Recently, news surfaced that the parents of the Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS_ martyrs held a demonstration against the government’s statements on reconciling with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The news irked me, as I was among many Pakistanis who came out in the freezing winter of December 2014 for a vigil outside our provincial legislature.
Pakistanis across western countries were saddened, pained and angry. They wanted a firm response against the merciless cowards, as they had transgressed all boundaries of humanity. Indeed, the Quran does not prescribe the capital punishment except for murder or fisad fil ard (anarchy). Based on this Islamic ethos, the TTP members have forfeited their right to live.
I still recall many Pakistani youth putting memes of young, handsome, dedicated air force officers with captions of defiance against the TTP. And yet, how soon have we forgotten all that to witness the current government engage in a reconciliation process with these murderers? If Pakistan is a democracy, then who gave the PM and his government this right? Was this decision vetted by an assembly? And for all his talk of Islam and following the Prophet (PBUH), does the PM not know that the right of qisas (retribution) belongs to the victims or the victims’ family? In short, who authorised him democratically or Islamically to take this unilateral step?
This reminds me of the recent verdict in Quebec, where the decision was made to reduce the parole ineligibility of Alexandre Bissonnette, who had killed Muslims in a Quebec Mosque, from 40 to 25 years. In response, Muslims, including Aymen Derbali who has been paralyzed from the waist down as he was shot seven times, found this decision unjust.
Would Imran Khan defend such a decision or rail against it due to systemic Islamophobia? If the latter, then would his moral outrage not be selective? I bring this up because I generally find his statements against Islamophobia self-serving and hypocritical, as he conveniently ignores the plight of the oppressed in Pakistan. Forget the Ahmadis that are increasingly suppressed, there seems to be no regard for the poor parents of mainstream Sunni Muslim youth either.
The PM seems to know only of a reactionary version of Islam, one that is pitted against the West, perhaps, as a purification ritual in the later stage of his life. Such a version of Islam is narrow and self-serving compared to the Islam of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, who clearly expressed on taking his oath that, “if I don’t do what is right then correct me.” And PM Imran Khan needs to be reminded that by negotiating with the TTP, he is flouting both democratic and Islamic principles.
I also feel negotiating with the TTP seems to be based on cowardice. I am reminded of a powerful scene from the 2017 movie The Darkest Hour, where Churchill passionately responds to Viscount Halifax, who insists on negotiating with Hitler, that “when will the lesson be learned … you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.”
In Islam, the khawarij (renegades) were deemed as outsiders and expelled from the Muslim community. Many contemporary Muslim leaders have branded groups like Islamic State (ISIS) as the modern day khawarij and have come down firmly against them. There are no ifs and buts here. Indeed, when gangrene afflicts a limb, the solution is amputation. To reiterate, who gave the PM the right to negotiate with the TTP?