(Gravity. The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass. For most purposes Newton’s laws of gravity apply, with minor modifications to take the general theory of relativity into account.
If we take the pull of radical thought as the Centre of Gravity, or even if we consider right- inclined religious socio-political mindset as a physical entity having a mass of its own being pulled toward the centre of the earth, we must understand that radicalism as a phenomenon has magnetism and a palpable attraction.
Did it exist before the birth of Pakistan or was it the creation of a nascent nation? Physics met philosophy through evolution or deliberate design? Was the propellant a previously visited pre-partition paradigm? In any case, whether religious radicalism is the pull of gravity itself or the pulled object on which it is being applied, it has a trajectory, a path that it is following but who or what do we blame for it? So far we have expunged ourselves of responsibility. It is so much easier to absolve history of its flirtation with religion as a tool. It is time to take a closer look at what ambition and political process has created. It is time to stop blaming gravity.- Author)
Propulsions from Pre-Partition History:
Islamic thought with reference to State – either acquiescence to it or rejection of it – is embedded in our psyche and is our vehicle for social response to circumstances in some degree or the other. It has been so not just since the creation of Pakistan but before its conception and thus our temptation to use religion in political discourse has been our legacy just as much as it has been, over the years, a means to gain political leverage. Religion has always shaped the identity of people in the subcontinent. The Muslims rejected the language and government structures of the British but it was Sir Syed who urged the Muslims to participate otherwise they would be left behind in the race with Hindus who were taking advantage of this vacuum to further themselves. He faced a lot of opposition from the Muslim Orthodoxy but continued his efforts for the Muslims. He brought about the Muslim renaissance. For this reason Nehru said of him that if he had not come along Muslims would still be clerks. He was invited to join the Indian National Congress but refused and stopped the Muslims too from becoming involved in politics till they equipped themselves with modern education for they would not be able to survive in a Western model of politics without it. He also believed that the party would eventually evolve to represent Hindu interests only. He finally brought to light that the Hindus and Muslims were two distinct nations and developed the Two Nation Theory which later became the springboard for Muslims in demanding a separate nation for themselves.
In the wake of WW II again, divides and allies from the Indian Subcontinent were forged on the back of cleaves based on religious identity. The Muslim League as opposed to the Indian Congress, went on to support the British provided that they would recognize the Muslim League as the official voice of Muslims in India.1 “The events leading to the World War II, the Congress effective protest against the United Kingdom unilaterally involving India in the war without consulting with the congress; the Muslim League went on to support the British war efforts, which was allowed to actively propagandize against the Congress with the cry of ‘Islam in Danger’”2. In addition, because of the support the Muslim League offered, the British government suddenly“made a pledge to the Muslims in 1940 that it would not transfer power to an Independent India unless its constitution was first approved by the Indian Muslims, a promise it did not subsequently keep.”3
According to the Pakistan Studies curriculum, Muhammad bin Qasim is often referred to as the first Pakistani.4 While “Prakash K. Singh attributes the arrival of Muhammad bin Qasim as the first step towards the creation of Pakistan.”5 These are facts that could contribute to endorsing the opinion that Islam was politicized long ago to buttress political ideology and give it momentum. It is a tactic that almost all subsequent governments have used to make political advances post 1947, resultantly creating, through natural evolution, radical Islamic thought that now dominates the narrative in Pakistan. Even “Muhammad Ali Jinnah considered the Pakistan Movement to have started when the first Muslim put a foot in the Gateway of Islam.”6
Pakistan was created as a separate state for the Muslims. Irreconcilable differences between the religious binary of Hindus and Muslims justified partition.
