Maulana Raghib Naeemi, the principal of Jamia Naeemia, Lahore, is known for his efforts to promote a “soft image” of Islam and Muslims. His father, Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi, was the first prominent cleric in Pakistan to issue an edict against suicide attacks and declared them haram (forbidden). He was later martyred in a suicide attack at his office at Jamia Naeemia.Raghib Naeemi also serves as a member of the Punjab Ulema Board and the Executive Council of Tanzimul Madaris. The News on Sunday held a brief interview with him, in the wake of the recent talks between the government and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan for a possible peace agreement.
The News on Sunday: How do you see the reports of talks between the government and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan?
Maulana Raghib Naeemi: I have serious reservations about the way the government made the decision to initiate talks with the TTP. However, I support the decision and the talks process despite having been a direct victim of terrorism when my father embraced martyrdom for his courage to denounce terrorism and terrorists.
TNS: What are your reservations?
MRN: I am not opposed to peace talks and peace agreements. What I do not like is the fact that the government kept the whole nation in the dark about such an important decision. After all more than 80,000 precious lives have been lost in terrorist attacks. The government should have taken the nation into confidence. It should have discussed the issue in the parliament before making a final decision. I am a member of several government-backed organisations meant to promote peace and harmony in the society and yet even I am not aware of who is representing Pakistan in these talks and what the agenda points are.
TNS: Your father was targeted by the TTP. You too have remained on their hit list. But you still support these talks. Why?
MRN: This is not a change of hearts. I still condemn terrorism, but the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is very dangerous. Both these countries today face several serious threats, some of those invisible on the surface. Pakistan, in particular, cannot afford a fresh wave of terrorism or other violence.
TNS: Can you elaborate on your fears regarding such violence?
MRN: You see the Barelvi school of thought has earned a reputation for being peaceful. People around the world would regard those following the Barelvi teachings as non-violent. However, in recent years, a Barelvi group has started using force to further its agenda and achieve its goals. I fear that if the government and the TTP don’t reach a peace agreement, and terrorist attacks against sufi shrines continue, it might lead to sectarian clashes between Barelvis, who constitute the majority in Pakistan, and Deobandis, who now run the government in Afghanistan.
TNS: Do you foresee see a durable peace agreement as an outcome of these talks?
MRN: Successive governments in Pakistan have been striking peace deals with various factions of the TTP in different areas but none have proved a resounding success. I hope that this time the two sides will reach a robust agreement in the interest of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Muslims of the world.
TNS: Do you think the TTP will agree to respect Pakistan’s constitution and lay down arms?
MRN: It seems hard given their stance in the past, but I do hope so because this time the Afghan Taliban are also involved in the peace process.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher