Muhammad Amir Rana in his article ‘Toying with Reintegration’, printed on page 8 in DAWN, dated May 7, 2017, aptly begins with the statement: “The radicalization process not only changes a person’s world view, it also alters their personal philosophy on life.” He expresses his surprise at the hardcore militants wanting to return into the mainstream fold, including the reported amnesty given to the head of TTP Punjab chapter, Asmatullah Muawiya and surrender of Jamaatul Ahrar’s (JUA) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan. Amir Rana has discussed the idea of reintegration of militants into the society by discussing the three main factors which compel militants to quit violence; militants being compelled to renounce violence due to coercion or incentives by the security agencies, moulding their mindsets (especially those while in jail) for adopting non-violent means to pursue their objectives as a result of internal debates on theological and political issues like the cases of Al Gama’a Al-Islamiyya in Cairo jails, Iraqis in Camp Bucca, and as is happening in Pakistani prisons, and thirdly, due to change in ideological and socioeconomic conditions where non-state actors are provided opportunities to reintegrate as in Africa and Latin America.

Rana further delves into the possibility of reintegrating radical movements in the political mainstream by quoting the example of Philipines Mindanao Peace Process involving the Moro tribe. He also discusses the problem of Baloch militants and the arguments of certain media and policy circles for offering similar amnesty to religiously inspired militants as offered to the Baloch insurgents. He mentions the debate among a recently convened working group of security experts in Islamabad regarding the options and probabilities of reintegrating banned militant organizations, where the participants also listened to the points of view of the leadership of two banned organizations, and finally decided to send a proposal to the parliament for the institution of a high powered National Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deliberate and decide on this issue.

A commonality between various militant movements described as religious, sectarian, ethnic, regional, linguistic or on any other basis is the quest or desire for freedom or deliverance from any real or perceived oppression by the majority or by those who wield governmental authority, which can be ascribed to the development of feelings of alienation and the need for exercising universal fundamental rights under the UN Charter. Thus the demands can be deemed fundamentally legitimate though the means employed to obtain them are apparently assailable in the light of law or morality. Such a situation should naturally be a cause of concern for the state and the people and calls for a serious effort at engaging in meaningful and potentially fruitful negotiations with the aggrieved party involved in militancy or violence in order to address the causes of unrest and bring militants into the mainstream, which may include the grant of amnesty to those who are not guilty of any heinous crime. Thus, one would generally agree with the analysis given by Amir Rana regarding the need for more deliberate efforts at the highest levels for resolving the problem of militancy in the country.

However, only if the erstwhile rebels/law-breakers are willing to forego their goals and are prepared to reform, disengage, disarm, demobilize and reintegrate that any process akin to setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission is feasible and would lead to what can be termed as a truly national reintegration. Yet the problem of militancy based on religious beliefs or dogma has to be seen in its real context and thus tackled in a different manner, since both the ‘world view’ and the ‘personal philosophy’ of the radicalized jihadi undergoes an extremely bizarre and indeed deadly change which makes him or her undergo a complete psychological metamorphosis such that these zealots start considering all those who do not subscribe to their views as aliens whose complete elimination or annihilation not only becomes their immediate goal but also serves as a vehicle for their deliverance from this temporary and painful worldly existence to a life of permanent bohemian and pleasurable existence in the Heavens. 

Thus, the prerequisite for dealing with religious militancy is the need for an explicit expose of the nihilistic jihadi philosophy which is the actual motivational force propelling the religious militants into committing unspeakable acts of violence and carnage along with the expression of the will or desire of the government and the religious majority to unequivocally and consciously to repudiate it as completely unacceptable and against all canons of belief, law or morality.

The major problem with the religious militancy espoused or practiced by the so-called Islamic or sectarian jihadists such as those represented by the groups fighting under the umbrella of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or independently as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jamaat ul Ahrar, etc or those now fighting under the banner of Islamic State (IS) or Daesh is that these militants instead of fighting for freedom from oppression are conversely trying to establish an oppressive religious cum sectarian system by force, that is, to say: by simply coercing the entire people living in Pakistan to affirm allegiance to their pernicious ideology of what is known as ‘Takfirism’, or, propagating the sectarian bogey of “Shias being apostates or non-believers i.e., Kafirs”, who are to be ruthlessly and remorselessly killed and their women and children taken as slaves. Further, declaring that anybody labeled as ‘Shia’ forfeits his/her right to life and property! So much so that, even those who associate with or side with them also deserve to be killed unless they disavow their support and seek forgiveness?

Another problem with these militant or religious/sectarian extremists is that they do not solely or specifically belong to any particular sect like the Wahabi or Salafi Sect as is commonly believed, though a majority of them draw inspiration from the teachings of Ibn Taymiyah considered to be the spiritual godfather of ISIS, al-Qaeda and most of those grouped under the TTP. Yet they are believed to enjoy the tacit support among the vast majority of the Sunnis who are said to belong to the Deobandi School of Thought, but who themselves may not actively partake in the aggressive or violent activities. Yet, their covert support and sympathy lies with these militants, at least to the extent of justifying their acts of murder and destruction which affect the Shia Community in particular. At the same time a lot of propaganda is spread through the media, especially the social media which proclaims the Shias as a ‘heretical’ Sect and gives the false impression that the majority of Sunnis espouse the same belief, when in actual fact the Barelvi School of Thought which comprises more than 80 % of Sunni population do not agree with the Deobandis.

