December Issue 2015
The Barbarians are here
Bureaucrats are generally perceived as dim-witted people, devoid of a sense of honour. But this is just a myth. In the 1980s’ British comedy, Yes Minister, a well-meaning politician was constantly thwarted by his permanent secretary, Sir Humphrey, who would use every trick in the book to thwart the minister. In one episode, Humphrey defends awards and honours for bureaucrats as a matter of right. One of the reasons he gives is that the best comedy writers get Oscar awards but the efforts of script writers for unofficial comedians — meaning ministers — go unacknowledged.
A recent statement by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry showed him to be the funniest comedy writer around. He proclaimed that the Islamic State, or Daesh, has no presence in Pakistan and that even if it was a threat we would be fully capable of fighting it. He appears to believe that the backbone of the terrorism scourge has been broken in the country.
But there were some questions he left unanswered. For example, if there is no Daesh in Pakistan then who is behind the pro-Daesh wall-chalkings in Karachi? Why are law enforcement agencies arresting people for recruiting potential Daesh members? And isn’t the Lal Masjid virtually calling itself the consulate of Daesh in the country?
A few months ago, the former prayer leader of the Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz, said that he considered Daesh chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, his khalifa. He requested Baghdadi to take revenge on behalf of the so-called Red Mosque martyrs. He went on to say that Daesh and his movement are two sides of the same coin because the goal for both is the same: the implementation of their interpretation of Shariat. Aziz has also urged the Pakistani Taliban to fight for al-Baghdadi.
Aziz announced that he would restart his movement for Shariat. He held a march in Islamabad, replete with arms and the notorious baton-wielding female students of the Jamia Hafsa, for his new drive. He demanded that all prisoners should be released and their cases re-tried in accordance with Shariat.
Only those living in a fools’ paradise can continue to believe that there is no Daesh in Pakistan, after Aziz’s show of defiance. Were our political leadership serious, it would take Aziz’s speeches as an act of inciting terror. But turning a blind eye to extremism is a habitual occupation of these politicians. When the Sunni Tehreek says the country will be bathed in blood if Mumtaz Qadri is hanged, there is no reaction.
The question to ask is, why is the government afraid of Aziz and his ilk. If the government believes the military stands behind Aziz, it should resign and denounce those who continue to patronise extremists. That will, at least, constitute a moral victory, which is preferable to governing the country with both hands tied behind your back.
The military is fighting against the terrorists bravely in North Waziristan, as well as other parts of Pakistan. Former ISPR head, Athar Abbas, and former army chief/president, Pervez Musharraf, have confessed that these terrorists are the same people who were the army’s strategic assets in the past. The time for rearing such assets is gone.
The wrath of Zarb-e-Azb must also fall on those who share the same political and social ideology as the TTP in the tribal areas. It is up to the civil government to deal with ‘soft-core’ terrorists while the military takes on the hard-core terrorists. Without this cure, even the best medicine will prove useless in overcoming the disease.
This article was originally published in Newsline’s December 2015 issue.
Mohammad Shehzad is an Islamabad-based journalist and researcher.