Pope Francis has condemned the habit of linking Islam with terrorism, saying that “this is not right and this is not true…I think that in nearly all religions there is always a small fundamentalist group”, He added that “We have them,” referring to Catholicism. He went on to say that lack of economic opportunities for young people in Europe was also to blame for terrorism. “I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in ISIS,” he added. “If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said. “I know it is dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the center of the world economy,” he added. “That is the first form of terrorism. That is a basic terrorism against all humanity. Let’s talk about that,” he went on to elaborate.
It is nice of Pope Francis for trying to dispel the widely prevailing but wrong perception of equating Islam and its followers with terrorism. It is not for the first time, Pope has made similar remarks in the past as well which gave a loud and clear message that he believes in co-existence and is keen to make people of all faiths realize that all revealed religions stand for peace, love and brotherhood. But unfortunately, the establishment and governments in almost every country have their own mindset and agenda.
War becomes perpetual when it is employed as a rationale for achieving a specific version of peace, and or it has hidden objectives. This holds good for global war on terrorism as well; it has indeed, suffered from double jeopardy—mission creep and immorality—selective application. Since the end of World War II, the United States has been intervening in various countries for making the world safe for American corporations; enhancing financial status of its military industrial complex: and preventing the rise of any society that might serve as a successful example of an alternative way of living.
This protectionism has resulted in the rise of mediocrity; hence America is throwing up such presidential candidates that one would think twice before hiring some of them even for menial house-hold errands. While American society could live with it, with impunity, for a couple of decades more, rest of the World would continue to pay the price, especially for the wrong wars undertaken by America over the last decade and a half in the name of countering terror. War against terror has since long absorbed the objectives of creating an Israel pliant Middle East and an India Pliant South Asia. Counties of these regions are expected to either fall in line with this American wish— willfully, or be prepared to be made to do so forcibly. Selective application of counter terrorism strategy to achieve these unrelated objective became visible soon after 9/11.
Though Pakistan is increasingly becoming a suffocating place for the terrorists; Uncle Sam continues to be unhappy; though oft floated reason for annoyance is not doing enough against terrorists; actual reason is that Pakistan is not ready to play second fiddle to India; and there is national consensus on this.
During SAARC interior minsters conference, in Islamabad on August 04, India called for isolation of countries deemed to be supporting ‘terrorism,’ while Pakistan condemned brutal force against civilians resisting occupation. “One country’s terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone…Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated”, Rajnath Singh said. Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar “drew the attention of SAARC member states to the use of brutal force …against unarmed civilians engaged in a struggle against foreign occupation,”— a reference to Kashmir. “We have seen brutal force being used against unarmed civilians. It is important to respect the fundamental human rights of the people and not suppress freedom struggle in the name of fight against terrorism,” he added. “Mumbai, Dhaka and other incidents like Pathankot which are highly condemnable does not mean that dozens and scores and in fact hundreds of terror incidents taking place almost on a daily basis in Pakistan are any less condemnable,” he went on to say.
In an interesting and simultaneous counter terrorism related development, the US has blocked a $300 million tranche of Coalition Support Fund, that has already been spent by Pakistan on logistical services provided to the US for its counter terrorism and counter insurgency efforts, because Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has decided not to certify to the Congress that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network. “This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over the last two years,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said on August 03. Pakistan says there are limits to how much it can do as it is already fighting multiple militant groups and is wary of a “blowback” in the form of more terror attacks on its soil. Washington Post has reported on August 03 Shamila Chaudhary, a former White House official stating that the decision could foreshadow additional steps increasing pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants causing trouble in Afghanistan. “It is a way of sending a signal to the Pakistani military of what’s to come, in the sense that the United States is no longer willing to give blank checks to Pakistan,” she said.
Foreign office spokesperson in Islamabad played it down: “Coalition Support Fund is one of the many cooperative arrangements between Pakistan and the United States to pursue common objectives. These reimbursements enable the United States to support Pakistan’s on-going counter-terrorism efforts in a manner that serves shared interests of both countries…senior members of the Congress and representatives of the media have visited the areas cleared from terrorists’ control and observed for the gains… Pakistan remains committed to counter terrorism for ensuring security and stability in the region”.
Knowing that terrorism has regional and global linkages, Pakistan is coordinating its counter terrorism efforts with regional and global regimes. Pakistan is party to all UN resolutions on the subject, as well as regional efforts under the auspices of various regional organizations like SAARC, CICA, SCO etc. Pakistan is also member of military alliances against terrorism like Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a Saudi led coalition of around 40 members; latest addition is Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan quadrilateral counterterrorism alliance, launched, on August 03, in the Chinese city of Urumqi. It will be formally known as Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM). It is a Chinese initiative, however Army Chief General Raheel Sharif was instrumental in its establishment. “Member countries would cooperate in counterterrorism situation evaluation, clue verification, intelligence sharing, counterterrorism capacity building, counterterrorism joint training exercises and personnel training”.
Latest performance review of National Action Plan (NAP) was held on August 01, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired. He expressed his resolve to make Pakistan secure for every single citizen of the country irrespective of ethnicity and religion. There is a need for the international community to objectively evaluate Pakistan’s contribution towards global counter terrorism effort.
While a lot of soul searching is in progress in Pakistan in the aftermath of Quetta carnage, there is a need to evolve a universally acceptable definition of terrorism to differentiate it from genuine freedom struggles, like in Kashmir and Palestine. And then embark upon Counter terrorism effort under the auspices of the United Nations. This is time for the international political leadership to pay heed to how Pope Francis interprets terrorism.
[A version of this article appeared in The Nation on August 08, 2016].
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.