Difa-e-Pakistan is an Urdu word meaning Defense of Pakistan. Difa-e-Pakistan Council means a council willing to/responsible for defending Pakistan. The semantics dictate that the said council should comprise of representatives of the armed forces, the para-military forces, domestic law enforcement agencies, defense ministry and foreign ministry. In fact, the esteemed council that has come to the fore recently consists of none of the above. In the words of the journalist Ejaz Haider, it’s a “circus”.
Much has been written about this mysterious group over the last few weeks by people much more well-read and experienced than myself, thus I would restrict myself to a basic understanding of this group and the online presence of DPC.
The website of DPC lists 36 parties as part of the council. It includes single-digit member parties like Muslim League Zia, Mohsinan e Pakistan, suspicious-named organizations like Pakistan Water Movement, Tehreek e Ittehad, Christian Community( of where?), Sikh Community, Hindu Community Lahore and notorious people like a certain General® Hameed Gul, Hafiz Saeed, Malik Ishaq, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman Khalil, Ahmad Ludhyanwi and last but not the least, representative of Imran Khan, Chaudary Ijaz.
General Hameed Gul, a former spymaster of Pakistan, was responsible for forming IJI(Islami Jamhuri Ittehad-Islamic democratic front) a similar group of religious organizations in 1988 to compete against Pakistan Peoples Party, turned against U.S when the funding for ISI was stopped, was an architect of starting insurgency in Occupied Kashmir, was removed from his position by Benazir Bhutto in 1989. Hafiz Saeed was a teacher of Islamic Studies at University of Engineering and Technology in the 1980s when he and a fellow Professor Zaffar Iqbal formed a new organization which came to be known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the pious). It was directly funded by Saudi money and collected donations across Pakistan. It was mainly involved in sending fighters trained by them to Kashmir for targeting Indian Military personnel and cantonments. It was declared a Terrorist Organization by both the United States and United Nations. Most Recently it was involved in the November 2008 Attacks on Mumbai.
Malik Ishaq is the leader and founder of Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He remained in jail for 14 years facing a number of cases at the antiterrorism court in Lahore charging him with hundreds of murders. He was released from Jail on July 15 because “evidence against him gradually decayed and disappeared”. Molana Fazl ur Rehman Khaleel is a founder of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen(HuM) and current leader of Ansar-ul-Umma, which is accused of being a front organization of the banned HuM. Khalil was a signatory of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa called the International Front Against Jews and Crusaders. Regarding the sudden arrival of this bunch, investigative journalist Mujahid Hussain wrote, “In November 2011, the ISI Chief asked the Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammad to speed up their campaign against India and to mobilize Islamists across the country on the platform of Difa e Pakistan, so that a clear signal could be sent to the international community. Fellow travelers such as Shaikh Rasheed and Hamid Gull were reactivated. A real estate tycoon in Islamabad and some rich businessmen of Karachi were asked to offer inducements. Also, The Sunni Tehreek is being propped up by the ISI as a fully fledged political party and has been tasked to garner the Barelvi vote.”
Traditionally, the parties that make up this pot-pourri are not known to be very modern or having an Internet presence. The interesting thing is that the council as a whole is more efficient in its online presence than the sum of all its constituents combined. This paradigm shift can be witnessed as DPC has its own website where all the speeches from their rallies are available and latest news related to their concerning issues are updated continuously, they have their own facebook page with 1459 Likes(till now) and a twitter account with 306 followers.
All of this fanfare is despite the fact that they are a “banned” organization(If you believe Interior Minister Rehman Malik).
The Facebook page of Difa e Pakistan Council tells us that
“Difa-e-Pakistan Council is an Umbrella Organization of more than 40 Religious and Political Organizations destined for the Defense of Pakistan and envisions the great nation as the Fortress of Islam.” It also informs us that “DPC Does not endorse the understandings and manifestos of organizations and entities that come under the umbrella of DPC. “Difa-e-Pakistan” is a single point cause to defend Pakistan by all threats it faces internally and externally.”
