PUCL Bulletin, May 2002

Justice S. M. Daud's Speech:
Terrorism & National Sovereignty

1. The specter of terrorism haunts every region of the inhabited world and the Nation-State is in no position to protect its residents against the scourge. This statement requires an elucidation of the twin concepts of terrorism and national sovereignty. Terrorism as a phenomenon has become part of the political terminology in recent times and has gained accelerated currency after the aerial attacks on the WTC towers and the Pentagon. This is proof of the triumph of unipolarism and not recognition by the world of a feature that disturbs peace and tranquility between and within nations. However the attack on American targets should not conceal the true of the evil.

2. Terrorism does not have the confinements that the powerful have erected around them. It is reprehensible that powerful nations or their protégés should get away with their partial constructs on the subject. Take the case of the European powers or for that matter all colonising powers. Since times immemorial the powerful have imposed on the oppressed and the neutrals their version of who the terrorist or terrorism's victims are. Distortions in the writing and comprehension of history are common enough. What is worse is that the incorrect versions are succeeding in effacing the truth. For reasons as base as the incessant peddling of distortions, the powerful have destroyed all traces of objectivity. Historians of the past have come mostly from the tribe of hagiographers with the result that one does not know where the truth beings or the falsehood ends.

3. In the world of thought there has been a continuing struggle between reason and faith. The latter-sans its spiritual content - is no better than fanatical adherence to concepts inculcated in the mind by years of indoctrination. Reason on the other hand is a meticulous scrutiny of data collected by forces trained to discard blinkers and reaching conclusions therefrom with the acceptance of the possibility that the data as also the conclusions are provisional in nature. The quest for certainty is desirable so far as the sciences go; though even here there is an increasing readiness to defer finality in drawing irrefutable inferences. In the field of humanities - a very large area - it is totally incorrect to rush to dogmatic conclusions on the basis of incomplete or biased sources.

4. The foregoing observations are in the nature of a caution when it comes to a consideration of the two concepts that figure in this piece. It doesn't require much effort to assert that terrorism is not to be equated with any act or attempt to foil the goals of the foreign policy of powerful nations, much less of a single nation like the United States of America. No should it be exclusively linked to the jeopardising of the attempt to consolidate a hold of the powerful conqueror over territory wrongly wrested by it from its legitimate owner. The world is much larger than the United States of America, though today it has the ability to force the lesser powers to toe its line or risk extinction. In the same way the struggle of Palestinians against Israeli rule that is connived at by the Americans cannot be described as terrorist. Palestine belonged to the Arabs and the Balfour Declaration recognised this fact even as it provided for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory. The coinciding interests of great powers and a lobby of global reach cannot and should not be allowed to cloud this truth. The struggle of the Kurds against the bordering nations of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran is likewise a battle for freedom against oppressors planted by the victors of the 1914-1918 world war. The oppressed are not terrorists nor are their adversaries victims of terrorism, though the latter and their powerful patrons have succeeded in forcing the dominant voices of the media to believe their version. This is not to suggest that every secessionist diversion or foray is a species of justified retaliation to a colonial conquest. In the case of the State Jammu & Kashmir it certainly cannot be said that the Hurriyat or their Pakistani friends are fighting for a righting for a righteous cause. Separatist struggles are in most cases inspired by the vilest of motives e.g. religious bigotry, racial frenzy and even plain brigandage.

5. If the wrongfully deprived nationality can offer justified resistance to a powerful oppressor, can that not offer a reason enough for resistance by the oppressed minority within a nation-state? Once upon a time it could have been said that oppressed minorities in a State having the option of seeking protection and succor from the redressal forums could not take recourse to force to defend themselves. The situation is changing fast to one where the State and its different wings no longer act the arbiter. In fact they have become one with the oppressor and stamped the oppressed with the label of fifth columnists, legatees of past oppressors and themselves being responsible for the repression meted out. A thin demarcating line is maintained between the oppressors on the field and their patrons in the administration. Modern politics and its ally, the opinion-fabricator, have fashioned a device of double speak which confounds the honest investigator. In this case the oppressed may be conceded the right to defend themselves. In the strategy of warfare, defense envisages the tactic of occasional offense and the rules for same nation. The question really is when the right to armed defence can be said to have arisen and next to what extent this right can be exercised? In relation to the first question, it must be distinctly understood that the defenders are not foreign-instigated, inspired, aided or even supported by little less than public opinion. A genuine struggle does not require foreign assistance in any sense, a fact to be borne in mind by the Kashmiri separatists, the ETA separatists and their likes the world over. Next the use of violence has to be restricted to military targets. Killings of civilians to terrorise the people or impress them with the powerlessness of their sovereign is totally indefensible. This of course is a rule to be followed also by the armed or para-military formations of the State. State terrorism, whether the result of panic or a diabolically conceived stratagem yield no result and in fact lends sustenance to the unjustified aggressor. These tactics feed on each other with the result that they pick up a momentum of their own destined to cause widespread and perhaps irreparable damage.

