Implications of the 9/11: A Pakistani Perspective
Syed Farooq Hasnat & Tahmina Rashid*
oday, Pakistan is under immense internal and
external pressure to formulate its policies, both foreign and
domestic, in accordance with a global dispensation that is
overwhelmingly under the influence of the United States.
The set of “Global Values” imposed by the “New
World Order” in the early 1990s could not prevent the
terrorist attacks on the United States on 9 September 2001
(9/11). Whatever the intentions of the terrorist groups might
have been, there is no denying that the 9/11 attacks on the
World Trade Centre and Pentagon were interpreted as symbolic
attacks on the economic power, the free market economy and the
military capabilities of the United States.
This forced a chain of readjustments in global, regional and national trends along lines suggested by the new policies and implemented by the coalition led by the United States along with its allies in Western Europe. These changes and their modalities will continue to be a key topic of debate in the near future. Many questions are being asked, opening a new area of debate and dialogue, assessing the real repercussions of the modifications on the international scene. While proceedings are in a state of flux, it is safe to assume that all actors on the global stage are not fully activated at this point in time. However, as events unfold, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can expect a progressively broader, clearer picture to emerge.
At this juncture, our concern should be with whatever is accessible and worth examining in the thought processes as well as in the responses of the affected cultures, with reference to the Muslim World in general and Pakistan in particular.
Even cursory analyses of the speech made by the US President George W. Bush, after the terrorist attacks will bring to light certain tendencies and values that emerged as clear symbols in the thinking of the US leader. His words became the foundation for future US policies towards countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The highlights of the speech are given below:
· The attackers are terrorists, and their intention is not for any financial inclination but to impose radical beliefs and that these individuals believe in an exclusive interpretation of Islamic extremism – the extremist groups in fact have distorted the peaceful teachings of Islam. The American President represented a view shared by many in the West that the terrorists' fancy is to “kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans…”
· The demands that the American administration presented to the Taliban were not for negotiation or even discussion, as Taliban were asked to “act and act immediately”. Although he made a clear distinction between peaceful Islam and terrorists, the American President himself blurred these boundaries when he declared that terrorists wish “to disrupt and end a way of life. We are not deceived by their pretences to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th Century.” He also mentioned that, “This is civilisation's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom...” President Bush declared that appropriate acts against the terrorists are a crusade. One can imagine that such words were not unintentional but a mindset of the West, which was inclined to present this particular act of terrorism in a manner which they perceived as correct. There was a clear message that now the West would regard the Muslims in general as antagonistic towards Christian interests.
· President George W. Bush further elaborated his views by asking “Why do they hate us?” He employed a binary - “they” and “us” and then continued that, “They hate… democratically elected government. These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life….” One can presume that when a President of the sole super power addresses the world community implying that what he perceives is correct, while rejecting all other opinions then it would be perceived as if a policy of a certain mindset is to be launched against the “enemies” – both real and imaginary.
· The American belief of “moderation” was set aside, when the President of the United States, representing a consensus of the American opinion left little choice for the international community. The things were now being visualised in black and white – the shades of grey in between were removed altogether. It was said in the official pronouncement of the American President that, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime...” His concluding remarks are even more interesting as he goes on to say that, “the course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain.”
The language employed by the Americans caused further resentment in the Muslim world. The terrorist attacks on the American soil were hailed as attacks on freedom and democracy. The targets of the 9/11 attacks – the American symbol of military force and commercial trade – were not an attack on democracy or a civilization but a very specific assault on the American establishment and its foreign policy, no matter how unjustifiable it might have been. The American government’s claim that any such assault on its soil is tantamount to a serious challenge to freedom itself, thus making America synonymous with freedom, is enough to make one cringe and wonder at the mixing of interpretations by the opposing forces that exist in the present day conflict situation. Rationally analysed, the targets attacked were not icons of democracy but of commerce, military power, government and foreign policy.
