July Issue 2007

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 13 years ago

One by one, the chickens are coming home to roost. The strident manner in which private armies of militants have targeted the police, the rangers and, increasingly the army, throughout June and July, and met with spectacular successes in terms of death tolls, is indicative of their growing strength and the abysmal failure of the government to stop them in their tracks.

While members of civil society, NGOs and the media continued to draw the government’s attention to the proliferation of militant outfits and their brazen acts of violence, Musharraf’s government looked the other way, and intelligence agencies were constantly accused of aiding and abetting them and playing a double game.

Jamia Hafsa is simply one instance of the unbridled powers and influence madrassahs have continued to wield under the ostensible patronage of intelligence agencies and those in positions of power, notable among them being the religious affairs minister, Mr Ejaz-ul-Haq.

Why Haq even described Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his brother as being “moderate” men.

Ironic that the men who instigated the burning of video shops and the environment ministry’s premises, allowed students to intimidate women drivers and apprehend women, including several Chinese employees from a massage parlour-cum-acupuncture clinic, on charges of prostitution and ordered the kidnapping of policemen and seizure of their weapons, should be viewed as “moderate.”

But then like his father, the late General Zia-ul-Haq, “patron saint” of the jihadis, Haq was known to be an avowed supporter of the two brothers until very recently and had bailed them out of tricky situations on several occasions. Given the nexus between them, one expected Haq to play the role of a trouble-shooter, but he failed miserably in his mission — as did the other friend of the mullah brigade, PML(Q)’s Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

According to a report of the education ministry, ostensibly Haq and Shujaat have been the main stumbling blocks in the implementation of the madrassah reforms aimed at mainstreaming seminaries by introducing formal subjects in their syllabus.

Incidentally, the ringleaders of the militants have mostly studied at seminaries that have continued to spout vitriol and violence, encouraged civil disobedience and handed out Kalashnikovs to 10- and 12-year-olds.

The manner in which the students holed up in Lal Masjid stood up to the combined might of the police, the rangers and the commandos is ample proof of their training and the stockpile of weapons at their disposal. Who allowed them to amass so much firepower in the country’s capital?

If the estimated 1.5 million students registered in the 13,000 seminaries throughout the country are similarly armed and trained, they could hold the entire country hostage in pursuit of their goal.

Does the government have any strategy to deal with this worse-case scenario?

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