Most of the religious parties originated in pre partition India and the majority supported a “pan Islamic identity rather than an independent state of Pakistan. Maulana Maududi of the Jamaat e Islami openly opposed the idea of an independent Muslim state and “supported a communal consciousness as early as 1937”7 only to change the party’s stance after partition. According to Oliver Roy, in a paper for UNHCR Emergency & Security Service,8 Abul Ala Maududi of Jamaat e Islami (1941) expected that a Pakistan that was created for the Muslims should be an Islamic state based on the sharia. And although they opposed all regimes till 1977 “the Jamaat used a legalist path; its strategy was to recruit amongst the elites in order to influence the government. This policy succeeded in 1977 when General Zia ul Haqq took power……(and) immediately after the communist coup in Afghanistan the Jamaat played a big role in determining Pakistan’s policy toward Afghanistan.” They channeled the US and Arab support to the Islamist parties to Afghanistan, especially Hizb –e-Islami of Hekmatyar . “The Jamaat thus came into close contact with the Pakistani military in charge of Afghanistan, especially the ISI”. Though in the past they had not channeled enough support from the elite to have a significant presence in Parliament, today they have succeeded in forming a coalition government in KP. Having started as a pressure group outside the Parliament, due to the courting of successive governments since partition of the religious parties to their advantage, the religious parties have now become a“well-armed and well-financed force that wield considerable influence in different branches of government.”9
Political Machinations and the Pull of the Religion Card Post 1947:
Over the years, following the creation of Pakistan, the country saw turbulent times with its first constitution framed in 1956 before it gave up the Government of India Act 1935, then in Ayub’s time in 1962 and then with Bhutto in 1973 . The Objectives Resolution(1949) advocated by Liaquat Ali Khan which was adopted by the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was of great importance but it simply talked about our objectives and how to frame the constitution. In the initial years despite remaining a pressure group using violent street protests as a mechanism, the religious parties remained relatively uninfluential. For isntance Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin in 1953 refused to classify Ahmedis as non-Muslim on Jamaat-e-Islamis demand and to dismiss the then Foreign Minister Chaudhry Zafarullah on grounds of being non-Muslim. This led to riots by Jamaat e Islami and finally the imposition of Martial Law in Lahore. But then over time political parties started using the religious card to further their interests and party mandate. In romancing the caucus the various governments have set the ball rolling for the radical Islamist mindset to morph itself into a powerful entity which we see overtaking the politics and the social narrative in Pakistan. How did it happen? It would make sense to trace the steps and understand our contribution to the evolution, to accept blame, to stop laying the onus on outside factors and circumstances, on the previously defined gravity and realize that what was used as a small advantage, differently by successive political entities is threatening to overrun the system. For one, the Jamaat e Islami used university campuses to propagate a well thought out movement and created a religiously-inclined activist mindset in the educational institutions in Pakistan through its student party (Islami Jamiat e Talba- IJT) to transform Pakistan into an Islamic State. The students of that time are the bureaucrats and policy makers of today and through the conditioning of that generation on these lines the mandate lives on.
Whether it has been elected governments or even the expanse of military rule on the fledgling state’s timeline, the crutch of religious support finds its way into politics, and quite successfully. Religious parties enjoy popular support and an air of doctrinal authority that plays on the mind of not just the orthodox but educated middle class. And this authority is a desired tool for the ruling elite. Since birth Pakistan faced several challenges to its survival. In the initial years the secular elite used Islam as a rallying cry, and assuming that the clerics were not strong enough to confront the political power structures, used Islamic sentiment to exacerbate the distrust and feeling of vulnerability that existed in Pakistani Muslims against the threat from India. This helped in creating a distinctive Pakistani identity of “Islamic Pakistan” defending against “Hindu India”10 which continues to this day. It is safe to say that the secular leaders of Pakistan used Islam then and now. This created vulnerability also suited the military and kept it in business. A hand in glove relationship of the civil and military with religious parties has developed a power triumvirate and given the religious parties force and sway over the years. This relationship further strengthened in the 80s when Pakistan found itself in the middle of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and developed a symbiotic relationship of gains which eventually came back to bite. And bite hard.
1) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto:
In 1971 after Pakistan’s civil war and a war with India, after the birth of Bangladesh, Z A Bhutto came to power through popular vote. He served as the 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that as the 4th President of Pakistan.
Though Bhutto gained great popularity with his socialist manifesto, he realized that for stability and a wider support base he needed to appease religious opposition that held a strong influence and grip over the periphery and rural population which amounted to about 70% of the total population of Pakistan. It was time to bring the Islamic clerics and ulema on board for greater stability as between the periods of 1949 –1958 there had been 7 changes in government. The rural people and the feudal land lords who were the parliamentary elite held great power so he needed their support. There was a lot of pressure from the religious lobby so when the 1973 Constitution was adopted – the most important constitution to date, as it was built with consensus and as for the first time there was a democratically elected government with representation from all segments of society – there was a move towards Islamization. Though Pakistan was created on the premise of the 2 Nation Theory for Muslims but making no distinction between Muslims and those of other faiths, the country now became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in which the new Constitution “guaranteed fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion. Article 2 however, declared Islam the State religion.”11 This was the first instance of groping by the PPP to stay in power by pandering to the clerics and then to win their support by declaring Islam as the State religion in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as part of the Constitution. Since its birth, Pakistan has changed its name and status 3 times. It remained a dominion till 1956 “when under the Constitution promulgated that year it became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1962 Ayub Khan, who had abrogated the1956 Constitution when he took over the country in 1958 promulgated his Constitution and declared it to be simply the Republic of Pakistan. Then he became a politician, expediency came to the fore and by the First Constitutional Amendment Order of 1963 we again became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”12
About a year after Bhutto’s 1973 Constitution was put in place, the JI led protests to declare the Ahmedis as ‘kafir’ and Bhutto, once again, gave in to that assertion to stay in power. This was achieved through a constitutional amendment in 1974 where the sect was declared non-Muslim and a further move towards Islamization was made with the introduction of prohibition in 1976. “Bhutto also channeled Pakistan’s Islamic aspirations towards foreign policy. Pakistan played a key role in developing the Organisation of Islamic Conference(OIC) and opened up to special relations with Islamic groups and countries.”13 Therefore,to gain political expediency, Bhutto courted the clerics, changed the constitution, made alliances with Muslim groups internationally, declared a set of people non-Muslim and banned alcohol and gambling. It seemed as if giving in to religious party demands increased political longevity. A paradigm had thus been set for future power heists.
Ironically, even his opposition at the time (as Bhutto was considered too liberal) – a military backed anti-PPP alliance called the Pakistan National Alliance(PNA) – exploited Islamic sentiment in their drive against Bhutto and his ouster from power by employing the slogan of “Nizam-e-Mustapha” in its violent street protests in 1977. When the PNA lost elections it lamented widespread electoral rigging resulting in violent street protests which led to the imposition of Martial Law. It is clear we have continued using religion as a means to an end politically and then wondered wide-eyed how it appeared into our national narrative in a more militant avatar.
Zia ul Haq took the reins of Pakistan via a military coup at a very important time in history. Though the trajectory for Islamaization was already set in motion due to Bhutto’s constitution of 1973 with its subsequent amendments, it was really Zia who politically and militarily institutionalized Islam after taking power on 5 July 1977.The Zia regime banned political parties and shaped politics by local, ethnic, tribal and religious considerations. He modified the Constitution and shaped the country on the lines of Maulana Maududi and the Deobandi school of thought. He deepened the military’s relationship with conservative parties like JI at the expense of moderate Islamic actors such as JUP.The influence of these parties can be gauged by looking at the polity today. In fact, in return for countering opposition the JI was allowed to extend its influence in the higher echelons of power in bureaucracy, judiciary and educational institutions.
