Islamabad - Pakistan People’s Party on Monday asked government to shun state of denial on fight against terrorism.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar while addressing a workshop on countering terrorism through media organised by Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services for members of the Parliament said, “We cannot employ the enormous power of the media to fight extremism until we come out of the state of denial and call a spade a spade.”

Members of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir assemblies attended the workshop.

Babar said that item 14 of the National Action Plan called for demolishing the structures of militants’ narrative but little attention had been paid to it. “Narratives are made up of words and have tremendous power and significance. Quran says that the universe was created with one word ‘kun’ (be it) and Bible expresses the same thought that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God,” he added. The militants’ narrative began to be constructed in 80’s when special syllabus was constructed in seminaries, he said. “This syllabus was reinforced when Zia adopted motto of faith, belief and jihad in the name of Allah and privatised jihad inside and outside Pakistan’s national boundaries. Today we are reaping the fruits of that syllabus,” he said.

No wonder, he said, that narratives glorifying war in the name of religion led to violence in the name of religion.

The extremists’ narrative, Babar said, was that apostasy was crime punishable with death and that ‘it is our duty and right to punish infidels; that non-Muslims are born to live under subjugation of the Muslims and any government of non-Muslims is illegitimate and must be thrown out by force. They desire one single state of the Muslims of the World under a caliph, he elaborated.

Building counter narrative required intellectual infrastructure based on academic freedom, tolerance for dissent, plurality and critical thinking. It will not be built in garrisons and barracks where the emphasis is on unity of command and not to encourage dissent, he said. Most importantly, it requires for us to come out of the state of denial, he suggested.

The lawmaker said that proscribed organisations like Jaish were protected from UN action; banned outfits allowed to reappear under different names and promises made to choke terror financing are not fulfilled but few speak up. “We are still living in a state of denial and until we come out of it there is little hope of success in countering extremists’ narrative,” he said.

Separately, Senator Farhatullah Babar addressed a memorial reference for late human rights activist Asma Jehangir organised by the sustainable development policy institute. Babar said that both in life and in death, Asma fought against traditions that militated against the weak, the oppressed and the dispossessed.

“That’s why men and women, Muslims and Non-Muslims, rich and poor, kith and kin of the missing persons, all were present at her funeral and spontaneously prayed for her. It was a tribute to the spirit of equality that she championed all her life,” he said.

The lawmaker said that in defence of liberty, she stood up against the dictators, whether civilian or military, the tyrants and the brigands. “Breaking the myth she would stand up to judges and challenge faulty judgments. She detested military dictators and was never persuaded to forgive them because of their claims to benevolence or liberalism,” he said. She was a symbol of resistance against state oppression both literally and symbolically, Babar said.

Her name is literally engraved in law books and journals in the Asma Jilani case, the first when a military dictator was declared a usurper, he said. “The true greatness of Asma is that she radiated inspiration and illumined the path. Because of it, the scattered saplings are fated to grow tall and strong. This indeed is the hope and promise of Pakistan,” he said.

The lawmaker added, “She didn’t seek applause but applause naturally came her way. Asma’s words gave a healing touch to the marginalised and dispossessed. It also hurt the powerful whether among the politicians or the military or the clergy.”

He said that Asma’s fight in and out of the courts for tracing the missing persons will always be remembered. It is said that all applause dies down, all flowers wither away and all trophies gather dust. But the flower that Asma was will never wither away, the applause she was will never die down and the trophy she was will never gather dust, Farhatullah Babar said.

Sartaj Aziz, Afrasiab Khattak, Kishwar Naheed, Asma Shirazi, Abid Sulehri and Basharat Qadir also spoke on the occasion.