May 7, 2009 2
The nation of Pakistan begins its greatest test in decades as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared war against takfiri terrorists in the Malakand Division in a national address this evening.
Gilani called on Pakistanis to unite behind their army and government in a war to “completely eliminate” militants who have reaped havoc and death in the once tranquil greater Swat area.
The prime minister’s speech is part of an aggressive public relations campaign by the Pakistani state to rally public support for a full-fledged war against the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan in Swat. The campaign centers around using Islam to de-legitimize the militants.
Around a week ago, a news anchor close to the military-intelligence establishment read the following Qur’anic verses — unprecedented on his program — at the end of a segment on Swat:
And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”
Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.
(Surah al-Baqarah, Ayat 11 & 12)
Immediately, I realized that the verses were probably offered to him by elements of the state security apparatus and signaled the start of a campaign to take away the Islamic legitimacy of the takfiri terrorists.
Today, the Pakistani government began airing public service announcements on private and government television channels, broadcasting the same Qur’anic verses. As the bullets and mortars fly and hundreds of thousands flee their homes, the war of ideas begins.
Islamic scholars from all backgrounds — Ahl-e Hadis, Barelvi, Deobandi, Jafri (Twelver Shia), modernist, and Islamist — including Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, and Khalid Masud, have come on television to speak out against the violent methodology of the militants and their campaign of terror against Pakistanis.
Generations ago, four young men told the Muslims of India: “The issue is now or never. Either we live [and establish Pakistan] or perish for ever.”
Pakistan faces the same choice today: to live or perish forever.
There is no question as to how the takfiri terrorists will respond. The will begin hitting Pakistani cities tomorrow. The battlefield will not be contained to the Malakand Division.
But as for the Pakistani people, we will learn of their decision — and fate — soon.