In the wake of its long march from Lahore to Islamabad, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) decided to repeat the trick, this time going from Quetta to Chaman to protest the reopening of supply routes. Even the leaders of the DPC must know that their protests alone will have little to no effect on the government’s decision to reopen supply routes but they must also be aware that these shows of strength are valuable in their own right. Through sheer force of numbers, the DPC, which is made up of groups that could not muster huge crowds individually, has now made itself an entity that needs to be taken seriously.
Of course, part of the reason the DPC has now become such a vital force is that it is being coddled, appeased and even supported by mainstream political parties. It comes as no surprise that religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam – Fazlur Rehman have extended their best wishes to this coalition of extremist groups. What is more disappointing is that even the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has shown a willingness to support the DPC, despite the presence of militant groups such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa in leadership positions. The PTI has always insisted that its opposition to the US was principled in nature and did not imply support for militant groups. However, that claim will ring hollow so long as its representatives continue to attend DPC rallies.
The turnout at its rallies and the complete absence of action from the authorities against this coalition of militant groups would suggest that the DPC is being kept as a bargaining chip by the military establishment. Making demands of the US is a lot easier when the military can point to the supposed popularity of this anti-American force. However, the military should also be aware that such phenomena have the tendency to slip away from their masters as is evident with our jihadi non-state actors. The army thought the mujahideen of the 1980s and then the Taliban which took over in Afghanistan in the 1990s were under their control. Now, the military is being attacked by its former protégés.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.
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