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Victim-led Extremism

by Newsweek Pakistan

Abdul Majeed—AFP

Pakistan’s laws favor the tormentors

There are laws in Pakistan that appear to uphold the extreme worldview of the terrorist combine: Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Not bad in themselves, these laws have been twisted to make them anti-citizen, strengthening the hand of the tormentor. They represent the extremism of the victim state.

The biggest offender is the blasphemy law, which contains elements that gratify the terrorist rather than the victim; and no amount of appeals to rectify these flaws have been effective with a state frightened by the wrath of the victim society. Mashal Khan, a university student in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was murdered for alleged blasphemy even though all he espoused was secularism. The ruling coalition in Peshawar has a hardline view of secularism and equates it with negation of religion. A ruling party councilor actually took part in the murder of Khan and is still at large while another MNA has gone threateningly on record saying secularists should give up their creed or leave Pakistan. Another MNA of the party from Swat has declared that the attack on teenage Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai was a hoax, thus indirectly supporting her attackers, the Taliban of Fazlullah now hiding in Afghanistan.

The extremism of the victim has spread across Pakistan’s educational institutions: first, Lahore’s Punjab University saw violence after a Khattak dance; then a Karachi University student group clashed over the entry of musical instruments into the campus. The tendency of the victim to become the tormentor is a psychological defense seeking empowerment through what has been called Stockholm Syndrome. Pakistan’s anti-terrorism planning suffers from many flaws of implementation but one of them is also this syndrome, as evidenced by the strict recent punishment ordered by the state for those who don’t observe fasting during Ramzan without enjoining resistance to the instinct of vigilante action.

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