Thursday, March 2, 2017

Terrorism in Present Times - A View

In 1979, USA sought Pakistan's help in ousting the Soviet Union defence forces from Afghanistan, which had been occupied by the Soviet forces during that year, on a so called invitation from the local Afghan government. Specifically Pakistan was to train mujahideens to undertake an armed struggle against the Soviets and the local Afghan government. Pakistan was more than willing to undertake this training task in order to receive aid/ help from the USA. This task required the use of the Pakistani state instruments. These were thus used to train the mujahideens (plural for mujahids, meaning 'the one engaged in jihad'), who were to be eventually used to fight against the Soviet forces. 

These trained mujahideens were thereafter deployed in Afghanistan; they were highly decentralised, much like the Afghan society, and fought against the Soviet forces and the forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan for a period of 10 years (1979 - 1989). During this period, mujahideen forces caused serious casualties to the Soviet forces, and made the war very costly for the Soviet Union, literally forcing them to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 1989. Chaos followed the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in which the mujahideen captured a number of cities and districts. There was infighting amongst the various groups and warlords, and chaos reigned. After several years of devastating fighting, a village mullah, Mullah Omar, organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban (meaning students in Pashto), referring to how most Taliban had grown up in refugee camps in Pakistan during the 1980s. These Taliban were taught in the Saudi-backed Wahabi madrassas, religious schools known for teaching an orthodox interpretation of Islam.

The success of the mujahideen against the Soviet forces, as also the experience gained by the Pakistani establishment in training such elements, first as the Mujahideen and then the Taliban forces, led them to seriously consider terrorist activity as a viable instrument of state policy. This thought process has been responsible for the jihadist ideology to have spread throughout Pakistan, and is thus the direct result of policies adopted by the country’s military leadership, as also the political leadership. 

Pakistan subsequently has supported and tolerated a number of terrorist groups and has also come up with a philosophy of 'good' and 'bad' Taliban. 'Good' are those groups that further Pakistan's foreign policy goals and do not threaten the Pakistani state or wage war within Pakistan's borders. These groups include the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These groups conduct numerous heinous acts of terrorism in the region, and are directly responsible for acts of terrorism and killings, but are supported by the Pakistani state.

However, a terrorist is a terrorist; he does not conform to the definition of good and bad. He excels in spreading terror because that is all he thrives on. Over the past few years Pakistan has been directly affected by these terror activities, as the chickens have come home to roost. The people of Pakistan are now trying to find answers on how to stop these deadly acts across their own soil. It is a good sign that some sane voices have started to publicly speak against their own state policies. Hopefully these voices will grow in numbers and volumes to make the establishment rethink on their policies, as only people from within the religion/ country can speak to make a difference. No one from outside the religion/ country can do this much needed task.

A sane voice has given out the need for a counter narrative to the narrative being taught in the madrassas, as also the wrong policies being framed/ accepted by the establishment. I do hope more sane voices are heard in the near future to help us rid the world of this scourge that hurts humans and humanity, irrespective of personal beliefs.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has in this video stated that the teachings being imparted in the madrassas are directly responsible for the state of affairs. He has listed four of such teachings that are directly responsible for terrorist activities, by people who follow his faith. These four are as follows: -
  • Anyone who performs Kufr (denial of truth, the basic articles of faith within Islam), Shirk (Acts of worship to anything besides Allah), and Irtidad or apostasy (Rejection of one's faith in Islam) are punishable by death, and every one has the right to execute the death sentence.
  • Non Muslims have been born to serve and have no right to rule. Every non Muslim rule is Najayaj (unlawful) and therefore when the Muslims gain enough strength they have the right to topple the same.
  • Many different Muslim governments are not envisaged and thus correct. There has to be only one Muslim Khilafat (Caliphate).
  • Modern nation states are Kufr (Denial of truth, as per Islam)
Any one who has been exposed to such teachings since child hood would react the same way as the present generation of terrorists like the ISIS and others are doing.

