Since its very independence, Pakistan has unceasingly been falling prey to extremism of all sorts—emanating out of which is terrorism that has taken the lives of close to a hundred thousand people. Amidst such circumstances, the state has by and large failed to bring forth a national narrative so as to debunk the extremist philosophies and provide the masses—illiterate in particular—with a substitute.

National Counter Terrorism Authority, shortly called NACTA, is an institution that was established back in 2009 as an Administrative Wing with the Ministry of Interior whose aims were to put forth to the Federal Government reviews to help the latter shape effectual policies, to bring about ‘comprehensive national counter terrorism and counter extremism strategies’, to aid the Federal Government in refuting the terrorist and extremist ideologies, to conduct research on all topics pertaining to extremism and terrorism, to act as a liaison with international entities so as to facilitate cooperation, to ‘review laws and suggest amendments’, and to hire specialists for negotiations.

All of it sounds very ingratiating, but at the same time, very quixotic too—in that not only has NACTA failed to attain the aforementioned ends, but has also ensued in myriad losses to the country. PM Khan expressed his discontent with “incapacitated” NACTA’s performance and ordered for the formation of a special committee to help bolster it.

In times when the country seemed bereft of a national narrative opposed to extremism and terrorism, Paigham e Pakistan came to the rescue and filled the blank. Devised by the Islamic Research Institute (IRI), a research arm of International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), Paigham e Pakistan is one of a kind ‘narrative and decree against terrorism and extremism issued by Muftis and religious scholars of all schools of thought’ that has up until now been signed by over 1800 religious clerics and scholars of all schools of thought.

Its purposes are sundry—from pronouncing Jihad without the state’s permission ‘treason’, considering implementation of one’s views as ‘spreading corruption on earth’ punishable by death and regarding the use of religious shibboleths for political gains contrary to the Qur’an and Sunnah, to not countenancing scholars or groups announce each other non-Muslims; this to many might well sound like all the country was in dire need of. Regrettably, it is far from enough.

This narrative has so far been silent on what should the punishment for the one be who takes it upon himself to kill or punish another person—after declaring him/her culprit—and that too when the former is backed by right-wing religious parties. The lynching of Mashal Khan was one man’s idea which afterwards got the consent of the conservative politicians.

Minutes after Mashal was pitilessly beaten to death, hundreds of thousands of people came out in support of the murderers and hailed them as ‘Ghazis’. Acolytes of JUI-F and JI conducted rallies, welcomed the slayers, showered flowers on them and publicised that anybody following suit will meet the same fate as that of Mashal.

‘What should the punishment for the protagonists or perpetrators of crimes be?’ remains a query unreciprocated to date in Paigham e Pakistan.

Also, this narrative seems devoid of how the youth ought to be barred from becoming prey to extremist and militant philosophies—bearing in mind that Pakistan currently has the largest population of youth ever transcribed in its history. This lion’s share—comprising 64% of the country’s population—shouldn’t have been deserted in this narrative. Should the state want the youth not to be disposed to radical sentiments, prompt actions on its part will be needed.

The vulgar language used in ‘dharnas’ to entice the feelings of the masses shouldn’t be turned a blind eye to. In lieu, the perpetrators should be kept away from filling people’s minds with filth and immorality. A rehabilitation drive for the already affected and radicalised should be conducted countrywide.

Constitutionalising and legalising this narrative and backing it with the Parliament’s support, as per Khurshid Nadeem’s words, will make it be recognised countrywide more than now . It does have a moral worth, but giving it a legal position will bring an upsurge in its prominence.

This narrative should also be made part of the curricula for madrassahs and so too of the modern education institutions. It’s not always that the former is where extremist ideologies prevail. The latter too is oftentimes home to radical philosophies—the ruthless lynching of Mashal Khan is an undecomposed example of that.

It’s high time the media took it upon itself to propagate this narrative and educated the masses on this utterly significant matter. The impact media has on shaping people’s sentiments and manipulating their behaviours can play a herculean role in engrossing the latter with the know-how of how can the making of a pluralistic society be made possible.

The party in power doesn’t seem to want to give this narrative ear. Whatever the reasons, this shouldn’t last for long.

Last of all, all of what NACTA was established for can be accomplished via Paigham e Pakistan owing to the fact that the latter has the support of some of the most popular religious clerics. In a society that for the most part has been and continuous to be dominated by religion, whatever has its back will find less or no hurdles whatsoever in its way.

 

The writer is doing his Master’s degree at the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, and working as a Research Officer at Emerging Policymakers’ Institute (EPI) – an Islamabad based youth-led think tank.

 uzzzair1@gmail.com