Thus, while we find that a substantial amount of the moral support and financing or provision of logistical and intelligence support, along with covert help in arranging hideouts to militants from the law enforcement agencies can be ascribed to the general public, a big majority of whom are actually confused and sympathise with these militants due to their misconception of treating these sectarian terrorists as simply religious zealots who are fighting for upholding of Islamic values, which is indeed pathetic. Thus, the authorities mostly find themselves in a quandary in pinpointing the actual culprits and their active or real support base. Further, it is also a fact that a vast majority of the clergy provide silent or tacit support to this ideology while some fire brand clerics who wield street power do so quite openly and only fall short calling for murder due to obvious fear of law! This is the reason that the political parties who form the government are wary of taking any decisive action against the extremists or remain in denial of naming them for fear of losing public support or being blamed for bias!

Now, as Amir Rana has discussed the de-radicalization and reintegration by changing minds of militants (especially those while in jail) for adopting non-violent means to pursue their objectives as a result of internal debates on theological and political issues like the cases of Al Gama’a Al-Islamiyya in Cairo jails, Iraqis in Camp Bucca, and as is happening in Pakistani prisons, we know very well that such efforts are likely to prove stillborn the moment such individuals are let out of confinement. We have before us the most significant example of Abu Bakr Baghdadi who was confined in Camp Bucca in Baghdad by the Americans during their occupation of Iraq who later on declared himself the Khalifa of Islamic State after capture of Mosul by the IS in 2014 and has since wreaked havoc in Iraq and Syria.We are also aware that many of the those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay who were later on released rejoined the Taliban or the TTP and some even joined the IS and proved or are proving more deadly! Thus, the concept of de-radicalization especially in case of Islamic religious zealots has proved to be a figment of one’s imagination rather than a remedy for curbing militancy.

In order to explain the dangerous and unethical mindset of religious extremists, and for the interest of readers I would like to quote a few lines from the Review of the book : ‘Inside the Brotherhood’ by Hazem Kandil, Polity Press, UK-ISBN:978-0745682914 carried out by Muhammad Amir Rana printed in DAWN, Books and Authors, November 20, 2016. He says and I quote: ‘The Brotherhood considers everything fair to achieve its ultimate goal. In the third chapter of his book, Kandil writes: “In the name of necessity, therefore, Brothers allow themselves considerable latitude.” He notes that the Brotherhood’s most frequent violation has always been disinformation and the irony is that they believe it is all religiously sanctioned.’

The underlined portion in the above quoted lines points to a most dismal and disturbing fact. The aspect that an organization like ‘Brotherhood’ which is generally considered to be religiously and politically correct, considers ‘disinformation’ as religiously sanctioned, makes it rather difficult for an independent and unbiased observer to believe that such radicals would be truthful and honest with those whom they consider to be lesser Muslims, and indeed lesser humans, such that even their right to life, honour and property is not recognized by these extremists!

Therefore, keeping in view the above discussion and indeed, the need to avoid being overwhelmed by circumstances due to inaction of the decision makers we should realize that the moment of reckoning and time for action is around the corner!! Those in charge of the country can no more keep their eyes closed and continue biding their time for any miracles to happen! Too much blood has been spilt and innumerable homes and families have been sacrificed. Nay! we have before us the examples of Syria and Iraq which having been overtaken by the events, are almost on the brink of total destruction! The authorities in the country have to go to the root of the problem of Religious Militancy in order to uproot this apocalyptic problem. By refusing to unmask the real face of the cancer afflicting the Muslim Psyche and Islamic Thinking at the altar of religious or even political expediency, we the general public, particularly the Muslims ought to know that ‘ Takfirism’ unchecked will sooner or later lead us, the Muslims to ultimate annihilation!! The bogey of ‘Takfirism’ which is in fact a cancer in the Muslim body politic ought to be taken in the true perspective. If we want peace and tranquility to return to our motherland, we have to prevent the enemies of Pakistan from manipulating the cleavages in Muslim thought from propelling Muslims to kill Muslims.

In order to eliminate this scourge the government will sooner than later have to arrange a grand conclave of religious leaders and scholars representing all Muslim Sects along with leaders of all Political and Religious parties as well as Leaders/Scholars of all other religious minorities to work out a fresh social contract based on fundamental rights enshrined in the UN Charter to clearly lay down limits to individual and group thinking/behavior affecting mutual coexistence! It is high time for the people of Pakistan to decide whether they want to allow all Pakistanis to enjoying fundamental rights as equal citizens of the state under the constitution of the country as the basic law governing the business of the state or not! The writing is on the wall!!! It is certainly a tall order and would indeed be a self-defeating exercise if the government and the Parliament in Pakistan are still bent upon de-radicalizing and reintegrating OR really ‘whitewashing’ or so to say ‘laundering’ the members of the Islamist militant groups into the social and political mainstream.