Editorial: Britain, Al Qaeda and Pakistan
The United Kingdom has unveiled a 174-page report on how to tackle the Al Qaeda threat facing it. The threat is no longer confined to Underground blasts but may be “a chemical or even nuclear terrorist attack”. And those who do it will possibly be linked to two unstable and extremism-haunted “Islamic” states, Pakistan and Somalia, “as well as Yemen and countries in sub-Saharan Africa”. Al Qaeda doesn’t only train in the tribal regions of Pakistan, it inspires “self-starting” followers long-distance too.
An interior ministry official in London pointed to Pakistan in particular: “Pakistan weaves its way through virtually everything in this strategy [report]. We attach importance to the huge amount of work we’re doing in Pakistan. We’ve got very big collaborative programmes with the Pakistani authorities, the new government... we’re very interested in working with them”. In short, “militants in Pakistan pose the greatest concern”.
Britain has also been voicing concern about the bad state of preparedness of the Pakistani security establishment. One British national Rashid Rauf, involved in the Heathrow terrorism plot and linked to Al Qaeda, was arrested in Pakistan but “let off” by the Pakistani police while he was been taken to the court. Another British national, Umar Sheikh, was actually involved in the 9/11 attack and was responsible for the killing of the American journalist Daniel Pearl. Thousands of dual-nationality Pakistanis who travel from the UK to Pakistan during vacations are vulnerable to the terrorist trap of Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s past policies are responsible for the rise of extremism in the country, some of them conceived in close collaboration with the US and the UK during the Afghan war against the Soviets. One must also look closely at what the UK did to itself. Terrorism may be an inspiration coming from Al Qaeda in Pakistan but Muslim radicalism in the UK is home-grown. Even elected Muslims in the UK tend to be more aggressive in their identity than the usually careful Pakistanis.
The mosques in the UK were not radicalised by Pakistan; that was done by British policy, based on ignoring the usurpation of Barelvi mosques by Saudi-funded radical organisations. London refused to read the message when Pakistan’s biggest Barelvi leader, Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani, began to have trouble talking to his flock in the UK. British Pakistanis, 700,000 strong, were all Barelvis to begin with. Now London is to have the world’s largest Deobandi mosque.
The UK literally borrowed the hardline Islamists from France and the rest of Europe thinking it was acquiring “assets” for its Middle East policy. It doomed its majority Muslim population composed of Pakistanis in the process as most of these Arab extremists linked up with Al Qaeda and its funded madrassas in Pakistan and sent the expat Pakistanis in a beeline to their handlers in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. The UK remained passive to accusations of having converted London to Londonistan till July 7, 2005 when a group of Pakistani Brits attacked as suicide-bombers. But till then, Lashkar-e-Tayba had received millions of pounds as “charity” from the UK.
Pakistan is in trouble today. Al Qaeda is embedded here and Pakistanis are more busy hating America and its side-kick, the UK, than paying attention to the consequences of allowing the terrorists to win territory and then enforce their own laws on it. Pakistan may have the will to fight them but lacks the material capacity to do so. The British report is right in its diagnosis that Pakistan has to be helped. Whether this will happen in these cash-strapped days is another matter.
What is significant is that Pakistan is doing much better than in the past in keeping tabs on the UK Pakistanis after they enter Pakistan. It has tipped off the British government about “more than 20 Britons believed to have spent time with radical militant groups and then returned to the UK”. Pakistanis elected to the British parliament need to play a bigger role when they come to Pakistan, talking less about how wrong Britain was about Iraq and more about how Pakistan can help by preventing the expats from the UK to link up with Al Qaeda. *
Second Editorial: Storming the Supreme Court with litigation
Hardly had Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed his office at the Supreme Court than “constitutional” petitions were filed before the court charging 38 judges who had taken oath under the PCO with contempt and challenging appointments of judges done without Justice Chaudhry’s “consultation”. Yet another petition has sought action against Pervez Musharraf for his “admittedly” unconstitutional actions of November 3, 2007 in subversion of the constitution, as outlined in Article 6 on treason.
People with a strong “retroactive correction” in mind want punishment to descend on all and sundry. In non-legal language, they want to pillory all those who took the view opposite to theirs, but if the cases go the way they want them to go, the country’s judicial system will be seriously undermined. The difficulty arises in the convergence of the legal-constitutional and the political-electoral in these cases. Which PCO was more lethal, the one “indemnified” by parliament or the one not “indemnified”?
If a moderate but honest judge quietly in disagreement with Justice Chaudhry’s hair-trigger activism chose not to leave with him, should he be punished today? What should be made of an elected government treating the PCO judges as normal judges and not bringing back the old ones after the Murree Agreement? The lawyers’ stand was that the political parties should not take part in the elections of 2008. It was a legal stand because the general who had done the misdeed of November 3 was now holding them. Elections indirectly legitimised him.
The act of election has its own indemnifying aspects. The fact that the political parties did not abstain from elections, and the fact that the people did not heed the lawyers’ call and voted with an impressive turnout should count for something. If the PCO judges have sat in judgement on cases that have been accepted as jurisprudence then how can they now be forced to leave? If a de facto capacity is allowed to these judges then what stops the “reinstated” court from making them de jure automatically? What is important is to realise that excessive backward-looking litigation is not going to benefit Pakistan. *