MUBASHIR HASSAN, SAJID ZIA,
IQTIDAR GILANI and JAM SAJJAD HUSSAIN
LAHORE – Although terrorist activities have become order of the day and countless innocent people have been killed during the past years, no party, whether in power or in opposition, has, so far, any solution to deal with the problem.
All important parties contacted separately by TheNation on Monday said Pakistan alone cannot eradicate terrorism and that the international community should join hands. Some of the parties are, however, of the view that all political forces, with or without representation in Parliament, should sit together and discuss ways and means to save the country from terrorists.
The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI)thinks the problem will be over once Pakistan came out of the so-called war on terror.
In the light of the answers given by various parties, it is difficult to say what strategy the governments at the centre and in provinces are following at present to stamp out terrorism. As for the causes of terrorism, most of the parties think that Pakistan’s support to the Afghan Mujahideen in their war against the Soviet occupation of their country sowed the seeds of the problem. Some, however, think that the US presence in Afghanistan is responsible for the terrorist activities in Pakistan and the problem would disappear automatically once the US leaves the war-torn country.
Pakistan People’s Party
The PPP senator and spokesperson to party co-chairman, Farhatullah Babar, says that the PPP views terrorism as a fallout of the international support to the Mujahideen resistance to the former Soviet Union and also the fallout of heroine as war weapon which is still haunting Pakistan. The PPP has identified trading in heroine, which continues unabated, to be the financial backbone of terrorism, he said.
“We believe that the international community now needs to fight collectively against suicide bombings and heroine as war weapon. That is why the president in his address to the recent OIC summit in Makkah called upon religious scholars from all over the world to issue a solemn declaration against suicide bombings and also against those who back the suicide bombers.”
He noted that Pakistan has been seriously affected by terrorism. “We have lost over 40,000 lives including over 6,500 personnel of security forces in the fight against terrorism. Our material losses have reached almost 80 billion dollars”, Babar added.
He said his party considered the scourge of militancy, fanaticism and religious extremism a major challenge of the time.
Giving background of the problem, he said that it was through a conscious political decision that Pakistan joined the international community in the eighties in the war against a rival ideology. “The extent to which the west went in defeating the rival ideology can be judged from the fact that the then American President (Ronald Regan) had invited the Mujahideen leaders, later condemned as militants, to the White House eulogizing them as the ‘moral equivalent of George Washington”, he observed.
He further stated that in its bid to defeat the rival ideology, the West not only created the Mujahideen but also introduced, for the first time, heroine as a war weapon. And, at the end of the war, the west left the region withdrawing also the lethal weapons it had brought into the region. However, heroine as war weapons was not addressed.
“As heroine as war weapon continues to play havoc, Pakistan has convened a Regional Ministerial Conference which is proposed to be held in Islamabad in November to work out strategies to end the use of heroine as war weapon”, he told this scribe.
He said that PPP believed that because of its global implications, militancy must be fought collectively by the international community, as no one country could fight it on its own.
According to him, fighting terrorism is a complex issue. It calls for an effective counter-narrative besides engaging in an intellectual debate on countering extremism.
“We also believe that victory against militancy requires that we win the hearts and minds of the people. This can be done by addressing the feelings of helplessness and deprivation. We must give a message of hope to the youth,” he remarked.
The present government, he said, was a following a 3-D policy (Dialogue, development and deterrence) to counter terrorism. It is ready to have dialogue with those willing to surrender arms and militancy. It is also undertaking development work in the troubled region to provide jobs and education to the youth, as it believes that the poor and uneducated people could fall prey to the forces fanning terrorism in the country.
He was of the view that the Quaid-i-Azam envisaged Pakistan to be a country where political choices will be made by ballot and not by bullet. “Today unfortunately extremists and militants are seeking to impose their own narrow political agenda on the people through the bullet. This cannot be allowed and it will not be. “Our democratic ideals and principles call upon us to defeat the bigoted and extremists”.
