Thought and action
By Imtiaz Gul
The Friday Times, October 04, 2013
The Peshawar bloodbath must be seen in the context of two narratives – one coming from TTP’s Omar Studio Productions, and the other essentially from Pakistan’s TV and Radio. One is forceful and aggressive, revolving around the messages by the selfless, devout Mujahid Mullah Mohammad Omar. The other is a meek and apologetic reaction to the former, devoid of the strength of conviction and ideological enthusiasm, cockcrowing and mimicking what the self-serving powerful elites would have the people believe. It is the unity of thought and action, or the ideology (no matter how skewed) and its blind pursuit on the one hand, and a literally superficial elitist propagation marked by political and ideological divisions on the other.
Much to the chagrin of all of us, terrorists vow to annul and replace the very constitution that we treat as the guiding socio-political contract to regulate life in this Islamic republic. They abhor this document and would have it preferably replaced with their own law of Sharia, though nobody would venture a guess as to which Sharia – the one practiced in Saudi Arabia, or the one in Sudan and Somalia.
Maulvi Omar Khalid Khorasani, a Taliban leader in Mohmand Agency, made it clear after the deadly strike on the All Saints’ Memorial Church in Peshawar on September 22. “We want our own constitution and will not budge an inch from this goal,” he said.
And the string of videos they keep releasing not only testifies to this resolve but also reinforces what the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is up to. In the last week of September, Mullah Fazlullah sent out a video message chronicling an IED attack on a military vehicle. The video sends out two cardinal messages – first, the rejection of the state of Pakistan, which Fazlullah describes as “sold out to the United States” and hence deserves “appropriate action” by what he calls the Mujahedeen of Islam, and second, the support he brags about “from inside the most powerful institutions of Pakistan”. He presents the Dera Ismail Khan break earlier this year as a proof of TTP’s ingress into state institutions, a term he uses to allude to the army, the intelligence and the police.
He is essentially talking about what the majority of Pakistanis refer to as “the enemy within” – those officials and operatives within a compromised security apparatus who strongly believe in Osama bin Laden’s anti-US pan-Islamism, because in their own narrow view, bin Laden’s philosophy provides the only appropriate response to the US militarism which they think works to the detriment of Muslims across the globe.
A yet another grisly video – released by the Omar Studio in late 2011 in the context of multiple attacks on at least four Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps posts in the Chitral and Upper Dir region in July and August that year – also explains the TTP agenda for Pakistan. We can draw three clear deductions from that video. First, that Mullah Omar in Afghanistan remains TTP’s avowed supreme leader, which means the fight in Afghanistan remains the primary driver for the TTP. Second, that statements by Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman (killed in a drone strike earlier this year) reiterate their “resolve” to rid Pakistan of the law that the “infidel British” imposed on us and replace it with Sharia. In fact, Hakimullah even spells out two primary objectives of “our great mujahedeen tehrik” – force Pakistan to abolish all contacts and cooperation with the United States, and enforce Sharia in the country, which the video commentary says “is being turned into a fiefdom of Aga Khan, the way Israel stands in the middle of the Arab Muslim world.” Thirdly, says the narrator, all those cooperating with the US are infidels and liable to be executed, and this narration is superimposed with images of slain security forces personnel as well as civilians, presumably Shias or those believed to be followers of Aga Khan.
In a very strong and clear message by the TTP, devastating attacks have taken almost 200 innocent Pakistani lives in a space of seven days.
Contrast this with the state of Pakistan. Instead of considering the cumulative impact of their selfish policies, and the inaction and inefficiency of state institutions, rival political parties jump to blame the ruling coalitions for the carnage.
After the attacks in Peshawar, even a maverick like Maulana Fazlur Rehman stepped forward to demand the resignation of the provincial government for failing to protect citizens’ lives. His party has opposed changes in the status of FATA and reforms in madrassa curricula or audit of their funding. Members of his party duck under the argument that they live in areas surrounded by militants and cannot risk their lives by openly condemning them.
The purpose of this argument is to highlight the politics of expedience that currently rule the roost. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is fearful of losing its own vote bank and peace in Punjab, so it wouldn’t touch all those radical groups that claim an ideological nexus with Al Qaeda and are almost avowedly fanning anti-Shia sectarianism from the pulpits of mosques they control.
The PPP squandered five years without institutional capacity-building of the security apparatus, with little work done to improve non-intrusive surveillance.
The army and the intelligence outfits under Gen Kayani clearly remain divided as well as compromised (as claimed by Mullah Fazlullah), with Al Qaeda sympathizers and empathizers continuously undermining the stated objectives of the government. Without a comprehensive, non-partisan, law-based long-term strategy, supported by an intensive non-intrusive surveillance regime, cities such as Peshawar will keep bleeding, and the TTP will continue piling misery on Pakistan.
Without divorcing all non-state actors, and without breaking the nexus between terrorists and militants from Karachi to Punjab to FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa looking at Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban for spiritual guidance, the space for the government of Pakistan will continue to shrink.
Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India