Seth Oldmixon

Pakistan’s Army Just Handed Religious Extremists A Huge PR Victory

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At a press conference on Thursday, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor handed religious extremists a huge PR victory. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the Army spokesman said, “Neither the armed forces have compromised on Namoos-e-Risalat (SAW), nor would they compromise on it in future.” Gen. Ghafoor was answering a question about Pakistan’s election law, which requires candidates to sign a document declaring their belief in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad. The Army’s action is likely to encourage violent extremists.

The declaration of Khatm-e-Nabuwwate is a sectarian litmus test that excludes from office Ahmadi Muslims who follow the teachings of 19th century religious leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ahmadi Muslims suffer extensive persecution by both the state and violent extremist groups in Pakistan.

Gen. Ghafoor’s statement goes even further, though. He not only spoke out in support of the controversial election law, but declared that the Army would not compromise on Namoos-e-Risalat, or “respect for the Prophet.” Namoos-e-Risalat has been used by violent religious extremists to justify the nations notorious blasphemy lawsassassination of political figures, and the subjugation of women. The Army has now delivered a clear message to these extremists that they have the military’s support.

At issue is not whether or not Gen. Ghafoor or any other officers believe in the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood, but the practical implications of what is a PR blunder of epic proportions. Recognizing the serious danger in speaking openly about religious topics, the Army spokesman only had to respond to the question about the election law by noting that such matters are the responsibility of the National Assembly, not the Army. In fact, it is arguable that by making such statements, the Army overstepped its constitutional role. Instead, the Army chose to take a side in public discussion not only about about legislative matters, but about the role of religion in society.

For an institution so obsessed with the role of “narratives” in shaping Pakistan’s society, it is hard to imagine that the Army was unaware of what it was doing by making this declaration. Sadly, for all their talk about the need to fight extremist ideology as well as militants, Pakistan’s Army just handed those extremists a major PR victory.

CPEC May Cost More Than Pakistan Bargained For

The Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor, popularly known as CPEC, is widely lauded as an economic “game changer” for Pakistan. With a price tag of $46 billion, Pakistan is all but certain to see valuable infrastructure development over the next several years. What is less certain, however, is whether Pakistan’s broader expectations are realistic, and whether the potential costs have been given due consideration.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011, warned last year that both countries need to temper their expectations: “Despite announcing plans for more than $24 billion in investment into Indonesia since 2005, a decade later China has invested only $1.8 billion there.”While Pakistan’s government continues to predict far-reaching benefits, independent analysts are much more reserved in their outlook. Ali Salman, Executive Director of the PRIME Institute in Islamabad, warns that “the term-sheet for Chinese investment in the power sector does not seem very promising at the moment.”

This does not mean that there are no benefits to Chinese investment in Pakistan. Like many African countries, Pakistan will certainly benefit by Chinese investment through improved roads, energy infrastructure, and the development of ports. In more immediate ways, though, economic benefits may prove elusive. In many African countries, the influx of Chinese products has had “a devastating effect on local manufacturing,” and even where local employment has increased, it has largely been the result of hiring by Chinese firms that “engage in poor labor and environmental practices.” Tax income, too, is uncertain as China is demanding Islamabad grant tax exemptions that could deprive Pakistan of as much as $2 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan has set up “revolving funds backed by sovereign guarantees to ensure uninterrupted payments to Chinese sponsors of energy projects” to protect Chinese companies from Pakistan’s chronic circular debt problem.

In addition to economic impact, there are also questions about how CPEC will effect Pakistan’s internal stability. Speaking at the Hudson Institute earlier this month, Pakistani human rights leader Asma Jahangir predicted that the insurgency in Balochistan would worsen, “because we have this CPEC where Gwadar is going to become a port and already the fishermen are out of jobs.” She went on to explain that the government of Pakistan is “in a state of self-denial” about how CPEC is perceived by a local population that views it less as an economic investment than a colonization. Earlier this week, a Chinese worker and his driver were wounded in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Karachi. A pamphlet from the “Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army” condemning CPEC as an attempt to “attack Sindh and enslave its people” was found at the scene.

