February issue 2002

By | Opinion | Editorial | Published 2 years ago

After taking a forced breather, the extremists are beginning to flex their muscles yet again and have thrown down the gauntlet to the Musharraf government.

The most stinging reply to the general’s January 12 speech came from Jaish activists, who are alleged to have master-minded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping that sent the entire administrative machinery into a tizzy.

The extremists couldn’t have timed it better. Musharraf was headed for Washington to meet with the US President and Daniel’s disappearence would, for obvious reasons, cause a major embarrassment.

President Musharraf’s intentions maybe strictly honourable but can the extremists be whisked or wished away with the force and fury of his words alone. Stories are legion of the close nexus between members of the establishment, intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials.

The extremists are striking wherever and whenever, without any compunction. In another daring attempt, they lobbed grenades at a Frontier Constabulary convoy in Peshawar injuring several, and threatened to repeated such acts. Meanwhile, in Karachi, the era of sectarian killings seems to have returned with the target-killing of six persons

Musharraf is up against a formidable enemy, an enemy that has permeated every tier of society, a scourge that has spread its tentacles in every corner of the country – and beyond.

When one of the mullahs detained in connection with the Pearl case boasts that he has links/touts within the law enforcement and intelligence personnel, who will stand by him come what may, he is not indulging in flights of fancy. In fact his reach extends to the US and the Caribbean. He is said to have several bank accounts, properties in Pakistan and abroad, and an army of supporters comprising black Americans – not to mention two American wives.

How did the maulana build such a huge network and fortune without vital connections in the right circles?

President Musharraf can renew his pledge to take the extremists to task every few months but unless he can identify the traitors to his cause within the establishment, his mission will be doomed.

With whose connivance was one of the most wanted terrorists, accused of hundreds of sectarian killings, allowed to get away from prison and take refuge in Afghanistan? Who allowed the mullahs to intimidate and terrorise judges hearing blasphemy cases and target those judges who gave judgements in favour of the accused? Why were extremist religious parties allowed to hold street demonstrations in the initial days of the US strikes against Afghanistan and civil society restricted to specific areas?

Far from taking any action, the government has been brazenly protective of the religious groups. True, the Musharraf government has a lot on its plate, but this is one problem that has to be dealt with all the urgency and all the force at the government’s command. Pussy-footing and back-tracking will not work. For far too long, Pakistan’s soil has been used for fighting proxy wars and pursuing sinister agendas.

The battle-lines seem to have been drawn. A deadly war looms ahead, but it is a war for Pakistan’s survival as a progressive and civilised state in the comity of nations. And it has to be won.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.