A nation on the brink

Extremist thought to the point of exclusion of the other is the first step to its ultimate form of violent terrorism

Shahzad Chaudhry December 10, 2021

the writer is a political security and defence analyst he tweets shazchy09 and can be contacted at shhzdchdhry yahoo com

The writer is a political, security and defence analyst. He tweets @shazchy09 and can be contacted at shhzdchdhry@yahoo.com

We have been there a long time now and somehow avoided being tipped over. Perhaps the moment is still in the making but unless we turn ourselves around we are sure to fall over and be consumed by the darkest depths of the lows below. Sometime back I had written that with the advent of the non-kinetic war, which has since seen many names — hybrid, 5th Gen, irregular, soft war — it isn’t the state anymore which is the target but the nation or the society which has weapons trained on it. The tools of the war have changed and hence the nature of war where weaker societies will cease to be nations with a capacity to own a state even if it notionally stood. We have been under that kind of an assault for long now.

What happened in Sialkot recently isn’t unique except for its international character. Our society began its slide down the throes with frequent events of rape, violation of young children and decadent treatment of women and minorities for some time now. Sialkot prides itself as a model city but desperately lacks model citizens. Two young brothers were lynched right here by those that felt wronged after a brawl a day before. There were bystanders who made clips of the proceedings but did not intervene to stop the barbaric act. We don’t even know what happened to the perpetrators? The law must have taken its course, and perhaps not. One only remembers the horrendousness of the crime and its savage actualisation. This time it was the poor Sri Lankan manager who got beaten, lynched and then burned — by some counts while still alive — around vigilantism, mob (in)justice and strong religious undertones. Law was absent and order never came to his rescue. One more page in the unraveling of the society turned itself over with a threat that the edifice on which stands the nation-state will soon melt away.

We have numerous fault-lines and multi-faceted challenges emerging out of those which is okay for a nation which is the fifth largest in the world but what haunts is the absence of conflict-containment and resolution mechanisms in a society as large as this. What is it that counts for such an arrangement? In wars against states nations have militaries which are assigned the task of deterring, defending and thwarting an aggression against the geographical sovereignty and existence of a state. But when conflicts are internal and based around ethno-religious specificities societies resort to the usual norms and values of decent co-existence as its guardrails against using violence as the arbiter of first resort. When societies lack such nuanced and refined evolution or intellectual guardrails it trip-wires into violent conflict. This time within a nation’s borders and within a society.

Militaries thwart external aggression. For internal conflict nations develop laws and its arms, processes and levers to thwart aggression and conflict within a society. When these go absent for whatever reason(s) chaos and unraveling ensues. If spread on a much larger scale where law and its implementation arms are either absent or non-existent nations break up. States then simply melt away. We know how East Pakistan broke away and became Bangladesh. A society fragmented and took a part of the state away.

Law, the internal force meant to keep order through policing, investigation, prosecution and conviction, is what keeps a society stable and integrated. When any of these arms meant to apply the constituent force weakens to the point of emaciation, say administration which sleeps over the need to be informed about what is brewing as trouble and chooses to conveniently look away when lacking the will or the courage to challenge such evocation, or a police which just isn’t bothered enough to act or is ill-prepared or too scared to perform its duty, or the criminal process of investigation through laws, indictment and conviction simply wanes away from its responsibility because of fear of consequences, unruly mobs and vigilantism takes over. Then lynching, broad daylight murders and extrajudicial resort will occur. Provincial, divisional, district and local administrations; the police; and by extension the criminal justice system are the systemic failures that brought about Sialkot or every such incident whenever it has or it may happen. Period.

Extremist thought to the point of exclusion of the other is the first step to its ultimate form of violent terrorism. When you weaponise hate and turn into an exclusivity of thought — racial, religious or political — cults ensue. Our politics is polarised and the society radicalised. Together these create an idiom of engagement which borders on hate, abuse and decadent language. When weaponsied with hate it leads to violence and terror. Terror isn’t only what TTP or another such outfit perpetrate, what happened in the Sialkot lynching is a worst form of terror. A sick society without its guardrails and intellectual anchors soon loses its way and stops being a coherent whole. Such is the society which is already on the brink and will simply walk into oblivion. A state follows soon after when a nation is no more.

So what is it that we need to do to save ourselves from another meltdown? Build the police just as you would your military into a deterrent against external threats. Develop, train and equip the police against internal threats in a highly polarised and radicalised society to keep the nation-state construct viable. It should have its rapid response, riot control, civil policing and investigation arms functional, operational and professionally competent to perform each of the tasks to its fullest effect. We need to make sure the administrative structures are responsive to the needs of vigilance and prompt attention to an evolving law and order situation. And whence it is brought under control we need to sharpen the laws and apply them across the board without fear or favour.

We must also enact legislation which qualifies political parties for political activity only after they have shed their armed and militant wings and any para-purpose wings in the universities and trade unions. Religious political parties can either be in the business of religion or in politics. They must divest themselves from any engagement with the madrassas. Politics is of a country and a people not of a particular streak of this or that strand of religion. Conflict of interest is applicable to an office of profit in all businesses that lie outside the field of patent politics. Blackmailing a system or a people into conformance is not politics and cannot be allowed.

Mainstreaming the errant through political pathways is a convenient divestment of responsibility of the state. This is applicable on all sides of the political spectrum. When someone works against the state he is an equal opportunity assailant of the state and needs to be dealt with by law not compromise and convenience. That also renders state institutions to allegations of complicity and deliberate patronage which must be avoided at all cost.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2021.

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source https://tribune.com.pk/story/2333178/a-nation-on-the-brink

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