Musharraf has since 9/11 ridden two horses -- extending selective anti-terror cooperation to the United States, symbolized by some high-profile al-Qaida arrests, and maintaining a political alliance with Islamist parties at home. That way he has managed to pocket billions of dollars in U.S. aid and helped marginalize the political mainstream. His standing at home, however, has been undercut by his inept handling of the earthquake.
The latest calamity highlights the need for international action to help move Pakistan toward a better future by encouraging Musharraf to uproot the terrorist complex and take measured steps toward democracy.
That makes it necessary to ensure that international aid is not illicitly diverted to terrorist groups or employed to rebuild the “hate factories” that churn out trained and committed extremists. The aid needs to be used to help foster development and societal de-radicalization in a region steeped in religious bigotry and teeming with Islamists of different hues and nationalities.
This necessity has been underscored by the way the earthquake relief effort is being directed by young militants wielding AK-47 rifles and walkie-talkies at some of the field camps set up in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. In fact, underground extremists, seeking to shore up their standing among the local people are competing with international teams in relief work, with the lead being taken by Jamaat ud-Dawa, an offshoot of the terrorist group that is the main suspect in the New Delhi bombings. Children orphaned by the quake are being “adopted” by terrorist groups for imparting what the Jamaat ud-Dawa calls “Islamic education.”
We had pointed to the Congressional Research Service's report on the state of Pakistani education system which openly glorifies jihad and martyrism in the name of Islam. Yet, the aid given by international community, particularly the United States towards reforming this is miniscule compared to the military aid Pakistan receives. Our priorities should be to: 1) Force President Musharraf to dismantle all the terror camps operating in the country. 2) Initiate a Marshall Plan to de-jihadify the Pakistani educational system and divert as many students away from the madrassahs. 3) Reduce the influence of extremists parties and the military in the Pakistani civil society. 4) Reinforce the support for mainstream political parties and conduct a free and fair election in Pakistan. Previous post on Prof. Chellaney's article here.
In Pakistan, where the culture of jihad is deeply woven into the national fabric, cleansing the stricken areas of their terrorist nurseries will not be easy. Despite the large losses they suffered, underground groups have not slowed their activities, as is evident from the killing of dozens of their members by Indian border troops while attempting to sneak in since the quake. What is needed is not just action against such groups, which keep changing their names, but the complete dismantlement of the infrastructure of terror in Pakistan.