6. It is argued that terror inspired by foreign sources cannot be effectively countered unless the forces arraigned against it act with vigour. This is a plea for countering terror by more effective modes of retribution. In some instances or stages this may be justified. The need for a proper deliberation is obvious. If the resistance is a reaction to a hostile or indifferent or collusive act of a State's wing the obvious solution is to provide for a more effective and timely redressal machinery. This does not justify recourse the time-honoured dilatory mechanism of ordering an 'inquiry'. Where the facts are there, staring in the face of everyone, it is shameful that the redressor instead of meting out justice wants to divert attention by ordering a time-consuming and ineffective diversion. Much of the irredentism or secessionist zeal that the world today witnesses is on account of past thoughtlessness and fascist pogroms indulged for the rights the minority in the country. The forces seeking secessionism also need to understand that the option is not always an effective remedy. Muslim separatism in the sub-continent has brought about three muslim conglomerates, none of which can be said to have solved the problem to which partition was supposed to be the sovereign remedy. Neither in Pakistan nor in Bangladesh is the common man his own master. Poor in goods, mind, and spirit the Muslim in all the three countries is at the mercy of oppressors possibly worse than those who in the past ruled in the name of diverse dynasties. Next fragmentation of States can lead to greater difficulties than those, which have triggered the fragmentation process. An instance of this is the difficulties faced by the nations that have come into existence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

7. The nation - state is - theoretically at least-blessed with the three attributes of sovereignty viz. police power, eminent domain and the power of taxation. There are theoreticians who contend that the real basis for a State is the general will and not the existence of the coercive power in its instrumentalities. There is a certain degree of truth in this. But also to be recognised are the realities of the modern day world. A considerable degree of influence is wielded by forces external, or if internal, subservient to the former. These extra-territorial forces may be a powerful State, an economic corporation or clique an ideology based on religion, politics or an institution claiming loyalty and power on various grounds. It can also happen that the national sovereign for the time being is a puppet set up by an external force. Location of the sovereign power in the State is variable depending upon the times, the strength or weakness of the nominal or visible ruler and the socio-cultural doctrine prevailing. The prevalence of imperialism - its form may differ - is a permanent feature of human societies. In the past a successful group of marauders, needed to capture territory and hold down its population of their commands. Today a dominating power has just to issue fiats to encircle, enslave or denude another State and render it subservient to its interests. America today commands that influence. In the recent past traces of that stranglehold was displayed by the U.S.S.R. vis-à-vis its satellites in Eastern Europe and South East Asia. Britain at its zenith held that sway over large tracts in Asia and Africa.

8. A new danger to civil society in any State and even beyond its territory is the rise of terrorist groups. These groups have attained a dominance which overshadows that of the nominal sovereign may be its handmaid and subservient to it in all but name. These groups speak a language, which targets a minority - making it demonic and the epitome of suspicion, fear, contempt or whatever may be necessary to raise the groundswell in favour of the demagogue. Human beings as a rule are attracted to absolutist creeds. The comfort of numbers, the excuse that they are not responsible for their plight, that they have been deprived of their rightful place and that the body responsible is a hated minority, is comfortable. Inventions from history or religion can always be fished out to sustain such hate campaigns. Fascism in the name of the Italian State or the Aryan myth that Mussolini and Hitler used to consolidate their power is being replaced all over by an arrogant pride in an invented past. Thus the fundamentalists in religion whether it be Islam, the Hindu revivalist parties or the Christian Rights set themselves over and above the State. The Jewish Right in Israel and elsewhere justifies the massive retaliation and vandalism against the Arab nations and people in the name of the promised return of the Faith's revival and pre-eminence. Organised religion has attained frightful proportions and threatens to unseat the rulers wherever they disagree with them or their plans. A second force eroding national sovereignty is the economic clout wielded by transnational corporations. We have the recorded history of the misdeeds of American cartels in Central and South America. The concentration of land holding in the hands of feudals in these countries was fortified to a considerable extent by the efforts of the United Fruit Company. In the Middle East the infamous Oil lobbies had and still have a virtual veto power as to who will rule and over what territory. Division of territory in that region has left behind innumerable difficulties rendering nomads of what were once civilised people. American finance has fashioned a refinement of the instruments needed to hold down whole nations. Thus the Saudi dynasty, the Jordanian ruling power, the P.L.O., the Karzai regime, the many ruling incarnations in Pakistan, Philippines, Japan and South Korea are all creations of yet at the mercy of the American Corporations. Important functionaries of newly established regimes like Karzai and several other nations of Central Asia are linked to Oil majors of America.

