The Pakistani society and state seem to be incarcerated in a perpetual extremism dilemma. Academia is in continuous debate, one that it had initiated in 1953 with anti-Ahmadiyya riots. The same debate was initiated again with Zia’s Islamization policy.

Indoctrination was important to muster manpower to fuel Afghan jihad. It wasn’t jihad. It was politics. To nurture the politics, extremist narratives were developed.

A narrative is the real account of events in a way that they develop a message. This concatenated account can give a real or fictitious presentation of the events. A lot hinges on the interpretation.

Pakistani state started becoming hostage to extremist narratives after the 1953 riots. The state did not bow before the bloody demonstrations emanating from politics of a particular religious group. Imposition of martial law in Lahore put forward the state’s stance.

The religious factions of sub-continent did not have any role in the Pakistan movement. But following Partition the time came to get adjusted in a newly established state, which was the corollary of sociopolitical marginalization of the Muslim minority in India.

This adjustment required some narrative and an interlinked political campaign. Bhutto’s efforts were a myopic step towards this adjustment in order to attain political stability.

Little taste of Islamization was introduced to exhibit pro-religious proliferation only to appease the religiously strengthened groups.

A narrative was introduced. But in the cloak, there was politics.

Zia’s Islamization is considered to be the decisive step towards extremism. Legitimacy of military rule was echoed and to fade away Bhutto’s popularity and his clamour of ‘Islamic socialism’, a new face of Islamization was required.

The biggest goal was pursuit of interests in the Afghan war. A huge campaign required huge resources.

We always have ample manpower. But behind a man a family exists, which is closely knit with society.

Indoctrination of masses was the solution. And so the narrative was developed.

This time ‘jihad’ against heinous crimes and atrocities of Soviets against Afghan Muslims was the rallying cry: a simplistic story to attract the simple majority.

Politics was put aside. The bullets were out. The society was now captivated by radical ideologies. The bullet had to take its own course.

Now the same ideologies have nurtured a quagmire. The solution is to root it out. But how?

Dialogue? It can’t work alone.

Military operation? Yes, it works. It has uprooted various extremist groups. It has dismantled their hideouts, networks and backup.

But what about the sanctuaries churning out extremist narratives?

What about the youth being educated on same lines?

Is there any narrative to negate the previous narratives?

Is there any interpretation of previous ideas along new lines?

Sun Tzu said ‘Know your enemy and you will not be perished in hundred battles’. Do we know the enemy?

Yes, it’s out there. Fight it. Have a bloody combat. But what about the battlegrounds in our houses, schools, brains?

Pakistan was created as a safe haven for Muslims. Intelligentsia and political elite have always been using selective history and events to develop their narratives. Absence of a comprehensive national narrative gave ample opportunity to the provinces to develop their own perspectives benefitting provincial politics.

Now the society is a breading-ground of conflicting and contradicting narratives. This gave way to regionalism and sectarianism.

Still the war is being waged against the faces, not ideas or mindsets. Neither of the narratives has any actual national or religious perspective.

It is impossible to fight extremism in absence of any unified national narrative based on national security. The war on terror cannot be won without winning the war of narratives.

It is the time to look back at our roots. It is time to understand and reinterpret our history only in the light of national cohesion.