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- Sunday, January 06, 2013 - From Print Edition

With all the distraction that is created by politics, the latest invasion being the promised long march by Tahirul Qadri, the momentous issue at this time is religious extremism and how it is sapping the government’s and the civil society’s ability to deal with the crises that confront the state.

Some messages that have been conveyed in the first week of the New Year are particularly shattering. And the tempo had started to build during the last days of the departed year.

But first, let me refer to one silver lining that has emerged in this dark scenario. Incidentally, I call it a silver lining in spite of the fact that it emphatically draws attention to growing incidents of terrorism and militancy and deems this situation as a potent threat to our survival. Yes, this revelation has taken a long time in coming. Still, it raises some hope of readjustments in our national security priorities.

What has happened in this New Year is that the Pakistan Army has added a new chapter in its doctrine as enunciated in its ‘Green Book’. This chapter deals with sub-conventional warfare, as represented by the ongoing terrorist activities in the tribal region and attacks, including on government installations, in major cities. This home-grown militancy is now seen as the “biggest threat” to our national security.

One report quoted the ISPR chief, Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa as saying: “[The] Army prepares for all forms of threats. Sub-conventional threat is a reality and is part of a threat matrix faced by our country. But it doesn’t mean that the conventional threat has receded”.

A BBC report said that the new army doctrine talks about unidentified militant groups and their role in creating unrest in the country. It also mentioned that Pakistani militants had found refuge across the Durand Line.

Analysts have noted that traditionally, the Pakistan Army has always looked at India as enemy number one. Now, for the first time, it has formally admitted that Pakistan faces a genuine threat from within and that this threat is located along the western and not the eastern borders of Pakistan.

We are not certain if this can be described as a paradigm shift – a shift that would alter the very mindset of the army. It would be our great fortune if this were to happen. However, one suspects that the army may not have sufficient intellectual resources to fully comprehend the dynamics of our society and to critically figure out the sources of our society’s consistent brutalisation.

For once, it has become a strategic compulsion for the army to acquire a potentially ‘civilian’ approach to be able to come to grips with complex matters. Let us see what changes and when.

In passing, let me point towards another silver lining of a different kind. It reflects from the glorious example that our Malala Yousafzai has set in her defiance of the Taliban. She has become an icon of hope in the entire world and Pakistan should feel inspired by this focus on the girls’ right to education and social empowerment.

The latest achievement of Malala, who was released from her hospital in Birmingham on Friday ahead of a major surgery, is that she has won the Tipperary 2012 International Peace Award in recognition of her struggle for girls’ education in a troubled region.

It was announced that she was chosen for her courage, determination and perseverance, along with the impact she has had on so many across the world. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and leader of the Indian Congress, Sonia Gandhi, were among five other nominees. Benazir Bhutto was the first Pakistani to win this award.

Perhaps a greater distinction for Malala was to come second in Time magazine’s Person of the Year selection, in which Barack Obama was chosen. Malala, however, has been honoured as Person of the Year by Pakistan’s ‘Herald’ monthly.

The issue includes an interview with Arundhati Roy on Malala’s struggle and the renowned Indian social activist is very right in posing this question: “When we wonder whether the attack on Malala is a turning point for politics in Pakistan, we must also wonder what those in power .....want to turn Pakistan into.”

What this means is that there is a darker side to the silver lining that Malala represents. The Taliban’s attempt to murder her and their insistence that she deserved to die should have become a turning point but this did not happen. A more glaring example of how our rulers are unwilling to stand up to the militants and the fanatics was highlighted this week.

The second death anniversary of Salmaan Taseer was observed on Friday and it is a shame for the Pakistan People’s Party that, despite being in power, it did not hold any official commemoration to remember its own prominent leader.

Only a small number of Taseer’s friends and admirers and social activists got together to light candles and share their grief over how a party that professes to be liberal and progressive has betrayed its cause.

By the way, one should have expected Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was ceremoniously launched on the death anniversary of his mother, to come forward and properly pay tribute to Taseer’s memory and condemn the glorification of his assassin by bigots.

He had spoken at a London gathering after the incident two years ago. Is this an indication that he is not his own person now? Besides, where is he because his father is conducting political discussions in the aftermath of the MQM’s alliance with Tahirul Qadri?

Well, since every silver lining has a dark cloud, the dark clouds that hover above Pakistan are becoming more ominous. On Friday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed grave concern over the steep rise in incidents and manifestations of violence across the country and called for concerted efforts to undo the damage done to our social fabric.

It is instructive that the commission has included the incident of young doctors beating their seniors in Gujranwala in the list of such heinous crimes as the murder of 21 Levies personnel, killing of seven aid workers in Swabi and the murder of polio vaccinators in Karachi and Peshawar.

It was after the commission’s statement was released that we received news about the killing of three brothers as a sequel to last year’s controversy over a video clip of a wedding in Kohistan in which men and women were seen clapping and dancing.

There is no point in going into details.

So many in our country are apparently still living in primitive times. Thus, our battle lies truly in the minds of men.

The writer is a staff member. Email: [email protected]