Voice Against Suicide Terror in Pakistan: Too Late, Too Mild

Animesh Roul

After five long years of advent of suicide terrorism in Pakistan (a recent estimate indicated about around 30 suicide bombing incidents with well above 160 fatalities have taken place since 2002), suddenly the erstwhile supporters/believers (somehow tacitly) of suicide (Fidayeen) attacks voiced against this most lethal terror tactic. Although, the use of suicide bombings in Pakistan never caused a public backlash in general, some liberal and progressive Muslims do oppose the tactics irrespective of their targets, but their voice never posed a deterrent. This has been proved time and again when the April 28, 2007 blasts in Charsaddah took place, following a decree issued against suicide terrorism by some prominent Islamic clerics of Pakistan. Days before Charsaddah blast, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazlur faction) organized a cleric convention (April 17, 2007) where a fatwa has been issued against suicide bombing, terming the tactic as “haraam” in Islam and “against the law of the land”. Thousands of Islamic clerics (radical and moderate) endorsed the decree.

Pakistan, since 2002 has been witnessing suicide attacks firstly against Western (US) targets and then the tactic has taken a sectarian shift (Sunni vs Shia) when many high profile suicide missions undertaken by Sunni outfit SSP and LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) combine and Shi outfit Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP). Some of the major incidents were e.g. May 27, 2005 suicide attack at the Bari Imam shrine, Islamabad where at least 20 Shia worshippers killed; July 2003 suicide attack on Shia mosque in Quetta which resulted in the deaths of over 40 worshippers and October 7, 2004 suicide blast at Multan that killed over 40 people and wounded over a hundred others.

The other prominent suicide attacks perpetrated against Pro-US and Pro- Musharraf targets were: December 25, 2003 suicide attack on Pervez Musharraf in the Jhanda Chichi area of Rawalpindi where around 14 persons were killed and at least 45 others injured; attack on army training centre at Dargai in the NWFP on November 8, 2006 where 42 got killed and as many of them injured; and most recently, April 28, 2007 blasts in Charsaddah, NWFP where 28 people killed and 52 injured including the interior Minster Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherapo.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamaat Ulema Islami declared suicide attacks are against the tenets of Islam and blamed outsiders for perpetrating suicide bombings in Pakistan. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, also a member of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the coalition of fundamentalist political parties in Pakistan, tried to rationalize the suicide (act) by saying that since Islam did not permit the killing of innocent people, it was necessary to figure out why suicide bombers went to such extremes. He urged to eliminate the underlying causes which gave rise to suicidal tactics. Dr Mehmood Ahmad Ghazi, a Sunni cleric said, "A suicide attack was clearly murder and its legality was further called into question by the fact that they occurred in a Muslim state which was not occupied by infidels."

Other clerics who came out strongly against the suicide attacks are Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman and Allama Jamil Ahmed Naeemi, Allama Abass Hussain, Allama Sheryar Aabidi and Allama Shehnshah Naqvi among others.

Nevertheless, this sudden and collective denouncement is no doubt intriguing. And the most intriguing part is terror mastermind Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s turn around on the most practiced tactics of his outfit. Following the footsteps of above mentioned Islamic clerics and lawmakers in Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of many terror attacks in India and elsewhere and founder of outfits like Lashkar e Toiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa, has reportedly said against ‘suicide attacks.’ Saeed termed suicide attacks are prohibited by Islam and against the Islamic Laws (Sharia). According to him, "Islam strictly forbids shedding the blood of innocent people, nor even that of a non-Muslim, or a non-believer, and there is clearly outlined punishment for such horrendous acts in Islam." Another top ranking JuD operative Maulana Ameer Hamza also aired similar views against suicide attacks days before Hafiz Saeed. He said that a suicide attack was, beyond doubt, an act of terrorism. “Someone who kills himself to kill others also recounts for the sins of those who (he has) killed.” What made Hafiz Saeed to sing different tune after perpetrating Un-Islamic activities all these years would be worth probing and worth watching.

It seems the Islamist elements (both radical and liberal)in Pakistan have read Islamic texts properly to find out now the true tenets of Islam though after much bloodshed. The raised voice against suicide attacks has, however, come too late and too mild to restrict the hydra-headed monster in that country and elsewhere.

Author Note
Animesh Roul is the Executive Director of Research at the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi.