First we had Lucky Irani Circus; now we have Difa-e Pakistan Council. Except that Lucky Irani Circus was genuine while this DPC, well, you get my drift.
Look at the cast of characters. Apparently, there are 40 parties, from the right to the far right, reminding one of the story of Ali Baba. The main ones are Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Jamaatud Dawa, Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, formerly the democracy-loving Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (Sami), the one-man Awami Muslim League, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan, and veteran democrats, Ijazul Haq and Lt-Gen Hameed Napoleon Gul, retired but not fading.
So what does the DPC want? The ostensible reason for coming together is to defend Pakistan. And pray, against whom? The United States and India. That’s exactly what I also want to do. But in my case there’s a slight catch. While I’d like Pakistan to have viable interstate relations with all states in the world, in and outside the region, and to establish those relations on the basis of Pakistan’s interests defined and deliberated, I am not sure if this Council is the right platform for achieving that end. Consider.
The ASWJ, formerly SSP, is an avowedly sectarian party. From its womb was born the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a terrorist organisation that makes no bones about killing the Shia Muslims. The LJ is listed by security forces and intelligence agencies as affiliated with the hard-line, takfeeri al Qaeda group. It has attacked and killed hundreds of security personnel as well as civilians. Perhaps it would join the DPC as the 41st component since it has a certain view on ‘defending’ Pakistan.
Then we have the JIP. The JIP considers Osama bin Laden a martyr. Its leaders like Sirajul Haq and Haroon Rashid, on the testimony of army and FC high officials, are linked with the Taliban attacking Pakistani troops. One can go back and see records of what then IG-FC, now Lt-Gen Tariq Khan, told the media on a sunny day at Abbas Markaz in Bajaur. There are several other such statements. In my multiple visits to different agencies in FATA, I came across and spoke with a number of officers who told me the same tale about many local, provincial and central leaders of the party and their affiliation with the Pakistani Taliban, a declared threat to Pakistan.
Take Sami-ul Haq. His seminaries were mass-producing the Taliban. The extremist Taliban ideology has become the bane of this country. Now he is trying to defend this country.
Ah! And then we have the JuD. While its leader Hafiz Saeed has been exonerated by the courts of all charges, let’s not kid ourselves about his contributions to this country. It is one thing to look at India in and through a realist framework, but quite another to have a group that could put Pakistan in deep trouble by waging a private war on India. As it is, five people of the JuD’s militant wing are being tried for possible involvement in the Mumbai attacks. He too is out to defend Pakistan.
And of course the benign, shrine-going, liminal Barelvis. My heart goes out to them for their mysticism which has begun to manifest itself through a full metal jacket round of 7.62 mm. Their favourites are the Ahmadiyya and their hero Mumtaz Qadri. They too are out to defend Pakistan.
There are sundry other characters in this sorry circus, their sipah salar, fateh Jalalabad, Napoleon Sani, General Gul. A man of many parts, he is distinguished by the fact that most of these parts are generally out of sync with each other.
This is a Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment for the entire nation and, yes, the military and its various intelligence agencies. Is this someone’s idea of signalling? If it is, he needs to get his head checked for serious dementia. Far from this Council defending Pakistan, Pakistan needs to be defended in right earnest from this cast of characters. Already, one JuD speaker at the Karachi rally has threatened the media. How about the agencies, who post comic-looking cloak-and-dagger characters at hotels and other places in Islamabad who accost perfectly decent citizens, pick up this guy and slap the incitement to murder charge against him?
I am told Pakistan is a democracy and one can’t stop people from gathering. The twin freedoms of association and expression! Indeed! Except that there are two problems with this argument. One, many of these leaders and their parties have been involved in activities that pose serious internal and external threats to this country; two, not one of them is prepared to give the freedom of expression and association to others. Hell, they don’t even spare those Islamic scholars who have greater exegetical skills than all of them put together but have no militias to command, Javed Ghamdi being a case in point. As I have noted earlier, they have killed and would kill without remorse and in the name of Islam, much like the autos de fa of medieval Europe when “heretics” were burnt at the stake ad majorem Dei gloriam.
Even by our standards this DPC is a bit of a joke. This is a crowd that needs to be defeated at the polls and this is also a crowd that needs to be dealt with through the power of the state wherever and whenever some of them are found involved in terrorist activities. We need a DPC to save Pakistan from this DPC, its lies and its agenda.
Rumours suggest that this crowd has been put up to this tamasha by a section of the establishment. I hope that is not true. I know many senior officers who have, on multiple occasions, spoken to me about the rising threat of extremism. The military has lost too many young officers and men. It would be a scandal most scandalous if this were true. But some of the characters in this fake DPC are known to be close to the establishment. What should one think of that.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2012.