One must simply admit that there is no end in sight; that those who have decided to turn Pakistan into a country where random killing of innocent civilians is a norm, rather than an exception, will continue to attack. And having admitted this, one must proceed with understanding the reasons and consequences of this kind of terrorism, for the sickening routine of condemnation by government officials, followed by more blasts, followed by more condemnations is a zero-sum game that is not going to take us anywhere. This much is clear: those who have taken the route of indiscriminate bombing and suicide attacks are not following the message of the Qur’an and therefore, each act of random killing that takes lives of non-combatants brings an eternal damnation to them.
This is based on the Qur’anic verse: “And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him” (Q. 4:93) and the fact that suicide is an utterly unacceptable act in Islam. The Noble Messenger said, “Indeed, whosoever kills himself, he will certainly be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell forever” (Bukhari, 5778; Muslim,109 and 110). Therefore, anyone who thinks that these acts are in the service of Islam or a form of jihad, is utterly confused about the teachings of Islam.
Let us also admit that no government in Pakistan is going to be able to stop these random atrocities; Pakistan is simply too porous for a strict administrative control which can prevent this kind of terrorism. Such prevention is not even possible countries much advanced in their administrative controls such as the UK where borders are far more protected and state data on persons who live in that country is far more accurate and useful. The sate of Pakistan has no way to control who enters its porous borders to the north, it has limited records, and its law enforcing agencies are simply not equipped to deal with this kind of terrorism.
This failure of the system is accumulative and even if the government starts to setup a specific rapid deployment force to protect its citizens from terrorism of this kind, it will take a few years before such a force is fully operational. And although there is an urgent need for the establishment of such a rapid, well-trained and force in possession of advance technical equipment and the ability to use that equipment, a state in denial—as Pakistan is today—cannot even think of this option. Thus, what is left for ordinary citizens is to live in a state of psychological terror and for the state agencies to remain a target of these attacks with increasing frequency.
Still, there are some gains in an objective exploration of the relationship between what is happening in the Punjab now and the military operation in Federal Administered Tribal Area (FATA). There are clear links between the two. The state claims of winning the war against terrorists notwithstanding, it is obvious that the theatre of operation is not limited to Swat and FATA, that those who have been bombed in their own homes and villages have not vanquished. It is also obvious that the operational skills and capabilities of those who have decided to bring this war of terror to major cities of the Punjab far exceed the limits of state acknowledgment. The bombastic claims of uprooting the terrorists simply do not match ground realities. What we have is an expanding theatre of operation and the price of war in Swat and now in FATA is being paid by ordinary citizens in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, and other cities.
This is, indeed, a very serious situation, but the failure of the state to fully admit its seriousness is almost greater than the callousness of those who have brought this random act of violence to the homes of ordinary citizens. This is so because in this failure lies the failure to tackle this situation. As long as the government and its agencies remain in a state of denial, there is no solution possible. The first need here is, thus, simply to acknowledge what is written on the wall: those who are being attacked in Swat and FATA have the will, the means, and the operational skills to attack state and semi-state agencies anywhere in the country and such attacks cannot be prevented by deploying more soldiers and guards and police and by establishing more check points. Because of the callousness and cowardice of those who are willing to kill ordinary citizens, there is no way to prevent suicide bombings.
Then there is a psychological price being paid for these loathsome acts of violence by Pakistani citizens. Even those who are not directly attacked are paying this price. And those who lose their loved ones have their bereavement and suffering. All of this must be admitted openly, publicly and boldly at the highest level of state and government. Only after this admission, the state and the government will be able to face the next stage of this nightmare: what is to be done to stop these acts of terrorism.
Once acknowledged openly with courage, the step will be to develop a national consensus on how to tackle this situation. There are several possible solutions. Some of these have been tried in other situations and other countries. None of the tried and proven solution, however, involves lack of admission and nauseating statements after every act of violence. To tackle a very serious situation, the state needs to be serious and one cannot think of steps needed to resolve the crises until one admits ground realities.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), but most of his published work is related to Islam and various aspects of Islamic civilization, including the Islamic scientific tradition. He is a regular contributor for Opinion Maker
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he lived and worked in Pakistan, first as Director (Scientific Information) for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and later as Director (International Cooperation), Pakistan Academy of Sciences.