Earlier this year, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar warned that “no Non-Government Organisation (NGO) working against the country’s national interest will be allowed to continue its work in Pakistan”. According to the Minister, “government cannot compromise on national interest”. This sounds very good, but it is interesting to note certain NGOs that have been allowed to continue working and ask what does this mean about how we define “national interest”. This is of particular interest when we observe how Jamaat-ud-Dawa is not only allowed to operate, but works hand in hand with Army.
Government gave what has to be one of the weakest excuses for not going after a jihadi group today. According to Minister for States and Frontier Region retired Gen Abdul Qadir, Jamaat-ud-Dawa will not be proscribed even though it has been termed a terrorist group by the United Nations because the UN did not share any evidence against with Pakistan. This is the same excuse that was given by government when the world said that Osama bin Laden was believed to be living in Pakistan. It’s the same excuse that government gave when Iran complained of militants carrying out cross-border attacks. Each time someone points to jihadis the government says, “show us the evidence!” And each time we end up eating our words. Osama bin Laden is discovered in Abbottabad. Jihadis kill Iranian soldiers. And Jamaat-ud-Dawa holds public rallies to recruit fighters and raise money for weapons for jihad. Hafiz Saed openly tells that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is carrying out jihad in Kashmir, something he says is the official policy of Pakistan government. He has also declared jihad against Israel, and his group has openly set up camps in Gaza. But still we keep saying “show us the evidence” as if we are deaf, dumb, and blind.
We know what Jamaat-ud-Dawa is, and yet we continue pretending that we don’t. So the question remains unanswered whether our inaction against jihadis is due to our being unable or unwilling. With Osama bin Laden, we have decided on incompetence as our excuse. Will we do the same with Hafiz Saeed? Or should we just be honest and admit that we support his jihad? After all, we’re already funding it.
Nawaz Sharif has lifted the ban on death penalty, and Gen Raheel has signed the death warrants for six convicted terrorists. The reaction has been fairly predictable, with right-wing hypernationalists beating their drum to hang someone, anyone, in the streets and left-wing human rights activists worrying about whether death penalty makes us no better than the killers we are killing. I have a different opinion than either of these. I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether a terrorist loses his life. Hang him if it makes you feel better. Hang him from a lamp post if something about that makes you feel more like a man. But don’t expect me to be there cheering it on, either, because it won’t matter. It won’t make one bit of difference.
Four years ago, historic floods devastated Pakistan. The government immediately launched an effort to raise money to provide relief for affectees, with President Zardari stepping up and donating over Rs.300 millions of his own money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The government admitted being overwhelmed by the unprecedented natural disaster, but efforts to help those suffering the most were hindered when ambitious politicians chose to use the event for their own personal agendas. Imran Khan led the pack in this move, telling the international community that Pakistan’s government was too corrupt and that they should donate their money to his own personal foundation. In doing so, the PTI chief was able to build his own personal stature, but at the cost of undermining the state itself.
Imran Khan wasn’t the only one who took this cynical attitude towards suffering, however. Also there was jihadi leader Hafiz Saeed who used his newly formed front group “Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation” to distribute relief goods. Like PTI, Hafiz Saeed uses “humanitarian relief” work as a cover for promoting extremism.
In Pakistan, Jamaat ud-Dawa and the FIF continue to operate quite openly and Hafiz Khalid Waleed said the group was using its flood relief camps to preach its version of Islam.
“We think that a Muslim has to live according to his religion in order to become a good human being. Thank God, we do preach to them, and it has its effects, and they are converted. To us, this is social work, too.”
Today, PTI and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are working hand in hand in Sindh, where Imran Khan is desperate to get a political foothold. By providing humanitarian relief, PTI and JUD are able to win the “hearts and minds” of the people there, turning them against their own government and making them more sympathetic to the PTI’s and JUD’s agendas.
This may be a cynical political ploy by PTI and JUD, but the real responsibility comes back to the state. If the state was providing adequate relief to affected people, there would not be a ‘vacuum’ for other groups to step into and take over the role of the state. By failing to provide for the people, the state is undermining its own legitimacy and fueling its own demise.
Four people were killed in a Jewish synagogue in a terrorist attack carried out by militants from Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Israel has threatened to respond ‘with a heavy hand’ in order to prevent copycat attacks. This tit-for-tat strategy is more likely to result in new attacks, though, not prevent them, so the real question is not ‘if’ there will be more attacks but ‘when’. Of greater concern for us, though, should be whether the next attack will have a Pakistan connection.