Saleem Qamar Butt
State versus Bigots
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
The recent developments in Pakistan with respect to Government making unspecified deals with TTP in Afghanistan through interim Afghan interior minister Siraj Haqqani, and with TLP on the rampage again through equally controversial clergy has earned the government a lot of ire from within as well as from outside. Both proscribed organisations have undoubtedly questionable conception, existence, funding, sponsorship, motives and bloody operational strategy; with blood of law enforcers as well as that of innocent civilians on their hands, besides plundering and destroying public and private properties. While the government takes solace in the erroneous argument of belief in non-violent solution to a potentially inflammatory situation; yet, the maximum opposing views are that of capitulating to guns totting firebrand bigots wearing religious cloaks who act as proxies in the hands of foreign hostile agencies as well as used by internal actors for show of power for politico-economic mileage. Both opinions hold some logic nevertheless, which shall be briefly discussed here.
There is a general consensus in the country among historians that the over assertive clergy of today was never supportive of creation of Pakistan in the first place. However, after the inception of an independent state for the subjugated and most deprived Muslims of the subcontinent, which was envisaged to be a moderate and modern Islamic State, the same clergy and associates despite their sectarian differences but common semi-literacy, found it convenient to jump on to the band wagon and made consistent efforts to get into the power corridors, directly or indirectly. Even during the nominally secular regimes of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Pakistan's first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the clergy coalesced to advance Maulana Maududi's Wahabi values pressuring, for instance, Mr. Bhutto repackaged his regime as Islamic. According to a press editorial of February 2008, “The true potency of religion as a weapon, came to the fore with General Ziaul Haq. Embarking upon a project of martial institutionalization of the Pakistani religion and the Pakistani military, General Zia sought to remould the Pakistani identity, which further denuded the country of Jinnah's ideals of liberalism, secularism and rationality….This newfound religious mooring, enshrined in the concept of jihad, in the military was hand in glove with the Americans' aims as they went deep inside Afghanistan for a battle with the Red Army. Imbued with a missionary zeal, the Mujahideen— holy warriors (later came to be called Taliban) — acted as America's proxy ground forces”. The Iranian clergy revolution of 1979 further accentuated the thus far subdued Sunni-Shia fault line and added fuel to religious extremism within the country. As the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan, Mujahedeen and Pakistan soon after declaring her unfought victory, the funding to Jihadi elements also dried up quickly from all sponsors and therefore, all Jihadi elements and their envious competitors went around for finding new sponsors within and outside for which there wasn’t much dearth. Consequently, the State of Pakistan saw uncontrolled rise of more and more militarized versions of politico-religious groups, cults and parties who had nothing to contribute positively in the country; some of them with better organization and larger funding found power doors’ entry possible and others became tools in the hands of various political parties as rented crowds, guaranteed vote bank besides acting as foreign proxies as and when required. Due to absence of enormous funds needed for the rehabilitation of jobless jihadists as well as lackluster approach towards this menacing issue, Pakistan found it almost impossible to rein in the blooming business of clergy where semi-literate leadership with self-acclaimed hyperbole honorific religious titles, came to mislead the deprived and hungry masses by churning out purported religious narratives. Needless to say that their spurious narratives, fiery speeches and acts of killing and destruction by challenging the government writ has mostly been anti-Islam and anti-state. However, the successive governments and the ruling elite being direct beneficiary of the cults serving them, continued to look the other way and consequently almost all institutions responsible for prevailing upon such Frankenstein monsters always appeared helpless, frightened and submissive.
In a Nuclear armed country of over 200 million moderate Muslims and equally moderate minorities, with strongest Armed Forces and with even larger fancy non-delivering law enforcement institutions for well-known reasons; the frequent acts of extremism and terrorism by a few thousand bigots with complete impunity is perplexing and makes the country looks like a Banana Republic and is prone to serious international ramifications. The loss to the national economy, lowering of the community morale, shattered confidence in the State capability to take care of public welfare and security needs no emphasis either. After the debacle of 16th December 1971, the most tragic day in the history of Pakistan has been the Peshawar school massacre i.e. TTP attack in which seven heavily armed terrorists stormed Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, on December 16, 2014, killing 150 people, of whom at least 134 were most innocent student children, which made the whole country cry and protest. The wound is still fresh and won’t heal without completely wiping out the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes committed relentlessly by TTP, TLP, BLA, BRA, ISK and ilk. The criminal gangs with due support from enemies of Pakistan were knocking on the Margalla hills of Islamabad in 2008 making not only the KPK and Federal Government panic but also the international community worried about the future of Pakistan. When all government institutions looked irrelevant and incompetent, let’s not forget the supreme sacrifices given by Pakistan Army and FC who went ahead with heroic fightback, eliminated the threat and threw them out of Pakistan and restored normalcy in whole of KPK, Balochistan and the rest of the country. Today it is painful to hear some thankless and most privileged people sitting in cozy high places who thoughtlessly express their heartless grievances to undermine the precious and sacred blood spilled for saving the country by Pakistan Army, FC and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
No government in the world can afford to wilt under pressure by the hooligans in any cloak irrespective of their numbers, local or external support, political or religious clout. If that happens, then the government loses the legitimacy to rule; as tomorrow all criminals in jails would also gang up for similar clemency. It goes without saying that any government worth its salt would never stoop that low to treat a terrorist outfit or a politico-religious terrorist cult as a ‘state’s equivalent’, allowing them to sit across the table and make demands. If the Pakistan Army and supporting services could defeat all terrorists’ organisations and hostile proxies in a 20 years long war of survival and self-preservation, why all the law enforcers available to the government can’t win against much smaller internal threats. States indulge in talks with states and not with the non-state actors. The law of the land is clear; anyone indulging in acts of terrorism has to be eliminated by hard core law enforcement operations and the surrendered and arrested ones have to face the law of the land for logical end. Any compromise on that count is bound to bounce back in surrendering the people and the country to gangs and goons resulting in a bloody civil war. Let’s not forget the great sacrifices of the civil and military 90,000 lives, thousands maimed and critically wounded with millions of families affected, great socio-psycho trauma and economic loss of US $150 million suffered in the last two decades. Our freedom and the peace won is a priceless gift of the Almighty; let’s continue to fight and preserve it instead of losing it under the illusion of finding peaceful resolution with criminals.
17th November 2021