The dynamics of the Cold War in which Zia found himself as a key player, albeit by proxy, led to the jihadist experiment and the proliferation of religion in Pakistan. Pakistan’s role in the war being fought in Afghanistan legitimized Zia’s rule and despite being a military dictator he won the support of the Western powers who funded the war with millions of dollars in support of the jihadists who were pawned to fight the larger interests of the West. Islam was once again being used as a tool of governance and survival. Islamic madrassas funded by Wahabist donations from Saudi Arabia set up these schools as recruiting pools of jihadists who were indoctrinated and armed, manipulated in their zeal, and were told that they were fighting for Islam on a pan Islamic formula. Parties such as the JUI-F and JI were needed and used to facilitate the crossover into Afghanistan by these foot soldiers. Unfortunately this led to long standing challenges: economically and culturally Pakistan carried the burden of an influx of 4.2 million refugees 14 and an import of the klashnikov culture; and, religiously, as it introduced religious extremism and sectarianism into Pakistan simply to gain legitimacy of a dictatorial rule.
Another major development through this was the paradigm set for attacking other Muslims when the JUI and JI called for jihad not against the Soviets but Soviet backed Najibullah government. This was a “precursor to the inward-oriented extremism of militant outfits such as the anti- Shia Lashkar e Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban groups today.”15 Unfortunately, religion has always fallen victim to the machinations of power houses.
Zia began a comprehensive Islamization process in Pakistan with the aid of the Objectives Resolution which – though previously was a preamble to the Constitution – was now incorporated into the Constitution by Zia. The impact of Zia’s agenda was far reaching and had political, social and economic connotations. Politically, he wanted to legitimize his authoritarian rule, socially he wanted to appease the political parties and economically, he wanted to set up an interest free Islamic banking system with the inclusion of taxes such as zakat to develop an Islamic welfare state. Internally he used Islamization to combat any potential civilian revenge uprising and negate the Islamic socialism of PPP. He was committed to imposing “Nizam e Islam” and introduced many changes in legislature. He introduced the:
a) Shariat appellate benches at the High Court and Supreme Court which were later disbanded and replaced by the Federal Shariat Court.16
b) The 9th Amndment to the Pakistan Constitution that Islamic Law would be supreme law of the country but qualified that in Article 203-B but omitted from the Constitution Muslim Personal Law.17
c) The Hudood Ordinance (which saw more enthusiastic implementation in the then NWFP – now KP – and Punjab). One wonders after looking at the geography of Talibanization and its density in Lower Punjab and KP what set it in motion.
d) The Qisas and Diyat Ordinance (QDO) which could be incorporated due to the exclusion of Muslim Personal Law from the 9th Amendment
e) New punishments for criminal offenses such as whipping, amputation, stoning to death, etc.
f) A vaguely worded blasphemy law.
g) Changes to education policy where no new English private school could be established at the primary level, Urdu became the medium of instruction, Madaris degree was equated to a mainstream Masters degree and the curriculi were infused with Islamic content and the study of Islamic Studies was made compulsory.
In 1984 a referendum endorsed the Islamization programme by 97.7% official results.18 This was a far reaching and comprehensive plan along with the induction of religion-centric officials in legal and bureaucratic structures for a long reaching posthumous impact. And a few columnists have thus named two thirds of the population born after 1977 as ‘Zia’s children.”19 But the problem with the Sharia Law remains that even if it were to be implemented in toto (as pointed out by the Justice Munir Report in 1954), whose Islam would be implemented when there are 73 religious sects in Pakistan, each one advocating that it is the correct version of Islam.
3) Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
After Zias’s death Benazir Bhutto came into power with the hopes of people riding on her inherited legacy as Bhutto’s political heir.Though Benazir was vociferous in her opposition of Zia’s Islamization she neglected to dismantle the Federal Shariat Court and the Shariat Apellate Bench of the Supreme Court. Neither did she repeal the Hudood and Ramazan Ordinances. She did however, release all women in jail who were convicted of murder – most of whom were convicted under the Hudood Ordinance. This goes to show that though a political leader’s beliefs might be at a variance from those of the clerics, their actions will tow the line of the orthodox right wing parties to survive a political minefield of opposition. Staying silent on a burning issue is akin to feeding a fire that roars. Suffice it to say that the religion card wins time and again and trumps all leftist rhetoric. We keep propagating the paradigm. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Nawaz Sharif and Benazir for the next few years oscillated between themselves the Premiership of the country. In 1991, during Nawaz Sharif’s government, an enforcement of Sharia Act first promulgated by Zia but not passed, was voted into Parliament which gave jurisdiction to Sharia related cases to the Shariat Court rather than the less Islamically inclined High Courts. But there is ambiguity about whether the move was politically or religiously motivated because it “kept in place a limited standard of supremacy of Sharia.”20 No one has had the courage to take bold steps in opposition to the religious right wing lobby.
