In March 2010 animated conspiracy theorist, TV personality and poster-boy for stylised sofa-warming-jihad, Zaid Hamid finally met his nemesis at the Peshawar University.
Hamid, who till then, had been enjoying a virtual free run on certain TV channels and on privately-owned campuses, was chased away by large sections of the audience that turned up to listen to him speak at the state-owned Peshawar University.
As Hamid’s speech began being booed at, Hamid made a quick exit from the premises only to face another crowd of students outside who shouted slogans against him, and pelted his car with stones.
Suddenly a man who was lovingly being courted by TV channels and student bodies and administration of private educational institutions, was angrily courted out by the students of a state-owned university.
They accused the university administration for allowing a ‘fitna’ (provocateur) and ‘agent of military establishment’ to speak at the university.
Initial inquiry suggested that the main ‘perpetrators’ behind the incident were members of PkSF (the student-wing of the Awami National Party) and the PSF (the student-wing of the Pakistan Peoples Party). What’s more, the protest against Hamid was also joined by the right-wing IJT (the student-wing of the Jamat Islami).
It is interesting to note that IJT that is a traditional and ideological foe of organisations like PkSF and PSF was also present in giving Hamid a hostile send-away.
Further investigations into the matter revealed the narrative that had driven the students to confront Hamid. The narrative (that we will discuss later in the piece) was constructed by a little known organisation called the Aman Tehreek (Peace Movement).
The truth was it was not exactly a small outfit, but an umbrella organisation under which a number of mainstream progressive parties, student organisations and members of the civil society had gathered to protest not only against extremist outfits such as al Qaeda and the Taliban, but also against the way the Pakistani military establishment and media had been engaging with these organisations.
But since the Tehreek’s narratives on religious extremism, terrorism, the military-establishment and the American drone attacks were largely anti-theistic to the ones toed by the largely right-wing mainstream electronic media, its activities were never given much space.
Recently the Tehreek came into focus again when its members vehemently protested in the streets of Peshawar against the Difa-e-Pakistan Council – an umbrella organisation of right-wing Islamic parties, jihadist outfits and pro-establishment politicians.
The Council, that also has in its ranks members of some ‘banned’ sectarian organisations, is accused by detractors for being a front organisation of those sections of the Pakistani intelligence agencies that are suspected of having links and sympathies with some extremist and sectarian organisations.
So what is the Aman Tehreek? It is an umbrella organisation that was formed in 2009 by members of Peshawar’s civil society.
It was conceived to draw out a ‘peace plan’ for the people of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), a province at the centre of a rather enigmatic war being fought between the Pakistan military and Islamist terror outfits.
In December 2009, the Tehreek organised an elaborate seminar in Peshawar in which members of the civil society and NGOs were invited. Also present were delegations from mainstream secular political parties such as the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Paktunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), and the Baloch National Party (NP).
The Aman Tehreek was represented by a number of progressive intellectuals, lawyers, businessmen, doctors, and student and labour leaders.
Various delegates at the seminar presented their reports on the issue of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. These reports were then critically evaluated and discussed among the delegates. After a hectic round of discussions, it was decided by the participants that a synthesis be constructed from the discussions. This synthesis was then expressed as a joint declaration, called the ‘Peshawar Declaration’ (PD).
Of hooris, ababeels and liars!
The Peshawar Declaration (PD) suggests that currently Pakistan is experiencing one of the most dangerous and complex kinds of terrorism. PD assails the indoctrination techniques of both the terrorists, as well as the military in which both the terrorist and the soldier are promised paradise and hooris for killing people that also include women and children.
PD states two sources of terrorism in Pakistan: (1) Militant Islamist organisations like al Qaeda and the Taliban and (2) the ‘Strategic Depth’ policy of the Pakistani military-establishment.
Interestingly, the Declaration describes the al Qaeda as ‘a caricature of (‘Wahabi/Salafi’) Arab expansionism in the disguise of global Islam.’
The second factor according to the Declaration that is contributing to the growth of extremist of terrorism is the ‘Strategic Depth’ policy of the Pakistan Army. The purpose of this policy is ‘to use Jihadi culture in order to counter India and protect nuclear weapons, and to subjugate Afghanistan by making it Pakistan’s fifth province on the Azad Kashmir model.’
The Declaration also elaborates on the psychological and cultural aspects of the Strategic Depth policy: