Much dust is flying left, right and centre over Faisal Shahzad saga unfolding thousands of miles from here. As is common in Pakistan, number of theories and conspiracy theories are being developed around the event. No less is the hullabaloo in USA media, which is trying to interpret each and every move and statement of the US officials whether from State Department or Pentagon. Amongst all this circus hardly a serious thought is being given to the mindset, the ideology and the drivers of such ambitious plans as was “allegedly conceived” by Faisal Shahzad.
Here in Pakistan, Pakistan’s military with the full political support of the government has managed to roll back the frontiers of terrorisms to a large extent. The capacity of the terrorists’ networks to launch terrorist strikes has been maimed and further actions are under way. The dream of the terrorist networks backed by al-Qaeda ideology to capture lands in Pakistan and establish their own writ in places like Malakand Division and South Waziristan has also been shattered.
But despite all these successes, the works of people like Faisal Shahzad would continue to inflict damage on Pakistan when it comes to the perception front. Faisal Shahzad is not the first Pakistani born individual who preferred foreign nationality and then was swayed by the teachings of the extremist ideologists. We had seen the same kind of phenomenon in London bombings some years back. This perhaps is a generation that suffers from extreme identity crisis and torn between the two worlds cannot comprehend why the values of their world (inherited through birth) are not good enough for the world of their adoption. Back home also many would find causes to blow themselves up and believe that they have earned their ‘rightful’ place in the heaven.
The teachings by some of the most extremist religious leaders have totally corrupted the mindset of our youth and for them terrorism is the answer to their identity crisis and somehow suicide is a way of liberation. Defeating this ideology of reaction and rejection not only requires support from all the religious scholars who abhor violence but will also require a national level grand debate. A debate that helps Pakistanis understand the world we live in and how pluralistic societies exist around us. Of course some of the religious schools that are preaching hatred among masses need to be identified and forced to become part of the madrassa reforms. Introducing a modern syllabus is just part of an overall reform process and cannot be the end itself. These reforms should actively encourage the madrassa students to seek skills and means to be productive parts of the society. They should be empowered to choose professions that help them bring their future families out of a life of poverty and exploitation.
Closely followed by such madrassa reforms should be another initiative and that is the rehabilitation and reintegration of a large number of those misled youth who have joined Taliban ranks in different parts of the country out of frustration. The under lying principle behind the initiation of this program should be that about 70% of the people who are fighting along Taliban are not committed to the cause of al-Qaeda and are only doing this as a revenge against some perceived or actual injustice. Their grievances are against social system, justice system or may be the world’s political system. They want to let out their steam. Such a programme should engage the youth in productive activities so that their attitudes can be altered; secondly provision of job opportunities would help change the outlook of our youth towards the life and the opportunities it provides and will help them become a useful part of the society.
Earlier this year an international conference on Afghanistan was held in London where Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that year 2010 will be a year of “heavy implementation” of Obama’s strategy on Afghanistan. He also backed the idea of Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the reintegration of moderate elements of Taliban in the society.
The international community at that conference expressed its commitment to fighting this issue of terrorism and reaffirmed its full support to the rehabilitation program initiated by the Karzai government. The support would include funding, with Japan being the lead contributor. One of the main objectives of this program is to provide these people with job opportunities, so that they can become a useful segment of the society. Holbrooke added, “Once these lost people will become aware of the Afghan government’s intentions, they will surely get back.”
A very similar program was also initiated in Saudi Arab, where almost 3,000 prisoners that also included detainees from Guantanamo Bay were included in a rehabilitation program targeting the reintegration of these people back in the society. The main concern of Saudi authorities was to address the extremist behaviours in these detainees.
A three-stage program was launched for the purpose. The first stage was the prevention stage, which involved a number of programs that can help soften the outlook of these people towards the rest of the society; a number of alternatives were provided to these young men that included athletic competitions, lectures and writing contests etc. Second stage concerned rehabilitation, and to achieve this objective different scholars from relatively moderate schools of thought were employed to provide guidance to these young men regarding the original teachings of Islam. The third stage included a series of aftercare programs to ensure that the reintegration turns successful. According to Saudi authorities this rehabilitation program was a great success and about 80-90% of the detainees have been reintegrated into the society, successfully.
This example clearly elucidates the importance of rehabilitation of those people, who in some way have gone astray against the state and have been basically exploited by a group of people having their own agendas. According to different sources Pakistan Army also initiated a similar program, basically for the rehabilitation of young boys who were liberated from Taliban and a number of those actually had been trained to carry out suicide missions. This program basically focused on changing the mindset of these boys, who are mostly in their teens, so that they can become a useful part of the society.