Sunday, July 22, 2012

Religious Extremism destabilizing Pakistan

July 21, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
There is damning lawlessness in Pakistan. Several murderous attacks and suicide bombings in Karachi and elsewhere have been carried out by Taliban and their cohorts in Pakistan’s radical religious outfits. Despite  Pakistani army’s continued offensives and military operations against Taliban in tribal regions, the militants remain undeterred  and do not back down from staging frequent attacks upon military and civilian targets in Pakistan.
During the past 48 hours, in various parts of Pakistan, the terrorists killed at least 20 persons besides injuring several others. A Taliban suicide car bomber attacked a rival militant commander Mullah Nabi's compound in Khurram Agency on Saturday( July 20), killing at least 9 people while injuring 16 others. It was a punitive attack because Mullah Nabi had turned against the Taliban
In another barbarous attack, heavily armed assailants killed 8 members of the coast guard in the port city of Gawadar, Baluchistan. In an another incident, a roadside bomb exploded near a passenger bus in district Upper Dir of  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing at least 4 people.
On July 12, in a predawn attack, the Taliban targeted a Pakistani prison complex in Lahore. In that attack they gunned down nine policemen while 8 were injured. The Pakistani Taliban said it was a revenge attack for torturing of their captured members.
A military court has convicted Brig Ali Khan for instigating a mutiny within the army and planning an attack on the GHQ. He is charged also for his links with the banned militant outfit Hizb-ul-Tahrir. He was arrested on May 5, 2011 in Rawalpindi. It unambiguously demonstrates that the Taliban and religious militants have their links within the Pakistan’s armed forces also.
The Swat occupation of the fanatical Taliban under the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah and his aged father Sufi Jan Muhammad in 2007 speaks for the spreading influence of the religious extremists in Pakistan. They fought two battles with the Pakistan army between October 2007 to September 2009 when they were dislodged and their ring leaders arrested.
The chief of Swat Taliban Fazlullah however could not be arrested. As a result of that colossal upheaval, over two million people were internally displaced (IDPs) and lived in miserable conditions in camps. They returned after the army regained the control of Swat by August 2009.  
The militants launched incredibly most daring and brazen assault on GHQ in October 2009. Eight terrorists attacked the General Head Quarters of Pakistan army, in Rawalpindi. Four terrorists were killed while six army men lost their lives. Two attackers were also captured.
On 30 March 2009, the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore was stormed by 12 gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades or rockets. They took over the main building at a time when 750 unarmed police recruits were present on the compound for the morning parade. Five trainees, two instructors and a passer-by were killed. A suspect was captured alive in a field near the school. Three of the attackers blew themselves up while three others were captured.
On March 23, 2011, in a coordinated assault, the Taliban militants destroyed two of the just three P-3 series Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircrafts that Pakistan had acquired from the United States. The militants’ occupation of the naval base continued for two days. After 16 hours of pitched battle with heavily armed militants, the security forces, reclaimed Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Mehran, located in the port city of Karachi.  In this most lethal assault, 10 security officials and four attackers were killed.
Now these are major terrorist attacks by the religious radical militants that bring home the gory fact that Taliban are emerging as a counter fighting force in Pakistan. Such deadly small and big terrorist attacks by Taliban insurgents take place almost every day.  Their access to the restricted and highly secured installations such as the Mehran Naval base and the army’s headquarters (GHQ) could be possible only with the help and coordination of the insiders.
This paints an extremely horrifying and murky picture, pointing towards a probable mutiny or insurgency within the army ranks, facilitating and paving way for an orthodox radical regime in Pakistan to which the army would also be subservient.
Even if such a diabolical situation does not emerge, the armed militants with their tentacles with other religious groups and within the army would keep destabilizing the state of Pakistan. They would not relent in keeping the people under specter of unremitting terror and hostage to their blighted and decrepit faith which is not even acceptable to so many other Islamic denominations and sects.
The question that begs answer is that how long the army would keep fighting in the tribal regions and at the same time, come under wanton attacks from the frenzied cult of Taliban within the mainland? On how many fronts army can fight and how long this witch-hunting on both sides could continue?
The Frankenstein of Taliban and other fanatic bands and militant outfits are trying to swallow its fabricator Pakistan in such a barbaric and terrorizing manner. The sway of Taliban on Swat for two years (2007-2009) and their Islamic caliphate over Afghanistan (1996-2001) is a luscious bait and dainty enticement which they would like to regain at any cost. With a myopic and misconceived belief that their death from fighting with infidels, takes them straight to heaven, makes them fearless of dying. Rather they would like to embrace death for an immediate reward of a sublime dwelling in the paradise.
Whether this is a proxy war for the Americans or it is in Pakistan’s vital interests to keep a savage cult at bay for the sake of a stable, liberal enlightened, democratic, pluralistic, Islamic Pakistan; this menace has to be liquidated. A kind of primitive and savage regime that the Taliban established in Afghanistan was a throwback to the age of barbarians when ethnic-cleansing of the adherents of the rival faith was in vogue.
In the hindsight of Islamic history, one is reminded of the age of Hashashins as the most dreaded and ruthless religious cult that had cast its dark and fearsome shadows on the successive Muslim dynasties for some 250 years. They could be destroyed only by Mongols in 1256 with the capture of their headquarters Alamut, located in inaccessible mountain ranges in Iran. Like Taliban they observed freakish beliefs and fiendish rituals that were out of the pale of Islamic teachings and Muslim corpus of faith.
