The century of terror

With one stroke of brush and his use of the word crusade, Bush had divided the world into two camps. One billion Muslims became suspects overnight

The century of terror

We all observe in our own ways, the tragic anniversary of the 9/11. It is a moment for reflection. While I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel, I do have an apprehension that by the time there is yet another change of leadership in Washington, the wound inflicted on inter-faith harmony would become difficult to heal.

Whether it is ignorance or by design, successive American presidents having seen terrorism as Islamic fascism- have thrown cold water on the Muslim moderate forces trying to counter radicalisation. In this context American attitude towards Pakistan is utter contempt to history. Unlike them or other nations, Pakistan perhaps is the only country that has won its freedom without resorting to arms or violent struggle.

Its founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah established Pakistan through vote. He did not have an army or a militant group to back him. It was his people with ballot that gave him democratic strength to alter the course of history. To call his nation a provider of safe havens to terrorists is a travesty of history. With one stroke of brush and his use of the word crusade, Bush divided the world in two camps. One billion Muslims had become suspects overnight.

The Americans created Taliban, used them, once out of use, ditched them, passing them to us as their ugly legacy and a tool in the hands of dictators to deny or undermine democratic rights of the people

President Trump too has his own fundamentalist agenda. His condemnation of Muslims has a violent message, and then everyone who is a Muslim is a potential terrorist. The ugly manifestations of his utterances have visibly impacted Muslims the world over. Indeed, Samuel Huntington and his clash of civilisation acolytes seem to have won the ideological battle.

Terrorism is certainly not a Muslim monopoly. There are or have been terrorist groups among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists. Christian Hitler was responsible for exterminating six million Jews. Secular terrorists (anarchists, Maoists) too have been the biggest killers.

On the 16th anniversary of 9/11 Third World Solidarity-an independent think tank-held a conference in London to discuss ‘Lessons learnt from 9/11’. I found it to be a suitable forum to defend Pakistan in particular and Muslims in general. And I am of the view that no lessons have been learnt. Bush pushed the world into century of terror with no end in sight with a faceless enemy that holds the key.

I would refer here to a quote from eminent American scholar Selig Harrison which remains relevant since 9/11. “The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked in tandem with Pakistan to create the ‘monster’ that is... Afghanistan’s ... Taliban”. (Conference on Terrorism and Regional Security: Managing the Challenges in Asia” in March 2001). “I warned them that we were creating a monster,” and I quote: “The CIA made a historic mistake in encouraging Islamic groups from all over the world to come to Afghanistan.”

CIA did not listen. Its view was that Taliban are religious fanatics, they would fight until death to “oust the Soviet infidels” from their land. And to carry forward this agenda, they found an equally obliging fanatic in General Ziaul Haq who needed Washington’s ashirwad and money to sustain him in power against the wishes of his people who were seething in anger for the judicial murder of Pakistan’s most popular leader martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

War against terrorism is a misnomer to begin with; wars are fought against countries, against nations, you cannot wage war against ideas — whether ideas are right or wrong, they are nevertheless ideas and these need to be fought by different means. You can destroy the forces of enemy, his assets, seize his land but you cannot destroy their ideas — even if wrong-by waging a physical war against them. This war has neither end nor achievable goals. It has only lead to greater disaster, more hatred, more alienation, more ghettos, more Jihadi recruits and more violence.

No doubt Americans might have succeeded in making the United States a citadel of security but at what cost — making the world unsafe for everyone. Its long term economic fallout inevitably means class war of a magnitude — between haves and have-nots — that even Karl Max could not foresee. The only way to get out of it is to declare victory and call it a day. Sixteen years down the road, there is more of chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan and less of democracy, more of violence than peace, more disorder than order.

What is the lesson learnt? I don’t know what lessons Americans and their allies have learnt, as far as Pakistan is concerned, I regret to say, that its stakeholders have developed vicious vested interests undermining democracy. The Americans created Taliban, used them, once out of use, ditched them, passing them to us as their ugly legacy and a tool in the hands of dictators to deny or undermine democratic rights of the people.

International financier — George Soros — in his article ‘Self-defeating War’ (published in the WSJ, 2006) described war on terror a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating policies. Indeed, sixteen years after 9-11 a misleading figure of speech applied literally has rendered world into chaos and anarchy. There is no count how many millions have been killed and how many trillions spent and yet al Qaeda has not been eliminated, more terrorist groups such as Daesh, ISIL have emerged as more lethal partners in terrorism that has come to be the fastest growing business after capitalism.

Gung-ho leadership in Washington is pushing the world to the edge of precipice. Only escape route is to repudiate war on terror as a false metaphor. If we persevere on the wrong course, the situation will continue to deteriorate. It is not our will that is being tested, but our understanding of reality. It is painful to admit that our current predicaments are brought about by our own misconceptions and lack of capable leadership. However, not admitting it is bound to be more excruciating ultimately.


The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist



Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2017.