Saturday, June 27, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 28, 2015

Terrorism rash Friday, June 26, 2015 may well come to be remembered as a day when terrorism demonstrated, if that was still needed, its reach across continents and borders. A suicide bomber killed 25 people and injured over 200 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait during Friday prayers (a favourite target of Islamist terrorists). More than 2,000 of the faithful were at prayer when the bomber struck. The Shias constitute a minority of 30 percent in the predominantly Sunni kingdom. They have lived in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other denominations till now. This is the first attack of its kind in the country, and signals the arrival of the religious fanatics on its doorstep. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility. It may be recalled that IS recently targeted two Shia mosques in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and has been attacking the Zaydis, a derivative Shia denomination, in Yemen. The Kuwait government has vowed to protect prayers and mosques. In Tunisia, a gunman killed 37 tourists and wounded six by pulling out a weapon hidden in an umbrella and tossing an explosive at a seaside resort hotel. This was the second major attack on tourists following the Tunis Bardo museum incident when gunmen killed 21 foreign visitors. The first gunman was eventually shot dead by police, while a second one was reportedly captured. There is no claim of responsibility so far. Whoever is responsible knows the importance of tourism to Tunisia’s economy. It contributes seven percent of the country’s GDP, most of its foreign exchange revenues and more jobs than any other sector except farming. Tunisia was the home of the first Arab Spring uprising, and although it has done better than other Arab countries in making the transition from dictatorship to democracy, the upheaval allowed ultra-conservative mullahs to take control of the mosques to spread their message. Several thousand Tunisians are believed to be fighting with the jihadists in Syria, Iraq and Libya, amidst fears that the training camps they have set up will produce many jihadists who will return home to spread terrorism. In the Syrian theatre, IS has launched a suicidal attack on Kobani, the city recently liberated by the Kurdish YPF forces. In one of the worst massacres by IS in territory it controls or contends for, it killed 145 people. If IS’s aim was to spread terror in the area, it succeeded admirably, as 60,000 people fled for their lives to join the sea of refugees and internally displaced people as a result of the Syrian civil war. In a separate assault on the northeastern city of Hasaka however, the aim appeared to be to take the divided town controlled by Assad’s forces and the YPG. All this appears to be the IS’s concerted bid to try and roll back the advances of the YPF in recent days. As if all this was not enough, a horrific beheading and blast were reported at a French factory. The perpetrator was reportedly a deliveryman radicalised by jihadist ideas. Italy in the meantime reported the arrest of a Pakistani al Qaeda suspect involved in a massive bombing at home and harbouring a probable terrorist planning an attack in Italy. What is significant about these seemingly disparate events in a number of discrete countries is that they occurred on the same day, thereby wonderfully focusing minds on the meaning of this proliferation of terrorism. French President Hollande hit the nail on the head when he said these events point to the fact that there is a common enemy. However, it must be said with regret, while the enemy is common, the countries of the world are not working together to combat this universal threat. France is believed to be on the receiving end of terrorism because of its involvement in the wars in the Middle East. By that criterion, not many western countries are exempt. The biggest power amongst them, the US, has issued an alert after these events. Pakistan cannot afford to be complacent either, given that our homegrown terrorist movement may be down but certainly not out, and the global terrorist forces such as IS seem to be muscling in to our region. The world, Pakistan amongst the countries most affected, needs to recognise the nature and reach of the terrorist threat, give up supporting jihadist proxies for expedient reasons that later turn into nightmares, and unite the civilised world against the jihadist existential threat to all we hold dear in religion and society.

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