30 August 2006
The members of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad and its President Major Gen Jamshed Ayaz, Inam ul Haq, Resident Representative of Hanns Siedel Foundation, Excellencies and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, especially those delegates, who have travelled from abroad, I welcome all of them.
I would like to thank first of all, the Institute of Regional Studies and its President Ayaz for having given me this opportunity to address this gathering and giving me an opportunity to exchange my personal views on this extremely important subject of global terrorism. I would like to compliment the Institute specially, for inviting the foreign guests and I know there are 25 who have come from many countries. I would like to compliment you for joining and I think your joining indicates the firm resolves of all counties of the world in the fight against terrorism. To start with, may I say that terrorism threatens the whole world and every one directly or indirectly is involved or gets affected? Therefore, we owe it to the whole world and more so to our future generations to combat terrorism and to suppress it. We have a collective responsibility to prevent conversion of human beings into human bombs.
To deal with the subject holistically, in all its dimensions, we first of all have to understand the entire complexity of the problem and then only can we come to rational conclusions on how to address it. But I would like to give two words of caution before I deal with the subject itself. Firstly, terrorism must not, repeat must not, be linked with religion. There is nothing like Islamic terrorism, there is no terrorism in Islam. Therefore to label it or to attach it with the region with our religion, with my religion Islam, is absolutely wrong. In fact, I would say that we must foster better inter-faith relationship, interfaith harmony rather than labelling or linking Islam to terrorism. The second point, that I would like to make, is that, I would not like to complicate the issue by going into the definition of word terrorism or getting involved in terrorism versus freedom struggle, or getting involved with individual and group terrorism versus state terrorism. But certainly the element I would like to extract is that no country should be allowed to misuse the label of terrorists to keep the peoples’ aspirations suppressed. With this two words of cautions, obviously, in this statement of mine I am referring to Palestine and Kashmir.
Now coming to the subject, I would like to first of all say that generally there is a tendency of linking terrorism and extremism. Using these words in the same breath as if they mean the same thing, as if the actions against them are the same. They are very different and addressing them needs a totally different strategy. Therefore, we must always differentiate and deal with terrorism on one side and extremism on the other side. While terrorism is to be confronted with force, with all the military force at every level, globally, regionally, domestically by all countries involved or concerned, extremism is a state of mind. It has to be handled with care. Its a battle for hearts and minds. It needs a totally different strategy to address and resolve. We cannot impose sudden changes, when you are talking of dealing with extremism. You will only transform, you need to carry out a transformation in the battle of hearts and minds. So there is nothing like imposition to correct extremism, so there is a major difference between extremism and terrorism.
Certainly, we have to understand that we have to address both. Terrorism, for obvious reasons, we have to confront it with force. But extremism spawns terrorism, Terrorism flows from extremism. Therefore, extremism has to be addressed. Whether we talk of addressing terrorism and extremism, we must get to the causes of both. How is it that a person can take his life to commit a terrorist act. Why is a person driven towards extremism and then gets converted into a terrorist.
These are issues, which we need to address. Quite clearly, in its entire perspective, what are the causes of terrorism and extremism? I feel the number one cause is political deprivation, political alienation, leading to hopelessness, sense of powerlessness, which then leads on to these terrorist acts. Unfortunately, the issue gets further complicated when you see that it is only the Muslim world, which is suffering from such political deprivation. That complicates the issue further because that brings to the surface as if Islam itself is being targeted and also when you look around, historically Palestine continuing since over half a century, Kashmir continuing again since over half a century Then later versions of Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, now Afghanistan and Iraq. All involve Muslims. And rubbing salt to the wounds, may I say, East Timor, where Christians were involved, got resolved very fast. So these are issues, which strike at the minds and the hearts of the Muslims, which needs to be addressed, and justice done.
So therefore, highlighting again, I feel the number one cause of terrorism is political deprivation and political alienation. Political alienation has given a tinge or colour as this is a religious issue. Basically, at the core of all terrorist activity is political and not religious but it has gone into the religious mode. The other issue, obviously, we do understand all of us, is the lack of education and poverty. These are two elements which pushes an illiterate man, the poor man, who is indoctrinated and given a wrong hope that if he leaves this world, he can be given a key to the doors of heavens and he is illiterate enough to swallow this argument and also poor and miserable enough to leave this world in the hope of a better world. It is poverty, lack of education which also leads people to extremism and then they can be indoctrinated towards terrorist acts. The third area that i would like to also mention is an incomplete and distorted understanding of the religion. And, this in the Muslim world, I would like to say, this is the case. In Pakistan, it is the case, in most Muslim countries, this is the case. Talking more of Pakistan certainly is here, on one extreme are the clerics, the obscurantist I would say, the ritualists, who have limited knowledge of the real values of Islam, or the religion.
