Why are Pakistan's politicians so casual about Islamist terror?

A high level of violence has been internalised by Pakistanis and accepted as normal.

One is tempted to say that Pakistanis don't actually see violence against the state's organs and political parties as a problem. In fact this is visible in the total lack of interest during the election campaign.

The manifestos of its political parties are so vague about the problem that we can surmise that Pakistani leaders are either clueless on the subject or that they are aware of what I've said earlier:  That Pakistanis have internalised Islamist violence and don't care about it. Little political effort has gone into addressing what the rest of the world thinks is Pakistan's primary problem.



The Pakistan Muslim League (N) offers us these points (and they are just points with no expansion or detail) in their manifesto under the head 'Militancy and terrorism'.

1) Integrating tribal areas into mainstream and giving them voting rights
2) Establishing schools for "skilled manpower export to friendly countries" (most foreign states will be alarmed by this line)
3) Extending health benefits to the poor
4) Setting up small and medium sized business in the tribal areas for employment
5) Technical education for women in tribal areas
6) Informing Pakistanis that Islam is a religion of peace
7) Education reforms and integrating madrassas with mainstream schools

On the seventh point the trajectory of education in Pakistan tells us that this integration, if it happens, will be in reverse. The regular school will go the way of the madrassa, because religion cedes no ground in Pakistan.

The important element of the PML plan is that it assumes that militancy is all Pakhtun and produced outside Punjab. This assumption is false. It also tells us that the reasons for terrorism are secular - unemployment, illiteracy, lack of political autonomy and so on. This is also not a particularly sound way of looking at it and is in denial of the evidence on the ground.

The plan assures us that if the PML takes power, Pakistan's casual attitude to internal violence will continue.

If Imran Khan's Tehreek e Insaaf party takes over, militancy will decline only because the state will surrender to the demands of the Islamists and the army will have even less incentive to fight. Imran wants drone attacks, the single most effective action against Al Qaeda according to Al Qaeda, stopped. He then expects the other groups to give up fighting, which of course they will if their demands for the full Islamisation of Pakistan are met.

The PPP we have already seen in its five years, has essentially left the problem of militant extremism to the army. This is remarkable given how much noise the party continues to make about how many of its heroes and heroines have been martyred.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement offers the following steps in its manifesto:
1) A National Counter Terrorism Policy in consultation with elected representatives, police, bureaucracy and the unified command of armed forces
2) Changes in the judicial and prosecution system to ensure that people involved in violation of laws are brought to justice
3) Independent law enforcement
4) Addressing root causes through poverty alleviation and education
5) Deweaponising Pakistan
6) Public awareness campaign

The truth is that extremism exists in society, not in some badlands. Till political parties begin to stress secularisation of the state, instead of the sort of casual approach that the manifestos suggest, extremism will not begin to disappear. Terrorism is only one manifestation of it. The fact is that their constitution promises Pakistanis Islamic law. The army cannot be expected to keep fighting those who only want the constitution enforced.

The numbers are frightening and there are more fatalities now in Pakistan than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Pakistanis should be forced to see a counter of those sacrificed every morning to show them what's going on. Over 6000 died last year, and more than that number will go this year.

Pakistanis say, rightly, that those who analyze their country from outside are ignorant of how normal it is inside.

True. But living in a cocoon as they do is also ignorance.

Updated Date: May 05, 2013 12:20 PM

Also See