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World Facing Terrible Dilemma

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There will be many people who will not agree with this view, but this is fact:  The people ruling the world today have put the whole world in danger.

Most of the tribesmen are of the opinion that the rulers have created terrorists for justifying their injustice with the people.  The world's most dangerous and 'popular man' - Osama bin Laden - has released a video in which he declared war on President Musharraf and his men.  It is not clear whether it is real or fake.

The issuance of this video indicates one thing - that terrorists still have the power to destroy this world.  If they can release a video in the Middle East countries while sitting in tribal areas on the Pak-Afghan border, then they can also blow up buildings in Washington or London.

A newspaper in its comment on this issue stated that Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri have declared war against President General Pervez Musharraf. Osama bin Laden has said that he will retaliate against the “infidel” Musharraf “and those helping him” for the killing of the Lal Masjid cleric, Rashid Ghazi. Al Zawahiri has directly challenged the Pakistan army by saying that retaliation against it had been ordained by Allah.

The announcement, amounting to a declaration of war, has come at a time when the Supreme Court of Pakistan is hearing six cases against President Musharraf’s dual office and complaining that politicians are once again trying to dump their quarrels on the Supreme Court. The government, though isolated because of its internal fissures and its inability to negotiate politically with the opposition, insists it will not declare emergency or impose martial law in the country. But let’s face it. The Al Qaeda threat could actually provide grounds for suspending the normal application of law in the country.

The outside world whose support is so crucial to the survival of Pakistan’s economy has so far taken the view that President Musharraf should usher Pakistan back to democracy as soon as possible. Indeed, the opinion inside the European Union has been quite clear and in favour of the political parties struggling to force President Musharraf to end military interference in the running of the country.

The Commonwealth had suspended Pakistan’s membership in 1999 under the Harare Declaration that Pakistan had helped sign, and restored it only conditionally after the 2002 elections. Its latest position is that he should not continue in his dual office. But all these positions held abroad may undergo “internal change” after the Al Qaeda challenge, which might be to the disadvantage of the opposition parties in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda has always been a delicate subject to discuss in Pakistan because of the political and social divisions it creates. Focused on the so-called “Islam versus the West” cause, most Pakistanis regard Osama bin Laden as a hero and do not even believe that he attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

At the grassroots level, there is so much antipathy for US President George W Bush that any comparison between “Osama and Bush” ends up showing bin Laden as the most popular man in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the presence of Al Qaeda in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan adds another dangerous dimension to the discussion.

Al Qaeda holds sway over territories that sent thousands of its young men to Afghanistan to fight the “American invasion” of 2001 on the side of the Taliban. Foreign elements belonging to Al Qaeda are present in these areas, although this fact is vehemently denied by the political parties opposed to President Musharraf’s “war against terrorism”. But the fact is that Al Qaeda has targeted President Musharraf ever since he arrested some of its key operatives and handed them over to the Americans in 2003. Its declaration of war at this stage simply announces its dominance over Pakistani territory and seeks to exploit the political strife inside Pakistan.

The power of Al Qaeda is the power of intimidation which it created gradually in the Tribal Areas by killing off hundreds of local maliks who controlled the political system in operation there. This power is akin to the extra-constitutional power exercised by all religious groups in the name of Islam, but Al Qaeda has the additional power of the purse that smaller groups do not have. Many warriors in the Tribal and Semi Tribal Areas abutting on Afghanistan are on the payroll of Al Qaeda while mouthing Islamic slogans. Sadly, many “supporters” of Al Qaeda in the rest of Pakistan have been converted by intimidation under what is called the “Stockholm Syndrome”.

In some ways, the discussion of democracy at the Supreme Court looks out of place when all the political institutions may be under threat from terrorism which is unfortunately seen as an “Islamic” force by the common man. For instance, the lower judiciary in Pakistan has always lived in fear of religious groups seeking to bend the magistracy to their stance on blasphemy and apostatisation. Therefore the prospect is that all offices of the state could now come under pressure from local religious groups acting as informal representatives of Al Qaeda. Indeed, if the reversals experienced by the Pakistan army in its war with Al Qaeda continue, and the army fails to retrieve the soldiers it keeps losing to it through “un-resisted” abductions, the dominion may actually pass from Islamabad.

God forbid that the Supreme Court should actually have to decide as to who is the enemy of democracy, Musharraf or Osama? Pakistan is poised to return to democracy with the help of the judiciary. The people are supportive of this transition, but they are also supportive of a global terrorist organisation that now has the potential of controlling territories. This is the terrible dilemma which we as Pakistanis face.
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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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