Stop Lahore’s Talibanisation

Raza Rumi

The worst has happened. Data Darbar, which defined the contours of peaceful Islam for a millennium, has been desecrated in Lahore. Its markets have been attacked and its minorities live in fear after the Ahmadi massacre. Last year, the petrified traders of Lahore’s Hall Road burnt objectionable CDs after receiving threats from extremists. A year later, low-intensity blasts took place in the crowded Hall Road — a market for electronics and kosher and non-kosher DVDs. This week, two internet cafes were targeted in densely populated areas of Lahore and some time back Peeru’s was also bombed. Reports have suggested that the cafes had received threats from unidentifiable numbers asking them to stop their businesses as they were turning into hubs of ‘immoral activities’. Just because no one died there, media attention has been patchy. A younger female colleague told me how tailors are hesitant to take orders for sleeveless shirts and other designs that may offend the purist dress code. The militants are employing tactics of social control used in Swat. It cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore.

Prior to 1947, Lahore was a cosmopolitan city with a discrete culture of inter-faith harmony, with a reputation for the best education and socio-cultural movements. After its provincialisation, the resilient city re-emerged as a vibrant centre of progressive politics, avant-garde art and extraordinary literature. Since the 1980s, Lahore is a city with formidable infrastructure and boasts of great public spaces, especially parks.  The innate openness and tolerance of this metropolis could not be subjugated by growing extremism.

Given its reputation, putting this city under siege will be a major victory for the extremists. The low-intensity attacks are dangerous and call for a concerted campaign by all those who wish to see a prosperous and moderate Pakistan. I could be accused of Punjab-centric here but surely I will not be chided for naiveté. The greatest threat to Pakistan’s survival comes from within. Militant groups seemingly out of control, and dwindling state capacity to fight them, haunt our future. Add to this the economic meltdown when we ought to be creating millions of jobs for the youth. Yet, denial appears to be our collective response.

First, the confusion about political Islam continues. Democratic politics is being demonised unabated by media and unelected state institutions, paving the way for a vacuum. Anti-Americanism is diluting the impact of crackdowns against banned outfits. It is therefore imperative to deepen Pakistan’s democratic spell and hold politicians accountable without making them look like villains.

Punjab is now the new playfield for terrorists and institutions will have to collaborate to clean Pakistan through democratic means. Madrassa-education reform and enhancing the capability of criminal justice institutions is key to a solution. Political mobilisation against extremism is also the need of the hour. This is time for tough action and political consensus. Blaming drones, Blackwater and the Indians is simply not enough.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.

24 Comments

Filed under Lahore, Pakistan, public policy, Punjab, Taliban, violence

24 responses to “Stop Lahore’s Talibanisation

  1. navanavonmilita

    Put the Blame on me Raza: Sid Harth

    Hey Raza, nice to see you alive and kicking some political ass. As a matter of fact, I put out an “APB,” All Point Bulletin, to look for you everywhere, including the basements of Data Darbar.

    Looks like, that’s why the Lahore Taliban attacked it.

    Just kidding. You are being reinstated by Pak Tea House is a good news.

    Back to basics.

    Are you smoking and inhaling some kind of prohibited substances? If not, I am sure that you are not on an ego trip. That is worse than smoking pot.

    How the hell you are going to achieve even mere one percent of your objectives.

    You are griping about following five issues.

    1. Last year, the petrified traders of Lahore’s Hall Road burnt objectionable CDs after receiving threats from extremists.

    2. A year later, low-intensity blasts took place in the crowded Hall Road — a market for electronics and kosher and non-kosher DVDs.

    3. This week, two internet cafes were targeted in densely populated areas of Lahore and some time back Peeru’s was also bombed.

    4. A younger female colleague told me how tailors are hesitant to take orders for sleeveless shirts and other designs that may offend the purist dress code.

