The people of Pakistan have been combating the menace of terrorism for more than fifteen years now. This curse has jeopardized the very future of our nation. The bonhomie of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with indigenous orthodox groups, and so-called Islamist foreign elements must have celebrated the display of tyranny and cruelty on humanity and justice when they attacked Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014. However, this incident led the nation towards national unity and cohesion that was direly needed to fight the devilish nexus of terrorism.
The APS Peshawar incident served as an eye-opener so that we may consider the issue with serious motives to check, restrict, hunt and exterminate this evil once for all. The country’s leadership carved out a National Action Plan in order to expedite efforts for eradicating terrorism from Pakistani soil. The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 embraced a new change in form of the 21st Amendment officially known as “The Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015”. Country’s elected representatives designed the move and the Pakistan Army channelized all its efforts and sources across the western border to achieve goals set in NAP. Luckily, a friendly response by the Afghan leadership gave a boost to the determination and will to tackle the issue. Besides this, the notion of good and bad Taliban also saw its end. Thus collective, comprehensive and collaborative efforts broke the ground for success.
Although this approach against terrorism produced impressive results in a short span of time, yet there are problems which must be solved to rid the country of this evil and to establish a lasting and durable peace in the region at large.
First and foremost issue is to counter their ideology of hatred and bigotry through building a solid and progressive counter narrative that may change their hearts and minds for better. This is an intellectual debate which requires religious interpretation as well. Interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence in the contemporary circumstances by well-educated religious scholars, who can tolerate inter and intra-religious sects though rings sweet bells in the ears, yet it’s a solution that is good only on paper because the ground reality is that who will do it? From where will such scholars come? Which institution is credible enough in the entire Islamic and non-Islamic world to take the initiative? The answer to these questions is not that much acerbic, and yes, there exist several institutions either in the form of some formal university or some non-governmental organizations and individuals. However, to target the leadership is subject to questions, as the leadership of al-Qaeda consists of well-educated and well-trained individuals, mostly from the western institutions. Nevertheless, they must be challenged. This can be done through books, newspapers, journals and interviews to address them. Willingness to respond in academic manner with open mind is desirable. However a huge majority of the followers of these terrorist organizations is ill-educated and it’s not easy to educate and preach to them and bring them to the table.
Here comes the incompetency on the part of the state and its machinery because it spends less than 3% of GDP on education, a figure least in South Asia. One must remember that Pakistan performs very poor even in comparison to sub-Saharan African countries where there is availability of better education for primary school children, and school enrolment ratio is also higher. The incompetency of the state in offering social immunities to the masses provides space to others to intervene and to offer solutions. In Pakistan, this solution has been presented in form of madrasa system that proved to be a blessing for the parents as they did not have to bear the expenses of their children’s education as madrasas offer free education, accommodation and food to the students.
The graduates from these madrasas remain unable to seek a better opportunity to live and are compelled never to think out-of-the-box solutions to problems faced by people in today’s modern world. To tackle this crisis of education and to fill the vacuum created by a gap of generations in mindset, madrasa system needs to be reformed and modern learning skills and scientific education should also be introduced in their curricula. This will enhance their mental capability thus enabling them to compete in the modern world. We do have several notable examples of madrasa graduates who excelled in medical, engineering, physical, biological, management and social sciences’ fields. It was mainly because they were directed and guided by some socially and financially stable individuals.
The social narrative about madrasa and its graduates must change now. Several jokes, hate symbols and derogatory concepts and stereotype thinking about madrasa students should be negated. Politicians and media both should play a responsible role and should make them feel that they are a part of the society.
Historically, in the process of nation-building, several states had taken refuge in creating national reconciliation. But, in case of Pakistan, all reconciliation efforts like NRO were never national rather these were for saving the skin of some political bigwigs. Such narrowly-defined political moves create a sense of discrimination and biasness among people as such steps have been heavily tilted in favour of the influential people.
At present, when our army has gained critical successes in operation Zarb-e-Azb, we need to chew over post-operation planning because post-war settlement and post-conflict arrangements are vital to maintaining balance in the society. Presence of Taliban or Taliban-like mindset is a ground reality and their complete extermination in a short time is not possible. A sensible approach to change their ideology and replace it with that of peace, forbearance and harmony to absorb them in national mainstream is necessary. In this way, we can utilize their potential, which was hitherto used for destruction, for national development and prosperity.
The writer is a graduate in International Relations
from the Islamia University of Bahawalpur.
He can be reached at: email@example.com