9. A new alliance between deep-seated reaction and the privatisation-globalisation lobby is now emerging to provide as it were the metaphysical doctrine for the enslavement of the poor and the under-privileged. This school of thought has divided the world and its people into the righteous and the Satanic, the pure and the impure, the 'we' and 'they' classification so brazenly propounded by the American establishment. This alliance transcends nations and has at its beck and call a whole range of theoreticians spouting false doctrines in the name of eugenics, sociology, history and religious lore. A very dangerous combination, it is going to be the most important contributory to terrorism.

10. Lastly, there is the usurpation of international agencies by the diabolically inclined-whether they be nations or lobbies. A strange phenomenon is the receding force of international humanism in an era when the world is becoming more interdependent and has people in high places advocating a global vision and economy etc. etc. The United Nations and its different agencies have become subservient to the American State Department to an amazing extent. Whatever the requirements of the American foreign policy at a given moment, the international bodies okay the same. Indeed America thrust itself into the Oslo accord thus giving short shrift to the Scandinavian humanists and imposing a mechanism whereby its interests become paramount to the interests of the peoples and nations dislocated by its intrusion. The Security Council has been rendered immobile by the use or threat of American veto since long. Agencies of the U.N., which seemed to have a fair degree of autonomy once upon a time, such as the UNESCO had to give up their independence and accept American dominance to continue. Might - physical and financial - have established American control over international agencies to an extent where the latter are reduced to the position of America robots? Big power terrorism has thus received a new lease of life, e.g., American bombings in Serbia, Kosovo, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq not to speak of the forays into Sudan, Libya, international airspace, and the seaways. Its satellites like Britain and Israel in the pursuit of their interests do what America does on a larger scale. Indeed attacks on civilians and property by the use of air and sea power has been not only condoned but approved of by America in relation to people who refuse to succumb to the yoke of its satellites. The bestiality inflicted on the oppressed is justified as an attack on terrorists. The cant and hypocrisy that emerges from the neo-imperialists and their protégés makes one despair of the world ever accepting a language in conformity with reality.

11. The victims of terrorism, seeming or otherwise justify their retaliation upon the oppressors including the latter's material infrastructure and their civilian populations. This is the argument advanced by those who excuse the doings of Bin Laden etc. etc. It has to be pointed out that Laden is no innocent or knight in shining armour. The CIA in the fight against Soviet-inspired regimes in Afghanistan recruited him. The fight was joined by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - the latter a long-standing lackey and bank-roller of the Americans. At one stage President Reagan likened the trio thus fashioned to the 'moral equivalents of America's Founding Fathers'. Laden, Taliban, and Islamic fundamentalists in general went out of fashion after they started defying American dictates in relation to the oil wealth of Central Asia. Laden and the Islamic fundamentalists like fundamentalists in all creeds were acting out of a craving for pelf and power. We in India know how the Sangh Parivar has used the language of religion to hold the country and the authorities to ransom since the last more than a decade. The Pakistani establishment has made repeated use of the fundamentalists in their country to gain legitimacy for predators in fields economic, social, political, and cultural. These forces have committed acts of genocide against religious and other minorities. Terrorism once excused in the name of pressing political or doctrinal reasons embarks on an unchecked career of aggrandisement where it sets the targets, declines to accept the voice of reason or authority other than itself and distorts the language of useful discourse.

12. A broad survey indicates that terrorism sports itself in several guises. It may be asked whether the remedy doesn't lie in empowering the Nation-State to deal with this menace. An affirmative answer is not possible for various reasons. One, the State may be acting in tandem with the terrorists masquerading as patriots, Crusaders, Jehadis or Dharmayoddhas. Next it may have lost the capacity to act because of its long-term subservience to the terrorists. Third, the State may have lost not only the coercive but also the moral power to act decisively against the terrorists or their patrons. Does the remedy lie in relying upon international bodies to put into place policing operations where the nominal sovereign is ineffective? This presupposes an international regime which acts as an impartial arbiter. Seeing the history of mankind it doesn't appear that external bodies even mouthing humanitarian concerns are all that pure and neutral. Big-power influence and control de-legitimises such interventions.

