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Wake up Pakistan ! Presently the Muslim societies are in a state of ideological confusion and flux. Materialism, terrorism,...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Control of the Narrative of Terror

THE emerging narrative in Pakistan, especially in the Punjabi mainland and the urban centres of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, shows that the militant discourse is fast moving from social to state control.

The discourse constitutes a zeal for war against everything that is different or at variance with the cultural, political and social domains. It manifests itself in the collective desire of mostly middle-income, urban groups to shape a homogenous world.

Diversity appears inimical to this discourse. Isolation from and conflict with the states of the region and the wider world is at its core. The mainstream electronic media, social media, right-wing and religio-political parties, apart from militant groups themselves, seem to be vying with one another in propagating the elements of this discourse out of compromise, complicity or fear, or all of these.

The popular narrative of the militant discourse is quite clearly indicated in the response to the elimination of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakeemullah Mehsud in a recent drone strike.

Although the history and aims of the slain TTP chief are well known, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief, Imran Khan presented a simplistic argument — something like this: the TTP chief was (perhaps) going to initiate a peace dialogue with the government which would have led to peace in Pakistan.

The US killing of the TTP chief was based on malevolent intentions of not giving peace a chance in Pakistan.

The argument has several problems. First, several media reports, both local and international, establish that the drone strike which eliminated Hakeemullah Mehsud had nothing to do with the peace dialogue. They show that US intelligence had been after the TTP chief since it was claimed he was involved in an attack on the CIA establishment in Afghanistan’s Khost province a few years back.

Second, according to many observers, the assumed peace process between the TTP and the state had few prospects of success on several counts. The TTP chief’s interview with the BBC some days before his death is cited as partial evidence of his lukewarm attitude towards the peace process that is being vehemently advocated by the political leadership.

The drone strike killing the TTP chief must be seen against the background of three intertwining circles.

There is a national circle with links to insurgency, terrorism and militancy inside Pakistan. There is a regional circle which outlines factors related to political events in the regional states, especially Afghanistan, Iran and India. There is the last circle which links national and regional security factors with the international community, especially Europe and North America.

The political leadership and military establishment have to become aware of the increasingly complex phenomenon that has evolved over the past several decades. To disentangle the complexities, state institutions and the political leadership have to adopt a five-pronged strategy mustering all the will power at their disposal.

First, an alternative pluralistic discourse has to be constructed through education, the media and civil society to replace the militant narrative that has permeated the veins of both the state and society over the past several years.

Second, the strategy of employing ‘privatised jihad’ to achieve foreign policy objectives in the region has to be disbanded altogether. Instead, political and economic interests need to be clearly articulated, and negotiated with regional states as well as the international community.

Third, an economy of war has been in place in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past several years. This economy constitutes drug trafficking, the smuggling of natural resources, kidnapping, human trafficking and the narcotics trade that keep feeding the insurgency, terrorism and Talibanisation. This economy needs to be replaced with an economy of peace.

Four, the use of power to dismantle the command and control structure, supply lines and recruitment and training centres of irreconcilable militant organisations needs to be time-bound, accountable and targeted.

Five, a rational framework needs to be put in place to engage the reconcilable militant organisations politically. The framework of dialogue for reconciliation and integration needs to be chalked out for the purposes of identifying the mechanism, legality and constitutionality of the task.

There seems to be a virulent effort by the religio-political parties to construct and manipulate the cultural and political discourse in Pakistan in the wake of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s elimination. These parties, as evidenced in the words of the Jamaat-i-Islami leader most recently, propound the view that the slain TTP chief was a ‘shaheed’, which has both religious and cultural connotations. By implication this means that all the innocent victims killed in terrorist attacks are ‘infidels’ who were out to destroy Islam and Muslims.

The militant organisations’ social media and mainstream media sympathisers seem to have almost succeeded in totally confusing the middle-class educated youth. The majority of the educated middle-class youth seems to have started choosing the discourse of the Taliban and religious militancy as an alternative to US economic and political domination.

They seem to think that it is only the US which is standing in the way of their redemption and salvation in the hereafter. All those sane voices who try to dissect the situation objectively are instantly dubbed as US agents thus divesting them of their fundamental right to express their opinion.

By: KHADIM HUSSAIN; The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar. khadimhussain565@gmail.com   Twitter:khadimhussain4

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