The religious seminaries as well as religious residential institutions breed and preach hatred for rival sects. In these institutions, the virtues of humanism, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and respect for other religions are not inculcated. Also here the pristine and eternal teachings of Islam are not taught. The cramming of the Arabic scripts and a few prayers and certain outdated texts prepared centuries ago are taught that keep a student alienated and isolated intellectually and far from calibrating with the changing times.
The worldview view and perceptions of the students from these seminaries, remain jaundiced and thus instead of shaping up as productive and conscientious member of a modern society, he is far removed from the imperative of a contemporary world. This is how the cult of Taliban is composed of and this is their entire philosophy that they nurture and believe in.
The Taliban and their dogmatic supporters kill and brutalize the opponents of their faith or even those who adopt a neutral stance. Their rule in Afghanistan was nothing but a reign of terror. Same religious system was enforced in Swat by them when they were in command in that beautiful valley. In order to perpetuate in their narrow religious agenda and raise funds for that, they kill at will for ransom, resort to bank robberies, take extortion money, forcefully recruit youth and turn them into suicide bombers.
They forcibly shave off the heads, dictate keeping long flowing beards, destroy modern gadgets like TV, and negate female education, force women to cover their bodies and not to go out without a family male. They flog and cut off the limbs of those whom they charge as violators of their retrograde decrees.
But while the threat of Taliban’s takeover of Pakistan can spell disaster for this country, there is another kind of sectarian feud going on between the Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan. They trade murderous attacks on each others’ rallies, mosques and shrines.  They least realize that such abominable deeds were not only weakening Pakistan but were also against the Islamic teachings of tolerance and cohabitation with other faiths and beliefs. The killing sprees of Hazaras mostly of Shia faith in Baluchistan and elsewhere by Taliban and other Sunni fanatics does not forebode well for the unity, geographical integrity and societal peace of Pakistan.
The mutual feuds and saber-rattling of religious factions also ignite and fan the regional separatist movements as now going on in Baluchistan. It is indeed an extremely disastrous turn of events that would swallow of what harmony and goodwill is left in Pakistan. Is Pakistani society is in the throes of religious anarchy and a sectarian civil war?
Some of the political parties aid and abet the extremist religious elements like Taliban and other militant religious outfits. These outfits want to bring a system of Islamic emirate in Pakistan. But if such a system is established then of which sect would it be. The religious antagonism and bellicosity would not come to an end. The Shias and other minority sects would want their pound of flesh which would be denied to them as the two main sects have seldom sailed along in the Islamic history. The prevailing malignant chaos would be difficult to bridle, unless there is a truly democratic and accountable government and a secular, liberal, vibrant civil society.
The only difference between Hashashins of yester years and Taliban breed of the present times is that the former were a branch of Shia faith known as Nizari Ismailis, while Taliban are diehard Sunnis with profession of Deobandi fundamentalism.  It is Far-right Islamists’ militant movement of Pashtun tribesmen and religious students whose aim is to establish Islamic caliphate in Afghanistan and its further expansion to target areas including Pakistan.
The horrific barrage of terrorist assaults by Taliban and even al-Qaida on the soil of Pakistan have their origin from the military mopping operations against these elements in South Waziristan and elsewhere in the tribal areas. The Al-Qaida too seems to be bent upon avenging the capture of their scores of operatives by Pakistan’s establishment particularly during the Musharraf period and handing them over to the United States.
Objectively the militants’ insurgency apace in Afghanistan for a decade now against the northern alliance and NATO forces is not much different in essence from that in Pakistan except that in Pakistan it is sporadic and of low intensity. In Afghanistan it is full-throttled with ubiquitous encounters taking place between the militant Taliban and the occupation forces. There is a lurking possibility that the insurgency in Pakistan may also be stepped up as was witnessed in Swat where the orthodox extremists enforced the stringent Shariah law mercilessly and with full force.
The Taliban are waiting for the ISAF and NATO military network to leave Afghanistan. Thereafter they would unleash their latent guerilla warfare might with stunning and unrelenting ferocity. While Pakistan may be in a position to stem their bulging tides with cooperation from the tribal lords, the then sitting government in Afghanistan may prove to be utterly incapacitated to  defeat them or even to keep them at bay.
It is precisely with this unpalatable future scenario in view that the United States is trying to hammer out a bargain and a deal with the Taliban to become a part of the political process by joining the would-be government. Whether Taliban would accept this olive branch from America is a debatable question marshaling no definite answer at present.
However, there could be a bright possibility for Pakistan to forge an understanding with Taliban for peaceful coexistence. But again there is a moot question. Would Taliban and al-Qaida terminate their activities aimed at throwing up an Islamic emirate in Pakistan as well? However, such a quid-pro-quo might be worked out with the help of such friendly solicitors as Saudi Arabia. It may be remembered that in November 2011, Saudi Royal regime has achieved such a milestone reconciliation and historic peaceful transition between the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the new regime.
Can you conceive of any solution or remedy of this horrific imbroglio and impasse now stalking and caving in the foundations of Pakistan?

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