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Pakistan’s clerics blame war on terror for suicide attacks

By Zofeen T. Ebrahim, IANS

Karachi : Pakistan’s top religious scholars have asked President Pervez Musharraf to step down, suggesting that the spate of suicide bombings are a reaction to the government’s flawed policies.

In the first such exercise of its kind, the scholars, including Maulana Fida ur-Rehman Darkhawasti of Amir Pakistan Shariat Council and Maulana Abdul Maalik of the Rabat ul-Madaaris Pakistan, have issued a comprehensive charter.

They have recommended that the president stop military operations in the Northern Areas and bordering tribal areas and engage in a dialogue with the Taliban to clear the clouds of malevolence.

They have also advised him not to view ‘extremists’ through coloured Western lenses.

“They are our Pakistani brothers, no matter whether they belong to FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat, Balochistan or elsewhere. They are our countrymen and faith-sharing brethren and not the enemies of Pakistan.

“They have always been our first defence line. But the circumstances have made them the enemies of the government and of all those who do not share their grudge against the government. If the government can change its policies, then the causes of extremism can be finished,” the clerics stated in the charter.

Absolving themselves of all responsibilities as opinion makers wielding immense influence, the clergy have put the blame for the present situation and the continuing spate of suicide attacks on Musharraf’s policy of “enlightened moderation”.

They have also criticised the revision of the school curriculum “to look modern and secular and thus acceptable to America”, for amendments brought about in the Hudood Laws that “have made women more insecure”, for promoting “obscenity and vulgarity through patronising massage parlours” and carrying out “marathon races, basant festivals, dance and music”.

The government’s rejection for the demand of Shariah (Islamic law) was also cited as a major reason for the rise in violence. “Apparently, these circumstances led some minds to the frustration that manifested itself in suicide attacks.”

Condemning the suicide attacks, the scholars said there was a genuine need to think why such a large number of people were taking such extreme steps.

They held the flawed government policies responsible for spreading despair and disappointment in the public, the reaction of which came in the form of suicide attacks.

Widening economic disparity, no access to justice and losing all hopes for redress, people had resorted to violence, said the clergy.

“There might be many youth among them whose homes were reduced to rubble during military operations by the US and Pakistan armies. They have heard the cries of their loved ones dying helplessly amid raining bombs and bullets and now in a state of shock and awe, they are blowing themselves to avenge what happened to their families and homes.”

They also blamed the anti-state forces for taking full advantage of the vulnerable and the situation by inciting the militants in their bid to dismember the country.

Responding to the charter, Mohammad Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), said: “It’s not as simplistic as these clergy have made it out to be. Neither will the suicide attacks stop with Musharraf’s resignation.”

He holds the clerics accountable, and said they were not only “well respected but very influential as well, but who never played a positive mediating role. Not once have they dissociated themselves from radical groups in all these years”.

But most importantly they have never entirely or vehemently termed these suicide killers as evil-doers. “If they had condemned the perpetrator, things may have been different today,” he said.