On the other side, is the educated class, enlightened people, and very religious also, equally religious. In the centre the vast mass of people, less educated and also poor. They need to understand what real Islam is. But unfortunately the enlightened class abdicated this position and handed over the issue of teaching Islam to the ritualists and to the obscurantists, not bothering at all, to tell the masses what is real Islam. So, therefore today this vast mass in the centre stands confused -what is Islam, where is Islam. Is Islam the terrorist act, the suicide bombing, the car bombs or no, Islam is something greater.
As we all know, Islam is a “deen”, it’s a way of life. So what is a way of life in Islam. What are the real values? What are the responsibilities of a Muslim toward the society, towards building his own character, and towards his nation? All these have been ignored. These are real values of Islam Ignored. The ritualists have taken over to deal with only controversies which have led to sectarian extremism, sectarian terrorism, on simple matter of small issues of rituals, of praying, or fasting or any other issue which are more trivial, absolutely trivial and not at all, should not be raised as a controversy. Therefore, incomplete and distorted understanding of Islam, which needs to be addressed in an enlightened manner. Then, may I say also here, the London bombings has introduced, I feel, has added a new dimension to this understanding of causes of terrorism. And I would like to dare to give that out, because I was thinking, I thought they are not uneducated, they are not politically deprived, may be they are not poor. So what is it that has led them (bombers) to terrorist acts. And the answer that came to my mind may be socio-economic deprivation. Number one that they are not assimilated to the society and may be getting some unequal treatment. I am not here to advise the British government on the subject but that is, what I thought, is the cause of the extremism and terrorism that they are involved in. I am not getting involved in who is at fault in not getting assimilated. Whether they themselves are at fault for not getting assimilated into the British society or the Britishers are at fault in not taking them, assimilating them into the society. And the second element which may have incited them into terrorism is sympathy at the plight of co-religionists. And that again goes back to political deprivation, and what is happening around the world. So there is sympathy at what is happening to the Muslims. I think these are the two factors. Now, the issue if these are the causes, how do we address them? We must address the issue holistically.
And I keep equating this with a tree. You can kill hundreds of terrorists and we have killed about 700 or 800 -these are leaves of a tree. More will keep growing as long as the tree is there. You remove alQaeda, finish alQaeda, that is a major branch of that tree but the tree will still be there. Therefore, I keep insisting, let us address the root of that tree, lets get to that root and uproot that tree altogether. That is the only way of addressing it. Therefore, quite clearly addressing this issue of terrorism and extremism requires an immediate short-term strategy and also a futuristic long-term strategy. A combination of both is what we desire. And also then within this short-term and long-term strategies, we need a three-tiered application -at the global level, because all of us in this globalized world today are concerned, affected directly or indirectly as I said earlier. So there is global responsibility, then I would say, there is a responsibility of the Islamic world because as I said earlier, it is the Islamic world today which is mainly involved in extremism and terrorism for whatever reasons that I have mentioned.
Therefore, there is the responsibility of Islamic world to address the issue; together with the global initiatives and then, the third tier is the domestic tier. Every country, especially of the Islamic world, has its own typical environment, which needs to be addressed strategically, again in a short-term and a long-term strategy.
Pakistan, when we look at various facets of extremism and terrorism, there is a religious terrorism and then there is a religious extremism. I call extremists those, belonging to various organizations I don’t want to name them; dozens or more of them which we have banned who are trying to impose their will on others by force. So there is religious terrorism, religious extremism. And there is sectarian extremism and terrorism. Sectarian extremists are those who are trying to impose their understanding of Islam on others who have different views, not on the main principles and values of Islam, but on the ritualistic issues.
And there are sectarian terrorists. In Pakistan, for the last one year and three months, and I am saying this with full authority, not one terrorist act has occurred. There have been some bomb blasts; they have all been sectarian terrorism. We must understand the difference. They are not targeting any particular foreigner or a US or European. Therefore, when a British cricket team is coming and they don’t want to play in Karachi. That is the message that I am conveying it to them that no terrorist act has happened in Karachi -not one in the last one year and three months. And all actions are sectarian and they are targeting each other on a sectarian basis. Coming back, each nation has to understand its own environment and address it through well-conceived plan of action. Now, let’s come to real action -what needs to be done? We have, as I think, decided on a short-term and long-term strategy, we have decided on global, Islamic and domestic perspective. Let’s take terrorism, first of all. As I have said, we have to confront this with force all over the world wherever it occurs use all force to crush it. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we have done a lot, we will continue doing it till we win the battle against the terrorists here in Pakistan.
