Pakistan: Treading a Perilous Path

Pakistan had long ceased to be a nation with possibilities and positives that could allude to the sight of a path leading to realizations of emblems that represent it. And what had emerged later, around some thirty years ago, was an offspring with an imbecilic disposition of an illegitimate marriage between Ronald Regan and General Zia-ul-Haq. Even during its fleeting existence when 'things were not that bad' it bordered hardly the definition of a sovereign nation and it withstood the swirls of time and result of its 'deeds' in equal measure that ultimately morphed into an incessant halitosis. The embarrassing fact that no elected government has yet completed its term in Pakistan's 62 year history does clamor something which its rulers never bothered to listen.

For much of its turmoil and distress the citizens of Pakistan can safely pass the blame to those who were at the helm right from the very beginning. When Mohammad Ali Jinnah, an advocate with no religious leanings, saw the opportunity for a better role in the political drama than he could have expected in India, he played the card of a nation based solely on religion and had himself as its founder. He argued Muslims will have a better future if they were given a sovereign state of their own than in a Hindu dominated India. Some sixty years after we can safely assume it is this overweening manifestation and prostration before religion that devoured Pakistan and now the nation stands on the verge of imploding. The London based British Pakistani journalist Sarfraz Manzoor wrote in Guardian, 'Pakistan is like a severed leg, hacked from the body and expected to run on its own'. Fortunately the falling down and imploding may not be that near as the degree of belief and inevitability and fa'ade of newly elected democratic but impotent government may suggest.

Professor of high energy physics and head of physics department in Quide-e-Azam University Pervez Hoodbhoy writes 'Twenty five years ago the Pakistani state pushed Islam on to its people as a matter of policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state ' as yet in some amorphous and diffuse form ' is more popular today across Pakistan than in previous decades. Across the country there has been a spectacular increase in the power and prestige of the clerics, attendance in mosques, home prayer meetings (dars and zikr), observance of special religious festivals, and fasting during Ramadan'.

What Mr. Hoodbhoy writes suggest to the radicalization of the society in general and youth and new generation in particular. When as personal a thing as religion becomes a matter of pride to be illustrated in public the society always runs the risk of being caught in a turmoil which was not only unnecessary but also insulting to the very cruces of the religion. Such atmosphere works as fertile soil for skewed and slant thoughts and in no time all that one gets to see are the shadows of trees of venomous teachings blocking the light of liberal thoughts. Pakistan fell prey to those who professed to be its lodestar and is still groping in the dark. The ideology of looking only outwards at the expense of inward gazing brings disastrous ramifications not only for an individual human being but also for nations. Ill thought policies mostly engendered out of incorrigible despise for India left no space for any serious thought about development of the nation. Partition of the India in 1947 seems to have done no good to the cause of the Muslims but only added to their woes in Pakistan on account of being mal-governed by inept leaders and generals and pushed most Indian Muslims to the constant need of proving their loyalty to India.

The famous joke that abuts derision, about Pakistan that every country has an army and here an army has a country envelops in it the skewed idea of Pakistan. 60 years of incompetent rule and misdirected policies coupled with ideologies solely based on lopsided reading and interpretation of the religion has left Pakistan cancerous and cadaverous. Army, an institution which has always had and still has unbridled grip on the nation for most part of its troubled existence, recruited soldiers not as soldiers but as defenders of Islam and destroyers of India. Extremely India centric policies seem to have helped army stay institutionalized and call the shots in Pakistan but proved fatal for the welfare of the nation. Now, in the aftermaths of Mumbai terror attack when army is being told by the civilian leadership to crack down on militants and jihadists army finds itself in a turbid situation. The idea of one group of defenders of Islam fighting another group of more passionate defenders of Islam neither does suit their motive nor agenda. The Pakistani army which is driven by religious sentiments faces this new ambivalence on two accounts: first, Pakistani army has a long history of working in cohorts with the militant outfits that a sudden U-turn, even a feigning, is impossible, second, Pakistani army which though virtually rules the country even now fears the bloody backlash. It has yet to come to terms with the attacks of Jesh-e-Mohammad militant outfit it had to suffer in return for its crackdown on the said militant outfit under US pressure. The soldiers of the army fighting the militants on north western border were captured and brutally tortured and even decapitated. So if army really takes some tough action to ease out the international pressure it will be akin to earning anther enmity within the country where anarchy reigns under democratic cover. Pakistani army may have lost its 2000 soldiers battling militants but it still deems India as its primary enemy not only out of patriotic effusion but also out of its need to be relevant to the country. The army which has bifurcated even Taliban into good Taliban and bad Taliban and doesn't blink an eye before promulgating as risible a claim as that bad Taliban (which retaliates to army) are the stooges of India can't be trusted to present an opinion worth pondering.

Stephan Cohen in his book 'the idea of Pakistan' says that regardless of what is desirable the army will continue to set the limit on what is possible in Pakistan insinuates that poor Pakistani citizens already mired in economical and intellectual abyss has nothing to look forward to. Such is the lust of the army with the greed of the power that it is even a criminal offense to criticize the armed forces of Pakistan or to bring them into disaffection.

When Pakistan came into being in 1947, despite its founder M. A. Jinnah's assertion that there would be no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and religion none had an idea of what sort of state Pakistan would develop into. From the very beginning Pakistan was a risk that could have gone either way and perhaps the death of Mr. Jinnah and its first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali sealed the fate for Pakistan for ever. Then it was only a matter of time before it was declared an Islamic state in 1957. From that point onwards it is a steep downward slope that had it fortunes imprisoned. In 2005, openly defying the state, the Lal Masjid head cleric, announced the following chilling message for the women students in the Quaid-e-Azam University:

'The government should abolish co-education. The Quaid-e-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. I think I will have to send my daughters of Jamia Hafsa to these immoral women. They will have to hide themselves in hijab otherwise they will be punished according to Islam'. Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women'.

Such message may not represent the true characters of Pakistani society in general but they do drive home a point that clerics and Mullahs can openly have their way with no fear of rule of the law which too on most occasions sides them. The chilling fact that Maulana Masood Azhar went about his business with no intervention of government even in the light of Mumbai terror attacks hold a mirror to the true picture of the rule of the law in Pakistan. The intense international pressure could have him only under illusory house arrest does suggest either the impotency or the unwillingness of both government and army to get Pakistan out of the abyss it is sliding down with every day. In addition to all this the revelation that huge funds from US that Pakistan received for public welfare works were siphoned off by its rulers to buttress extremists and bleed India only alludes to a very bleak future for Pakistan.

The feudalism in Pakistan was never taken care of and that led to an insensate and devilish difference between upper class and 'its subjects' so much so that even today upper class in Pakistan never creates an uproar when suicide bombers blow up building of general public use. The wedge between these two societies, frigid upper class and combination of myriad other factors like illiteracy, poverty and twisted interpretation of Islam led to a society that had its root in the blocked mindsets and venomous distinctions. To add insult to the injury the lack of civilian leadership and control of any further spread of poison into the branches of a nation that has yet to become a nation and the shocking fact that Pakistan is still called an infant state only insinuates to its being a dwarf when it comes to sovereignty.

Recently while reading William Dalrymple's article on Maulana Jalauddin Rumi, a 13th century Turkish poet, I came across a chilling paragraph wherein he writes about the utterly lurid remarks he got to hear from Maulana Mohammad Abdul Malik, a senior cleric with the Islamist political party, Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan in 2005, which has just banned the public playing of music within the Frontier province. Maulana remained firm on his view of music. "Music is against Islam," he said. "These musical instruments - the tabla, sarangi, dhol - lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers." After having listened to people like Maulana one can only hope and pray that the Pakistani society which has produced so many heart stirring voices and talented artistes of every form and enthralled billions in south Asia and world won't bow before such absurd decrees though skepticism prevails.

To some extent the anti-American feeling among Pakistanis and Muslims too militates against the interest of the nation. This anti-American feeling makes a huge chunk of population of Pakistanis look up to the militants as anti imperialist fighters and support their maniac and menacing agenda. This tacit support works as a morale booster for army to indulge in dastard acts in collusion with radicals. The fall out of all this is that India will always pay the price for being a soft state and neighbor of a state where everyone in the hierarchy of the power actual or virtual, direct or pseudo ,overt or covert have a selfish interest in working with extremists. What conclusions can one draw when a person of the level of federal minister speaks the language of religious zealots. During Pervez Musharraf's regime the federal minister for religious affairs, Ijaz ul Haq (Zia-ul-Haq's son), speaking at the launch of a book authored by a leading Islamic extremist leader on 'Christian Terrorism and The Muslim World,' argued that "Anyone who did not believe in jihad was neither a Muslim nor a Pakistani". He then declared that given the situation facing Muslims today, he was prepared to be a suicide bomber.

According to an article written by Pervez Hoodbhoy, survey statistics make the Islamist shift underway in Pakistan yet more evident and quantitative. According to the Pew Global Survey (2006), the percentage of Pakistanis who expressed confidence in Osama bin Laden as a world leader grew from 45% in 2003 to 51% in 2005. This 6 point increase must be compared against responses to an identical questionnaire in Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, where bin Laden's popularity has sharply dropped by as much as 20 points10.

Support for the Sharia is also rising. A survey by the World Public Opinion.Org (April 24, 2007) found that 54% of Pakistanis wanted strict application of Sharia while 25% wanted it in some more dilute form. Totaling 79%, this was the largest percentage in the four countries surveyed (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia).

These statistical figures suggest the insidious spread of venomous ways of living and thinking in the innards and alleys of Pakistan. Reckoning the fact that children are being soaked into the pool of hatred and fastidious mores we can only hope for the sake of hope. The present government which showed some signs of better times for the Pakistan is back to chewing the cud when it came to make some real developments. Prime Minister repeatedly told India that Pakistan will defend itself if attacked but forget to address the questions India has been asking for years. The establishment failed to recognize the fact that in seeking answers to those question also lies a a better and peaceful future for Pakistan.

Stephan Cohen calls this establishment a "moderate oligarchy" and defines it as "an informal political system that ties together the senior ranks of the military, the civil service, key members of the judiciary, and other elites." Cohen further goes on to say that membership in this oligarchy requires adherence to a common set of beliefs: that India must be countered at every turn; that nuclear weapons have endowed Pakistan with security and status; that the fight for Kashmir is unfinished business from the time of partition; that large-scale social reforms such as land redistribution are unacceptable; that the uneducated and illiterate masses deserve only contempt; that vociferous Muslim nationalism is desirable but true Islamism is not; and that Washington is to be despised but fully taken advantage of. Underlying these "core principles," one might add, is a willingness to serve power at any cost.

Today Pakistan seems like a sick body awaiting cure. Today this nation that had long ceased to be a nation is 'mute in the face of its ills, torn by its loyalties and beaten by political callousness' to borrow words from the Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes, which he said alluding to border between U. S. and Mexico but equally befits state of Pakistan today.


More by :  Pramod Khilery

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