Militancy nexus

Published September 21, 2016

CHIEF Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali’s comments on Monday about a “nexus” between certain political and religious parties, and terrorists is not only a bold assertion of the truth, it also vindicates what many — including this paper — have been saying for long: until political and religious parties distance themselves from violent elements under their wing, the war against militancy will not be won. Several examples spring to mind that confirm Chief Justice Jamali’s concerns. For example in Karachi, the existence of a militant wing of the MQM has been an open secret for decades. Until the Muttahida got on the wrong side of the security establishment recently, it held Karachi in a vice-like grip, enforced by its dreaded militant faction. The PPP also patronised elements from Karachi’s underworld — specifically in Lyari — in the shape of the so-called Peoples Amn Committee. But beyond the metropolis, mainstream parties have also consorted with militant elements in unambiguous ways. PML-N stalwart Rana Sanaullah had hobnobbed with the leaders of banned sectarian outfits during election time, while suspects linked to Al Qaeda have been recovered from Lahore and other Punjab cities, reportedly provided shelter by Jamaat-i-Islami cadres, and those of Jamiat, the JI’s student wing. Meanwhile, religious parties, especially the JUI-F, have launched vitriolic campaigns against attempts by the state to register and regulate madressahs. While not all seminaries are involved in violence, militants have been known to use madressahs affiliated with hard-line outfits to find sanctuary.

As these observations indicate, very few of Pakistan’s political and religious parties can claim to have a clean record where supporting violent elements is concerned. This should not be used as a brush to tar all political groups; after all, other power centres, such as the establishment, have also patronised hard-line groups. However, the chief justice’s remarks should encourage internal reflection within political parties and religious groups. As he said, breaking the nexus is imperative. The fact is, a legal counterterrorism battle is just as important to defeat militancy, as is action in the field. This requires prosecutors and the judiciary to proceed against those involved in terrorism without fear. Therefore, all political and religious groups must transparently and permanently distance themselves from elements that are involved in violence. Unless this is done, they will be seen as providing cover for terrorists and other criminal elements, and should be prepared to face the law for doing so.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2016

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