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INTERNATIONAL ISLAMISM

Paper No. 163

by B.Raman

(Based on a talk delivered by the writer at a seminar on Islamic Terrorism at New Delhi on November 25,2000)

What a person thought yesterday and expresses today, he or she may do or attempt to do it tomorrow. By carefully monitoring and analysing the thoughts of yesterday and the words of today, one may be able to have advance warnings of the likely happenings of tomorrow. National, regional and international security, therefore, demand that not only India, but also other democratic, liberal, secular and peace-loving countries of the world carefully monitor and continuously analyse the details of the debate involving the Islamic religious and extremist organisations of Pakistan today.

Islam is a religion which, like other religions, preaches the virtues of mercy and compassion. But, the Islamists of Pakistan do not preach mercy and compassion. They preach hatred and violence. Not only against non-Muslim "infidels", but also against other Muslims and Islamic nations, who in their perception, do not adhere to the precepts of Islam as interpreted by the Ulema and do not recognise the Ulema as the ultimate repositories of wisdom, whether it be relating to the religion, politics, economy, social welfare or statecraft.

When Pakistan became independent in 1947, it had about half a dozen Islamic organisations, dabbling in politics and in political crusade. Today, it has over 80. Not all Islamic organisations of Pakistan are extremist or terrorist. But all extremist and terrorist organisations sprouting out of Pakistan exploit Islam and calls to Islamic solidarity as motivating factors in their world-wide jehad.

For them, Islam is not just a religion through whose propagation people can be made more pious and virtuous. It is a weapon of coercion and intimidation, with which to subjugate the "infidels" and the non-practising Muslim States and establish the dictatorship of the Ulema.

For them, Islam is not just a religion; it is also a political ideology, an economic theory; a treatise on statecraft; and a training manual for the jehad.

Till the 1980s, the security agencies of the democracies looked upon International Communism as one of the principal threats to national security and closely monitored its activities.

It was not because they viewed the communist ideology as a possible threat to national security. Quite the contrary. Marxism or communism, as an ideology, had a positive content. The poor and developing nations of the world and the under-privileged classes of societies were inspired by that content yesterday and many of its aspects are valid even today.

What the security agencies were worried about was International Communism, as preached from Moscow and Beijing, because of three pernicious aspects.

*  It encouraged extra-territorial loyalty by holding that the requirements of loyalty to the solidarity of the international proletariat overrode those of loyalty to the nation-State in which a communist was resident and of which he or she was a citizen.. It was thus subversive of the traditional concept of loyalty to the State, unless the State be Marxist.

*  It emphasised the duty of the Communists, even if they were in a minority, to seize power even through the organised use of violence as a prelude to establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and making the non-believing majority come round to the Communist point of view.

*  It believed in the unsuitability of multi-party democracy as a principle of Statecraft for promoting and propagating Communism. And it used intimidation and ideological and physical terror as weapons to let its will prevail.

The same pernicious concepts are the intrinsic components of International Islamism, as propagated from Pakistani soil today:

*  International Islamism encourages extra-territorial loyalty by holding that the requirements of loyalty to trans-national Ummah and to Islamic solidarity override those of loyalty to the nation-State in which a Muslim is resident and of which he or she is a citizen. It is thus subversive of the traditional concept of loyalty to the State, unless the State be Islamic. It does not recognise national borders. It defends the right of the Muslims to travel to and wage jehad anywhere to protect and help fellow-Muslims.

*  It emphasises the religious duty of the Islamic forces in a Muslim country, even if they be in a minority, to seize power even through the organised use of violence as a prelude to establishing the dictatorship of the Shaariat as interpreted by the Ulema. It justifies their right to assist the Muslims in non-Muslim States to achieve their aspirations, even through violence.

*  It believes in the unsuitability of multi-party democracy as a principle of Statecraft for propagating and purifying Islam. It uses intimidation and ideological and physical terror as weapons to let its will prevail.

What do these forces, which are in the forefront of the so-called jehad in Jammu & Kashmir, say? They propagate that:

*  Jammu & Kashmir is not their only agenda vis-à-vis India. It is only the first item in their agenda. The other items are the "liberation" of the Muslims in the rest of India in order to create two more "Muslim Homelands" in South Asia--one in North India and the other in the South.

*  J & K is the gateway to India. Once they control J & K, they would use it as a rear base for "liberating" the Muslims in the rest of India.

*  After J & K, their priorities would be Hyderabad and Junagadh. According to them, these two areas rightly belonged to Pakistan and the Ummah; and they have a religious duty to "liberate" them and bring them into the Ummah. Thereafter, they would turn their attention to the rest of India.

Since the beginning of 1999, the importance of the Ummah possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) for using them in their jehad against the non-Muslim "infidels" has become an important item of their debate, whether it be in inner-party deliberations, during religious discourses in the mosques and their madrasas or in the conventions of their Ulema. The issue was first raised by Osama bin Laden in two interviews and it has subsequently been picked up by others. During this debate, they have been saying that:

* A good Muslim is not only a pious Muslim, but is also a nuclear Muslim.

*  Allah has ordained that the Muslims should acquire whatever weapon capability they needed for their jehad against the "infidels". It is their religious duty to acquire WMD. Not to do so would be an act of sin and anti-Islamic.

*  The nuclear and missile capability, which Pakistan has, belongs to the Ummah and not just to the State of Pakistan. It is the religious duty of the Pakistani leadership to further develop and strengthen this capability and to place it at the disposal of the Ummah.

