”Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl [JUI-F] is a moderate religious political party. We condemn all types of terrorism and extremism and we support government in its endeavor to eliminate terrorism. It is a misconception that JUI [F] is against military operation in North Waziristan, but we are trying to engage government for adopting a comprehensive anti-terrorism policy at state level”, said Jan Achakzai in an exclusive interview with Economic Affairs.
You said that JUI F is a moderate political party. How you will define extremism?
Yes, JUI – F is a moderate religious political party. Maulana Mufti Mahmud who
led JUI during the 70s played an important role in the formation of 1973 Constitution for Pakistan. The constitution fundamentals are based on Islamic principles and it’s a constitution for which all the religious sects agreed. Therefore, it is a law of the land and every citizen has to obey it and any person, group or party which does not obey the law or raises arms against the state is extremist and needs to be dealt with accordingly.
The militancy phenomenon would not be switched off only after military operation in Waziristan. There are criminal, ethnic and sectarian groups operating across the country. They might have different roles but they have the same methodology. They are brothers in arms. Therefore, we have to address all types of militancy because they are one in soul. Fighting militancy needs more than tactical strategy. You have to have a complete policy to deal with it.
How should be this comprehensive policy that you are referring to?
We need to revisit our foreign policy. Wherever American intervention went, we saw another militancy arising, be it Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. Give me one good reason; if they want to have a base in Afghanistan, they would love to create a threat perception. We need to eliminate this threat as we can’t afford to become Iraq or Ukraine. I will give you another example. You spray the mosquitoes and kill as many as you could. If there is pond, many would regrow so kill the pond. If you clear the pond, crocodiles could be the next target.
First of all, we should have a clear vision. If we believe militancy is living within our confines, we have to show zero tolerance to deal with it. You cannot just eliminate them by making tall claims and telling them to stop this bloody business. You may not clear them all at once but at least have clarity of vision. Don’t lead things to confusion. These operations have been going on for long. Nobody is allowed to ask why isn’t it succeeding? Don’t give me this undefined time frame that it will take 30 years. We need specific answers.
You are suggesting that the government should come up with clearheaded policy to fight extremism. Would you support government to ban such Islamic Madrassas which are a cause of spreading extremism?
There you are talking about symptoms of militancy, not the root causes. The root cause is having used militancy as a weapon in the past. Had our policies been turned around, it wouldn’t be a big question. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that one madrassa may be involved in militancy. Madrassa networks openly say they aren’t allowing militancy training. If the government has any proof of any such training, they should just go and smash those madrassa’s if Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) allows that. There are more than 18000 madrassa’s in this network of Wafaq ul Madaris.
I am sorry to say that a few NGOs operating in Pakistan are using Madrassa title as a scape goat to make money. Money is being made by these NGOs using three issues; security, foreign policy, religious façade. They are filling this discourse into the mainstream media. We should part our ways as a state, as a government. We should suffocate all these people and half of the job would be done.
Do you think that the Red Mosque cleric Ghazi Rashid was an extremist as he challenged state’s writ?
At Red Mosque, we all know what they did was unacceptable, what the government did was also not acceptable. That was excessive use of force. For ten militants, you cannot kill hundreds. Negotiations were about to be reached but Musharraf didn’t allow the negotiation to succeed. Same state under Musharraf was using them as a double game with the Americans.
At that time media also manipulated the narrative. By controlling media outlets,
resources and its narrative, one could make somebody a villain or a hero. I am not justifying talibanization, vandalism or vigilante justice. State could diffuse it through pressure tactics, it went for the use of harsh power, and no doubt the Lal Mosque operation triggered militancy all over the country. It provoked Madrassa students for a reaction. There was already a landscape of militancy but it was put on fire through that operation.
In your opinion, what prepared the landscape for militancy in Pakistan?
We taught these people to fight in Afghanistan. The militant ideology wasn’t developed in madrassa’s. The finest universities and strategic minds developed the strategy to fight Russia in Afghanistan. I have heard some retired generals even saying today that it’s worth paying the price for Indian military pin down through a small bunch of militants in Kashmir. This doctrine is still lurking in some retired minds.
In FATA where the stakeholders should be the parties belonging to the region for dialogue but the government wouldn’t give weight to the real stakeholders. Dialogue was a useful option to resolve this but we didn’t use it properly. General Kayani said that we would reduce militancy, but I will say that we don’t need reduction; we need zero tolerance policy against militancy. We need to have a comprehensive policy framework.
The JUI-F President Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has been chairing Kashmir Committee from many years. What is JUI-Fs stance on Kashmir dispute?
We very much want to see the end to the suffering of the people in Kashmir. We have a stand that it should be resolved through UN resolution. Unfortunately, the state of Pakistan doesn’t have a policy framework and a bottom line on Kashmir. We don’t want the scenario where people of Kashmir get disappointed. Kashmir is an issue that needs resolution for everything between India and Pakistan, be it trade or foreign relations. Whatever negotiations you do with India, it turns into a zero sum game that’s why we need resolution of the core issues.
You said that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved through UN resolutions. It means your party doesn’t support arm struggle in Kashmir?
We really believe that Kashmiri’s are struggling for freedom. We simply believe that they are mindful of their rights. But we do not support infiltration by any group into Kashmir affairs and in post 9/11 scenario; there has been no tolerance for such groups. However, the government is very much committed to the Kashmir cause. We never support any armed group whether it’s against India in occupied Kashmir. We have a serious contention just because we got our own problems.
Listen, the two percent who are fighting against the state whether they are fighting in the name of religion or some sect or ethnicity, the state should act against this group but the whole sect shouldn’t be bashed. But the media happily gives them the space and narrative while the government simply picks and choses.