Terrorism is an idea not an army. If you want to win the war on terror you have to fight it with ideas. As abstract as this may sound it is the only workable and morally justifiable solution. Terror is the absence of law. Terror is the dearth of justice. It is the child of anarchy. Terrorists are not born, they are made. If and only if people are pushed beyond desperation will they resort to terrorism. Terrorism is also a political tool employed by enemies of a society or nation. It can also have other motives but its roots will be embedded somewhere in someone’s interests. Those who have been wronged fall victim to adulterated ideologies propagated by these very enemies. These ideologies can be religious or nationalistic, ethnic or communal. Killing the victims of these ideologies or movements is absolutely no solution to the problem. No problem can ever be solved by suppressing it. It only becomes worse and rises stronger still. The solution is to chop it off right from the roots and roots of terrorism are embedded in the absence of justice, lack of order and the ignorance of issues. If you want to cool your cooking you do not cover it up with a lid to suppress the heat because that would only increase the pressure and the temperature would rise further. What you do instead is that you put out the fire. Terrorism is not any different. Same basic principle - if you want to destroy the terrorists put out the fire that is making them do what they do. On the contrary, if you use sheer force and try to suppress them then the pressure cooker will eventually explode.
We have seen many such explosions throughout history but have failed to learn the futility of the use of force. If force was the solution then the Israelis would have been able to get rid of the Palestinian Hamas militants. They have not and they will not because the people of Palestine do not see Hamas as terrorists but freedom fighters. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is an often quoted maxim. If there is no one there to protect Palestinian people from the atrocities of the Israelis then there lies the problem. Why would people not become terrorists when their children are killed in their very homes by Israeli bombs? If you expect to go into someone’s home, kill his children, steal his property, violate every right he has as a human being and still expect him to remain quiet you are in for a shock. Killing terrorists will only make more terrorists. No military operation alone has ever put an end to terrorism or rebellion.
If terrorism is to be purged then the feeling of depravity has to be eliminated. In 1991 the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were not allowed to make their own government in Algeria despite having won the elections. The result: they became terrorists. To this day warfare continues between them and the Algerian government because instead of trying to address their problems, the government went to war with the FIS. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was coined a terrorist organization by the British but it has been fighting for the people of Ireland for more than a century. Terrorism by the gun is only one small channel of the big organism. Terrorism is the infection of concept. Terrorism breeds terrorists not vice versa. The use of force cannot end terrorism if your own people are supporting terrorists and becoming terrorists.
The Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan were not born barbarians. It is not in their genes to spread chaos as some people would have you believe. They see the Americans and their NATO allies as foreign aggressors seeking to encroach upon their land. The Pashtun tribes have fought among themselves but whenever they have been threatened by a foreign invader they have united against a common enemy. Starting from Alexander the Great to the Mongols to the British and to the Russians the Pashtuns have resisted all of these to the point that the invaders have had to withdraw. All of these invaders have been superpowers in their own time. This is not religious extremism but Pashtun nationalism. This is the very nationalism that the Americans used to fight their proxy war against the Soviets. If anyone is responsible for the current situation it is the Americans. During the Soviet-Afghan war the people of Afghanistan were told that the Soviets are evil and they, the Mujahedeen, are good, that the Soviets were a threat to the freedom of the Afghan. The children of Afghanistan were taught to live their lives in militant terms. The Americans provided texts to Afghan schools which taught the letters of the alphabet by representing them with ammunition and war machines. A sample question out of a middle school level math book is “If a bullet is travelling at 2000 miles an hour and a Russian soldier is standing 10 meters from the bullet, how long will it take to hit him?” Books provided at that time are being used even now. Those children of Afghanistan see the Americans the same way they saw the Soviets, as invaders trying to subdue the native people. It is juvenile to believe that there can be victory against them. We, the Pakistanis, have the most to lose from this so called “war on terror”. The Americans will withdraw their troops very soon from this region but before that they would have caused catastrophic and maybe even irreversible damage to Pakistan which is most probably intentional. This is made obvious by the fact that while formulating the new policy for Afghanistan president Obama has conducted hour long talks with both Hamid Karzai and Manmohan Sing whereas Pakistan which is the biggest stakeholder in this whole scenario has been completely left out.
Rising death toll of American soldiers and resignations of key officials has led to a deep plunge in the popularity of this 8 year long operation among the American people. The Taliban still occupy more than 60% of Afghanistan. After spending much more than a trillion dollars and gaining nothing except the hatred of millions the American president has already given an exit date for American troops.
Now Pakistan is paying the price for aiding the Americans, which it has already started to experience. In Pakistan we have been led to believe that the suicide blasts will stop if we can kill all the terrorists and we are asked to give our fullest support to the military operations going on in terrorist strongholds. Neither can we kill all the terrorists nor can we win this way. When we use F-16s and gunship helicopters to kill these terrorists, innocents also die with them because bombs cannot differentiate between terrorists and civilians. When someone loses a loved one because of the military operation being carried out in Pakistan by the Pakistan army or in Afghanistan by NATO forces, he has no court of law to go to for justice. That is why this movement is growing. Chances are, he will pick up a gun and go fighting those who are responsible, in this case the Pakistani or NATO forces. This is radicalizing the population of these two countries. That is why force will not win because you are indirectly fighting the population not just the rebels. It is not religious extremism but the idea of injustice that is responsible, injustice to the populace, injustice to liberty, injustice to the right to govern your own land and injustice to the freedom of concept.
We are losing countless soldiers and civilians in fighting these terrorists and yet no end to it is in sight. It is not only naïve but foolish to believe that simply killing terrorists will end terrorism. If this were true, then we in Pakistan should have seen at least a decrease in the terrorist attacks after the Swat Operation. Instead of a decrease we have seen a hike in these incidents. Now that our forces are in the very heart of terrorism, Waziristan, where the terrorists are known to breed, why is it that starting from October 5 till November 19 there have been 23 attacks on Pakistani soil including attacks on the United Nations food department office, the General Head Quarters of the Pakistan Army and the Islamic University in Islamabad? In less than 40 days 438 people have been killed and 956 have been injured, that is almost 11 people dying and 24 being injured every day starting October the 5th. This is the worst wave of terrorist attacks in the history of Pakistan and has come after “successful” operations against terrorists. These statistics make it hard to believe that we are on the winning side of this war. This blowback should be proof enough to show that force alone is not the answer. This is a battle of concepts. We have to win over the hearts and minds of these people. Their concerns have to be addressed, their problems have to be solved and the causes which are forcing them to join the ranks of terrorists have to be done away with. By “their” I do not mean those who are bent upon killing innocents without the slightest whimper of remorse because no sense can be knocked into them and their intentions deserve punishment. I refer to those who are potential terrorists, those who are liable to fall in the hands of terrorist groups and train as suicide bombers. Stop them before they lose the battle of their hearts and join the ranks of those we call terrorists. Probably the only solution to the terrorist problem is to eliminate the existing terrorist networks and take precautions that more people do not enter their lines. How do we ensure that? Let us take and moment and think who the suicide bombers really are. They are uneducated people who come from lower classes of our country. The people belonging to these classes do not have access to proper schooling or training of any value. Their families cannot afford to send them to expensive schools. Where do they go instead? To Madrassas, and who is to know if these Madrassas are actually teaching the Quran or filling these children’s heads with hatred of their own country and people. The first step that needs to be taken is to educate these classes so that they can develop the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Currently the policy makers in Pakistan are diverting their total intention to matters of sugar, flour, gas and electricity while the politicians are committing farce after farce after farce. Unless there is a paradigm shift in strategy, peace in this region will become a relic of the past. The American and Pakistani dialogue with Afghan Taliban which has commenced recently might be a harbinger of better times but nothing certain can yet be claimed. The saddest part is that this move has come so late and the middleman making these talks possible between the two parties is none other than the Bin Laden family.