Daily News (Pakistan) : ‘Do More’ mantra

Friday, April 24, 2009

‘Do More’ mantra

Khalid Khokhar | April 24, 2009

THE linking of most recently alleged terrorist plot with Pakistan unearthed in UK, is the manifestation of old-aged archetypal apprehension that “the imprints of every major act of international terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan”. The westerners believe that virtually all the participants of 9/11 tragedy had been trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistani seminaries called as “Madaris”. The spat started with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to control terrorist acts. The Britain police arrested 11 Pakistani-born nationals on student visas in UK on the alleged planning to attack shopping centres and a nightclub in Manchester. However, after the examination of computers recovered from raids in Manchester, Liverpool and Clithere and their hard drives, MI6 cautiously admitted that there is no evidence of ‘Pakistan connection’ with the actual plot, thus causing a deepening sense of embarrassment to the worthy PM of a most technologically advanced country. It forced the Britain police to deport the arrested Pakistanis rather than charging them in a court. The father of one accused (Abid Naseer) in the alleged plot, attributed the charges to Western Islamophobia, saying his only crime is to have a beard and pray five times a day. As perceived by many in Britain and other Western countries, youth having long and untrimmed beards are viewed with suspicion as potential terrorists and extremists. To be sure, such labialization is unfair and uncalled for.

In 2005, Pakistani seminaries came under severe scrutiny when possible links of these religious Madaris have been alleged in 7/7 London bombings. During the course of investigation, it was revealed that at least two of the bombers had visited Pakistan in the months before the attacks. In the aftermath of the deadly attacks, the then, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on Pakistan to crack down on extremist madrassas. There are lots of attack threats and signals rumbling all round the western circles from time to time. Again in 2009, Pakistan has been accused of not doing enough, whereas it is doing enough despite limited resources. What is the myth of al Qaeda “sleeper cells” in European countries? Are these alarms emanating from jihadist propaganda videos, coded message to al Qaeda cells, or just hoax? The Government is well set on its course to ascribe a more meaningful role to the madrassas and developing the madrassa students congruent to cultural norms of Pakistani society. After reviewing the veracity of these alarms, one is left with many unanswered questions. A global dragnet has tightened around al-Qaida, made possible by a broad coalition of 84 nations, all focused on the common goal of eradicating the terrorist threat that endangers all civilized nations. Since September 11, 2001, 70 percent of al-Qaeda senior leadership and more than 3,400 lower-level al-Qaeda operatives have been detained or killed in over 100 countries. The al-Qaeda organization has been gravely wounded and is on the run. Pakistan has deployed up to 120,000 military and paramilitary forces in FATA and killed/captured hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives. Pakistan has made “significant” progress toward eliminating the safe haven for foreign fighters in the FATA over the past seven and a half years, capturing scores of key leaders. Pakistan, being the frontline state in the war on terror, is committed to weed out terrorism of all sorts from its soil. The objective was to deny a safe haven to al Qaeda and Taliban elements inside Pakistan. Despite substantial sacrifices rendered by Pakistan, still US counter-Terrorism department believes that “Washington rarely gets all of the help it wants from allies like Pakistan in efforts to hunt down violent extremists”.

In assessing al Qaeda and its cohort’s capabilities, many believe that US counter efforts have weakened al Qaeda’s central leadership structure and capabilities to the point where al Qaeda can not coordinate attack of 9/11 magnitude. Therefore, counter-efforts should focus more intently on homeland security, stressing such measures as improving airline security, establishing enhanced security measures for passenger train travel, and expanding security of western ports. The Britain’s Terrorism Act-2000, which authorizes indefinite detentions of immigrants; search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; allows to search telephone, email and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, can auger well with the objective of combating the scourge of terrorism. However, the Britain’s student visa system has some bugs. It is appropriate to mention here that more than 2,100 universities, independent schools and colleges normally apply to accept international students. Each institution was supposed to be assessed or visited by UK Border Agency officers as part of the vetting process. Foreign students bring with them 10 billion pound boast to the economy which the Government is keen to encourage. This leads to soft visa policy and thousands of bogus students were free to enter Britain despite new laws aimed at tightening controls on immigration. The British government issues around 10,000 student visas a year to Pakistanis, and over 50, 000 Pakistani students are presently in Britain, ostensibly studying. It was revealed that hundreds of colleges approved by the Home Office to accept nonEuropean Union (EU) students have not been inspected by it’s officers. It has also emerged that the vast majority of non-EU students would not be interviewed by the Home Office but admitted on the basis of written applications and evidence of sponsorship, educational qualifications and bank statements. They then register at the college or university that originally gave them admissions to enable them to apply for visas. However, the reality is that in a large number of cases, these institutions are little more than fronts that function only to make money from these young men and women who are seeking jobs for a better life in Britain. Another reason may be that the Europeans allow “rogue element” to seek shelter in foreign countries on the pretext of “political asylum”. The European countries, being the staunchest ally in the US-led war on terror, are unwittingly protecting and harbouring such dangerous terrorists wanted in many terrorist acts in Pakistan. Today, the continuation of militancy is a devastating outcome of western’s “human rights” policies.

The International terrorism, no matter when, by whom, where, and in what form, is a dangerous threat to the world peace. This requires mutual cooperation from all peace-loving countries. Every country should adopt “uniform strategy” in condemning and fighting terrorism resolutely. Since 2005, UK took into account how terrorism in Pakistan may affect Britain and its Muslim population. The British Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command arrested some UK nationals of Pakistani origin on the charges of “commissioning, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism”. Consequently, most of the terrorist organizations closed their offices in UK and fled away to some soft destinations, like Sweden, Italy, Norway, etc. Now, there is a strong need to take appropriate programmes and initiatives to reach out to people/organizations harbouring terrorism. All the foreign-based organizations should be taken to the task by the counterterrorism authorities of the respective country. All the websites operating in western countries responsible for fanning extremist sentiments should also be banned. The western democracies have to set aside their soft policy and should be more aggressive to conduct covert operations against masquerade terrorists exploiting the western doctrine on human rights to their benefit. International terrorism has jolted the whole world which is faceless and has no territory and is fighting its own war against terror. Pakistan itself has suffered from terrorism. Pakistan condemns terrorism in its all forms and manifestations. The public blame game only sours relations. The UK officials are equally irritated by High Commission’s statement as Islamabad is not happy with the statement of Prime Minister Gordon Brown because despite providing full co-operation in the war against terrorism, his attitude was not fair. Nevertheless, it calls for collective efforts by the international community against terrorism, instead of seeking scapegoats and blaming each other. UK and Pakistan should not worry about who is to blame, and more about how to rectify the emergent problem.