By Saadat Hassan
September 11, 2018
Most Islamist militant groups and networks
in this region adhere to the Deobandi-Sunni or Salafist schools of thought. The
most prominent among these are Deobandi organization like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
Harkat ul Jihad-e-Islami, Harkat ul Mujahedeen, Jaish-e-Mohammad,
Lashkar-e-Omar and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Trans-national groups like
Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Waliyat-e-Khurasan, Hizb-ut Tahrir and
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) adhere to the Salafist tradition.
Many severe security challenges persist in
Pakistan that affect the lives of its citizens. Although terrorism and
extremism continue to be the most daunting challenges that Pakistan must
overcome today, the internal security landscape is continually evolving and has
become increasingly complex. Tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians have been
killed. The country has suffered a loss of $123 billion over the past 15 years.
The government of Pakistan has adopted a range of soft and hard measures to
deal with the menace of terrorism, including the National Action Plan (NAP),
military operations, multiple pieces of counter-terrorism legislation and
de-radicalisation programs. Because of these efforts, incidents of terrorism
have considerably reduced from 2014 onwards.
However, new extremist groups have risen in
recent years. These include Barelvi groups like Tehreek Labaik Pakistan (TLP),
Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatm e Nabuwwat Movement and Majlis-i-Ahrar Islam. These
groups strongly opposed the appointment of Dr Atif Mian to the Economic
Advisory Council (EAC). They depicted him as a traitor for being Ahmadi, and
created a narrative that he was working against Islam. This is despite the fact
that numerous members of the Ahmediyya community — such as Sir Muhammad
Zafarullah Khan and Dr Abdul Salam — have proven themselves to be true and
Even if TLP has not been able to mobilise a
large number of followers, it has still managed to enforce its demands, setting
a highly dangerous precedent
The Atif Mian episode exposed there
aggressive mentality of extremist Islamists in Pakistan. The anti-Ahmadi stance
is also in violation of Articles 25 and 27 of the Constitution. Furthermore,
the mullahs have no solutions to offer for our political, economic and
The rise of Barelvi extremism has heralded
in a new era of political violence. We should remember that no action was taken
against the TLP for their illegal November 2017 sit-in in the federal capital,
in which they obstructed major highways, burnt public property and assaulted
law enforcement officials. The sit-in was also in violation of several
provisions of NAP including misuse of loudspeaker and hate speech and the ban
on glorification of terrorism and militancy.
Considering we are already a violence-prone
society where law enforcement forces are struggling to keep up with terrorists,
the surfacing of Barelvi extremism is a matter of grave concern.
The writ of state has not only been
challenged, but decimated. Even if TLP has not been able to mobilise a large
number of followers, it has still managed to enforce its demands, setting a
highly dangerous precedent.
Further weakening of the writ of state and
demoralising of the civil administration and police will bolster these violent
forces. If the state continues to succumb to such forces, it could seriously
challenge the state prerogative of monopoly of violence. Negotiated deals are
not the best medicine for state legitimacy. Furthermore, these new religious
movements may fan sectarian strife in Punjab province and deepen the
inter-Sunni sect divisions. Militarisation of the new Barelvi groups cannot be
ruled out either.
The demands being exerted by TLP for
inclusion of its representatives in the curriculum review committee must not be
entertained. This would only pave the way for similar demands from other
radicalised groups from different sects. Coverage of their gatherings must be
kept to a bare minimum. Had the sources of facilitation and funding been
investigated and identified, last year’s sit-in may not have lasted long enough
to create the havoc it did.
To avert such incidents in the future the
government must strengthen the civil administration and law enforcement
agencies, Measures must be taken to boost the morale of law enforcement forces.
Cases must be registered against violent protestors, and they must be expedited
in courts. Furthermore, Cases registered in which police officials were
assaulted and received injuries should be pursued vigorously. Anti-riot units
must be raised, properly trained and equipped to tackle such situations. The
government must constitute a body in Ministry of Religious Affairs at federal
level and at relevant provincial departments to consult with clerics of all
sects on a regular basis. Inter-sectarian and inter-faith harmony should not be
allowed to further evaporate as this may allow further weakening of state writ
which will only help rogue elements.
The constitution provides a sacred covenant
between and among the people of Pakistan and the State. It guarantees
fundamental human rights, including the protection of the life and property of
all citizens of the country irrespective of their religion, sect, caste, gender
or ethnicity. It is therefore the primary responsibility of the state to serve
all citizens without discrimination.
Pakistan is a country of strong and
resilient people who aspire to build a peaceful, democratic and inclusive
society. The history of Pakistan is a testimony to the fact that its people
have always rejected the forces of extremism, terrorism and authoritarianism
and always sided with the forces of peace, development and democracy.
Saadat Hassan is a PhD candidate at the School of Politics and
International Relations, QAU