Rising extremism

Kumail Soomro

The writer is a media studies student with experience in journalism.

We pride ourselves that Pakistan is the first country created in the name of Islam as a separate state for Muslims of the subcontinent. Our founding fathers could have never imagined or failed to decipher that when you create a state in the name of Islam, religious extremism and intolerance is inevitable.

During those days, pan-Islamic movements were on the rise with the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. After a spate of terror activities, Egyptian President Nasser crushed the movement and imprisoned its leaders. Syed Qutb was executed in 1966 eventually become the godfather of Islamic movements. The Brotherhood retailed by assassinating Anwar Sadaat and spent decades in opposition. It was actually in the prison cells of Nasser, Sadaat and Hosni Mubarak that the seed for Islamic extremism was sown.

In Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami was set up by Maulana Maududi in 1949 modelled on the Muslim Brotherhood. The party is one of the oldest in the country but has never seen a serious contender for power. It sought to portray that Muslims had fallen back in pre-Islamic ignorance and there was a need for Islamic reformation. A guiding principle of both the Jamaat and Brotherhood was to achieve these objectives through non-violent means which soon fell out of favour with the emergence of extremist organizations.

The Afghan Jihad led to the creation of the Mujahideen who gained immense support in Pakistan. When these men returned back, they turned their guns towards their fellow countrymen leading to sectarian strife and violence. In 1988, Al-Qaeda was also founded but the resurgence of Islamic extremism came after the 9/11 attacks. Many youth disillusioned with the US-led war on terrorism turned towards extremist organisations where they received training and support.

Today, there are more than 70 outfits that have been outlawed and banned under the Anti-TerrorismAct. A closer look at them reveals that most of them are religious and sectarian outfits. Many of them continue to operate with impunity and their leaders receive state security.

It is only recently with Pakistan being placed on the greylist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that action is being against terror financing and their subversive activities have been curtailed.

Pakistan was a natural base for these movements and terror outfits as it was established as an Islamic state. The nation has seen military rule and parliamentary democracy which has frustrated these Islamic groups that its ideologies to create a theocratic state are not gaining ground. The nation plunged into a bitter war against terrorism since the past two decades which hampered economic growth and stability.

Social media has emerged a new frontier for sectarian outfits to spread discord. In recent weeks, dozens of cases have lodged on sectarian grounds and the situation remains precarious. The Frankenstein that we created has taken thousands of lives and bitterly divided the nation on sectarian and ethnic lines. This exposes our vulnerabilities and could create chaos if it spills on the streets. It remains a mammoth challenge for policymakers to contain the monster that we have all created and can eventually gobble us.

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