Terror cannot be used to impose Sharia law - Pakistan’s top scholars

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed Islamist movement “is involved in anti-state activities, is a rebel and it has nothing to do with jihad,” leading mufti says.

Pakistan's national flag flatters during a ceremony to celebrate Pakistan's 75th Independence Day, at the Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, Pakistan, August 14, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/AKHTAR SOOMRO)
Pakistan's national flag flatters during a ceremony to celebrate Pakistan's 75th Independence Day, at the Mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, Pakistan, August 14, 2022.

Pakistan‘s top Islamic scholars and clerics declared that the use of force to implement Sharia – Islamic law as derived from the Koran and the traditions of Islam, including armed confrontation against the state, sabotage and all forms of terrorism, are unequivocally forbidden according to Islamic teaching and are considered a rebellion or mutiny.

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The country‘s preeminent scholars also called for an effort “to devise a coordinated plan of action to crush armed groups and anti-state actors who are involved in such activitiesand want to impose their ideology through militancy.”

The clerics also emphasized the need to take concrete steps to eradicate the trend of terrorism and extremism and to stop anti-state activities in the name of what the armed groups call jihad, or a holy struggle.

Pakistani clerics hold council on countering violent extremism, radicalism and hate speech

The clerics came forward during a national conference on Countering Violent Extremism, Radicalism and Hate Speech organized by the Islamic Research Institute at the International Islamic University in Islamabad. Monday’s conference was held on the theme “Pledge of Unity and a Message of Pakistan.”

The Islamic Research Institute was established in 1960 and is a prominent research arm of the university. The main objectives of the institute are to develop a methodology for research in the various fields of Islamic learning; identify and study contemporary problems; and interpret the teachings of Islam to assist not only Pakistani society but the whole Muslim community to live according to the imperatives of Islam.

Supporters of the Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan during what they call 'a true freedom march' in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 26, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/AKHTAR SOOMRO)Supporters of the Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan during what they call 'a true freedom march' in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 26, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/AKHTAR SOOMRO)

Authoritative and learned Islamic scholars and clerics from all over the country participated in Monday’s conference.

Analyzing the current terrorism-related situation in the country, they emphasized the need for a national narrative to deal with such challenges.

Mufti: Armed activity against Pakistan forbidden by Islamic law

Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani is a Karachi-based prominent Islamic scholar. He has served as a judge on the Sharia appellate bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and is a permanent member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

In an address to the conference in Islamabad, Usmani issued a fatwa, or Islamic religious decree, that “any armed activity against the state of Pakistan is a rebellion and forbidden (haram) according to Islamic law.”

“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who is fighting against the Pakistan Army and is involved in anti-state activities, is a rebel and it has nothing to do with jihad,” he added.

Addressing TTP leadership, Usmani stressed: “It is better for you to come out of the delusion of jihad against Pakistan as soon as possible.”

Usmani also said that “fighting against national security agencies and carrying out anti-state activities falls under mutiny.”

The decree was unanimously adopted by the top scholars of all schools of Islamic thought who participated in the conference.

"This is a war of national survival and the entire nation affirms its full and unconditional support for the Pakistan Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies,” they declared.

There has not yet been a response from TTP.

Earlier this month, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, the commander of the banned TTP Pakistan, sought guidance from clerics on whether the TTP’s declared jihad is right or wrong.

In July 2022, a delegation of Pakistani religious scholars, headed by Usmani, visited Kabul for talks with the leadership of the TTP, which have a safe haven in Afghanistan.  

An Islamabad-based senior Intelligence official confirmed to The Media Line that, “the delegation visited on the initiative of the government of Pakistan, and the main purpose of the visit was to drive forward the cease-fire between Islamabad and the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

The delegation held talks with TTP commanders along with their chief, Mehsud.

“It was agreed during the talks that the security forces and civilians would not be targeted,” according to the official.

Last September, TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani claimed that “due to the non-release of prisoners, continued military operations and lack of communication from the government of Pakistan compelled us to end the cease-fire” with the Pakistan government.

Since the end of the cease-fire, there has been a spike in terror attacks in Pakistan. Dozens of security officials and civilians have been killed and injured so far.

TTP has carried scores of deadly suicide attacks inside Pakistan since the General Pervez Musharraf-led regime became a front-line ally in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, special envoy to the prime minister on Interfaith Harmony and the Middle East, told The Media Line that “based on self-made demands, nobody is allowed to deny Pakistan's Islamic status. Declaring state officials and security forces as non-Muslim is completely against Islamic laws.”

“Terror attacks against security forces and civilians are not permissible in any way in Sharia, nor can any kind of such violent and armed action within Pakistan be called a jihad,” he said.

Dr. Summer Iqbal Babar, a prominent conflict zone expert and an assistant professor at the School of Politics and International Relations of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad where he teaches modern strategy, peace and conflict resolution, told The Media Line that “this is a very welcome development and not only should it be appreciated, but should be encouraged, to curb this sort of militancy and terrorism in any form in any manner by anybody against the state.”

Babar further told The Media Line that “since 9/11 onward, if the government could be wise enough and be bringing those voices that are against such a sort of terrorism, it could have a better and effective impact.”

He also said that “TTP has been involved in the killing of innocent people in suicide attacks and all had been declared anti-Islam.”

Babar notes that it was very difficult for Muslims in Pakistan after 9/11 when the government “took a U-turn” against the Taliban with the US invasion. 

When the US withdrew from Afghanistan a decade later, the Taliban filled the void, “but it also caused the resurgence of other terrorist groups on the jihadist landscape,” Babar said. 

He adds that this phenomenon should be publicly acknowledged “so the people could know the real face of those terrorist organizations that are involved in unlawful activities under the self-claimed jihad ideology.” 

Zuma Gul, a Rawalpindi-based geostrategic analyst, told The Media Line that according to Article 2A and 227 of the Constitution of Pakistan “every Muslim citizen can demand the implementation of sharia laws from the state, whereas there is no scope for armed struggle in this regard.”

Gul, who is the daughter of General Hamid Gul, Pakistan‘s former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence who gained global fame during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and was the toughest critic of US policies in the region, explains that the TTP demand to implement Sharia gained impetus after the country unconditionally supported the US-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan, which TTP believed was un-Islamic. “So, in the support of its Muslim brethren, TTP tried to justify their fight against an oppressor under the garb of jihad. Now, after the US withdrawal, such acts are not acceptable against an Islamic country,” she said. 

“In response to the clerics’ decree against them, probably they (TTP) will bring some kind of another decree which will definitely justify their cause,” she said.

Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, told The Media Line that “the resurgence of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan has filled the masses in Pakistan with dread fearing the return to the bad old days when terrorism was surging in all corners of the country.”

“Previously the state was paralyzed and took a while to articulate a national consensus and joint political, military and theological strategy,” he explained. 

It was time for the religious leaders to step up, he says. 

“After more than a decade of experience and having won a hard-fought kinetic war by the Pakistan army, the job of the clerics and religious scholars is to remove any ambiguity about the nature of the TTP violence,” he said.

Alam also told The Media Line that “any act of violence against the state and innocent people shall not be tolerated from theologian perspectives to nip the problem in the bud regarding religious legitimacy of the TTP.”

Alam said that “TTP knows that, unlike the mid-to-late 2000s, Pakistan Armed Forces are ready and fully capable to eliminate them; common people are firmly against the TTP and now they will not get breathing space in the mosques and schools.”

He claimed that “Kabul’s relationship with General Headquarters and Islamabad will also be important in this regard. If the Taliban does not support or give space to the TTP, it will be impossible for the TTP to mount any meaningful terrorism in Pakistan.”

Dr. Azeem Khalid, an assistant professor of International Relations at the COMSATS University Islamabad, told The Media Line that “Tehreek e Taliban's militancy against the state has changed the scenario, and now the majority sees the Taliban as terror-spreading warmongers.”

He says that the current rise of the TTP led to a clear message this week from Islamic scholars.  

“The statement is significant because it will create a conflicting impression among the public and the TTP. In light of Islamic laws, the public should know the reality of TTP ideology. However, it would be a mere fantasy to hope that the TTP would stop its terrorist activities after such a joint statement.”

“If Kabul really wants to help Islamabad in taming TTP, then there can be a pledge of peace in Pakistan, but unfortunately this seems far-fetched in the current cold tension between the neighboring states,” Khalid concluded.