Pakistan must wake up to dangers of radicalization
by Jaibans Singh on 21 Dec 2012 10 Comments

While India is crying hoarse for criminal action against Hafiz Saeed and the United States has gone to the extent of declaring his organization, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a terrorist outfit, the amiable emir continues to be a hero in Pakistan. This is so because he has the support of the regime in Islamabad as was obvious from the statements made by Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik during his just concluded visit to India. Malik made it abundantly clear that his government has no intention of taking action against the maverick fundamentalist.


Hafiz Saeed roams around freely across the length and breadth of Pakistan, advocating a return to Islamic principles and tenets to rapt audiences, and distributing largesse in the name of social service through the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which was created as a mask after the ban on the LeT. Saeed has managed to project the JuD as a welfare organisation by playing on the ignorance of gullible journalists and semi-literate youth; by doing so, he has also created the identity of a moderate social worker for himself.


Now a stage has come when even western countries have become party to this malevolent drama being played out by one of the most evil terrorists ever to have been churned out by Pakistan. Unmindful of the fact that Saeed is wanted for complicity in the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attack which had a cross-border signature, countries like Great Britain have allowed publication of research papers by well known universities like Oxford which project the JuD as a organization working to benefit society.


The JuD caught the attention of the global media in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in 2005. It received massive funds from Islamic countries, which were passed off as collections from the people of Pakistan meant to be utilized for rehabilitation of inhabitants of the devastated areas. Most of the money was siphoned off for funding terrorist activity and a small amount, with massive publicity, used for the benefit of earthquake victims. This was also the time when the JuD exploited the weakness of the region to expedite the larger objective of changing the demographic patterns by large scale settlement of Punjabi people over there.


Surprisingly, many in the international journalist community continue to believe [or to maintain the fiction] that the JUD did good work post-devastation and also later during the floods of 2010-11. Massive support for the propagation of this view has been forthcoming from the friends of the JuD in the Pakistan army and the Inter Services Intelligence, who blatantly used official machinery to spread the canards in its favour with devastatingly good results. Things have gone to an extent that Saeed had the temerity to offer support to the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and this offer of assistance was conveyed through a television channel of the stature of CNN! Incredibly, he has a bounty on his head and still manages to make such bizarre suggestions.


The willingness of the west to make a Santa Claus out of Hafiz Saeed can be explained on the premise of the need to isolate the more dreaded al Qaeda. This objective also explains away the official support that has been given to pro-Saeed propaganda by Pakistan authorities. Another logical explanation would be the growing imprint of Islam in the intellectual space of western countries where coexistence of diverse ideologies has become a fait accompli so long as violence is avoided.


While the see-saw politics of the western world continues, Hafiz Saeed and those of his ilk have gained the confidence to pose a major problem in the already tottering Pakistani society. They are joining hands to seize power in the forthcoming elections through the legitimate route of the ballot. The mainstream parties are aware of the hold that these militants have and are not averse to creating collaborations, both overt and covert; hence radicalisation of politics in Pakistan is set to increase big time. Saeed may well become the king-maker in Pakistan in the near future.


In case these extremist elements manage to seize power in the coming elections, the scenario will change critically. Sunni power centres like Saudi Arabia have a problem with the Shia Iranian theocracy which they look upon as a threat to their monarchies; they feel no compunction in using their unlimited financial might to convert places like Pakistan into their chosen battleground against the Shia and other Muslim communities. Hence with the radicals gaining political power, the possibility of ethnic cleansing of minorities, already at a high scale, will gain unthinkable proportions. Prominent writers in Pakistan have already started referring to Shias as an endangered species and talk of ghettoisation on a sectarian basis.

Intolerance, sectarianism and radicalisation in Pakistan are becoming dangerous not only for the region, but for the world at large. While the world is looking at its own interests, the larger danger of a spillover in the immediate neighbourhood followed by a global reach is not getting due attention. If matters are not taken in hand fast, a monster of unimaginable proportions will be unleashed, and later efforts to quell the violence and mayhem will have to be herculean.


The world has to take up the challenge of reviving tolerance and pluralism in Pakistan. Islamabad should worry about the manner in which the likes of Saeed are gaining political clout. A concerted effort needs to be made to support voices of moderation and to expunge the environment of hate that is predominant. Else, the world will be staring at a human disaster of unimaginable dimensions.


The author is editor,

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