General Mirza Aslam Beg — who is the former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan and currently Chairman of the Islamabad-based NGO, Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development and Security (FRIENDS) — expresses some of his views about the Islamic resistance and Pakistan.
In the scheme of things, many a wrong have been corrected through divine intervention to maintain social balance on earth. In the recent past, there are two such examples of corrective measures that immediately come to mind. Germany under Adolph Hitler, intoxicated with the notion of “superiority of the German race”, tried to conquer the world and disturbed world peace yet within a period of 15 years, the disorder so created was corrected, through divine intervention, that is, the coalition of nations. Similarly in 1990, encouraged by the break-up of the Soviet Union, then US President George H.W. Bush (Senior), launched the “Crusade” against the Muslim heartland to establish American supremacy over the world, claiming that “the 21st century belonged to America.” Again, through divine intervention, balance was restored within a period of 15 years at the hands of the rag-tag Afghans. American ambitions — and pride — now lie buried in the stony sands of Afghanistan while the “Islamic surge” is sweeping the region, soothing our aching hearts and offering balm to our wounded bodies.
The Afghan Taliban are the winners and enjoy the right to lay down the conditions for peace yet the same old game of 1990 is being played to deny them power. The Muslim world has suffered immensely during the last 30 years, yet it has stood firm, inflicting defeat on the Soviet Union, the US, the European Union, Israel and India. The struggle thus has created the global Islamic resistance. New centres of power have emerged that have a vital role in determining the geo-political and social order in the region.
The Islamic resistance grew from the Afghan soil, under the divine mandate against the occupation forces, with a message that is explicit and finite: And how could you refuse to fight in the cause of Allah and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying, “O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this land whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of Your grace, a deliverer, and raise for us, out of Your grace, a redeemer!” (4:75).
In response to this divine call, “over sixty thousand believers from over seventy countries of the world converged in support of the Afghan freedom fighters,” according to a CIA report and defeated the Soviets. Ostensibly they were supported by the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others but a decade later, between the years 2001 to 2011, without any outside support, they have humbled the mightiest of the mighty: the US armed forces. The Afghan resistance calls itself “The Shadow Army”, and like a shadow, it extends itself, withdraws and appears again and remains elusive. It is a non-state force, mission-oriented and not concerned with domestic matters of the country where it operates. It poses no threat to others. It melts away when the occupation is ended as it did in 1990 when the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan.
The unity of the Pakhtuns (or Pashtuns) against foreign aggression provided the bedrock of resistance, extending from Karachi to the Hindukush Mountains. It enjoys the support of 24 million Pakhtuns in Pakistan and 17 million in Afghanistan. Their resistance draws strength from their traditions, faith and belief and love for freedom. They remain undefeated and defiant and a source of strength both for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their will to resist and defeat thus is considered “a great threat to American strategic interests in the region,” according to Australian-born David Kilcullen, former advisor to General David Petraeus, when the latter served as head of US forces in Afghanistan (2009–2011).
The “Shi‘i Crescent” extends from Iran to Iraq and Bahrain, and includes sizeable minorities in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This is a force to be reckoned with. The Americans and their allies are frightened of the rising power of Iran and have tried to undermine it through sanctions, embargoes and threats of war, but have failed. Iran has since been demonized as a threat to neighbouring Sunni countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf countries that out of fear have purchased US military hardware worth more than $150 billion to face the “Iranian threat”. No wonder then that Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troops entered Bahrain in March 2011 using the pretext of a GCC mandate to quell the revolt against the Sunni ruler, initiating war between Shi‘i and Sunni countries so that they “bleed each other to death,” in the words of Henry Kissinger.
In reaction to the atrocities committed against Muslims, particularly in the last 30 years and the killing of more than six million innocent men, women and children, the Muslims have sought protection in their faith resulting in a strong surge of Islamic thought sweeping the entire region. For example, the moderate Naqshbandi Tariqah, which had remained suppressed since World War I, is now sweeping the region from Turkey to Damascus and Turkmenistan. Similarly the moderate Qadria Tariqah is sweeping the region from Egypt to Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia and other Middle Eastern countries. This surge is shaping the so-called Arab Spring into Islamic movements in Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Morocco and Yemen. A more orthodox Islamic culture has emerged in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Such is the emerging reality determining the contours of the Islamic order, against the forces of oppression and state-sponsored terrorism.
Pakistan has suffered immensely due to the war between the global Islamic resistance and the occupation forces in Afghanistan. Apart from death and destruction, Pakistan’s economy has been shattered; law and order has deteriorated and its armed forces are engaged in a running battle with its own tribesmen. All these have had a deep impact on domestic politics, turning it into an aberration of a civilized society.
There are dozens of religious parties in Pakistan divided on the basis of sect, ethnicity and different schools of thought but they have failed to provide direction toward the clean and decent way of life that Islam promises. And out of this disorderliness has emerged, robot like, the class of the so-called “emancipated majority”, almost 70% of the population, bereft of Islamic teachings and its values and are demanding a secular order. Yet the oppressed Pakistani masses carry the burden of the commitment it made to its national purpose in 1947: “To strive for a democratic order, based on the principles of the Quran and the Sunnah.” Time and again the people of Pakistan have affirmed their commitment to national purpose and have voted mainly for moderate parties, rejecting the fundamentalists and the extremists, because they keep the objective in sight, and their fundamental direction is correct.
With domestic politics warming up, there is a brutal race for power and money by business stakeholders which spells disaster, to paraphrase Ibn Khaldun. This precarious situation thus places much greater responsibility on the people of Pakistan, the courts of justice and the armed forces to act and redeem the situation.