The recent Sialkot incident where a radical mob assassinated a Sri Lankan businessman accusing of blasphemy demonstrates the level of radical Islamist mind-set of not just hundreds of people who were directly involved in the incident but of masses of the Pakistani population. The wave of radicalism and intolerance has gone beyond limits. The incident is neither the first nor will be the last one. Many religious goons involved in the incident will be arrested, may even face harsh punishments. The burning question is by punishing a handful of such brainwashed people. Will the state be able to prevent such incidents in the future? Will the god fathers that promoted such an extremist mind-set and empowered many organisations for personal gains be ever held responsible?
It is a crystal clear fact that the state’s policies of the past are responsible for the radicalization of masses. The Jihadi culture, Talibanization and weaponization of faith that the state promoted to achieve national interests sown the seeds of extremism which have now grown into a healthy tree. The Islamization project of a military dictator General Zia ul Haq to gain mass support using a religion card was the beginning of the story. He empowered the fundamentalist Deobandis marginalizing the Brelvis who constitutes more than 60% of the country’s total population. The Deoband madrassa culture was promoted all across the country and the madrassa network proved to be a major recruitment centre of Jihadis for a so-called Jihad against the Soviets, the United States and later the jihad against the Pakistan Army and the state in the form of Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, killing thousands of innocents all across the country. Imran Khan often says that marginalization leads to radicalization. That proved to be true. Now we are witnessing the extremist version of the marginalized Brelvis in the shape of TLP. The evolution of peaceful Sufi followers into extremist ones killing people in the name of the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) honour is a matter of thought.
A month ago, federal minister Fawad Chaudhry while addressing a seminar organized by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad said that the Pakistani state and government are not ready to tackle the rising extremism in the country. This reflects the incapacity of the PTI government. How can we expect the de-radicalization program from the same PTI, the ministers of whom openly supported Islamist fundamentalists like Mumtaz Qadri who killed the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who talked about reforms in Blasphemy laws? The Masses admired Khalid, a murderer who killed Ahmadi in the court and became the hero of many. Those who brutally killed Mashal Khan were considered the saviours of Islam. This is the mind-set the masses have. The present interior minister’s hypocrite behaviour is no secret. He had shown open support for the TLP in the past when the same purposely made TLP was protesting against the Nawaz Sharif regime. PTI has not learned lessons from history. Instead, Imran Khan is still busy using religious cards. I hope to gain popular support. Not just PTI, but many prominent figures of key political parties like PMLN also support such fundamentalist people for the sake of gaining political support. They cannot even openly condemn TLP.
Pakistan is at a crossroads, with a choice either to become hostage to religious groups or to take independent foreign policy decisions. The first one seems to happen more likely. Recently, the TLP, a Barelvi religious group, challenged the state, hijacked the capital, killed several law enforcement officials in clashes and forced the state to back from the decision of banning TLP and allowing it to operate as a political party. Many experts believe the TLP might contest along with the PTI in the upcoming elections. Simultaneously, the PTI government is also engaged in talking with the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the same TTP that killed thousands of Pakistani civilians, military personnel and played football on the heads of captured army soldiers. How early did we forget the APS incident? The policy of appeasement with terrorists might cause heavy damage to the country. Why is the state giving the message that to hold negotiations you must bear arms and declare war against the state?
Now, it’s time to revise our policies again. The world is moving from religious fanaticism to scientific progress, but we are still stuck in the debate of deciding the true Muslim. Even the hard-core fundamentalist Saudi Arabia is revising its policies to make Saudi Arabia more viable for the world. Although our political and military leadership have now understood that economic progress is the only solution to the country many issues.
The state must work for a mass de-radicalization program and should work on the narrative building. A moderate narrative can be built among the masses through textbooks and media. The syllabus of the textbooks should be revised installing rational thinking in the students. We need to teach our children that war heroes should not be our ideal but the teachers, scientists and those who work for peace and betterment of humanity. Scientists like Abdul Salam should be our Hero not imported Turkish or Arab’s war heroes. Further, we all know that blasphemy laws are often misused. We need to make reforms in such laws to avoid being misused. We can add in the law that whoever is found guilty of using such laws for personal gains must face harsh punishments.
For those in power, staying in power is their ultimate goal no matter what happens to the country. The people of Pakistan are suffering and the ordinary citizens are the ones who have to bear the cost. The politicians, judges, bureaucrats and generals would abandon us and move to some other country leaving the mess behind.
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