Nearly two days after the horrifying suicide attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., it became clear that most of the Americans did not comprehend the complexities of the problem that had arisen. From those holding the highest office to the ordinary American citizen, the perception was the same: the assault was on their freedom and system of democracy and had to be given an immediate response. It was also a nearly unanimous belief that overwhelming force was the only modus operandi available to prevent further threats to the Americans and their way of life. All this was formulated without taking into account the credibility of the pronouncements. Shock, rage and grief overcame reason, patience and moderation; little thought was given to the real cause of the acts. Any recognition of why certain groups of people are motivated to carry out such atrocities, taking their own lives in the process never figured either in the corridors of the administration or in the print and electronic media. The question that why the United States foreign policy was so bitterly disliked, not just in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world remained absent from the American scheme of analysis.
The mood that
gripped Washington soon after the collapse of WTC towers offered
little to reassure sceptics, says François Burgat, a French
social scientist in Yemen. "When Bush says 'crusade', or that he
wants bin Laden 'dead or alive', that is a fatwa
(religious edict) without any judicial review", he cautions. "It
denies all the principles that America is supposed to be."
On an intellectual level, argues Bassam Tibi, a professor of
international relations at Gottingen University in Germany, and
an expert on political Islam, "we need value consensus between
the West and Islam on democracy and human rights to combat
Islamic fundamentalism. We can't do it with bombs and shooting -
that will only exacerbate the problem."
A German foreign policy expert is of the view shared by many
analysts that "America is both menace and seducer, both monster
However, some among the American intelligentsia occasionally share the view of many around the globe. Bruce Lawrence, a professor of religion at Duke University, referring to popular opinion in the Middle East said: "I think they hate us because of what we do, and it seems to contradict our own basic values." Another American writer, Steve Emerson masterfully reiterates the grievances against local corruption, immorality, or oppression that many immigrants from Palestine had begun to experience, when they arrived in the land of their “dreams”, the United States. Emerson believes that the9/11attacks might well have been a reflection of those experiences. He believes that as a reaction these groups might have established sympathy links with extreme militant groups like Hezbollah and Lashkar-i-Toiba. Many share his belief that what the American people and government assume to be true about them has nothing to do with the ground realities. The US government’s global policies in actuality negate all the democratic and civilized values it pretends to believe in. When Bush calls for the defence of “Civilisation” with its overtones of Huntington’s theories of post-cold war confrontation between the West and Islam, it further heightens sentiments of racism and hypocrisy.
US foreign policy has been perceived as a bundle
of contradictions. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
in the 1980s, the Americans supported the Afghan Jihadi groups
in their resistance against the Soviets. It was the Americans
who poured resources into the 1980s war against the
Soviet-backed regime in Kabul, at a time when girls could go to
school and women to work. It was with American encouragement
that the whole concept of jihad was universalised. Furthermore,
the mujahideen were armed and trained by the CIA and MI6
(Military Intelligence Section # 6, UK) as Afghanistan turned
itself into a wasteland.
It is a well known fact that at the end of the Soviet
occupation, the United Sates abruptly lost interest in the
region, thus leaving a wide vacuum in the region, where
extremist groups flourished, groups which ultimately resorted to
terrorist activities at the global level. Bin Laden had turned
against his American sponsors, while US-sponsored Pakistani
circles had spawned the grotesque Taliban protecting him. To
punish its wayward Afghan offspring, the US subsequently forced
through a sanctions regime, which helped push four million to
the brink of starvation (according to the UN figures) while
Afghan refugees fanned across the world”
Response of the Government of Pakistan
Since the American President left little room for any policy option for Pakistan once he had stated that, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” the response of the military regime was simply to align its options with that of the American strategy in the region. Within a span of few days after 9/11, Pakistan became the prime focus of the US policy makers. Regional and international communities have long regarded the Pakistani establishment as the principal supporter of the Taliban and a sympathizer of Osama bin Laden. As far as violence goes, the Pakistani law enforcement agencies have a poor record, as complete apathy had prevailed, while daily terrorist murders occurred on the streets of Pakistan and the suspected terrorist gangs were allowed to operate freely, as the then establishment looked the other way. The leaders of these violent groups were frequent visitors to Kabul and Kandahar. Pakistan was pushed to the wall with practically no option left but to give in to the demands of the United States – it could either be an active supporter and to engage the Afghan-based terrorists or to be branded as a partner in the regional terrorist gangs. In the given global changing environment the Pakistani government took the correct decision of supporting the international coalition against terrorism. Apart from the cooperation factor, the aftermath of the September incident raised many questions from the US government, regarding the “responsible” Control and Command System of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities.