In fact there is a school of thought that subscribes to the opinion that in the present political scenario General Raheel Sharif has been handed such autonomy and authority in dealing with the militants in Military Courts etc by Nawaz Sharif himself for a distinct purpose. The executions are being carried out in expeditious haste by the military, apparently on its own authority because no political party can align itself so openly against the religious lobby, as it needs their support come the next election.
4) Musharraf and the MMA
The Musharraf regime seized power in 1999 and massively rigged the elections to sideline the two main leading parties the PPP and PML-N. An alliance of six parties, the Mutehheda Majlis e Amal(MMA), the United Action Front was created. It had in its fold “Jamaat Islami (JI), Pakistan’s oldest religious party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (N), the political representative of the Barelvi school of Sunni Muslims, both factions of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam [Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (S)], which represents the Deobandi school, Professor Sajid Mir’s Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith and Allama Sajid Naqvi’s outlawed Shia group Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, which in its present incarnation is known as Pakistan Islami Tehrik. The alliance was initially headed by Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan. The motivating force behind the formation of the MMA was one of the country’s most organised political parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami.”21
The alliance was encouraged to participate in elections to form a government with Musharraf in the Centre and in KP. To this end Musharraf equated a madrassa degree to a graduation degree preventing disqualification of extremist clerics who were allowed to enter Parliament. This was an effort to neutralize the power of the two leading parties and make room for Musharraf to enter the political arena through a sham democratic process. It was a tactic to gain power for himself by empowering radicals and giving them entry into the Parliament. According to Hussain Haqqani, “Musharraf has continued to use Islamists for political purposes.”22 The MMA campaigned on the issue of enforcement of Sharia and opposition to the US led intervention in Afghanistan. Musharraf also barred the 2 leading secular parties from contesting on charges of corruption which aided the result of the election and the MMA emerged as the third largest party after PPP and PML-Q led by Musharraf and formed a government in KP and Baluchistan while power sharing with PLM-Q.
Musharraf also gained an advantage by firstly redistricting, and secondly disqualifying secular party candidates. PML- N and PPP were not even allowed to campaign while the religious parties had free reign.
“At the same time Gen Musharraf weakened the management and control of law and order in the districts, when under the so-called local government reforms, the post of the District Magistrate was transformed to a District Coordinating Officer, under elected officials. With these two master-strokes Gen. Musharraf reduced the writ of the State and allowed entry of radicals into KP and Pakistan. It led to the following results;
a) The MMA encouraged its workers to challenge the state in Swat, that by 2005-6 came under the control of Jihadists led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad of Dir and his son-in-law Mullah Fazlullah
b) In this inter-regnum, many of the KP districts lying on the border with Fata, came under the influence of the Jihadist radicals and they armed themselves and also received state largesse from the MMA government and expanded.
The duality in state policy of first allowing space to radicals (whom Musharraf had moved to FATA and parts of (NWFP)KP to improve relations with India by reducing Jihadists tanzeems involvement in Kashmir) and later deploying the army to reduce their strength, was seen as a ploy by the tribesmen, who stopped cooperating with the State and there followed many rebellions in Fata and KP districts. The number of terrorist strikes against the state increased manifold; it looked as if the State had decided to relinquish control of the country to the Jihadists.”23
Critics felt Musharraf was not only attempting to decimate the two leading parties from Parliament but deliberately, through MMA gains, projecting the growth of, and creating an illusion of the increasing political hold of religious parties in Pakistan. The aim was for the international community, especially the US to not want to dislodge Musharraf from his position in such times, especially since he had agreed to support the US led war on terror. Around 25 religious parties participated in politics in some form or the other at that time.24
Musharraf managed to rally support from the MMA in the National Assembly to have the 17th Constitutional Amendment endorsed, which validated the coup and centralized power in Musharraf as Head of State, by trading the MMA power to pursue the Islamization agenda in NWFP.
