London: “Jihad has always remained a state institution and thus any sort of individual and private jihad should be criminalised by the State,” said Senator Afrasiab Khattak, ANP’s central and senior leader, whilst addressing a seminar at FIRD’s Secretariat.
The seminar was arranged with the title “Perspectives – Countering Radicalisation and Extremism” at FIRD Secretariat as part of its focus on Pakistan as well its continued executive lecture series.
Mr. Umar Mahmood, fellow FIRD, hosted the event and opened with the introduction of FIRD, welcoming Senator Khattak for gracing the Forum. Mr. Javed Akhunzada, General Secretary ANP UK, paid homage to Senator Khattak and his struggles for democracy. Longtime activists like Senator Khattak had spent prolonged periods of jail in eras of dictatorships whilst rallying for democracy and liberalism. He also appreciated the fact that it was due to Senator Khattak’s work and efforts as a member of parliamentary committee that the Parliament was able to pass the 18th amendment for democratic reforms in the country. Additionally, ANP always stood firm against terrorists and is still standing, because the party has been taught of peace preached by Ghaffar Khan and Ghani Khan.
Senator Khattak put special emphasis on the history of terrorism and said that it was the 70’s Afghan jihad that laid foundations of modern day terrorism in the region, where a number of negative trends grew under the provision of the “big powers” of the West. He went on to say that the revival of Arab Islamic Nationalism, after the defeat of Arab World by Israel, in the 70’s and led by Wahhabis, Salafis and Takfiris also played a major part in spreading violence and maligning the name of Islam as they hijacked the religion. The Madrassas were highlighted as the cause for these terrorists. It was extremely important for a counter narrative to be established to de radicalise the affected. Senator Khattak was also critical of the West, especially the US, for financing the religious seminaries on the Af-Pak border and producing Jihadists to fight in Afghanistan. It was Zia’s dictatorial regime, although he wasn’t alone, that put the last nail in the coffin in terms of radicalisation and used Islam to further the Western agenda as well as his own. He praised the Pakistani army for its current operation, Zarb e Azb, in the FATA region for targeting the militant factories and getting positive results out of this operation. In his final remarks Mr Khattak was of the view that as Jihad is a primarily a state Institution and could be initiated or called off by a Muslim state, individuals should not be allowed to wage Jihad, and if they do, it should be criminalised. A consequence of the Cold War was the privatisation of Jihad and fostering of radicals. If the state does not take enough measures to counter radicalisation, Pakistan faces the danger of reverting back into the Zia era.
FIRD Chairman Toaha Qureshi MBE appreciated Mr Khattak’s political struggle and his party’s quest for peace and non-violence. However, Mr Qureshi called for a stop to scapegoating the Madrassas, or the Islamic seminaries, as according to the British experience, most individuals involved in extremism or radicalism were either professionals or young students at private academic institutions. Therefore, there is genuine frustration and anger that is fuelling radicalisation. Echoing the words of Senator Khattak, Mr Qureshi referred to his experience running deradicalisation projects stating that deradicalisation was imperative and facilitation needed to be enabled immediately with the support of the community and the state. Authentic scholars should be taken on board to clarify the position.
The event was attended by researchers, community members, students and activists including Javed Sheikh, Saad Mahmood, Rana Khan, Rehman Sheikh and Akram Kaimkhani, who concluded the session with his vote of thanks to FIRD, Mr Afrasiab Khattak and Mr Toaha Qureshi MBE.