The US administration regarded Afghanistan’s coming under Soviet rule following the Soviet invasion in 1979 as against its own global interests, and began supporting and arming radical groups resisting the occupation. It accomplished this task to a large extent via the military and intelligence agencies of neighboring Pakistan.
That tactic enjoyed considerable success in the fight against the occupation. Having suffered severe losses by the late 1980s, the Soviets eventually withdrew from Afghanistan. On the other hand, however, the seeds were sown for the radical terror groups that would come to represent a major problem for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and for much of the Islamic world.
The foundations for the climate of insecurity, instability, terror and turmoil that still persists today in the region were laid at that time. Moreover, it led to radical terrorism making its way into such parts of the Islamic world as Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen in a developed and strengthened form.
It is this intensive military and logistical support over many years for radical groups both during and after the Soviet occupation that lies behind the appearance of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the latest incarnation, ISIL, in an organized and well-equipped manner with considerable numbers of supporters. It is also due to that backing that certain areas on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan are today under the influence of radical groups which are difficult to combat with military means.
This border area, which consists of seven administrative regions in northwest Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and North and South Waziristan, covers an area of some 30,000 square kilometers. Various radical groups, such as the Pakistan Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network are based – and active – in the region.
It is because of this historical framework that Pakistan has overtaken countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria and come to the top of Western countries’ terror lists. People who live a radical mindset generally pass through Pakistan, despite not being Pakistani themselves.
It is of course Pakistan and the Pakistani people who are paying the greatest price for these radical organizations growing within the country. Bomb attacks targeting civilians and approaching shocking levels of barbarism in recent months have once again revealed the threat posed by radicalism to the Islamic world and the world in general.
More than 150 people, 134 of them children, died in an attack on a military high school in Peshawar last December. More than 60 civilians lost their lives in an attack on a Shiite mosque in the town of Shikarpur on 30 January.
Six people died recently in a suicide bombing near the Lahore security department.
Another attack on a Shiite mosque in Peshawar during the Friday prayers resulted in the deaths of 20 people and in more than 50 being injured.
Bearing in mind that one wing of the Pakistan Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the majority of the attacks, recently swore allegiance to ISIL, one may conclude that radical activities in Pakistan will reach critical dimensions in the days ahead. ISIL is looking to open new fronts in Central and South Asia following the instability in the Middle East, and is particularly interested in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Although a series of military operations initiated in the northern areas of the country last June and continuing this year are portrayed as a success against terror, it has still proved impossible to completely prevent the recent acts of savagery listed above: On the contrary, as a result of these operations, terrorists are reported to have mingled with refugees and infiltrated major cities such as Karachi and Lahore and are believed to be preparing even more barbaric suicide attacks.
Indeed, at least 14 people were killed and more than 70 injured in suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore on March 15 for which the Pakistani branch of the Taliban claimed responsibility. Violence leads to nothing more than further violence and to rising rage, hatred and feelings of revenge.
Since radical terror is cunningly supposedly perpetrated in the name of Islam and uses methods of indoctrination and propaganda aimed at winning Muslims over to its perverse way of thinking, it has a powerful capacity to influence the ignorant people who make up a large part of society. The result is not terrorists numbering in the hundreds or thousands, but a mass of supporters numbering in the millions.
Apart from a few secret service agents and the occasional provocateur, the great majority of this mass of people are misled into following the perversions of radicalism, genuinely thinking it to be Islam, and thereby becoming the pawns of terror organizations. It is obviously impossible to stop this mass of people with guns or military operations, and that these will merely encourage feelings of vengeance and increase the number of supporters many times over. In addition, killing ignorant but sincere people who have been deceived and misled through military operations rather than educating them and raising their awareness is little more than murder.
The only solution, therefore, is to tell the masses of the vast gulf between radicalism and the true Islam described in the Qur’an by means of a rational and scientific education campaign. It is essential to reveal that the nonsense and fabricated accounts that incite terror, violence, bloodshed, lovelessness and hatred are the diametric opposite of the verses of the Qur’an, which teach love, affection, peace and justice, and for radicalism to be eradicated through education. Only in this way can ‘bigotry,’ the lifeblood of radical terror be eradicated, and the threat of radicalism be comprehensively brought to an end.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily