Acts of terror in and around Peshawar last week reminded us once again that we are in the middle of a war. These recent attacks that claimed many innocent lives made some commentators renew their advocacy of accepting the US-led so-called war on terror as our war. On the other hand, the evil-looking tattoo on the back of one of the killed terrorists was considered by many as evidence to write off the entire menace of militant extremism as a US-controlled project that will disappear in thin air with an end to the US occupation of Afghanistan. It is important to move beyond these simplistic formulations in order to understand the challenge we face and to define the war we’re trapped in.

The problem with those eager to claim the US-led intervention in the region as our war is that they use the acts of terror perpetrated by militant groups as a justification to support the far more serious and barbaric strategy of terror officially sanctioned by the superpower and its Nato allies. The one-eyed liberal fascists seem to have no ideas of their own. They would like us to believe the false narrative spun by the US establishment as divine injunction and dance to its belligerent tune like a good unquestioning ally. They would like the state of Pakistan and its security forces to become an errand boy for a two-faced Uncle Sam, implementing his dubious war strategy that has brought death and destruction to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Are they so naïve, these ‘our-war’ cheerleaders? Their logic seems to suggest as much. According to them, the US is fighting a global war against terrorism and since Pakistan is being attacked by terrorists as well, we have a common enemy and we should fight it together. Of course, for them, fighting it together means taking orders and doing as we are told. They would like to take the obviously hypocritical pronouncements of the so-called superpower on their face value. Truthful to the US narrative, they would like to bundle together the resistance in Afghanistan with the terrorism we face and convince us that the only hurdle in defeating terrorism is our reluctance to cooperate whole-heartedly with the US game plan.

Their complete faith in the US and what it says is a bit confounding. What brand of noble intentions could justify the brutal occupation of Afghanistan for more than a decade? What kind of fictitious weapons of mass destruction make the hell let loose on Iraqi citizens acceptable? What definition of human rights and freedom allows the continued destruction of Libya? Which human values sanction subversion of order in Syria? What makes these ‘our war’ cheerleaders blind to not just these, but countless covert and overt imperialist interventions by the US around the world? Are they really ignorant of the nexus between militant groups scattered all over the globe and the CIA that has fathered, adopted, nurtured and fanged them?

Actually, we don’t need any tattoo to convince us that the US is involved in spreading terrorism in the world. It is documented history. Its dangerous covert games are no longer secret in any case as its leaders openly boast of funding and arming terrorists that they dub as rebels or any convenient name that sounds less offensive. In the case of Pakistan, when CIA and Blackwater operatives were thrown out after the Raymond Davis episode, the CIA head calmly told us that the agency did not need its agents on the ground anymore as it had established an extensive network of local assets in the country. Does this network include the TTP contacts on Raymond Davis’ phone?

Certainly, we need to pull out of this imperialist war and work with other neighbours of Afghanistan to rid the region of the US presence. Pulling out of the US war is an important first step, and it will help us on two counts at least. It will bring an end to the dangerous covert games the meddlesome superpower plays under the garb of cooperation and friendship to begin with. Besides, it will take away the flimsy ideological excuse used by militants, who think it is kosher to kill innocent Pakistani Muslims because their country is siding with the infidels.

More importantly, without the distraction of trying to do more in line with the US devious demands, it will also bring clarity to our understanding of the problem and, hence, help us in evolving an effective strategy to counter it. However, to say that the menace of militant extremism will disappear with an end to US occupation of Afghanistan is equally simplistic.

While it is true that growth of militant extremism owes much to CIA and American proxies in the Middle East, its roots have grown deep in Pakistan over the last three decades and it is supported by an environment of distorted and sectarian notions about Islam that have become common in our society. A multi-pronged response is needed to counter it. Other than a strong military offensive against the mercenary hardcore terrorist groups, the government will have to closely monitor the sources of funding, syllabi and activities of the large number of seminaries that have mushroomed all over Pakistan. In many cases, they are involved in spreading sectarian hatred and militant attitudes that encourage impressionable students to use coercion and violence against people, who do not subscribe to their version of Islam. The government will have to act against the blatant abuse of loud speakers in mosques and self-proclaimed scholars of Islam issuing fatwas that incite hatred and violence against other sects and communities. It is not difficult to prod youngsters weaned on such ideas to commit acts of terror to please God.

In fact, the entire society will have to get involved. The media will have to be more careful about what it dishes out in the name of religion. And the educated Muslims will have to reclaim their religion from an ignorant clergy. It’s not only about hunting and killing a handful of mercenary terrorists acting on foreign commands. To defeat militancy in the name of Islam, the nation must fight it on all fronts.

The writer is a freelance columnist.  Email: