Tag Archives: Faisal Shahzad

The Road to Peace

NPR’s Steve Inskeep has been reporting from the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient road that traverses South Asia. On Friday, he checked in from Islamabad and what he reported about Pakistanis conversations about Faisal Shahzad sheds important light on the road to peace in Pakistan.

What Inskeep heard actually surprised him – how little most Pakistanis were talking about Faisal Shahzad. This is not to say that Pakistanis are not concerned with terrorism – far from it. Since the Times Square incident, editorial boards and columnists in Pakistan’s media have written extensively about the urgent need to eradicate the terror networks in their country.

But religious extremism is not Pakistan’s only problem. Young and middle class Pakistanis – the very people who are must be engaged to effect sustainable change in the country – are beset by a host of problems other than terrorism.
Economic inflation, a lack of foreign investment to provide expanded employment opportunities, and scheduled blackouts due to a lack of energy capacity all provide daily interruptions to young people’s lives.

Still, each of these issues can be traced back to terrorism. Pakistan is besieged by almost daily attacks from groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the group that is suspected of having provided support to Faisal Shahzad. Over the past two years, more than 3,000 Pakistanis have been murdered by these groups.

Pakistan’s government and military have greatly increased their efforts to fight these terrorists, gaining high praise from US Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

McChrystal said fighting terrorism within its own borders was important for Pakistan and the US, and important for partnership between the two states. General David Petraeus, Commander of US Central Command, also said the Pakistani military had gone after the Taliban effectively last year in its northwest territories. “It’s important to give Pakistan credit for what it has done,” he said in his key note address to the 2010 Joint War fighting Conference in Virginia.

But these efforts have left Pakistan’s government with limited resources to address issues not directly related to security. Recognizing this, the US government tripled non-military aid to Pakistan.

“The United States is firmly committed to the future that the Pakistani people deserve — a future that will advance our common security and prosperity,” Obama said. “Just as we will help Pakistan strengthen the capacity that it needs to root out violent extremists, we are also committed to working … to help Pakistan improve the basic services that its people depend upon — schools, roads and hospitals.”

Talking to people in Islamabad, NPR’s Steve Inskeep found that people often wanted him to send a message back to the US – that Pakistanis are by far good, peace loving people who only are struggling against difficult odds.

The road to peace is before us. By supporting the people of Pakistan and their struggle for democracy and justice, we help clear the obstacles on that road that provide cover for militant extremists. When we clear the path towards democracy by providing essential non-military support, we empower the people of Pakistan to better their situation, and we in turn secure our own.

True democracy in Pakistan can prevent extremism

Dr. Majjida Ahmed, a founding member of Americans for Democracy & Justice in Pakistan, has an op-ed in today’s Daily Caller that examines the relationship between cementing a strong democratic process in Pakistan, and the prevention of extremist violence.

What turns middle-class young people from Pakistan, like Faisal Shahzad, toward militant extremism? It’s important to note that Shahzad spent his youth in Pakistan during the military rule of hard-line General Zia al-Huq, who instituted a school curriculum that taught intolerance towards religions other than Islam and promoted militancy. And it isn’t just military dictatorships that have bred intolerance. According to Sherry Rehman, the former Information Minister, rampant conspiracy theories and unchecked hate speech against Americans in the Pakistan media may also be playing a part in radicalizing some of the country’s youth.

Pakistan’s military has been historically reluctant to act against militant groups like Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (“TTP”), which originally claimed responsibility for the attempt, until a civilian government came to power. Since President Asif Ali Zardari took power, the public and the government have been able to press the military into successful operations against these groups. That is why it is so critical for the United States to focus not just on aiding Pakistan’s military but on strengthening Pakistan’s democratic institutions by encouraging responsible participation by all constituents, including the media, opposition and judiciary. That is what the elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari has been trying to achieve, despite severe and irresponsible pressure against such moves by its opponents in those same groups—pressure which arguably supports extremism.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/05/11/true-democracy-in-pakistan-can-prevent-extremism/

Faisal Shahzad Is a Wake-Up Call for Pakistani-American Community

Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain, a Pakistani doctor who has practiced and taught medicine in the US, writes in English-language newspaper Daily Times today that Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to bomb Times Square is an important wake-up call for the Pakistani-American community.

kidsSince the would-be bomber in Times Square was identified, there has been much concern in the Paksitani-American community about how this would effect regular, law-abiding Pakistani-Americans who want nothing to do with religious militants. While many fear that a backlash of suspicion and discrimination will befall the community, Dr. Syed sees this as a remote possibility.

Personally I am convinced that this will not happen since the safeguards built into the US system make it extremely hard to discriminate against any group based on religion or country of origin. However, if in the future any major terrorist attack occurs in the US that can be traced back to Pakistan, things could get a little hairy for all Americans of Pakistani origin.

