Sir, the militants have multiplied —Sher Ali Khan
The recent admission by Rana Sanaullah about his association with the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) illuminates that Pakistan is a country where a nexus between politicians and militants is still active. Since only a few political parties have picked up on this issue, it is worrying to assume that relationships between the government and militant outfits still exist. Furthermore, the core principle of any constitutional democratic set-up is that the representative of the government is an extension of the state; therefore by the minister associating with a banned militant group, the government’s policies regarding militants and terrorists have come into conflict. In understanding this, one has to realise that militants are non-state rogue actors and to combat them the resolve must start from within the government.
To begin with, the word militant is derived from the Latin word “militare”, which means to serve as a soldier. Militants are soldiers who are not associated with any government military organisation and are not accountable to the state. Thus historically, religious militants in world politics share a common set of characteristics. As non-state actors, militants are able to find several ways to integrate into society. Taking advantage of the weaknesses from within the state, religious militants disrupt the social order within society.
To disrupt the social order, the first denunciation by religious militants is of the secularism of the state. Secondly, they critique the domestic ills of society, which allows them to connect with the general public. Furthermore, as universalists, they apply their ideological pretences to anyone who is a believer. This allows them to develop a trans-state ideology, which transcends the physical borders of that respective country. The danger of being universalists means that anyone in society who is a non-believer is essentially a second class citizen. Consequently, militants in general do not fit into the framework of normal constitutional governance.
Throughout history, mercenaries or militant outfits have been used as a security advantage for the state. Going back to the time of the Romans, barbarians were used in the army as a strategic advantage. To combat the possibility of disruption in public life, these barbarians would be kept on the outskirts and were not allowed to enter Rome with arms. When the barbarians were integrated into Rome, some problems occurred. The barbarians were then given federate status, which placed them above Roman law by not having to pay taxes or give up their arms. These federate troops fought under their own command and were not subject to the Roman Army’s training. Fed with clothes, weapons and shelter, the barbarians left Rome susceptible to an internal attack. This by many is seen as one of the reasons for the decline of Rome.
Like Rome, in Pakistan too the establishment has created accepted roles for militant groups in society that are separate from the common citizen. As a strategic advantage in places like Afghanistan and Kashmir, militant groups are put into the grey area of policy making. The hangs-ups of these policies create two very important issues: one is that these organisations remain rogue non-state actors and secondly they are not integrated into the public sphere with the same rules as the common citizen. Also, since their economic interests are separate from the state, their connection to Pakistan is further detached. That means that the militant interest in Pakistan flourishes only if the government meets their common interest.
In Southern Punjab, there are private and heavily armed militias roaming freely. To be specific, the threat of Deobandi-Sunni groups such as the SSP and Laskhar-e-Jhangvi is that they are connected in a universalist manner. Thus their ties with trans-national terrorist groups such as al Qaeda are active to this day. The lack of regulation regarding militant groups means that banned and unbanned militant groups continue to work openly, as seen when Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed was leading a procession on Kashmir Solidarity Day in Lahore recently. Then in Jhang, leaders of the SSP are often seen around the city with fully masked and armed men. When Rana Sanaullah visited Jhang, it was a cause of great worry for the citizens when SSP leader Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi was included in the entourage and given full government protocol.
Thus the impact of this incident with the provincial law minister is quite clear. For a country that is trying to fight terror on a national level, it has failed to make its own government representatives accountable to the national policy. It also means that the government — provincial and federal — is not implementing the writ of the state. Without the implementation of the writ of the state, order in the country cannot be sustained. Consequently, for a constitutional democracy, which is demanding by nature, the citizens and politicians have to obey a high standard of moral character and understanding. This is clearly lacking. Thus in circumstances like this when the state fails to follow the ethical guidelines of the constitution, it loses its respect and bond with the people. As a result, the state has to take steps to regain moral authority. This can only be done if the government works to socially and politically cast out such lawmakers and government representatives that openly give patronage to militant groups.
In any developing democratic system, the state has to provide a moral framework for governance. To implement its writ of state, the government will have to set a moral example for the people. When representatives of the government conflict with government policy, the government’s authority is maligned. If the government wants to combat the growing militancy throughout the country, it has to outlaw representatives of the government who associate with militant groups. Till this is achieved, the government’s resolve to fight militancy will be incomplete.
The writer is a freelance journalist and recent graduate from UC Riverside with a degree in Political Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org