Today Pakistan is facing embarrassment and isolation internationally. Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and the most wanted person on earth, has been killed on the land of Pakistan by US troops without involving Pakistani intelligence services or army. In the past, both the civil and military leaders of Pakistan had denied the presence of Osama in Pakistan, which puts Pakistan in a difficult position now. Since Osama was residing just a few kilometres away from our military academy, the role of the Pakistani establishment and its links with Al Qaida are being questioned - not only by international players, but also by intellectuals in Pakistan. The claim of the Pakistani authorities that they had no prior information about Osama is raising questions about the competency of the establishment here - and why they are consuming a large amount of the budget of Pakistan if they were unable to find a man who was living near the military academy in a secure town, not in mountains, dark caves, or tribal areas.

It is a very strange situation that we see in Pakistan. The establishment is condemning America’s action as interference in the sovereignty of Pakistan after a long silence, while the first reaction of our Prime Minister and President was to call it a great achievement and to congratulate America.

The noted Pakistani academic and activist, Parvez Hoodbhoy, has commented:

Events have turned a potential asset into a serious liability. Osama’s killing is now a bone stuck in the throat of Pakistan’s establishment that can neither be swallowed nor spat out. To appear joyful would infuriate the Islamists who are already fighting the state. On the other hand, to deprecate the killing would suggest that Pakistan had knowingly hosted the king of terrorists. - Parvez Hoodbhoy
Here in Pakistan we see that the killing of Osama is judged from a different angle. Many people see it as a conspiracy against Pakistan. A vast majority of voices in the print and electronic media are openly condemning the US action; they are even glamorising Osama and Al Qaida, and some are calling them ‘heroes of Islam’. Meanwhile, the role of the army and intelligence agency is being questioned as suspicious. For the last month, we have seen the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) motivating political forces to raise voices against drone attacks: even the Provincial Assembly, which has a majority of so-called liberal, secular and democratic forces (Awami National Party and Pakistan People Party), passed a resolution against the drone attacks, influenced by the ISI.

When we analyse the society of Pakistan we see different aspects and scenarios such that:

  1. Islamic extremism and fundamentalism have been promoted to their fullest extent, and it has become difficult to challenge them. Extremism and fanaticism have grabbed society, and even the secular and liberal political parties are honouring and following the way of religious extremists - for example by supporting blasphemy laws, as the PPP and ANP parties have done.
  2. Society has been militarised, by displaying models of fighters, tanks and missiles in key public places, roads, parks and schools. Love of guns has been promoted, and every senior person in the judiciary, political government, bureaucracy and army is gifted with a large number of prohibited guns. Nuclear weapons have been declared precious assets, and a model of Chaghi Hill (where our nuclear tests were carried out) has been erected in each big city to demonstrate love and dignity for nuclear weapons.
  3. The whole of society lives with a perception that the entire world is making conspiracies against Islam and against the nuclear weapons of Pakistan. The society is based on hatred and isolation. Young people are the most vulnerable to this situation, and they are falling prey to these perceptions.
  4. Society in general dislikes seeing things from a logical and rational perspective, instead they are using only the lens of religion to see everything. They are living in a fantasy that our society is the best in the world, and denying to themselves and the outside world the unrest caused by militancy.
The job of peacebuilders in Pakistan has become very complicated, because of indoctrination of society by extremism. The symbolic Osama has been killed, but in the souls of many young people he still lives. There is an urgent need to moderate Pakistani society.
The symbolic Osama has been killed, but in the souls of many young people he still lives.
It can’t be done through just manipulating the same religion in a positive way: we need to promote a logical, rational, and humanistic approach among the people. We can’t achieve peace without attaining secular democracy and a foreign policy that not only verbally condemns ‘holy war’ and terrorism, but also disowns them in practical terms.

Peacebuilders have to transform young people’s attitudes and behaviors. We have to teach them to see the multiple dimensions of realities, to accept multiple identities, faiths and lifestyles – and we have to promote pluralistic and non-violent approaches among them.

This moderation process will be a long journey, but we have to take the first steps.

Gulalai in London – 12 May 2011

Peace Direct still have a few spaces left for our evening reception on 12 May in Chelsea hosted by Gulalai Ismail from Pakistan and a group of young people from our London based conflict resolution project.

Contact or call 0207 549 0285 to reserve your place.