U.S. bombings in tribal areas are counterproductive: Hoodbhoy

By Rana Fawad 

WASHINGTON: Eminent Pakistani scientist Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy has commented that US-NATO bombings in Pakistan area will create more support for the Taliban instead of doing any good against war on terrorism.

He was speaking at the Middle East Institute’s  event on ‘Can the Taliban Win in Pakistan’ on Wednesday. President Middle East Institute Wendy Chamberlin introduced Hoodbhoy who is currently serving as chairman and professor at Physics Department of Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad (Pakistan).

“He holds a Ph. D. in nuclear physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the recipient of the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics, the Baker Award for Electronics, Faiz Ahmad Faiz Prize for contributions to education in Pakistan, and the UNESCO 2003 Kalinga Prize for the popularization of science.”

“He is visiting professor at MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Maryland, Stanford Linear Accelerator, and often lectures at US and European universities and research laboratories.”

Moreover, he is the author of “Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle of Rationality” and heads a Lahore-based nonprofit Mashal Books (that publishes books in Urdu on social, philosophical, and scientific issues). He has also produced and directed many documentaries on political, nuclear, and scientific issues.

The professor is also a member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists. 

Presenting his analysis of the current situation in Pakistan, he told the audience that despite their extremism, the Taliban drew sympathy among masses because they were seen as the only opposing force to the United Sates.

He mentioned that many Taliban leaders were never heard of a few years ago but now they have influence in areas like South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Bajur Agency, Mohmand Agency ( in Federally Administered Tribal Area).

Referring to their strategy, Hoodbhoy explained that one of the Taliban’s motives is to destroy the government apparatus in those areas and replace it with their own.

He told the audience that barbers in those areas have stopped shaving beards because they fear they would be punished.

He blamed the government for letting those extremists function in those areas who now demand the enforcement of the Shari’ah. He added that even parts like Swat valley, which used to be the main tourist attraction in Pakistan due to its beauty and peace, are gripped by violence.

Hoodbhoy commented that right now Pakistanis are caught up in other issues like economy, Musharraf, deposed judges, etc., and if attention is not paid the Taliban would try to spread their influence over the cities as well.

Hoodbhoy, with the help of a picture (which is not being posted here due to the graphic detail) revealed that the prime victim of the Taliban atrocities in those areas are the members of the Shia communities. He added that the Taliban have also threatened the Christians who now live in fear. 

As for the government of Pakistan’s role, the professor commented that the government is confused whether it should fight the Taliban or negotiate with them. 

He pointed out that the army is also demoralized in this situation and can fight with the Taliban from a distance only.

 In his suggestions, Professor Hoodbhoy was of the view that the army needed to be retooled and should shift its focus from India to the Taliban. 

 Referring to the US role, he warned the US leaders like Barack Obama not to issue statements carrying threats of bombing Pakistan. He commented such statements would made a big impact in that part of world and actually draw more support f or the Taliban.

 He suggested the use of force should be allowed only when the US was dead sure that Osama bin Laden or his associates were at a certain place.

 He criticized the US policy towards Pakistani leaders and commented the Pakistanis should be allowed to choose their own leaders instead of making efforts to legitimize Musharraf.

 Professor Hoodbhoy pointed out that the Taliban were acting on a very clever scheme to create schisms among the opponents and the recent Kabul bombing of the Indian Embassy could be one of their tactics to ignite hostilities between Pakistan and India.

 He added that the deaths of nine Pakistani soldiers by the US-NATO firing could be another such example, though we don’t know the reality. 

With the help of a slide show, the professor illustrated how the Taliban are inculcating extremism in the children’s minds using alphabets for the beginners in schools.  

Responding to a question, the speaker said though cities were not tribal areas and the Taliban had not gained influence there, nobody had imagined Peshawar (capital city of NWFP) would be under their threat. 

He informed the audience that the army officers were asked not to move around in their uniforms.

To another questioned, he replied that the Taliban would not go away unless a massive effort was not put together to thwart them. 

Replying to a question about the share of the blame in that region, he recognized that the US policy during the Afghan-Soviet war injected extremism with the help of primary school books taught at the Afghan refugee camps.