What converted TLP’s agitation into a violent rebellion?

The wars of this age would scarcely be fought by tanks, artillery guns, and missiles. Mental proclivities and personal faith would be new arenas where battles for cultural and material ascendancy be fought between the people representing national, ethnic, or religious identities. With the nuclear Armageddon a distinct possibility the unfettered use of conventional weaponry and strategy would be rendered difficult giving rise to acts of violence that are stealthy, sporadic, and unpredictable. Martin Van Creveld has raised his voice in his “Transformation of War” about the coming anarchy where nuclear strategy renders the conventional military strategy unusable. A new kind of “Non- Trinitarian” warfare would be the order of the day when the Clausewitzian trinity of armies, state, and the people would be broken due to the changing nature of the warfare.

Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in “Starfish and the Spider” have beautifully illustrated the nature of new form of warfare through the analogy of starfish which does not rely on a centralized brain and hierarchy. The starfish operates independently with each part of body capable not only of acting on its own as per a central idea but also of regenerating itself in case of death. It represents a new insidious form of warfare that relies on secrecy, unpredictability, and independence besides possessing resilience unknown to mankind hit her to fore. The counter to such a threat lies somewhere between a centralized and decentralized organization capable of tackling the new starfish like violent actors. Such an organization needs to be information driven, light, lethal, and people friendly leveraging popular support.

In order to counter violent extremism the hatcheries of extremism need to be targeted boldly. If the state is seen genuflecting to the purveyors of violence the support and sympathy structure for extremism gains further strength. The state therefore needs to provide public goods along with common ideological narratives to deny the epistemic oxygen to the extremist hatcheries. Counter extremism in Islamic history has a special status as a vehicle to protect the religious purity from the puritanical zeal of misguided zealots. The rightly guided Caliphs fought against such zealots called “Khawarij” as every subsequent Islamic empire and dynasty like Ommayids, Abbassids, Mamluks, Seljuks, and Ottomans.

Johan Galtung in his paper written in 1984 titled “Religion as a Factor for Violence System” draws a violence proneness matrix. According to that matrix Islam compared to other occidental and oriental religions scores high against structural violence due to its message of egalitarianism and distributive justice. It however scores rather low compared to other religions on direct violence because of the predisposition of some religious zealots towards coercion while proselytizing.

The extremism still lurks in the shadows staging sporadic comebacks. The tumult in the FATA and large deployment of regular army troops stabilizing the tribal belt is a constant reminder that the war is still on. The enemy within has to be identified properly in order to take action against it. For far too long we in our national discourse have harped on the mealy-mouthed notions of benign madressahs and the largest welfare chain status of these choice snatching institutions.

It is because of our double standards and false piety that we have failed to institute true reforms in maddressah in keeping with the directions of National Action Plan. Unless we as a nation distinguish between fake religiosity and true spirit of Islam there would be no breakthrough in this war against extremism. The Islamic history clearly points the way towards a strong handling of the extremists. Our recent history also verifies the above thesis. The open threats to the state and mudslinging against the state institutions and their heads by the leading cleric of TLP Khadim Rizvi are a classic reaffirmation of the maxim that the appeasement never works. For some strange reason as if egged on by anti-Pakistan forces Khadim Rizvi, in the wake of Asia Bibi exoneration by Supreme Court had started bad mouthing Army. His self- righteous fury was cleverly choreographed to garner public sympathy and destabilize the government. Why did the cleric get so emboldened?

It is quite possible that the riled up cleric got caught up in the dirty politics of the country or was misled by the external intelligence agencies out to destabilize Pakistan. Either way one thing was clear that he was not acting alone. He had the tacit and in some cases overt support internally and externally. The combination of internal and external motivation converted TLP’s agitation into a violent rebellion that threatened to get out of hand if the government remained inactive as in the past. This time however the state acted with resolve and courage preempting the mischief begotten out of religious extremism. The people also supported the government’s detention of the rabble rousing clerics because of effective and proportionate response of the law enforcement agencies. It was a joint action by intelligence agencies, paramilitary forces and police all operating within their respective spheres with full support of the media. The media’s positive role whether self -driven or forced was a marked contrast from the Lal Masjid episode where media first bayed for the blood of extremists and then cried foul after the operation.The enemy within can only be beaten through a coordinated national response denying epistemic as well as physical dimensions of extremism with courage and conviction.

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