Pakistan has been struggling to remain a part of the coalition against terrorism and thus become a partner of the United States in its war against terrorist groups as well as their shadows. Conscious of Pakistan’s previous support to the Taliban regime President Musharaf offered his support towards combating international terrorism in the following words:
The Government and people of Pakistan spontaneously expressed shock and grief over the death of innocent people, offered condolences to the bereaved families and affirmed solidarity with the American people. We joined the world community in offering cooperation to bring perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the terrorist attacks to justice.
Compliance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions by the Taliban government would have saved Afghanistan from the damage it is suffering since 7 October. We grieve for the innocent victims. We regret that the Government of Afghanistan jeopardized the interests of millions of its people. Our decision to support the international campaign against terrorism in all its manifestations is based on principles. The extraordinary session of the OIC Foreign Ministers held on 10th of October has endorsed this position. It has also denounced the minority and fringe voices that try to cause harm to Islam and the Muslims.
I emphasized to Secretary Powell that the root causes of most acts of terrorism lie in political oppression and denial of justice. In order to achieve durable results, the current war on terrorism must address and eliminate its causes.
During the previous two decades, Pakistan’s interference in the affairs of Afghanistan as a party in the civil war had serious implications: it resulted in the gradual Talibanisation of the Pakistani society. Pakistan’s support to various Jehadi groups in the Afghan civil war had a serious negative backlash. There was a clear and definite demand from the Pakistani government to act against extremism, and time and again it was reminded that “there are religious fanatics in the country callous enough to kill in cold blood innocent women and children as part of what they regard as a 'holy war' is a bitter reality. Whether they are ignorant people, misguided elements, or criminals in the garb of religious warriors, they are a factor to reckon with in the context of any plan or strategy to combat terrorism and religious extremism.” In spite of these serious concerns, the government for unknown reasons failed to respond and the carnage continued.
It was only after 9/11 that the government addressed the problem seriously. President Musharaf’s assertive policies against the religious right offended certain elements, while others cautiously hinted that, had the action against the extremist groups been taken prior to 9/11, it would have received a favourable response and support from the people in general.
Certain religious groups representing a section of the people were visibly unhappy over the president's “turnabout” when he pledged support to the American “invaders”. These elements openly expressed the view that the presence of foreign troops in Muslim Afghanistan would mean nothing short of a “crusade” against the Muslims. Between the government viewpoint and that of the religious right, stood the silent majority of Pakistan, who believe in a delicate blend of Eastern and Western value systems. On the one hand they are familiar with all western music and fashion trends and know who is who in Hollywood and in the fashion industry while on the other hand they participate in all social and religious rituals. Dressed in traditional fashion, they accompany their elders to say Friday prayers in the mosque; otherwise they prefer Western casual and formal clothes. They plan to study in American universities, aspire to settle in the USA and adopt a western lifestyle with high living standards. Ironically, despite their attraction to the West, these westernised Pakistanis harbour serious apprehensions about the contradictions in the society they imitate and its treatment of Muslims and their faith.
The changing global scenario has had a deep impact on the lives of many Pakistanis; they are in the process of rediscovering their religious identity as a separate identity from the Christian/Western world. A sizeable number of Pakistanis would like to keep the best of the both worlds. They would not part with American fashions, music, and movies to name just a few of their ‘favourite likes’. At the same time, the youth in Pakistan tend to identify with their fellow Muslims around the globe. Their conviction is based on the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that all Muslims are like one body, and if one part of the body gets injured, then all components experience a pain of the same magnitude. As such, a considerable number of Pakistanis educated or otherwise believe that the injury inflicted on the Afghan Muslims required them to respond with sympathy for their Afghan brethren.
