Pakistan media does ’soul-searching’ over Mumbai (Lead)

December 13th, 2008 - 7:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Dec 13 (IANS) The Pakistani media has begun doing a lot of “soul-searching” in the wake of the Mumbai carnage that has shocked civil society in this country as much as it has shocked the rest of the world, with the English language newspapers warning the government about how class conflict and religion were fuelling the jehadi movement.As reflected in the opinions and editorials in leading dailies, questions are being raised as to why Pakistan finds itself in the centre of an international storm after the Nov 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and whether the tragedy can be used as a turning point by the country to look within - even though the government may be toeing a different line.

“Soul-searching is in order, and an acceptance of the fact that Pakistan is indeed a hub of militancy and terrorism,” the Dawn said in an editorial headlined “The common enemy”.

While some have called for Pakistan to bid farewell to the diplomacy of jehad, others have said the roots should be “pulled out” if extremist organisations are to be stopped from spreading like a weed in society.

Said the Dawn: “The resentment the powerless feel may be cloaked in anti-Americanism or religiosity but in actual fact it boils down to a class conflict.”

“Becoming part of a militant or terrorist organisation empowers poor, impressionable young men. And it’s not just the weapons or the monthly stipend that give them comfort - finally they have an identity when previously they were faceless, they become part of a community in which they are respected,” the newspaper added.

The media has cited Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole terrorist caught alive in the Mumbai terror attack, as one such youth even as the government is yet to confirm him as a Pakistani. Saying that Kasab hails from Faridkot, the Dawn said he “apparently first sought refuge from poverty in crime and then gravitated towards jehadi outfits”.

Terrorists who India says came from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai Nov 26 night and attacked several targets in India’s financial capital. The mayhem ended Nov 29, killing over 170 people, including foreigners.

Dawn also urged President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to “inform the nation in unequivocal terms that what is past is past and that extremism, which has taken root in this country, will enjoy no sanction and will not be tolerated”.

Lamenting that it was “sad, on one level”, that it had taken external pressure “to stir the government into acting against those who are besmirching our name in the world”, Dawn said: “We face isolation, and internal ruin, if the common enemy is not brought to book.”

The Pakistani government Thursday sealed the offices of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the banned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, after the UN declared it a terrorist organisation.

According to The News, JuD and the LeT were “known to have scouted Punjab for suitable people to join their ranks. Summer schools were also organised for children, with ‘religious’ education imparted to them reportedly incorporating fiery ‘pro-jehad’ messages”.

Thus, “if there is a true commitment to doing away with forces like the JuD, and if our desire to do so stems from within ourselves rather than from the US, the UN or India, much more needs to be done.

“It is only when its roots are pulled out that an organisation like the JuD can be stopped. Otherwise, like a weed, it will continue to spread rapidly,” the editorial added.

Others have pointed out how the sudden international pressure to act against extremist groups is showing in the disappearance of the United Jihad Council (UJC), a coalition of Kashmiri jehadi groups led by Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

“Following the Mumbai attacks and the subsequent tension between Pakistan and India, the United Jihad Council has decided to remain silent,” The News quoted a commander of one UJC affiliate as saying.

“In the current situation, the UJC is maintaining complete silence and has no contact with any Pakistani organisation or institution,” he said.

Noted political commentator Ayaz Amir has suggested that it may be time for Pakistan “to bid a final farewell to the diplomacy of jihad”. This was because “times have changed. Adventures once affordable are no longer so. What was doable 10, 15 years ago is now hazardous business, the international terrain having changed after 9/11″, he noted.

“In a way, therefore, if the proper lessons are drawn, Mumbai, a terrible event for India, may turn out to be a blessing for Pakistan, helping to concentrate Pakistani minds and enabling Pakistan to take the turning that otherwise it might not have taken so soon,” he has written.

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