Pakistan Muslim League-N
The PML-N wants an overall review of the situation to know the causes of terror wave in the country while going far behind the 9/11 incident. Though, the party had emerged as a main political entity during the period of General Ziaul Haq, when he was leading a decade-long Afghan war, the PML-N strongly deplores the mayhem created by the terrorists dubbed as Taliban and al-Qaeda and strongly wants re-examination of the whole spectrum of internal and external factors which kept this evil alive and has assumed the form of a monster after 9/11.
The party says without international help and objective review, no effective control on the menace is possible.
The party’s senior central leader Senator Pervez Rashid says if deeply seen, the genesis of the current spate of terrorism will be found in Afghan war during which anti-Soviet Union forces were raised to counter a superpower. Then these elements were prepared and equipped with arms, ammunitions, resources and slogans to crush the foreign forces that had invaded Afghanistan. Today the same weapons and slogans have become our problem and we are up against terrorism. He said firstly such elements were left in the lurch (after Russian pull-out in Afghanistan) and then they found a good breeding ground with the help of elements already influenced by their sloganeering in our society.
The senator says after 9/11 these elements managed to operate more forcefully, hitting through suicide attacks and other means, to topsy-turvy everything and in that course they targeted schools, religious places, public institutions and the public at large. Looking through the background of their upbringing against the Russians in Afghanistan, he said, with the passage of time using the same weapons and slogans, they turned hostile to the civilised societies, to those which respected the human values, and believed in open mindedness and free thinking, and stood for constructing the society on principles and humanity.
He also blamed the Musharraf era for providing a chance to these nefarious elements to raise their head and thrive as the military dictator had manipulated things more to keep him in the power than to genuinely take them to task. His concern was more on minting money and staying in power, and, as such, he did everything that suited his design. He said a startling element which made the situation highly complex and difficult to deal with, was the involvement of the international players in ‘a great game’ to get multiple gains in this region as well as to wreak vengeance on those which had defeated them in the past on the same ground.
He said this phenomenon had given multiple dimensions to terrorism and now the need is to know who are the actual actors and for what purpose they are playing their game.
Finding fault with present elected government, Pervez Rashid said bad governance, corruption and mismanagement had left many loopholes in policies and efforts to befittingly counter terrorism. Bad governance and corruption, he said, resulted in shortage of resources and economic downfall, which meant less spending on education, health, and development infrastructure. The resultant increase in poverty and unemployment drove the poor and the unemployed towards nefarious elements who used them as fodder in their terrorist acts.
He said malpractices of the federal government had also divested it of credibility to an extent that the world was not willing to financially assist it to eradicate poverty and build development infrastructure.
The PML-N leader said it was time to take fresh stock of the situation to build consensus at the political and the institutional level by taking all stakeholders on board including the establishment, civil society and ulema. All concerned should sit together to identify who are actually the miscreants and who is pulling their strings. A counter strategy could then be chalked out to address the issue, he said.
The PML-N senator thought that the task could not be performed by Pakistan alone; therefore, the international help was indispensable. “The world must know that terrorism is not only a threat to Pakistan, the militants could also strike anywhere in the world”. He said the world must collectively address the issue.
Senator Pervez said that if a true, genuine, honest leadership comes to power as a result of next elections, it can help curb the evil of terrorism.
Awami National Party
The Awami National Party (ANP) holds former dictator General Ziaul Haq’s policy of supporting Mujahideen responsible for promotion of terrorism.
“General Zia organised Mujahideen to fight the Russian forces in Afghanistan at the behest of America only to get dollars and to perpetuate his dictatorial rule. These jihadis later became a monster after they were joined by the Taliban”, said central General-Secretary ANP Ehsan Wyne.
He said the US abandoned General Zia as well as his Mujahideen after accomplishment of its task. The jehadis later also got engaged in power game in Afghanistan and shed a lot of bloodshed in the worn-torn country.
“Then came Taliban who gathered terrorists from across the world on Pakistan’s soil,” he said, adding that the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan raised its ugly head when America attacked Afghanistan following  9/11 and another military dictator pledged his support for the American agenda.
Talking about the solution, Wyne said all political and religious parties, whether in parliament or out of it, should sit together to take a consensus decision to address this important issue which had plagued country’s economy besides inflicting severe damage on other spheres of life. 