And may I say we fought this battle in the cities of Pakistan where about 700 terrorists, al Qaeda members, have been caught, eliminated, deported. Wealth of information that we got from them, had been shared with many countries of the world which led to arrests of terrorists, extremists, in those countries. That is Pakistan’s contribution to fight against terrorism. That is Pakistan’s contribution to helping other countries, specially the Europeans and the United States, to address the issues of extremism and terrorism in their countries. Then we have attacked the terrorists in our mountains that were not an easy job to get into an area where no soldier, not even the British did not go there in the colonial period of over centuries.
They were restricted only to few roads that had been constructed. They were not allowed to leave the road and that too on road-opening days. That was for centuries in the colonial period. We entered this area with the whole army. In all the seven tribal agencies, and we dared to launch operations there. In one of the agencies – South Waziristan agency -we have captured, seized all the valleys in South Waziristan agency where they had established sanctuaries. These sanctuaries were their command bases, logistic bases, their propaganda bases, their communication bases. So we in effect, have broken the back of al~Qaeda in Pakistan. I say that with full conviction because, as a military man, I believe when you are opposing a force, if you can break its vertical and horizontal command and communication linkages that force ceases to exist as a homogenous body, capable of executing well-commanded, well-organized operations. Individuals act, group act can be possible, but it cannot be possible that they can execute well-articulated operations, with centralised command.
So Pakistan has broken the vertical and horizontal linkages of al~Qaeda and we are continuing and we have to sustain that. We have not won the battle, the battle is not over, but we are winning the battle. Therefore, we have to confront. Every country has to be bold enough to confront terrorists, militarily. The second issue, which will assist in this, is the intelligence cooperation. All countries must cooperate and coordinate intelligence because the underworld in linked. There is a very intricate linkage of the underworld of terrorists. We have to coordinate and cooperate very fast. And opportunities come they are fleeting opportunities if information is available now, we can act now. If that information is given after three days, we lost the opportunity. Therefore, very intimate intelligence coordination and cooperation of those countries who are fighting terrorism, is required. And thirdly, the most important issue is funds ceasing, freezing controlling and checking funds collection through banks. We must get it to the banks and try to get it to this underworld of fund, money movement.
And also we must check, there are organizations, there are individuals who move around the world, collecting donations in the name of religion. The givers of those donations, I don’t want to name countries now, need to be checked and those people who go for donations, from whichever country, they also need to be checked. This is very important, because extremism and terrorism rely on funding. We must seal and freeze funds.
Then, ladies and gentlemen, resolving political disputes is quite clearly the most important element. Failure, I keep saying, is no more an option. Because I think political disputes lie at the core of the core. We cannot fail and I personally feel that Palestine and Kashmir are very ripe for solutions, today, now. And that will pull the carpet from under the feet of extremism and terrorism. I am very glad that there one sees the beginning towards an end on both Palestine and Kashmir. Pakistan is glad at whatever is happening in Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli initiative of pulling out from Gaza and the determined execution of the plan. Pakistan is certainly supportive of that and we are glad. As far as Kashmir is concerned, Pakistan and India bilaterally are moving ahead. I am optimistic, I only hope that we keep moving ahead and resolve it. Therefore, if today the leadership in this region -in the sub-continent Pakistan and India -and leadership in Israel and the Palestine and all the stakeholders involved in facilitating this resolution of the disputes, one can only pray for success because I think this is the core of the core.
Let me come to extremism. As I said, this is based on each nation’s domestic environment and again it needs a short-term and long-term strategy. So let me now address the issue of what I meant of what ought to be done at the three tiers.
First, at the global level, I had proposed a strategy of enlightened moderation. I think it is a win-win for all. It is a two-pronged strategy -one to be delivered by the Muslim world, rejecting terrorism and extremism and going for socioeconomic development, because the Muslim world is the most backward. Therefore, we need it for ourselves, for the Muslim world to emancipate ourselves. And the other prong is to be delivered by the West resolve political disputes. I am harping on this tone over and over again but, I think, it needs that kind of emphasis.
Resolve political disputes, otherwise the tree will remain, we will never be able to finish terrorism, we will never be able to finish these bomb blasts, suicide attacks. With conviction, I say that. Therefore, the second prong by the West has to be executed in resolving political disputes. Because we must remember, I noted, military action is never a solution. I am a military man. Military buys time. Military actions against extremism and terrorism buy time for the long-term strategy to be executed. Buys time for other instruments to be used to get to the root. It is not the solution.
