For Pakistan, is there life after Kashmir? -- by Khaled Ahmed Back   Home  

What if the Kashmir dispute is suddenly resolved? Could Pakistan cope with the absence of jehad? Would the state be able to roll it back to restore the writ it had surrendered to the dogs of war? Covert war always breeds elements within the state institutions who 'privatise' it in order to benefit from the secret funding. The normal citizen who is impressed by the 'modernity' of Pakistan's dangerously unequal economic growth has little idea of how jehad has penetrated the state and civil society. It is difficult to imagine how the powerful jehadi outfits led by high-profile leaders will be finally dismantled to give back to the state its internal sovereignty.

Let us imagine that Pakistan and India are able to resolve the Kashmir dispute; how will Pakistan cope with the centres of power it has created for the prosecution of a 22 year long covert war? Will it be able to easily disarm the jehad it took so long to create? Or should the jehad in India and Afghanistan be allowed to go on indefinitely to save Pakistan from internal conflict and possible collapse?

The class nature of jehad:The gradual surrender of sovereignty to jehad was accompanied by a class war. The 'modern' elite was put under challenge by the rise of the leaders from the seminaries. The boys who went to these seminaries were from the lower and middle classes. They were backed by the middle class officer in the army and the bureaucracy. The English-speaking supremacy of the Pakistani ruling class was challenged by the Urdu journalist emerging as the defender of the 'private' war.

The commitment of the Urdu journalist to jehad contains a class aspect which can't be ignored. When the English language press agonises over the extremism and defiance of the jehadi groups, the Urdu press attacks the English press. Its influential columnists deliver warnings of bodily harm to the writers in the English press for 'adopting an anti-Islamic posture at the behest of Pakistan's enemies'.

Failure against jehadi terrorism:That Pakistan will find it difficult to 'roll back' the jehad after Kashmir is obvious from certain indicators. The governments have not been able to act effectively against the terrorism radiating from jehadi organisations. After the development of sectarianism within jehad, it has been impossible to either contain them or bring to justice those who have killed in the name of sect. The fact that sectarian murders continue unabated is proof of the state's inability to control the genie.

One reason for power of resistance of these sectarian groups and militias is that the state itself interfaces with these groups. A number of functionaries of the state secretly side with them and have actually been caught in the act a number of times. In Lahore, under chief minister Wattoo, a violently sectarian organisation was helped by the very intelligence agencies who were charged with the duty to disarm it. One officer was 'mistakenly' caught by a police officer while helping the organisation conceal its weapons. The police officer was suspended.

'Mother' of all terrorist parties:One very powerful jehadi organisation demands that all shias in Pakistan be declared non-Muslim. It is at war with the shias in three cities where the shia are either in majority or are present in great numbers: Jhang, Parachinar and Gilgit. There are other cities like Hangu where this internal war has frequently spilled over. Despite 'outsourcing' its terrorism to branch outfits its members keep moving among them.

The mother organisation, while keeping aloof from other jehadi groups is nevertheless linked to them through cross-membership of its shura. It avoids the label of jehad but all the militias fighting in Kashmir are closely linked to it. In the past it has been a member of coalition governments in Punjab and has been able to put pressure on the shia community through the state apparatus.

The 'takeover' in Karachi:The process of 'takeover' in Karachi also indicates that the state may find it difficult to 'roll back' what it has taken twenty years to deploy. The first takeover was of course that of the MQM which established the 'norm' of ruling through terror. It was with great difficulty that the stranglehold of the MQM on the city was broken. This pattern was followed by the 'Taliban of Karachi' establishing a supremacy of the Deobandi seminaries in Karachi.

The state, whether ruled by elected governments or by the army, has not been able to prevent these periodic takeovers. Rising to the challenge of the Deobandis, now the Barelvis too take over the city to demonstrate their growing muscle. As if following the example, a number of jehadi leaders in Punjab declared that they would take over twenty cities where they would enforce the sharia through their own cadres. One leader declared that he would march on Islamabad on a given date to ensure that shariat was enforced in the country.

Public support to jehadi terrorism:In Malakand, the 'takeover' process started some years ago and the state has been repeatedly forced to retreat in the face of a spiritual leader who wants to impose a Taliban style order in the region. The difficulty is that the local population supports him. In the NWFP the state is less able to enforce its writ than in Punjab by reason of a traditional proliferation of arms among the Pakhtun tribes. This difficulty will be faced in most of the NWFP and Balochistan.

Popular support is going to be the hardest obstacle in de-'jehading' Pakistan and reverting to a normal writ of the state. This support is available to the warrior clergy in return for the jehad's commitment to changing the internal situation. In this sense, the jehad in Kashmir is not ideologically neutral. The warriors are clear in their minds about what kind of state they want to establish in Kashmir after conquering it. They are also committed to converting Pakistan into the most complete model for an Islamic state with sharia as its law.

State commitment to sharia:It is difficult to fault them on this because that is the ideal to which the state is committed at the rhetorical level. Because of their power within society the jehadis can lean on sharia and redouble their clout. As the clergy becomes more and violent in its language, it is obvious that the jehad, instead of being allowed to be rolled back, will actually be retained as an instrument of power. Clerics who sit on top of jehadi seminaries carry more authority in society than those who don't.

It is difficult to see the state in Pakistan rolling back jehad because in doing so it can endanger itself internally. The task of rolling back will have to be a process of massive disarmament and winkling out of pockets of resistance. If ever the process is undertaken, it will tend to unite the warrior clergy, although such alliances will only be temporary, given the deep schisms that exist within the religious establishment in Pakistan.

Taking away the weapons:The disarmament of the Deobandis will lead to the strengthening of the Barelvis which will not be acceptable to the right wing orthodoxy. The operation will have to be undertaken across the board. Without a doubt the test will be in the state's ability to actually take away illegal weapons from the citizens. In certain parts of Pakistan it will not only be impossible to disarm; it could also be foolhardy.

The other aspect of the roll-back is the stoppage of funds to the powerful warrior priests. The jehadi factions have been allowed by the state to collect funds for jehad. There was a time when these outfits received their money exclusively from their 'sectarian' contacts abroad. The Arab-Iranian rift was actually a source of funds to sectarian factions in Pakistan. There was in fact an incentive in become sectarian to qualify for funds.

Strength of internal funding:But after the organisations became powerful on ground and the state was not taking all the volunteers for jehad from these organisations, it became imperative to supplement the funds through local collections. The organisations began to defray their organisational expenditures mostly from these collections. The jehad fund boxes often seen in shops in the bazars of Pakistan also imply coercion. These collections have allowed the religious leaders and their upper echelon deputies to live in great comfort and security.

The roll-back will be essential once the state decides that its survival depends in suspending the exemptions given to jehad in the past. But closing down the camps will only complicate the process of the roll-back. Once disbanded, the warriors will return to the seminaries. In fact, the closure of the camps will increase their presence in the cities where they will swell the ranks of those who live by violence. If the state is determined to disarm them, they will most probably decide to cross over into Afghanistan to 'supplement' the power of the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. Looked at from this angle, the solution in Kashmir goes in favour of the Taliban.

The 'other' jehad:After Kashmir, Pakistan will be ready to whole-heartedly contribute to the war in Afghanistan. It may sharpen the Shia-Sunni and Barelvi-Deobandi rifts inside Pakistan but it will square with the Pakistani military establishment's ambition to conquer all opposition to the Taliban in Afghanistan and thereafter use it as 'strategic depth'.

For Pakistan, India is a militarily superior neighbouring state which it cannot conquer. But it has a deterrent in the shape of a nuclear bomb in case India wants to conquer Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan no longer needs to fear India; it can, short of war, consider the possibility of increasing pressure on India. On the other hand, Afghanistan is a spiritually superior neighbour that Pakistan has no way of resisting. Imam Khomeini's state in Iran was for a time such a threat, but Iran was a Shia state and therefore could be countered with Deobandism.

There is no defence against the purity of Deobandism. That the state of Pakistan is threatened not so much by India but by Afghanistan may not be clear to the Pakistani establishment yet, but its reality will become more and more palpable in the future. The scaling down and final abandonment of the jehad against India will emphasise Afghanistan's superiority and make the establishment realise that this is a challenge which they were not educated to understand.

This article was published in FridayTimes of Pakistan. Author is the editor of that newspaper.