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Height of denial: JUI-F under attack

May 08, 2013

WHILE more liberal parties have borne the brunt of election-related militant violence, as events over the past few days have shown the extremists are just as capable of wreaking havoc upon even those political elements that share their ideological moorings. On Tuesday a blast occurred near a JUI-F candidate’s corner meeting in Hangu, killing several people. Militants had earlier warned locals against attending political gatherings. Only a day before a JUI-F rally was bombed in Kurram Agency killing over 20. Yet what is shocking is that former lawmaker and current candidate Munir Khan Orakzai, who addressed the Kurram rally, denied that the Pakistani Taliban could be involved in the attack. This is mind-boggling. The TTP had very clearly stated that Mr Orakzai was indeed the target and justified the strike by saying that the former MNA was allied to the last government which had launched military operations against the militants.

It appears as if practically the whole religious right is suffering from a state of denial. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman himself escaped two suicide attempts in 2011. He too has failed to criticise religious militancy. Instead, Fazlur Rehman, like others, has ‘asked’ the TTP to refrain from attacking political parties. But as the scale of the pre-poll violence shows, the militants appear not to have heeded the maulana’s advice. While the TTPs animus towards more ‘secular’ parties is understandable, the targeting of like-minded elements is a tad more confusing. After all, parties such as the JUI-F share the militants’ ideology — Islamist rule, imposition of Sharia etc — though they believe in pursuing these goals through the democratic route. What is more, a number of today’s militants were at one time associated with the JUI-F. So for those with a soft spot for the TTP, perhaps the attacks on even ideologically similar groups offer a preview of the rigidity of the militant mind.

This should serve as a wake-up call not only to religious parties such as the JUI-F and JI, but also to politicians such as Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, who advocate dialogue with the militants. The extremists believe only they are qualified to set the political agenda and interpret religion, through murder and mayhem. So it must be asked how open to negotiations such elements would be. There must be no doubt that religious extremists will turn their guns on anyone who dares to differ with them, hence the need for all political players to speak up against militancy.