All these devices were aimed at his own political survival with no consideration for its impact on the State. Once in power, the MMA became stronger and more aggressive in its Islamaization agenda. It had the Hisba Bill, a moral policing Bill passed in the KP Assembly which was struck down eventually by the Supreme Court, and then later proposed the Apostasy Bill which could be used to confiscate property and award the death penalty to someone on the testimony of 2 witnesses or a confession. Before it was passed though, the legislature completed its full term in 2007.
The price for legitimizing his aspirations was further radicalization, free entry to power in Parliament for the extremists and relocation of extremists to FATA and KP where the problem has exacerbated to the dire consequences that we face today.
Additionally, in agreeing to support the war on terror Musharraf opened the gates for Western interference in State matters and a move away from the Westphalian model of government. This not only resulted in massive civilian casualties and a divided response of mostly outrage within the country, but failed to eradicate the extremist hubs, instead making them relocate and strike back, perhaps harder.
5) Religious Parties
These parties claim to be working peacefully within a democratic system but often maintain militant wings. They have militant student organizations and are more willing to achieve political objectives through force.
At least they are clear about their role in the political scenario. Though their tactics may be attributed to power-play in part, their main aim is to impose sharia in Pakistan. Their role in supporting extremist organizations becomes self –evident and the role of politicians in giving them space for their personal political gain is the onus future generations will carry.
It is ironic that Musharraf used catch phrases such as “enlightened moderation” for Pakistan, yet he played a double game by using extremist Islamic elements to manipulate his way into power as a popular leader.
6) Imran Khan:
Religious groups often link up with opposition parties or anti-government forces who in turn get mileage out of the opposition to sitting governments. They linked up with Imran Khan of Tehreek e Insaf for street protests since late 2011.
“Declan Walsh in The Guardian newspaper in England in 2005 described Khan as a “miserable politician,” observing that, “Khan’s ideas and affiliations since entering politics in 1996 have swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rainshower… He preaches democracy one day but gives a vote to reactionary mullahs the next.”25
Once again in 2014 Imran Khan called for his long drawn out ‘dharnas’ or sit-ins in Islamabad debilitating the city and paralyzing the government for months. His partner in anti- government song and dance was Maulana Tahir ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). Though he claims to be anti- radicalism, the people who came to support Qadri were his following from his organization, Minhaj ul Quran. It is always easier to wield power on the street through some reference to religious sentiment.
Though Imran and Qadri never officially agreed on an alliance, the two sister rallies very much depended on each other to gain critical mass. And though Imran and Qadri both deny having taken this step, but their parties collectively stormed the Parliament in an act of anarchy. Rhetoric for change and support for the slogan through the mouth of a cleric can compel and compound acts of violence from the common man with great ease. And wherever we go we find ourselves faced with the same linkages of power.
And so the river of history, past and in the making, flows.
Gravity or Education and Economics?
While successive governments were consumed in power brokering and furthering their personal agendas, they selfishly ignored two crucial areas: the economy and education. This, in turn, also contributed to the rise of radicalization and extremism in Pakistan.
In a country where 21.44% population is between the ages of 15 – 25 years26 and the median age is 23 years27 with a literacy rate of 57.9%, unemployment stands at a taunting 6.5% (2015).28 It is not difficult to see how the social contract between the government and society has splintered. It makes an obvious case for the youth to be led by a feeling of hostility. Those who struggle against odds to get a degree still find themselves out of a job with little potential to be absorbed into the work force as the vicious cycle of poverty gains momentum. 22.3% of the population still lives below the poverty line (2011)29. The American author William E Barrett once said, “Hunger is not the worst feature of unemployment, idleness is.” So with abject poverty, unemployment and by the above suggestion, idle minds on the ascent, it becomes easy for extremists to develop and market a narrative to the people highlighting the State’s failure to address the chronic grievances of the marginalized segment of society. It becomes easy to sell the idea of an Islamic welfare state and a prosperous pan-Islamic identity. It draws a comparison to the Islamic system of Caliphate and a system of social justice.
