As the Pakistan parliament takes on the 2018 document for a possible constitutional framework; the terror group dismisses signatories as ‘false scholars’.
Daesh’s Pakistan branch recently criticised the “Paigham-e-Pakistan”, or Message of Pakistan (PeP), a consensus-based counter-terrorism policy document signed by thousands of Pakistani Islamic scholars, which disapproved of the militant group’s extremist ideology and defined their brutal acts, including suicide attacks, as against the basic doctrines of Islam.
In its recently-released Urdu publication titled “Yalghar” (Invasion), Daesh termed those who signed the document as “Ulema Soo” (false scholars), for allegedly making an alliance with the government to justify the “war on Islam” on behalf of the United States, dismissing the PeP document’s main idea that Pakistan is an Islamic country.
The terror group argues that Pakistan recognises international borders, hosts several religious minorities, and does not support persecuted Muslims in Myanmar, China, Palestine, Iraq, and Syria, while also killing Muslims in its own country.
Though the PeP was issued back in January 2018, it was recently tabled in both houses of Pakistan’s parliament for debate and potential legislative cover. This followed the PeP’s endorsement and recommendation by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam.
Daesh is not the first terror outfit that has opposed the PeP. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also criticised the document in detail and said it is mainly based on “distorted Pakistan Studies”.
The TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali, in his book “Inqilab-e-Mehsud, South Waziristan: Firangi Raj se Amreeki Samraj Tak” (Mehsud Revolution, South Waziristan: From British Raj to American Imperialism), also criticised the Islamic scholars for signing the PeP document that unanimously declared terrorism, suicide attacks, and killings as haram (forbidden) in Islam.
Militant groups targeting Pakistani state’s legitimacy
For years, Pakistan has been plagued by terrorism and sectarianism. Several local and transnational militant outfits or militant groups often use suicide bombers and preach that their struggle is a holy war to impose Sharia (Islamic law) in the country. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the country since the early 2000s.
Analysts said that in both their literature and statements, militant groups such as Al Qaeda, the TTP, and Daesh, use the enactment of Islam and the implementation of Islamic law as an excuse for their insurrectionary and terrorist activities in Pakistan.
Michael W. S. Ryan, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, opines that a 130-page monograph titled “The Morning and the Lamp”, containing Al Qaeda’s central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s analysis of Pakistan’s constitution, has been one of the major reasons behind the “most extraordinary escalation” in terrorist attacks in the late 2010s in the country.
The monograph, translated into Urdu to make it available to a much wider Pakistani audience, does not merely “call for [the] radical reform of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan along the principles traditionally espoused by Al Qaeda and its local allies”. Rather, Ryan wrote in one of his articles in Terrorism Monitor magazine in 2010, “it calls for the destruction of the state itself”.
“In making this call, Zawahiri had gone beyond the name-calling and the declaration that Pakistan is an apostate government, to providing reasoned legal arguments to support his assertion that apostasy is rooted in the state’s foundational document,” he said.
Asim Umar, head of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has authored two books in Urdu, arguing an attack on the Pakistani state and calling on the Pakistani people to join the jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The books were widely circulated in both hard copy and printable display format (PDF). Umar was killed in December 2019 in a joint US-Afghan military operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Abdul Qadeem Zallum, Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s former global leader; Maulana Abdul Baqi Haqqani, higher education minister in Taliban’s current government in Kabul; Abu Mahzura, a TTP leader; Maulana Noorul Huda, a Karachi’s cleric; and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Ghazi, a jihadi leader associated with Islamabad’s Red Mosque, were prominent among the militant ideologues who had authored books targeting the legitimacy of the Pakistani state.
"The TTP and other Al Qaeda-allied groups have heavily used the publications as references to recruit new militants, convince some of them to carry out suicide bombings, and justify their terror attacks," said Muhammad Israr Madani, an Islamabad-based religious scholar who recently authored “Islam and Democracy: An Alternative Narrative” to counter the extremist assaults on Pakistan’s constitution.
A Karachi-based counter-terrorism police official said that an arrested “would-be suicide bomber” had revealed during interrogation that he had studied publications of Umar and Huda that emphasised the religious permissibility of suicide attacks against non-Muslims and even their Muslim allies.
“The suspected suicide bomber was using many references to the Quran, and rational arguments and rhetoric from the publications to support the TTP’s stance,” the official told TRT World.
Madani said that the PeP document, as well as his book, was an attempt to answer the three important questions militant groups exploit to support their insurrectionary acts in Pakistan.
“The questions included: whether Pakistan is an Islamic state or not, whether a state should be declared un-Islamic if Sharia is not implemented, whether an armed rebellion against the state is permissible in the name of Sharia’s implementation under given circumstances, and whether the Holy Quran and Sunnah provided any justification for suicide attacks,” Madani told TRT World.
Madani said that the militant groups misinterpreting Islamic teaching to support the terrorism that has killed thousands of people, has compelled religious, state, and civil society groups to act against them and declared terrorism and suicide bombings as haram.
He also said that the PeP document answered the question of whether actions taken by the state to combat insurrection are permissible according to Islamic law.
Religious scholars’ support of the PeP
The PeP, initially signed by more than 1,800 scholars, was launched at President's House in the presence of the country’s religious and political leaders.
Scholars at the Islamic Research Institute, a research arm of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, prepared the original draft of the document in May 2017 and presented it at a national seminar with the title, “Reconstruction of Pakistani Society in the light of Charter of Medina”. The document has been prepared in consultation with the country’s institutions and religious scholars of the five major madrassa boards representing various schools of thought.
The PeP document has two components: the first part entails the preamble, which provides the contextual analysis of the ideological and political situation; the second part is the religious decree or fatwa, which was initially signed by 1,829 religious scholars representing all religious schools of thought in the country. So far, more than 4,000 religious scholars have signed the document.
Describing the context of the declaration, the PeP document claims that maximum legislation, according to Islamic teachings and principles, has taken place in this country. It also condemns sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict, and the imposition of a particular ideology on others by force.
“The PeP document is a comprehensive counter-narrative against all forms of religious hate, but state institutions have not used the document properly,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based thinktank.
“Moderate religious scholars, civil society, and the media must bring PeP into the public sphere so that the prevailing ideological confusion can be minimised,” Rana told TRT World.
The PeP document has recently been tabled for debate in both houses of Pakistan’s parliament for the legislative cover, following the endorsement and recommendation by the CII.