Narratives and Counter Narratives: Who Are We Supposed To Believe?

President Mamnoon Hussain has joined the call for a counter narrative against extremism and terrorism. This statement puts the President on same footing as ex-COAS Gen Raheel Sharif who gave a similar recommendation at World Economic Forum in January. With such luminaries making the case for a counter narrative against extremism and terrorism, one would be sure that the state had finally reached a unified approach to combating the threat of militancy. Despite these lofty remarks, however, the message reaching the people remains divided.

Lt Gen Muhammad Asad Durrani

Ex-DG ISI says terrorism justified

President and ex-COAS have called for counter narrative against terrorism, but former DG ISI Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani has a new piece in Dawn justifying terrorism as a ‘technique of war‘, and possibly just ‘part of human nature’.

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

Ex-COAS says Taliban ideology is equal to Islam

Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani’s pro-terrorism stance was quickly supported by no less than  ex-Chief of Army Staff Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg who wrote in The Nation that Pakistan’s national security was threatened by anyone who criticises Jamaatud Dawah and Taliban, both of which are black listed in the world as terrorist groups. In case there was any doubt, Gen Beg explained that Taliban can never be defeated because of their ideology which he says is equal to Islam.

Official press releases declare that whole nation is unified against terrorism and extremism, but the reality is not clear. We have always been taught to trust our Generals as beyond doubt. Now they are telling us that we should be for terrorism and that Taliban ideology is Islam. Others are telling us that terrorism is never justified and Taliban ideology is not Islam. Meanwhile whole nation is divided and confused who to believe? Pakistan will continue to suffer.

The existential threat is not terrorism

Lal Shahbaz

I had planned to write a short piece about this week’s suicide attack, but then there was another one. And another one. And then there was another one. The big one. Lal Shahbaz shrine attacked and close to 100 innocents killed, with hundreds more wounded.

This wasn’t supposed to be possible. Gen Raheel had broken the back of terrorists. Gen Bajwa reassured us, terrorism had successfully been defeated. The war was over. We won. Yes, there were still some acts of violence, but these were acts of sabotage by foreign agencies who wanted to derail CPEC. Or PSL.

A foreign conspiracy could be found for every attack, and we were told that if it wasn’t for world powers fear of our coming rise to super power status, this would be a land of peace and prosperity. But what economic route runs through Lal Shahbaz? What cricket tournament was being hosted there? What sensitive installations were hidden underneath? The only thing there was a crowd of common Pakistanis looking for peace.

Lal Shahbaz blast was a wake up call. The state swiftly responded with promises of ‘no more restraint for anyone’. The nation was now in a state of ‘all out war.’ The words were right, but they were met with confusion. What does this mean ‘no restraint against anyone’? Wasn’t that the National Action Plan that is now two years old? What does this mean ‘all out war’? Wasn’t that Zarb-e-Azb launched three years ago? If now we are done showing restraint, does that mean we have been lied to since before?

What came next left even more questions. Under what authority does GHQ summon foreign diplomats? Is the state really so gullible to allow militants to enter Pakistan if they ‘disavow terrorism‘? Why are we sealing Torkham border when the militants are coming from places like Multan? The state’s response to this week’s terror operations has been to repeat the same old script. Terrorists are foreign agents. We will not rest until they are stopped. Problem is, we have heard it all before. What is new this time?

Many so-called ‘liberal’ writers and bloggers have been criticised for not supporting Army’s efforts against terrorism since the past few years. But is reality ‘liberal’ or is it just reality? On this blog we have warned that terrorism was flourishing despite Zarb-e-Azb. We noted that despite all claims that terrorists werer foreigners, it was always Pakistanis being arrested. We warned that double-standards for different militants was a dangerous policy that would undermine our security. Every time, we are accused of being ‘anti-Army’. But everything we reported was just reality. It wasn’t anti-Army, even if it was critical of national security strategy. If national security strategy is in conflict with reality, isn’t it actually pro-Army to let them know?

