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Out of my head

September 26, 2018

Our never-ending battle against extremism


September 26, 2018

“No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth” – Article 27 of the constitution of Pakistan

Okay, let me jump in on the whole Economic Advisory Council-Atif Mian fiasco before the dust settles entirely and we, the faithful majority, move on from targeting our ire elsewhere.

First of all, let me clearly state: I am no supporter of Nawaz and co (as anybody familiar with my previous writings would know), and the same goes for AZ’s PPP. And now that Imran Khan has been elected (and this was the best thing – that the elections happened on schedule and the democratic process continued – a process which, let us not forget, IK himself tried to short-sightedly derail after the 2013 elections), I wish him and his team the very best and hope that they succeed spectacularly. Their success will be our success. I have every faith in Pakistan and believe we have all the resources – particularly our human capital – to succeed. And, Inshallah, we will.

However, that does not mean that the new PM is above criticism. I specifically want to address the point raised by some pro-government defenders that this was not the time or the issue over which to take on the obscurantists since there are more important things to deal with like the economy or corruption or security and so on. This is a facetious argument to justify a self-created mess (as even many PTI die-hards have admitted, and which doesn’t say much for IK’s foresight and planning capabilities – prerequisites for a successful leader, right?) Nevertheless, I tend to think of the Atif Mian fiasco as an opportunity missed.

Right now, IK is carrying a lot of goodwill with him (a tsunami of support, if you will) in the post-election euphoria. The general public is supporting him, all institutions are standing with him and a mostly docile media – knowing exactly where the wind is blowing – has fallen in line. Plus the opposition stands largely discredited. So let them make any noise that they want to at this stage. As it is, the PPP clearly stated that they would not make this into an issue as they are against any discrimination of any sort (the irony of the second amendment being passed during ZAB’s time notwithstanding). With so much public and institutional support, and it being too early for disillusionment to have set in, this was exactly the right time to take on Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his Tehreek-e-Labbaik and the like.

Let us not forget that it isn’t just the Saudis and the Kuwaitis (the ones so often and so conveniently blamed) we have to thank for the enrichment/empowerment of madressahs and the rise of religious extremism. The powers-that-be have consistently used religious parties to further their own agenda for ages, going all the way back to Ayub’s nexus with the anti-democracy, anti-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami (as we all know – or should know – the JI under Maudoodi had been against the creation of Pakistan).

The genie that’s out of the bottle now recognises no master – and hasn’t for some time – as the attacks on the GHQ, Karachi Airport, PNS Mehran, APS Peshawar (just to name a few), and the takeover of Swat, should have made very clear. It’s time to forget their (so-called) value as ‘strategic assets’ (a line that IK too has parroted) and confront the problem wholesale, top to bottom – no selective targeting will do. It’s too late for that.

When Rizvi and co held the country hostage during the Faizabad sit-in, the role of powerful elements was not above questioning. IK, himself, came out in Rizvi’s support at the time, completely flouting rule of law (what is it they say – beware of what you sow?). The PM has constantly played footsie with religious/extremist elements and now at the first ‘barak’ from the right wing and the bigots and obscurantists he backs down with hardly a whimper. If he can take credit for convincing the Dutch to call off a blasphemous cartoon competition, then why weren’t his powers of persuasion and leadership put towards convincing Rizvi and co that all Pakistanis, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have the same rights, including the right to be part of the EAC. Failing that, some tough talk could have been put to judicious use.

Now, I’m afraid, the mullahs have tasted blood and their appetite will have been further whetted. You think there will ever be a right time after this for IK to take them on? If the feeling is that he has other battles that he has to fight before this one (assuming that he wants to fight this one at all which, arguably, may not be the case given his many statements and actions over the last few years) especially on the economic front, then are we really saying that security and rule of law have nothing to do with the economy and development and growth?

Religious extremism is the biggest problem we are facing right now in the country – one which has fundamentally changed the fabric of this country and continues to do so and which has had a hugely detrimental role in our fortunes. It’s taken us more than 40 years to get to this stage and it might take us more than 80 to reverse the damage, but that is only if we start addressing this danger as of yesterday. This is the never-ending battle we are facing and the longer we wait, the longer it’ll take to win it.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz

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