Many in Pakistan feel that the American policy presents different standards in its dealings with its friends and enemies, standards not based on a set of principles but designed for its own convenience. There is a commonly held belief that the United States makes no distinction between a terrorist action and a genuine war of liberation, such as the one in the Indian-held Kashmir. Supporting its actions on this formulation, the American administration branded some Pakistan-based Kashmiri freedom groups amongst the principle supporters of “terrorism.”
A significant number of Pakistanis have always expressed reservations about religious extremism and have condemned the suicide bombings of 9/11. They maintain, however, that the devastating attack was a result of America's "arrogant" policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Those who are of this opinion would like the American people to realise the manner in which their government is conducting its unjust policies worldwide. Pakistanis do regard America as an ally, but one, which is not very reliable. The prevailing mood in Pakistan is of anger and suspicion towards the United States and springs from a deeply rooted perception that the US has been an inconsistent friend. Furthermore, Pakistanis feel that this is true for other Muslim nations also. Although, there is a convergence of interests between the United States and Pakistan in the fight against global terrorism, but the impressions created by the American leadership – especially the language used – needs to be reassessed and modified. According to an experienced Pakistani war veteran and diplomat, "When Bush talked of a Crusade ... it was not a slip of the tongue. It was a mindset. When they talk of terrorism, the only thing they have in mind is Islam."
Not many Pakistanis, or other Muslims, had actually gone to Afghanistan after the US and allied forces began a military operation there to fight the war on terrorism. Militant views of this kind are not shared by most Pakistanis. But in a broader sense and in the longer term, many people fear the backlash of the war against terrorism could unleash new waves of anti-American sentiments. The intelligentsia in Pakistan shares a belief that an atmosphere of confidence can still be constructed between the West and the Muslims. They would like to see the American government realise that all human lives are equally precious. There is a widespread belief that if Americans are concerned about the 2800 deaths in the world Trade Centre, they should also show similar concern about the deaths in Kashmir, in Palestine, in Chechnya, in Bosnia. It is no doubt the double standards that create suspicion and lack of trust.
groups expressed a strong reaction to the Pakistani government’s
alliance with Washington, as they believe that the United States
is not a trustworthy ally. They strongly criticise previous
American policies in the region and the way US has used Afghans
to achieve its own interests during the cold war period. They
maintain that the transformation of these Afghan Mujahideen from
anti-Soviet to anti-American militants took place because the
policy planners in Washington abandoned them at the end of the
war and the US further made special efforts to disarm and
disperse them. Islamist are still fuming over President
Musharraf’s policy of supporting the Americans and propagate
that the government has forcefully adopted a one sided tilt for
the US interests in the region. Sentiments run high against the
perceived American crusade against Islam and many believe that
recent American policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran,
Pakistan and other Muslim countries are merely an excuse to
colonise these Muslim nations and utilise their resources to
enhance the American political and economic power. There is a
mood of resentment towards the West in general and the US in
particular, reflected in a series of anti-US protests and public
assertion and reaffirmation of religious identity in the world.
American policies in Afghanistan, its “unjustified” pressure on
Pakistan, Iraq and Indonesia are perceived by the Pakistani
religious extreme as if the Americans are ruthlessly pushing a
hatred agenda in the Muslim world. The Islamists question why
American lives are considered more precious than those of
Afghans, Kashmiris, Palestinians or Chechans. Moreover, they ask
why the loss of Afghan civilians is ‘collateral damage’ – to
which the media gives little or no attention while the loss of
American lives becomes a “global loss” which requires a
declaration of war on “terrorism.” Why is terrorism by states
such as India and Israel acceptable, but individual terrorist
acts are exploited to label and persecute the whole Muslim
community? A solution to these questions asked by the Islamists
is answered when said that, "America should spread its culture,
rather than weapons or tanks." Mohammed el-Sayed Said, Deputy
Director of Cairo's influential Al Ahram think tank further adds
that "they need to act like any respectable commander or leader
of an army. They
can't just project an image of contempt for those they wish to lead."
