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VIEW: Militant Islam and writ of State—Farhat Taj
I am also concerned about the gift of books to the occupied library by Jamia Hafsa. These books will be on jihadi Islam and misogyny. Hundreds of madrasssas are awash with such books and now the public library in Islamabad is also likely to have them. Could the state please again bend down and respectfully refuse the gift from the Jamia
The state of Pakistan has once again surrendered its writ to Islamic militants.
Take the case of the recent ‘breakthrough’ over the issue of the demolition of two mosques built on encroached public land in Islamabad and the occupation of a government children’s library by armed madrassa students of Jamia Hafsa.
Reportedly, the government has started reconstruction of the demolished Amir Himza mosque at its original site and formed a clerics-dominated committee to look into the issues relating to the illegal construction of the mosque and encroachments with regard to mosques and madrassas in Islamabad. The committee is to recommend to the authorities the proper mode of deciding such issues in accordance with the Islamic perspective.
In return, the administration of Jamia Hafsa has decided to allow the children to use the library, though it would continue to control the library until the government meets all the demands of the students’ action committee of Jamia Hafsa, including the enforcement of sharia in Pakistan with immediate effect. Moreover, the students’ action committee would donate books worth Rs100,000 to the library.
The Pakistani media splashed photos next day of clerics celebrating their ‘victory’ by distributing sweets.
The said mosques and madrasssas are not only built on encroached state land, they were also described as a security risk by state authorities when they moved into demolish them. The security-risk assessment was correct given the ideology of the seminarians and the fact that they are located on the main roads and highways where state guests and authorities frequently travel.
The ‘breakthrough’ sends two clear messages to the people of Pakistan: one, each time the Islamic militants roar, the state of Pakistan will cower and cave in. Even as the state brutally deals with other ‘troublemakers’, it will never cease to appease the armed Islamists. For example, the state has crushed and is once again in the process of doing that, the Baloch nationalists. But the appeasement of Islamists continues since the early 1950s of the anti-Ahmadiyya movement.
Two, where would this appeasement take the nation? Many in the West dread the day the Islamists might control Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. This scenario is rejected by Islamabad. It may be an exaggerated one. But if one were to strictly go by the logic of state actions, as in this case, what could stop the Islamists from moving from occupying a library to a ministry and so on. After all, did not the youth belonging to one sect besiege and occupy Islamabad during the eighties?
What guarantees can the state give to the people of Pakistan and the rest of the world that the country’s nuclear assets will not fall into the hands of the Islamic radicals? The army would say that it has elaborate command and control and safety mechanisms and that this can never happen. Perhaps. But how about looking at it in another way. What might happen if the Islamists were to infiltrate the ranks of the armed forces?
I have had several discussions with militant madrassa students and teachers in Pakistan. They say they would use everything, including its nuclear weapons to ‘defend’ Islam. Their defence of Islam does not rule out the possibility of using the weapons of mass destruction against those people in Pakistan whom the militants view as ‘too stubborn to come back to the folds of Islam’.
Armed Islamists have already made important inroads into the social landscape of Pakistan. The Federally Administered Tribal Area, FATA, is already under their control and so are some southern districts of NWFP. Now they have won in the capital Islamabad as well, despite the fact that the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Ulema of Wafaqul Madaris supported the government’s view that unauthorised construction of mosques and madrasssas on public land is un-Islamic and illegal.
If the state cannot enforce its writ in Islamabad, forget about FATA. The people of FATA are resisting the Islamists in whatever way possible. For example, some brave people of Bajaur agency are defying their ‘ban’ on shaving men’s beards, according to a report in this newspaper. Seemingly, the Islamists in Tank (a settled district) are threatening the local businessmen to stop the sale and purchase of women’s clothes. The business is still going on despite the state’s inability to extend any protection to the buyers and sellers of women’s clothes in the area.
In Dara Adam Khel, girl-schools have been attacked. Many brave parents of the area continue to send their daughters to schools. It is utterly shameful that instead of providing security to girls’ schools in Dara Adam Khel, the state of Pakistan’s appointed administrator for the area, the political agent, has reportedly asked the principals to make all girls wear a tent-like all-encompassing burqa. This is what the militants in the area had demanded.
One can point out hundreds of small yet important examples of how people have been resisting the Islamic militants among them in the face of state’s failure to protect them. There are also hundreds of examples to show that the writ of the state has perished in the face of demands by armed Islamists. After all, why is the state is not dealing with them according to the law of the land? Cynics in Pakistan have a point when they refer to some kind of mullah-military alliance at the state level in Pakistan.
The government of General Pervez Musharraf is very conscious of improving Pakistan’s image abroad. It’s a lost cause as long as the state continues to capitulate before obscurantism.
I am also concerned about the gift of books to the occupied library by Jamia Hafsa. These books will be on jihadi Islam and misogyny. Hundreds of madrasssas are awash with such books and now the public library in Islamabad is also likely to have them. Could the state please again bend down and respectfully refuse the gift from the Jamia?
Farhat Taj is a PhD research fellow at the Centre for Women and Gender Studies, University of Oslo