The people of Pakistan came out to attack the state, mobilised by organisations who can’t win elections; the state joined them, baring its entrails to their knives, hoping the people will somehow postpone their assault. Twenty-six people died in Karachi and Peshawar on 21 September 2012. Politicians lied through their teeth pretending to be hurt by blasphemy and let private property, banks, cinemas, foreign food franchises, churches and public transport pay the price for their hypocrisy.
Three cities considered most vulnerable to the power of Al Qaeda and its affiliates bore the brunt: Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar. Lahore was spared the destruction it saw in 2006 when it was literally put to the torch after the ‘Danish cartoons’, but it saw a highly organised attack on the US Consulate after the Jamaat successfully planned 400 mustering points in the city for its youth mobs. Pakistan sent a message to Al Qaeda: the renegade ‘slave-of-America’ state is ripe for the plucking.
The preparation for this day was made by the government during four years of steadily indoctrinated anti-Americanism. TV channels served as the foremost agent of this brainwash; in 2012, after the state-organised ‘protest’, channels like Royal TV held discussions in which guests linked the survival of the state to the replacement of apostate democracy with the ideal of khilafat sought by Al Qaeda.
Elsewhere in the Islamic world, protests against the blaspheming film were impressive but not as menacing, partly because Al Qaeda had not yet acquired as dominant a position there as in Pakistan. The Arab Spring has made it possible for Al Qaeda to show flag in states where it could not have dared enter earlier. Failing states such as Iraq, Somalia and Yemen were becoming comparable to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but now Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and many African states with Muslim communities are becoming vulnerable.
Bruce Riedel, writing in Newsweek Pakistan (21 September 2012), stated: ‘Most importantly, al Qaeda’s allies in Pakistan, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which attacked Mumbai in 2008, are under no pressure…Lashkar-e-Taiba has a global network with cells in America, England, and the Persian Gulf. Just this summer, the Saudis arrested a key Lashkar operator planning a new mass-casualty attack and extradited him to India’. Syrian troops have killed some Pakistanis as members of Al Qaeda. LeT is banned but its leader Hafiz Saeed is a free man because no evidence has been produced of wrong doing against him in any court of law.
Al Qaeda is now in a position to form alliances with Islamists instead of threatening them with its ‘superior’ ideology; this has become possible not because Al Qaeda has watered down its objectives but because the Islamists have become more radicalised: ‘Al Qaeda is training terrorists from Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, and elsewhere. It has raided Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenal and is armed and dangerous’. There are other places like Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, where Al Qaeda was least likely to make inroads but where now it plans to exploit openings made by localised indoctrination.
One writer has outlined Al Qaeda’s thought-control methodology to explain how Muslim states fall victims to it by becoming ungovernable: ‘it begins by articulating a set of grievances by one population against another, the woes of the Muslim world brought on by the West and their Jewish allies, who are allegedly engaged in a global conspiracy to destroy Islam. These grievances are reduced into recurring themes of oppression, alienation and victimisation, which ultimately filter down cognitive dissonance into binary oppositions, wherein the grey areas are spliced out to leave only a reductionist dualism, a struggle between good and evil, between the evil and the oppressed. Since this becomes a conflict between good and bad, the good has to necessarily triumph over the bad, since without an alternative vision for the future no ideology can hope to succeed’.
In Germany, an Al Qaeda agent revealed its strategy to the world: ‘a strategy paper drafted by the Al Qaeda leadership based in the Pakistani-Afghan border area suggests that a combination of smaller and larger attacks will drive the enemy to despair. Other documents describe the taking and subsequent killing of hostages, the use of toxic substances, and how to give cover to fighters smuggled in. Al Qaeda expects that growing fear among the general population and increasing reprisals on the part of the security authorities will marginalise Muslims. As a result of such escalation, Muslims will join the Holy War in ever larger numbers, security sources quote from the papers’.
In Pakistan, the supporters of Al Qaeda are found in former jihadi outfits today openly aligned with it, the madrassa network – excluding the Barelvi ones whose leader Sahibzada Fazal Karim has complained that Friday’s destruction in Pakistan was caused by the banned organisations – and student organisations nurtured by the universities after low-paid school teachers have earlier prepared their minds for the final confrontation with an ‘incomplete state’. When the Americans leave Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will be dominant in Balkh, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika, Sar-i-Pul, Takhar, Wardak, and Zabul, or 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And will have spread across Pakistan from Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar.
Pakistan decided to join hands with Al Qaeda on Friday to protest a blaspheming film perhaps thinking that some of the intensity of its terrorism would be lessened, but it saw instead the ascendancy of the mind that informs the thinking of the global terrorist organisation. The Black Friday gave a measure of the alienation of the Pakistani people from the state in which they live. It also afforded a glimpse into the eroding validity of the democratically elected government and the Western-inspired idea of democracy itself. The balance of power has shifted from the state to jihadi personalities, at least one of whom is now unofficially considered the most powerful man in the country, who will finally defeat India and the US as an ally of Al Qaeda.
The three-day disorder of Thursday, Friday and Saturday sent a negative message to the world: Pakistan is an unstable state with economy subject to plunder by the masses – who take the cue from a judiciary obsessed with entertainment as obscenity – destroying cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar. The last time the cinemas were torched and musicians forced to flee Peshawar was when the clerical alliance MMA was ruling Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the 2002 elections. Now the people of Pakistan want to revert to that order as if in anticipation of a new era presided over by Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The provinces are getting ready to pay off the people affected by arson, vandalism and plundering of shops and banks, compensating a loss of billions with uncertain millions. A week of virtually no economic function has brought a great mass of people dependent on daily wages, small shopkeepers and transport workers, to the edge of survival, and has probably inclined them to crime and anti-state thinking. There is no question that any lessons have been learned. Another stupid movie will again make our clerics quiver with consensual passions; after which the government will join the orgy as it has done in the past.