Some in our agencies have tried to bend reality to match their national security strategy. It is a complete and total failure, and the damning evidence are the innocent lives lost in this week’s terrorist attacks. Terrorism is not the existential threat to Pakistan. The existential threat to Pakistan is the desire to bend reality to match our national security strategy instead of adapting our strategy to match reality. If we cannot do that, I’m afraid there is not much hope for us.

March From Pakistan to Al-Bakistan

jamaat women

Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, once said, “Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.”

Mohtarma, being a part of that environment, was well aware of it, where religious extremism was feeding under the shadows of Zia’s dregs. Radicalization is the main factor of extremism and extremism leads to terrorism, which according to statistics has caused 130,000 fatalities worldwide, between 2006 and 2013.

In Pakistan, around 60,779 people have lost their lives between 2003 and 2016 due to terrorism, and Pakistan stands at 4th out of 124 countries in a Terrorism Index, according to 2015 reports. Poverty and low standard of living are the main reasons for extremism. The majority of Pakistanis have middle class and lower middle class living standards, which has caused hopelessness and desperation. The quality-of-life index clearly shows the position of Pakistan; it stands at 93 out of 111 countries.

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It is time that everyone stop trying to die for Islam and start trying to live for it

Saudi Bomb Attack

When Saudi Arabia confirmed identity of Jeddah suicide bomber as Pakistani Abdullah Qalzar Khan, it felt like a kick to the stomach. Then it got worse. 12 of 19 arrested for three bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia were Pakistani. There has been no clear explanation for the terrorists motivations, but that is not the point. There can be no justification for terrorism. I only mention this because it is another example of our countrymen who have been “willing to die” for their cause. We can accept that these man were misguided and unjustified and whatever they believed, they have actually done more to harm Islam than to defend it.

These reports were followed by another news report quoting PML leaders saying that ‘Pakistanis are ready to lay down their lives for Harmain Shareefain security’. While we don’t know their exact thinking, it is easy to assume that Abdullah Qalzar Khan and the others who carried out bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia probably believed they were laying down their lives to defend Islam. Now we are told all Pakistanis are ready to lay down their lives to defend Islam from those who are ready to lay down their lives for what they believe is defending Islam. Maybe it is time that everyone stop trying to die for Islam and start trying to live for it.

Abdul Sattar Edhi has done more for Islam in this world than any jihadi, and he has done it not by killing or dying but by living and helping to live. Edhi sahib has given the greatest sacrifice of his life, not by losing it but by giving it to others. There is a famous story of a man asking if his ambulance service is Islamic why his ambulance picks up non-Muslims. Edhi sahib replied perfectly, ‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you’. If we want to honour Islam, we need to be as Muslim as Edhi’s ambulance, not Kalashnikov’s rifle.

State Still Protecting ‘Good’ Taliban? Did They Ever Stop…

Sartaj Aziz recent statements warning about ‘blowback‘ if the state tries to tackle militancy in Pakistan gave an uncomfortable feeling of ‘deja vu’. Analysts have responded asking whether this is a return to the old policy of fighting ‘bad’ Taliban while protecting ‘good’ Taliban. Is there really any question about this?

Here is ‘Good Taliban’ after recent militant attack in Kashmir

And here is the state’s response to their attack

And here is Karachi, which is supposedly under heavy operation by Pakistan security forces

Militants from ‘banned’ Jaish-e-Mohammad openly fundraising for jihad right under Rangers noses and we are supposed to believe that there is no policy of protecting ‘Good’ Taliban?

The only thing wrong with the question about whether there is a return to the state’s policy of ‘Good’ Taliban ‘Bad’ Taliban is that for a ‘return’ one has to actually leave. The state has never given up on the jihadi proxies, and the blowback that has cost 60,000 innocent lives. But this is a small price to pay for our leaders ‘living the dream’.

DHA