Terrorism is not just a physical threat, it is an ideological one too
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) released a much anticipated statement on 15th June, 2014, announcing the decision on the directions of the government to launch a comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists in North Waziristan: Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
The decision has been largely welcomed by both the segments of the nation which were divided over confrontation with the Taliban: those who from the very beginning questioned the logic of negotiations in the face of an expansionist and extremist force, and those who favoured negotiations only to be left disillusioned as the militants refused to cease their assaults on the country, the latest being the Karachi Airport attack.
It is hoped, a state of war, as it is now, would lead Pakistan’s political parties and the government to consider the gravity of the situation and demonstrate sheer seriousness by practising maturity, sensibility and putting their squabbles aside, the complete opposite of which has been witnessed in Model Town, Lahore, in the fight between PAT supporters and the Punjab Police, and Imran Khan’s incessant drive to push forward his rusty political agendas against the government by seemingly unending jalsas.
The government and other parties must realise that now is not the time for political gimmickry, point-scoring and bickering, while the media should realise that responsible journalism, instead of sensationalism, is the need of the hour.
The government must also make no delay in making arrangements for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), ensuring their easy transportation and suitable accommodation, along with concrete plans for rehabilitation, especially because it is the holy month of Ramazan and the scorching heat fails to reside. Special attention must also be paid to their security as news has emerged of IDPs from North Waziristan refusing to stay in the camps set up by the government in Bakkakhel area in Bannu due to the threats by the Taliban. The families leaving their homes are rendering great sacrifices in service of the country, and they must not be left in the lurch.
The participation of the ordinary people, the civil society and NGOs will also be vital to the efforts for the help and assistance of the IDPs, as has always been.
The operation against the militants not only involves our courageous jawans, but also this fight demands that the entire nation stand together in this decisive hour.
The late Eqbal Ahmad, whose prophetic warnings (‘The chickens of jihads, once sponsored by imperialism and the state, are likely to come home to roost’) regarding Pakistan’s future vis-à-vis the policy in Afghanistan during and after the Afghan war were made little use of, penned in an article, titled ‘What after strategic depth?’ and published in Dawn on 23 August, 1998:
‘The domestic costs of Pakistan’s friendly proximity to the Taliban are incalculable and potentially catastrophic. More importantly, the Taliban’s is the most retrograde political movement in the history of Islam. The warlords who proscribe music and sports in Afghanistan, inflict harsh punishments upon men for trimming their beards, flog taxi drivers for carrying women passengers, prevent sick women from being treated by male physicians, banish girls from schools and women from the workplace, are not returning Afghanistan to its traditional Islamic way of life as the western media reports sanctimoniously. They are devoid of the ethics, aesthetics, humanism, and Sufi sensibilities of traditional Muslims. To call them “mediaeval” is to insult the age of Hafiz and Saadi, of Rabi’a Basri and Mansur al-Hallaj, of Amir Khusrau and Hazrat Nizamuddin. The Taliban are the expression of a modern disease, symptoms of a social cancer which shall destroy Muslim societies if its growth is not arrested and the disease is not eliminated. It is prone to spreading, and the Taliban will be the most deadly communicators of this cancer if they remain so organically linked to Pakistan.’
Pakistan will have to revise its policies if it wishes to effectively eradicate this cancer for once and for all today. The inherently flawed approach which advocates a fight against the Taliban (“bad Taliban”) at home while going soft on the Taliban in foreign lands such as Afghanistan (“good Taliban”) in order to extract some sort of advantage is bound to ensure neither peace nor stability in Pakistan and come back to bite us.
And while the nation wishes the armed forces success in the Operation, light must also be shed on an equally important side of the battle: the TTP’s ideological prevalence in our social, religious and political sphere which is far more dangerous, in that it spawns and reproduces the fodder for bloodletting in the form of so-called jihadis which today Zarb-e-Azb is designed to defeat, and even more difficult to destruct.
The hate sermons that often blast from many mosques’ speakers against minorities and certain sects; the dangerous indoctrination that occurs in madrassas; the open distribution of leaflets, pamphlets and issuance of fatwas that incite murder and hate; the consonance between the mindset of many ordinary Pakistanis and the Taliban regarding minorities, the West, democracy and modernity; a pregnant Farzana Bibi’s stoning in broad daylight; the existence of Taliban apologists and sympathisers in our political arena and their ideological and brazen political partnerships with and patronising of the ancillary warriors of Al-Qaeda such as the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba; a certain High Court judge planting a proud kiss on Mumtaz Qadri’s face during his trial for the murder of the late Salmaan Taseer, are all stark testaments to the ideological pervasiveness of the Taliban in Pakistan today.
Humayun Gauher in his article ‘The enemy within’, published recently in Pakistan Today, says:
‘Finally, the army is launching a mini operation, but only in North Waziristan and perhaps the rest of the tribal areas. Big deal. The terrorists have reached every nook, cranny and neighbourhood of the country, even the houses of the rich and powerful. The operation has to be countrywide if we are to be rid of terrorism once and for all.’
Chris Cork also makes a striking point in his op-ed in Express Tribune, titled ‘The Jihadi Spring’:
‘Subsequent air strikes are said to have killed many ‘foreign fighters — and that may well be true but it is not the foreign fighters that are the real problem.
That lies far from North Waziristan and is in the seminaries and madrassas that give support and succour to the men who fight in the mountains. The anonymous compounds that are the rear-echelon for extremist groups. They provide rest and recreation, logistical support, are planning hubs and quite probably arms caches as well. All hiding in plain sight, all well enough known to ‘the authorities’ — and all apparently sleeping easy in their beds today. Which — if this huge operation in the mountains of the North were really about countering terrorism in Pakistan — they should not be.
Terrorism needs to be fought holistically, it is never going to be ‘defeated’ militarily (ask the Afghan Taliban about that one) and as long as the arteries of money and doctrine and patronage flow freely — as they are today — it will always persist.’
Today Pakistan faces not a single but multiple threats of militancy, terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and violence, as identified by the government’s National Security Policy of 2014, all of which are heads of a single monster, and only one of which the state as decided to take on now, to defeat which each would have to be destroyed. And for Pakistan to rid itself of this plague, it is an essential imperative to win both battles against the militant extremists: the one on the ground and the one in the state and society, the ideological front.