Facebook Bans and Jihadi Sympathy

I have great respect for Dr Manzur Ejaz, but his column in Daily Times today made me very frustrated because I think his wrath is quite misplaced. Writing about the Facebook ban, which this blog has been very openly critical of, Dr Manzur says that this is the fault of the present government trying to appease jihadis. Actually, I think that this is incorrect. Please let me explain.

Dr Manzur makes some points that are true, but he uses too broad a brush to paint his conclusion For example, he wrote that Pakistan’s problem with jihadis is largely a result of state involvment.

The Pakistani distinction of producing a bulk of jihadis and demonstrations against lunatic individuals in foreign countries are linked. Both are, directly or indirectly, supported by the state in the form of sponsoring private militias and allowing thousands of religious nurseries to be built from where jihadis and rebel rousers originate. In the case in hand, pro-jihadis are fighting a proxy war for the Taliban and other kinds of religious extremism because the state has been forced to take coercive action against the ones who were threatening its writ.

This is true, of course – but it is important to separate historical governments of Zia and Musharraf from the present government. So when he says, “The present government does not seem to be interested in cleaning up the mess that has pushed Pakistan to the edge.” I must disagree.

It must be pointed out that the key incident here – the banning of Facebook – was a decision of LHC, not the President or Parliamant. There are several criticisms of the present government that could be fairly made – just as with any government. But with the present government, not being interested in cleaning up the mess of jihadi networks is simply incorrect. The present government and the military have taken dramatic actions against these networks and are actually criticized very strongly for it from Taliban sympathizers.

This is not to say that there are not some elements in society including some government jobs like intelligence that do still hold some of the old attitudes about using jihadi groups as pawns. Here again Dr Manzur and I agree

A recent controversial audiotape of a leading media personality, Hamid Mir, with a Taliban representative should not be surprising for anyone. It should be investigated whether the voice of Hamid Mir is authentic or not before accusing him. However, the son of Khalid Khawaja — murdered by a Taliban group called the Asian Tigers — has claimed that Hamid Mir’s write-up in the newspaper he writes for contains similar information to the audiotape. Nonetheless, at best, this can be taken as circumstantial evidence and the matter should be investigated by competent state authorities. As a matter of fact, media bodies should investigate this case and try to cleanse all those elements that are playing games with the intelligence agencies and extremist anti-state entities.

Government does need to investigate and clean out those elements that are still playing games with these jihadi networks or especially if they have some sympathies for them.

But let us give credit where it is due. There has been a noticeable change of focus by the present government. Some might say that it is only because its hand is forced by the reality on the ground where jihadis are attacking us, but this does not make it any less so. Also, I think this ignores the other reality which was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto which has proven that these jihadi games are a deadly road for Pakistan.

If we are to overcome this present crisis, we must root out the jihadi networks. We must make sure the government, military, and intelligence are not infiltrated by terrorists. Only the government can make this happen. We should continue to pressure the government, yes, but we should also give credit for their progress.



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