Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on May 5, 2012. It was my first ever write-up to have been featured in any newspaper. I’m pleased to cross-post that article from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)
The syndrome of religious fanaticism, intolerance and so-called moral evangelism is eroding the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst we have been hijacked by the might of radicalism, as a nation we have refused to budge over the gravity of the situation using different covers to hide under, therefore turning a blind eye to the severity of the repercussions of such plausible deniability. It is a lack of veracity most of us suffer from; it is an incurable version of dementia and selective amnesia, and on top of that, we are consistently smothering our willpower to recover from such a horrible state of affairs. Without offering significant resistance, we are fast sliding into the depths of chauvinism, hatred and intolerance.
The seeds of militancy that were planted in the land of the pure in the name of jihad back in the 1980s are bearing their own ‘fruits’ on a full fledged scale now. It is indispensable to learn that terrorism in Pakistan did not emerge after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 attacks invigorated the terrorist groups in Pakistan, which at that time were exclusively engaged in persecuting Shias and other minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, apart from launching a hate campaign against the aforementioned communities as a germane mission. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the cancer of extremism and sympathy with the Taliban has penetrated so deep in our people that it requires a major surgery to stand any chance of recovering from the deteriorating condition that, if not controlled, may cause anarchy in the restive land. On top of all this, the undeniable presence of the militant mindset in the midst of the very security agencies intended to eradicate it is indeed terrifying.
One cannot repudiate sharing of inside intelligence information and some tactical assistance in the suicide attack on a Special Services Group mess in September 2007 to the unprecedented attack by militants on the Central Jail, Bannu to free their comrades a few days back. At least 20 commandos were killed and another 25 injured in a suicide blast at an army officers’ mess almost five years ago, whereas in what is being described as the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central jail in Bannu and freed 384 inmates. Heavily armed insurgents appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside. A militant commander who helped plan the assault on the Bannu jail said his group had inside information. “We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” said the commander, a senior member of the Taliban. Needless to say, the police arrived at the scene when the militants had escaped after completing their mission successfully.
The astonishing developments in the aforementioned brazen attacks signify to what extent the Taliban and their sympathisers have penetrated into our security agencies and the imminent threat that it poses for us. The murder of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer by one of his security guards, an elite force personnel, last year in January is yet another warning of the potential repercussions when those intended to extirpate terrorism or protect others from the wrath of the terrorists instead join hands with them.
It is acknowledged that since the 1980s, the extremist groups, conspicuously the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat (a Salafi/Wahabi militant group), backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, made a conscious effort to induce radical elements in the law enforcing agencies and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a significant degree. It is evident that the penetration by terrorists into our security and administrative infrastructure goes quite deep. The state of Pakistan needs to devise a plan to conduct a purge, single out these abominable elements and oust them from the heart of our law enforcing agencies and other institutions before they strike again sitting from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage. Such elements should be served with exemplary punishments so that the trend to help these militants in the name of Islam/Shariah can be prevented to good effect.
War against the enemy within is not going to be easy. It requires a strong intent and a firm belief that despite the horrendous state of affairs, we can still win this war. Unless we do not internalise that the major threat to the stability of Pakistan is from within, we would be helping the cause of anti-state elements inevitably. Forget about the rhetoric of blaming the RA&W, the CIA and other foreign agencies for the time being, and try to ponder where those with sympathies for the Taliban, and an eagerness to act on their behest, lurk. That said, I am not ruling out the involvement of some foreign forces to destabilise Pakistan. However, we have to realise that at the end of the day, it is a bunch of hardcore militants, belonging to different sects, inside Pakistan, combined for one common agenda, who are carrying out all these terrorist activities not only internally, but are involved in cross-border terrorism as well. Vehement finger pointing at others is always easy, but battling the enemy within is definitely not a walk in the park.