Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Army Chief defines extremism and terrorism

Usually I do not read statements and speeches given by government officials, elected or nominated; but only when due to the interest in a certain issue it requires to go into its detail.

It was on September 2 that I was going through the op-ed pages of The News that these lines used as teaser caught my eyes: “The preparation of violence with a clear conscience is a delight to ideologues who distort the teachings of religion. This was what General Kayani had in mind when he had said that a person who imposes his views on society is an extremist.”

I stopped on this article, The defeat of extremist ideology, by S. Iftikhar Murshid.

Then I searched for this speech of the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. I thought it must be available on the website of ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations). As it was the first time that I visited the ISPR website, I was amused to see it has

The said speech was delivered on the Independence Day of Pakistan, and is available on this page, both in English and Urdu:

He says:

“Today, extremism and terrorism present a grave challenge. We can claim that this menace is not of our making. This approach, however, will not solve the problem. It is important for us to clearly understand, what is extremism and terrorism. Misconceptions about these two terminologies, can prove catastrophically divisive for the nation.”

Well-said! The misconceptions about the extremism and terrorism facing Pakistanis have already proved catastrophic! Despite it, a whole section of the society, mostly from the Right and a few from the Left, and Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehree-e-Insaaf, they all still believe it’s a war imposed on Pakistanis by the US, it’s not their war.

Then the COAS tries to define who is an extremist:

“Any person who believes his opinion to be the final verdict, is an extremist. The perfect or universal intellect, is only attributable to Allah. Man, a temporal being, is born with an imperfect intellect, beset with limitations. A human claim to be the final word in judging right from wrong, is tantamount to a claim to divine attributes, or shirk.”

It’s amazing and at the same time interesting to see the COAS going philosophical! Remaining inside the religious tradition, he makes a point against the infallibility of human intellect, and thus against those who claim perfection and finality for their views. For scientists and philosophers, it’s no different: they too believe so, but stand focused on seeking more and more knowledge using the concept of Truth as a regulative principle.

As for the term, Extremism, on the face of it, it points towards the absence of moderation, temperance. That amounts to negating and annihilating any space for others to hold different views.

Here it is evident that when the COAS says, ‘any person who believes his opinion to be the final verdict, is an extremist,’ he tries to define Extremism philosophically. He also refutes Extremism in a philosophical manner by denying it finality and infallibility.

It may be argued that if there is such extremism which keeps to itself, and does not exclude others from holding views of their choice and understanding, it’s not dangerous.

As his argument progresses the COAS is insightful enough to point out that:

“As a human being, it would be wrong for me to give the verdict that today's parade was the best in the world. I have not witnessed all the parades in the world. More importantly, can my criterion for this judgment be considered final? If I cannot give the final verdict in such a small issue, then how is it possible to do so in the intricate issues dealing with religion and life.”

Again that is very philosophical!

And with this, he concludes that where extremism leads to: “It becomes blatant extremism when one not only insists upon finality of personal opinion, but tries imposing it on others. More so, if one tries to enforce his opinion through use of gun, it becomes terrorism. That is why Islam does not allow anyone to claim to be a know all, and flirt with divinity.”

Though he does not succeed in establishing “the missing link” between extremism and terrorism, or what circumstances help extremism to transform into terrorism, but as he has in his mind the extremism and terrorism devastating Pakistan, which the Pakistan Army is fighting now, he correctly states that when extremism arms itself, or when it is armed, it becomes terrorism.

Reflect on this philosophical attempt at defining extremism and terrorism, two things come to the fore: claiming finality to one’s opinion and imposing it on others by violent means.

That is what Extremism and Terrorism in Pakistan stand to!

In one word, that touches the borders of Fascism.

The COAS does not stop short of relating this “philosophical retreat” to the current intellectual state of Pakistan:

“If this is the correct definition of extremism and terrorism, then the war against it is our own war, and a just war too. Any misgivings in this regards can divide us internally, leading to a civil war situation. It is therefore, vital that our minds must be clear of cobwebs on this crucial issue.”

No explanations needed. It’s all crystal clear, what the COAS states.

And, sure, now all those, who believe themselves to be in the company or imagined company of the establishment, need to heed to this speech by the COAS. There is enough philosophical contemplation to cause to explode their extremism and terrorism and / or its support.

“The war against extremism and terrorism is not only the Army's war, but that of the whole nation. We as a nation must stand united against this threat. Army's success is dependent on the will and support of the people. So far, Army and the people have rendered great sacrifices in this cause, for which I pay homage to the Shaheeds, Ghazis and their families.”

And, then coming back from a philosophical sojourn to the maze of present senseless politics, the COAS has the following soft advice to make:

“However, these sacrifices will be meaningful, if the civil administration is able to administer the affected areas without the Army's assistance. This may take some time, but it must remain our ultimate objective. It is also crucial that appropriate laws are passed to deal with terrorism. Since 2001, many countries in the world have formulated special anti terrorism laws. Unfortunately, our progress towards such legislation, remained very slow.”

In the end (which of course should have been: in the first instance), it is for the civil administration, or the ruling politicians, to see and to reflect and to come forward to control, to legislate to exterminate this menace of extremism and terrorism, which finally the COAS has clearly defined and resolved to fight to the end.

1 comment:

  1. Does the speech mean to indicate that the khakis have been made to realize that this war was their making, and as they failed to fight, the whole society had to bear the brunt of their folly. Now they claim that it is OUR fight.

    So tied and gagged are the minds and tongues of our erstwhile legislators that Anti Terrorism Law has started to be update only and only after the COAS speech. As ever, since the making of this Republic, the puckering of the starch on the khaki uniform is still more loud than the clamor of lipsticked media and hand sown legis-laters.