The message from Tuesday’s multiple terror attacks in Brussels is clear and loud. It is high time that the world united against terrorism. But this message is not new. Since terrorism became a political weapon of the cowards -- no one knows when it all started – every act of terror calls for a concerted effort by world leaders to combat terrorism in all its forms.
But the problem is the world leaders are not honest. Their shenanigans involve secret and open alliances with terrorists. For any global anti-terrorism measure to succeed, world leaders must be honest while world powers must not use terrorism as a political tool to achieve their narrow agendas.
It is because of the external support that terror groups such as ISIS make gains in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
With world powers benefiting from terrorism, no wonder efforts to combat terrorism have been half-hearted. What’s more puzzling is that whatever measures they have taken have only fomented more terrorism -- as the drone attacks on tribal areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan show.
Taking cover behind the Cold War era phrase “one’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, they train, arm and finance terrorists. There are examples galore. In the 1980s, India, in a bid to punish its small South Asian neighbours that refused to recognize New Delhi’s hegemony, adopted a state policy of supporting terrorists. It nurtured the Tamil militancy to punish Sri Lanka -- and sheltered and supported Shanthi Bahini to force Bangladesh into submission.
Pakistan was no better. The Taliban are a creation of Pakistan. Though Islamabad now claims its armed forces take on the Taliban, United States military experts have often cited Pakistan’s secret liaison with the Taliban as one of the reasons why they could not win the war in Afghanistan. Besides, India alleges that groups such as Lakshar-e Toiba have made Pakistan their base.
Then take, Russia. It is the main supplier of arms and money to Ukrainian rebels, who are, in the eyes of the Ukrainian Government and its Western allies, simply terrorists.
In Russia’s own war on terror against separatists in Chechnya and Dagestan, the rebels are called terrorists. Moscow has accused Britain and other western nations of sheltering Chechen terrorists and supporting their cause.
The United States must take the biggest flak for being the worst among those countries which use terrorists or terrorism to further their economic and strategic interests. This is because it started the war on terror following the terrorist attacks in September 2001. If we can overlook the United States’ ghastly record of supporting terrorist groups such as the Contras in Nicaragua, UNITA rebels in Angola, the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Mujahideen including al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, due to Cold War politics, such lenity cannot be extended in criticizing its present day policy of supporting terrorists in Iraq, Libya and Syria. It is said that in Libya, US military advisors worked with al-Qaeda operatives during the 2011 uprising against the Gaddafi regime. Please note, to the Gaddafi regime, these rebels, who were armed and trained by Western powers and their Gulf allies, were simply terrorists.
Similarly, the cold-blooded terror group ISIS has in its ranks thousands of terrorists who were trained by US military personnel in camps in Jordan when they bore the label ‘moderate rebels’. The label ‘moderate rebel’ is a charade. In reality, it is a convenient medium to channel arms and funds to ISIS from US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The Bush-era slogan that either you are with us or with the terrorists sounds hollow if not hypocritical. Note, to the Syrian government, the moderate rebels are nothing but terrorists.
With the war on terrorism highly politicised, terrorism will continue to terrorise us, killing and maiming innocent civilians, who are the coward’s easy target. As long as double standards are applied in defining issues such as terrorism and human rights, we will not succeed in finding solutions, for hypocrisy is as big an evil as terrorism.
The day when the Brussels bombs shook Europe, US president Barack Obama was in Cuba on a history-making visit. Making a landmark speech at the National Theatre in Havana, he singled out China and Vietnam as countries that violated human rights. He made no mention of Israel, one of worst human rights violators and a country that uses terror to suppress the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to gain independence. It is nothing but political hypocrisy that made Obama not to mention Israel.
It is because of the double standards that the UN has not succeeded in packaging a comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty. More than ten years of negotiations at the UN ad hoc committee on terrorism have reached a stumbling block over the definition of terrorism – more so as to who a terrorist is.
Headed by Sri Lanka’s United Nations envoy Rohan Perera, the committee to its credit has many achievements. It has paved the way for a dozen conventions, including the ones dealing with terrorism financing and nuclear terrorism. But the main task -- drafting a comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty -- is far from being achieved.
In December last year, the United Nations General Assembly resolved to recommend that the Committee establish a working group during this year’s annual sessions in September with a view to finalising the process on the draft comprehensive treaty ahead of a high-level UN conference. The resolution also urged member states to resolve any outstanding issues and redouble their efforts during the inter-sessional period.
Two of these outstanding issues are the definition of terrorism and the recognition of state terrorism. Can militants fighting for independence be labeled terrorists? Most Islamic and Arab states are of the view that any agreement on a definition of terrorism must not prejudice the legitimate rights of a people to struggle against foreign occupation, for self-determination and national liberation. Neither should it exclude state terrorism.
What is to be noted in the General Assembly resolution adopted in December last year is that there is little urgency evident.
With terrorist groups hijacking Islam and radicalising some of its followers, the United Nations Secretary General should deal with the issue of terrorism with the same urgency he gives to climate change. Perhaps, the world body should launch a United Nations programme for the elimination of terrorism (UNPET) to vigorously and systematically carry out a global campaign – identifying the root causes of terrorism and de-radicalising the misled Muslim youths. The world body, with a view to preventing oppressed people from resorting to armed struggle and then to acts of terrorism, should also set up international mechanisms to help them find justice.
Yes, concerted efforts and honesty in world politics can isolate extremists and eventually defeat them. If we do not act fast, it is only a matter of time before we witness the re-emergence of Nazis in the West. The influx of Muslim refugees to the West together with acts of terror associated with groups such as ISIS has made Neo-Nazi politicians popular; in Germany it is Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), in Britain the English Defence League and in the United States Donald Trump.