Pakistan has responded by mobilizing the Army against its own people. Last month, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain reportedly told Chinese President Xi Jinping that an entire division of the Pakistani Army had been reassigned to protect Chinese workers in Pakistan. The new division is led by a two-star general and comprises 10,000 active duty troops, half of whom are commandos from the Army’s elite Special Services Group (SSG). This raises serious questionsabout whether Pakistan’s response will exacerbate rather than alleviate simmering resentment. Pakistan already faces ethnic insurgencies in Balochistan, Sindh, and Waziristan, and an increased presence of soldiers deployed against locals could reinforce perceptions that the state does not represent the interests of its citizens.

Separatist groups are not the only ones troubledby CPEC’s implementation. Provincial governments have also been vocally objecting to the parts of the project. The Khyber-Pakhtunkwa government has accused the federal government of depriving the province of its due and demanded that existing energy projects be merged into CPEC. While the government of Balochistan has so far been supportive of CPEC so far, civil society there has been outspoken about their apprehensiveness. Civil society groups in Sindh have also raised objections over how the project is being implemented.

Earlier this year, China felt compelled to step into Pakistani politics and issued a rare public statement expressing dissatisfaction with the inability of different constituencies to resolve their differences over where the money would be spent. Despite reports subsequent reports that all parties had reached consensus, problems continue. Last month, the Khyber Pakhtunkwa provincial government announced that it would refuse to provide land for the Eastern route of the corridor as it believed that the province was not receiving its due share of the investment.Once again, Pakistan’s Army appears to be responding by taking over administration of the project without addressing popular concerns.

General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, announced earlier this year that the Army was “prepared to pay any price” to see CPEC to completion. While Pakistani authorities are keen to recitethe $46 billion mantra, little attention has been paid to determining a total price tag for Pakistan that includes social costs and other externalities. CPEC is more than just a windfall for Pakistan which desperately needs the investment in energy and other infrastructure. But the full price of this investment includes more than just labor and materials, and if Pakistan fails to properly adjust for economic realities and social resentment, the civil and military leadership may find that “any price” turns out to be much more than they bargained for.

Kashmiri Muslims better off than China’s Uyghurs

India's decision to cancel a travel visa issued to Dolkun Isa, a leader of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a dissident group that advocates for the nearly 12 million Muslims living in the Chinese region Xinjiang, could have unintended repercussions. Mr. Isa believes that India revoked his visa at the behest of China, which has suffered a number of attacks by Uyghur separatists. India's inserting itself into the Xinjiang controversy, though, is more likely to enflame Kashmir-obsessed Pakistani Islamists than Uyghurs.

China's ongoing struggle against Uyghur separatists has resulted in a crackdown not only on militancy, but on the religious freedom of Xinjiang's Muslim majority. Last year, China banned civil servants and public employees from fasting and ordered restaurants to remain open during Ramadan. In 2014, Chinese authorities banned anyone with a "large beard" or Islamic clothing from riding public buses. Prayer and other religious practices have been banned in public buildings and business offices, and, adding insult to injury, Uyghur Imams were forced to dance in the street and to tell children that prayer is harmful.

Facing its own insurgency in Muslim majority Kashmir, India is likely sympathetic to China's troubles in Xinjiang. Unlike China, though, India has not sought to stamp out the Kashmir insurgency by restricting Muslim religious practices. Outside of a brief court decision to enforce a 150-year-old ban on slaughtering cows, one that was quickly overturned, Kashmiri Muslims have been left relatively free to practice their religion. Muslim groups have openly carried out campaigns promoting hijab, the Islamic veil, and the Muslim population of Jammu & Kashmir has grown significantly over the past decade.

This does not mean that Kashmiri Muslims do not face institutionalized repression. International human rights groups continue to express concern about "a cycle of impunity for human rights violations" by Indian security forces that include killings, abduction, and torture. It is actually this heavy handedness, not religious oppression, that fuels propaganda promoting jihad in Kashmir produced by Pakistani Islamists who believe that Kashmir rightfully belongs to Pakistan, a view shared by Pakistan's military.

