Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
After a terrorist attack on Peshawar APS on December 2014, along with launching operation Zarb-I-Azb in North Waziristan, Pakistan also adopted a 20 Points National Action Plan (NAP) for implementation to completely eliminate the terrorism and extremism. In this regard while Zarb-I- Azb was a great success in eliminating terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan, implementation of the NAP also contributed in limiting the role of facilitators. For future vigilance, the ongoing operation Radd-UL-Fassad is continuing. After achieving such a remarkable success in ending terrorism by rendering immense sacrifices, it was felt by the Pakistan government that to end extremist tendencies, leading to terrorism, it was necessary to further reinforce the implementation of the NAP.
In the above context, in January 2018, Pakistani Ulemas have made a major contribution to ending terrorism and extremism by issuing a joint fatwa, named Paigham-I-Pakistan. According to the Herald, dated 22 January, 2018, in the second week of January 2018, during a ceremony, where President of Pakistan was the chief guest, the government of Pakistan announced the ‘Paigham-I-Pakistan’, a unanimous fatwa (Islamic ruling), signed by over 1,800 religious clerics from different schools of thought. The ruling states that those who commit suicide attacks, order such attacks, train such people are all considered rebels against the true spirit of Islam. Many verses from the Quran have been quoted to illustrate punishments for those who create chaos on earth.
The ruling further states that no one, in any capacity, would be allowed to either give a call for the imposition of Shariah or announce the existing governing setup contrary to Islam. It further says that any disagreement among different sects leading to hate speech and sectarian violence would be considered anarchic and punished accordingly. No individual, the document declares, can take the law into his/her hand on the pretext of blasphemy, and only the state can ascertain if an act of blasphemy has been carried or not. The responsibility to enforce the Paigham-e-Pakistan is laid on three entities: the academic/religious institutions, the government institutions, and the mosques. The government institutions are also guided to treat the people of Pakistan with resp-ect and provide equal opportunities for them and fundamental rights as enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution.
Addressing the ceremony, President Mamnoon Hussain expressed confidence that the “Issuing a fatwa drafted by means of a consultative process is a step in the right direction. And it would portray a soft and positive image of Pakistan, and also, highlight Islam as a religion of peace, brotherhood, tolerance and accommodation.”
The above stated fatwa serves as the main plank based on which Pakistani nation is going to be on one platform to eliminate extremist tendencies in some sections of our society. Since extremists and terrorists have been using religion to motivate young people to adopt terrorism for getting paradise, it was necessary that a comprehensive religious ruling is given at the national level to guide the illiterate young people to understand about the details of Jihad. Although, till before January 2018 some religious scholars had given fatwas that terrorism involving violence, including suicide bombing to kill innocent people was not a Jihad, there was a need that the Ulemas of all sects in Pakistan get together and give a well considered grand ruling.
Hence, after eliminating the backbone of terrorists by using hard and soft means and terrorists having lost their will to resist, the Paigham-I-Pakistan Fatwa has been given at a right time to strengthen the NAP and national resolve to further demoralize terrorists hiding in neighbouring Afghanistan, remain vigilant about any future terrorist acts, and ending tendencies of extremism in the society for ensuring a peaceful future. In fact, this fatwa is a sort of national narrative based on which the nation would fight negative thinking and tendencies for weakening extremists’ narratives, which are meant to mislead young people.
In the light of the above it is considered that by building a strong national narrative based on the correct religious precepts, the learned Ulemas of Pakistan have made a major contribution towards strengthening the NAP, aimed at fighting the hidden forces of extremism and terrorism. In this context the fatwa as well indicates that the whole nation is united to confront evil elements who want to lead astray the citizenry to get on their vested agendas by adopting the substance that are disallowed in Islam. The Fatwa also highlights that the Pakistani nation wants to conform to Islam in its correct perspective, grounded along the guidance contained in the Quran and Sunnah.
In this context, it is strongly felt the right execution of the NAP, duly supported by above discussed fatwa would enable Pakistan to shun the forces of extremism and terrorism and focus on its economic development based on the incentives related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to attain prosperity and economic well being of its citizenry.
The author is an ex Army officer and a former Research Fellow, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad.