Will Islamabad crush Islamists?

The militant Islamist threat has over the years become too dangerous to be overlooked.

Pakistani Shi'ite Muslim men flagellate themselves during a Muharram procession in Islamabad, Pakistan, November 3, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Pakistani Shi'ite Muslim men flagellate themselves during a Muharram procession in Islamabad, Pakistan, November 3, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Conventional wisdom has it that the use of an evil, even for the best of human causes is bound to lead to catastrophe sooner or later. This is Peshawar's message to Pakistan today -- once the land of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Persians and Muslims --- where the Islamabad-created Taliban itself perpetrated the cold-blooded massacre of 132 children and others in an Army Public School. The message is loud and clear: the militant Islamist threat has over the years become too dangerous for Pakistan to be overlooked; if the threat is not addressed immediately, the doom of its composite culture may not be far away.
It is assuring that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif have both grasped the gravity of this message. The country  has suffered a lot on account of terrorism. According to an estimate, in the last 14 years Pakistan has lost over 50,000 lives on this account. Determined to save Pakistan’s civilians and their culture, and to foster an atmosphere of peace and development, Islamabad has taken some bold measures to give exemplary punishment to those found have been associated with the Peshawar massacre.
According to reports, Islamabad has intensified its offensives against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan which has claimed responsibility for the Peshawar massacre. By now Pakistan’s security forces in Pakistan have killed Taliban commander Saddam who allegedly facilitated the attack on a Peshawar school. They have arrested six of Saddam's accomplices. They have also killed some alleged militants in North Waziristan, on the border to Afghanistan. Besides, Islamabad has announced its plans to execute over 500 convicted extremists after a moratorium on capital punishment has been lifted in the wake of the Peshawar massacre.
Islamabad would, however, do well to bear in mind that action against a select group of militant Islamists--- the Haqqani Network and safe havens of al-Qaida and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan-- alone, would do little. Action is needed also against the Punjab-centric terror groups such as the Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) aka Jamaat-ul-Dawa (JuD), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and others. Unfortunately, LeT chief and 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed and his deputy Hafiz Abdur Rehman Makki still continue to roam freely in Pakistan. 26/11 planner Zaki-ur Lakhvi, is enjoying the VIP treatment in a Pakistani prison. The  Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian outfit to target Pakistani Shias, remains untouched. Recently, Islamabad released LeJ head Malik Ishaq.  
The fanatic ideology of violence preached by Islamists like  Mullah Omar and Hafiz Saeed or groups like Wahabism ---the Deoband seminary, Tablighi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith and the Jamaat-e-Islami –- is the root cause of terrorism in the region. This ideology in modern times is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood based in the Middle East. The situations demands that Islamabad fight this entire ideology of hatred and violence in all its forms and dimensions spread across Pakistan (and the world).
Islamabad may consider the path of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. President Sisi is tough with all terrorists indulging in violence in Egypt. He has banned the Brotherhood which happens to be the ideological source of almost all Sunni terror groups in the Middle East having linkages the world over.
If Islamabad is really serious about curbing Islamist terrorism today, it must take on all militant Islamist groups and not the Afghan Taliban alone. The Peshawar massacre has already offered yet further evidence that the latter ( officially, anti-India Islamists) is equally opposed to the core values of Pakistan, and the entire civilized world community, too. 
One would also suggest that in addition to the military measures being applied, the rulers must be active on the social front. The masses in Pakistan have had a strong syncretistic tradition derived from the curious amalgamation of the region’s various religions. This social base could be highly useful to the current rulers in the region in their mission against those who put forward a distorted version of the originally humanity-centred Islam and who incite terrorism against innocents.
Once the undivided India’s King Akbar the Great, born in today’s Pakistan, used this social base to have the then-Islamists vanquished. The current leadership in Islamabad could do the same. It must take on all elements, such as Lal Masjid chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. This mullah controls this historic place of worship and the two religious seminaries -- one for boys and the other for girls -- attached to the mosque. His character can be derived from the fact that he has evaded condemnation of the killers of Peshawar’s innocent souls.  He preaches nothing but the doctrine of hatred and violence against humanity. His library in the seminaries is named after the notorious al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden!
Needless to say, the Pakistan Army will have to play a major role in Pakistan's current action against terror. Those who are knowledgeable about the state of affairs in Islamabad would agree that little can be expected from the civilian leadership in the country. LeT and LeJ have been patronized by many of the Pakistani politicians; the politicians are dependent upon their support in their power game.  
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.


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