The Yawning Divides

by Amina Jilani

The age old adage about a house divided amongst itself applies – the Islamic Republic is in dire need of gluing itself together into some sort of a cohesive shape. There are far too many diverse forces pulling against each other in multiple directions.

The hope was when Pakistan was created that religion would be a binding force. This has not come to pass, as so far no one has been able to define, in terms peculiarly Pakistani, what exactly constitutes being a Muslim. This was made clear to the nation when the Report of The Court of Inquiry constituted under the Punjab Act II of 1954 to enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 was issued for all to read.

The report was written by Justices Muhammad Munir and M R Kiyani. At one stage in the Inquiry, four ‘learned divines’ were asked to give their individual definitions of a Muslim. As records the report: “The result of this part of inquiry, however, has been anything but satisfactory and if considerable confusion exists in the minds of our ulema on such a simple matter, one can easily imagine what the differences on more complicated matters will be….Keeping in view the several different definitions given by the ulema, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulema we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim, but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else.”

The intervening 55 years has but brought about change for the worse, with violence and militancy intervening in the basic differences which defy unity. On the ethnic front things have been as fraught, with, as has been the case for longer than we can remember, 43 percent of the land mass, admittedly sparsely populated, at odds with the rest of the country and largely divorced from the writ of the government or state. An ethnic divide has plagued the province of Sindh, and there has forever been resentment against the largest and richest province of the federation.

Successive governments, not one of them fit to be classified as a government in the true sense of the word such has been the deplorable and dangerous lack of leadership, have only widened and exacerbated these divides.
Then there is the hugely divided national mindset – one for the handful of itinerant rulers who come and go that has no connection with the people over whom they hold sway. Though for the larger part of their lives these multi-coloured rulers have been part of the ordinary citizenry, once shot into seats of power they sever, temporarily, all connections with the masses and make it their business, not to rule or even govern, but to ensure that they wield the crudest form of power which enables them to grab what they can of the national assets before the next set of grabbers takes over.
And we have the illusions of greatness and righteousness injected into the national mindset by the hypocrites and sycophants surrounding each set of rulers, now accompanied by the phobias and paranoia inflicted upon the people by the and all pervasive media unleashed by former President General Pervez Musharraf.

The world does not awaken each day and say to itself “let’s get Pakistan.” It has multifarious problems to face and deal with, Pakistan being but one of them, and thanks to its past performance and present dilapidation, a major problem amongst the many. Pakistan needs to get real, emerge somewhat from its Pak-centric mode and drift into the world as it is. Yes, there are dangers across every border, from every neighbour, all of whom are presently rightly or wrongly putting blame upon Pakistan for certain troubles of their own. In a situation where Pakistan has few friends – as is witnessed from the pledges of help from the famed Friends of Pakistan which have failed to materialise – should we not make an effort to realistically try to explain our shortcomings rather than leaping into defensive attack mode?

The world sees us as it sees us, and we fail to see ourselves as seen. A hugely dysfunctional nuclear nation, riddled by terrorism and waging what could be termed a civil war in areas over which the government holds no sway. As for the government, the world is aware that it is deemed by Pakistan’s people to be a sick joke perpetrated upon them by a series of backroom deals which benefited a chosen few, a government notorious for making statements and in practicality doing the exact opposite, a government devoid of any definable system of governance. The country’s constitution is irrelevant other than to fit in with the desires of the ruling classes.

Pakistan is far more in need of change than much of the rest of the world and one major irritant which has of late become obsessive is its president, who stands at a lower ebb than his predecessors – even Musharraf at the height of his follies in 2007. Asif Zardari was elected as president under unfortunate circumstances which but illustrate the depths to which the federation’s assemblies have sunk.

What has been the NWFP terrorism death toll so far this month under his watch?

This article first appeared in The Nation on November 15, 2009.

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