Upon a little digging, it is visible that the bigwigs of the council are not much involved in the Internet crusade rather it is a new batch of “Jihadis” or Internet warriors that are controlling the accounts of the council online. One particular ally is the hyper-nationalist website “Pakistan ka Khuda Hafiz”(Translation:- May God Protect Pakistan). The people behind PKKH website are Ahmad Qureshi, Shireen Mazari, Gen Hameed Gul and Maria Butt(fashion designer and recent convert to this ideology courtesy a Mr. Zaid Hamid). Ahmad Qureshi, Shireen Mazari and Zaid Hamid share a particular vision about Pakistan. They are fiercely Anti-American, Anti-India, Pro-Khilafat(Caliphate), Pro-Taliban and use the jargon of Islam to lure people towards their own agendas. They do not like democracy or politicians as a whole, and harbor sympathy towards Pakistan Army. They are known to be stooges of Military establishment and have always advocated a military solution to all problems. Just to keep things in perspective, the following words were posted by “Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid [Official]” page very recently, explaining their philosophy in full,
“If the politicians are for sale and hostile powers are ready to buy them, to hell with this democracy. Let the country be ruled by a Benevolent dictator on the model of Khilafat e Rashida! Till that time, army and ISI must make sure that these treacherous politicians do not sell the country to hostile powers”.
Thus, while the Jalsas(meetings/processions) of DPC are being filled by banned militant organizations, the Internet front is being held by Neo-Jihadis who are followers of Zaid Hamid, completing an “unholy alliance”. They oppose the MFN-status being awarded to India(without an iota of understanding about the WTO) and have a jingoistic attitude towards the rest of the world.
For the record, this is not the first time that establishment-backed forces have been joined together at a platform. It has happened previously in the 1970 elections, in the aforementioned 1990 elections when IJI was formed and in the wake of 9/11 when a similar-sounding “Afghan Defense Council” was formed which paved the way to formation of MMA(Mutahidda Majlis e Amal) in 2002.
The irony of this “internet war” is that most of the constituent parties have strong views about “Pictures” being Un-Islamic and they have, in the past, opposed Television and Radio, even Loudspeakers. The hypocrisy of it all cannot be ignored when the same people use loudspeakers all the time, to deliver hate-filled sermons, use Television for their own propaganda and now they have resorted to the internet, to attract the younger generation. These people are against the tenet of “Freedom of Speech” but they themselves are abusing their freedom of speech to spew hatred and bigotry. The focus of their efforts is to reach out to the Urban Middle class population of Pakistan which has got no clue about their own identity courtesy a paradox that is our “Religious Nation State”. Textbooks of Pakistan are filled with lies that cause narrowing of young minds from an early age, hatred against other religions is evident and ideologies are thrust upon immature minds resulting in a paranoid mental state. The textbooks re-enforce the image of this country not as envisioned by Jinnah but the one envisioned by General Zia(who can be considered Godfather of all the parties that today constitute DPC).
All hope, though, is not lost regarding the situation in Pakistan. The fact that almost 6 million Pakistanis using Facebook and only about 1400 like the DPC page and only about 1 lac people like the Official Zaid Hamid Page (where he has tried to re-invent himself as Syed) offers hope to the moderate factions of the society. It is the responsibility of the moderate elements of civil society to coalesce and try to control these elements from going out of control by raising awareness and educating people. People should be educated about their role in a democracy. Efforts such as being done by Centre for Civic Education, PILDAT, Pakistan Youth Alliance, Teach for Pakistan and Youth Parliaments should be highlighted. Media has to play a very important role in this regard as well. They have to give equal representation to progressive forces and avoid excessive coverage of the trouble-makers. Government of Pakistan should also play its role by introducing necessary changes in the curricula (as has been proposed by SDPI) and taking effective measures against the “banned” organizations. This is a long war and it is not going to be easy.