Jamaat-i-Islami
The Jamaat-i-Islami believes that America’s presence in the region is the sole cause of terrorism that would end with the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan.
JI Information Secretary Anwar Niazi said that terrorism did not exist in Pakistan before the American intervention in Iraq and later in Afghanistan.
“The present state of affairs is in reaction to the American presence there. If America leaves Afghanistan, terrorism would come to an end automatically.”
He said his party considered the US as the biggest terrorist state in the world with proven credentials.
Mr Niazi cited the incident of nuclear attack on Japan carried out by the US during the Second World War to substantiate his point. 
Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf
PTI Information Secretary Shafqat Mahmood said that the wrong decision of Pakistan joining the US war on terror caused increase in incidents of terrorism in the country.
“Though the problem already existed, the situation worsened after Pervez Musharraf’s unilateral decision of joining the US war in 2001. Prior to that, the problem existed in the shape of sectarian violence”, he maintained.
He said that now the enemies of the US were carrying out terrorist activities against law enforcement agencies and civilians. “They are doing all this to take revenge of wrong doings of the US. They are against the US and Pakistan due to military operation and drone attacks”, he said, adding, there was need to adopt short- and long-term policies to curb the menace of terrorism.
“We should come out of war of others. It will considerably decrease terrorism as enemies of the US would not fight against our agencies and people.”
He said after that the government should devise long term policies to reduce poverty, create job opportunities and introduce uniform education system.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F
JUI-F Information Secretary Maulana Amjad Khan said wrong policies of the rulers were main reason of terrorism in the country. He said that decision of an individual to join the war on terror had put the country in a difficult situation.
“We joined war of others that triggered terrorism, besides creating other problems”, he said, adding, there was need to review internal and external policies to overcome prevailing problems. He stressed upon the government to come out of the so-called war on terror and for this purpose decision should be taken by the parliament. He urged the rulers to realize the situation and make efforts to combat forces trying to create instability in the country through terrorism and sectarian violence. He said that religio-political parties were well aware of the situation and took clear stance in the Parliament.
“The JUI-F took a clear stance in the parliament and APCs’ communiques.”
He said that the JUI-F wanted revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal as it was not just an election alliance, but forum to take a united stance on issues of national importance including surge in terrorism.
Police View
“Unemployment, radicalisation, aggression-based television shows and cultural invasion are the major reasons of the monster of terrorism, which can be uprooted by introducing economic reforms, de-radicalization of religious seminaries, and by launching a well-coordinated media campaign to create awareness among all sections of the masses towards adoption of a mutual strategy against this menace.”
This is the crux of a brief chat TheNation had with senior police officials.
Punjab Police Inspector General Muhammad Habib-ur-Rehman, Lahore CCPO Muhammad Aslam Tareen, former CCPO Lahore Muhammad Pervez Rathore, CPO Multan DIG Muhammad Aamir Zulfiqar Khan and DPO Sheikhupura SSP Dr Haider Ashraf were interviewed to elicit their opinion on the issue.  
 All agree that de-radicalization of the religious seminaries and suggested that other disciplines like computer, social sciences should also be taught in these institutions and experienced and professional teachers should be hired for the purpose.
The IGP said that majority of the Muslims compelled by poverty are sending their children to the religious schools, where they are not provided the right kind of education.
The IGP believed aggression-based TV programmes and cultural invasion by the foreign TV channels have increased the lust of our youths and caused acute depression among the down-trodden.
Additional IGP Aslam Tareen says the process of the de-radicalisation of the youngsters should be started immediately from grassroots level to uproot this menace. He believed special panels comprising veteran religious scholars and uncontroversial Ulema could play a major role in promoting positivism and refining thoughts of the radical elements. “Joblessness and discrimination in education are other factors which provoke youngsters to join terrorist wings. Collective wisdom adopted by the provincial and federal governments, and purposeful awareness campaigns by the media, civil society, NGOs, and other stakeholders are indispensable to deal with terrorism,” Aslam Tareen said.