Ironically, while Pakistan has made Kashmir the centrepoint of its international advocacy, the self-styled "fortress of Islam" has been more than willing to overlook China's religious oppression of Muslims in Xinjiang. This willful blindness is born of a shared concern in Islamabad and Beijing about the threat of Indian regional hegemony. For China, Pakistan serves as part of a counterweight to rising Indian power in the region; For Pakistan, China is an important supplier of military hardware including nuclear missile technology, as well as its primary hope for economic growth through the $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Despite a shared interest in limiting India's regional power, however, China-Pakistan relations have experienced a persistent tension in recent years over Islamist militancy. In 2007, Pakistani security forces raided the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad after its madrassah students kidnapped several Chinese workers. In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban killed a Chinese tourist in retaliation for Chinese actions in Xinjiang. China has openly accused Pakistan of tolerating terrorist training camps within its borders used by Uyghur militants, and Chinese officials privately express suspicion that Pakistani intelligence agents are working with Uyghur militants at these camps. These concerns notwithstanding, China continues to help Pakistan avoid international scrutiny over its support for Islamist militants, as when China recently vetoed a UN effort to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar as an international terrorist.

Whether India's initial decision to grant a visa to Dolkun Isa was a direct response to China's UN veto on Masood Azhar, the subsequent decision to rescind Isa's visa is almost certainly a function of India's desire to cultivate warmer relations with China. Unfortunately, the real beneficiary of India's reversal may not be the Chinese, but Islamists in Pakistan who have been handed a ready-made talking point that allows them to blame India for Chinese religious oppression.

With India's rescinding of Isa's visa, Pakistani Islamists can finally take up the issue of Muslim oppression in Xinjiang without threatening Pakistan's crucial relationship with China. Moreover, Pakistani Islamists can do so in a way that perfectly fits their ideological narrative that posits India, especially under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as an anti-Muslim power. Pakistani Islamists, lacking specific anti-Islamic oppression to point to in Kashmir, will now be able to repurpose Chinese religious repression in Xinjiang to fuel their anti-India jihad.

India and China face a common threat: Islamist militants operating from within Pakistan. Due to decades of mutual suspicion, the two countries have largely worked at cross-purposes; the most recent example being China's protection of Masood Azhar at the UN. Prime Minister Modi has made significant progress in bringing the two countries closer together, but the decision to revoke the visa of the Uyghur activist could result in unintended consequences that threaten, not strengthen, regional security. A more effective strategy would be for India to help convince China to permit Uyghur Muslims to practice their religion, and to use its influence to persuade Pakistan to crack down on all militant groups operating within its borders and to comply with UN Resolution 47 which calls on the Government of Pakistan to withdraw all tribesmen and Pakistani nationals who have entered Kashmir for the purpose of fighting.

(This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post on May 19, 2016.)

Image source: http://huff.to/1sNkrTR

Pakistan's Next Chief of Army Staff

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, publicly announced this week that he will not seek an extension and will retire when his current term expires in November. Already wildly popular in Pakistan, Gen. Raheel’s (as he’s known) announcement is certain to cement his place in Pakistani history. Some, though, worry what the impact will be on Pakistan’s ongoing fight against terrorists. The truth is, the length of Gen. Raheel’s tenure is not a decisive factor in Pakistan’s trajectory.

With the announcement of his decision to retire on time, Gen. Raheel defies the trend established by his immediate predecessors. Gen. Kayani took not one, but two three-year extensions, eventually resulting in editorials lamenting that “the extension does not reflect well on the army as an institution” and that “a strong institution should be able to withstand the retirement of one man, however experienced.” The damage to the Pakistan Army's reputation as a result of Gen Musharraf's own extended career is even more pronounced (he currently faces charges of high treason for subverting the Constitution), and has outlasted his actual time in office by nearly a decade. By retiring in November, Gen. Raheel returns to the practice of Army chiefs prior to Gen. Musharraf, restoring some faith that Pakistan’s top military officers are public servants and not ambitious dictators-in-waiting.