13. Before we reach the end, it is necessary to get a fair definition of terrorism as it plagues the present day world. It has been submitted that terroristic activity is an attempted or actual extermination, expulsion or intimidation practised upon groups of people demonized by a person, agency, or machine acting from motives vile, barely concealed or brazenly propagated. A shorter definition is that it is an evil ideology or an act mouthing excuses by distorting ideas, such distortions have taken root in the minds of a deluded majority. Unfortunately, the battle for the minds of human beings is tilted in favour of the evil-doors. Thus it always has been and possibly will continue to be. Public education in the sense of acquainting the masses with the truth is a long-drawn out process. Moreover, education does not necessarily ensure the survival or growth of progressive ideas. The Fascist forces all over the world got their initial recruits from the lower or middle-middle classes - all of whom were beyond the free adult education stage that is now a constitutional right. There has been a surge in hate creeds following the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. The world shouldn't be taken in by the pro-forma criticism of extremism by States like Pakistan and other nations that make up the Indian sub-continent. This criticism is accompanied by hate-speech and action directed against religious minorities. In India the Christian and Muslim minorities have been subjected to a prolonged attack and the outcome in the burning of Rev, Staines and his two sons, the Ayodhya-related hold-up of the entire nation, the attack on the Orissa Assembly, the Gujarat carnage and the irresponsible and provocative statements made by the votaries of saffronisation. In Pakistan, a broadcast condemning religious extremism is followed by release of dangerous militants, revival of the Kashmir Cell of the ISI and a string of concessions to the Islamic fundamentalists. In Bangladesh, the Islamic hardliners have for the first time secured a substantial increase in the number of Parliamentarians whose only ideology is to peddle an anti-India stand on matters crucial and otherwise. The victory of the combine led by Begum Khaleda was followed by attacks on the person and property of Hindus. As in India, it is the so-called centrist parties who have conferred respectability on the fundamentalists by co-opting and later accepting a junior role in governments led by the latter. The lure of political power has led to a no-holds barred struggle between centrist parties and this is not restricted to the sub-continent. The world over, centrist formations are exhibiting a dangerous disregard for principles to acquire, retain or not lose political power. The Labour party in Britain has shown itself to be as corrupt as any other. In fact, John Major has a better record for integrity vis-à-vis Tony Blair. As to the United States, its financial lobbies have infiltrated not only the political machine and the religious formations. The Judiciary in America is playing a role, which embarrasses those who speak of Marbury v. Madison as being on par with the Manga Carta in the flight for Man's Freedom. The malaise that grips political parties seeking power through the ballot reflects a loss of faith in moderation and constructive debate whereby reason can indicate solutions to problems affecting nations. Terrorism has given birth to demagogues - one justifying the spectre as a response totally justified and the other being selective in their criticism or approval. Indeed hate speech far from being on the wane is on the increase, the obvious object being to vitiate the atmosphere so that the fanatics and the anti-socials have their opportunity to terrorise and loot. Colonisation has returned and this time with U.N. approval as a evident from American control over the Middle East, Central Asia and South-East Asia. All this is justified in the name of the fight against terrorism.

14. What is the effect of terrorism upon national sovereignty? That the Nation-State is incapable of fighting this scourge honestly is obvious except those interested in maintaining that they would prefer bad governance to good governance - only if it be theirs! An unfortunate mind-set, seeing that the problem is international in scale. The flaws of international agencies are too evident to command much confidence. In the field of law, governments and the Courts have rushed in with legislation a approval patently denuding basic human rights. We are slowly coming to an era like the one which sanctioned social boycott of Lord Atkins for his famous dissent in Liversidge v. Anderson and the internment of Americans of Japanese origin during the war of 1939-1945. In fact the United States has taken the lead in repudiating the Geneva conventions in dealing with ex-Taliban soldiers imprisoned in the Cuban territory wrongly occupied by America. Britain, that 'sceptred isle' has enacted legislation which intrudes into basic rights of people on the basis of mere hysteria. In India we face POTO and a host of identical legislation. The politicians who know that legislation does little to eradicate the evil aimed at, are trying to show that they are doing something. Incidentally the existence of draconian legislation is also an instrument for extortion of the moolah and terrorizing minorities. Basic freedoms won after decades of struggle are in danger of being lost.

15. What do we do? Institutions like the PUCL and individuals who have struggled to fight State, social and Great Power repression have to prepare themselves for a fresh fight that has just begun. The road to prevent a relapse of the world into a ward or barbarous inquisition is full of thorns in the shape of calumny and vilification. But the task has to be performed. The first step in the battle is to comprehend the evil that we face. The next stage will be to join hands with like-minded people and organisations and the last will be to be in the field warding off attacks on victims who may not be in a position to reward us for our services. The fight for Man's freedom is unceasing and a bitter and perhaps long drawn-out one is on hand. Shall we be silent? If, so, our lives will have been in vain

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