Raza Habib Raja
On 23rd March Jamat Dawa conducted several rallies across Pakistan for the supposed objective of protection of Pakistan ideology, i.e. the famous two nation theory(TNT).
Jamat Dawa had publicized aggressively for the 23rd March events. One could see their vehicles with loud speakers in the major cities of Pakistan. On 20th March I drove past one of the vehicles and was able to actually see and hear how they were advertising the rally. The vehicle itself was covered with banners and three men carrying guns were on the top. The banner contained venomous slogans against India and tried to give a snapshot of Jamat Dawa’s interpretation of the TNT. According to that interpretation Hindus and Muslims could not even be friends due to the fact that former worship cow and supposedly drink its urine while the latter proudly slaughter it.
The list of the “differences” was pretty lengthy and at the end, the Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif was warned not to give the Most Favourite Nation (MFN) to India.
Seeing that spectacle, my heart sank and although I have seen so much in Pakistan but at that moment it finally dawned on me that the trajectory cannot be reversed now. It was not the slogans on the banner or what the guy was shouting from the loud speaker but the very fact that Jamat Dawa was able to do it all so openly and with so much pomp and show.
It seemed that everybody had literally given up and accepted these actors as a fact of life.
On 23rd March Jamat Dawa and its allies also proved that the streets belong to them. They showed their superior organization and commitment.
The following day, Nawaz Sharif’s government “deferred” the decision to grant India the MFN status.
Many a times I have heard that these people do not get votes and therefore they cannot ideologically dominate Pakistan. They are just the fringe elements who at times present law and order situation. I beg to disagree. They do not need votes. All they need is a critical mass and enough weapons to pressurize the government.
Moreover, they are also the social and political front end for banned organizations like TTP. While TTP has to hide, Jamat Dawa acts as its “soft” front and it is so successful in maintaining that image that its extremism is actually vehemently denied by many belonging to the educated class.
Due to their ability to bring people on the street, and where necessary use of violence to further pile up the pressure, they do not really need to have voting strength as the governments would simply yield. The complete reluctance of successive governments to tackle them with firm hand has entrenched them so deep into the society that they are now a major stakeholder.
Most importantly, they get their regular and very much sustainable supply of recruits from the madrassas. These madrassas are numerous and many of them are not even registered. Many poor send their sons to such schools because they take care of their clothing and feeding requirements. Once in these madrassas, many become permanently indoctrinated and some of them turn into outright zealots.
This is not to stereotype madrassa going kids. Of course not every madrassa is out there to spread violence and bigotry. Nor it would be fair to say that every student who studies there becomes a Jihadist. However, the fact is that this is becoming a problem as these students become the foot soldiers of organizations like Jamat Dawa.
The root of this problem is the absence of an effective state both with respect to preventing this problem and also providing economically viable alternatives to the poor. Such madrassas flourish because of their presence at the grass root level and their ability to fill in the gaps left by an ineffective and incompetent state. And of course some of these madrassas also have had covert support from the state.
These madrassas are a source of so many foot soldiers and that critical mass which is needed to pressurize has already been achieved. Moreover these foot soldiers have blended so well in the society that it has become virtually impossible to differentiate a normal student from a rogue and radicalized one. The fact that they are living in the society has made it extremely difficult to have any kind of across the board crackdown. Consequently they continue to grow unabated.
Jamat Dawa and the related organizations do not need majority vote or for that matter any vote. They can leverage this enormous advantage whenever they desire.
And of course this presence on the roads has enormous soft support from our educated middle class. Many of them may not actively support them but are in outright denial and pin the entire blame for the radicalization on foreign forces or “reaction” to their atrocities. Their point of view is constantly churned out and further reinforced by our right wing media.
If one starts pointing out towards the dubious activities, one is immediately accused of “stereotyping” or worse being swayed away by the Western narrative and greed for dollars.
The presence of hardliners on the roads, the accommodative mindset, the impotent and ineffective state and the banned organizations dictating their terms; all of these will ensure that the downward descent continues.
The trajectory is irreversible now and frankly I do not see any hope unless something really drastic happens. And it will continue. I do not have any children but if had, I would never like them to grow in this increasingly crazy society.