By Khaled Ahmed
July 22, 2017
Since Pakistan took an all-party consensual action against terrorism under the National Action Plan (NAP) in 2015-16, incidents of extreme violence have come down from their peak in 2014-15. The army controls Balochistan where a kind of insurgency was ongoing; it was also called out in Karachi which was punch-drunk with street crime coalescing with terrorism. In Punjab, things were quieter, its home-bred sectarian terrorists striking away from home in Quetta, Balochistan, after joining Islamic State; but in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where the Taliban had killed 140 schoolboys in an army school, the writ was shared tacitly with elements that had formerly interfaced with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al Qaeda, which meant coyly conceding a kind of diarchy of governance.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which rules KP, has had to tolerate and defer to a seminary near Peshawar where many leaders of TTP and Afghan Taliban had gone for their early religious instruction. Madrasa Haqqania of Nowshehra has been led by a powerful cleric Maulana Sami ul Haq who had been eased into the federal Senate in the past when he was riding high during the war in Afghanistan, and his sexual misadventures in the capital had to be tolerated. This year, the government of KP allocated Rs 300 million in its budget for Haqqania, and the media noted how this “university of jihad” had top Afghan Taliban leaders among its alumni, including its late chief, Mullah Omar. The seminary actually had remained closed for many months to allow its students to participate in the Taliban’s war to capture the Afghan province of Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998.
The New York Times described the madrasa thus in 2000: “About two hours east of the Khyber Pass, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, alongside the Grand Trunk Road, sits a school called the Haqqania madrasa. Haqqania is one of the bigger madrasas in Pakistan: Its mosques and classrooms and dormitories are spread over eight weed-covered acres, and the school currently enrols more than 2,800 students. Tuition, room and board are free; the students are, in the main, drawn from the dire poor, and the madrasa raises its funds from wealthy Pakistanis, as well as from devout and politically minded Muslims in the countries of the Persian Gulf.”
In a TV interview, PTI chief Imran Khan said the funds and support “will help the seminary students assimilate in our society, bring them into the mainstream and keep them away from radicalisation (sic)”. He also referred to the past practice of giving money to the seminary but ignored the fact that the assassins of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto had stayed a night in the hostel of the madrasa before going down to Islamabad to make their hit. He was perhaps scared of the new mind decades of war had created among the people he was leading in KP. A university, not a madrasa, in Peshawar had organised the killing of a “secular” student named Mashaal Khan for “blasphemy”. His killers were known but his government was reluctant to punish them. Last time a blasphemy-killer was punished in Islamabad, several Lakh seminarians from all over the country had gathered to declare him a martyr, burying his body in a magnificent mausoleum on the outskirts of Islamabad where now multitudes pay homage to him.
On May 28, at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, established by the founder of al Qaeda Abdullah Azzam, as many as 31 religious scholars from across the Sunni-Shia divide issued a nine-point unanimous edict — or fatwa. The most significant part of this fatwa rejected the validity of doing jihad privately — read proxy warfare — and not giving the state the sole right to wage war. In effect, the fatwa of 31 clerics said war could only be waged by the state.
Guess what happened after this “divine consensus” negating decades of deniable proxy war by non-state actors? Maulana Sami ul Haq of Madrasa Haqqania, beneficiary of Rs 300 million from the state, opposed it and declared it perfidy on the part of “the rulers of the Muslim world who were puppets of the West and could not declare jihad against their masters”. His statement carried the following narrative:
“1) there is a war going on against Islam, and the West is a major enemy;
2) Muslim rulers are agents of the West; and
3) Muslims have a duty to wage violent jihad in order to achieve justice”.
Pakistan is sincerely trying to get rid of terrorism but the way of life made possible over decades by privatising war stands in the way of self-correction despite the realisation that private jihad has shifted “the monopoly of violence” from the state to the non-state actor.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan