History in a Loop?
We always make a note of joyous and/or somber occasions in our calendars and each year with renewed fervor we choose to celebrate or mourn depending on the nature of the event. However, quite often momentous life altering events slip through in our lives unnoticed. Today is one such occasion, exactly 6 years to the day MQM Chief Altaf Hussain warned us of an unprecedented danger lurking on the horizon of our city. But aside from his closest followers most people failed to take notice, some went as far as to mock this as a crazed notion bearded Taliban in our midst? How is that even possible? As history would prove not paying heed to this foreboding has been largely to our own detriment. The threat was unlike any we had ever faced before in the tumultuous history of this city that has been torn apart more times than any other metropolitan center in modern civilized history. Terror has run amok on numerous occasions since that fateful revelation. No institute, no caste, no area, no gender or age has been spared. In 2009, the worst of any year up till then, 50 terrorist, insurgent and sectarian-related incidents were reported that killed 180 people and injured 300 of our own. In 2010, Taliban had upped their ante and attacks staged in Pakistan killed over 35,000 people, 5,000 of which were law enforcement personnel, and caused material damage to the Pakistani economy totaling US$67 billion. The tale has grown grimmer and grimmer with each passing year since then.
Fast forward 8 years. Altaf Hussain, has made yet another passionate plea to the nation. Mr Wasay Jalil in his most recent press conference echoed his leader’s sentiments when he pleaded with authorities and agencies as well as people of the city to take notice of a threat that may yet prove to be more heinous than even the Taliban, hard as that may be to fathom. The threat is also potent enough to have warranted a mention by the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif as well. Many commentators fear ISIS are in many ways more atrocious than their predecessors (Taliban) in Afghanistan and Pakistan in both their motives and the methods they are willing to employ to achieve them. ISIS’ aims are relatively straightforward in letter: The group’s goal has been the foundation of an Islamic state and caliphate. The leader and so called ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demands the allegiance of all devout Muslims worldwide according to Islamic jurisprudence—fiqh.
ISIS stated: “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.” ISIS rejects the political divisions established by Western powers at the end of World War I. “(Wikipedia)
ISIS’ modus operandi has been simple it divides the territory which it controls or aspires to control into provinces—wilayah. After a series of recent expansions, as of November 2014 it claims provinces and controls territory in Iraq, Syria, Sinai, and Eastern Libya. It also claims provinces and has members in Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen but does not control any territory in these areas. If the writing on the wall (pun intended) is not sending shivers down your spines yet let me quantify that threat for you.
The Wall Street Journal estimated in September 2014 that eight million Iraqis and Syrians now live in areas controlled by ISIS. Ar-Raqqah in Syria is the de facto headquarters of this movement and is said to be a test case of ISIS governance. As of September 2014, governance in Ar-Raqqah has been under the total control of ISIS where it has rebuilt the structure of modern government in less than a year. Former government workers from Basshar Al Assad regime maintain their jobs after pledging allegiance to ISIL.
So now the situation begs the question, while our nation is being further polarized in the name of change can we afford to be caught blindsided by yet another militant/religious movement in our country? The answer would be a resounding no. Instead of dividing, we should be unifying in the face of adversity. There are probably those who would argue that a few wall chalking in favor of this movement is not cause enough to press the panic button. Let me remind them that the Pakistani Taliban movement started in an even more veiled and passive manner in Banaras town Karachi sending seemingly harmless notices out to DVD shop owners threatening the CD sellers to shut down their shops once and for all otherwise their shops would be burnt to the ground. Time has proven those shops were not the only things that were exhumed in the fires that have raged since. All the damage caused since has been done by people who were bought here by certain political players to further their own nefarious causes and offset the balance of power on the political turf in the city. By the time they realized the Pandora’s Box they had unleashed it was too late. TTP were made to hide in plain sight living next doors and in houses belonging to normal citizens of this city. If Da’ash attempts to make inroads into this city it is quite likely that they will have to employ a similar approach (at least initially). This will perhaps be the only opportune time this problem could be nipped in the bud, for once it begins to spread far and wide there will be no stopping it and it will assume a life force of its own with absolutely no dependence on any local support.
I believe it was Winston Churchill who once said “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. I daresay, we as a nation are not in a place where we can afford that luxury.