Polarization and the Menace of Extremism   

Iftikhar Ali  

The takeover by General Zia and subsequent judicial murder of ZA Bhutto was a melanoma of the polity and social fabric that not only gave birth to an intense radicalization but also promoted the far right religio-politics in Pakistan.  Coupled with Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Iranian Revolution as well as Zia’s unabashedly support for the American sponsored Jihad against the godless communism in Afghanistan played deeper into current anxieties and meteorically transformed a Progressive Pakistan into a radical one. To win international acceptance and domestic legitimacy for his dictorial regime, Zia strengthened Islamization of the society with the introduction of radical laws with enactment of Sharia Laws, Hudood Ordinance, Zakat-o-Ushr and Majlis-e-Shora.  Establishment of nurseries with Saudi literature, teachings of ‘A’ for Allah, ‘B’ for Bomb and ‘I’ for Infidel with hands-on trainings of arms and ammunitions, influx of Afghan refugees with drugs and smuggling changed the demographic structure of our society.

Progressive voices were slowly stifled giving pellucid rise to the far-right politics with a fecund breed of Lashkars and Sipahs. The tyrant who taught ‘B’ for Bomb tasted the first fruit of its kind and went off over the skies of Bahawalpur in 1989 but his acolytes graduated with the establishment of Taliban in Afghanistan by 1994. Even though sectarian divide and suppressions had caused some great injuries to the social fabric, both political leaderships and establishment continued their support to the birdbrained religio-sectarian outfits meant to advance Pakistan’s so-called strategic interests started challenging the interests of the state.

Similarly, the deteriorated civil-military relations, military interference in the politics and political inability to handle their affairs extended the institutional decay giving further space to the Rightists to be triumphant over the Leftists. Repeated overthrow of elected governments and engineered alliances and elections not allowed a leadership to grow at national level which maintained the polarization of the society intact. MQM, IJI, MMA, and many other leagues were established to restrict the popular leadership which culminated into a weak civilian authority over the state organs.

With the new millennium, history repeated itself with a Martial Law overthrowing a popular civilian government in 1999 by General Musharaf and just two years later the catastrophic event of 9/11 paved way for American re-entry into Afghanistan. This time the Musharaf regime in Pakistan became the front state ally of the US folly giving an escalation to already triggered militancy with new dimensions of terrorism. The so-called strategic assets and graduates of A for Allah & B for Bomb turned over a new leaf with the establishment of Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) across the unchecked Durand Line creating instability over all provinces of Pakistan. Drone strikes, suicide blasts, IED explosions, indiscriminate killings of civilian, political, military personnel as well as women and children on regular basis and the false claims of breaking the neck of terrorism after every explosion was presenting a devastating image. Over sixty thousand civilians and ten thousand military deaths in terrorism which is an all-time high figure, Pakistan has not lost as many officers and Jawans in 1965, 1971 and 1999 which it has lost during the ongoing menace of terrorism. The first female elected Prime Minister of the Muslim world Muhtrama Benazir Bhutto, a symbol of federation, was also martyred by these extremist elements.

The enactment of National Counter Terrorism Act 2013, and establishment of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) an independent body directly answerable to the Prime Minister of Pakistan responsible for collection and dissemination of intelligence information to relevant stakeholders for threat assessment with coordination and formulation of counter-terrorism strategies supported with military operations like Zarb-e-Azb could not entangle the militancy due to civil military broils. Despite the introduction of National Action Plan in 2015, and 21st Constitutional Amendment providing a legal cover to the NAP, the Comprehensive Response Plan and Composite Deterrence Plan envision therein have not yet produced the desired results. Peshawar and Quetta are once again being targeted on regular basis and Pakistan Army and Police have lost some senior officers including SP Investigation Muhammad Ilyas, DIG KPK Ashraf Noor and Major Ishaq along with many civilian casualties in the recent month. This continued bleeding daily sermon us to fight the Frankenstein of the creation by hunting the demon that haunts us.

While approaching towards elections in 2018 with all-time weak civil-military relations, politicization of state’s organs, polarized media and rambling civil society represents an unprecedented devastating image of the country. Regular brawling and blame game over media talk-shows for and against of civilian and military leadership’s roles with politicization of judicial decisions, political and religious sit-ins, resignations, indictments, formation of alliances by religious parties, some political leaders’ support to religious outfits to gain their support for upcoming elections all shows a picture of polarized Pakistan with no national consensus to fight the menace of terrorism and extremism. The enemies within and outside the state are targeting our children, our schools, our universities, our officers, our politicians and all segments of our society but still we are determined and persistent with the good, the bad and the ugly notions. With the sacrifices of LEAs in hunting terrorists across the country, the nurseries of terrorist propagation and their likeminded appearing in the national media are intact all over the country, disrespect and hate speech of opponent sects and political leadership through audios, videos and text over media with an unhindered flow is becoming a norm.

We must acknowledge that the flawed policies in past resulted into a devastating present and current follies will culminate into an even more devastating future. Being an atomic power with an age of seven decades, it is time to focus on creating an effective deterrence strategy against terrorist manipulating and targeting our existence. The concept of national security requires to woven all segments of society together to make a comprehensive effort for the elimination of radicalization, extremism and ultimately terrorism. A strong civilian government in the center and provinces with liberal political thought and unified national media is required for the military to truly win the war against terror and shun the polarization of the society.

The writer is Assistant Professor in Karakoram International University Gilgit. Email: Iftikhar.ir@kiu.edu.pk 

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