ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said the state and the government are not fully ready to fight extremism in the country.
“Many people think that the remedial steps taken by us [the government] are inadequate while the truth is that neither the government nor the state is completely ready to fight extremism,” the minister said in the context of growing extremism in the country.
Addressing the launching ceremony of “charter of peace” organised by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies here on Thursday, he said the government had to take a step back in the recent standoff with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which virtually blocked many parts of the country for over two weeks during violent protests that claimed the lives of some police personnel. “We have just seen how the government retreated in case of TLP,” he said, describing the situation as indicative of a ticking bomb.
Interestingly, the minister made these remarks the day TLP chief Saad Rizvi was released after a long imprisonment. He was arrested on April 12.
Fawad Chaudhry held state institutions responsible for unbridled extremism in the country and said: “Some 30 years ago, on the basis of political and external reasons, we created an element and as a result Pakistan is facing a big threat.”
“If the state becomes weak and violent groups become strong, the problem starts,” he said, adding that soft change in society came only when the state established its writ and enforced laws. “If you want soft change, you must be hard,” the minister said without elaborating.
The minister said there was nothing wrong in religions, but the problems were created by those who wrongly interpreted norms of religions and their laws. “These people know repercussions when they interpret even a single word,” he said while mentioning some religious leaders who, according to him, fan extremism in society.
He recalled that in the 1980s and 90s, those teachers were intentionally recruited in schools and colleges who were promoting extremism. Extremism did not flourish through Madressahs (seminaries), but schools and colleges, he claimed.
Fawad Chaudhry said nobody in society was ready to listen to other’s point of view because when Fatwa (decree) of Kafir (non-Muslim) was given against one’s point of view then how people would freely say what they believed.
He said many religious scholars were martyred like Maulana Hassan Khan who was assassinated for giving a Fatwa that “suicide was illegitimate in Islam”. Similarly, many scholars had left the country like scholar Javed Ghamidi who had received life threats, he added.
“If a state cannot safeguard the life of a common man and fails to establish its writ, then how the point of view of all sides comes to fore,” he said, adding that a state was bound to ensure implementation of laws to assert its authority if certain groups challenged or violated laws of the land.
During their rule in Indian subcontinent, he said, the British government had established an effective law enforcement system, but unfortunately, after its independence, the successive governments neither practiced it nor gave any alternative system to ensure the writ of the state. “We saw the destruction of many countries caused by the tendencies of extremism,” he added.
The minister said Pakistan, being a nuclear power and the sixth largest military force in the world, faced no potential threat from its arch-rival India, but from within. He said Islam always advocated tolerance and peaceful coexistence in society. “As a true follower of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), a Muslim can never be an extremist and the soft change is not possible without promoting a congenial atmosphere in society,” he said, adding that failure to establish the writ of the state endangered existence of a country.
He said that over 300 years’ history of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa showed there was not even an iota of extremism in those areas. The area in which Pakistan is situated right now was the area inhabited by Sufis, he added.
Fawad Chaudhry’s statement regarding non-readiness of the state and the government to fight extremism sparked a new controversy and flow of critical remarks on social media.
Later, the information ministry tried to dilute the impact of the minister’s statement and issued a revised version of his remarks saying: “The writ of the state could not be established in a society without effectively tackling extremism and ensuring the supremacy of law and the Constitution.”
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021