The ‘Defence’ of Pakistan

- By SahibaTrivedi March, 2012 By all indications, the recently formed Difa-e-Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan) Council likely has some friends in high places. The success of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council’s (DPC) rallies across Pakistan, and brazen announcements of forthcoming rallies and attendees, many of whom belong to ‘defunct’ or banned organizations, lend credence to the theory that the DPC has the backing of powerful forces in Pakistan. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council is a collection of over 40 religious groups, political parties and banned militant organizations. It has a 10-point agenda and one of its main rallying points has been to pressurize the civilian government to not restore NATO supply routes. Other goals include breaking off US-Pakistan ties, forcing the government to revoke the Most Favoured Nation status granted to India and to back the Taliban. The rise of DPC has generated concerns, both within Pakistan and abroad, that it may soon be strong enough to enter Pakistan’s political arena; if it does, what would it mean for the future of democracy in Pakistan and the future of Pakistan itself. There are also concerns, especially outside of Pakistan, that in the eventuality of the DPC coming to power, what would become of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In reality, the most pertinent and imminent threat regarding the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is actually the influence it currently wields and future implications for the society within Pakistan. Since the DPC has come into existence, it has been carrying out huge rallies all across Pakistan – in Lahore, in Karachi, in Rawalpindi, in Quetta and in Islamabad. These would have required, apart from millions in finances, the administration’s support. For a collection of 40-odd religious organizations and banned outfits with different philosophies and ideologies, to come together on one forum, and to collect the financing required from its supporters, as the DPC claims, seems improbable. Chances are that the DPC has received funds from some ‘patron’ that believes in using the power of a platform like DPC in Pakistan. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council’s rallies have consistently had a huge turnout of people, which also means that the administration has been cooperating with the Council - in terms of providing venues, security arrangements and even sealing off roads leading to the venue. Despite the UNSC ban on the primary member organizations of DPC, no action has been taken against any of the banned organizations, its leaders or its activists that form the DPC. The government has not moved against DPC’s leaders, even though DPC has been announcing its next venue days in advance. Instead, the government has chosen to blame the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)-led Punjab government for letting Punjab-based groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a primary

the three managed to enter Islamabad. Pakistan People’s Party and the opposition party. The DPC came into being when Pakistan had stopped NATO supply routes in the aftermath of the attack on the Salala check-post in the Mohmand Agency. The actual threat. only the JamiatUlema-e-Islam (Fazl) is currently represented in the National Assembly. Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. it is easy to say that in the future. its influence on the society is likely to increase manifold. The anti-American sentiment is particularly high in Pakistan at present. Founders of DPC include an ex-ISI Director General. Despite a ban on their entry. Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat’s (previously known as Sipah-eSahaba Pakistan) Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and DrKhadimHussainDhillon. Historically. then. The military had gauged the mood of the nation and realized that another coup would not go down well anywhere. the DPC has been used by the establishment to remind them to tone down their eagerness for improving ties with India and also to reassert their authority over the civilian government. And it is mainly inwardly- . Many believe that the emergence of the DPC has been backed by Pakistan’s powerful security establishment and that the ‘mullah-military nexus’. Rumours abounded about the possibility of the military disposing of the civilian government to take over the country. relations between the civilian government and the military had deteriorated due to the Memogate scandal. on several occasions. The rise of DPC has been viewed as one of the mediums through which the security establishment has tried to rein in the civilian government.member of the DPC and a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba) get out of hand. if the DPC keeps getting support from powerful institutions. the Difa-e-Pakistan Council does not pose an impending threat for democracy in Pakistan at present. Out of the DPC’s two main political parties. used frequently by the powerful intelligence agencies in the past. internally as well as externally. although they did not take part in the rally. which the military was quick to deny. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). There is evidence to suggest that the DPC is acting as the establishment’s mouthpiece. The security establishment has been also been backing the rise of Imran Khan to counter the power of the two main national parties – the ruling. During that period. lies in the future. was being deliberately revived. even school children from Rawalpindi attended the DPC rally in Islamabad purely because they thought the rally was being held to ‘destroy the US’. declared that it doesn’t have political ambitions. religious parties in Pakistan have not performed well in democratic elections. the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the JamiatUlema-e-Islam (Fazl). Hence. some of which have had tacit or overt support from the establishment in the past. The only time there was a certain modicum of the government trying to rein in these groups was when 3 DPC leaders. For the civilian government. Looking at the kind of influence that the Difa-e-Pakistan Council wields at the moment. a Member of the National Assembly and members of UN-declared terrorist outfits. The DPC has. The DPC is also necessary as a bargaining point when it comes to relations with the US – to show them the ‘mood of the nation’. were barred from taking part in the DPC rally in Islamabad. the DPC is being used to whip up anti-US and antiIndia rhetoric under the guise of ‘defence’ of the nation. And for the citizens of the country. the next general elections may not be such a deviation from past.

In such an environment. Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ). Kashmiri hardliners. Difa-e-Pakistan Part 1/2: Jihadis itch for resurgence LAHORE: In December.” says Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi. His group is not alone in urging Pakistanis to rise up. since the DPC rallies have also been used as a forum for anti-minority activities. which states that the country’s military be called in to defend Pakistan. held a meeting on October 12 last year in Lahore. it could also mean a catalyst to the culture of sectarianism and fundamentalism. all this could be a threat for democracy in Pakistan as well as a threat for other countries in the region. and appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to force Parliament to abide by article 245 of the Constitution.directed. By the next decade. ammunition and a call for ‘Jihad’. which now operates under a changed name. . “Even if we were banned. sectarianism-fanning extremists and Taliban-sympathisers were seen holding hands together on stage in Lahore under a banner decorated with images of arms. Under the auspices of MaulanaSamiulHaq. unemployment and electricity load-shedding have left the common public frustrated. Since then. could be a whole generation of disgruntled youth. fed on extremist and fundamentalist ideas of hyper-nationalism. the rise of a front that promises the ‘defence of Pakistan’s ideological and geographical boundaries’ may prove to be a recruitment campaign for many of its member banned militant outfits. we cannot just sit around and see this country go up in flames. The economy of Pakistan today is unable to provide its bulging youth population with opportunities to better their standard of life. including those from ASWJ and JamatudDawa (JuD). then. Besides. chief of banned religious group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). chairman of Difa-e-Pakistan. The future. Difa-e-Pakistan issued a statement saying that the President House is a hostage to the Americans. corruption. After this. the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defence of Pakistan Council) movement has gained momentum across Pakistan and their leaders seem unperturbed by serious accusations against them. over 40 different religious leaders. rampant inflation.

other prominent members include Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi.Party leaders say their agenda is to free Pakistan from American and Indian aggression by putting pressure on the current government. Difa-e-Pakistan may be a new name. JamiatUlema-Islam-S (JUI-S). a religious seminary that was frequented by the Afghan Taliban before 2001. secular. The group he made at the time was known as the Pak-Afghan Council (PAC) but later. which. but after he was set free by courts due to lack of evidence. The group dates back to the early eighties and its spokesperson. when released from prison . Its head. The group also released a 10-point agenda. Hafiz Saeed. a claim he denies. this group joined politics by merging into an Islamic alliance known as MutahiddaMajlis-e-Amal. was widely quoted in the press as the spokesperson for Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1990s. JamatwudDawa. his organisation now operates under the JuD banner openly throughout Pakistan. both of whom have come under local and international scrutiny due to their perceived connections with terrorist activities. Its chief. which is a globally banned ‘jihadi’ organisation. “At that time our brothers needed our support against the American crusade. says an intelligence officer who does not wish to be named. the 75-year-old former member of the National Assembly. Malik Ishaq. changed the organisation’s name from JamatudDawa to Falaah-e-Insaaniyat. SamiulHaq currently heads a religious political party. liberal hypocrites inside Pakistan. but its roots lie in the movement started by its current chairman in the wake of attacks on Afghanistan by Western forces. Besides him. which formed the government in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa under the Musharraf regime. is accused of involvement in the Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed at least 166 people. was SSP’s militant wing before it broke away.” They also announced complete support for those fighting in ‘Occupied Kashmir’ as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan. YahyaMujahid. so we took a stand for them.” says MaulanaSamiulHaq. and also runs a madrassa in AkoraKhattak. Then there is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). currently on the United Nations list of banned organisations. One of the points is a warning sent to all “anti-Islamic.

