Federal Minister for Information left many a religious elements flabbergasted with his May 3 comments on Madrassas. Never has any politician spoken so clearly on this purportedly ‘sensitive’ issue against the religious extremists promoting organized hatred, ignorance and culture of ‘unlearned hordes’ in Pakistan.

The Minister’s pluck caused him public criticism by the religious ‘scholars’, decrees of excommunication from Islam and of blasphemy, accusations of being Ahmadi (yes, being Ahmadi is that bad!), public expressions of hatred through prominently placed banners etc., and a notice to explain himself to the Senate. No wonder he had to pronounce on May 24 that madrassas had no link with terrorism and militancy. On both instances the Minister used generalizations. The first one was met with strong criticism (even from his own party members), but the latter was accepted by all and sundry without even a proviso. Everyone lives happily ever since.

Just when the madrassa elite was harassing Pervez Rasheed and his own party leaders and ministers had left him alone to deal with it, Islamabad Police was hunting the people who were putting up highly inflammatory banners and posters full of hatred and incitement to violence against Pervez Rasheed. Thanks to the Interior Minister, the police quite strongly followed the case. There were few who were arrested. A few others posed resistance to the police party, who then chased them to a madrassa in F-6/4. That’s where even the Police – the key civilian law enforcing machinery – thought their jurisdiction ended. The culprits are still at large, in the protection of that madrassa.

Cases have been registered in two police stations of Islamabad, Thana Aabpara and Thana Shalimar under Sections 500 and 501 of the Pakistan Penal Code that deal with defamation, printing of defamatory material and statements conducing to public mischief. As per the media reports, it was the Islamabad chapter of Jamiat Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (JASWJ) that had put up the banners. When the media contacted ASWJ, the banned organization that is so far operating openly with impunity, and asked about its links to JASWJ, the former denied any kind of ties. There might not be any possible way to prove the links even if they exist. Even if proven, there is nothing that the state would choose to do.

There is no one in the government that could do anything about it. Mainly because no institution of the state is ready to trust the Prime Minister or the Chief of Army Staff who have repeatedly said in different statements post Peshawar School Attack that they are absolutely serious about crushing all kinds of terrorism and that there were no more any good or bad terrorists. Every institution wants to pass the buck to the other for one simple reason. There have been certain institutions that have created and nurtured these monsters. Why would the weaker civilian institutions like Police, trust the creators? If A has created the problem, why is B expected to clean the mess with little muscle and almost non-existent power to deal with the possible blowback?

Pakistan Rangers (Sindh), a paramilitary force, has been conducting a ‘Targeted Operation’ in Karachi since a few months. Despite this, high profile targeted killings as well as brutal terrorist attacks are still happening (the Sabeen Mehmud murder and Safoora Bus Attack are cases in point). Not only that, the way a banned organization like ASWJ is openly functioning under plain sight of the ‘Targeted Operators’ not only in Karachi but in rest of the country as well is appalling. If ASWJ would not be covered by the operation, the Federal Interior Ministry would be justified to choose the status quo in Islamabad viz a viz ASWJ operations. No wonder we are witnessing ASWJ rallies everywhere including Islamabad and Quetta recently.

This inaction, indecisiveness and wooliness around the militancy issue have been fairly old phenomenon in the Islamic Republic. It has mainly emanated from our policy of using our strategic location for rent seeking from world powers, positioning ourselves in geopolitics of the region in certain way and defining our national interest with the lens of state power rather than people’s development. Started in early 1970s – as opposed to just the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s as is perceived popularly – this policy has damaged us in more ways than we can fathom.

Gone are the days when madrassas were the only breeding grounds for extremism. Today, they remain a fountainhead of religious violent extremism, but the roots have spread in practically every societal institution. The state made a symbiotic partnership with political entities like Jamaat e Islami etc. This strategy did a great deal in popularizing certain narrative that proved to be the precursor of militant Jihadism. It had many strands like anti-West, anti-everything-non-Pakistan-and-non-Muslim, etc. With the passage of time these strands kept increasing in number. Anti-politician, anti-liberal forces, against anti-establishment resistance forces, so on and so forth.

All these strands, although emanating from the madrassas initially, were successfully brought to the popular consciousness through infiltration in academia, intelligentsia, students unions, workers’ unions, media, civil and military bureaucracy, industrialist and agricultural elite, politicians, what not. It was mainly the media, the academia, the intelligentsia and the students unions through which a lot of literature was produced and a strong popular narrative was built around all these strands of radicalism.

For example, be it Malala Yousafzai or Mukhtaran Mai, be it non-Muslim victims of the misuse of Blasphemy Laws or forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls, be it the issue of good versus bad Taliban or Indo-Pak peace, be it civil military relations or ties with the Western countries especially USA, you would see a strong radical narrative about each of these. Any dissenting voice would be humiliated, discredited and vilified, mostly, by or with patronage of military establishment. On each of these issues, the usual proxies of the establishment would speak in symphony against the dissenters.

The practice of killing the dissent through libel and slander, supported and encouraged by the state institutions has brought public mental health to a point where any dissent or resistance or even a slightest non-conformity is considered to be treason, anti-Pakistanism or anti-Islamism. Public aggression is incited against dissenters using social media and talking heads on the TV. That has been happening quite aggressively after Peshawar School Attack, which has a strong bearing on why nothing could be done on National Action Plan.

This is also one reason why a Federal Minister was left alone to deal with the rage of madrassa elite amidst fatwas to declare him Ahmadi and murtad. This is one reason why no political government can ever take action against militancy-linked madrassas or proscribed organisations. This is one reason amongst many contributing factors why Saad Aziz was produced. This is also one reason why we will keep producing more Saads.