There is little question Gen. Raheel has achieved historic status. Whether this is due to his own genius or the excellent media management by his PR man, Gen. Asim Bajwa, is beside the point. The fact is that he has done and said all the right things since day one, saving Pakistan from the depths of despair, if not from the continued threat of jihadi terror. The problem is...what comes next? Tera kya hoga, Pakistan?

There are reasons to worry about what happens after Gen Raheel retires; not because Pakistan lacks capable officers, but because it will be near to impossible for anyone to live up to Gen. Raheel’s mythical standard. When he was promoted to Chief of Army Staff in late 2013, Pakistan was losing over 3,000 civilians a year to terrorist attacks. Those numbers declined significantly under his leadership. Gen. Raheel also oversaw the decline of violent crime in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, as Pakistan Rangers were mobilized to enforce law and order. For many Pakistanis, Gen. Raheel is more than a military leader. He is a saviour. He embodies the hope that things not only can, but are improving, and that Pakistan is on its way out of a very dark period.

Gen. Raheel did not achieve messianic status purely organically, though. In addition to overseeing a decline in overall violence, his stature has also greatly benefitted from the sophisticated public relations operation managed by the head of the Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) division, three-star General Asim Bajwa. From producing slick online videos to a dominating social media campaign, to billboards and truck art, Gen. Raheel’s towering image is ubiquitous in Pakistan. And while the Army is busily churning out positive media, it is also suppressing criticism by threatening journalists and media companies, ensuring that the official narrative is the only narrative.

This heavy handed media management was largely accepted as an unfortunate necessity, even by traditionally liberal Pakistani columnists, who believed extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures. The Army needed to lift the public spirit from dangerous depths and rally the country behind its leaders so that they could deal a final death blow to the Pakistani Taliban. After three years, though, hope has begun to wear thin again.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan have declined, but continue to occur with a disturbing frequency. killing almost 1,000 civilians last year. Violent crime in Karachi is down, but killings by law enforcement have quadrupled. The Army also spent a lot of political capital pushing for widely criticized military courts, which the Army claimed were necessary to successfully prosecute terror suspects, only to see outlawed extremist groups continue to expand their operations with near impunity. In fact, while Pakistan has surpassed This month’s deadly attack at Bacha Khan University and the mixed response to a jihadi attack on Pathankot air base in India claimed by Pakistan-based militants have many questioning whether enough has actually changed.

Additionally, Pakistan’s next Chief of Army Staff will face serious challenges in living up to the myth the Army created around Gen. Raheel. If terrorist attacks do not continue to decline at the pace they did between 2013 and 2016 – and there’s little reason to believe they will – the next Army chief could face a crisis of confidence. This could be offset with a public relations campaign designed to rally the support of the nation and buy time, but that’s already been done. Trying to reprise the massive public relations campaign carried out for the benefit of Gen. Raheel would be a glaringly obvious attempt to manage public perception, undermining, rather than bolstering, confidence in the country’s military leadership.

This doesn’t mean that Gen. Raheel should stay on. Far from it. In fact, there is little reason to believe that even Gen. Raheel could live up to his Olympian reputation for much longer. His decision to retire on time is the right choice, though, because it’s right for Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t need a larger-than-life saviour, it needs to retire the policies that cultivate extremism and militancy. It needs to reorient from a narrative of victimhood to one that empowers its own people to take back their culture and religion from those who hijacked them. And it needs to reimagine itself, not as a nuclear armed fortress of Islam, but as the tolerant, pluralistic democracy envisioned by its founder, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Seth Oldmixon is president of Oldmixon Group, a Washington, D.C. public affairs firm and the founder of Liberty South Asia, a privately funded campaign dedicated to religious freedom and political pluralism in South Asia. You can follow him on Twitter @setholdmixon.

Is Pakistan Ready To Take on Sectarianism?

Leading Islamic clerics in Pakistan have announced that their support for a new legislative effort to curb sectarianism and religious hatred. According to news reports, members of Pakistan’s Council on Islamic Ideology (CII) will help draft a new law against sectarianism and religious hate speech following the Eid-al-Adha holiday at the end of this month. While such efforts sound encouraging, they are unlikely to bring relief to many of Pakistan’s most vulnerable religious minorities.

