Pakistan’s 9/11

Peshawar school attack changed the country. The onus of reform is on Islamabad

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Updated: January 23, 2016 8:14 am
peshawar-attack-759 On December 16, 2014, the Taliban killed 132 children in an army public school in Peshawar. (File/Reuters)

First the US had its 9/11, when terrorists located in Pakistan plotted an aerial attack on the World Trade Centre and changed America forever. India had its 9/11 in Mumbai in 2008 at the hands of Pakistan-based terrorists, which changed India forever. The UK had its 9/11 in 2005, when two expat Pakistanis, led by another expat Pakistani to a well-known den of terrorists in Punjab, blew up the London underground.

Then Pakistan had its own 9/11. On December 16, 2014, the Taliban killed 132 children in an army public school in Peshawar. The killer organisation, led by the Pakistani Taliban’s chief Fazlullah, later put out a message saying the massacre of children was according to a hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about Banu Qurayza, the Jewish tribe put to the sword by him for a pledge-betrayal. This 9/11 has changed Pakistan.

Pakistan’s present army chief, General Raheel Sharif, is determined to clean up the country, backed by the elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who wants to roll back hostilities with India and start free trade with it.

The Peshawar massacre was ordered from a hideout in Kunar in Afghanistan, right next to Bajaur and Swat in Pakistan from where Fazlullah had fled in 2009 after staging massacres copied later by the IS in Iraq and Syria. Brutality was Fazlullah’s forte. The 21st century has brought out the worst in Muslims.

Pakistan nurtured terrorism in the 1990s, not knowing it will recoil, and that its private warriors will return and bleed the patron state. Today, the Muslim world has gone crazy with a religion that was supposed to be peaceful.

What was begun as jihad in Pakistan, with help from Saudi Arabia and America, led to dreams of conquest and khilafat; and when the warriors ran out of innocent people of other faiths to kill, they started killing fellow Muslims.

While abroad, Muslims go crazy because of “identity incongruence”, turn inward, read up unbelievably crazy agitprop on the internet, and plot massacres of innocent people of the host country. Many of these killers turn out to be expat Pakistanis.

Last year in San Bernardino, a Pakistani couple killed 14 disabled persons and pledged their loyalty to the IS. After both were killed, their bodies were offered to Pakistan for burial, which it wisely refused, not wanting a mile-long procession of devotees. Pakistan made the mistake of accepting the 2005 London killers and was humiliated when the burial procession called for “more of the same”.

This December, Pakistan did some stocktaking of 26/12. One official said the number of madrasas spreading jihad was not the “registered” 20,000, but 80,000. Even Islamabad had scores of “illegal” madrasas. In the capital, the most powerful man is the high priest of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, with links to the IS. The government is too scared to touch him. Reason?

The population of Islamabad is with him rather than with the government. Ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf fell from power after ordering a commando operation against the mosque.

Pakistan’s intellectual challenge lies in reconsidering the idea of education. It will have a tough time understanding why education is more dangerous than illiteracy. Most terrorists are educated, even well-educated in prestigious institutions where textbooks inculcate jihad and correction of the world through righteous war.

Any attempt to purge the textbooks is opposed by political parties. The brainwash is everywhere, as writer Mohammed Hanif complains: “We are often told that only a few Muslims are bringing a bad name to all of us. I feel that those few also include our representatives in the media who pretend they can save Islam’s reputation by going on TV and writing op-eds to reassure the world that we come in peace. They tell the world that though the mass murderer was quoting from the Quran, he got the Quran wrong.”

The onus of sorting out relations with its neighbours is on Pakistan. India has its roster of plaints, Iran unhappily protests about Jandullah attacks, Afghanistan about Taliban attacks, China about Uighur attacks and Central Asian states about Uzbek-Chechen killers still hiding in Pakistan.

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’

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