- To jihad or not to jihaad?
Paigham-e-Pakistan, the fatwa against terrorism that was passed by the government on January 16, was a much procrastinated step in the right direction. Among the many aspects of a tolerant and pluralistic counter-narrative, that seeks to nip the jihadist terror in the bud – even if it won’t call it out by its name – are the reaffirmation that jihad is the prerogative of the state, and so is the imposition of Sharia law.
In simple terms Paigham-e-Pakistan aims to create a more tolerant Pakistan by, among other rulings, underscoring that only the state can orchestrate jihad – centripetal or centrifugal – and that it is within the legal boundaries defined by the state that any movement for the enforcement of Sharia law can be carried out. This is designed to reinforce the age-old reality that groups that take law in their own hands, citing jihad for Islam, are illegal and hence should be treated as outlaws.
Even so, the move that was designed to uphold the state’s narrative and return the much needed authority to the center of legal power, has boomeranged on the authors. For, Islamist groups – both the proscribed ones and those legally contesting elections by championing the cause of outlaws – are now urging the state to formally declare jihad in – among other realms – Kashmir and Afghanistan.
In simple terms Paigham-e-Pakistan aims to create a more tolerant Pakistan by, among other rulings, underscoring that only the state can orchestrate jihad – centripetal or centrifugal
Their argument is straightforward: if we can’t officially wage jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, you do your job by formally declaring it and taking us on board, since support for jihad in both regions has been the state’s official policy for a few decades.
Now the state can simply say that it has nothing to do with jihad of any sorts, and has no intention in backing it anywhere – except that it can’t.
After hundreds were killed in two deadly attacks in Kabul last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani chose to call Pakistan out for the umpteenth time and underline Islamabad’s provision of safe havens for the Taliban that are targeting Afghanistan territory. This was a reminder of the decades old Pakistan policy in Afghanistan, where the radical Islamist Taliban are supposed to be integrated in the government so as to ward off any New Delhi overtures, and give Islamabad the priority.
Furthermore, the Kashmir Day on Monday was filled with the usual rhetoric that echoed Pakistan’s narrative, which is basically the provision of support of all varieties – including the radical Islamist kind – to liberate the Kashmiris. Not only is Kashmir jihad the official state policy, military factions have been indulging in proxy jihad in the Indian administered territory since Partition.
So if Kashmir jihad – covert or overt – is indeed the policy, why can’t Islamabad make it official? Because of sanctions.
It was after pressure from the West was put that the civilian leadership actually took on the military leadership in October 2016 resulting in the now infamous and historic Dawn Leaks. That is why Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest in January last year, only to be released in November – that too as an aspirant for the PM’s office, with the Milli Muslim League now a political force, especially in Punjab.
It is no secret, and has been echoed by retired army officers, that the mainstreaming of these jihadist groups is the official policy of the establishment now. Not only do they see utility in assets that they’ve made use of in the past, they also see it as a parallel to the mainstreaming of the RSS in India, which has seen the rise of Narendra Modi as the prime minister, and the Hindutva surge across the country.
How logical – or otherwise – that argument might be is a separate matter, considering that the boomerang has especially been felt by the state for the past couple of decades, what does the establishment’s vision for the country say about the Paigham-e-Pakistan for Kashmir and Afghanistan?
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Paigham-e-Pakistan on those two fronts contradicts its fatwa within its own territories. Pakistan will continue to back extra-state jihadist activities in both the domains, to suit its own policies more than the interests of the locals that it claims to be backing. And as long as the Pakistan-e-Pakistan backs jihad for Kashmir and Afghanistan, it would inadvertently back the same for Pakistan as well.