36th Session UNHRC: EFSAS holds Side-event at UN
The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), an EU accredited leading independent, non-profit think tank and policy research institution based in Amsterdam, held a very successful and well attended Side-event on “Terrorism in South Asia” during the 36th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The Side-event specifically focused on the region of South Asia, Terrorism, Indo-Pak relations and the Jammu & Kashmir conflict. The audience mainly consisted of scholars, academics, human right activists and politicians.
The event was moderated by Mr. Junaid Qureshi, a Kashmiri writer from Jammu & Kashmir and the Director of EFSAS. The event which explored the pertinent issue of Terrorism in South Asia was one of a kind, since none of the speakers were of South Asian origin, and only consisted of scholars from reputed European Universities who deliberated upon Terrorism in South Asia from various perspectives based on their respective expertise in a bid to approach the challenges in South Asia from an academic viewpoint, with the aim to facilitate the understanding of the European audience of the complexities and sensitivities prevailing in South Asia.
Dr. Paul Stott, from the University of Leicester, the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS London and an expert on Jihadism of South Asian origin in Britain and mainland Europe, said that British Islam is historically bound up with Islam in Pakistan which has also meant that problems or issues in Pakistan have at times become problems and issues in the UK. He continued that this also resulted in the fact that when international terrorist groups gained influence in Pakistan, they were successful in directing attention towards Britain and Europe. Dr. Stott used the term British Jihadism to refer to the involvement of a highly significant number of British Sunni Muslims with Pakistani origins in armed Islamic groups since the early 1990s in Bosnia, Jammu & Kashmir and in Afghanistan. He mentioned the kidnapping of Western holidaymakers in the Valley of Kashmir, by Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British graduate with a Pakistani heritage, and the suicide attack on an Indian army base in Srinagar in 2000 by Mohammed Bilal from Birmingham who was a member of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). He continued by saying that two of the suicide bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer, involved in the attack on the London transport system in July 2005 in which 52 civilians were killed, had trained at militant camps in Pakistan.
Dr. Paul Stott and Mr. Burzine Waghmar presenting their views on Terrorism in South Asia during the Side-event organized by EFSAS
Dr. Stott concluded by saying that due to the ongoing consistent terrorist attacks in Europe, Britain’s focus on terrorism should not disregard the challenges imposed by the relations between Britain and Pakistan. Dr. Stott argued that historically terrorist threats targeting UK have been more likely to originate in the Swat Valley than in Damascus and that the strength of the Pakistani diaspora within British Islam will keep ensuring that there is a ready welcome for visiting speakers from Pakistan to Britain, who advocate discrimination and violence. He remarked that unfortunately Britain cannot look to representative organisations within British Islam to take the lead on addressing support among British-Pakistanis for terrorist groups in Pakistan or individuals like Mumtaz Qadri.
Prof. Rob McCusker, Head of Division for Community and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University in Leicester previously having worked with the Council of Europe, APEC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US State Department spoke about the functional interconnection between organised crime groups in service of terrorism by engaging in criminal activity and financing terrorism from proceeds of organised crime in which convergence is facilitated by similar logistical and operational requirements and synergies produced by sharing common infrastructure, logistical corridors, safe havens and financial and money laundering networks. Prof. McCusker also spoke about the AFPAK region and emphasized that characteristics for existence of nexus between terrorism and organized crime flourish in failed states which are governed by warlords, militias and other violent non-state and state actors. Prof. McCusker said that it is widely believed that Pakistan has provided safe haven to terrorist groups like the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). He further added that the Haqqani network still operates along the AFPAK border and that the Taliban maintains an annual surplus of between $110 and $130 million while it supressed cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan to manipulate the international market price. There are some reports which indicate how the Taliban maintain engagements in heroin trade for arms trade with members of the Russian organized crime. According to him, the Haqqani network has been involved in procurement of precursor chemicals, which include acetic anhydride, lime and hydrochloric acid.
Mr. Burzine Waghmar of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS South Asia Institute and Centre for the Study of Pakistan stressed predominantly on the Jammu & Kashmir issue during his speech. He argued that the Composite Dialogue Process, thanks to Mumbai 26/11, is pretty much compost for which Kashmiris have much to be embittered about and should blame Pakistan for, in this case. He added that whereas India’s men in uniform face intense scrutiny in Kashmir, the Pakistani Army enjoys a far freer hand decimating whole villages across the NWFP and Balochistan. He called upon the Hurriyat Conference and especially its hard-line leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to pause to reflect and commiserate with those distraught Baloch relatives who discover mutilated corpses by roadsides stuffed with faeces in their mouth as part of the Pakistani’s deep state’s pick up and dump routine. He continued by saying that the stunning silence of Pakistanis particularly, or Muslims generally for that matter, vindicates the sordid truism that they are selectively animated by outrages visited upon Muslims. He concluded by saying that in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan which is barely able to sustain itself, has always raised the stakes by embarking on ‘Jihad’ as a foreign policy in order to manoeuvre and force a favourable outcome and keeps exercising this as a State Policy to this very day.
Dipl.-Pol. Boris Wilke and Prof. Rob McCusker speaking at the Side-event, Terrorism in South Asia, organized by EFSAS
While defining Terrorism, Prof. Boris Wilke, a senior Researcher & Political Scientist at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence of the Bielefeld University in Germany claimed that terrorism is a strategy and not a creed. Prof. Wilke explained how in South Asia, promoting sectarianism and outsourcing military power as strategy has led to the growth of religious extremism which has eventually resulted in proxy wars which are a threat to global peace. He added that Jammu and Kashmir is an example in this regard. He further stated that Pakistan’s friendship with China is based on Realpolitik and not Moralpolitik. He ended his speech by emphasizing that developing localized and regionalized peace-justice equilibria between South Asian countries has become a necessity for global peace.