    5. The militants are employing tactics of social control used in Swat.

    You are offering following solutions:

    1. Madrassa-education reform and enhancing the capability of criminal justice institutions is key to a solution.

    2. Political mobilisation against extremism is also the need of the hour.

    3. This is time for tough action and political consensus.

    4. Blaming drones, Blackwater and the Indians is simply not enough.

    5. Oops, I forgot, Put the Blame on me Raza: Sid Harth

    Have faith. Peace.

    http://navanvonmilita.wordpress.com

    …and I am Sid Harth

  2. Talha

    As long as Ameer-ul-Momineen types with their militant connections are in power in Punjab, expect this talibanization to continue.

    A simple effort to cleanse the province of extremists can be done efficiently whereby all militant groups are purged but certain people would not allow it.

    There has to be some complicity in the ranks that is allowing this to happen, clearly the use of drones, poverty and other such nonsensical things are used to justify these attacks and confuse the populace.

    If I was in charge, I would initiate a ten year plan to cleanse, develop and elevate areas within Pakistan. This process of purging the corrupt, strenghting law & order and slowly undoing the ‘Islamized’ laws is achievable. It requires a few good men with power who utilize the same tactics that the ill of our society uses.

    People have to be indoctrined with secular thoughts, the people themselves will not achieve anything until they are inundated with visions of progressive that secualrism, democracy and fairness will bring.

    “No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”

    Edward R. Murrow

  3. Pingback: Put the Blame on me Raza: Sid Harth « News, Views and Reviews: Sid Harth

  4. Tilsim

    @ Talha

    “There has to be some complicity in the ranks that is allowing this to happen”

    No doubt. The structures of state are in part incompetent but mainly they are ideologically compromised.

    Need to fix competence levels but more than that there has to be a purge of the security apparatus. Who is going to do the purging?

    I think the government has the right intentions but juggling the different power centres.

    Fact pattern regarding PA’s position is still mixed. If the PA choses a clear and public ideological opposition to radical Islam, the politicians will fall into line quickly and then the necessary action can be taken.

    It’s difficult to gauge whether the current approach of the establishment is denial, ideological confusion/complicity or merely tactical considerations given the scale of the challenge. Perhaps all of these depending on the power centre?

    Excellent write up by Raza.

  5. Where does one start? Musharraf. He is the only political leader to resist repeated assassination atttempts and continue to govern. Despite inevitable mistakes, either he or Kayani are your only hope at this point. Things have gone too far. What on earth can you expect from the Sharif brothers? Or the police? Or the Civil Service? etc. etc. They are all totally intimidated. For God’s sake, wake up! Your society is falling about your ears and you still talk like you have choices?

  6. Ali Abbas

    Raza,

    As always, a very timely and excellent article…

  7. nasir jan

    Guys the truth is Pakistan no longer exists it is now Mullahstan! – past political leaders such as Zia Ul Haq (dala) pimed Pakistan out to the mullahs and created the current gun culture. Current Pakistani leaders to not have the backbone to stand up to the mullah, they may pay lip service now and then but the bottom line is they need the mullah or are scared of the mullah. The only solution is a tit for tat response – when they plant 1 bomb at a mosque lets plant 10 at the red mosque , when they gun down minorities lets walk in mullah sami the sandwichs office and gun down everyone, when they kill a military officer lets go to Quetta and walk into the home of one of their leaders and assinate everyone in the house – this is the only language the mullah understands – If Pakistan does this these mullahs will stop doing what they are very quickly.
    Or we could follow Imran Khans policy and bum lick the mullah , pay them for not bombing us and hope the keep their word.
    I say bring back MUSHY and lets kick the dirty ass

  8. Tilsim

    @ Nasir Jan

    Mushy never kicked enough ass. With democratic dispensation, Kiani has been doing the kicking to his credit. More, much more kicking needed, as you say but not a military take-over. That would excerbate the problem manifold.

    The illusion that the security establishment has to get over is that these animals can be ‘managed’ and there are distinctions between them. As can be seen, that’s a fallacy.

    It points to the need to purge extremist thinking at the highest levels of the establishment and increase institutional capacity to cope with a civil war type backlash in Punjab.

    What is holding things back – is it that the extremists already have a sit at the table?

  9. Reema Reza

    I think Harold J. Wilson has the CORRECT idea:
    ” Pakistan is falling about your ears and you still talk like you have choices?”
    The time for TALK is OVER!
    ZERO TOLERANCE NOW! the kind Nasir Jan type: or bring in MARTIAL LAW ! these religious mullah terrorist have to be eliminated, public hangings and their stomping grounds have to be demolished.
    But wait, our men are COWARDS, they write great blogs, blame each other watch COKE STUDIO and don’t have the courage to protect their families.
    Damn…Pakistan is SCREWED!

  10. Tilsim

    @ Reema

    Ok, now you have thrown the dupatta at us. We have truly reached a new low🙂

    Anyone know whether the Americans are dishing out some ghairat as part of Kerry Lugar?

  11. Reema Reza

    @Tilsim
    If my dupatta strangles you into action, so be it !

    Ghairat isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences.

    “Dignity does not consist in possessing ghairat, but in deserving them.”

    “Ghairat is simply the morality of superior men.”

    As of now we sadly lack THAT in our Pakistani men!

  12. Talha

    @ Tilsim

    Someone has to take the initiative just like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk did and wipe out the Mullahs from Pakistan.

    In this is our betterment, they have inflicted us with pain and destruction. Simple opposition and campaign against these people will go a long way.

  13. Gabban

    … initiate a ten year plan to cleanse, develop and elevate areas … – Talha

    It is not to take that long …

    The situation is to be checked within an year …

    (1) the US and Saudis should be asked by the government of Pakistan to stop dealing directly with the generals of the army of Pakistan and the managers of the ISI … not to be included in any meeting / conference of the government

    (2) negotiate no attack pact with India, valid 10 years … to undercut the contention of the army of aggression by India

    (3) stop direct or intended payment to the generals of the army of Pakistan by the US and Saudis … to make the generals and the ISI dependent on civilian government for salaries, budget and war games

    (4) para-military forces to be brought under control of Internal Ministry and not under the army of Pakistan or retired general of army of Pakistan

    (5) stop supplies of arms, ammunition, explosives and communication equipment ( except on orders by government, not generals ) to destination Pakistan and Afghanistan … to deprive the extremists and the generals of the wherewithal

    (6) selling of petrol, diesel, vehicles and motorcycles in FATA and Swat etc should be by department of government of Pakistan for agriculture purpose only for one tractor / motorcycle … to deprive the extremists of mobility

    initiated by government of Pakistan for the international community to …

    (7) to help pay well and regularly to police force and army in Afghanistan … to do away with corruption, extremists and criminals

    (8) ban cultivation of any crop in southern Afghanistan … to prevent growing of aphiem and charas … to prevent source of income to Haqqanis / Mehsuds etc to run their gangs and networks … the farmers can be paid based on expected farm income per individual holdings

    These are suggestions to resusticate Pakistan …

  14. Tilsim

    @ Gabban @ Talha @ Reema

    Please throw shoes at our TV anchors too. Shahid Masood on TV tonight invited a former DG Military and a former Home secretary – both voicing typical mantra. Messages:

    1) There is a gap between the rulers and the public because the rulers are cowtowing to the Americans.

    2) The pathetic Americans are worried these days about their image and trying to buy us with dollars rather than doing the right thing and leaving us alone.

    3) The rulers are not perceived as just.

    4) The rulers actions do not represent the wishes of the people.

    5) The rulers are in bed with the Americans because they cannot bear the pain of sanctions as they live in big houses, have big factories etc.

    6) America is working against the Muslim ummah and therefore against the wishes of the peopl e of Pakistan.

    7) The Afghan-Pakistan transit agreement is for the benefit of India (ignoring that it does not allow as yet Indian goods to go to Afghanistan).

