By Rajeev Sharma
While Pakistan Army and civilian government are engaged with the US and other nations in fighting terrorism within their country as well as in Afghanistan, the volatile country is leaning more towards becoming a radical State than before. This is a dangerous trend particularly when the New York Times and Washington Post have reported that Pakistan is beefing up its nuclear arsenal at a breakneck speed and has already overtaken India in terms of the number of nuclear bombs at its disposal. Pakistan now has 110 nukes as compared to an estimated 60 to 80 nuclear bombs India is currently believed to have. Already Pakistan has emerged as the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal power and is poised to displace the United Kingdom as the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapon power.
India needs to take appropriate steps to deal with the national security threat the growing number of Pakistani nukes poses. The unpredictable, mercurial nation that India’s Islamic neighbour is adds to New Delhi’s problems. Unlike India, Pakistan does not subscribe to the no-first-use doctrine with regard to nuclear weapons. In fact, Pakistan had considered nuking India during the 1999 Kargil war. Therefore, it is all the more important for India in particular and the international community in general for Pakistan to behave responsibly and maturely. Unfortunately this is not happening and there are signs that Pakistan is hurtling headlong into the jihadist matrix.
Two recent incidents are telling pointers to this grave development. In November 2010, for instance, Al-Rehmat Trust organised a series of courses on “jihadist verses` in Koran in more than 18 cities of Pakistan. The Trust is a front for Jaish-e-Mohammand, one of the most notorious terrorist groups operating from Pakistan with base in Bahawalpur and Peshawar. Jaish is headed by Maulana Masood Azhar, a former Harkat-ul Ansar rabble rouser, wanted in the 1999 Indian Airlines hijacking and several other terrorist attacks in India. According to the US Treasury Department, Jaish began using Al-Rehmat as a front organisation in 2002 after the former was banned by the US following the December 13 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. The trust was used to recruit new set of terrorists for fighting the US forces in Afghanistan early 2009.
Another incident relates to October 2010 about the Taliban setting up schools on the outskirts of Karachi. These schools are outrightly terrorist schools where young students are taught bomb making and suicide bombings. One of the students, arrested by the police before he could blow himself up, said students were told that the Muslims in the world were being subjected to brutality and it was their duty to take revenge. It is not known how many schools and students are in these Taliban run schools. These are not the only Taliban schools. In fact, pro-Taliban madrasas have been in existence across Pakistan, including Islamabad, for quite some time. Lal Masjid in Islamabad was in fact one of the biggest of such madrasas claiming to work for turning Pakistan into an Islamic state and to establish Caliphate across the world through jihad. A survey conducted in Islamabad at that time showed Lal Masjid was not the only jihadi madrasa in the capital but at least 25 per cent of all mosques and madrasas either taught jihad or propagated extremist views.
These developments must be read with the support the Taliban has among the people, the army and the political leadership. One of the staunchest supporters of the Taliban is Pakistan’s Tourism Minister Maulana Attaur Rehman. A Pashtun from Jamat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman party, Attaur said early this month at a public meeting that the Taliban were the true believers of Islamic ideology. He said it was the US which was the “biggest terrorist“. There are others with equally strong views on the Taliban.
These civilian leaders compliment the views held by terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar who leave no opportunity to propagate violence as a means to achieve whatever goals they have imagined for the Muslim world. Saeed has a much more powerful platform to propagate his terrorist views and objectives; he runs over 150 schools and more than 85 madrasas where hatred and violence are an integral part of the curriculum. The school textbooks, published by his group, espouse a violent cause among the impressionable young students. His group also runs a powerful students body in Punjab University where its members promote extremist views among the student community and strongly oppose any attempt to project liberal views and opinions. It is not surprising that a large number of students from various colleges in Punjab find their way to terrorist training camps run by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). In fact, a November 2010 report said several hundred students from Punjab were undergoing training at LeT camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Their agenda is to carry out terrorist attacks in India and to help the Taliban to fight the US-led forces in Afghanistan.
With so many extremist forces brainwashing, indoctrinating and training the young students in Pakistan, its transformation into a radical state is not far. A deeply concerned India has to take pro-active measures to insulate it in case the Pakistani nukes fall into the hands of the jihadists by accident or by design of ever obliging elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. The increasing number of Pakistani nukes means more headaches for the Pakistani security establishment in safekeeping. It also means a higher success quotient for the terrorists in trying to steal the nuclear bombs.
(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and a strategic analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])