Book Review ‘Saraiki region — Roots of radicalisation’

Book Review ‘Saraiki region — Roots of radicalisation’

If you want to learn about so-called Jihadi outfits – their origin, creators and midwives, their facilitators and handlers, and their rise and fall, you must read Nadeem Shah’s recent book “‘Saraiki Region – Roots of radicalisation’. He examines thoroughly almost all the underlying factors of radicalization whether they are political, economic, social or religious. Also, his book investigates how their support-base is being translated into their vote bank in various general elections, arguably with the help of their facilitators and handlers. For instance, he provides very interesting details of the rise of Barelvi and TLP vote bank in some regions including the Saraiki’s in the 2018 general elections.
This book is also a depressing tale of the Saraiki people. Nadeem Shah ruthlessly exposes successive governments’ discriminatory policies towards the region. For instance, he provides comparisonof allocation of funds between Saraiki and central Punjab for education, how this perpetual discrimination resulted into extreme poverty, layers of inequalities and multiple deprivations including malnutrition. In order to substantiate his line of argument, he cites numerous and credible statistics, studies, official records and statements.
Through these statistics Nadeem Shah attempts to argue (which is also a dominant narrative) that radicalization took place in the country because of the mushrooming of religious seminaries. And this might not have happened should the state have provided quality education to all children in the Saraiki region. The phenomenon is too complex and therefore requires thorough investigation.
The tale of so-called Islamic radicalization and terrorism can’t be understood fully without the examination of the role of the most secular and liberal states of the West in unleashing one of the most decadent and bigot forces globally and locally. In 1985, while meeting a delegation of Afghan Mujahideen President of the United States Ronald Reagan said - “They are our brothers, these freedom.They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers.”
Pakistan’s permanent establishment had formed an alliance with religious forces after the collapse of Ayub Khan’s government. In East Pakistan (Bangladesh) Jamaat-i-Islami actively supported the military operation, which ended in humiliating defeat. During Mr. Bhutto’s government (1970-77) not only this alliance was weakened but also military was isolated from its socio-political base. The rigged elections of 1977 provided a great opportunity to mullahs and military to strike back. Bhutto was overthrown and hanged in 1977 and 79. In April 1978 Communists took over power in Afghanistan. This must have been a huge setback to mullah-military alliance in Pakistan. So as for the USA too. Credible sources reveal that the CIA had started its operation in Afghanistan well before the arrival of the USSR troops. In early 1979, Iranian revolution further damaged the USA’s influence in the region. Two revolutionary regimes were now sitting on our western border. A former Foreign Secretary of the USA Hilary Clinton said: “Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today, we funded them twenty years ago.”Global Research 1st June 2013.
In Pakistan, Zia had adopted the same strategy to quell the rising momentum of democratic forces. He unleashes Sipah-i-Sahaba – an anti Shia and anti democracy terrorist organisation, which later played a crucial role in the formation of Taliban both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Sindh he promoted narrow nationalist and fascist groups like MQM and Jia-i-Sindh.
By the time of his death in August 1988 he had helped establish thousands of madrasas all over Pakistan. He left behind a huge presence of bigots to every corner of the country but more densely in areas where poverty and inequality was profoundly present. Nadeem Shah very eloquently presents the proof of presence of violently radical groups by providing statistics of their vote-bank in various constituencies of Saraiki belt.
But there is a need to examine the electoral politics of mainstream parties and their opportunistic politicking too. For instance, after Zia’s death, the military establishment continues helping the right-wing parties and extremist groups to form electoral alliance. The infamous case of ISI-IJI collaboration between 1988 and 1997 is a case in point. Therefore, it may be concluded that almost all mainstream parties and successive governments along with the permanent establishment have been helping the radical groups to sustain and expand their vote-bank. Nadeem Shah doesn’t limit his book to understanding the root causes of religiously motivated radicalization and deprivations of the Saraiki people of their progress, he also proposes a way forward. I would like to add into his list - self-determination. Though Saraiki people have never took an extremist position nor one should prescribe it. However, oppressed people’s patience should never be tested.