Thursday, November 18, 2010

My interview with Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed

'Pakistani leadership lives in self-delusion'

Pakistan is a victim of many delusions - a country where the army and civilian leadership 'live in perpetual self-delusion' and take on 'jihadist overtones' that does not rule out orchestration of another Mumbai-style attack in the future, says a Europe-based, Pakistan-born political analyst.

However, if that were to happen, pressure will mount on India to act.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, professor emeritus of political science at Stockholm University and also honorary senior fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, said here: 'Pakistan is a victim of many delusions. The army and the civilian leadership live in perpetual self-delusion and this is the main problem which they must overcome.'

Ahmed, who is of Pakistani descent, was here for a roundtable discussion on 'From Jihad to Jihadism: Lessons for Southern Asia'.

'I don't think jihad is on the rise. The first wave of Al Qaeda leaders, who joined Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, is down to a few dozen people on the run in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.

'The second wave of terrorists who trained in Al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s has also been devastated, with about 100 hiding out on the Pakistani frontier. So, clearly, it's been on the wane,' Ahmed told IANS in an interview.

He added that according to a RAND Corp report ', (of the) 83 terrorist attacks in the United States between 9/11 and the end of 2009, only three...were clearly connected with the jihadist cause'.

While the radical Islamic groups from Egypt to Jordan to Malaysia have lost much of military and political support, the situation in Pakistan is different.

Outfits like Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Qaeda, Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani's network and Tehrik-e-Taliban continue to thrive and pose danger to the West and Pakistan's immediate neighbour India, he said.

'The government's jihadist connections go back to the country's creation (in 1947) as an ideological, Islamic state, which makes it difficult for Pakistan to overcome its Jihadist overtones,' said Ahmed.

Ahmed, who is at present working on a book 'Is Pakistan a Garrison State?', said: 'At present there is no present idea of jihad in Pakistan. But there is Jihadism, which is an adopted form of jihad, launched with the help of non-Muslim state/actors.'

Contrary to popular beliefs, he said that India will not react militarily even if another 26/11 happens.

At least 166 people were killed in the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terror attack when 10 gunmen from Pakistan sneaked into India's financial capital and let loose a reign of terror.

'I can't say whether a 26/11 would happen again. The rogue elements still exist in Pakistan. If it does, I don't think India will go for a war with Pakistan. War has never been in India's interest,' said Ahmed.

Ahmed went on to say that India won't come back to the dialogue table and instead put pressure on Pakistan through its allies and foreign powers if at all a Mumbai-II happens.

'I don't think India will continue with the dialogue. It should not. They have shown enough restraint. Pressure is immense on India to act. They may try hot pursuit or pressurise the foreign powers to act. A lot depends on who provokes whom. It will be a very tense moment,' Ahmed said.

(As published in IANS)

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