Director General ISPR, Maj-General Rashid Qureshi has said that no jihadi activity is going on in Pakistan.
There are no jihadi groups on Pakistani soil, not is any jihadi group being trained here, he said.
The recent arrests, which he claimed were only 25-30 people and not hundreds as reported, were of sectarian terrorists.
The ban on fund raising in the name of jihad, Qureshi said, was to prevent elements collecting money which was not actually for that purpose.
He went on to claim that the majority of the ulema had welcomed this decision.
On the plan to set up model madaris, Maj-General Qureshi revealed that the madaris were very happy with the Ordinance in this regard.
The offices in Karachi and elsewhere which became the target of the recent drive, according to Qureshi, are local offices of Kashmiri groups, not Pakistani jihadi outfits.
The claim that such organisations existed in Pakistan, he dismissed with the assertion that this was nothing but Indian propaganda.
The Kashmiri struggle was entirely indigenous, and no one is sent from Pakistani territory across the Line of Control, he said.Maj-General Qureshi is an otherwise likeable and decent human being.
One can therefore only sympathise with the plight he finds himself in.
He is tasked with being the chief spokesman of the military government.
In that capacity, he sometimes has to make statements which, unintentionally, provoke either mirth or pity.
Maj-General Qureshi could perhaps take the trouble to explain to the public why, if there are no jihadi organisations here, the military government has felt constrained to mount an operation in Sindh and some other parts of the country to remove fund raising boxes, banners, signboards, seize literature and make arrests of those groups who, whatever Qureshi may choose to call them, claim to be involved in jihad in Kashmir (and some even claim, jihad generally).
As to the number arrested, it is no secret, since the entire print media reported consistently that about 350 people were arrested initially and then most if not all of them were later released.
As to curbing the tendency to exploit the name of jihad to raise money for dubious purposes, obviously no sane person can object to that.
But has the government enough information to be able to decide which ‘jihadi’ group is genuine and which fraudulent? In the operation cited above, no such distinction was in evidence.
Qureshi’s claims of the majority of ulema and madaris being happy at the ban on fund raising and setting up model madaris is not borne out by whatever reactions from such parts of the community have become available so far.
On Friday, which is well known as the day the ulema agitate whatever is the issue of the day from the pulpit, groups of ‘jihadi’ organisations protested at, and rejected the ban on fund raising, actions against the jihadi groups, rejected the model madaris scheme, and threatened an agitation if the military government persisted with its present policy towards them.
They demanded Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider’s head.
A vigorous fund raising drive has been promised in Punjab.
These protests were heard in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Gujranwala.
Meanwhile in Muzaffarabad, the Muttahida Jihad Council also put in its two cents worth in condemnation of the military government’s actions.
Unless all these groups are figments of the print media’s collective imagination, it certainly seems to contradict, on the face of it, Qureshi’s thesis.
Actually what Maj-General Qureshi has tried subtly to do, but not quite succeeded in, is to make a distinction between groups of Kashmiri freedom fighters, who are indigenous, and so-called jihadi groups, who are not and whose agenda may be different from or greater than, the Kashmir struggle.
In public perception and perhaps in fact, however, this distinction is blurred to the point of a credibility gap.
Unenviable as Maj-General Qureshi’s brief is, his pronouncements need to be better thought through to avoid embarrassment to himself and the government he serves.
This article was published in FrontierPost, Pakistan