The menace of half-baked mullahs

Unless we completely neutralise the TTP and the FWOs, the country is not going to get out of the depths it has reached

Any Pakistani Muslim with rudimentary knowledge of Islam can, it now appears, take upon himself to play the God and order the killing of a person who according to this tin-pot God’s definition of a Muslim does not fully qualify him to claim to be a Muslim.

For the Muslims the world over the finality of our prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a settled issue. For Pakistanis it is a settled issue twice over as the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan reiterates it as such. No Muslim worth his salt and Pakistani Muslims especially even in their moments of rarest and slightest distraction could think otherwise.

But a group of misguided obscurantists in Pakistan seem to have assigned themselves, without any official sanction, the ‘sacred’ duty of going out looking for the needle in haystack and naming even the most unlikeliest of them all as the culprit and issuing the requisite fatwa against him or her seemingly only for their own personal glory, not for the glory of Islam.

Since about 2005 or so this task of killing ‘unqualified’ Muslims was being performed by what is called the bad Taliban-in this case any misguided member of the Thereek-i-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP). The TTP had given the people of Pakistan a choice—either accept our brand of Islam or be prepared to be snuffed out.

At one point in time in our recent history the TTP scourge was only a 24 hour march from Islamabad. In fact no nook or cranny of the country was out of the range of their guns, suicide bombers or IEDs. They killed and slaughtered indiscriminately but their main focus had seemed to be the security forces—police, intelligence agencies and armed forces.

Then happened the Peshawar Army Public School massacre and that too almost six months into the successful Zarb-i-Azb campaign that had followed the final collapse of all hopes of engaging the TTP leaders in negotiating a peaceful return to national normalcy.

Most of the bad Taliban were the product of a misguided policy that our establishment had followed as it used them as our foreign and defence policy instruments. The bad Taliban became worse when they were forcibly stopped from enforcing their distorted version of Islam on the people of Pakistan

Zarb-i-Azb was followed by Ruddul Fasaad and both according to the department of Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR) have met with grand successes with now reconstruction and rehabilitation work in full force. A number of Army escorted guided tours of the ‘liberated’ areas were conducted over the last several months for media as well as for selected diplomats.

Both North and South Waziristan and much of Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) are said have been largely pacified awaiting to be handed over to civil administration. And perhaps it was in anticipation of the transition from military to the civil administration that the government had prepared well in time a phased plan for the mainstreaming of the FATA.

But seemingly for narrow selfish reasons the PMLN government has suddenly withdrawn the relevant bill from Parliament’s agenda at the eleventh hour. It seems the government does not wish to lose the support of Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI (F) and Mehmood Khan Achackzai of PkMAP at the this crucial hour when it feels like it is under political siegewith mainstream opposition parties baying for its blood while the establishment seems all set to send it packing.

Perhaps the PMLN government could after all survive the political onslaught it has brought on itself by its dictatorial approach to governance during last four and a half years with the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rarely gracing parliament and his cabinet members also behaving like unaccountable technocrats.

Perhaps the FATA mainstreaming bill as well as the elections related law would get through before the Senate elections and perhaps the establishment would after all allow the 2018 polls to be held in time.

But the way the Establishment as well as the mainstream political parties are bending over backwards to remain on the right side of the misguided obscurantists issuing fatwas exorcising ‘unqualified’ Muslims from Islam it appears the nation has traversed from one end of the distorted Islamic thought to the other end with both ends playing against the middle pushing the country into a never ending slide deeper into blood soaked religiosity.

Some of the recent incidents along the Afghanistan border have claimed the lives of young men in uniform. And as the ISPR Director General said `Freedom is not free; it costs sons of the soil. Freedom that we enjoy today is owed to so many such brave hearts.’ The nation salutes to these martyrs. One only hopes that the fatwa wielding obscurantists (FWOs) would not let their supreme sacrifices go waste.

Most of the bad Taliban were the product of a misguided policy that our establishment had followed as it used them as our foreign and defence policy instruments. The bad Taliban became worse when they were forcibly stopped from enforcing their distorted version of Islam on the people of Pakistan.

The occasional incursions of the TTP terrorists into Pakistan and their cowardly ambushes against our check-posts and border installations indicate that they are getting the required help from Afghanistan. In order to fix this problem we first need to neutralize those forces in Afghanistan who are patronizing the TTP. Let us try to find out what would it take for them to sell the TTP back to us. We could then negotiate a mutually agreeable price for bringing this menace to its logical end.

Meanwhile, we also need to neutralize the FWOs. They too would have a price. But to negotiate the price, all the mainstream political parties plus our Establishment would need to be on one page.

Unless we completely neutralize the TTP and the FWOs, the country is not going to get out of the under-development depths it has reached.

Both the TTP and FWOs do have pockets of support in the civil society, in the Establishment as well as in the mainstream political parties. It is this support that is sustaining the two. One way of neutralizing these pockets is for the Establishment to stop using them to marginalize the mainstream political parties while at the same time the latter should stop wooing these pockets to win elections.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014

Published in Daily Times, December 16th 2017.