By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Dear fellow Pakistanis,
I wrote an open letter recently to our neighbors in India which got a lot of attention- both from India and Pakistan. The letter was written by a citizen of Pakistan to a citizen of India but it is only fair that I write a similar letter to my own compatriots. Let me begin by thanking those of you who wrote emails of praise and appreciation. At the time I wrote that letter, I genuinely could not conceive of a young boy from the remote village of Faridkot, too small to be visible on the map of Pakistan, in Khanewal district to strike at the heart of India’s financial capital. Given the motive, timing and the unfortunate demise and martyrdom of Hemant Karkare, a true hero for the people of India, and the growing nexus of Hindu extremism with terrorism aimed at the Muslim minority in India in the recent years forced me to point a finger, more speculative than accusatory, at Hindu fundamentalist groups in India. There is now incontrovertible evidence however that we were wrong. And while we have to face up to this skeleton in our closet, it pains me to see so many of you still using my letter as some sort of defense to feed your own denial that this was our own boy from our own Faridkot. The remoteness which to my mind declined the likelihood of this dusty village is probably the real reason why it is so.
We must face up to certain facts. There are groups that will prey on poverty, illiteracy and real grievances of ordinary Pakistanis and pluck from them youth who will then be brainwashed into unleashing terror onto hapless populations. No matter how legitimate one’s grievance or cause, it does not sanction violence aimed at unarmed civilian populations far removed from the cause itself. This is the only real definition of terrorism if you ask me: every time an unarmed non-combatant civilian population is attacked, be it by insurgents or by a state force, it becomes terrorism. We must also accept that our experiment with Jehad in the 1980s has now become a Frankenstein monster. I do not wish to belittle the sacrifices of the freedom fighters who fought for the liberation of Afghanistan from expansionist Soviet imperialism and totalitarianism. The American led Jehad against Soviet expansionist tyranny was a bellum justum and we can be rightfully proud of it as a people. After all, it was one of the two successful such Jehads in the 20th century: the first was when the great Gazi Kemal Ataturk raised the banner of Jehad and Muslim solidarity in Anatolia to motivate the Turks i.e Muslim inhabitants of Anatolia to drive out the invading Greeks from Turkey. The major difference there was that at as a true patriot, Ataturk knew when to switch the Jehad button off. The result was the first successful and modern secular nation state of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, our leaders and policy makers never got around to switching the button. Their only countermove was to try and divert the Jehad to Kashmir but that strategy was only partially successful. Continue reading