KARACHI - Prominent citizens in this
country are calling for a deeper understanding of the complex situation
that led to the July 7 London bombings as British police confirmed that three
of the bombers were of Pakistani descent and probably trained here or in neighboring
Noted political commentator and author A.R. Siddiqui said he believed British
Prime Minister Tony Blair's initial reaction to the blasts, emphasizing the
need to go into the "roots of terrorism," as the right approach to
Siddiqui, a retired brigadier from the Pakistan army said the London bombings
were a reaction not to historical conflicts between the West and Islam but to
what has been going on in recent years in Afghanistan, a country with extremely
close ties with Pakistan.
"Everybody talks of Iraq and Palestine, but they are not comparable with
the kind of atrocities that have been committed in Afghanistan, the forgotten
front," said Siddiqui adding that the London attacks were essentially political
rather than religious in nature.
"The issue is not at all religious but a political statement," opined
Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, a legal luminary who has served terms as Supreme Court
judge, attorney general, and law minister.
"This may be a political group that thinks it is the guardian of Islamic
interests and defines it narrowly," said Ebrahim adding that what was clear,
however, was that the "bombers were incensed by what Western governments,
especially the United States and Britain were currently doing in large parts
of the Islamic world."
"It must be remembered that this [the bombings] is a new phenomenon, tangentially
connected with quasi-religious issues and carried out as a political reaction
by people who have exaggerated notions of their own devotion to Islam,"
Fakhruddin said he thought Blair's reaction as a "hopeful and helpful
development" especially since "the modern world happens to present
easy opportunities to collect explosives and has technologies to link together
organizations into a regular political phenomenon."
One of Pakistan's best known psychiatrists, Prof. Haroon Ahmed also thought
that the bombings in London as also the earlier one in Madrid, Spain
as political statements, rather than anything to do with religion.
"You are big and powerful. We are militarily weak. Since you have wronged
us and have exploited us for so long and are still exploiting our resources,
we have no option but to commit terrorist acts. That will harm and hurt you
some," is what the terrorists are saying, according to Prof. Ahmed.
Siddiqui did not altogether discount the religious aspect of terrorism and
said, "I would not go into Islamic tenets, but the roots of terrorism do
lie in Islam."
"Islam's rise was sudden and frequently occasioned violence. Since Islam established
states everywhere and did not produce a commonly agreed system of succession,
a certain degree of terrorism was exercised in Muslim countries at different
times," he explained.
Siddiqui said, however, that it was important to note that not only did Muslim
states come under centuries of Western colonial domination but that there was
a perception that their resources have continued to be exploited. "So the
reaction could only be terrorism."
Many believe that it was such a background that led well-educated, British-born
young men like Omar Sheikh, convicted for the kidnapping and gruesome murder
of the U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, to take to the path of terrorism.
Sheikh, who studied at the London School of Economics, was among prisoners
exchanged by the Indian government in return for an Indian Airlines plane full
of passengers that was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in Taliban-ruled
Afghanistan in December 1999 and was afterwards sheltered in Pakistan.
The fundamentalist Taliban was created by Pakistan army intelligence, with
funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and manpower drawn from
Pashtun tribes that straddle the Pakistan-Afghan border, to fight Soviet troops
that occupied Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989.
On Wednesday, Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said at
a press conference in the capital, Islamabad that immediately before the May
general elections in Britain, this country provided reports to London of possible
"Before the general elections in the United Kingdom, we received reports
that this sort of situation might arise, and attacks were aborted because of
information provided by the government of Pakistan, and arrests were made in
various countries and here," Khan was quoted saying.
But ironically Sherpao, a Pashtun leader, has been among the bitterest critics
of the intensive bombing campaign against the Taliban carried out by the U.S.
in its "war against terror" launched immediately after the Sept. 11,
2001, aerial terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
"What has been happening in Afghanistan and Iraq is making terrorism more
popular in Muslim countries though this could hurt Muslims far more in
the end," said Siddiqui.
That is a view also held by Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who said
the London blasts would "impact Muslims all over the world," in reactions
made to the press two days after the blasts.
Pakistan bore the brunt of terrorism that was "pouring" out of Afghanistan
and faced "horrendous" consequences as a result, said Musharraf, who
has escaped several bids on his life, one of them said to have been masterminded
by the jailed Briton, Omar Sheikh.
"The greatest threat we [Pakistan] face is religious extremism and terrorism.
We have to fight perpetrators of such acts jointly, otherwise the so-called
custodians of Islam will ruin us," Musharraf was quoted saying.
(Inter Press Service)