Dangerous rallies

Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council), a conglomerate of religious parties — predominantly banned militant outfits — held a rally in Karachi on Sunday. That they were able to hold a rally in the port city without any hitch was surprising given that the ruling party in Sindh, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has been quite critical of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for allowing banned outfits to stage rallies in Punjab. Difa-i-Pakistan Council is said to be the initiative of Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), who is not just the moving spirit behind this ‘defence council’ but is also said to be its chief financier. The JuD is ostensibly a front for the banned terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). Thanks to General Musharraf turning a blind eye to terrorist organisations renaming themselves and posing as welfare organisations, we now have a plethora of terrorist outfits operating freely on Pakistani soil. Apart from spewing venom against the west, particularly the US, and India, the participants of the rally warned the government that the masses will “convert each spot of the country into ‘Tahrir Square’ if free and fair elections are not held”. As if this was not enough, the leaders of the Difa-i-Pakistan Council threatened Pakistani artists who go to India and also warned the media for not giving coverage to their rallies. Why these elements are not booked for hate speech is beyond comprehension. Giving open threats to the government, artists and the media should serve as a wake-up call for the state.

It seems that the Difa-i-Pakistan Council wants to provoke a war between India and Pakistan despite knowing fully well that both countries are nuclear armed. These jihadi warriors are going against the government’s policy and doing the dirty work of the military establishment since they have the full backing of the security forces. The presence of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Ejaz Chaudhry at the rally was sought to be justified by PTI chief Imran Khan. Apparently Mr Khan does not see any problem in his party’s representatives presenting their view at Difa-i-Pakistan rallies. ‘Engaging’ with terrorists is a spurious argument peddled by the PTI and is indicative of the party’s nexus with hardliners. If this is the ‘change’ being promised by the PTI, then Pakistan is better off without it. Our country cannot be held hostage to the extremist and by no means mainstream agenda of such bigots. Statesmanship requires one to rise above emotionalism. Cooperation with the US is in our own interest and so is peace with India. Difa-i-Pakistan Council must be barred from holding more rallies in the country. Jihadi groups have taken the lives of innocents inside and outside Pakistan. It is time to put a stop to their activities.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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