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Pampering the Bigots

Successive governments and the ruling elite continue to look the other way.

By Brig. (R) Saleem Qamar Butt | December 2021

The recent developments in Pakistan with respect to the Government making unspecified deals with the TTP in Afghanistan through interim Afghan interior minister Siraj Haqqani, and with TLP on their rampage, again through equally controversial clergy has, earned a lot of ire from within as well as from outside. Both proscribed organisations have undoubtedly a questionable conception, existence, funding, sponsorship, motives and operational strategy; with blood of law enforcers as well as that of innocent civilians on their hands, besides plundering and destroying public and private property. While the government takes solace in the erroneous argument of belief in non-violent solution to a potentially inflammatory situation; yet, the maximum opposing views are of capitulating to gun-toting firebrand bigots wearing religious cloaks, who act as proxies in the hands of foreign hostile agencies and used by internal actors for show of power for political and economic mileage. Both opinions hold some logic nevertheless.

There is a general consensus in the country among historians that the over-assertive clergy of today was never supportive of creation of Pakistan in the first place. However, after the inception of an independent state for the subjugated and most deprived Muslims of the subcontinent, which was envisaged to be a moderate and modern Islamic state, the same clergy and associates, despite their sectarian differences but common semi-literacy, found it convenient to jump on the bandwagon and make consistent efforts to get into the power corridors, directly or indirectly. Even during the nominally secular regimes of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the clergy coalesced to advance Maulana Maududi’s Wahabi values. Mr. Bhutto even repackaged his regime as Islamic. According to a press editorial in February 2008, “The true potency of religion as a weapon, came to the fore with General Ziaul Haq. Embarking upon a project of martial institutionalization of the Pakistani religion and the Pakistani military, General Zia sought to re-mould the Pakistani identity, which further denuded the country of Jinnah’s ideals of liberalism, secularism and rationality….This newfound religious mooring, enshrined in the concept of jihad, in the military was hand in glove with the Americans’ aims as they went deep inside Afghanistan for a battle with the Red Army. Imbued with a missionary zeal, the Mujahideen — holy warriors (later came to be called Taliban) — acted as America’s proxy ground forces”. The Iranian clergy revolution of 1979 further accentuated the thus far subdued Sunni-Shia fault-line and added fuel to religious extremism within the country. As the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan, Mujahedeen and Pakistan soon after. declaring her unfought victory, the funding to Jihadi elements also dried up quickly from all sponsors and therefore, all Jihadi elements and their envious competitors went around for finding new sponsors within and outside for which there wasn’t much dearth. Consequently, the State of Pakistan saw an uncontrolled rise of more and more militarized versions of politico-religious groups, cults and parties which had nothing to contribute positively in the country; some of them with better organization and larger funding, became tools in the hands of various political parties as rented crowds guaranteed vote a bank besides acting as foreign proxies as and when required. Due to absence of enormous funds needed for the rehabilitation of jobless jihadists as well as a lackluster approach towards this menacing issue, Pakistan found it almost impossible to rein in the blooming business of the clergy where a semi-literate leadership with self-acclaimed honorific religious titles, came to mislead the deprived and hungry masses by churning out purported religious narratives. Needless to say that their spurious narratives, fiery speeches and acts of killing and destruction by challenging the government writ, have mostly been anti-Islam and anti-state. However, the successive governments and the ruling elite being direct beneficiaries of the cults serving them, continued to look the other way and consequently almost all institutions responsible for prevailing upon such Frankenstein monsters always appeared helpless, frightened and submissive.

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As a retired army officer, the writer has proficiency in military intelligence, diplomacy, strategic analyses, forecast and executive management. He can be reached at

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One thought on “Pampering the Bigots

  • December 2, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    An excellent article encompassing various aspects of Afghan war and its spill over effects on Pakistan over the time. The writer view is based on hard facts and refers to ideal environment. Socio political structure in our country may continue to play a major drag at decision making end for which concerned heads need scratching.