Combat Versus Preventive Diplomacy
The key feature of the war against terrorism that
distinguishes it from war between states is that the location and some
times the identity of the enemy is uncertain. Even less certain is which
individual or group of individuals is going to become an enemy in future
to cause the feared mega destruction. Therefore in the prosecution of
such a war, military combat and preventive diplomacy are intimately linked.
If in the past, war was "the conduct of politics by other means",
to-day politics is perhaps essential to the conduct of war itself. Preventive
Diplomacy as a complement to combat was first used in 2nd century Rome
when Marcus Aurelius Caesar secured the Roman Empire through convivial
economic and political arrangements with potentially hostile tribes and
warlords on the margins of the Roman Empire. To-day given the peculiar
nature of the war against terrorism, preventive diplomacy may be even
more important than in ancient Rome.
Pakistan has played a crucial role in the combat operations
conducted by the coalition forces against Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements
in Afghanistan and the tribal belt along its border. Equally important
is the configuration of economic, social and political forces in Pakistan
to determine whether it can effectively provide the logistical and political
support to the war against terrorism in the future. Therefore in examining
the linkages between combat and preventive diplomacy, Pakistan may be
an important case study.
Let us begin with an attempt to define what we are
talking about. The term terrorism could be defined as violence designed
to induce fear in the avowed enemy by an individual or group, against
non-combatant members of another group within the same State or against
non-combatant citizens of other States. Terrorism in many cases is rooted
in economic deprivation, a sense of social or political injustice, or
a narrowing of the mind induced by ideological indoctrination. The terrorist
often claims that his action is an expression of his political or religious
belief or retaliation against his sense of injustice.
Our definition helps in clarifying the current asymmetry
between combat and preventive diplomacy in the prosecution of the war
against terrorism. While an enormous amount of financial resources and
effort have been spent in conducting combat operations since 9/11, the
efforts required to defuse the flash points that breed terrorism such
as the issues of Palestine and Kashmir, or poverty in Pakistan and Afghanistan,
have yet to be mobilized. It is clear that unless the roots of terrorism
in poverty, deprivation and injustice are addressed, the war against terrorism
could become endless as new terrorists emerge from new breeding grounds.
Let us examine the relationship between the rise of
terrorism, undermining of democracy and poverty in the context of Pakistan.
In this case the socio political roots of terrorism as well as those of
the current economic crisis can be traced to the Zia regime in the period
1977 to 1988. These tendencies developed further during the decade of
the 1990s when a historically unprecedented growth in poverty combined
with an undermining of democratic institutions. In the ensuing discussion
we will analyze the interplay between the rise of militant religious groups,
government policy and growing poverty during the last two decades spanning
Zia's military regime and the subsequent decade of democracy.
State Policy in the Zia Regime and the Rise of Islamic
In the absence of popular legitimacy, the Zia regime
used terror for the first time in Pakistan's history as a conscious policy
of the government. President Zia ul Haq publicly stated: "Martial
law should be based on fear". In the pursuit of this policy, the
democratic constitution of 1973 was set aside and draconian measures of
military courts, arbitrary arrests, amputation of hands and public lashing
were introduced. Pakistan's society, by and large, was historically characterized
by cultural diversity, democratic aspirations and a religious perspective
rooted in tolerance and humanism. This was one of the reasons why the
founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah conceived of Pakistan's
polity as democratic and pluralistic with religious belief to be a matter
concerning the individual rather than the state. He said:
"You may belong to any religion or caste or creed ___ that has nothing
to do with the business of the state
.. We are starting with this
fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one
. Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal
and you will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be
Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense,
because that is the personal faith of each individual but in the political
sense as citizens of the state."
President Zia-ul-Haq in attempting to restructure such a state and society
into a theocracy, undertook two kinds of initiatives: First, measures
designed to subordinate to executive authority, institutions of state
and civil society such as the judiciary and the press, which if allowed
to function independently could check governmental power. In the case
of the judiciary its essential powers to scrutinize the legality of martial
law or the orders of military courts were abolished. The judicial protection
against arbitrary detention of a citizen embodied in the right to Habeas
Corpus was eliminated for the first time in Pakistan.
In the case of the press, President Zia ul Haq propounded a simple axiom:
"Democracy means freedom of the press, Martial Law its very negation".
In the pursuit of this policy, press control measures were introduced.