So we must know that when we are talking of battles of heart and mind, the military will buy you time for executing the battles for hearts and minds. It will not deliver on hearts and minds. In fact, it is a spoiler on hearts and minds. So, therefore, when military action is used, we have to go on to the battles of hearts and minds as the ultimate solution. Whatever is happening in Afghanistan or Iraq, military action all around the world, it’s only buying time for the execution of the battle for hearts and minds. Let me come one tier down to the Islamic world. As I said, one of the prongs has to be delivered by the Islamic world. The Islamic worlds need to go for emancipation, socio-economic development. It can be done through restructuring the only representative of the Muslims the OIC. This represents the will of all the Muslim world. When we talk of restructuring, there are two elements to be introduced in that restructuring. One is how to help within ourselves for socio-economic development of ourselves. We seek assistance from the west, for socio-economic development because that is also at the root of extremism and terrorism -education, health, poverty alleviation. But first we need to restructure the OIC to address the issue of understanding Islam, projecting Islam within ourselves and to the outside world the real values, the real principles, real teachings of Islam, which have been ignored. They have been ignored within ourselves, we need to address that. And the OIC as the body, if that can as a fountainhead, address it in an intellectual, scholastic manner through enlightened Islamic personalities, who understand religion that must be done.
Islamic world has taken a lot of steps, may I very proudly say that, may be we took them a little slow. OIC restructuring has been initiated. There were ten eminent personalities, persons, from ten countries, Pakistan is one of the countries and we have detailed one person from Pakistan. They have met four times now to restructure the OIC and this restructuring has been given to foreign ministers who will adopt it, finally to be approved through an OIC special summit. I think we have moved quite a bit, hopefully this OIC special summit ought to take place, and that is the initiative from the Muslim world towards, what I have said, in harmonizing, rejecting terrorism, extremism, addressing the core issues of Islam. What is Islam, telling the whole world not to demonise Islam, We want to tell you what Islam really is. Don’t be mislead that Islam is what the terrorists are showing you. So this is all that we need to do through the OIC mechanism, if the OIC is to be potent. Let me come to the domestic side. I will only give Pakistani perspective. I am not here to advise Prime Minister Tony Blair on how he ought to be doing in UK. And whatever he is doing, we are supportive, I am supportive. I am extremely glad that he is consulting the Muslim community. I think that is the correct way of doing things, taking them along, cooling them down, assimilating them, and harmonizing within. So my support to Tony Blair. But I will talk of Pakistan. As I said every country has its own environment, which needs to be addressed, analysed and addressed.
I will only talk of Pakistan. I will give the Pakistan experience, because I believe, we have to fight terrorism, we are fighting terrorism, and we will continue to do that. But we have to suppress extremism also through peoples’ ownership. You cannot alienate yourself. No leader, in the Muslim world, ought to alienate himself from religion. I don’t want to quote examples of some countries where religion was overlooked as if there is no religion existing. People in countries are religious. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. We are all religious, everyone. But we are not extremists, we are moderates, we believe in moderation, we don’t believe in extremism. But we need to take away the extremists and we need to take away people towards the better understanding of Islam, and to curb any extremist tendencies that may be coming up, or curb those organizations, those individuals who are inciting extremism, hate and militancy in our society. We have adopted a six-tier approach six areas where we are addressing. It is very unfortunate sometimes when one reads and sees in the foreign press, talking against what we are doing. That we are not doing enough as if it is something, which can be done in few months, or six months or one year. It will take years, those who write such things, do not understand the complexities of the issue. They only think that we can probably use military and crush it and in two months its all over -terrorism and extremism. I am sorry they don’t understand it. What we are doing to stabilize the country, bring harmony to this country, there are six areas we are addressing because we have identified these six areas.
Number one the banned organizations and these are all extremists’ organizations, must not be allowed to re-emerge with different names, must not be allowed to collect money. Like on Eid, people collect these skins and sell them and they earned crores of rupees it must not be allowed to these banned organisations. I banned these organizations before 9/11, please understand that. So any aspersions on me that I act because I wanted to show the world that I am doing some kind of footwork, I don’t want to punch, like in boxing (is wrong). I did this before 9/11, probably in February 2001 or March. We did not need 9/11 to tell what is required for Pakistan. So first we banned organizations. Yes indeed we were loose in our actions against them in allowing them re-emergence because the law-enforcement machinery was week.
