are unable to effectively monitor militant activities inside Pakistan, which raise many serious questions whether or not they are capable of safeguarding weapons of mass destruction.

It is an established fact that in Pakistan there is a civilian government in office, but it doesn’t have power. And if relationship between the both countries deteriorates or in the worst case scenario, there is a military clash then those who are running the democratic show from behind will topple this government. That will be bad for democracy, bad for peace, bad for India and bad for stability and prosperity of South Asia. It will also be bad for America and its war on terrorism.

Terrorism has a long history, and there could be many reasons for this. In my view injustice perpetrated by those who are powerful in society, injustice to other communities and nations; discrimination on grounds of religion or ethnic and cultural backgrounds are main causes of violence and terrorism.

Festering wounds where rights have been denied and justice has been continually denied are Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir. Other sources of terrorism are:

The first Afghan war of 1980s and subsequent civil war;
American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq,
War on terrorism which is perceived as a war against Muslims;
And in view of many, Pakistan Army and extreme elements within the ISI, which is in a league of its own when it comes to supporting and exporting terrorism.

India was divided not to strengthen Islam or Muslims, although name of Islam was used to create hatred and divisions in the Sub Continent. India was divided on religious lines to advance and protect rights and privileges of certain groups; and to protect geo political interests of imperial powers of that time.

However it must be pointed out that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States including the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This fact was confirmed by no other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan in his statement on 17 June 1947, who said and I quote:
"After the lapse of Paramountcy the Indian States would be constitutionally and legally sovereign States and free to adopt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to the States to join Hindustan, Pakistan or to decide to remain independent. In my opinion they are free to remain independent if they so desire." Unquote

Furthermore Mohammed Ali Jinnah accepted accession of State of Junagarr which had non Mulsim majority and a Muslim Ruler, and if the Two Nations Theory was applicable to the Princely States then this state should have automatically joined India. But Mohammed Ali Jinnah accepted its accession even though it had no land link with Pakistan, practically showing that the Two Nations Theory was only related to the British India.

Apart from that Mohammed Ali Jinnah acknowledged Ruler of Hyderabad’s right to become independent even though this state also had a non Muslim majority, and if the Two Nations Theory was applicable to the Princely States then this state should have joined India. These examples clearly show that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States, and Pakistan’s demand to get Jammu and Kashmir because of religion is totally wrong.

In any case the Two Nations Theory proved wrong when East Pakistan separated after a blood bath from the rest of Pakistan in 1971, showing that religion alone does not provide strong enough foundations to build a nation state. But despite this set back to the Two Nations Theory, extremists are determined to promote communalism and hatred to widen the gulf on religious lines.

A new extremist ideology has come in to being which actively promotes religious extremism, hatred and terrorism. People following this ideology believe that end justify means, and military conflict between Muslims and non Muslims must be encouraged and managed that there are frequent terrorist acts which invite oppressive response of authorities resulting in death and destruction of innocent people on both sides. Death of innocent people fuels anger, and terrorist groups use this to raise funds and recruit people.

Some of these extremists believe that India and Pakistan must be in a state of war all the time. Apart from that they are creating religions and ethnic divisions within India that minorities, especially Muslims become target, fuelling Muslim anger against the government. These groups believe that for the survival of Two Nations Theory and existence of Pakistan’s large and powerful army could only be justified if both countries remain unfriendly and Muslims within India appear oppressed and victims of Hindu extremists.

The monster of terrorism cannot be defeated by use of force alone. Other strategies have to be put in place. And moreover, a strategy must be worked out to resolve long standing disputes like Kashmir and Palestine to the satisfaction of all concerned. In South Asia terrorist groups use the plight of Kashmiri people to recruit people that they can carry out violent activities in name of Jihad and independence.

A map is in circulation which showed large areas of India in green colours with the title: Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The email message with the map said, ‘we will not only liberate Kashmir from Hindus we will also have a Pakistani flag on the Red Fort in New Delhi’. It also said we are waiting for India to make a move that we can use our nuclear bombs to kill Hindus and defeat India.

I am sure extremists on the Indian side are also saying more or less same thing. War is a very serious matter, and we must not allow extremists to dictate their agenda and precipitate a war between nuclear rivals. At the same time we have to check activities of these terrorist groups. These groups must be crushed and their leaders put behind bars.

Governments of India and Pakistan have to be more tolerant and wiser. They should not walk in to the trap set up by the terrorists. If they break the peace process and roll back the confidence building measures which were put in place after months and years of hard work, then that will be a victory for the terrorists.

I can understand the frustration and anger of India, but decisions taken in anger or under public pressure are not always the best decisions. Both governments should work together to investigate the Mumbai tragedy and punish all those who are found responsible.

Also both governments should work out a strategy to involve people of Jammu and Kashmir in the peace process to find a workable and honourable solution to the Kashmir dispute. Whether we like it or not we have to live in South Asia, and it is in the interest of all of us that we live as good and friendly neighbours. We need to promote good governance, rule of law, trade, economic growth and peace and stability; and for that both India and Pakistan will have to think with a public welfare in mind rather than military strength and number of nuclear war heads.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

To view other articles see my blog:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear here that pakistan is a "terrorist state" and never have any illusion that it is going to be any different.We have made a grave blunder by suggesting in the international fora that "Pakistan is also a victim of terror." We should stop interviewing leaders from that country who mouth the same inanities that "you have not produced any proof."Let us not fall into the trap of providing proof to the culprits. More than 100 acts/attempts of terror recorded in the world since 9/11 have had their roots in Pakistan. More than 40% of the prisoners in Guantanamo are Pakistanis.

We should categorically, unambiguously, unequivocally boycott Pakistan in all aspects for a decade or more. Pakistan is the only territory in the world where an army has a whole country under its control. The state policy of Pakistan is terrorism and their single-point programme of existence is to destroy India.