The Pakistani state and society are at war for over forty years. This asymmetrical warfare has seen many actors since the late 1970s. First, it was the backlash on Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan and bombs started to go off in trains and buses killing people. This trend converted into the high pitched battles that two sects in Pakistan fought apparently with ideological and financial assistance from two ‘brotherly’ Islamic nations.
The trends of sectarianism got upped from domestic objectives to transnational and global designs, and Al-Qaeda was born in Peshawar. Yes, this was Peshawar where it happened as those were different days and terrorists of today were holy warriors then. Instead of taking a very sharp u-turn, the state should have rather tried rehabilitating a maximum number of these militarised individuals but the political hastes of a dictator made tremendous social wastes.
The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak
Locally and internationally financed, a mix of sectarian and Al-Qaeda militancy later provided crucial support to the emergence of Taliban. A huge number of Pakistani Muslims would probably still believe that the emergence of Taliban was because of the popular support of the local populations, and as if this was the reemergence of their faith, but cold facts point toward the global oil and pipeline politics of the day that needed a relative stable Afghanistan for a couple of huge and ambitions energy projects.
Prior to the Iraqi and Syrian wars, the non-state violence was less organised and lethal, but the convergence of the hyper-radicals in these countries not only created an organised comradery of the militants, but also brought new ideas of the gory violence these people perpetrated against combatants and non-combatants alike. This new harbinger of militant threat is Daesh that essentially grew in Iraqi and Syrian voids of political governance that broke down as a result of wars there. Extremist obscurantism grows when states and societies do not counter the emergence of violent and misdirected religious and political falsehoods that attract particularly the youth in the name of making a change that would get them the promised glory. Daesh deploys the same tactics and the appeal toward the Muslim youth across many nations of the world, including Pakistan.
Although the political and administrative executive have repeatedly rejected the reports of Daesh’s presence in Pakistan, the group raises its venomous head every now and then. The Pakistani law enforcement agencies have been fighting the terrorist group in the urban, semi-urban and rural backgrounds across the country, and have scored commendable successes. But the real challenge, and accomplishment would be to constantly refuse letting the group claim any ideological and geographical foothold in Pakistan. This is a war that barrels and bullets cannot win alone; brain will. For reference’s sake, let us not forget what Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) did to people in Swat once they had a foothold.
The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak. This relationship becomes turbulent when the state does not deliver on what the citizenship otherwise promises to people. Inside the sphere of mistrust, the radicals constantly throw the catch phrases to attract popular support, particularly among the youth. Disenchanted by a mix of political, social and individual reactions, the youth are more susceptible to ideologies of violence and extremism. That is exactly what has happened in Pakistan for truly a long period of time now, but that must be checked diligently to prevent Pakistan from slipping into four more decades of violent turbulence.
With a critical consciousness, the Pakistani society must respond toward the fallacy of what the Daesh promises. People, particularly youth need to understand that violence can never be a journey or a destination. The state and civil society must collaborate against a challenge that is emergent, and poses clear danger to a Pakistan that is slowly becoming good news for its citizens and the world. The political establishment has to deliver on governance. The military establishment has to ensure security. And the ‘people’s establishment’ must ensure that the Daesh’s ideologies are successfully rejected whatever the packaging is. Extremism, political or religious, is a fallacy. It is a problem, and not a solution.
The writer is a social entrepreneur and a student of Pakistan’s social and political challenges. Twitter: @mkw72