Coming blowback: How Pakistan is endangering the World

For a different cause of Fanatic Religion of peace inside Pakistan.

Coming blowback : How Pakistan is endangering the world

By Wilson John

Publisher : Rupa, Rs 595

Book Reviewed by CHIROSREE BASU

There are two types of reporting done on Pakistan. One, the ‘been-there-seen-it’ kind that mediamen in the West are known to have a special knack for. The other is armchair theorizing, the forte of a group that calls itself Pakistan-watchers. The second obviously lacks the thrill and personal touch of a first-hand account, but a long shot of events often provides an insight the first kind may not reveal. That is what keeps research foundations hedging their bets on the armchairwallahs. It is a tad disappointing when a work sinks in between the two stools, which this book does.

Despite the unusual data Wilson John uses, some of the startling revelations he unearths, and brief spells of clearheaded analysis, the book is lost in the heap of information that John feeds his reader. The ‘info’ breaks the narrative in the most unexpected places and leaves one groping for the line of argument. It annoys one to no end because some of this information (not altogether unknown) is repeated, sometimes verbatim, in the later sections of the book. To take just one example, a paragraph John cites with Ahmed Rashid’s quote from a Tehelka report on page 182 reappears in its exact form on page 238. There must have been others, for several times I was left feeling that I had read something similar only a few pages ago. This trait, detected in other “research works” that base themselves heavily on secondary sources, neither speaks highly of the researcher nor of those who edit such works.

The central thrust of John’s book is to look at the way the civil society in Pakistan is changing, imperceptibly but determinedly — a facet often overlooked by critics of the country’s civilian and military leadership. John, however, acknowledges that this change is steered by the Pakistan State itself in order to “justify its overt use of terrorist and extremist elements against its adversaries”. The radicalization effected not only makes the civil society encourage further radicalization but also to become an active participant in the process.

‘In its entire history, Pakistan founding father Jinnah’s vision of a modern, democratic state has never had a chance before the onrush of this hydra-headed juggernaut, the army–ISI combine, fuelled as it is by fanaticism, corporate greed, and lust for power. The single most important task before Pakistan’s citizen’s and its civilian leaders is to break up this cabal.’

Wilson John is a well-known investigative journalist, specialising in matters of defence and security. He has been credited with exposing many controversial deals and decisions in the defence establishment. He is at present a Consulting Editor with The Pioneer, New Delhi.

Much of this change happens through education. As the co-founder of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a major focus of John’s analysis) and colleague of Hafeez Saeed, the JuD chief, pointed out, it would be impossible to establish the “system of Allah in the world” without education. There are two things that John emphasizes here. One, he tries to dispel the notion that madaris alone promote Islamic education and popularize the notion of jihad. The failure of the State school system has brought in major players in the form of religious organizations and jihadi parties which have set up chains of their own brand of model hybrid schools that make religious education and jihad just as popular as the traditional madaris. (They, in fact, follow the guidelines laid down by the curriculum wing of the ministry of education that makes it mandatory for the schools to enable a Class V child to “make speeches on jihad and shahadaat” and “understand Hindu-Muslim differences”.) And they educate women in enormously large numbers to have control on the mental universe of the future generation.

The second thing John wants to stress is that jihadi outpourings in Pakistan are not the function of economic disparities that have resulted in a class war. Yes, the typical population in madaris may be poor, but the students there are not necessarily more predisposed to terrorism than the products of Pakistan’s elite secular institutions. In fact, the research he accesses show that since the latter lacked basic knowledge about Islamic teachings and the value attached to life, they may be more “amenable to getting involved in ruthless acts of terrorism”. In Pakistan, and elsewhere, that is precisely what is happening. Children of elite institutions are quitting school to rough it out in the terror camps with the blessings of their parents. Or else products of renowned international institutions are coming home to take on their share of the mantle of the global jihad.

The last indicates a fundamental change in the profile of the jihadist. A class apart from the recruits in madaris or those indoctrinated through intense courses in religion who fight side by side with the literate or illiterate in the fronts in Afghanistan and Kashmir, the net-born, e-coached, highly-educated, jeans-clad jihadist is a loner who forms his linkages with global jihad in his room, is less amenable to control than the innumerable fidayeens on the battlefield and perhaps more devastating in his impact on the world.

John goes into intricate details of how the JuD is fostering changes of all kind and linking up the jihadist world through its associations with the like-minded in the Arab nations, in India, the West, and within Pakistan’s bureaucracy and the army. There are fascinating accounts of Lashkar-e-Toiba camps, of indoctrination meetings where women sacrifice their sons as easily as their jewels to the cause. Incidentally, many of these are attributed either to reporters or analysts who are not named in the text or in the footnotes, which appear generously at the end of the pages.

John’s analyses, when they are not swamped by information, are remarkable. Consider the Pakistan army operation in Waziristan, the failure of which he blames as much on the inaction of the allied forces as on the sentimentalism of the Pakistan army officers. He also does an enormously useful summary of the jihadi movement in India and the jihadist linkages in Kashmir. However, one cannot rate his sensational account of ISI officers and Pervez Musharraf as highly. Nor can one give him the credit he lays claim on for prophesying that terrorist groups will “adopt new techniques or a combination of old modus operandi” to launch future attacks on India. That, one dares say, is obvious.

Posted by : MR.

Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata.

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