Pakistan’s Secular Origin needs to be Restored


Pakistan has come to be a failing state in the rapid process of being Talibanised. Its internal situation as it stands today, does not offer any hope that could dispel grave apprehensions about its future. Not very long ago General Pervez Musharraf had confessed that Quaid’s Pakistan today faces a definite demise. Indeed, no person other than him is responsible for leading the country to an imminent denouement. After all he is one of the authors of the agenda for the country’s ideological disaster.

Though he claims to be an avid fan of Kemal Ataturk and also inventor of “enlightened moderation”, he would not like Pakistan to be secular as Turkey or as Quaid wanted it to be. Truly chameleonic he actually is one of the lead players in redefining Pakistan ’s secular, liberal and democratic ideology in the Wahabi mould of Islam. And his actions prove his commitment all the more. His regime has given a free hand to mullahs, their vigilantes and burqa-brigades—to run berserk. Islamabad —his seat of power—has come be the worst example of their escalating terror. The armed men and women bunkered in Hafsa Seminary and Lal Masjid have very conveniently held hostage the entire capital. As compared to the freedom given to them, secular, liberal and democratic forces are being bombed, persecuted and intimidated.

Being a Deobandi Wahabi GPM would do well to read history. He would know why his precursors opposed Mr Jinnah and that Pakistan was to be a Muslim state rather than Islamic. And that was the reason that from before partition to 1997 people in Pakistan did not vote for the Mullahs. Rather, in 1997 the masses had sounded their death knell. The top leadership of MMA—particularly those belonging to Jamaat-i-Islami and JUI—(incidentally their fore-leaders had opposed Pakistan and Mr Jinnah) was either defeated or made to flee from the political arena. It was only through the courtesy of General Musharraf and ISI that in 2002 elections the Mullah political power was resurrected to blackmail the Americans following 9-11 and accorded huge representation in the legislative assemblies in polls internationally dismissed as “overly rigged and grossly flawed”.

The MMA—genuinely indebted to GPM—went out of its way to pay back his enormous debt. They made his 17th amendment part of the Constitution to make him the most powerful president. They also acquiesced into his keeping the military uniform. They signed blindly the provision that any one who has been prime minister twice cannot seek the office a third time. While this was in ontravention of all principles of parliamentary polity, the MMA endorsed it since GPM wanted his main political rival—former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to be kept out of power. MMA obliged him since he had promised to oblige them at some stage with the prime ministerial slot as well.

To neutralise his western supporters who have lately started seeing through his Machiavellian politics that he launched a media campaign of so-called enlightened moderation to hoodwink them. His propagandists have been ordered to white wash his Praetorian image—to make him look like aliberal democrat out there to save Quaid’s Pakistan from “definite demise” when he himself actually is a Mullah in a cloest. His decision to sack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, not to give in to the legitimate demand for an independent election commission and keeping the doors closed to the exiled leaders besides state-sponsored rumour mongering of polls postponement, possible imposition of the state of emergency and even of political deals to divide the opposition –are a manifestation of a conspiracy that is being unfolded to maintain his hold on power. He has let the mullahs go berserk and unleashed their burqa-clad Ninja turtles on the civil society so that the confrontation that is building between the liberal and obscurantist forces as seen in the anti-and-pro rallies all over the country would cause an implosion that would enable him to tighten his hold.

His election a third time by the present parliament is becoming farfetched. He is already facing too much music in the courts. The present crisis is most likely to restore the lost glory of Pakistan ’s apex judiciary. The fact that he has been issued notice by the Supreme Court on a petition by Justice Choudhy Iftekhar must be too annoying for an absolute ruler who is only known to abuse all state institutions as his rubber stamp. His seeking of re-election a third time from a national assembly whose tenure itself is five years and that too with his military uniform on would be resisted by all quarters and the courts would not endorse his lust for perpetuity in power. His own khaki constituents would not like to see him continue as Chief of Staff. For opposition parties and the masses he has become a pariah and a tyrant who stands opposed to democracy. Besides they know that while his propagandists have been maintaining a media blitzkrieg regarding deals, he has promised election of those persons only who will be his yes men and women. Since he has violated the constitution and Presidential propriety by employing himself as the Chief Election campaigner for PML-Q, he has indeed exposed himself for trial for treason. To know what he would like his winning combination to be, one should just have an overview of the huge army of co-operate thugs and financial scavangers running his regime.

Under mounting internal and external problems, he is at a loss to know whether he is coming or going. His old time friends accuse him of “incongruity and confusion of ideas and ideals”. Notwithstanding his pep talk of enlightened moderation, his desire for the election of “enlightened and moderates” is much similar to Zia’s concept of “positive results” (musbat nataiaj—or election of his yes men). Newer methods of pre-polls rigging have already been set in motion and are more than half way through.

In a scenario that is getting murkier with each passing day, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto is once again being singled out. While people are shocked to read the press statements of some of the opposition leaders orchestrating regime’s disinformation of deal with the PPP that Musharraf himself has denied, it is intriguing that MMA Mullahs are desperate to have a deal with PPP under the banner of grand alliance. Some of the PPP opponents and even allies while sleeping in different beds—share the same dream—how to undermine PPP. There is, however, a silver lining to it.

