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The state versus bigots

Saleem Qamar Butt

The recent developments in Pakistan with respect to the government making unspecified deals with the TTP in Afghanistan through interim Afghan interior minister Siraj Haqqani, and with the TLP on the rampage again through an 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 the blood of law enforcers as well as that of innocent civilians on their hands, besides plundering and destroying public and private property. While the government takes solace in the erroneous argument of a belief in the 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 the 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 bandwagon 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 to repackage 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 institutionalisation 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.

In a nuclear-armed country of over 200 million moderate Muslims and equally moderate minorities, with the strongest armed forces and 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 look like a banana republic and could lead to serious international ramifications. When all government institutions looked irrelevant and incompetent, let’s not forget the supreme sacrifices by the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps (FC) who went fought back heroically, eliminated the threat and threw them out of Pakistan and restored normalcy in all of KP, Balochistan and the rest of the country. Today it is painful to hear some thankless and privileged people sitting in high places who thoughtlessly thought to 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 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-year-long war of survival and self-preservation, why can’t all the law enforcers available to the government win against much smaller internal threats. 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 are priceless gifts of the Almighty; let’s continue to fight and preserve it instead of losing it under the illusion of finding peaceful resolution with criminals.