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Friday, July 9, 2010

Give the dog a bad name:By:Lt.Gen(R)Asad Durrani

Give the dog a bad name
Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani

(This is a cross post)
An adage has lately done more than its share of rounds: “when God wishes to destroy a people, He first makes them mad”. We are no God. Before going for our foes therefore, all that we can do is to give them a bad name. Miscreants; traitors; separatists: we have heard them all. Having run out of all the bad names though, one had to put a bad spin on some of the not so bad names.
It probably started with “Fundamentalism”. The evangelists of the 1920s, the first of the creed, stood for separation of church from the state. “Islamic Fundamentalism” on the other hand, as posited by scholars like Olivier Roy and John Esposito, is more about “opposition to the perceived corrupting influence of the Western culture" and “Islamic revivalism”. Even Bernard Lewis, hardly ever accused of sympathy for anything Islamic, considers the use of this term as unfortunate and misleading. In one of the German think tanks, the term was taboo.
Our detractors however not only use it, they also associate it with “political activism, extremism, fanaticism, terrorism, and anti-Americanism” (Esposito again). Any Islamic Movement that makes them uncomfortable can thus be conveniently reviled as “fundamentalist”. Ape-like, we have followed suit and that with a vengeance. Anyone even remotely suggesting that the religion might provide an answer to some of our recurring confusion is now a “Fundo”.
Jihad, like Crusade, was a concept that expressed fortitude to fight ills in society- ignorance, illiteracy, bigotry, and all the rest. The use of arms indeed had its place, especially- some would say, exclusively- in self defence. No more. The mere mention of the word can now send chill up our spines, assuming of course there was still some left. No one even dare suggest that Jihad can also be waged sans arms, in its more sublime form. The UN may sanction armed resistance against foreign occupation, but if waged in the name of Jihad it must be condemned, and a Jihadi prosecuted as a “terrorist”.
You guessed it. Terrorism is the latest and the deadliest form of this name calling game.
There were times one could sensibly discuss this phenomenon. Remember how passionately we used to distinguish it from the ‘freedom fight’, and insisted that the state terrorism must also count for something! No longer. Post 9/11, terrorism has become an instrument of state policy. Any of them- Chechens, Uyghur, Hamas, Hezbollah, Kashmiris, and indeed the Taliban of all hues straddling the Durand Line- once labelled as “terrorist” are fair game. In response, the non-state actors (NSAs), with little chance to match the state in the war of semantics, have improved upon the tactics of war.
Yes, that is what it is. Terrorism, in its broadly accepted sense- “deliberately targeting non-combatants to achieve a political objective”- has been practiced as a “technique” by the state as well as by the NSAs. With Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Vietnam, and recently Fallujah in Iraq and Operation Balussa in Afghanistan, America leads the pack of states. The UK with its carpet bombing of Dresden is not far behind. (Phil Rees, a documentary film maker who has done stories on terrorists, or, as he prefers to call them, militants, says: “if we don’t want to describe Britain and America as terrorist nations, then the only principled alternative is to purge the word from the lexicon”.) In a way we did worse in the former East Pakistan- killed our own unarmed citizens.
The NSAs in their war against the state- rightly described as a form of “asymmetrical warfare”- target the non-combatants all the time. Inability to effectively engage the combatants is their excuse. The state, whenever it cares to rationalise such acts, blames the militants for hiding behind the civilians, or shrugs them off as “collateral damage”. The rest of us may lament the loss of innocent lives or ponder over moralities and legalities, the two belligerents carry on with terrorism regardless.
Overtime, the NSAs have discovered the “ultimate weapon”. The human being embraces most of the attributes desired in a perfect weapon system. He can carry a warhead and manoeuvre around obstacles; is hard to detect and intercept; can identify the target; choose the time to release his lethal cargo; and if needed abort the mission without much fuss. There still remains though this matter of motivating him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Depending upon the individual, money, a cause worth its while, and indoctrination are some of the tools available. In military terms, too, it is cost effective- many of the foes for one of theirs, with terror as the collateral, in fact the real, benefit.
No wonder, seeking a fatwa to exorcise suicide bombing does not work. (The Israelis also toyed with this idea in the mid 1990s.) It has nothing to do with religion, only with achieving a war aim. Though a myth of the 65 War; when it went around that some of our soldiers tied to explosives would jump in front of the Indian tanks, we did not invoke any religious injunction. Looking at “terrorism” as a war fighting technique may also explain its ever expanding practice. Its usage has increased many times over since we declared a “war on terror”. How does one fight the ‘means’ of waging a war, is indeed a different matter.
We still have the right to disagree with the use of such means and call the perpetrators names, even the ones not quite apt. The problem is that in this clash of asymmetric forces, the dice is heavily loaded in favour of the irregular warriors. Those amongst them with adequate support amongst the population can prolong it for years and decades. More often than not, the state is forced to compromise and thus the terrorists of yesterday become patriots of today and at times leaders of tomorrow. For that reason alone, it was prudent to keep a window open for some of those whom we had lumped under the “Taliban”. From Moderate to Reconcilable and back to Mujahedeen is but closing an historical cycle.
One has often wondered why a dog has to be given a bad name before it is killed! It already has one. Moreover, you are not supposed to kill bad dogs, only mad ones.

(Lt. Gen(r)Asad Durrani is Former Head of the Pakistani Intelligence Agency Inter-Services Intelligence).


  1. I must agree with the General for what he has said. Coining of such names is a complete specialty, its like branding a product.Before branding a product, a complete study is carried out to assess its impact and marketability. Likewise when branding a group of people or a movement or a religious segment its studies as to how much damage it will inflict and to what extent.

    General Musharraf was very vocal like a Pharaoh when it came to practicing Muslims, he would shout, "I will not let any extremist live in this country."

    When on a TV program,I said 1st lets define extremism what it is. I gave the example of a carrier military officer that he is so much involved with his profession that he is virtually divorced from the rest of his life, family, friends etc. Now this is also an extremism but no one calls them as such, instead they are called 'Professional officers.' Then why on earth if a Muslim wants to practice and live in accordance with Qur'an and Sunnah should be called an extremist? To top it some irresponsible and weternised Muslims have coined yet another derogatory name 'Fundo,' and make fun of fellow Muslims because he irks in their eyes for their free life style thats a negation of Islamic teachings.

    Likewise, in a briefing at ISPR, I had told them that the name Taliban should never be used for terrorists or criminals. Its a sacred name for the seekers of knowledge, if this name is given a derogatory essence then what would we call the students in Islam?

    In this respect, media has also played a very negative role; the airing of a fake video of a girl being flogged in Swat. Media is only scoring the first not establishing their credibility and they would come with anything to run their shop.

  2. The General has a point.

    The journey of the Dog begins with Dog being identified by the State as a potential candidate for becoming a Bad Dog. The Bad Dog serves till it eventually becomes the Mad Dog. So one fine day the august State decides through a decree to eliminate all Mad dogs and only to retain Bad Dogs.

    Now somewhere and at some point the State could have started working on making a Good Dog or a Lap Dog out of this miserable creature that was becoming too difficult to handle and was even biting the hand that fed it. Guess what - the State in all its wisdom and resources at its disposal never hada rehab program for the bad and mad dogs

    Oh what a tangled web we weave


  3. By IAS

    MAD has covered the subject comprehensively. What has been going since 9/11 needs to be seen in total historical perspective from time of the deliberate defamation started by the Chritian Clergy to seek death penalty that resulted in the in inquisition ah=fter the fall of the Muslims.

    Blaming the Jehadis for all the death and destruction and beinf successful in making the world believe in it is because of the 'learned' scolars of the Muslim world using the alien verbiage and syntax as authentinc. Even when wish to disagree with their concept, belief and style we do so with fear and sense of humiliation.

    It is straight, forceful and correct to force to the defensive. All what is being seen is their creation.

  4. Gen Asad himself has been one of the implementares of the policy to create islamic government against a liberal one,when he distributed over 140 million to the so called islamist parties to defeat PPP.This was done as part of a policy under the directions of president ishaq&Gen Aslam Beg.The supreme court is keeping the petition of AM ASghar khan pending for over Twenty years now.What do we do believe him now or look at his past having been rewarded by being AMBASSADER IN GERMANY & SAUDI ARABIA,in both the regimes.This the tragedy of Pakistan we cant sift good from evil.The holy ProphetPBUH had predictated 1400 years ago that a time will come when Muslims Will Kill Muslims & enjoy,The intelectuals/ulema of that time will mislead.We must read the Prayer of HAZRAT NOAH Ula ISLAM in the Holy Quran.The US AMBASSADER Is now freely funding various Mosques/Madreessas ,promoting the fight between various MUSLUCKs.The Tragedy is We only listen to sufi KALAAM by NUSRAT fateh/Tina sani&Abida parveen;Without understanding what the Kalaam says. If we read allama Iqbal&understand.


  6. Gr8 Question Aquarius. Yes....who decides which is the good dog & who the mad? How is it to be dealt with?

  7. OK Ladies and Gentlemen, you have asked for it. I will send my recipe to YAA and suggest that it is inflicted upon those who want to get in this dogfight.

  8. The essay confuses me. Coming from a person who was in the thick of it when these linkages were being developed forces me to admit that he is bringing out half truths.

    As Shahbaz wrote, his were the most eventful times. Thats when the linkages between the rightist parties and militants were established. International intelligence agencies and watch dogs collected so much data which we as Pakistanis denied. In hindsight much of it is now proven true. So how can we believe that now what they say is true.

    I was shocked to learn that Jaish e Muhammad had a big role in training and fighting alongside Somalians against the American and Pakistani troops. This means that officers and men that Pakistan Army actually lost in Somalia were killed by militants we had befriended for the sake of Kashmir. This is just one example I am giving. There could be many more.

    So, we are in a state of denial, partial denial as also glued to the romanticism of strategic assets. It reminds me of a famous Kafi sung by Hussain Baksh Gullu.

    Mein te hansiaN,ch Yar gawaya
    HanjooaN'ch labdi piranh.

    In my petty cantankerousness, I lost my beloved.
    Now it is only tears that can unite.

    Pakistan desperately needs a new NARRATIVE and a NEW Social Contract.

  9. A SPOOK & a SOLDIER - Furq Saaf Zahir hay

    Carry on Brig

    Cheers- Khawar