Islamist women share similar views as held by Muslim men. Like many other Eastern and religious communities, women in Pakistan are considered symbols of cultural authenticity and identity. Women’s status is defined within the religious and existing social parameters of society and their public role is heavily dependent upon the definition of what is socially, culturally and religiously acceptable in a given period of time. In the post 9/11 scenario, women in Pakistan are at the cross roads to rediscover their identity. At this juncture there is a commonality of views amongst the modernists and the Islamists, as both share the apprehensions regarding American policies towards the Muslim world.
After the 9/11 attacks, Osama became a fashionable name, a symbol of anti-Americanism, a voice of Muslims and the oppressed of the world. Graduates from various religious schools cherished Osama’s heroic role and aspired to become martyrs. Women graduating from religious schools advocated domestication and glorification of motherhood as against a public role for women as they began to observe Islamic rituals fervently and even the slightest change in the traditional point of view is not acceptable to a large majority of them. The Western media played up the whole situation showing selective images; which were at times out of context. For instance, CNN Asia presented a different version of the news from that telecast in the US. A picture of a woman holding her baby son whom she had named Osama was repeatedly shown on CNN to portray a stereotypical image of Muslims as militants, intending to participate in jihad against the United States as suicide bombers. However, this fervor proved to be a short lived reaction to the American military assault in Afghanistan.
American print media was no less nationalist – even jingoistic – particularly dailies such as The New York Times and The Washington Post and weeklies like, Time and Newsweek that have a combined readership of seven to ten million. The impact of their policies resulted in the spread of disinformation through the wider American community about US around the globe, particularly in the Muslim World. The media’s paranoia about the growing influence of religious schools in Pakistan reaffirmed the misperceptions about militancy in our society. They highlighted the availability of huge funding for these religious schools and organizations, which they depict as the breeding grounds of religious fundamentalism and hostility and intolerance towards the Christian Western World, while in reality, matters were not as bleak as they were portrayed.
The American print and electronic media projected (and continues to project) all veiled woman as anti-American and anti-West, asserting Islamic ideology. The social aspect and significance of the veil as a symbol of resistance against imperialism, monarchies, dictatorships and autocratic regimes within and outside Muslim World has largely been ignored. Although the number of young girls wearing Hijab and attending the gatherings of the organizations of the religious right such as Al-Huda, seems to be on the rise, there is no evidence of an increase in religious extremism as a result of these phenomena. In many situations, the veil becomes instrumental in securing a socially approved, active public role for women, as happened in post-revolution Iran. In Pakistan the veil does not have that role, but it has become more prevalent among many young girls both in urban and rural social settings.
Islamists are worried about the freedom struggles being waged by Muslims in several places, especially in Kashmir. Since the American declaration of War on Terrorism, India attempted to brand the struggle in Indian held Kashmir as acts of terrorism. The Indian reaction caused serious concerns amongst the Islamists and human rights groups about the implications of the Indian stance on the cause of the Kashmiri people’s struggle for freedom.
Human rights activists in Pakistan have a history of struggle for democracy and a just civil society in Pakistan. Their response to the situation was two fold; on the one hand they do not support the military regime of Musharraf and on the other are critical of the US bombing in Afghanistan, which killed a large number of civilians. Although most of the time these human rights and feminists groups have taken inspiration from the Western intellectual traditions, they have nevertheless emphasised the relevance of international human rights dialogue within the local context. By posing the question, “Why do they hate us?” George W. Bush opened a new debate within these circles. Human rights activists feel that the West has conferred a new religious or Islamic identity on all Muslims considering them a homogeneous group. Many groups feel frustrated by the imposition of this new identity, as they do not support extremism (in the form of terrorism or fundamentalism). They have been in conflict with the religious Right, as they do not accept their version of Islam (Talibanisation phenomenon).
