Sunday’s attack at Wagah border killed over 50 people and injured hundreds. It was the worst attack since months in Pakistan, and serves as a terrible warning of the direction the country is headed if the existing national security strategy is not radically changed.
In Pakistan, religion is supreme. Which is why one would be forgiven for taking the mistaken impression that the Ulema, or religious clerics, would have great influence on society. Actually, they are almost completely irrelevant, and their irrelevance is a result of their own words.
Pakistan Ulema Council issued a condemnation of IS militants on Friday as reports of infiltration by the jihadi terrorist group across the country. This condemnation of IS militants by the respected clerics is welcomed, but the qualified statement highlights dangerous double standards toward extremism and militancy that must be addressed.
The PUC statement only addresses one group (IS) and includes the following qualification:
“The PUC appeals to people and youth in Islamic countries to not cooperate with any violent group whose teachings or actions are against the teachings of Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).”
The problem with this statement is that it gives a free pass to violent groups who do believe their teachings and actions are in line with Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). In other words...all of them.
Freeing Pakistan of the scourge of extremist violence requires a comprehensive, unqualified condemnation of militancy. No exceptions. Until then, qualified condemnations will not only be fruitless, they will continue to provide an ideological justification for terrorists of all stripes.
The news that TTP have declared allegiance to ISIS is not surprising. Taliban commanders have mentioned working with ISIS since several months. This is a bad sign for Pakistan when we have already spent $2 billion on Zarb-e-Azb operations that show no signs of progress. But actually, this is not the worst news for Pakistan, even if it is the most sensational. Jihadi extremists working with jihadi extremists is to be expected. What should worry us most is not the state of militants, but the state of our own civil society, which appears to be descending into a state of rot.