In just a month and half, Pakistan has suffered four deadly Taliban attacks against Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslim extremists. But it is not just the Taliban that are trying to eliminate Shia from country. Local extremist groups like the Saudi-funded Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat openly advocate an anti-Shia ideology and are believed to be recruiting anti-Shia militants. With recent reports of an alliance between the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State group, the Shiite community could face even more bloodshed. (via France 24)
In response to the murders of 12 journalists in Paris last week, a group of leading Muslim political and academic leaders including Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a Director here at Americans for Democracy & Justice in Pakistan, signed a statement published in The New York Times on Sunday.
ISLAMABAD, Sep 15 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the greatest threat to democracy emanated from a militant mindset and called for defeating militancy and extremism and advance democratic values. “The greatest threat to democracy is from the extremists and militants who want to foist their political agenda on the people by bullet rather than ballot and also from intolerance to dissent and disagreement.”
“Let us on this day pledge to fight the dark forces of militancy and extremism and allow the blossoming of democratic culture in the country”, the President said in a message on the occasion of International Democracy Day being observed throughout the world on September 15 (Thursday) under the auspices of the United Nations.
The President congratulated the democratic forces in the world in general and in Pakistan in particular on the International Day of Democracy, and said “It is a day to re-affirm its commitment for democracy and democratic ideals around the world and in Pakistan.”
“On this occasion I wish to compliment all democracies of the world and also reiterate our firm resolve to further strengthen democracy in Pakistan,” he added.
The President said the people of Pakistan are resolute in safeguarding their democratic rights and moving forward on path of democracy against all odds and what the machinations against it.
“It is a attribute to the democratic genius of our people that despite setbacks to democracy our people have not allowed dictatorship to take roots in the country,” he added.
The President said the ethos of the people of Pakistan is democratic, adding, last year, their chosen representatives unanimously adopted changes in the Constitution to restore its pristine democratic credentials.
“I am confident the elected Parliament in keeping with democratic traditions ensure that the democratic Constitution is not subverted by any one,” he added.
The President said, “Our march on the road to democracy continues. During the year 2011 democracy took yet another stride forward in Pakistan when the people of tribal areas were given their democratic rights with consensus.”
“The Amendments in the FCR and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 has been designed to release the people of tribal areas in accordance with their wishes from the over a century old system of bondage and undemocratic dispensation,” he added.
The President said democracy will be strengthened by meeting the basic needs of the people and freeing them from the clutches of poverty and deprivation.
The devastation caused by incessant rains and floods in Sindh and other parts of the country has adversely impacted on the efforts aimed at poverty alleviation and meeting the needs of the people, he added.
“On this occasion therefore I also urge the people of Pakistan and the international community to step forward and help rehabilitate the lives that have been devastated by floods”, he added.
“It is hoped that the observance of the International Democracy Day will lend strength to the pro-democracy forces throughout the world and discourage potential dictators from curbing the aspirations of the people through political adventurism,” the President maintained.
University of Punjab students protest against Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) and extremism on campus
The New York Times today reports a troubling story about the rise of extremism on college campuses in Pakistan. College campuses have long been home to twenty-somethings experimenting with radical thought. Even conservative commentator P.J. O’Rourke was a college Marxist in his day. But are Pakistan’s centers of education becoming incubators for extremist ideology and violence? There are many reasons to believe that, despite the Times story, the answer is no.
The Times story begins by noting that posters were plastered around the University of Punjab advertising an essay contest eulogizing Osama bin Laden. No sponsor was listed on the posters, and the only contact information given was an email address. No award ceremony was presented, and it is not known whether any students actually participated in the mysterious “contest.” All in all, not much of a story.
With little substance to the story of the mysterious flyers, the reporter shifts to a discussion of the student organization Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a youth organization started in 1947 by Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi – founder of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami political party.
The IJT is notorious for its conservative brand of Islam, and the violence with which it enforces its beliefs on college campuses. Though the group claims popular support, this is belied by the fact that the group is forced to resort to threats of violence against its fellow students.
As Salman Masood reports, IJT members in June beat a male student for sitting too close to a female colleague – an act they deemed un-Islamic. Despite IJT’s willingness to resort to violence, Pakistani students are standing up to IJT. After the incident in June, students held a demonstration against the IJT’s tactics. University administrators, too, are cracking down by expelling students involved in extremism.
Political extremism is a problem on college campuses across cultures, even in the US. In 2000, racist flyers were posted on the University of Texas campus twice in one month. In 2005, pro-Nazi flyers were distributed on campus at Central Michigan University. In 2009, Neo-Nazi posters were found at Bucknell University’s campus. While this is a problem, it is one that should be addressed in a way that recognizes the unique political environment of college campuses.
The intensity of student politics is amplified by the energy and passion of youth. As newly independent adults, campus activists often find themselves pushing boundaries and testing the limits of social acceptability. Whether or not IJT itself is complicit in promoting sympathy for a figure like Osama bin Laden, Americans should take heart from the fact that the views of IJT are still so unpopular that they must be enforced at gunpoint.
There are thousands of reasons to believe that Pakistan’s university campuses are not becoming hotbeds of extremism – each of those reasons is a moderate Pakistani student who rejects such ideologies. Rather than treating all Pakistani students as suspect because of the actions of a few misguided activists, those who support democracy and justice in Pakistan should support the moderate majority of students in Pakistan to ensure they are able to receive a quality education that they can take into the workforce to tackle the challenges facing their nation.