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Monday, June 27, 2011

How to fight back Extremism

THE arrest of Brig Ali Khan, among others, from the army HQ for suspicion of his affiliation to my old Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) are necessarily about far more than merely ‘fighting militancy’ in Pakistani society or within the army.

Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas has stated that the army follows a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards such recruitment.

Despite the many grave errors the army has made of late, here they deserve praise for having done the right thing. However, these arrests must be seen as indicative of a wider intellectual malaise in Pakistani society surrounding the civilisational direction the nation should take.

When a nation suffers from such intellectual paralysis, the solution involves the painstakingly slow process of creating an intellectual consensus that can form the fabric of society — like a social contract, redefining the nation’s image at home and abroad, and reclaiming Islam from the extremists who seek to monopolise its interpretation. Just as it took years for us to get into this mess, it will take years to get out. As far back as 2003, journalist Ahmed Rashid reported on another purge of such elements by Musharraf. Regrettably, I had helped to recruit some of these officers while they were studying at the famous Sandhurst military academy in the UK.

Indeed, the particular problem of HT infiltration inside the Pakistan Army was exported to Pakistan from Britain. HT advocates violent overthrow of democratic states through illegal military coups in order to enforce a single interpretation of Islam. I call this ideology ‘Islamism’, and they have hijacked the term ‘caliphate’ for their utopia.

Recruiting from the world’s Muslim-majority armies is a fundamental tenet of their call. And though groups like HT are not terrorists, this only makes them even more able to recruit from the Pakistani elite for their paralysing call.

So whilst the media focuses on the high drama of terrorist attacks carried out by groups such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and others of their ilk, there is another non-terrorist but equally dangerous war raging in Pakistan. Enter the intellectual warfare of ideas and narratives. Winning this struggle is far more crucial in the long term. The ideology that fuels this struggle portrays Muslims and the West — both perceived simplistically as monolithic entities — as eternal enemies and competitors for world domination in a zero-sum game.

Muslims are encouraged to unite and rise up in order to attack the West and impose a single interpretation of Islam on the entire world. But in order to do this they must first overthrow their existing governments, for which they have a very particular plan.

Groups such as HT do not seek to launch a mass movement; rather they specifically target the intellectual elite and the
military apparatus of the countries in which they operate. For years, leading journalists and the intellectual elite of Pakistan have been targeted by highly educated English-speaking Islamists. They have been seeking to convert prominent opinion shapers to their supremacist ideology. Once this sector is taken, a military coup can be staged by key officers sympathetic to the cause, who would in turn face minimal resistance from society.

As one of HT’s texts from Britain reads, this would “normally be done by the Party seeking to access the military in order to take the authority … After this the military would be capable of establishing the authority of Islam. Hence a coup d’état would be the manifestation of a political change….”

The work of groups like HT is being made easier by other Islamist groups, who have long planned to dominate civil society and government institutions in order to normalise their hate-filled ideology and narrative. It is also being made easier by current events in the region like the war in neighbouring Afghanistan and instability within Pakistan. But brave civil society figures and groups in Pakistan are staging a fight-back against extremist propaganda, although the battle ahead is long and hard.

Ultimately, peace and stability in Pakistan can only come about once democratic culture takes root in Pakistani society.

Democratic culture is not just about holding elections every few years but rather a sustained commitment to values such as the freedoms, equality, human rights, pluralism and respect for the rule of law.

Just as Islamist social movements have for years been preaching their ideology to the grass-roots in Pakistan, counter-narratives are needed to spread the values of democratic culture and reclaim Pakistan and Islam. Who are the leaders of democracy in Pakistan today? [Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain, Ch Shujat, with tainted and dubious past and present] What are the symbols of democracy? [Corruption, Nepotism, Misrule, Injustice, Cheating and exploitation of masses] Where are the social movements working hard to reverse the drift towards Islamism and to create ‘buy-in’ for democratic culture on the ground? [Only one man is visible- Imran Khan, resisted strongly by forces of corruption and plunder]

Islamist leaders, symbols and movements exist in abundance, but one struggles to think of more than a handful for genuine democratic activism. This much-needed change will not come about automatically or overnight. It requires a concerted campaign by individuals and organisations that are prepared to work together, promote each other (not drag each other down) and stand up to the forces of disorder and chaos.

The fight-back has begun but it will require a lot more energy and resources to rescue Pakistan from its current downward trajectory. Crucially, it will require courage.