    8) The agreement was a reward for India from the US and Pakistan just played along.

    9) The 2014 withdrawal date is not real based on the West’s own statements

    10) If they do leave, we have to make sure that India does not neutralise Pakistan in Afghanistan.

    11) India has made a $1 billion investment in Afghanistan and is willing to put more money in.

    And more of the same stuff that we hear nightly lest we forget that everyone is out to get us and the Islamic ummah (of which the implication is that Pakistan is their representative).

    No mention of course at what actually is going on in Pakistan.

  15. pankaj

    I believe people of pakistan ,the common moderates
    must rise up and revolt against these extremists.

    The extremists are just thugs who use religion as an excuse to throw their weight around

  16. Tilsim

    @ pankaj
    “I believe people of pakistan ,the common moderates must rise up and revolt against these extremists.”

    You pose an interesting question. Are the people of Pakistan trying to SUPPRESS the extremists or are we RISING UP against them? i.e is the State apparatus (and thereby power) dominated by moderates or are they a minority. I would say that the we have not yet crossed the line but may be close to it. Keep watching closely to what happens to politicians, courts, army and our foreign relations, in particular with India.

  17. Reema Reza

    @pankaj @Tilsim Looking at your post your choice of action:” I believe people of Pakistan ,the common moderates must rise up and revolt against these extremists” & debating ” Are the people of Pakistan trying to SUPPRESS the extremists or are we RISING UP against them?”
    How In God’s name did we end up with spineless like you all, instead of empty words why can’t you take up arms and protect your families and the women and children.
    Enough already with the words guys lets see some action !!!
    We have ended up with a generation of gutless wonders who are more concerned about the ban on social media than actually fighting. Alas where are the men of valour that are allowing Pakistan to burn while they look the other way. Have any you volunteered to fight the extremist or are you sitting in the comfort of your technical gadgets writing fluff blogs for PK Tea House?

  18. Tilsim

    @ Reema

    Will you be our commander? Us guys with our chooriyan need some visionary leadership.

  19. Hi guys, particularly Tilsim, you are moderating a very intelligent discussion. Obviously nobody besides the Pakistanis are going to solve their national problems.

    The major problem is that there aren’t any Pakistanis. There are Punjabis, and the others.
    For the Pakhtuns, the same. Und so?

    Well, you can’t just run to the army, right? Or to America which doesn’t know squat about your difficulties, or to China??

    India wouldn’t have you back on a bet. What are your choices? Toronto? London? The past? An ideal democracy? Beats the hell out of me. You are a beautiful people, highly intelligent, pinned between dreadful alternatives. Leadership?

    America has some of the same problems, not to mention the UK where I live. Are the Sharif brothers just paper dolls fronting a family money-generating scheme? Too bad. They could do some good if they had it in them. Otherwise, have Mush
    back – without those useless lawyers!

  20. Tilsim

    @ Harold J. Wilson

    Mush’s time has past and in my view he is not a credible option for Pakistan. Other than my and others concerns regarding his poor execution and political judgement errors during his tenure, he has no real political base in Pakistan. His constituency was the army which is now not relevant. The courts and the media are extremely hostile to him. The politicians, media and lawyers would have him facing a trial for treason if the army ever allowed it.

    In my view to get things started, it is really the Pakistan army that holds the key. They are moving in fits and starts. They have a willing partner in the current government to make a decisive move against radical Islamic forces. However in my view they are still undecided that an Islamist state will be inimical to their interests or outlook. They appear not to be willing as yet to move against radicals within the establishment or their proxies. This may change as matters continue to deteriorate and different pressures come to bear.

