Reeling under TTP terrorist attacks, infuriated by drones and unsure of their resolve, parliament passed a resolution last year calling for talks with the Taliban. The Americans had enraged them by making them feel their impotence. And the new government was not willing to do anything to bite the hand that was feeding it.
Calling for dialogue is all very well but democracy and development, the other two Ds, were far from the minds of the TTP. Their agenda comprised two Ss, namely ‘Sharia’ and ‘scrapping’ — the latter referring to our system of government, including recourse to elections. For the Taliban it is the caliphate or the imamate, perhaps a ‘mullah-ate’, and nothing else.
Last month, when the Deobandi groups met in Lahore, their animus towards America and the government — branded as the former’s client — was so great that they refused to condemn the use of suicide bombers or disassociate themselves from the Taliban. For them, nothing that the TTP does can be as bad as what the Americans are doing. In that narrow sense the Deobandis and parliament were, momentarily at least, in accord.
The TTP must have felt cheered, not being disowned by the Deobandis was a victory of sorts; and by making the state appear timorous and pliable, parliament gave their recruitment campaign a fillip. Perhaps a stronger endorsement of the TTP would have been forthcoming had not calmer heads prevailed. Or perhaps it was the likelihood that open support for a terrorist organisation could have led to international sanctions or worse.
Whatever the reason, it is sad that a respectable religious order famed for its authoritative pronouncements on the Sharia should appear sympathetic to terrorists who are about to be declared outlaws. Noticeably, few in the media commented on the dangerous signals emanating from these confabulations. Astonishingly, what was demeaning to the intellect and to progressive Islam, which we espouse, raised no hackles. We appear inured to shame.
Abroad there was not much comment. There is reason to believe that chunks of the Gulf Arab population quietly share the Deobandi view. What they cannot achieve at home they wish for Pakistan. We appear to be their Petri dish for experiments in Islamic social and political engineering. Why else would they be remitting $300 million or so annually to help the Taliban? Or is it because a ‘mullah-ate’ in Pakistan would stall their journey towards democracy – “the western curse”, as an Arab ambassador once blurted out – and ensure that their meek and politically emasculated populace will remain forever at heel?
“No”, some respond, “it is because they want the corrupt Pakistani establishment removed and because you are in thrall of the Americans”. In which case one could ask why Arab contributors are not being directed to opponents of their own pseudo-religious-dictatorial establishments on which the Americans have a grip far stronger than on ours.
Riches have much to do with the tranquillity in the Gulf, and poverty for the instability in Pakistan. The monumental gap between promise and performance that our rulers have created cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, it is the incessant ideological propaganda, accompanied by irresistible amounts of lucre fed clandestinely to fiery local bigots by our Gulf Arab brethren, which is most responsible for feeding the extremist frenzy.
True, we cannot afford to wallow in self pity. But that is not to say that a relationship formed to wage a jihad against the Soviets has now not only ripened but has begun to rot and, before it turns rancid, must be abandoned.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 19th, 2010.