Dr. Shahbaz Shabbir Gill |
Over the past three years, increasing terrorist activities in Pakistan have led the government to accuse India of supporting terrorists in Pakistan. Pakistani accusations against India for supporting terrorist groups and the separatists in Baluchistan have resulted in increasing tension between the two countries. Though groups outside of Pakistan are contributing to instability and terrorism in Pakistan, the roots of the country are weakened more by the growing institutionalized corruption within the country.
Corruption is rampant among political officials in Pakistan’s government. In 2016, a team of 370 journalists from 76 countries broke the news that 11.5 million files had been leaked from a Panama law firm, and over the course of weeks, they wrote about what they found in these files.
Though democracy is regarded as an ideal system of governance in the west, it has been found to strengthen the terrorism-corruption nexus in the country of Pakistan.
Now called the Panama Papers, some of these files revealed that members of Pakistani political parties had placed money in offshore accounts and shell companies in other countries. While it is not illegal to have money set aside in foreign bank accounts or shell companies, it is quite illegal to use such sources for money laundering or tax shelters. At the very least, politicians who are keeping their money in foreign countries will continue to make laws that benefit them financially, instead of the whole country.
There is a strong connection between this type of corruption and terrorism. Corrupt political leaders want to stay in the office and will do anything they can to be re-elected. They rely on criminals in their constituencies to use violence and thus “encourage” the voters to vote for them again. These criminals are no less than terrorists and this violence is just another form of terrorism. In essence, Pakistani political leaders are indirectly linked to terrorism, and will never have a strong stance against it.
Though democracy is regarded as an ideal system of governance in the west, it has been found to strengthen the terrorism-corruption nexus in the country of Pakistan. Direct connections to criminals, mean Pakistani political leaders cannot establish a truly democratic system of government.
Is There a Way Out?
In order to fight corruption, and thus terrorism, inside the country, certain reforms are necessary. The steps, though, might appear to be a longshot and very vague in nature, but we, considering our present state, have no other choice left as a nation.
Get rid of corrupt politicians
There is a dire need to make the Pakistani people realize that the war against terror has strong and positive outcomes for them and they must acknowledge and own the narrative against terrorism.
First, Pakistan needs to get rid of the corrupt politicians. The presence of a strong national government with honest political leaders, who have the courage to act with integrity, is what can save this country. The military will then have to provide genuine support to this national government and endorse their legitimate decisions in critical situations. The Superior Judiciary must also fully support such a government so that lawmakers and judges are able to work together and deliver good governance and real democracy to the people of Pakistan. Today’s judgment by the Sindh high court on the A.D. Khowaja case is one such example. The government’s core function should be to eliminate corruption. However, all governments need strong checks and balances, which will not only promote democracy but protect it from corruption.
Civilians must be a part of changing the narrative from “this is a war for God!” to “these are terrorists who want to control us through fear”.
Culture of religious pressure must be resisted
Next, Pakistan must actively combat the culture that supports terrorism in the name of religion. To do this, it must first stop accepting funding from countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Most of the religious schools aka ‘madrassahs’ funded by these countries teach and support extremism, under the guise of fighting for Islam. This mindset promotes an extremist agenda that is not only alien to the religious and cultural values of the country but also inhibits peace in Pakistan. There is a dire need to make the Pakistani people realize that the war against terror has strong and positive outcomes for them and they must acknowledge and own the narrative against terrorism.
Restructure the police
Finally, Pakistan needs to restructure the police departments to combat terrorism effectively. Making new laws and regulations to control the chemicals and materials which are used to make weapons, thus eradicating the criminal activities is an essential requirement for a stable Pakistan.
The presence of a strong national government with honest political leaders, who have the courage to act with integrity, is what can save this country.
Moreover, many of the three million Afghan refugees residing in the country are not registered under any national database, which creates problems for knowing about their activities and whereabouts. These refugees must be registered in a refugee database under NADRA.
For Pakistan to become a strong democracy and a truly sovereign state, Pakistani citizens must recognize that they alone hold their own best interests. Civilians must be a part of changing the narrative from “this is a war for God!” to “these are terrorists who want to control us through fear”. Strong narrative against terrorism, honest political leadership, better policing, and a strong defense against corruption is needed to make Pakistan a truly democratic country that is able to fight terrorism.
Dr. Shahbaz Shabbir Gill is a Professor at Institute of South Asia & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.