 * It would be an act of sin and a betrayal of the Ummah for Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and adhere to the nuclear and missile export control regimes.

* Pakistan has a religious obligation to share its technologies with and to export them to other Muslim countries, which may need them.

In the past, the Islamic parties were against the popularisation of the study of science and technology, apparently lest independently-thinking minds resulting from such studies start questioning the logic and the validity of the teachings of the Ulema and their interpretation of the Holy Koran. Now, in a reversal of this policy, some of them have been calling for greater attention to a study of Information Technology (IT) and for the development of an Islamic IT capability in order to use it as one more weapon in their jehad world-wide.

They have been depicting intellectual property rights as a Western conspiracy to keep the Islamic world permanently backward in the digital world and encouraging software piracy as another weapon in their jehad against the US and as a means of rapidly bridging the IT divide between the Islamic and the non-Islamic worlds and between Pakistan and India.

Practically all the Islamic extremist and terrorist movements of today, whether they be in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), the Chechnya and Dagestan areas of Russia, the Xinjiang area of China, the J&K State of India and in Southern Philippines were born out of ideas conceived in the battle-fields of Afghanistan of the 1980s and spread from the mosques and madrasas of Pakistan subsequently.

These movements could not have maintained the intensity and the ruthlessness of their activities without the support, instigation and encouragement received by them from the soil of Pakistan and Afghanistan. And such support, instigation and encouragement from Pakistani soil would not have been possible without the active involvement of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in the case of the terrorist movements directed against India and without its complicity or acquiescence in the case of terrorism directed against other countries.

While one is not surprised by its active involvement in the terrorist movements directed against India, the tolerance by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment of the operations of the movements directed against the other countries---and particularly against Saudi Arabia and China-- defies logic and understanding.

The tolerance is partly a quid pro quo for their role in assisting the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in its efforts to keep the Indian security forces bleeding at no cost to Pakistan's Armed Forces and partly out of fear that any strong action against their activities directed against other countries might make them turn against the military-intelligence establishment.

It is mistaken to think that the terrorist movements directed against other countries could be attributed to the Taliban only. Today, Afghanistan is nothing but a veritable colony of Pakistan and the Taliban, despite its retrograde concepts in matters such as women's rights much to the embarrassment of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, is nothing but an appendage of Pakistan.

The idea for the creation of the Taliban to use it to achieve Pakistan's strategic objectives in Afghanistan was the brainwave of Maj.Gen. (retd) Nasirullah Baber, the Interior Minister in the Cabinet of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) under her, and Lt.Gen. Mohammad Aziz, now one of the two Corps Commanders in Lahore, who was then the Deputy Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and in charge of the ISI's operations in India and Afghanistan.

It suits the present military regime in Islamabad that the international community blames the Taliban and not Pakistan for what is happening in countries other than India. It should not be allowed to get away with this. The international community should hold Islamabad squarely responsible for what has been happening elsewhere too.

The Taliban's militia is officered, trained and guided by Pakistani ex-servicemen. The Administration in the Taliban-controlled areas is largely run by retired Pakistani bureaucrats. The budget of the Taliban Government, which has no source of revenue except heroin, is heavily subsidised by the Pakistani exchequer.

The control over Afghanistan, through the Taliban, not only serves the strategic objectives of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment; it also serves to keep the Pakistani State and economy afloat through the heroin money. Since Gen. Musharraf seized power, there has been a dramatic decrease in the areas under opium cultivation and in the production of heroin in Pakistani territory. But, this has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the areas under opium cultivation and in heroin production in the Taliban-controlled Afghan territory.

What the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has done is to transfer the opium-heroin assets of Pakistan to colonised Afghanistan so that Islamabad could avoid pressure from the US on the narcotics count while continuing to enjoy the benefit of the heroin dollars.

The entire opium cultivation--heroin extraction--smuggling of the product chain in Afghanistan is in Pakistani hands. The heroin dollars constitute the life-supporting system of the Pakistani State and economy and of the internationally-ostracised Taliban. They add to the jehad-making potential of International Islamism.

The extent of Pakistani involvement in the heroin trade would be evident from the following:

*  The jehadists of international Islamism spare no opportunity to organise a crusade against every social evil (in their perception)--drinking, debauchery, adultery, the TV etc, but they have never organised a crusade against opium cultivation and heroin production and smuggling.

*  The largest numbers of heroin smugglers in the world come from two nations-- Nigeria and Pakistan-- with many smugglers caught, prosecuted and convicted in different countries. Saudi Arabia executes every year over two dozen heroin smugglers of Pakistani nationality. Most of those arrested and convicted are Pakistani nationals coming from Pakistan or Afgfhanistan. There are very few Afghan nationals.

The solidarity of the extremists and terrorists of International Islamism has not been matched by a solidarity of the victim-States in confronting them effectively. There has been a mushrooming of intelligence-sharing mechanisms in the form of Joint Working Groups, the Shanghai Five etc. But, the ineffectiveness of the victim-States in dealing with this menace cannot be blamed only on inadequate intelligence.

A more important factor has been a lack of lucid analysis of the dimensions of the menace and the absence of a political will to strike at the source of the menace through individual and joint operations. Any such joint operation has to start with repeated and co-ordinated attacks on the opium fields and heroin refineries of Afghanistan in order to deny this important source of funds for the State of Pakistan, the Taliban and International Islamic terrorists.

Such attacks might not mean the end of the terrorism, but could mark the beginning of the weakening of it. 

(27-11-00)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: corde@vsnl.com )

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