Dr. Hasan Askari
There have been more actual and busted terrorist incidents during the first ten days of the month of Muharram than was the case last year. The Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan took responsibility for some of these incidents. If we take a longer view of the security situation in Pakistan there have been more killings of security personnel and civilians in the wake of terrorism since 2001 than the civilian and military personnel killed in all Pakistan-India wars.
A good number of people subscribing to Islamic or conservative-rightest orientations talk about the treacherous Indian policies that threatened Pakistan but they do not criticize any specific militant Islamic groups that have killed more Pakistanis. They often defend the Taliban and similar extremist and terrorists groups by suggesting that violent activities are resorted to by the agents of Pakistan’s foreign enemy-countries rather than the genuine Taliban who are friends of Pakistan. They also attribute sectarian killings to hired killers rather than engaging in dispassionate review of the developments in Pakistan over the last two decades to understand internal turmoil.
The divided and confused state of mind of a large section of populace has enabled religious orthodoxy and religious and cultural intolerance to seep deep into the society. It has penetrated the state institutions, including the lower echelons of the military and a large section of ex-service personnel. The political parties like the PMLN issue vague statements on terrorism, avoiding direct criticism of the Taliban and the Punjab based sectarian groups. The Pakistan-Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) is supportive of the Taliban perspective on terrorism. Islamic parties and madrassas that share sectarian-religious perspective of the Taliban publicly support them publicly.
In the first week of November, the Taliban leaders based in Pakistani tribal areas refused, once again, to recognize the Durand Line as the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This stand is in line with the policy of the Afghan government on the Durand Line. This exposes their so-called friendship with Pakistan. This is in addition to the repeated claim of the Taliban leaders that they wanted to implement Islamic Sharia as articulated by them in Pakistan, rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and law.
Had India publicly questioned the legitimacy of the Durand Line, all supporters and sympathizers of the Taliban would have condemned the statement. When it comes to the Taliban, the story is different. These developments have distorted Pakistan’s identity and vision.
There is a strong need to renew Pakistan’s identity as enunciated by the founding fathers, especially by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal as a counterpoise to Taliban’s vision of Pakistan.
Jinnah visualized Pakistan as a modern democratic state that sought ethical basis of state and society from Islam. He viewed Islamic teaching and principles as a source of guidance for the society and law making rather than a set of punitive and regulative legal system. He and his colleagues were convinced that Islam and democracy can work together and the touchstone of a political system was its representative and popular orientation.
The state was to encourage the Muslims to lead their lives in accordance with the principles and teaching of Islam rather than enforce a sharia-based notion of the state. Jinnah pleaded the case for the establishment of Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims. He never argued that a new country was needed because Islam was danger in united India. He talked of the threats to Muslim identity, rights and interest in a Hindu-dominated united India.
He articulated an alternative nationalism that challenged the hegemony of the one Indian nation concept and emphasized Islam as a common denominator for political mobilization and identity formation for the Muslims. Thus, the movement for the establishment of Pakistan was not a religious movement. Nor was Pakistan created for Islam or for enforcement of Islam as visualized by Islamic parties and groups.
The perspective of Islamic orthodoxy was never entertained by the Pakistani state and policy makers until General Zia-ul-Haq assumed power in July 1977. He sought the cooperation of orthodox and conservative Islamic groups to sustain him in power. Later, his government joined hands with the United States and conservative Islamic states, especially Saudi Arabia, to build Afghan-Islamic resistance to the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (December 1979-February1989). Zia-ul-Haq used the state apparatus to enforce Islamic legal order as visualized by Islamic orthodoxy, mainly influenced by Saudi vision of Wahabi Islamic traditions.
If Pakistan has to overcome internal violence, civic disorder and narrow political and religious approach the people have to undertake a dispassionate review of political and religious developments over the last thirty years Pakistani state and society need to discard the legacy of the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq that has divided the country.
There is a need to the return to the legacy of Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah and Allama Iqbal that emphasizes tolerance, liberal democratic constitutionalism and equal citizenship irrespective of religion, region, ethnicity and gender. Islam is viewed as the ethnical basis of the social and political order with focus on social justice and equality and fairplay. This will gradually turn Pakistan into a normal functioning democratic and forward looking state.
The improvement of internal situation will help to boost Pakistan’s economy that has suffered a lot due to increased intolerance and terrorism. Therefore, an all-out effort is needed to check religious and cultural intolerance. More resources should be allocated to education, health care and civic facilities. The state should assign the highest priority to the welfare of people.