Journalist`s book examines rise in extremism
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: In his second book launched on Saturday, journalist Zahid Hussain argues the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly the US drone strikes killing civilians, has spurred number of new recruits to the extremist cause.
“The war has come to Pakistani heartland with terrorists targeting cities with impunity. I think for Pakistan the turning point came with the Red Mosque siege when the military operation crushed radical movement right in the heart of the country`s capital,” he said at the launch of The Scorpion`s Tail Ã¢â‚¬“ The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan And How It Threatens America at Kuch Khaas . “The incident led to declaration of war by the militants from Swat and South Waziristan.Â”
For him, the militants were not stronger. “It was the weaker state unable to provide protection and justice to the people.Â” But he added it was a great turnaround when the government showed some resolution to fight back. “I saw how people got back to their lives immediately after the militants were flushed out. That showed a remarkable resilience in Pakistani people,” he said. The author explained that Pakistan could not be separated from war in Afghanistan and the US policy in the region. “It is a blowback of the war in Afghanistan. It is the longest war Pakistan has ever fought and it cannot be won.”
Admiring the author`s field experience, Khaled Ahmed, a journalist and writer, said the book attempted at understanding why Pakistan was moving towards extremist Islam. “It reminds of self correction and how otherwise the state would continue to gradually erode.”
Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) I. A. Rehman said the book asked the right kind of questions. “How are we in this mess? How it escalated and created facilities for rise of militants.” But he said the author was `generous` to Ayub Khan for demonising politicians that paved the way for extremists and how Cold War `knights` reconverted Pakistan into an extremist state.
The book has come at a pivotal moment, said Maliha Lodhi, former envoy to the US and the UK. “It comes just before the much anticipated US review of the Afghan war in December.” She said it has also come at a delicate moment for Pakistan`s counter militancy efforts when the crucial transition has to be made from `hold` to `transfer` to consolidate recent gains.
The book`s central thesis that killing senior leaders has little effect on their operations raised questions whether militarised approach dispersed the threat rather than neutralize it?
“Secondly, this is the first book that catalogues the blowback effects of what has become a weapon of choice for the Obama Administration, an approach that ignores lessons of history, inspires more attacks and unifies militant groups,” she said, describing the drone campaign a tactic and not a strategy.
Riaz Mohammad Khan, former foreign secretary, found the book meticulous. “It takes us through high marks since 9/11 Ã¢â‚¬“ early uprisings, pursuit of al Qaeda leadership, break down of deals, and how they shaped our present shape,” said the former bureaucrat who thought the book allowed to grasp challenges with clarity.