was received by the head of ASWJ. Published in The Express Tribune.” he states. But the intelligence official does not believe this. To find out that it is actually a motley crew of fourty-odd religious parties.last year. SamiulHaq. chaos and suicide bombings — already? Yes. And what are those demands? For starters. a few other political has-beens like Sheikh Rasheed and IjazulHaq.” he says. Ahmed Ludhianvi. anarchy and suicide bombings. February 11th. banned terrorist outfits like the JamaatudDawa (JuD). acknowledges the implications of standing in the same row with those accused of international and local terrorism. What do they actually do apart from claiming to defend the country? Not much besides holding rallies in different cities and threatening the government of dire consequences if their demands are not. but they have promised to scale up the operations if their demands are not met. So what does the Council stands for? According to Hafiz Saeed of the JuD. can be shocking. Let’s try and figure that out by asking a few questions. though. isn’t it? . What are those dire consequences? Chaos. after being accused of involvement in more than 70 killings. Ishaq who spent more than a decade in jail. among others. One cannot be faulted for assuming that the Difa-e-Pakistan Council may perhaps comprise of officials of the defence ministry. “Different smaller groups linked with LeJ are still involved in sectarian violence across Pakistan. But those supply lines have always been open and were blocked only some weeks back — why this sudden realisation that it undermines the sovereignty of the country? Better late than never. But don’t we have them — anarchy. and former spymaster HameedGul. To figure out what it stands for can be even more astounding. was present at the last gathering of Difa-ePakistan in Multan. four-star generals and decorated admirals who wish to ponder over the defence needs of the country and make major strategic decisions. they want parliament to not restore the Nato supply lines. 2012. “I will keep a check on them and make sure they don’t do anything wrong. it is a coalition with the aim to “defend Pakistan”. who stated at that time that Ishaq will continue his struggle peacefully.

cultural.What else do they want? Surely they cannot spend millions of rupees on all those public gatherings to demand that the government does not restore the Nato supply lines? The ultimate goal is to sever all diplomatic. Errr. Does any of this make sense? No. are completely missing from these rallies. Is it just America that they want to cut ties with. can our country survive this ultimate isolation? Most probably not. to demand all that? Between the 40 parties and organisations that make up the Council. according to its chairman. One can surely ascertain the Council’s legitimacy by seeing its underwhelming electoral performance. it will also gain from taxes and duties levied on the increased imports — revenue which can then be used for public welfare. only the JUI-F is represented in parliament and it too has a handful of seats. demagoguery and posturing and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is doing one hell of a job as far as this is concerned. Surely that cannot be bad? The Difa-e-Pakistan Council is not concerned with the public good. The Council. 2012. its chairman. or has any other country faced a similar wrath? They hate India just as much and are angry with the government for awarding it ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status. who make up half the country’s population. It has a ten-point agenda that it has publicised at its public meeting. “the council’s sole agenda is to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan”. saying that if need be. their gatherings are a clear message to US and a referendum for the government of Pakistan to immediately review its relations with America and other western allies. What legitimacy do they have. February 4th. would like to think otherwise. not really — but then our politics has never been about logic. the government will not only discourage cross-border smuggling of goods. but the Council would surely like the government to try that. According to Maulana Sami-ulHaq. But by regularising trade with India. It is interesting to note that women. It has been warning liberals and even the media. finding solutions and peace and harmony. political and economic ties with the United States of America. if any. It has always been about rhetoric. force will be used to spread its Islamic ideology in the country. And the reason for that is that those who are part of the DPC would not consider . of course. LAHORE: The newly-formed Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) comprising mainly banned militant outfits and certain religious groups has been holding rallies in many major Pakistani cities. Published in The Express Tribune. confusion.

The DPC has threatened that it will not allow parliament to give India the status of Most-FavouredNation? But who has given the Council this mandate. the views of those who make up the DPC are similar to those of the Taliban.women as equal members of society. right across from the Quaid’s mausoleum. It is clear from the Council’s agenda that it will want to enforce its perception of Islamic ideology in Pakistan through the use of force. when we already have one of the world’s largest standing armies? We have already paid a very heavy price till now for being considered by much of the world as a country that provides safe havens to terrorists and which patronises non-state actors in committing acts of terrorism. Quite clearly. . The irony is that Bangladesh. The Pakistan envisioned by its founder the Quaid-i-Azam is certainly not what the DPC described at a rally recently held in Karachi. 2012. especially given the fact that parliament collectively represents the will of the people? The DPC has also asked its followers to “break the legs of any whore” who goes to India and sings or acts in films. Who has entrusted the DPC with the responsibility of defending the country. February 20th. It is time that the government and the other state institution took notice of the DPC’s activities. which used to be part of Pakistan till it seceded. S T Hussain Published in The Express Tribune. is a secular republic while Pakistan is still suffering from extremism and militancy.

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