According to the ISPR, the Pakistani Army has successfully cleansed the most volatile regions of North Waziristan during the ongoing military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’. Simultaneously, over the past month or so, Isis pamphlets, posters, flags and graffiti have surfaced in three of the four provincial capitals of the country.
That the apogee of the military operation has coincided with the penetration of the world’s most violent Islamist organisation inside Pakistan connotes that we are on the brink of a massive ideological showdown. A crusade between Islamism and every other ideology, as Pakistan Army flies the flag of all other kinds of Islam. Whoever wins gets to dictate their version of Islam.
TTP splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar has already joined hands with Isis. It was Jamaatul Ahrar that had orchestrated the Wagah suicide attack on November 2, killing over 60 people and leaving 110 injured.
The attack was revenge for the “innocent people killed by Pakistan Army in North Waziristan,” according to Jamaatul Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. In an email to Long War Journal, Ehsanullah, former TTP spokesman, hailed Hanifullah – the Wagah suicide bomber – for carrying out a “successful martyrdom operation on murtad army in Wagah.”
Being excommunicated by the ‘strategic assets’ was always inevitable for the army, once it became evident that the establishment’s customary strategy vis-à-vis Afghanistan and Kashmir had backfired. Also, the ever escalating disparity between the tactical value of the mujahideen and the ramifications for Pakistan’s security situation meant that the same jihad that had raked in billions of dollars in the 80s, is now the principal factor behind Pakistan’s economic bankruptcy.
The need to replace the Islamist ideology with a more moderate substitute has become the national need and regional responsibility of Pakistan. Renouncing armed jihad the need of the hour.
The need for an ideological ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ has been evident since 2001
The need for an ideological ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ has been evident since 2001. That it took the nation 13 years, over 50,000 dead bodies and the pulverisation of the national economy to accept the menace of militant Islam, highlights the ideological inertia that needs to be countered. It isn’t easy to relinquish the ideals that are rammed into your brain through bigoted curricula and a weekly dose of the Friday sermon.
The Isis goal of massacring, or conquering, every kafir on the planet is echoed in mosques and madrassas all over Pakistan. The country, and its army, only woke up and smelled the coffee when it came on the receiving end of takfir.
Once jihad is condemned, takfir would become a pointless exercise. Once universal equality – without which any claims for democracy are laughable – is ensured, sectarian harmony would be the natural corollary. For, why would anyone go out of their way to clamour for the excommunication of a person or a sect, if you’re going to be treating the accuser and the accused the same anyway?
The perks and benefits in citizenship and stature that come with belonging to a particular religious community – Muslim in Pakistan’s case – need to be curtailed to ensure that the religion doesn’t become an exclusive old boys’ club for extremists. When there’s societal, legal and political elevation at stake, it’s natural for any club to want to narrow down the criteria to limit beneficiaries or restrict diversity in membership.
It needs to be ensured that religion doesn’t become an exclusive old boys’ club for extremists
The ideological operation needs to target all institutions that preach religion, from madrassas and schools to mosques, universities, majalis, TV shows or any other kind of religious gathering. If hatred for non-Muslims – which is ubiquitous as things stand – is being expounded, it needs to be curbed, without any dillydallying. For, it’s the same hatred that whets the appetite of the likes of Isis, TTP and Jamaatul Ahrar. And for Isis in particular the craving for kafir blood seems insatiable.
What needs to be realised is that jihad, or taking up arms against whosoever the mujahid deems a ‘kafir’ starts with the identification of the ‘kafir’ as a lesser being. If a state discriminates between its citizens on religious grounds, it cultivates extremism, which reaps jihad in Islamic domains. And when a country’s constitution is takfiri itself, as is the case with Pakistan, it serves Islamist extremism and jihad on a platter at the cost of a significant chunk of its citizens.
After seemingly recognising the superfluity of the Islamists in terms of their strategic importance, what the establishment now needs to realise is that they would remain diplomatically superfluous for the foreseeable future. Because the only way Pakistan can remain relevant as a regional player is by foregoing historical antagonism, and pursuing a cooperative foreign policy with regards to India and Afghanistan.
Therefore, assuming – and hoping – that the Army would manage to ward off the biggest Islamist challenge for centuries, the establishment would need to orchestrate an ideological metamorphosis. The Pakistan Army that has brewed Islamism for over three decades knows the neuroanatomy of a jihadist better than anyone else. The Army is also the only institution that could outdo Islamists in terms of popular backing. The Islamists open declaration of jihad against the Army also facilitates that particular cause.
The ideological Zarb-e-Azb would of course contradict most ideas that have been preached in this country via Islam. But the modern world is founded upon ideals that oppose orthodox religion. Historically, both the spread and confinement of ideologies have depended on the ideological inclination of a realm’s militaristic muscle. And after decades of procrastination and misjudgement maybe, just maybe, the Pakistan Army might tilt towards nipping Islamism in the bud.