Though the reasons might not be economic alone, there are instances where the jihadist outfits or the people recruited for acts of terror are mercenary. According to john Horgan, a famous political Psychologist, “involvement and engagement in terrorism is a complex psycho-social process rather than a state.” While drafting a terrorists profile we ignore the dynamics that shape and support the terrorists.30
Education plays a major role in radicalization. Needless to say education is the responsibility of the State and the consequence of the State’s lapses in the area lead to the dynamics of extremism, making the state directly responsible. The first being that the poor quality of education being offered by the government leads to unemployment. Secondly there are instances where curriculum has inspired racial and religious bias and what is learnt in school is what indoctrinates youth and directs their future behavior. The third reason and perhaps an important contribution of education or lack thereof to the radicalization process is the madrassa factor which caters to a gap created by inadequate State machinery. Because many people cannot afford mainstream formal schooling, large numbers of children are sent to Islamic madrassas where boarding and lodging is free. Their focus is mainly on religious learning from an early age. Though there is nothing wrong with religious learning, there needs to be broad-based learning for a child at least till lower secondary. According to Pakistani theologian Javed Ghamidi, indoctrination begins at a very early age and because a child’s only exposure is to specialized Islamic learning, it is (according to him) a violation of basic human rights.31 He believes that not just specialization in Islamic Studies but any other kind of specialization at an early age for a child is akin to depriving him of a fundamental human right, the right to education and choice. You cannot tell a ten year old child to be a doctor or a mathematician. He must be given a well-rounded education and then himself exercise the right to choose and be open to different options in life. Ghamidi also speaks of the 4 basic tenets of Islamic indoctrination that he feels are common to all madrassa education which need to be countered for the narrative of radicalization to change. This is where the State needs to intervene and strengthen the madrassa with scientific and contemporary education in core subjects to expand learning and choices for students who are otherwise being churned out as human capital for extremist organizations.
Radicalization is taking place because of State neglect to education and resultantly economic depression. The two move forward hand in hand. The State needs to aggressively educate more. And educate better.
Why is it that the State and politicians have always gravitated towards right-wing conservative parties? Why have they attempted political longevity under the shadow of religious banners over the years?
The State, politicians, the religious parties all have blood on their hands with regard to encouraging and breeding religious caucuses and their power translated through extremist outfits; all for the sake of prolonged political power. Yet, on their part, there is an endeavor towards containment of the resultant phenomenon – threat to the writ of the State and the sovereignty of the Constitution. It can be viewed as an atonement of sorts by the State. Not of course as an acceptance of guilt or their part for a courtship of political Islam gone rogue, but as a State effort to appease and appear moderate and solve some of the problems that have been born through these alliances.
The following operations were conducted by the military to restore the writ of the State and then later attempt to spread its net to deeper de-radicalization efforts. Operation Rah e Haq in 2007, Operation Rah e Rast that lasted till 2009, Operation Sherdil in Bajaur and the ongoing Operation Zarb e Azb. In Swat, an effort by the name of ‘Mashal De-radicalization Camp’ was also established in which military officers, psychologists, clerics and trainers were all used to de-radicalize those who were accused of having aided the Taliban. With the help of the Punjab Counter terrorism Department and the help of the Provincial Strategic Council and Board and members of the Swat De-radicalization programme an initiative has also been launched by the Ministry of Interior in Punjab. According to researcher Asad Ullah Khan of the Institute of Strategic Studies very little room has been given to the de-radicalization efforts in NISP, the National Internal Security Policy and NAP, the National Action Plan. The setting up of Military Courts and the expeditious execution of extremists is a reactionary response and in no way a solution. Unless the broader aspects of the growing phenomenon are addressed, for every terrorist that is executed 3 more will be born and bred.
