Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Questions for Pakistan

by Ed Husain
October 25, 2011

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari speaks during the World Economic Forum annual meeting on October 22, 2011 (Muhammad Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari spoke in compelling terms at the World Economic Forum this weekend about his country’s youth population, liberal economic policies, and Pakistan’s geopolitical location. These strengths are Pakistan’s weaknesses, unless the curse of extremism and its product, terrorism, are brought under control in Pakistan.

When the moderator pressed the president to explain how his government responds to the challenge of terrorism, he sought refuge in stock phrases of Pakistan being a victim of terrorism and how he had lost his own wife, the former prime minister Bhutto, to terrorism.

While these answers elicit sympathy, and they are true, the president cannot expect international investment in his country unless he eradicates this mindset of national victimhood. This self-defeating outlook is compounded in many of Pakistan’s media outlets by constantly blaming the United States or India for Pakistan’s infrastructural and economic challenges.

Under U.S. pressure, and for valid national security concerns, Pakistan has been forced to kill terrorists in various parts of the country. But killing is not enough: where is Pakistan’s national counter-radicalization strategy? What measures are being undertaken to uproot extremist influences in Pakistan’s military? How is the Lashkar e Taybah (LeT) being undermined and contained? What changes are being made to minimize anti-Western sentiments among millions of madrasa students who will go on to become imams? Why is the Islami Jamiat e Talaba (IJT) allowed to operate as a paramilitary organization on Pakistan’s university campuses?  And what of intolerance toward Pakistan’s minorities: Shia, Christians, and Ahmadis? Extremism begins with intolerance.

Unlike Saudi Arabia or other Gulf countries, Pakistan has a rich Muslim legacy of Sufism, pluralism, and tolerance. Its religious landscape is filled with the instructive poetry and philosophy of  Data Ganj Baksh, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, and Bulleh Shah. Before it is too late, and the pernicious influences of Saudi petrodollars eat away at this inheritance, Pakistan’s president must begin countering the religious and political foundations of terrorism. If blame is to be apportioned anywhere, it must be laid at the door of forces within Pakistan who prefer to look away when extremists raise their heads in public.


  • Posted by Tim Marshall

    Hi Ed. He hasn’t begun to address the excellent questions you pose in para 4. I’d add another – in what way does the government control its major commercial city – Karachi – and how does it intend to keep order there?

  • Posted by Lalit Ambardar

    Ever since its inception post M.A Jinah’s religion based two nation theory driven bloody partition of India, Pakistan continues to follow its doctrine to inflict a thousand cuts on India.Two decades ago it launched anti India Kashmir jihad that at outset saw brutal ethnic cleansing of aboriginal Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in the valley.Pak sponsored jihadists have struck across India causing numerous deaths.26/11Mumbai massacre perpetrators roam free in Pakistan.Source of most terror attacks in India can easily be traced to Pakistan.July terror strike at Delhi court was masterminded by Hizbul Mujahidin operating from POK & Pakistan.It is the Frankenstein of jihadi terror that Pakistan created as an instrument of its foreign policy that has now come to haunt it taking a heavy toll on innocent Pakistani masses.Today Pakistan is widely regarded as the epicenter of global terror.India might be direct in the line of fire but the global community at large can not continue to remain callous towards the threat Pakistan today poses not only to the region but to the whole world what if in case Pakistan was to fall to radicals along its the pile of nuclear arsenal.

  • Posted by Saad Hamid

    Well, answer to the question that how is the Lashkar e Taybah (LeT) being undermined and contained may lie in the an article (Pakistan: The Regional Stabilizer) which states that back in 1984 both Pakistan and US fully backed and supported LeT to fight Russia in Afghanistan but later after 9/11 LeT was banned by US and Pakistan in 2001/2002, respectively. Pakistan took an systematic approach to shift the orientation of modest faction in welfare organization and imprisoned all the hard liners after 26/11 at Mumbai. Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi was arrested and is presently under going trial in ATC. Further same article claims a source close to a senior official dealing with the issue who disclosed that firm measures have been taken and after 2005 it is being ensured that the hard line faction does not get any support to further its activities. He also told that the this faction has lost its potency to a great extent due to arrest of its leaders. Link to the article is: http://www.opinion-maker.org/2011/08/pakistan-the-regional-stabilizer/#

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