Therefore, while policy formulation is easy, policy implementation is not that easy. We have tried over these years to streamline the policy implementation part. I am reasonably sure that we will be able to implement it now, and we are doing it, so that is number one. Number two, we have found about 22 magazines, pamphlets, hand bills being distributed of hate, militancy, urging people to go all over the place for fighting the jihad. Jihad in its Islamic context is a struggle, which, any enlightened man knows, is a struggle against every thing -specially against poverty, illiteracy, against darkness. That is not the element of jihad. Jihad is very defensive Jihad is against oppression; it’s not offensive in connotation. So we need to ban all these publications, move against printers, the publishers and the distributors and that is what we are doing. Thirdly, some of our mosques are being misused by the clerics, by the ritualists and the obscurantists, to spawn hatred, militancy against every one at large whoever that man, he doesn’t like, personally or collectively.
That needs to be curbed. Nobody should be allowed to misuse mosques and its loudspeakers. And we are taking actions and these are in the immediate perspective. Then there are three elements in the long-term perspective. Number one, we must address the issue of our curriculum and syllabus in our educational institutions. When we go through them, we realize that, other than rituals there is not much.
Therefore, we must introduce the real values of Islam into text-books and take away the rituals which are dividing us, which are divisive, which are inciting sectarian hatred. We are addressing that, we are doing that. This is long-term. We will modify our syllabus and we will start teaching that to bring harmony to the minds of our students. The fifth element is the madrassa. It has become a malign word all over the world. Madrassa has a positive and a negative part. The positive part is that this is an NGO, if we may like to call it, which gives free board and lodge to the poorest of the poor. Roughly one million students there are getting free board and lodge. The government certainly could not look after them. But the negative part of it, is two- fold, and not in all Madrassas. One spawning hatred, militancy, affecting, indoctrinating the minds on the side of militancy. And also some in the tribal areas, harbouring terrorists. Second problem is that they are teaching only religion, nothing else. So we need to address both and we are doing that. For the first part, who is harbouring terrorism, we are acting against them. A number of madrasas in the tribal agencies, we got inside and we got hold of people and we are taking action against those madrasas. We will do the same in our cities. We will not allow any madrassa to harbour a terrorist and get involved in extremist or terrorist activities.
The other issue, we are trying to address, is mainstreaming the students, telling them (Madrassas) to teach all subjects and take board examination. The good news is that there are five ‘Wafaqs’ of these Madrassas~ Wafaqs are boards, who test them. They act as boards also and they have their own areas of influence. They control about, they say 90 percent while some people say 70 per cent. Whatever the percentage, they are the major dominating force in the Madrassas. We are in contact with all the five Wafaqs and all of them are on board to teach subjects what we are demanding, to take examinations of all the boards so that the children can be mainstreamed into life and not become only the clerics. They are on board and sending outsiders, they are on board on being tested and examined through another board on the subjects other than religion. So I think we are making progress.
Again, I would say I introduced the strategy two years back, may be, and there was not much headway. Yes indeed, I know that. But the environment has changed. At that time the environment to use coercive strategy was not there. Today the environment is different. So therefore, a different policy. The last element, which may appear not so important but I think is the most important and is the most longterm. This is affecting the hearts and minds. The national discourse today opened within Pakistan and all organizations who carry out this discussion on the real values of Islam. I would not like to be too presumptuous but our aims are very high. We want to carry out a Muslim renaissance and let Pakistan be the source of light. Let Pakistan to be the centre from where the real understanding of the real values of Islam (flows) -the Muslim renaissance, showing light within the Muslim world and the world at large. We have taken a lot of measures, we want to bring real international scholars to Pakistan and let them be the driving force. I am involved in this for the last one year. We got about 40 or 50 international scholars from all over the world including India and Bangladesh and all over the Muslim world and some scholars even from the West and the United States.
So the real scholars of the Islamic world, they came here, I addressed them and spoke to them, motivated them. They are prepared to come and be in Pakistan. I think Pakistan is very eminently qualified to start this process of Muslim Renaissance. It may be a tall order. (But) they say for a journey of thousands miles, it is always the first step that has to be taken. We will take the first step. Because I think that is the real long-term objective of projecting the real Islam. Understanding ourselves and projecting to the outside world. These are the six areas that we are addressing. I thought I need to cover these in detail to counter any people who think that we are not doing enough. If Pakistan is not doing enough, the whole world is asleep, because I think we are doing the most, we are doing the maximum.
I challenge any other country, which is doing as much or thinking as much, executing as much as Pakistan. I would like to conclude by saying that this country, Pakistan, is an Islamic Republic, but it is moderate Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We will take it, will develop it as a progressive, dynamic, moderate, Islamic Republic of Pakistan.