During a meeting held on Sunday, the Sunni Ulema Board (SUB) issued a fatwa declaring Operation Zarb-e-Azb as “jihad”. Pakistan’s current situation makes it quite tempting to view this development in a positive light. The country is in a state of war, and it is high time that religious groups as well as common people take a clear position against terrorism. The fatwa does exactly that. Still, it has to be opposed. Why?

There are several good reasons. For starters, the state should not seek religious validation for its policies or actions pertaining to any given subject. If a particular course of action is deemed favourable towards national interest, then rejection or endorsement from religious groups becomes completely irrelevant. What if SUB’s fatwa had opposed the military action? Operation Zarb-e-Azb would have continued regardless. What does that tell us? They’re irrelevant. Does that also mean we only support the fatwas that seem to be in favour of the state and reject others? That doesn’t sound like a practical or consistent policy. Perhaps it is best that we leave the fatwa business out of state’s business, and go on with what needs to be done. We either need them all or we don’t need them at all.

Secondly, Pakistan’s armed forces should be allowed to operate and behave as a professional force. Fighting and sacrificing lives for the sake of their countries is a cause worthy enough for armed forces around the world. The doctrine of jihad is a dangerous one, and has been misused by countless groups to justify their actions. TTP claims to be fighting for God. So does Al-Qaida. Let the armed forces fight for the people and their country. This will leave the rank and file far less vulnerable to the politics surrounding religion. DG ISPR will not have to issue statements to respond to Mr Munawar Hasan’s remarks nor would Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid be able to create a huge mess with a single fatwa.

Lastly, the rampant fatwa culture in Pakistan needs to be discouraged. SUB comprises of ‘ulemas’ of one sect. Take the same issue to clerics from another school of thought and they will give you a completely different verdict; subjective judgments. Mostly, fatwas are used by religious groups to target each other, especially minorities, which remain on the receiving end. The country would do better without the blessed hand of the clergy over its eyes and ears.