Of extremes

Fleeting moments

Public opinion stands divided between those who support negotiations with the Taliban and others who vehemently oppose such a move. The arguments offered on both sides are viewed differently, depending on which view one supports.

Conceptually, could such a precarious situation arise if we had 80 percent of the population educated on modern lines, had per capita income equivalent to that of the middle-income groups, and had included Fata’s population into the mainstream?

Those who advise the government to crush religious extremists by force and, in return, the extremists who want to impose their agenda by force are equally unjustified. The first category is mainly the upper class educated with modern schooling. This class is financially sound and has nothing to worry about in the future. As a privileged class, it has dominated the political scene since Independence.

The second category comprises madressah-educated impressionable youth and adults, untrained in any formal vocation hence unable to earn a decent living in a competitive world. Indoctrinated with religious zeal, they perceive themselves to be on the divine path. And they want to impose a system that assures them political power. Power and wealth are mutually rewarding. We have already seen many politicians rise from modest living to roll in riches within a short span of five years in power.

Arguably, the struggle shrouded in religious extremism is between the affluent and the deprived. Such an opinion might offend both – the privileged and the unprivileged. However, the traditional supremacy of the privileged is being challenged by the oppressed. They’ve waited too long; they want their share in the national pie. As a result, the rich are increasingly taking refuge behind gated communities, high walls, and security protocols.

Then there’s the third segment of society – labour and peasants – which is the largest. It toils and sweats to earn its living. It is generally apathetic to what the religious extremists demand and does not condemn them as much as the upper class does. Moreover, the same majority also thinks that the prevalent system, which goes in the name of political process, is unjust since it only suits the ruling class and its dynastic politics.

The privileged class violates the law with impunity and gets away with it while the hapless are crucified. Take, for instance, the mega scandals of corruption – Ogra, rental power, NICL – involving high-profile operators. Typically, these cases are similar to a soap opera that usually outlives its viewers. Such cases frequently draw the displeasure of the higher courts yet there’s no logical end to them. Those powerful enough to violate the law are crafty enough to stay ahead of the law. There’s no dearth of shyster lawyers coming to bail them out of tight spots on hefty fees.

Consider how the equally powerful ruling class in the UK finds itself restrained by rules and regulations. The Daily Telegraph triggered a major political scandal in 2009 when it revealed that many MPs had falsely claimed house rents when the properties in fact belonged to them. The scandal caused widespread resentment among the public against the politicians and loss of faith in politics.

Many members of the House of Commons and House of Lords were prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned. The British parliament was called ‘rotten’. Isn’t such a system, where the powerful are held accountable, close to the Islamic system of justice?

There’s an uprising in Fata and insurgency in Balochistan. Those living on the fringes imagine they’ve been wronged by the state. The government must make efforts to assuage their sense of alienation. The government at the centre and the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seem sincere about negotiations with the Taliban. Let’s give peace a chance.