Pakistani-Americans do, however, face a certain choice:

They can disassociate themselves completely from Pakistan and join in the US-led chorus that Pakistan should do more to control the terrorist activity going on within its borders. This attitude has the disadvantage that however hard the Pakistani-American community tries, it cannot change the fact that its members came from Pakistan. The second possibility is to actually do more themselves.

This second option – actually doing more – is where Dr. Syed believes Pakistani-Americans have a unique opportunity to not only improve their own situation, but have an important impact on reducing the likelihood of future terrorist attacks.

In the US, Muslim parents of Pakistani origin have essentially abdicated their responsibility for the religious education of their children. This has been turned over in most places to ‘Sunday’ schools attached to area mosques and Islamic centres. Without going on a rant about who teaches what in most of these ‘schools’ and where the money comes from to run them, it is enough to say that what is being taught in these places is definitely not the ‘kinder and gentler’ version of Islam.

This has created an unusual situation for the Pakistani-American community. Many of their children are imbibing radical concepts of religion that are far removed from what they themselves learned and practice. Of course the overall ‘liberal’ attitudes surrounding them makes it difficult for these children to become too radical as they grow up, but some of them do become radicalised and will continue to do so over the foreseeable future. And these are the ones we have to worry about.

Therefore, what the Pakistani-American community, especially the Muslims among them, need to do more than anything else in this context right now is to take greater interest in the religious education their children are receiving in the ‘Islamic centres’ around them. The very parents who are entirely consumed by the quality of education available in public and private schools attended by their children are quite happy to let these Islamic centres teach whatever they might. This must change.

By all rights, Faisal Shahzad should never have been involved with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or any other terrorist organization. He came from a respectable family, had a good education, and lived a comfortable, successful life. Unfortunately, the Pakistani-American community – like all communities – is not immune from the virus of extremist ideology.

As it turns out, though, a simple action – being more actively involved in children’s religious education – can serve as an effective inoculation. What parent would allow their child unsupervised access to the Internet or movies? We well recognize the importance of monitoring and being closely involved in the messages that our children receive from mass media, and it should be no different when it comes to religious education. Taking this effort will protect our children, our community, and help pave the pathway for democracy and justice in Pakistan and the world.

Ethan Casey: Some of My Best Friends Are Pakistanis

The following article by Ethan Casey, author of the travel books Alive and Well in Pakistan: A Human Journey in a Dangerous Time (2004) and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010), was originally published at his website Alive and Well in Pakistan. It is reproduced here with permission.

Ethan Casey

SAN DIEGO, May 4 – As I write this, the news that the man arrested for trying to blow up Times Square is a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin has only begun to sink in. What is this going to mean for other U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin – and for me, as their friend?

This article’s headline is an ironic allusion to something people used to say to disavow bigotry: “Some of my best friends are Jews.” It’s also a straight statement of fact: some of my best friends are Pakistanis. And I want the world to know that, especially in these times and at this moment, because I think it’s very important for us to remember that not all U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin blow stuff up.

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Times Square Plot Underscores Urgency of Support for Pakistan's Democracy Movement

Times Square CCTVThe attempted bombing of New York’s Times Square over the past weekend underscores the urgency of our support for the democracy movement in Pakistan. Years of double-dealing by dictatorships that sympathized with jihadi ideology and used militant groups as proxy fighters resulted in an expansive network of terrorists inside the country. The democratic government, elected in 2008, has been working closely with the US to eliminate these groups.

Since turning its sights on the terrorist networks that had been let to grow under military dictatorships, Pakistan has suffered regular and devastating attacks. Over the past two years, thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by militants. The Taliban has vowed to increase attacks on both the democratic government in Pakistan as well as targets in the United States.

As police analyze evidence in the New York bombing attempt, a picture has begun to emerge of Taliban militants attempting to expand their reach to threaten Americans as well as Pakistanis.

Pakistan’s democratic government, long a key-ally in the war on terrorism, has vowed its full cooperation with the US in tracking down and bringing to justice those responsible for the attempted attack.

We will cooperate with the United States in identifying this individual and bringing him to justice,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said they were awaiting details from the US authorities about Faisal.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official said US ambassador to Islamabad Anne Patterson held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

“There has been initial discussion when the US ambassador met our foreign minister,” said the official.

“Pakistan and the US have ongoing, robust cooperation on counter-terrorism. If required, we will extend fullest cooperation to US,” the official added.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States and has arrested hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives and handed over many of them to the United States after it signed up to the US-led war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

News agencies are reporting that law enforcement in Pakistan has arrested several people who may be connected to or have information about the attempted  bombing.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and other militant groups have demonstrated that they are working to expand their reach across the globe by working in coordination with one another. In doing so, they have managed to amplify the impact of what are actually small groups of dedicated terrorists. To defeat this menace, we must support and coordinate with other pro-democracy movements and governments – especially those on the front lines of the war on terror.