Follow-up on Paigham-i-Pakistan



M Ziauddin

Those who had planned and executed the suicide bombing that killed 11 soldiers including a captain of Pakistan Army in Swat on Saturday last (February 3, 2018)had perhaps not read the Paigham-i-Pakistan launched by the government of Pakistan on January 16, 2018.
Or, perhaps they had after reading rejected itas un-Islamic document, a fatwa in fact, signed by 1,829 religious scholars — belonging reportedly to nearly all mainstream sects in the country — that declared several actions including suicide attacks against the state, spreading sectarianism and anarchy in the name of religion and issuing a call to jihad without the consent of the state as un-Islamic.
The Fatwa also denounces the use of force on the pretext of imposing Sharia, waging an armed struggle against the state, or employing violence and terrorist tactics to settle ethnic, geographical, religious and sectarian conflicts.
While launching the Paigham President Mamnoon Hussain has expressed confidence that the unanimous fatwa, drafted through a consultative process and issued by religious scholars of various schools of thought, would help address the challenges posed by terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.
He hoped that the move would portray a ‘soft and positive image of Pakistan’ and highlight Islam as a religion of peace, brotherhood, tolerance and accommodation.
Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal underlined the urgent need for Muslim nations to progress and have something positive to show over the next 400 years. For progress the society must be peaceful and stable. Introspection and look within instead of hypothesizing about conspiracies is the way forward.
The leaders hoped the fatwa to provide a platform for national unity to make Pakistan a distinguished country, an Asian tiger in the 21st century. Leaders urged the nation to own the narrative of the fatwa, back all national institutions working against terrorism and to convey to the entire world that all national institutions are united against terrorism.
“We have rejected all forms of terrorism and extremism. The land of Pakistan at no time shall be allowed to be used for the propagation of any kind of terrorism.” That included training and recruitment of terrorists, along with execution of terror activities in other countries ‘and other such ulterior motives’.
Before unveiling the Paigham-i-Pakistan, religious scholars had urged state institutions to act collectively to cleanse society of the menaces of extremism and terrorism.
Religious scholars from all sects had reportedly deliberated over each word in the decree for months before finalization.
The younger generation should be taught to become tolerant and respectable members of society. Reform in educational curriculum, investment in modern progressive education, media campaigns for gender-equality, encouragement to entrepreneur and private enterprises, taking mind-set off conspiracy theories and the world vision through a positive perspective are the needs of the hour.
Musharraf had tried this but there seems to be sincere intent this time. Neighbours can just hope that Pakistan changes, and changes for better, not for worse.
These should not be mere lip service and empty words meant for Trump, the Americans are not so gullible anymore.
The Paigham-i-Pakistan, if properly implemented, has the potential to improve the present and set the future. This fatwa needs validation by ratification in the parliament to acquire judicial approval. It should be binding on all government bodies and non-state-actors with detailed mechanism for enforcement to make the fatwa more than a mere symbol of good intentions.
Old laws that fan sectarianism and target minorities should be abrogated and new laws promulgated on equal opportunity to all citizens and secular education.
Cleansing Pakistan of terrorism is like cleaning the Augean stable, but possible with real spirit and true intent. The government, it seems, has finally woken up after sixteen years of war, sacrifice of thousands of lives and strong international condemnation.
The recent Faizabad sit-in and Government caving in to extremists’ demands was the tilting point. It should now honestly recognize the problem, self-reflect, and introspect. No more self-denials and deflections. Conspiracy theories had had their shelf-life. Pakistan must strive to be a respected member of the comity of nations.
The fact that mere issuance of such a Fatwa would not be suffice to curb extremism, militancy or terrorism in the name of Islam is too obvious needing any further be wailing.
In fact Paigham-i-Pakistan will remain a declaration of intent alone unless followed by substantive steps.
Those brainwashed into committing acts of faith-based violence will not be dissuaded by a fatwa, even one collectively issued by nearly 2,000 clerics. Interestingly the ‘Paigham-i-Pakistan’, was also endorsed by the heads of banned organizations present at the President House during the launching ceremony.
Indeed, the state’s pandering to purveyors of extremist ideologies for its political ends has played a major role in seeding faith-based violence throughout the land.
To put the counter-narrative into effect, it must therefore abjure this ruinous strategy, revive the moribund National Action Plan and follow its stipulations to the letter — without any exceptions.
Ultra-right groups must no longer have a license to indulge in divisive, incendiary rhetoric or force the government into making concessions by brandishing the threat of violence.
Admittedly, action has been taken against some networks of violent extremists but it has been inconsistent, and there remain troubling instances of what can only be described as unimpeded glorification of terrorism.
Until the state adopts a resolute, unequivocal approach, this country will continue its drift towards the right, and suffer the mayhem that comes with it.
Pakistan is annoyed at the international community’s repeated concerns about the alleged presence and status of non-state actors on its soil.
Pakistan tries to convince the world by describing multiple anti-militant actions it has taken and the sacrifices it has rendered. It also claims that it does not distinguish between good and bad militants.
However, a drone strike and a subsequent press conference, or public demonstration by the leaders of banned organizations and their other public activities, offset the impression.
There are a number of cases that present Pakistan as a double gamer in the eyes of the world. We arrest known militants, take them to courts, but seemingly intentionally fail to prove our case which leaves the courts no option but to set them free.
Not only this. These purveyors of terrorism are allowed to champion the cause of Kashmir across the length and breadth of Pakistan in the company of known and self -proclaimed champions of so-called Islamic terrorism. The state has also been openly trying to mainstream self-confessed murderers and bands of militants that bring the country to a stand-still with the drop of a hat on any number of so-called Islamic pretexts.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) monitoring team’s recent visit was part of its regular inspections. And the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that combats money laundering and terror financing, shares concerns with many other international actors about the activities of banned groups in Pakistan. Pakistan is on notice from FATF whose team is expected to visit Pakistan soon to study the progress or regression on the spot.

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