Vital clues, but a long way to go yet

Only time will tell if the arrested four including the mastermind of the Safoora Goth carnage are the actual culprits or just a make-believe show the police would put up to tranquillise the agitated public mind. But in this case the kind of progress claimed by the head of investigation team in unravelling the murderous plot and its execution in all its gory dimensions carries an unmistakable ring of authenticity.

No wonder then Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali had turned up in just no time to claim “positive” progress in the direction of investigation and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah got the much-needed oxygen to salvage his sullied image. If the said incident was the outcome of RAW’s anti-Pakistan grand design the investigation may throw light on that too.

However, so far the Safoora attack in which 45 Ismailis were massacred carries the stamp of religious extremism that is so much the lingering bane in Pakistan, particularly in the mega-city of Karachi. According to information released by the investigation team head Additional IGP Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo, the attack was carried out by 11 militants, and all of them are members of a militant group “inspired by al Qaeda”; he, perhaps didn’t think it proper to say it is the self-styled Islamic State.

The arrested suspects also owned up nearly all terrorism incidents in Karachi that they committed during the last six months or so. They have claimed killing of human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud – for her pro-America liberal worldview and not for hosting Mama Baloch; attack on Bohra community members; and off and on policemen in the city’s labyrinths. The said 11 militants had ‘regrouped’ to fill the space vacated by others in that business under the pressure of year-long targeted group.

Arguably, if all major terrorist incidents since end of last year were nearly exclusive product of this gang of 11, with them now thrown out of business the city of Karachi should be free of violence at least for some weeks and months. The residents will watch and wait.

On the face of it, the Karachi police have finally broken the back of terrorist outfits – they have lost their game to the law-enforcing forces. But does it mean the factories that manufacture these lethal robots have stopped functioning? No, not at all. The National Action Plan (NAP) has gone silent on these factories. Clothed in thinly veiled robes the banned extremist outfits operate under full media glare, hold public rallies to muster support and openly defend the accused charged with legally penal offences. And the state watches all this with folded hands.

The law-enforcers can catch or kill the culprits, destroy their dens and the investigators can hunt out the suspected criminals. But what follows then is the others’ duty. To bring them to book, shut out the factories that manufacture extremist robots and strengthen national debate against religious extremism; these are tasks the civil society and political leadership got to undertake and effectively perform.

Unfortunately, or perhaps deliberately, the two major political parties – PPP and PML (N) – tend to connive with the religious extremists by consistently overlooking the imperative of creating a “viable alternative” to religious extremism. They don’t realise that religious extremists want to burn down the very house we the Pakistanis live in. To the extremists a constitutional Pakistan is unacceptable; they only want its space to establish a state run by them the way they like.

Pity, six months down the road the National Action Plan is not much in action; the very effective anti-extremism antidote, the military courts, have been consigned to limbo and political passivity to the looming threat of extremism has come to such a sorry pass that a federal minister had to go on defensive on what he should have stood for and fought stoutly for the future generations of Pakistan.

No doubt the Karachi police have done a splendid job by hunting down the killers of 45 innocent non-combatant members of peaceful Ismaili community. But this achievement must not breed complacency at any cost. The follow-up on how such groups operate, as to who offers them patronage, and if they are the hired guns of enemy country is no less critical to national struggle against this multifaceted challenge. It is a question of survival of Pakistan. Religious extremism and Pakistan cannot coexist.

The Text has been appeared in the Editorial of Business Recorder Today