It has emerged very strongly and unequivocally—both within Pakistan and outside— that PPP under Ms Bhutto is the only political force to be reckoned with that is why every one wants to have a deal with it. If there is a wind of change in favour of her in Washington , it is nothing but recognition of the fact that Pakistan today needs her as its leader to pilot it out of stormy ocean to safer shores and restore its lost respect in the comity of nations.

Besides, she has reiterated it and the track record of her party enforces her commitment, that she would only seek power through transparent elections and not through a deal. She is the true heir to the legacy of martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who preferred death to a deal. Had he signed to surrender his political freedom General Zia would have willingly sent him in exile. There are not many examples of sacrifice as his in the contemporary history. Rather, it is full of such instances where leaders have surrendered their self-respect and dignity to end their incarceration. Some even sought refuge abroad with restrictions binding them to four walls and a time frame banning political activity.

Like her father Ms Bhutto believes elections and power are not to be an end in themselves but a means to a bigger goal to usher in changes of far-reaching socio-economic and political consequences for the greatest good of the largest number. This goal can only be reached when people through free, fair and transparent elections exercise their vote and establish themselves as the sole arbiters of power. There is no short cut to it—even via Washington route.

In Pakistan one has not to deal with one Bonapartist general. Confronting the people, usurping their democratic rights and sovereignty is the entire Praetorian establishment with a military mind set that the country can only survive as a garrison state and that its generals are only fit to rule while they conveniently brand civilian leaders as incompetent and corrupt notwithstanding the fact that the whole lot of the brotherhood of generals is the most corrupt in the world.

When the military establishment started planning for the take over from the civilian leaders of the pre-partition breed, they could not find support from among those who had fought for a democratic and secular Pakistan under the leadership of Mr Jinnah. It came up with its idea of the so-called Nazaria-i-Pakistan—an ideology contrary entirely to the progressive and liberal vision of Mr Jinnah, gave it a religious mould and incorporated in it as its crusaders the Mullahs rejected by the Muslim electorate in the pre-partition sub-continent in their preference to a westernised and democratic Mr Jinnah.

Islam under the British in India was never an issue. Muslims in India had freedom to pray, had their own personal laws and they were equal citizens with the Hindus in the religious sense. It was in the political and more so economic sense that they were deprived communities. The Unsuccessful War of Independence in 1857 had reduced them to the fate of “hewers of wood and drawers of water” as Sir William Hunter succinctly captured the economic plight of the post-1857 Muslims. Whether it was Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal or Mr Jinnah—the main objective before them was the renaissance of Muslims as a socio-politico-economic force.

Had the Indian National Congress under Motilal and Jawahar Lal Nehru accepted Mr Jinnah’s 14 Points in 1930 India would have retained its unity, Muslims and other minorities would have got socio-economic and political justice in the system of reservations as propounded by Mr Jinnah and India would have got its independence decades before it actually did. Later again in June 1947 it was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s stubbornness that came in the way of federal scheme of things that Mr Jinnah had accepted for the sake of Indian unity.

This was the turning point. Nehru’s obduracy and unyielding notion of Hindu majority to have the final say in a federal India made it home to Mr Jinnah that Muslims will remain political slaves and they would be denied their economic rights. He was left with no choice but to opt for Lord Mountbatten’s offer of “take it or leave it” a truncated Pakistan . However, determined man that he was he knew well that if his vision was translated into a living reality, Pakistan would become a model of a modern, progressive, liberal, secular and democratic state in which all its citizens—irrespective of their caste, creed or colour—would be equal.

Pakistan today is living under the shadow of death. Its military establishment gave the religious colour to the secular ideology of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan and exploited the so-called Nazaria-i-Pakistan to perpetuate itself in power through Mullah-Military alliance to waylay Pakistan ’s march onto the road to secular democracy. The greatest disservice that the generals have done to Pakistan—worst than their shameless surrender to India in 1971—was to distort Pakistan’s secular and liberal ideology and replace it with the overly religious Nazaria for a theocratic Pakistan.

This deliberate ideological distortion has deprived Pakistan of its avowed secular raison d’etre and converted it into an epicentre of global Jihadi terrorism. The military burial of its secular ideology has convinced global geo-strategic decision-makers that since Pakistan– as projected by its military establishment and Mullahs—is a religious state—it will have to be written off in order to save the world from Jihadi terrorism.

To save the country its people will have to go back to Pakistan’s secular ideology, a quiet burial to the so-called Nazaria-business, total disengagement of the military from politics, dismantling the political role of the intelligence agencies, free, fair and transparent elections, genuine transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people and establishment of the rule of law under an independent judiciary. Time has come for all liberal and secular forces to unite and fight against the mullah-military alliance to enforce Mr Jinnah’s vision of a secular Pakistan.

* Wajid Shamsul Hasan is Pakistan’s Ex High Commissioner at the UK

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