I recently had an insightful discussion with a security analyst against the backdrop of the Wagah border attack that took the lives of more than sixty innocent people. He was of the view that the army would take three to four years to crush the sphinx of terrorism. I dared not chime in, that in my reckoning, we could not annihilate them by crushing them only physically. They are being treated as concrete subjects, but what about the existence of their ideology? How do you bomb that?
You can certainly kill the militants and make strenuous efforts to exterminate them; but you cannot eliminate them completely until you step upon their ideology. That ideology not only abides in the remote dens of faraway hills, but exist everywhere around us. One has only to make a round of a school, college, seminary or office, to come upon many who sympathise with their views.
You, we, cannot fight them until there remains a dominant ideology in tact. We cannot crush them, as stated by the security analyst, until we produce a counter-narrative.
The jihadi groups claiming responsibility for the Wagah border attack, term this as revenge in retaliation to operation Zarb-e-Azb in Waziristan. Yes, this can be revenge in secular terms, but how can this be legalized as an Islamic way of jihad? If the target was missed, there could have been regret for those guiltless civilians who lost their lives in the blast.
Where does the fault lie on our part? The fact remains that we never tried to establish the counter argument to our doings, which were later exploited by jihadists to galvanize people with fiery speeches against the state of Pakistan. For example, we should have produced a counter-narrative for the Jamia-Hafsa incident, Akbar Bhugti murder, Afia Siddiqui’s alleged abduction, and Dr Abdul Qadeer’s incarceration in Musharraf’s era.
The biggest factor used by jihadists shoots from the plea that Pakistan has been an ally of the US-led war in Afghanistan, thereby precipitating damage to the cause of jihad in Afghanistan. So, the premise is built to wage jihad against Pakistan, and some are lured into the reasoning.
Conversely, US officials as well as the western media have evermore been blaming Pakistan to promote the cause of jihad in Afghanistan. The submission of the Pentagon’s latest report to the US Congress creates a point in this regard. Can these groups of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) counter these reports which in a way blunt upon their biggest cause exploited to initiate jihad against the state of Pakistan? The result is that Pakistan is sandwiched – it receives castigation from the Pentagon for supporting and shielding Afghan mujahdeens, whereas the TTP attempts to maul us for hurting the same cause in Afghanistan.
Let’s look into the other too-naïve logics crafted by ragtag groups of the TTP.
Any faction willing to come under the umbrella of the TTP has to swear allegiance to Mullah Omar, and thereby stand by the cause of jihad in Afghanistan against the foreign occupant forces led by the US.
But the reality is the TTP never touched upon US interests in Afghanistan leaving aside the sole incident of ‘Camp Chapman attack’, which was carried by Al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor, on December 30, 2009. The TTP’s jihad is only to debilitate the state of Pakistan, so much so that it has been antagonistic to even those jihadi groups in Pakistan which have been regarding jihad obligatory only in Afghanistan – the examples being of North Waziristan’s Hafiz Gul Bahadur, South’s Maulvi Nazir and lower Kurram’s Fazal Saeed’s groups in this regard.
In early January 2009, on the imperatives of Mullah Omer, TTP had to acquiesce to establish an alliance with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir so as to aid Afghan Taliban in combating the American presence in Afghanistan. This alliance was named ‘Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen’, but it could not sustain itself long as the forces that reined in the TTP immediately came into action to dismantle the alliance, and succeeded in directing the guns of TTP towards Pakistan.
There is a strong need to debunk these groups which are now being operated from Afghanistan against Pakistan. The need is to bare open this reality, too, that the TTP along with the newly splintered Jammat-ul-Ahrar is being financed and supported by hostile foreign forces to weaken Pakistan.
The fact is clear as day: the whole façade constructed by these terrorists to launch a holy war against Pakistan stands on absurd and baseless reasoning. Their every reason propounded to legalize jihad against Pakistan is preposterous.
This is a war of ideological propaganda and some have been carried away by it. Producing a vigorous counter-narrative at the national and international levels, which unmasks this baseless ideology for what it is, is the only permanent solution to our war against militancy.
The writer is a lecturer at Punjab Group of Colleges, Lahore.