The government constituted committees at the district level to ensure
that articles repugnant to the ideology of Pakistan were not published.
Those members of the press who had refused to acquiesce faced state repression.
A number of newspapers were banned and journalists were arrested and given
flogging sentences by military courts.
The second set of measures towards a theocratic state sought to inculcate
obscurantist views and induce a narrowing of the human mind. It involved
a suspension of the sensibility of love and reason underlying the religious
tradition signified in Pakistan's folk culture.
Advocacy for a theocratic social order was conducted through the state
controlled television and press. In August 1984 the government began a
national campaign involving the direct physical intervention of the state
into the personal life of individuals. For example the Nizam-e-Salat Campaign
was launched through the appointment of 100,000 "Prayer Wardens"
for rural and urban localities. The task of these state functionaries
was to monitor religious activities of individuals and to seek their compliance
in religious practices.
The institutional roots of "Islamic Fundamentalism" were laid
when government funds were provided for establishing mosque schools (madrassas)
in small towns and rural areas which led to the rapid growth of militant
religious organisations. This social process was catalyzed by the Afghan
war. As General Zia moved towards the construction of a theocratic state
and brutalized civil society, his isolation from the people as a whole
was matched by increased external dependence. He sought political, economic
and military support from the U.S. by offering to play the role of a front
line state in the Afghan guerilla war against the occupying Soviet army.
Accordingly, Pakistan obtained from the U.S. a package of $ 3.2 billion
in financial loans and relatively sophisticated military hardware. Moreover,
with the support from the U.S., Pakistan was able to get additional fiscal
space by getting its foreign debt rescheduled, and increased private foreign
capital inflows. These official and private capital inflows played an
important role in stimulating macro economic growth in this period. They
also helped establish a political constituency both within the institutions
of the state and in the conservative urban petit bourgeoisie, for a theocratic
form of military dictatorship.
As the Zia regime engaged in a proxy war, some of the militant religious
groups together with their associated madrassas were provided with official
funds, training and weapons to conduct guerilla operations in Afghanistan.
While they helped fight the war in Afghanistan, the religious militant
groups were able to enlarge the political space within Pakistan's society
as well as in its intelligence and security apparatus.
From 1987 onwards sectarian violence mushroomed in the Punjab province
(which till then had been relatively peaceful) and later spread across
the country. The phenomenon of large scale sectarian violence conducted
by well armed and trained cadres was closely associated with the rapid
growth of Deeni Madrassas ("religious" schools). While historically,
such schools merely imparted religious knowledge, in the late 1980s a
new kind of Deeni Madrassa emerged, which engaged in systematic indoctrination
in a narrow sectarian identity, and inculcated hatred and violence against
other sects. In 1998 there were 3,393 Deeni Madrassas in the Punjab alone
and 67% had emerged during the period of the Zia regime and after. Between
1979 and 1994, many of the madrassas were receiving financial grants from
Zakat funds. According to an official report of the police department,
a number of madrassas were merely providing religious education. Yet as
many as 42% of them were actively promoting sectarian violence through
a well conceived indoctrination process. The students predominantly from
poor families were given free food and lodging during their term at the
madrassas. As poverty increased in the 1990s, the burgeoning madrassas
provided a growing number of unemployed and impoverished youths with the
security of food, shelter and an emotionally charged identity: a personality
that felt fulfilled through violence against the other.
As the new kind of sectarian madrassas emerged and grew during the Zia
regime, so did sectarian violence. The number of sectarian killings increased
from 22 during the 1987-89 period, to 166 during the 1993-95 period. Thus
violence against the other became both the expression and the emblem of
the narrowed identity.
The mobilisation of these narrow identities involved a psychic disconnection
from the well springs of universal human brother hood within the Islamic
tradition. Its liberating elements of rationality and love, were replaced
in the narrowed psyche, by bigotry and hatred. Violence against the "other"
became an emblem of membership within these identities. Thus, civil society
divorced from its universal human values began to lose its cohesion and
stability. As the Zia regime backed by the U.S., prosecuted the war in
Afghanistan, within the same process it also bred social forces that were
to emerge as terrorism later.
This is the first of a two part article which is based on a paper delivered
by the author at the international conference on "Terrorism in South
Asia: Impact on Development and Democratic Process", Kathmandu, Nepal,
November 23-25, 2002.