These new efforts to combat sectarianism and ‘Takfir’ are mostly a response to threats against mainstream Muslim groups and national unity. ‘Takfir’ – the practice of declaring someone an apostate and, therefore, deserving of death – is an essential component of the ideology of jihadi groups at war with Pakistan, especially the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the self-described “Islamic State.” In this context, Pakistan’s efforts to counter Takfirism are less about promoting religious tolerance than preventing mainstream Sunni Muslims from turning against the state.

Pakistan’s Shia community, which has been under near constant attack by terrorist groups, probably stands to gain the most from such legislation. Over the past few years, nearly 4,000 Shia have been killed and over 6,800 injured by militant groups. Despite public statements condemning anti-Shia attacks, these groups are politically well connected and operate openly in Pakistan.

Before being killed earlier this year in an ‘encounter’ with police, Malik Ishaq not only operated with impunity, but with the support of state agencies. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader received a monthly stipend from the Punjab government as well as arms licenses from the governments of Sindh and Balochistan despite not being a resident of either province. After being released from custody in 2013, Malik Ishaq was photographed leaving Kot Lakhpat jail in a car wearing a garland of flowers and smiling next to CII Chairman Tahir Asrafi – the same cleric who says he will help draft a new anti-sectarianism law.

Terrorist leader Malik Ishaq with CII Chairman Tahir Ashrafi leaving Kot Lakhpat jail.

Terrorist leader Malik Ishaq with CII Chairman Tahir Ashrafi leaving Kot Lakhpat jail.

While there has been a recent crackdown against certain sectarian militants like Malik Ishaq, their organizations continue to openly recruit and propagandize freely under other names. Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a spin-off of Ishaq’s Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (itself a spin-off of the banned terrorist organization Sipah-e-Sahaba), continues to work openly in Pakistan’s capital.

Far from feeling political heat, ASWJ has been successfully cultivating political alliances with mainstream political parties including Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and, allegedly, the governing Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN).

PTI and ASWJ representatives at a political press conference.

PTI and ASWJ representatives at a political press conference.

If there is a chance that the situation could improve for Pakistan’s Shia, it is that decision makers recognize that allowing anti-Shia hatred to spread threatens Pakistan’s already tenuous relationship with neighboring Iran. The nation’s foreign policy strategists may see the need to keep anti-Shia activities to a minimum for appearances sake, even if they are unable or unwilling to come down hard against well connected groups like ASWJ.

If Shia have some hope of respite, there is no reason to believe that Pakistan has any intention of providing any semblance of protection to Pakistan’s Ahmadis. Ahmadi Muslims accept the main tenets of Islam (“There is no God but God and Muhammad is God’s messenger”), but they also follow the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th Century Islamic reformer who fundamentalist clerics reject as a false prophet.

In 1974, Pakistan amended its constitution to legally declare every Ahmadi “not a Muslim.” Ten years later, military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq promulgated Ordinance XX, amending the penal code to criminalize Ahmadi proselytizing, their use of certain Islamic religious practices, and even their usage of Islamic terms and phrases. Since then, Ahmadis in Pakistan have been the subject of systematic persecution both by Islamist extremists and the state itself. Ahmadi mosques are routinely forcibly demolished by Pakistani authorities. Adding to the humiliation, the government of Pakistan requires all citizens to sign a declaration denouncing Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as “an impostor” before receiving a passport.

Like anti-Shia militant groups, anti-Ahmadi militant groups operate openly in Pakistan. At the annual Khatm-e-Nabuwat Conference in Lahore earlier this month, hardline clerics openly called for Ahmadis to be killed.

In Pakistan’s current political environment, protecting Ahmadis is almost certainly an impossibility. In 2010, PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif came under attack from a broad coalition of political and religious organizations after he expressed sympathy for Ahmadis following a pair of suicide attacks targeting Ahmadi mosques that killed almost 100 innocent people. Five years later, no one has been held accountable for the attacks.

