General (R) Ehsan ul Haq, NI(M)
General (Retired) Ehsan Ul Haq was commissioned in Pakistan Army in October 1969. He is a graduate of Pakistan Army Command and Staff College Quetta, and got his masters in War Studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. He has also attended a number of courses abroad including an Executive Management course with US Army. The general is also a graduate of the PLA Air Defence College Zhengzhou, People’s Republic of China. His international assignments include an exchange posting as an instructor with the Iranian Armed Forces (1977) and a command deputation with the Saudi Arabian defence forces (1980-83).
General Ehsan Ul Haq has held various command, instructional and staff appointments. On promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General, he was appointed as Commander of an elite Corps, responsible for defence of the Pakistan – Afghanistan border and security in the Tribal areas (FATA). At a critical juncture in Pakistan’s national history, the general held the prestigious and important assignment of Director General Military Intelligence (1998 -2001). In the wake of the momentous events of 9/11 and intervention in Afghanistan, General Ehsan was appointed as the Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
He was elevated to the rank of 4 stars General in October 2004, appointed as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Pakistan and retired in October 2007.
Ever-since his retirement, he has been engaged in a number of corporate, intellectual and humanitarian activities. The General consented to be the first Pakistani Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pakistan – Libya Holding Company, an investment institution/Bank from 2009 to November 2011 (and discontinued his association sequel to the traumatic developments in Libya). He is also on the Board of Governors of the Al-Shifa Trust, which runs a chain of Eye Hospitals throughout Pakistan and DNA Health Corporation, a US based health Company. The general is also a member of the Board of Governors of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a prestigious think tank on strategic and security matters. He is a frequent speaker in international forums, reputed think tanks and Universities on geopolitical, defence and security issues. The general is also patronizing a humanitarian trust run by his family named, EHSAN (Education, Health, Social Awareness, Network)
In recognition of his meritorious services, he has been conferred the award of Hilal Imtiaz (Military), Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military), Chevalier de la Legion d’ Honneur from the French Government as well as is the recipient of the King Abdul Aziz Medal of Excellence from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalam – O – Alaikum, and Welcome
I am grateful to have been invited to participate in these deliberations, on a subject that is of vital interest to us in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, including the Gulf Region. Let me commence by felicitating the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) for successfully bringing to life the proceedings today. This Seminar is an important milestone, in the brief history of the Centre and no mean achievement for a think-tank so young. The Centre serves as a real-time bridge between the academic discourses in Pakistan and our neighbors in the Gulf Region and helps establish a dialogue and a new narrative on the basis of increasing regional cooperation. It makes the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies an important platform from which to launch an initiative like Project SALAM. This Seminar marks two important milestones in the project – the seminar itself of course, and the completion of the first part of the research phase, culminating in the issue of the Journal ‘Foresight’ that is also being launched. My felicitations to the President and the CPGS Team for their untiring efforts towards organizing this event and the launching of its Journal Foresight.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Themes of the seminar today are vital to our National Security and the well being of our people. As you are well aware, Pakistan has been in the forefront against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism. When Afghanistan became the last frontier of the Cold War, Pakistan and the International Community stood together to struggle against the occupation of Afghanistan. The infra-structure that is seen to spawn the radicalization of Pakistani and Afghan society and elsewhere in the Muslim World was created to support that struggle. Thousands of youth from the Muslim World and Islamic communities around the world were concentrated for the struggle. A mushroom growth of Madrassas was founded and jihadi fervor promoted in the Pakistan-Afghan border regions. This was to provide the base for the creation of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The catastrophic events of 9/11 were a game-changer in the global security dynamic but Pakistan has borne the brunt of its fall out. Besides terrorist acts at public places that have caused immense suffering and heavy loss of human lives, our national leadership, security forces and the intelligence services have been repeatedly targeted to undermine our resolve and stability. Already the number of casualties has crossed 40,000.
The most serious fallout of this decade long struggle has been the aggravation of social divisions, expanding radicalism/fundamentalism with an increasing victim base available to recruit. While some segments of any society or nation arguably are volatile and prone to radical tendencies, Pakistan has been the victim of a lethal mix of geo-political, regional, historical, psychosocial, ideological and economic cross-currents that engendered social turbulence and promoted radicalism and extremism. The festering un-resolved Kashmir and Palestine disputes, Afghanistan’s irredentist claims and the nature of the Pak Afghan border, separation of East Pakistan as a consequence of Indian aggression, foreign sponsored insurgency in Balochistan in the seventies, the Iranian Islamic Revolution and its sectarian fallout, soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent internal strife in that country as well as the wars in the Gulf and presence of extra regional forces there were amongst the contributory factors to the situation that evolved.
The challenges of extremism and fundamentalism lie deep in Muslim consciousness. You would agree with me that our great faith is a religion of compassion, human dignity and peace for humanity. However, the decadence of Islamic societies, the rise of the Western colonization/depravation in Muslim countries has created a reaction amongst the Muslims. Popular aspiration for Islamic renaissance, to secure an equitable role for Muslims in the global system, has been at the heart of Muslim frustration, intolerance and violence. We, therefore, have to view the situation in its broader ideological context and endeavor to seek effective responses, through shared experiences, amongst the Muslim states/societies and not restricted to the national domain.
Radicalization and extremism is a complicated phenomenon and warrants a holistic approach to evolve a compatible response. De-radicalization entails pro-active measures to prevent vulnerable individuals from radicalizing and rehabilitating these who are already in the category of extremists of radicalized. In a strategic sense, de-radicalization would entail:
- Evolving an alternative narrative based on the true message of our great religion to counter the narrative of bigotry, intolerance and violence that has stigmatized and distorted the fair name of Islam.
- Emancipation of the masses through a genuine participatory political system, that ensures the rule of law, social justice and good governance.
- Economic prosperity to diminish poverty and provide a safety net against exploitative vulnerability.
- Focus on human development, particularly an affordable and effective formal education system that accommodates the requirements of religions and contemporary, general, secular education.
- In a direct and tactical attempt at de-radicalization, a number of countries have evolved and implemented de-radicalization programmes with varying degrees of success. Pakistan has also instituted similar programs. I am sure we shall hear more on these from various speakers.
To conclude, let me once again felicitate Senator Sehar Kamran and the CPGS Team on organizing this event. I am confident it would make a significant contribution to the studies being undertaken on the subject in CPGS and enhancing awareness on these issues in Pakistan.