By Maajid Nawaz , The writer, a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, is director of the UK-based think tank Quilliam.
Winning Minds:
First, the extremist ideology must be countered effectively. They take shelter behind Islam, pretending to be only true Muslims, fighting the infidels and their supporters [who, according to them fall outside folds of Islam]. Very little is done at national and tactical levels to effectively counter this false ideology based upon misinterpretation of holy text. Resultantly society, even ranks and file in armed forces are divided.The extremists find sympathisers among intellectuals, politicians, media and other segments of society. Public support to a terrorist [gorilla] is important like water to fish for survival. To deprive extremists from this, there has to be a mass campaign to educate the people, create awareness about basis teachings of Islam for peace, moderation and tolerance. While the media experts can evolve the campaign, immediately while breaking the news of any terrorist act, media  [TV] should display the verses from Qur'an an Hadith rejecting suicide, killing of innocents, creating anarchy and mischief  on land [fasad-fil-ardh] with Urdu and Pashtu translations. Minimum visual  coverage would discourage glorification and terrorisation of public. [Lessons from British media against IRA are worth consideration]. More details at  “Don't be Deceived, Know enemies of peace”.
Policies: Government policies should reflect the will of of people, not against it. First priority should be own national interest not interest of any other super or regional power. This can only be achieved through self reliance not dependence upon others. It its our war then we should conduct it according to our own plan and terms not on dictation from others. People can not be be-fooled for long time. The policy should be clear  without any contradiction or dichotomies. 
Winning Hearts:
Political, Social & Administrative Reforms: Politics is the business of rich only, their first priority is to recover election expanses and expenses for next election. Too much power is concentrated with the parliamentarians, who have persistently proved to be unworthy of it: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", power to plunder is the norm. They pressurise to get undue favours for their support to keep people in power. The executive should be separated from legislative. Development of road, infrastructure is not the job of legislators, its the function of local government. The monopoly of parliamentarians should be  restricted by taking away their power to elect Prime Minister, President, Senators, women and minority seats, by electing them with direct vote of people, parliamentarians would  become law makers, then genuine people would come forward. US, French and German constitutions should be looked at, they are not non democratic. 
The British modelled parliamentary system  suits the feudal political elite, they hold reign of power through this system, it is not divinely ordained , it could always be suitably modified to suit local environments.  At times people with minority vote get elected, while majority gets no representation, if 100000 votes are divided among various candidates, candidate A getting 15000, B 25000, C 15000, D 20000, E 10000, F 15000 candidate B with 25000 votes is winner with 25% votes while he was rejected by majority 75%, who will remain unrepresented, this not fair democracy [Out of many take example of NA-3 , Mr.Noor Alam Khan with 30% of polled votes is winner while 70% people cast votes against him to other candidates, actually he got only 10% of total registered votes. if 45% bogus votes are excluded the figure fall down significantly. More at this weblink]. Hence the majority is not represented in parliament, how could it be called democracy?  No one has ever even debated this aspect, resolving it is far fetched objective. Those not represented in parliament have to wait for next elections after 5 years or resort to protests and violence. Effort should be made to provide representation to maximum political groups, so that even small parties could get representation to project, put across their point of view in democratic way not through violence. 
Issue of proper election could be resolved through 2nd round of vote or  proportional representation system. The proportional representation system is equitable and has been adopted in many countries like Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Malaysia, its advantages should be looked in to. Switzerland's refined proportional election system is even batter.

Elected local government institutions should be strengthened by giving them more autonomy. Free judiciary should be able to provide quick justice, along with free press  will act as guardian of genuine democracy and accountability. Military has to support the constitution and judiciary not individuals. 
Good Governance: It is the basic function of government to create fair, secure peaceful environments with equal opportunities for  all. Good administration and justice will satisfy the public to reject any one trying to lure them with the dreams of prosperous future and promises for freedom from oppression, corruption and exploitation. Pakistan constitution is based upon Islamic principles, why some should be allowed to exploit Islam? Government should implement constitutional provisions. 
As long the 'ruling elite' holding from last 60 years with cosmetic change of faces is not ousted peacefully there will be no PEACE, the EXTREMISM shall continue to flourish. This suits  'ruling elite' to remain in power indefinitely, Zardari regime is talking of 30-40 years war against terrorism! Poor masses are killed while rulers, their children and wealth is safe and well protected under guard here or in Switzerland, Europe and elsewhere.
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