Islamic concepts of fighting insurgency

By Abdul Qayyum Khan Kundi

Today I got another question emphasizing that whether Islamic concepts instructs that we should negotiate with insurgents. Before I give my view on this, I want to qualify three things:

  1. Until few years ago it would have been possible to hold negotiations with Pakistani Taliban as they had grievances about social injustices and rule of law. It was a local issue and their objectives were very clear
  2. Quran has clearly stated that in bilateral relations Muslim countries should work together to develop stronger economic and security ties with each other. It also instructs not to form security alliances with non-Muslim countries at the expense of a Muslim country. That does not mean Muslim countries can not have trade and other relations with non-Muslim countries.
  3. Protecting lives and property of her citizen is the basic responsibility of State according to Islamic teachings. So I am strongly against drone strikes. Pakistani government’s failure to stop them is a justifiable reason to initiate a political movement against it.

The main reason given by Pakistani Taliban to raise arms against a legitimate government is her support of American war and its failure to protect lives from drone strikes. Islam provides a way of dealing with an authority that engages in injustice. Following are the steps suggested by Quran that people can take:

  1. Islam looks down upon anarchy and instructs to respect authority.
  2. If an authority engages in injustice or fails to perform its duty then people have the right to petition. It was for this reason that Islam promoted separation of executive and Judiciary. In Islamic State head of government does not have immunity and is answerable to the people. During Khalifa Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s time, he had to appear many times in the court to answer queries from the judge about government action.
  3. When the judicial authority fails to alleviate the grievances of people then they have the right to join hands politically and overthrow the government through a political process.

It was because of item 3 that I joined PTI to bring change and reform in Pakistan as there are lots of social injustices in the country.

There have been insurgencies during the times of Khalifa and we have examples of how to deal with it. Since majority of Muslims consider era of first four Caliphs as the best time, so I will give two examples from that time.

(i) When people refused to pay zakat, Khalifa Abu Bakr initiated an action until the people surrendered unconditionally to the will of the state.

(ii) In the battle of Siffin, a group challenged the authority of the Khalifa. So a war ensued and soon the forces of the government prevailed. To avoid an imminent defeat the insurgents petitioned for peace. Some commanders of the Khalifa argued that since this insurgency has resulted in loss of Muslim lives and a civil war there should be no negotiations and insurgents should be completely defeated in the battle field. The Khalifa disagreed and emphasized that since the insurgents are surrendering unconditionally and seeking peace so there is no need for further bloodshed.

Here are two main lessons from these examples:

  1. War is part of dealing with insurgency or those that defy state authority. We should not shy away from it. Some of you may say we have been fighting with them for 12 years. I disagree with this. We have had half-hearted efforts to fight them. We should declare a full scale war especially since TTP has continued its attack although the legitimate authority has convened an APC and sent a message that negotiations will be held with them. They have willfully and intentionally defied this act by engaging in multiple attacks on security forces and government officials.
  1. Negotiations are not based on terms of the insurgents. It is always the legitimate authority that fights until the insurgents ask for unconditional negotiations and surrender to the will of the state.

The final argument I have is that the nature of Pakistani Taliban has changed over the years. They are now a force that wants to overthrow the legitimate authority through force and impose their rule on people. It is not acceptable under any Islamic injunction and they have to be fought until they surrender unconditionally.

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