By Babar Ayaz
Two statements of the Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani in the last few days have come under discussion, inviting criticism from ideologically opposed politicians and journalists. First speaking at the graduation of the 127th Long Course of the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, Gen. Kayani said: “Let me remind you that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Islam can never ever be taken out of Pakistan. However, Islam should always remain a unifying force.” Then on the Martyrs’ Day he declared that ‘the war that the army is fighting was Pakistan’s war’. He observed that fighting against the people who want to thrust their views by force rejecting the writ of the government and denigrating the constitution, killing army and other law enforcing personnel and innocent people is indeed Pakistan’s war. He underlined that no confusion should be created by saying that it is not our war as the country cannot afford this.
The first statement was criticised by the political left and liberals as they believed emphasis on the Islamic ideology by the Army Chief would support the rightist political parties. But the General who is standing at the crossroad of Pakistan’s history, I believe, was addressing his officials and not the politicians, as the army have been indoctrinating its rank and file for the last 65 years that they are the soldiers of Islam hence also guardians of ideological borders. The terrorists they are fighting gallantly claim that they are the real soldiers of Islam as they want to establish real Shari’a in the country, they believe that democracy, the constitution of Pakistan and the army are anti-Islam and agents of the West. Now it is a battle between the moderate Islam of Kayani, majority of Pakistanis and the extremist Salafi/Wahabi Islam of the Al Qaeda franchisees and their Islamist supporters.
The supporters of the latter believe: “Owning war on terror as “our own war” and finely suggesting to the nation to forget the post-9/11 US dictated suicidal policies adopted by Pervez Musharraf and continued by the PPP-led coalition, General Kayani seeks nation’s consensus to militarily take on those who had rebelled against the fallout of US imposed strategy.” What these supporters of Taliban forget that Pakistan has been supporting the Afghan Taliban covertly, without the army’s support, they wouldn’t have been able to continue their war. It is not the issue of US presence in Afghanistan; it is the Al Qaeda agenda to seize power in Muslim majority countries as a first step toward domination of world by Islam.
Political leaders and some journalists are of the view that TTP and other Al Qaeda franchisees are those ‘who had rebelled against the fallout of the US imposed strategy.’ Anybody who argues against this dangerous proposition which lends support to the terrorists who have killed over 45000 Pakistanis, inclusive of around 4000 soldiers, is labeled as ‘liberal fascist’ by the people who cannot argue rationally. The oxymoronic term ‘liberal fascist’ can only be coined by people who are either naïve enough to understand the contradictory meaning of the two political terms or want to hide the fascist designs of the religious extremists and terrorists. The liberals do not want to impose their views on others by force and respect the rights of people like Ansar Abbasi even if they disagree with him.
On the other hand the militants he supports on the basis that ‘they have rebelled against the strategy of the government’ qualify to be labeled as ‘fascist’ because they do not tolerate dissent. The TTP and its affiliate terrorist groups do not believe in democracy in which the Islamists are free to contest elections and leaders like Munawar Hasan are at liberty to issue an edict that the liberals should register themselves in the minorities voting list. The TTP and other Islamic militant groups are against freedom of expression and that, my dear sir, is fascism and not the liberal democracy that gives you a right to write freely your views, although at times language used crosses ethical journalism norms. The TTP is against television but uses this medium for their messages and its supporters are keen to appear on TV to proselytize. They also forget that terrorism existed before the US forces came to Afghanistan because Pakistan launched the world’s biggest covert operation with the US launching number of Jihadi groups. Even sectarian killings increased when Taliban government allowed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Basra to open his office in Kandhar.
Coming back to the COAS’s statements, what the army does not realise that exploiting religion for statecraft and basis of national security doctrine is a dangerous political formulation. The means used in politics, which in this case is exploitation of Islam, have their own dynamics and lead to an end towards which the country is heading. The use of religion in politics has given a wide space to political and militant Islamic forces in Pakistan and has thrown the country at the mercy of these elements. The threat to all the political parties which are clear that the war against terrorists is ‘our war’ is directly proportionate to the so-called ideology of Pakistan. The military establishment should realise that the policies followed in the last 65 years have brought us to the brink. Armies of most of the countries are not mobilised on the basis of religion of the majority in their respective countries. They are motivated to protect their country, not an ideology but because of their belief in their nationhood. Using ideology for motivating the army is dangerous, as any other group or country can claim that they are the followers of the more puritan version. Iranian religious government wants to support the Shia groups in other countries on ideological grounds. Saudi Arabia wants to further its puritan Wahabiism on the Muslim countries.
The statement at Kakul is actually reassuring the army officials that the Army still believes in Islamic ideology as the rank and file are confused whether TTP’s or Hizb ut Tahrir’s, etc. Islamic movement is right or the one which they are asked to fight for. The statement urging political parties not to add confusion by saying that it is not our war, but it is America’s war. Political messages and ideologies cannot be stopped from entering the garrisons’ doors. So when we have already groomed an “Islamic Army,” then fighting the “Islamic militants” who are waging Jihad to set up the Caliphate is difficult and too confusing. The only solution is to once and for all separate religion from politics and educate the army as the guardians of Pakistan’s frontier as a national duty not as a Jihad. (firstname.lastname@example.org)