If the State is honest in its endeavours it can do much to address the root issues that lead to radicalization. For one it could introduce reforms in politically and economically depressed areas of FATA that lead to its integration with the rest of Pakistan while sealing its porous borders. There should be a reform of the education system and its parallel competitors, the madrassas. Social reforms are more the call of the day than military operations alone.
Playing the devil’s advocate, it is understandable that some of the conservative leanings of political powerhouses today are in response to the persecution of Muslims around the world and also perhaps as an effort to remain right-aligned and part of the global emerging conservatism and pro-sharia mindset which is a consequence of that persecution.
It is however, easy to absolve oneself by viewing the phenomenon of Islamic radicalization and its sway over our political and social framework as an alien phenomenon; as something that pounced out of nowhere or developed as a consequence of persecution only. Assigning blame elsewhere is only natural. But as Albert Einstein once said, “you can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” It is time to own up to the mistakes of history, mistakes made for political expediency, power and control; and rethink and reframe political process.
Most importantly, It is time to confess when politics has played dirty. In Frantois Rabelais’s words, “draw the curtain, the fraud is over.” It’s time to own up. Certainly, it is time to stop blaming gravity.
1 Mukerjee, Madhusree (2011). “Empire at War”. Churchill’s secret war : the British empire and the ravaging of india during world war II. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02481-5.
2 Pan-Islam in British Indian politics, pgs 57,245 by M.Naeem Qureshi
4 “History books contain major distortions”. Daily Times.June 6, 2011
5 Prakash K. Singh (2008). Encyclopaedia on Jinnah 5. Anmol Publications. p. 331.
7 Islamic Parties in Pakistan – Crisis Group Asia Report N0 216. 12 Dec 2011
8 UNHCR WRITENET Paper No 06/2001 – Jan 2002 Islamic Radicalism in Afghanistan & Pakistan – Olivier Roy
9 The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future – The Washington Quarterly Winter 2004- 2005. Hussain Haqqani
11 Islamic Parties in Pakistan – Crisis Group Asia Report N0 216.
12 Dec 2011 12 The Sole Statesman – Ardeshir Cowasjee
13 The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future – The Washington Quarterly Winter 2004- 2005. Hussain Haqqani
14 International Journal of Business and Science Vol 3, No 21 Nov 2012- Zia ul Haq and the Proliferation of Religion in Pakistan. – Jamal Shah
15 Saleem Safi, The Taliban and our Hypocracy – Jang 10-2- 2009 via Crisis Group Asia Report No 216 12 Dec 2011
16 Zia ul Haq’s Islamaizastion-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Zia-ulHaq’s_Islamization
19 Daily Times- Rein of Radicalism in Pakistan – Abdul Razaque Channa – 27th April 2014
20 Zia ul Haq’s Islamaizastion-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Zia-ulHaq’s_Islamization
22 The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future – The Washington Quarterly Winter 2004- 2005. Hussain Haqqani
23 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung- Country Paper – Drivers of Radicalism & Extremism in Pakistan – Khalid Aziz.
24 Amir Rana- A to Z of Jehadi Organisations in Pakistan (Lahore 2004) p 151 via Crisis Group Asia Report No 216 12 Dec 2011
25 https://www.facebook.com/notes/fans-of-imran-khan-pti/history-of-imrankhan-by-muhammad-ali-lashari-admin-isf-cheetahs-page/376453935758868/ BY Muhammad Ali Lashari August 30, 2012
26 The Central Intelligenge Agency World Fact Book – https://www.cia.gov/library/
30 Institute of Strategic Studies –Radicalisation: A dilemma of Pakistan – Asad Ullah Khan, 19th Aug 2015.
31 Ghamidi – facebook lecture – https://www.facebook.com/ javedahmadghamidi/?pnref=story- Root Cause of Terrorism and ISIS.
*The author is an editor of the journal and an educationist.