Army takes exception to calling terrorists martyrs
ISPR slams JI chief for unruly remarks
ISLAMABAD – Attempting to bring an end to the apparently trivial debate over calling the hardcore terrorists as ‘martyrs’, Pakistan Army has slammed a religious hardliner for “insulting the shahadat (martyrdoms) of thousands of innocent Pakistanis”.
Pakistan Armed Forces’ mouthpiece Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued an extraordinary statement on Sunday, demanding an unconditional apology from Ameer Jama’at-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hasan over his declaring the dead terrorists “martyrs” and saying his remarks were “irresponsible and misleading”.
It came at a time when some right-wing religious leaders, especially Munawar and JUI-F cheif Fazlur Rehman, were repeatedly calling the slain terrorist Hakimullah Mehsud ‘shaheed’ (martyr). However, the statement did not mention Fazl whose unruly remarks suggesting to liken a “dog killed by Americans” to martyr had sparked controversy in Pakistan’s political and religious circles.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has killed thousands of civilians and security forces in their quest to overthrow the country’s democratic government and impose a harsh version of Islamic law. The chief of this banned terrorist organisation, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a US drone last Friday.
The leader of the mainstream Islamist Jamaat, Munawar Hasannot only termed Mehsud a “martyr” in that television programme but also went on to say that Pakistani troops who died in gunbattles with Taliban militants were not martyrs because they sided with the United States.
The military said it “strongly condemned the irresponsible and misleading remarks” by Munawar Hasan in a TV programme, “declaring the dead terrorists shaheeds while insulting the shahadat of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers of Pakistan’s armed forces”.
JI Secretary General Liaquat Baloch, in a Sunday night statement, said they acknowledge and respect the sacrifices of the military personal and they had been expressing sorrow over the Shahadat of Pak Army’s soldiers. He said they would issue a proper response to the ISPR statement on Monday after party consultations.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted that Munawar Hasan supports enemies of the state and the armed forces. In his message on Twitter here Sunday, Bilawal termed Munawar’s statement as ‘treasonous’ and urged the Supreme Court (SC) to take suo moto notice of it.
The ISPR statement did not spare words to take on the JI chief on a highly critical note. “Syed Munawar Hasan has tried to invent a logic based on his political convenience. Strong condemnation of his views from an overwhelming majority leaves no doubt in any one’s mind that all of us are very clear on what the state of Pakistan is and who are its enemies.”
The military, however, had praises for the JI founder Maulana Maududi but condemnation for Munawar. “Sacrifices of our shuhada (martyrs) and their families need no endorsement from Syed Munawar Hassan and such misguided and self-serving statements deserve no comments. However, coming from ameer of the Jamat-e-Islami, a party founded by Maulana Maududi, who is respected and revered for his services to Islam, is both painful and unfortunate.”
The army’s media release said nothing less than an unconditional apology from Munawar would be acceptable. “The people of Pakistan whose loved ones laid down their life while fighting the terrorists and families of shuhada of armed forces demand an unconditional apology from Syed Munawar Hasan for hurting their feelings. It is also expected that Jamat-e-Islami should clearly state its party position on the subject.”
Munawar Hasan, when contacted, said that he had not read the statement. “I can only say anything after going through the army’s statement. Till then, don’t bother me,“ he told this correspondent in an audibly irritated tone before dropping the call Sunday night.
Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: JI Information Secretary Anwar Niazi said the Jamaat will issue its reaction on ISPR statement after consultation with party leaders on Monday (today). Talking to The Nation on Sunday, Niazi said the party leaders’ meeting is scheduled for today and they would release party’s official stance after that meeting. JI chief Munawar Hasan was not available on his cell phone despite repeated text requests by this scribe.
Agencies add: Many analysts have also criticised comments like those made by Munawar Hassan that glorify the Taliban, saying they confuse the Pakistani public about the country’s true enemies. The leader of another main religio-political party, Fazlur Rehman, also created ripples in a separate television programme by saying that he considered even a dog a martyr if it was killed in a US drone attack – a particularly strong statement because dogs are widely disliked across the Muslim world.
Analysts have also criticised the response by civilian Pakistani officials to the drone strike that killed Mehsud. The officials condemned the US for killing the Taliban chief and accused Washington of sabotaging peace talks with the militant group, without mentioning the scores of Pakistanis that Mehsud was responsible for killing.
Pakistan is a frontline state in the US and Nato-led fight against militants in Afghanistan. It says more than 40,000 people have been killed in Pakistan by Taliban and al-Qaeda-led militants, who oppose Islamabad’s US alliance. But officially Islamabad condemns US drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to end them during White House talks last week.
However, analysts say Sharif’s ability to issue demands to Washington are constrained by the fact the US last month agreed to release around $1.6 billion in aid. In addition, Pakistan has just embarked on a new $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan package with support from Washington.
Mehsud’s death was the third major blow struck against the TTP by the US this year, following the killing of number two Waliur Rehman in a drone strike in May and the capture of another senior lieutenant in Afghanistan last month. On Thursday, the TTP named its new leader – hardline cleric Mulllah Fazlullah, known for leading the Taliban’s bloody two-year rule in Swat Valley and for links to the shooting of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.