The way out as per him, is that the civil society of Pakistan, and other Muslim nations, have to form a counter narrative to the one that is being taught in these madrassas, one that teaches the true import of Islam. Also, he feels that the civil society needs to pressurise their states and governments to follow education policies that give the basic right of 12 years of broad based education to every child, before the children are made to specialise in any field, be it medicine, engineering, religious teachings or any other field. He opines that a 5 to 7 years old child should not be admitted directly to madrassas for becoming a religious scholar. As per him, friday prayers have become political tools in the hands of the rulers. In case this is not reversed mosques will become hotbeds of political activity rather than remain as the place of worship to Allah.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What is the date today?

India, 1989 - Going abroad was a dream, and going to the USA was considered as the biggest of them all. Even though the US dollar was relatively cheap at Rs 17 to a dollar, one did not have enough rupees to buy a few hundred dollars needed for the trip. And even these few hundred were tightly controlled by the RBI, and duly stamped on your passport.

I was to undergo staff course at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama. Government regulations only paid for my ticket and stay for the 10 months that I was to be there; rules did not permit payment out of public funds for the ticket and stay of families abroad, if the duration was less than a year. Considering this to be a 'once in a life time' chance for my family to travel abroad, we decided to fund the ticket and stay there funded by our personal savings. My tickets for 10 June 1989, from Delhi to Washington, were booked by the Air Force. I booked the tickets for my wife and two children on the same flight through a travel agent. We thus travelled together up to Washington DC. I was to report at the Indian embassy on 12th  June and thereafter proceed to Montgomery, Alabama. We had thus planned that my wife and kids would visit relatives in Pittsburgh and Houston until I settled down in Montgomery, found a suitable furnished accommodation, bought used furniture, and a car, before they would join me at Montgomery.

My class schedule started as soon as I reached the base. However, the evenings were free and so I could go around looking for a flat. Transportation was an issue in this new place; I had got maps of the town and had marked out places where decent and reasonable 2-bedroom flats were available. My brother in the meanwhile, bought a used car for me, but it had to be picked up Pittsburgh. I did that on the first free weekend; Greyhound journey to Pittsburgh, half an hour driving lesson with my brother on how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side and I was ready to drive back the next day. With a car at my disposal, it became easier to cover more area and I managed to find a decent accommodation in no time. Furniture and TV was bought from an Egyptian officer who was leaving, after completing the previous course. The home was now ready, waiting for the family.

In this process of moving in to a new country with one suitcase, getting used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, travelling to pick up the car, going to work and attending classes every day, looking for a decent yet reasonably priced flat in the evenings, and buying all else needed to setup home in a foreign land, I had lost track of the dates. 

When everything was finally ready I called my wife, who was now in Houston, to give her the good news. It was morning. She was excited. We spoke for a bit and then I called off, as I had to head off for classes. We would normally speak once in a day to update each other on the day's happenings. I was thus a little surprised when I got a call from her in the evening. I asked her why she had called, as we had already spoken in the morning. I informed her that I was in the process of organising her move from Houston to Montgomery on Sunday, 25th June. She appeared a little off beat, and I wondered why, but could not guess. with so much on my mind. She asked me the date, and I blurted out 22nd  June. I hung up thereafter. After a few minutes, I again get a call from her. This time I was totally puzzled. My hello was answered by a very hurt voice from the other side. What day is it today? Thursday, I responded. I could guess from her silence that there was more to it than just the day and date. I knew that something was wrong, and then it dawned on me - today was our wedding anniversary. "Happy Anniversary", I said, but the damage had been done, and I wasn't even there to stop the flow of tears of hurt. 'How could you', she felt, and 'How could I', I felt. She has not forgiven me till date, for this monumental blunder on my part. I have not forgotten our anniversary ever after this.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Farooq Abdullah's Security Cover

After listening to the views of this ex-CM of J&K, and a former Union Minister in the Government of India, it is evident that he agrees and sympathises with the young people from his state who are demanding freedom. I do not understand this man. When in power, he enjoys the perks of the Indian Constitution. When out of power, he supports, and speaks, the language of the people who wish to attain freedom from India, and has also stated that "we are with you" to the Hurriyat people.

I strongly feel that his stand in this video is shameful. As a first, the Government of India should withdraw his Z security cover. Let him then roam around freely in J&K mixing with the youth whom he supports. I am certain he would be the first one to go away to UK, like he generally does when the situation in his state becomes too volatile.

India does not need turncoats like him to be protected, at tax payers expense, from the very people they support.