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By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – For the first time in years, the top religious politicians of Pakistan have started openly opposing terrorist attacks in the country.
“Suicide attacks are un-Islamic and defame Islam. The religious leaders need to (inform) the people and society by using their knowledge and influence,” former Jamat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad told a gathering of graduating religious students at a seminary in Mandani, Charsadda, early this month.
Terrorism has killed many innocent people, which contradicts the teachings of Islam, Maulana Fazl ur Rahman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), said.
“The country is passing through its worst time of history,” Fazl said at JUI-F’s convention in Peshawar last month. “Even the bearded and the turbaned people are being attacked.”
The most revered religious leader of the region, Maulana Hassan Jan, was an early victim of terrorism. He was killed in September 2007 after issuing an Islamic decree that labelled suicide bombings as haram, or forbidden by Islam.
“Apart from the martyrdom of Hassan Jan and attacks on the JUI-F chief, we have lost about18 activists in two suicide attacks and a bombing in the Qisa Khwani bazaar in April last year,” said Abdul Jalil Jan, the spokesman for JUI-F Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). “Dozens of our workers were killed in Swat and the tribal areas as well.”
The people of Afghanistan and militant groups respect the JUI-F, said Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, during a June 10 visit to Islamabad. He praised the JUI-F leader and his father for “their sacrifices for Islam” and urged them to use all their energies for a political settlement of the Afghan crisis.
Fazl escaped two suicide bombings March 30 and March 31 in Swabi and Charsadda, respectively. About 12 people, including policemen and workers of the JUI-F, were killed in Swabi and 13 were killed in Charsadda.
Security agencies have beefed up security for Fazl and other political leaders and asked him to restrict his movement after the two attacks. But, like all top religious leaders in the country, he remains busy with political and religious activities.
Apart from attacks on JUI-F, several JI workers were among the 30 killed in the bombing of a JI rally in Qisa Khwani in April 2010. Those injured in the attack included two former party lawmakers, Sabir Hussain Awan and Shabbir Ahmad Khan.
Another bombing hit the JI’s provincial headquarters, damaging the building. A third attack failed when bomb disposal experts defused explosives outside the house of Shabbir, who is also the JI provincial general secretary.
“These attacks and life threats would never terrify JI workers into ceasing their political and social activities,” Shabbir said.
He blamed anti-Islamic and anti-state forces for suicide blasts in mosques, bazaars and political and public gatherings.
“Certain foreign elements are hatching conspiracies against Pakistan, and unfortunately elements from inside the country are also playing into the hands of foreign elements,” said Qazi. Pakistan is an Islamic democratic republic and all the clerics unanimously agree that armed struggle for the imposition of sharia is not the solution of the problems, he added.
The religious parties were against terrorism from the start, but could not speak against it publicly, Yousuf Ali, a Peshawar-based journalist covering religio-political parties, told Central Asia Online.
“The provincial chief of JI, Professor Ibrahim, had publicly termed the suicide bombing as un-Islamic last year while Qazi and Fazl took the same stand in their speeches but in a mild tone,” Yousuf said.
Leaders of other political parties are looking toward the religious groups to join them in opposing the terrorist attacks.
“All the political parties including the religio-political parties need to get united to pull the country out of the crises,” Awami National Party leader and KP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said.
“The only thing that we need the most at this hour is to be united. The single-point agenda of the entire nation should be to protect the country from any harm,” said Jan.
All of Pakistan’s stakeholders need to come to the negotiating table, Jan said, adding that if Pakistanis cannot settle their differences after losing 36,000 lives to terrorism, they will be mourning many more terrorist victims in the future.
“I myself am the victim of terrorism as my wife and children got injured in the Peepal Mandi blast a couple of years back,” said Jan.