3 May 2011
The news that Osama bin Laden has been living in Pakistan, perhaps with the help of elements within Pakistan’s establishment, yet again underlines the problems linked to terrorism and extremism within Pakistan. Over the last few years, politicians, moderate clerics and religious minorities in Pakistan have been targeted with intimidation and violence by extremists there. As well as leading to the deaths of many Pakistanis, these attacks have impacted Pakistani society by creating instability, damaging the Pakistani economy and weakening civil society in Pakistan.
In addition, militants based in Pakistan, including those from al-Qaeda, have carried out attacks abroad, in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan and India, as well as further afield. These acts have immensely increased regional instability and led to the deaths of many innocent people. Extremism in Pakistan threatens both other countries’ security and Pakistanis themselves. Earlier today, for instance, when the militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) promised to take revenge for bin Laden’s killing, the group’s spokesman said that ‘Pakistan will be the prime target’ for their attacks.
In the long-run, the only real and lasting solution to these problems is for Pakistanis themselves to spearhead the struggle against extremism and to develop non-violent means of political expression – as has recently happened in the Arab world. The international community can provide significant help with this process by recognising and supporting the many brave individuals and groups within Pakistan who are actively challenging extremism, providing them with training and helping them to create homegrown organizations and bodies that can help promote their ideas at a grassroots level.
Quilliam Director Maajid Nawaz said:
‘While raids such as the one that killed Osama bin Laden play an important role in undermining terrorist organizations, they cannot solve deeper problems of radicalization and extremism within Pakistani society.
‘The international community needs to look beyond merely providing military aid and development money to Pakistan and to begin actively supporting brave moderate Pakistanis in order to help them organise and challenge extremist ideologies and narratives through civic action.
‘Until extremist ideas are discredited at a popular level, Pakistani society will continue to be used as a hub for militancy and radicalization while the average Pakistani continues to suffer.’