The Thin Line Between Freedom Struggles And Terrorism
7 February 2005
The News International
Altaf Hussain Qadri
Islamabad: It is said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Liberation movements take many forms, ranging from non- violent strikes and demonstrations to armed and violent means of struggle. National liberation movements mostly attract large-scale support from the civil society while terrorists rarely have popular support. Liberation movements are often prepared to negotiate their demands and are seen as legitimate political protestors, if not by occupation forces and powers then certainly by the international community. Terrorists, on the contrary, are universally condemned. Let us now look at the factors that lead to the rise of liberation movements. Firstly, there needs to be an oppression of a political form or otherwise, in areas they inhabit. Secondly, a liberation movement needs an ideology; that is a system of beliefs that helps it to plan and organise its struggle in a coherent manner and allows it to gain converts to its cause. Thirdly, they need leadership to coordinate their efforts. Successful liberation movements have always had a strong leader, such as Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Correspondingly, the alien or the occupier can be driven out either through peaceful, negotiated means or through violent means. The fact is that the occupying force determines this course. National freedom and liberation movements are, in my opinion, far more important in order to maintain world security, peace and justice. All of us are well acquainted with the fact that Osama bin Laden has a perception that is devoid of ideological restrictions. Accordingly, almost the entire world has become his target. This is vindicated further by the violent acts that have taken place in New York, Madrid, Baghdad, Jeddah, Turkey, London and Pakistan. Branding all national freedom struggles as terrorism would put up more security challenges. Quite often, this struggle then takes a religious shape and a religious confrontation never permits a compromise, reconciliation and coexistence. Unfortunately, it is Muslims who are generally involved in these acts of terrorism. Those who perpetuate these acts appear to be oblivious of the cost all Muslims are paying for their transgressions. The acts of these misguided Muslims are denigrating the legitimate causes of Muslims. It is in the common interest of the entire Muslim world to distance itself from such phenomena. Some experts argue that terrorist attacks are always, or nearly always, directed against civilians, but this is clearly not so when military personnel are the principal targets in the case of occupied territories. Other analysts have put stress on the extraordinary violence applied by terrorists. However, there are no universally recognised norms. What was believed to be perfectly normal in the East Timor is not considered normal in Kashmir today, regardless of the point that the origin of both cases can be traced to the UN resolutions recognising the inalienable right to self-determination. In this context, the Kashmiris need to revise their strategy in the light of the present order of world affairs - without deviating from their objective but streamlining their strategy to abide by the norms that are acceptable today. The writer is a freelance columnist.