March 01, 2009

PAKISTAN: Malice, deep-rooted

By Vikram Sood
25 Feb 2009 02:36:00 AM IST




Twenty years ago, almost to the day, the last Soviet soldier left Kabul and the ‘Free World’ celebrated its triumph over Evil.Communism had begun its rollback and soon the ‘Free World’ would herald the arrival of a New World Order. Today, the triumphant superpower is caught in a quagmire in Afghanistan with no exit routes visible and the New World Order is in a shambles. All this is a consequence of the instrumentalities that were created to help fight the Cold War which have now become unmanageable. Today Afghanistan and Pakistan have become inextricably intertwined. The obscurantism, radicalism and the utter brutality personified by the Taliban transcends the Durand Line, obliterating it, possibly permanently. In its search for strategic depth against India, Pakistan is losing ground.


The declaration of Nizam-e-Adl (religious code of justice) in the Malakand Division that has seven districts including Dir, Chitral and Swat, and the Kohistan district of the Hazara Division mars the retreat of the Pakistani state. This was followed by a series of incidents like the warning to India by al-Qaeda, the Kabul attack by the Taliban and the assassination of politicians and the burning of schools, seem part of a long running horror serial awaiting its denouement. The Shias and other clerics have opposed this and the Hizbut Tehrir (which works for revival of Islamic Khalifah globally) has termed this as mere eyewash. The British and the Nato have expressed concern, but strangely Washington is being politically correct by describing this as an internal affair of Pakistan.


Washington is obviously disregarding what the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariat- e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws), Maulana Sufi Mohammed had to say soon after his jubilant entry into Swat, the district dominated by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. Maulana Sufi has said that anyone opposing the imposition of Sharia were Wajibul Qatal (worthy of death). The Tehrik rejected democracy as un-Islamic: “We want immediate enforcement of the Islamic judicial system in totality: judicial, political, economic, jihad fi’isbillah (jihad in the name of God), education and health.” Incidentally the motto of the Pak army is also jihad fi’isbillah and the army as well as Islamabad were taken into confidence when this deal was struck with the TNSM by the provincial government. What is also relevant is that Maulana Sufi had sent 10,000 tribesmen to support the Taliban who died fighting the Northern Alliance. This is not surprising for the motto of the movement is Sharia ya Shahdat (Islamic Laws or martyrdom), rejects western style democracy and openly condones the use of force in jihad.


Given all this and given the fears in Washington that the next attack on the US could have its origins in Pakistan, its current circumspection is mysterious. This is also mystifying because there are several Pakistanis who are justifiably worried and helpless. And for them to be told by the champions of free speech and liberty that they are on their own must be troubling. It is possible the Americans have worked this deal out, taking a leaf out of Petreaus’ plans in Iraq. Formulae successful in one country do not necessarily apply in another. Iraq had no Taliban, no al-Qaeda and no sectarian mafias of the kind that Pakistan has with all their entrenched interests and backed by the establishment.


A senior police official in Karachi talked of the influx of new militants from the NWFP and he explained how many had made southern Punjab their base and that the jihadi network had an increasingly Pushtun face. The Punjab provincial authorities have been worried that the Taliban had entered the province through its borders with Balochistan and the Frontier Province. The Dera Ghazi Khan bomb blast earlier was attributed to the Taliban. In an attempt to prevent further influx, the provincial authorities had sent their elite force to the provincial boundaries to strengthen local security arrangements. It would be worrying to have the possibility of Pushtun jihadis infiltrating into the Punjab but the fact is that ever since the Lal Masjid episode, there has been ample evidence of the presence and effectiveness of the Taliban from the various suicide attacks on the army and the ISI culminating in the Marriott bombings. The other fear should be that this influx will now get mixed up or be a rival to the existing Punjabi jihadi networks in southern Punjab —those of the JeM and the LeT offshoots.


There are other worrying strands in Pakistan. The image of Pakistan lies not just in the sophisticated salons of Lahore. It is the villages that have begun to change drastically where huge loudspeakers at village mosques propagate hard Salafi Islam, oppose Barelvis, Sufis, Shias and other sects as none of these are considered to be Muslims. Even the Punjabis, long considered to be more liberal towards women, are now adopting the Taliban line. Classical music is disappearing, teaching music is violently opposed by the Islami Jamaat-e- Tulaba at the Punjab University, there are few kathak teachers — once the favourite dance at the Mughal courts — available today. But these are outward signs.


What has been happening is best described by Pervez Hoodbhoy in his article ‘The Saudi-isation of Pakistan’. He says “Pakistan’s self inflicted suffering comes from an education system that, like Saudi Arabia’s, provides an ideological foundation for violence and future jihadists. It demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of a school-going child a sense of siege and embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.” Hoodbhoy describes the education curriculum that is prescribed as “a blueprint for a religious fascist state.” This curriculum has been in existence from the time of Zia ul Haq and successive governments including that of the self-proclaimed moderate Musharraf, have merely tinkered with it and today the young minds are fertile grounds for fanaticism.

There are some other Pakistanis who worry at the trend Pakistan is taking. I A Rahman, the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan doubted that Sharia could be kept confined to Malakand and once it spread to the Frontier, Punjab could be next. It will be some time before Sufi and son-in-law sort out the whats and how s of improving the Sharia but a few outcomes are fairly certain. It is unlikely that the Pakistani authorities will ever be able to re-establish their hold in Malakand. It is likely that there will be similar demands from other parts of Pakistan for establishing the Sharia. The civil society in Pakistan, weak as it is and dependent on the army and the feudal systems, will eventually disappear. And the US policy of regionalising the war on terror in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region will lead to more trouble.

We have been warned


About the author:
Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing


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