By Saad Malik
Couple of years back when the wave of terrorism and energy crisis was at its peak, I had an unpopular opinion about the two biggest problems faced by Pakistan. Since the media coverage focused exclusively on electricity shortfall and terrorism, these two issues were often recognized as the gravest problems faced by Pakistan. I often disagreed citing climatic change and a culture of hypocrisy as the gravest threats faced by the country. With time my opinion stands vindicated, energy crisis is all but over yet the climatic changes have unleashed a reign of terror that has left thousands dead through floods, droughts and heat waves and also loss of billions in form of destroyed crops and herds.
Terrorism too has subsided substantially as a result of PPP & Gen Kiyani’s measures and later the decisive Zarb e Azb under the two Sharifs. Deobandi militants stand cornered with operational capacity down to only being able to hit soft targets like parks and schools instead of GHQ or strategic airbases as in the past. But as this wave of terrorism has waned, we potentially have a new reign of terror in the form of vigilante justice coming from Barelvi Sunnis, triggered by the hanging of assassin of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. From Junaid Jamshed’s thrashing at Islamabad airport to “ulema” calling on bodyguards to take out the Prime Minister as a service to Islam, we only have our hypocritical double standards to blame. Till date all our counter-terrorism actions and policies have not been clearheaded, the state continues to harbour extremist elements as ‘strategic depth’ going after militants selectively. We have not denounced terrorism as a tool of foreign policy which is why we shall continue to suffer internally.
Barelvi Sunnis were all but excused out of most counter terrorism sweeps going along the myth of being a peaceful sect. Post Qadri hanging, this myth too stands exposed and now these fundamentalists stand organized under the banner of Sunni Tehreek (ST). The modus operandi for this sect is different from their militant counter parts, instead of bombs and IED’s; fatwa’s are used to take out undesirable segments of the society with the fatwa’s ranging from apostasy to the infamous ‘tauheen e risalat’. When all else fails hate speech is used to infuriate the sentiments of the populace which results in a qadri gunning down a taseer while the cleric responsible for the mess sits back and enjoys the show. Once again ill blame the society’s hypocritical double standard of not making a principled stance of rooting out religious extremism rather going for the easier path for a quick fix. As a result we’ve now got a militant extremist wave being complimented by hate speech inspired vigilante extremist wave.
What’s even more alarming, this hypocrisy isn’t only ingrained at the state level but deep rooted individually as well. Gulshan e Iqbal Park’s harrowing tragedy gave a stark reminder of how we tend to have two different sets of standards. For starters, individuals who had problem with Pakistani’s expressing solidarity with victims of terrorism in Paris and Belgium were leading the demand of Eiffel tower turning green and white to express solidarity with Pakistan. And it doesn’t conclude here, the same individuals who questioned the authenticity of a passport of alleged 9/11 terrorist being discovered amongst the rubble and similar incident in Paris quietly consumed the official narrative of CNIC of suicide bomber being recovered from the location. No sane voices dared question the narrative of forces, no one tried asking why the suicide bomber was carrying his ID as he marched to his death and that of 70 others. Two days later Jamaat e Ihrar has released images, footage and name of the terrorist (Salahuddin Khurasani) but by the time an innocent bystander had been painted as a terrorist. His family was rounded up and detained to pacify the emotions and cover-up a failure of government, LEA’s, Intelligence agencies and the armed forces. Since the alleged suicide bomber was a resident of Muzzafargarh, the opportunity was used as a bargaining chip in Pakistan’s precarious civil military relationship. As a result, military has taken full control of the operation against terrorist hideouts in Punjab which was previously being conducted rather successfully and covertly under CTD (Counter Terrorism Department) Punjab. Conveniently enough there is also a sit in underway in Islamabad while the civil setup jostles for power with the military, and Pakistan has always had a history of coincidences. Just as whenever US had designs for the region, they found Pakistan being ruled by a military dictator almost always, from cold war in the 60’s to Russia in the 80’s to Afghanistan in 2000’s, US foreign policy got a ‘lucky break’.
In the coming few days (till the anger holds) every talk show will analyze the situation and try to come up with a solution, but these solutions will be as ineffective as the operation launched in the aftermath of the bombing. Terrorist sympathizers within PMLN deserve no leniency and must be booked under ATA(especially the ones who have been taped sympathizing with Mumtaz Qadri) and tried but what about the institutions and individuals who gave birth to these Laskhars, Sipah’s and Jaesh’s as our first line of defence? LeJ (Lashkar e Jhangvi) has long been associated with PMLN as its ‘natural ally’ conveniently ignoring the assassination attempt by LeJ on Nawaz Sharif in his second stint as PM, also ignoring how LeJ was specifically targeted in ‘encounters’ all over Punjab during 1997-99. Post 99 the great messiah nurtured LeJ back to power yet not once is the person responsible for rejuvenating LeJ ever given the pasting he deserves for his ‘services’ to the nation. Will we hold them accountable for these acts or will the eternal holy cow be given another clean chit and the likes of Rana Sanaullah flogged for the rest of times? I have no love lost for Rana Sana but he is merely a pawn in the great game, to fix the mess hold those accountable who have true power. And to know who holds power follow Voltaire’s advice “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
While I pray that the operation against seminaries and recruiters in Punjab succeeds, prayers alone are not enough when the intent is malicious. State alone should have monopoly over violence, non state actors should not be allowed to go unchecked and do as they please. In 2016 it is an embarrassment for Pakistan when the alleged controllers of Pathankot base attack are traced back to Narowal. Pakistan has to take a conscious decision to abandon these assets as a line of defence without any ifs and buts. Using non state actors has always failed and continues to do so around the world. Tamil tigers ended up hurting India, Taliban have hit back at Pakistan just as ISIS now is blowing out of proportion in the face of its handlers. The way forward is abandon and dismantle these assets where the state alone holds the authority to appoint the jury and executioner. Empowering ordinary individuals with a bigoted ideology and arming them has clearly blown back in our faces, for our survival’s sake militant mullahs must be discontinued as a foreign policy tool else we shall continue to pay its price domestically. Ventures like CPEC can only materialize if peace and stability are guaranteed to investors, in a country where a charged mob of 10,000 can charge and seize control of the parliament the law and order situation hardly inspires confidence and the dream of holding PSL in Pakistan shall only continue to be a dream for many years to come.