October 3, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/B M Kutty, president, Pakistan Peace Coalition

'The war against terrorism has to be fought with minds not weapons'

Pakistan finds itself in a tough situation after President Pervez Musharraf decided to support the United States strike against Afghanistan. Many fear that Pakistan will be engulfed in a backlash from Islamic fundamentalist parties, religious extremists and militant groups as they vehemently oppose this whole-hearted support.

Fearing violence and anarchy, diplomatic families and foreigners living in cities across Pakistan are leaving the country. B M Kutty, a leading peace activist and president of the Pakistan Peace Coalition and secretary of the Pakistan National Workers Party says a war-like situation exists in Pakistan.

In an interview to George Iype, Kutty, who also heads the Karachi-based Pakistan Labour Institute, speaks about the hard times that Pakistan and President Musharraf could find themselves in coming days.

What is the general feeling among the people of Pakistan about the terror strikes in the United States? How do people react to President Musharraf's decision to lend all support to the American military strikes against Afghanistan?

People across the streets in Pakistan have condemned the attacks. A majority of Pakistanis are against terrorism and militancy. But at the same time, the feeling in Pakistan is that terrorism and terrorists like Osama bin Laden have always been growing under the patronage of America for long years. So people here are angry that President Musharraf has decided to give all kind of assistance to the Bush administration to fight against bin Laden. Average Pakistanis believe that a war against Afghanistan is not the solution to end terrorism. Many also do not believe that it was bin Laden who was behind the terror attacks on September 11.

Do you think President Musharraf jumped the gun in offering support to the United States against the wishes of the people of Pakistan?

That is true. But President Musharraf had no other option under the current circumstances. He has been under tremendous pressure and possibly threats from the Bush administration to ally with the US to strike against Afghanistan. If Musharraf had not agreed to the US, Pakistan would have been further isolated.

Then soon after the World Trade Centre collapsed, the Indian government jumped into the fray by offering military bases to the US. India wanted to cash in on the situation against Pakistan on Kashmir. So there was competition from India and Pakistan to help the US, come what may. But Pakistan won in the game.

Surely, President Musharraf has done it for nothing. There has been hard bargaining from Pakistan. The first result of it all is the lifting of sanctions against Pakistan and India. Lifting of sanctions helps Pakistan better than India because our country has been in big economic problems. I am told that President Musharraf has insisted to the US authorities to financially help Pakistan to look after the increasing number of Afghan refugees coming to our country.

Don't you think it is the need for Pakistan also to crush the Taleban in Afghanistan?

It is a very tricky situation for Pakistan. Pakistan got involved with the Taleban very deeply. But look at it this way -- the Taleban has been a threat to Pakistan also. It is a huge domestic problem for Pakistan. But the fact is that an all out military attack against Afghanistan is not a solution to curb terrorism. I do feel the US administration should have taken political and diplomatic measures against terrorism before embarking on a war against Afghanistan. America should first of all think how is it that so many countries and terrorists organisations are pitted against them. The US policy towards many countries has been purely opportunistic. So people in Pakistan are not at all sympathetic to the US because they feel America has always ditched them. I tell you it is not Pakistan that in fact created the Taleban.

Then who do you think created the Taleban?

The Taleban is an American product. America is entirely responsible for the creation and growth of the Taleban. It was CIA which funded and gave birth to bin Laden. It is like the Sikh terrorist Bhindranwale whom you created in India. Once upon a time, bin Laden was a hero for America. It is a strange irony of history that now America is fighting the very force it created.

But now it is a matter of honour and security that America captures bin Laden and his associates by attacking Afghanistan.

May be. But that is not a solution. What is there in Afghanistan to attack and destroy? A former Russian colonel who led the USSR forces in Afghanistan recently said that there are only impoverished people and barren land and huge mountains to be destroyed in Afghanistan. It is a completely vanquished country. Capturing and killing bin Laden do not lead to the solution of the problem of terrorism. Once bin Laden is dead, new bin Ladens will emerge. New pockets of terrorism will come up.

So then what is the solution?

The war against terrorism cannot be fought with missiles and fighter planes. It has to be fought with your minds and not weapons. Create an environment in the world wherein extremism and terrorism based on religions should be banished. Islam is not about terrorism; it is about peace and love.

So do you believe the American attack against Afghanistan will be a mistake?

It will not just be a mistake. It will be a huge blunder. What were the Americans doing in the last 12 years when bin Laden was creating and networking a huge terrorist outfit across the world? America kept quiet on terrorism all these years. But when terrorism hit them at their heart, they have suddenly felt its impact. They are affected when they are hit. Now they say the civilisation is in danger because of terrorism. They never bothered when terrorism has been destroying peace and innocents in different countries across the world, especially countries like Pakistan and India.

Where do you think India-Pakistan relations stand in the wake of these new developments?

The India-Pakistan relationship has fallen to ground zero. I was in India when President Musharraf visited Agra for the historic summit. The Agra summit failed, but there was a hope then that the peace process that the both countries were working on would go on. But now the hopes have been dashed. I do not see any India-Pakistan dialogue taking place in the near future.

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