    Remember a soldier is usually a conservative guy. In that sense, they are focussed in the first instance on security type operations against those radical forces that have taken up arms against them, securing influence in Afghanistan, keeping the US engaged (helps increase the leverage) and keeping India in check. They also don’t want the politicians to interfere in national security matters. This gives the forces of wahabi/salafist Islam a free reign to use the educational system, media, courts, bureaucracy for imposing their brand of Islam and indoctrinating the public to their fascist ideology. In some respects the outlook of the army and the Islamists also overlap – both institutions see enemies everywhere and are very doctrinaire in their outlook. However the army has a key alliance with the US which is a constant. The Islamists are totally opposed to the US.

    Democracy is weak. However the politicians (despite having an achilles heal of incompetence and corruption) as well as the media are still the best hope to fight the indoctrination of the public.

    The security apparatus keeps everyone guessing but it knows that it can’t physically fight the public. The vehemence of public opinion is another key factor too. The public will not openly revolt but opinion may harden against terrorists and the supporters of terrorists which will undermine their power. The right minded people in Pakistan have begun by trying to help inform and educate. They are pointing to the real causes for the turmoil but also explaining how Islam itself is being hijacked by a new ideology. This is not an easy task when people hold strongly to their cherished beliefs, there is an absence of moderate religious authority and critical thinking is not a feature of society. However more and more voices are speaking out and the hope is that a snowball effect can follow.

    It is for this reason the radicals are absolutely desperate to use the TV channels to continuously highlight real or perceived failings of the centrist PPP government and at times the right wing but opportunistic PML-N as well as attacking those who speak out against their interests and their brand of Islam. As Nato forces and India are inimical to their aims and the public also worries about them, the radicals keep on saying that terrorism is because of or as a result of the direct actions of foreigners. They spread sectarian hatred through mosques and the media and condition the public to accept a new radical 20th century vision of political Islam which is fighting all those around it for ‘justice’ – ‘God’s will’. The outrageous economic and political failings of more moderate/secular people are the best proofs that they use to gather support as well as killing grassroot activists and leaders with mass followings such as Benazir Bhutto. It is also one of the reasons why one significant political leader, Altaf Hussein from MQM lives in exile in London.

  21. Tilsim, you make a lot of sense. There’s also a time-line question; how far can public safety be allowed to deteriorate before the army is compelled to step in and declare martial law? And then, how far will they go toward suppressing the jihadist militias, the ‘ghost seminaries’ and the madrassas supporting armed insurgency?

    Sounds to me like the Afghan policy of Mullah Omar is being deployed now in Pakistan itself. Show that there is no public safety without the Taliban guaranteeing it and then put them in charge of enforcing an Islamist (Wahabist) set of regulations regarding what can be taught, said on TV, sold, worn in public etc. That will be their price for ensuring ‘public safety’ which is to say safety from others, though not from them, since there will be countless brutalities and intrusions into people’s lives – as there were under Zia but much moreso. The Talibanisation of Pakistan is clearly what is aimed at. The rule of Sharia enforced by the illiterate!

  22. Reema Reza

    @Harold J. Wilson @Tilsim – You guys make some valid points, sad but Pakistanis only behave when they have the military shoving them around with a “dhanda’, say what you may of Ayub Khan for a minuscule period Pakistan did shine.
    I think now Pakistan needs a mandatory draft of men from ages 18-30 where like Israel for a 2 year period they join, either to enforce peace in cities or they work to improve schools & infrastructure in the outskirts areas which breed the terrorist monsters.
    This draft can contribute to society from cleaning cities to teaching or building schools. If the program succeeds then we women can join the ranks and help the female population in education and learning skills to better the lives of the less fortunate. No one irrespective of their financial or social statues should be differed from serving.
    Our biggest problem, is not India, Americans or the rest of the world it is our people there is no love for the nation that Jinnah created since partition we repeat the mistakes that forces us into a black hole.

  23. Abdullah

    Secularists maligning Islam like the hypocrites of the past claiming to be peacemakers

    Reject your taghout called democracy

  24. Terrorism is definitely a huge problem in the Middle-East and undeveloped countries as well as developed countries. It’s the work of extremists and to blame all the people of one religion is quite ridiculous. Thanks for the post😀