A fourth wave?

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Cyril Almeida

BRUS­SELS is a world away from here. Dif­fer­ent rea­sons, dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries. Plus, we've al­ready had our Parises and Brus­sels sev­eral times over. But Brus­sels is im­por­tant be­cause it con­firms what Paris had re­vealed: a fourth wave of ji­had. As we tamp down our own third wave of ji­had, might we too face a fourth down the road? Spec­u­la­tion is a dirty game, but worse is to be caught un­awares and un­pre­pared.

Be­fore we get into the pos­si­ble con­di­tions for a fourth wave, let's look at the first three that have gone by here in Pak­istan. First, of course, was the Afghan ji­had. The one that even­tu­ally mor­phed into Al Qaeda and the hell it un­leashed on us. Sec­ond was Kash­mir and the anti- In­dia lot. Redi­rected, re-en­er­gised and then mu­tated be­yond recog­ni­tion, parts of it turned on us, while other parts have flour­ished to the great dis­tor­tion of the com­mu­ni­ties in which the net­works have spread.

Third were the TTP and its co­horts. Trig­gered by a com­bi­na­tion of events, partly rooted in the evo­lu­tion of the first lot into Al Qaeda and partly re­sult­ing from the shock­wave that the US war in Afghanistan sent through Fata, it may be on the verge of run­ning its course.

But if the first three waves taught us any­thing, it is that ji­had is in­flu­enced by events in the re­gion and the world - the shadow of the Cold War; the un­fin­ished busi­ness of Kash­mir and Par­ti­tion; the mix­ing of an ear­lier cre­ation and a su­per­power's later in­ter­ven­tion.

Right now, ji­had is re­ally the only game in town - in the world. In the me­dia. On the net. In the global dis­course. Ji­had is to the Mus­lim world what Don­ald Trump has be­come to the US: ubiq­ui­tous, ca­cophonous, im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore.

And you can bet there are some here will­ing to lis­ten to what it has to say. That doesn't au­to­mat­i­cally trans­late into IS. The Pak­istani waves haven't tracked the West­ern ones in the last two cy­cles and there's no rea­son for the fourth waves to be the same. But it could look sim­i­lar: de­cen­tralsed ji­had; a pick-and-mix buf­fet that lone wolves and small, spon­ta­neously or­gan­ised groups can se­lect from. Ji­had du jour, as it were.

Why might that emerge here, given that Pak­istan is on the path to sta­bil­is­ing it­self and isn't the mess that the Mid­dle East has be­come nor does it have the dy­nam­ics of West­ern ji­had sur­rounded by ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tions?

There are sev­eral rea­sons and we'll try and ig­nore the ba­nal be­cause-ex­trem­ism-is-still-ram­pant types. So here goes.

The state is re­gain­ing its au­thor­ity, but its le­git­i­macy is still con­tested. Mak­ing Pak­istan safe again for the ma­jor­ity has re­in­forced for a mi­nor­ity that the state's ac­tions are in­de­cent, im­moral and, pos­si­bly, un-Is­lamic.

And the fur­ther you stretch away from vi­o­lent ji­had to seem­ingly less toxic ex­trem­ism, the larger that mi­nor­ity gets.

Sure, the par­al­lels are in­ex­act and the schools of thought dif­fer­ent, but the Qadri episode has il­lus­trated the prob­lem of a state re­cov­er­ing its au­thor­ity, but fur­ther erod­ing its le­git­i­macy for many.

Qadri was ex­e­cuted, but the state is the vil­lain - power and weak­ness at the same time. Turn that logic to mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, and while sym­pa­thy for the TTP may not have sys­temic ap­peal, a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion re­mains unan­swered: why is the mighty Pak­istani mil­i­tary un­leash­ing its wrath on those act­ing in the name of Al­lah? From dis­hon­ourable deeds can grow a well­spring of re­sent­ment, hate - and vi­o­lence.

Next, the sys­tem it­self is sus­pect. A hy­brid dic­ta­tor­ship-democ­racy, both sides of the equa­tion are deeply prob­lem­atic. The mil­i­tary for the afore­men­tioned rea­son; democ­racy for in­trin­sic ones.

The stan­dard ex­pla­na­tion for the lack of elec­toral suc­cess of the po­lit­i­cal re­li­gious right is that most Pak­ista­nis re­ject it. But the ex­pla­na­tion lies else­where: the nat­u­ral con­stituency of the re­li­gious right - the rab­ble of ex­trem­ists and arch-con­ser­va­tives - is averse to democ­racy.

They don't vote and they don't think any­one else should ei­ther. Their num­bers are not in­sub­stan­tial and their ha­bit­ual, ide­o­log­i­cal non-ap­pear­ance come elec­tion time tends to mis­lead.

Third, the way in which the fight against mil­i­tancy is be­ing fought. Most of us just hear the num­bers: X cap­tured, Y elim­i­nated, Z sen­tenced. But be­hind those num­bers lie sto­ries of sav­agery and vi­o­lence that most of us pre­fer not to think about - but that the fringes dwell on darkly and in­sis­tently. The Adi­ala 11, the at­tacks on su­per cops and ISI safe houses, the whis­pered sto­ries of vi­o­lence and mu­ti­la­tion - the cy­cle of state-sanc­tioned vi­o­lence and mil­i­tant revenge is there for ev­ery­one to see, if they want to see.

Most pre­fer to ig­nore it; the ones who fo­cus on it - the stuff hap­pen­ing on the ground, the grotesque and the ugly - for them it is a pow­er­ful in­stiller of fear and loathing. Vengeance is for the right­eous.

The de­cline of or­gan­ised ji­had - both the bad vari­ant and, in time, the good - does not mean the end of all ji­had.

It's not just that the three waves that we've seen so far have laid down an in­fra­struc­ture and cre­ated a mosque-madres­sah-so­cial-wel­fare net­work in which a fourth wave can in­cu­bate.

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