Permanent solution to extremism

November 4, 2018

A day after the government reached a written agreement with leaders of the nationwide sit-ins, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in an interview with the BBC said the agreement reached between the government and violent protesters who demonstrated against the acquittal of Asia Bibi was “firefighting” and not a permanent solution to the larger problem of extremism saying further that we need to take steps against extremism, against such kind of violent protesters and we need to come up with a permanent solution. Right now this is not a cure; this is firefighting what we are doing, adding up that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is committed to the cure, which is “the real thing”. Pakistan has developed its identification as a Muslim nation in the world and is not facing any major identity problem. All state institutions have to understand that extremist religious groups cannot add anything new to the bond between state and society. Pakistan already has an all-inclusive social contract in the form of its Constitution, which needs to be made operative in all state and social affairs. The government has to take up a clear policy against all hatemongering and extremist groups in the country, and take legal and administrative measures to control their activities. The government can check with all the policy documents on countering violent extremism produced during the last few years. The preceding government was hesitant to implement these policies, but the shifting nature of the menace requires urgent action. The state must not outsource both religious and national identity narratives to different ­religious actors, as they use them to expand their influence in society. The state believes that religion can unite the nation and can generate a unified society, but religious actors use this concept to prop up their own objectives and aims, which are mainly rooted in their sectarian and religious filaments. That is why religiously goaded outfits, including their political wings, have not only failed the state’s ideological project but have also damaged the common good of society, which is the real force that stands for the society’s sustainability, for the good of all, as well as its weakest and most ­vulnerable members. State conciliation only gives oxygen to extremist groups, adding to their bargaining power. This is the main reason behind the wave of higher level of intolerance and extremism in the country compared with other Muslim countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Central Asian states, Turkey etc. In these countries, religious groups cannot hold the system hostage or control the national narrative. These countries invest in ­religious scholarship and do not promote certain religious groups.

Pakistan should come up with strategy to invest in ­religious scholarship rather than favoring certain religious groups.