‘Of course, they will kill me,’ one of the subcontinent’s most-influential Muslim leaders told me the other day. “But first they will flog me.” He was speaking of what would await persons like him if violent extremists took over. But the need to survive is compelling many in Pakistan to fight the jihadists.
The stupid talk of an Indian hand behind suicide attacks is not the real story from Pakistan. That Pakistanis as a society are quietly redrawing their list of friends and enemies.
Violent extremists disgracing Pakistan and Islam are now seen as the nation’s enemy number one as well as danger number one. Certainly the United States is not liked, and there is resentment at the pressure on Pakistanis to do more. Pakistanis think that the US and India should understand what Dawn recently called “the limitations of a sub-optimal state fighting a hydra-headed enemy”.
But the violent extremists who blast women, children and the elderly into body pieces that land in mosques and bazaars have firmly displaced the US from its position as the entity Pakistanis most detest.
This national sentiment — plain to anyone observing the Pakistani scene — is shared across political, sectarian and provincial divides, across the civilian/military divide, and by rich and poor alike. No stance adopted by the US or India attracts the level of popular revulsion that Pakistan’s violent jihadists have invited on their heads.