The situation is complex as many human rights groups have been receiving funding and financial help from Western donor agencies and in many instances have been working on projects initiated by them. They are now reconsidering their linkages with the Western agencies and support groups and are wary of their intentions. Many of these non-governmental agencies are considering other options and are even ready to quit rather than receiving funds from sources which, supposedly, support the cause of democracy, just civil society, human rights, women, children and oppressed segments of the society but at the same time are silently watching the fallout of the American policies in the Muslim world, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. These activists have a strong feeling that they have entered a new arena, where imposed identity could push them to the edge – forcing them to endorse Huntington’s proposed views of the world in the form of the “Clash of Civilisations”.
Already, the Bush administration has moved apace by waging an all out war against terrorism, both real and imaginary, without taking into account the objective conditions under which an outburst of anger occurs. Many analysts believe that for every "terror network" that is rooted out, another will emerge – until the injustices and inequalities that create them are addressed. Professor Bassam Tibi argues that, "we need value consensus between the West and Islam on democracy and human rights to combat Islamic fundamentalism. We can't do it with bombs and shooting - that will only exacerbate the problem." Unconstrained by a rival or a system of global governance, the US took advantage by rewriting the global financial and trading system in its own interest, ripped up a string of treaties it found inconvenient and sent troops to every corner of the globe. American intervention and even in some cases support, training, financial aid and arms were given to terrorist groups opposing whichever government it wanted to remove.
The realities of the American war on terrorism in Afghanistan and its violation of human rights have started to emerge in the media. Some of the suspects and alleged Al-Qaida terrorists sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have been gradually released and the emerging stories of basic human rights violations have come to focus before the world community. These alleged terrorists were denied any legal help and never charged for any crime and when released no explanation was given.
Current American policies have invoked different kinds of reaction in various parts of the world. On the one hand Muslim extremist organizations have reacted with incidents like Bali bombing in Indonesia. While on a regional level, the ASEAN refusal to grant observer status for Australia, is another way to oppose the one sided policies of the Western countries. Muslims as a group have been targeted by several countries such as the US, Britain and Australia; Muslims of Middle Eastern origin in particular been asked to register with the immigration departments in many countries. Worldwide protests organised by human rights organizations have made no impressions on the American government and its policies in the guise of security and intelligence remained as ever, despite all efforts to highlight its discriminatory nature. The main problem is that nationalism, national interest and patriotism have been given new definition and meaning in the changed political scenario and the unique interpretation of international values by the United States has been justified accordingly.
The question of the US role in the New World
Order is a source of great concern for the international
community and the real intensions of the sole super power has
become a topic of heated debate and controversy. David C.
Hendrickson, a Professor of Political Science expresses these
apprehensions as follows:
The United States
has stood apart in power and influence from the rest of the
world for many years, but the events (that led to) the stunning
use of force in Afghanistan (and followed by in Iraq), have
accentuated that nation’s unique global military domination. We
cannot even speculate on the future of world order without
understanding what the United States will do. Its power, for
both good and ill, is incalculable.
Within the context of the Pakistani society at
this stage, the backdrop of 9/11 and the American
response to terrorism remains too complex to comprehend in their
entirety. In Pakistan, the opposition continues to challenge the
authority of President General Musharaf, demanding amendments in
the Legal Framework Order (LFO) and that foreign policy
decisions be made by the newly elected parliament. Both
“Modernists” and “Islamists” however, are concerned about the
binary classification (us and they) used by President Bush and
the Western media: they do not accept the homogeneous and
conservative religious identity imposed on them. While rejecting
religious extremism and Talibanisation of society, they
refrained from supporting the US bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq
and the killing of innocent civilians – men, women and children.
For conservatives it is perhaps a win-win situation, as because of the strong anti-American sentiments in the country the Pakistani government was unable to take effective measures against the Madrassas, which forms a basis of their power. They have also been able to exploit the anti-American sentiments of the masses as reflected in the results of the national and provincial assemblies held in 2002.
The new ‘Islamic’
identity is manifesting itself in various ways: the wearing of
hijab by choice and joining Dawa group (spread of
Islam) are examples. This new identity has implications for
relatively more open social situation for women in the rural
settings where Jehadi sons and husbands are reducing the
previously available public space. Gender relations and the
question of identity are being renegotiated in these diverse
situations. In Pakistan, feminists and human rights activists
perceived a backlash from the religious right, while religious
right considers this the beginning of a new era, a reawakening
of political Islam and emergence of an Islamic identity in the
ranks of the Pakistani people.
The outcome of the recent elections in Pakistan revealed the extent of public anger against the pro-American policies of the regime. Since the inception of Pakistan, this is the first time that religious parties have managed to gain such a heavy representation in the Parliament, both in the National Assembly and the Senate. However, the implications of the presence of religious groups are yet to materialise, though the conflict between the provincial assemblies in the NWFP and Baluchistan – dominated by the religious parties, and the Federal Government has yet to assume a new dimension. However, till recently, there has been little or no conflict with the Federal Government on issues such as the FBI-assisted operations in various cities to locate and arrest alleged terrorists. The fact remains that the anti-American stance of the religious groups did help to win over traditionally fluctuating and indecisive votes along with those opposing the ruling regime. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a loose grouping of religious parties, was able to cash in on the situation and is in a better bargaining position in the present polity of Pakistan.
In the current scenario it becomes essential for the Pakistani society to reassert those values that were part of the Islamic history in the South Asian context, in the pre-Talibanisation era (pre-1996). The Pakistani society was based on the widely accepted principles of love, kindness, compassion and tolerance, as advocated by the Sufi Saints. The message of these preachers was based in a local setting, where the principles of Islam were introduced in their true spirit. The strength and pride of women was one of the central themes of the Sufi poetry and sayings; women have been a symbol of rebellion against injustice and the cultural patterns imposed by the custodians of the power and wealth.
The new identity labels given by the western electronic media in post 9/11 scenario has pushed many liberal elements of the society to rethink their discourse of identity. The traditional liberal sections of society feel that all the Muslims have been labelled and portrayed as a homogeneous group. As Pakistani society has witnessed many societal changes since the rise of Taliban and its linkages across the borders have influenced a segment of Pakistani society trying to rediscover and reassert their Muslim identity. Fears were expressed in various circles that such elements have been able to diffuse the centuries long liberal Sufi traditions; replacing it with a more rigid Talibanisation of the Pakistani society.
In a new setting, which emerged as an after-effect of 9/11, a new world vision emerged where the influence of Talabinisation is being reduced. One can expect that the future Pakistan is poised to return to the spirit of what the region has been for centuries – a culture of love, tolerance, accommodation and understanding.
* Dr. Syed Farooq Hasnat is Professor and Chairman, Department of Political Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore
Tahmina Rashid is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore and a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Political Science, University of Melbourne, Australia
 George W. Bush, “Address to the Congress”, BBC News (Web edition), 21 September 2001.
 Peter Ford, “Why do they hate us?” Christian Science Monitor, 27 September 2001 <http://wwwcsmonitor.com/2001/0927/p1s1-wogi.html>
 Josef Joffe, “Who’s afraid of Mr Big?”, The National Interest, Summer 2001.
 Steven Emerson, American Jihad: the terrorists among us (New York: Free Press, 2002), pp. 5-26
 Seumas Milne, Guardian (London), 13 September 2001.
 Pervaiz Musharraf, President of Pakistan, Press Conference, Dawn (Islamabad), 17 October 2001.
 Khalid Mahmud, “Time to tame the fanatics”, Dawn (Islamabad), 6 November 2001.
 Sajjad Haider, former Military Attache, Pakistan Embassy, Washington D.C., in Ford, “Why do they hate us?”.
 Milne, op.cit.
 David C. Hendrikson, “Imperialism versus Internationalism: The United States and World Order”, Gaiko Forum: Japanese Perspective on Foreign Affairs, vol. 2, no. 3 (Fall 2002).
 Syed Farooq Hasnat, “Rescuing Pakistan”, The Weekly Independent, 4-10 October 2001
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