by: Iqbal Tareen, Washington, DC
The issue of rising tide of Islamic extremism in Punjab requires more attention than it has received especially with respect to the role of Pakistan Muslim League (N), which claims to be a mainstream political party. More than anything else, the very existence of PML (N) will become irrelevant if it failed to differentiate itself from other religious parties in the country. Majority of the people of Pakistan do not want to see state policing Islam in their living rooms and bedrooms. Absolute majority of Pakistanis have rejected and will continue rejecting religion as a system of dictates. They cherish it as a moral support system and inspiration for social and cultural value system.
I am not being overly critical of Shariff brothers but I can’t ignore the fact that the birth of their political careers has been an absolute blessing of Zia’s era. It has been very hard for PML (N) leadership to cut their ideological umbilical cord with Zia’s extreme religious ideology. I have yet to hear from Shariff brothers denouncing their association with Zia or declaring his Taliban style rule in Pakistan as insane.
Is PML (N) capable of rooting out Islamic extremism from Punjab? I think it is the only party in Punjab that has a fair shot at this reasonable goal. It is not the inability of PML (N) but the deficit of its conviction that drifts it along with the flow. Unfortunately PML (N) is baiting a ticking bomb of self-destruction.