Branded a “sponsor of terrorism” by the Trump administration for failing to act against extremism, Pakistan has sought to polish its image by decreeing that only the state has the right to issue a jihad (holy war).
But now some Islamist politicians want the government to use its new powers to settle the most prickly issue in Pakistan’s fragile relationship with India: its historic claims over the contested territory of Kashmir.
The order was included in a fatwa (decree) against terrorism, entitled Paigham-e-Pakistan (“Pakistan’s message”), which the government announced on January 16 at a ceremony headed by President Mamnoon Hussain and addressed by many Islamic scholars.
Its two most significant features are the declaration that only the state can announce a jihad, and a decree that any move to impose Sharia law needs to conform with legal statutes. The fatwa seeks to address challenges in Pakistani society created by terrorism, sectarianism and religious extremism.
But quite unexpectedly, the decree has prompted calls by prominent Islamist parties for the government to formally launch a jihad in Indian-held Kashmir, as well as in Afghanistan.
Government sources close to the drafting of Paigham-e-Pakistan have confirmed that Islamist leaders are agitated over the decree and are keen to capitalize on the state’s capitulation to a Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY)-led protest rally in Islamabad in November.
Islamist leaders are agitated over the decree and are keen to capitalize on the state’s capitulation to a Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY)-led protest rally in Islamabad in November
“The government is already under pressure over the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of the prophethood) issue, and after the TLY dharna [sit-in], the religious groups are gaining strength and want a formal announcement of jihad,” a government official, who worked on the draft, told Asia Times. “And so the edict that was designed to counter radicalism is being misused to render it counterproductive.”
Abdur Rauf Farooqi, the Secretary General of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (JUI-S), the political face of a prominent Taliban seminary, confirmed that the demand for a state jihad has been forwarded.
“If the fatwa has made jihad the state’s prerogative, then we demand (the) formal launch of jihad in Kashmir immediately. Because Kashmir belongs to Pakistan and has been illegally occupied by India,” he told Asia Times. “Furthermore, since the Afghanistan Taliban are engaged in jihad against (the) US and NATO occupation, Pakistan should participate in Afghan jihad as well,” Farooqi added.
Ameer-ul-Azeem of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) agreed that Pakistan should engage in jihad to ‘‘safeguard Muslim interests’’. “Even if a formal announcement cannot be made for whatever reasons, the covert jihad that the state has been involved in should continue at full throttle.
‘Safeguarding Muslim interests’
“Also to ensure Muslim unity, there needs to be strict implementation of Islamic law, which as per Paigham-e-Pakistan is also the state’s responsibility,” Ameer-ul-Azeem said.
Amjad Khan of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), the party that has been in coalition with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and whose leader Fazl-ur-Rehman was closely involved in the formulation of Paigham-e-Pakistan, said that a formal launch of jihad was under consideration.
“We’ve been discussing this for a long time and have ulema (religious scholars) from all schools of thought on board,” he told Asia Times. “The state should take all the ulema (Body of Muslim scholars) on board and make the announcement.”
Meanwhile, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the political wing of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was involved in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, feels the Paigham-e-Pakistan decree vindicates the stance of the group and their leader Hafiz Saeed.
JuD spokesman Nadeem Awan said the group was founded on its demand for a formal announcement of a Kashmir jihad. ‘‘That has been our demand throughout. Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein and the state should do whatever it takes to liberate it.
‘That has been our demand throughout. Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein and the state should do whatever it takes to liberate it’
“We’ve actually contributed written literature on this front more than anyone else. Pakistan should formally announce jihad and Kashmir, and we should also support the Afghan Taliban to liberate Afghanistan from the US,” he said to Asia Times.
Referring to the Afghan Taliban, which the JUI-S openly backs with its seminary Dar Ul Uloom Haqqania, Abdur Rauf Farooqi stressed that the Pakistani state should recall its own policies from the past.
“It was our state that prepared the mujahideen for Afghan jihad, now it should follow through with that struggle,” he said.
“Not just that, since Pakistan is also an Islamic state, it should announce global jihad to liberate Muslims around the world, especially Palestine. I think that’s the part that the Saudi-led Islamic military coalition led by [former Army Chief] Raheel Sharif should play.”
Farooqi added that until the “actual causes” behind terrorism were addressed, no counter-terror fatwa would work. “These include the spread of secular ideas in society,” he maintained.
While the current Pakistan Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has been making placatory noises, the latest move to dissociate the state from charges of supporting terrorism seems to have backfired.
Photo Credit : Members of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, an Islamist political party, gather during a sit-in in Rawalpindi on November 17, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Faisal Mahmood