Nor are Pakistan’s “moderate” clerics likely to offer any religious cover for political change. CII Chairman Tahir Ashrafi has himself publicly rejected any attempt to change either the country’s draconian blasphemy laws or Gen. Zia’s anti-Ahmadi ordinances, even threatening politicians who might attempt to do so.

Pakistan understands that Takfiri ideology threatens the unity of the Sunni majority in countering anti-state terrorists like the TTP, and attacks against Shia provide a bad public image in international relations, particularly with Iran. While there are many extremely brave individuals in Pakistan who champion religious tolerance and minority rights, they receive almost no support from the country’s influential religious scholars or its powerful military. As a result, they are more likely to be hunted and killed, as in the cases of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, journalist Raza Rumi, and activist Sabeen Mahmud. Sadly, what this amounts to is that any new law to curb sectarianism and religious hatred in Pakistan is unlikely to be more than window dressing.

Seth Oldmixon is the founder of Liberty South Asia, an independent, privately funded campaign dedicated to supporting religious freedom and political pluralism in South Asia.

Let's Not Be Fooled by Islamist Public Relations Campaigns

This piece also appears at Liberty South Asia

Atif Jalal Ahmad and Michael Kugelman have a new report in The National Interest that examines why the self-described “Islamic State” has been unable to penetrate Bangladesh to the same degree that they have Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their analysis notes a few important factors: “The majority of Bangladesh’s large Muslim population rejects violence, and the nation is more concerned with achieving economic prosperity,” and “increased counterterrorism efforts spearheaded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.” Unfortunately, the article also contains one critical inaccuracy: A mischaracterization of Jamaat-e-Islami as a moderate political party.

According to the authors:

While the JeI has been described by some as a terror outfit, its activities are in fact more reactions to political decisions made by the ruling party. The JeI’s major protests are always in response to prosecutions of its top figures. The JeI does not protest about Bangladeshi women not wearing burkas, and it does not stage marches that advocate for the strict imposition of sharia law.

While it is true that Jamaat-e-Islami is presently occupied with the defense of its leadership, many of whom are on trial or stand convicted of war crimes for their role in the torture and mass killing of civilians during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of liberation, the party continues to actively organize and agitate for replacing Bangladesh’s secular democracy with an Islamic state of their own imagining.

Jamaat-e-Islami often carries out these efforts in collaboration with other Islamist groups under umbrella organizations like Hefazat-e-Islam, an extremist organization that has demonstrated for a set of 13 demands including the death penalty for maligning Islam or Muslims generally, ending “foreign cultural intrusions including free-mixing of men and women,” removing sculptures, declaring certain sects as “non-Muslims,” and the immediate release of “all the arrested Islamic scholars and madrasa students.”

Far from seeking “to regain its status as a key parliamentary player and influential coalition-builder,” as suggested by the authors, Jamaat-e-Islami has openly endorsed these demands while declaring that “the country’s Islam-loving people have become united against the anti-Islamic government and its patronized atheist people.” Jamaat-e-Islami may envisage itself as a coalition-builder, but it is clearly not looking to build coalitions with mainstream secular democrats.

It’s no surprise that confusion about Jamaat-e-Islami exists in Washington. While the  party agitates in Bangladesh for an Islamist agenda, it is carrying out a sophisticated public relations campaign in Western capitals to convince analysts and lawmakers that it is something other than what it really is. Recently, Jamaat-e-Islami’s army of Western lobbyists have been busily pushing the curious narrative that that the U.S. should support Jamaat-e-Islami in its efforts to expand its political influence, failing which “would only leave them the option of continuing a violent struggle” – a suggestion that sounds remarkably like extortion.

As Atif Jalal Ahmad and Michael Kugelman correctly note, Bangladeshis largely reject violence and religious extremism. This is no accident. Having suffered so severely from the effects of religious extremism during 1971 – in no small part at the hands of Jamaat-e-Islami – Bangladeshis today want no part of it. Jamaat-e-Islami’s actions 44 years ago may have accidentally made Bangladesh more resistant to extremism, but we should not let their well-funded public relations campaigns fool us into believing that they have changed their priorities.