OVER A COFFEE : Need for de-radicalisation of Pakistan — II — Dr Haider Shah
What I am more concerned about is the radicalisation of those institutions that are run by taxpayers’ money, and where the administrators of our country are groomed
In the previous part of this
article (Daily Times, November 3, 2012), I had dismissed the need for any referendum on a choice between Quaid’s Pakistan and the Taliban’s Pakistan. But the question itself needs a very urgent analysis that should result in an action plan. We have always been in denial mode while the spectre of radicalisation kept growing and today, it is devouring our peace and development. Sometime ago, the army announced a de-radicalisation plan in the terrorism-ravaged Swat region after it completed its operation. Recently, the COAS declared that the war against terrorism was our own war and after the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the unflinching resolve of the state to continue fighting against terrorists was reiterated. This is indeed a good development to see that the military establishment is also lending its voice to the need for redefining our security paradigm. Taking benefit of this emerging consensus over eradication of radicalisation, we should now begin thinking about an actual action plan.
We need to identify the areas where the de-radicalisation will have the greatest impact upon society. Often, when the term de-radicalisation is used, we quickly think of dealing with madrassas (religious seminaries) and translate de-radicalisation as modernising their syllabus. Let us be honest. I never fancied sending my son to any of the madrassas, nor would any of my valued readers have possibly thought so. Let us not forget that those who study there are the unfortunate children of lesser gods. The religious symbolism generates a sense of social empowerment for these neglected, marginalised, and written-off children of society. Their radicalisation is therefore understandable and pardonable. What I am more concerned about is the radicalisation of those institutions that are run by taxpayers’ money, and where the administrators of our country are groomed. I am very concerned about the end-products of our military academies in particular, and civil academies in general. For me these academies should be the first place for implementation of any national de-radicalisation plan.
The spread of radicalisation inside military formations has been documented by various analysts in the recent past. The late Saleem Shahzad in his investigative reports and book Inside Al Qaeda provides details of infiltration of extremist elements. Investigations of various daredevil attacks on military installations also established that the attackers were in collusion with the faith brothers working inside these institutions. Bruce Reidel in his assessment of this nexus argues that there are often family level or village level relationships between the recruits of the army and those who join banned outfits. The problem, however, is not limited to the lower-level employees with a very limited educational background. The recent court martial of Brigadier Ali Khan and three other officers for links with Hizb-ul-Tahrir is a chilling reminder about the depth and width of the problem of radicalisation.
The social media provides a very insightful opportunity to examine the social discourse of different groups and spot correlations between various tendencies. The trends are quite disturbing and need immediate attention. Behind the veneer of military-flavoured English and trendy clothes, I often discover a highly delusional and radicalised mind that is home to illusions and conspiracies of all sorts. Radicalisation should, however, not be seen purely in religious terms. All forms of belief that are taken for granted can result in radicalisation. There are two strands of radicalisation that can be identified in the rank and file of our military officers. Firstly, there is a belief about their own role in the scheme of things, and secondly, there is the rising trend of religious fundamentalism. In the discourse of army officers one usually comes across declarations that politicians are all corrupt; civil officers are inefficient; and put simply, if the country is still in existence, it is all because of their heroic role. Feelings of pride and esprit de corps are necessary for a highly motivated fighting force, but deriving pride by ridiculing those who finance their training is a clear symptom of a malfunctioning training environment. The recent televised scenes of generals responding to media questions with “shut up” and “idiot” sum up the general attitude of officers trained in academies that are run with a big chunk of the taxpayers’ money. If these were one-off occurrences, we could have ignored them, but unfortunately that is not the case.
On many social networking sites, military officers exchange insulting remarks about political leaders, media personalities and, more worrying, about members of the judiciary. The fact that they do not feel any restraint as uniformed government servants raises serious questions about the quality of training on matters of discipline and respect for the law of the land.
Any plan of de-radicalisation must therefore begin with an Organisational Development (OD) intervention in military institutions. It is suggested that a special task force headed by a respected retired judge such as Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqi and sensible generals like Talat Masood be formed, which should analyse the scale of radicalisation of both types in military institutions with a special emphasis on the following questions. First, what main security doctrines are taught in our academies? Second, whether with the changed world after 9/11, necessary redefinitions of security paradigms have taken place or not. Third, what arrangements are lacking in academies like the Pakistan Military Academy due to which our army officers develop contemptuous attitudes towards the law of the land and civilian counterparts? Fourth, how can motivational drivers be shifted towards Pakistani nationalism from purely religious jihadi motivation? Fifth, whether our military institutions can be right-sized and made more efficient. Sixth, whether they are fit for the terrorism-dominated security environment of today. The Ministry of Defence of Britain recently carried out its study of changes required for its armed forces. Our task force can benefit from this study that is now publicly available.
(To be continued)
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org