Muhammad Ali Siddiqi’s column in Dawn this week about Pakistan’s ‘New Left’ must be considered by any pro-democracy individuals. Those of us who support a liberal, secular government for Pakistan in the tradition of the Quaid – and I suggest this is the majority of Pakistan – we need to work together to resist the very organized and orchestrated right wing and its potentially devastating agenda.
Take two recent examples of the right showing their true agenda. First, consider revelations about Rana Sanaullah’s relationship with banned militant groups.
The recent admission by Rana Sanaullah about his association with the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) illuminates that Pakistan is a country where a nexus between politicians and militants is still active. Since only a few political parties have picked up on this issue, it is worrying to assume that relationships between the government and militant outfits still exist. Furthermore, the core principle of any constitutional democratic set-up is that the representative of the government is an extension of the state; therefore by the minister associating with a banned militant group, the government’s policies regarding militants and terrorists have come into conflict. In understanding this, one has to realise that militants are non-state rogue actors and to combat them the resolve must start from within the government.
Next, consider the ongoing calls by Ahmed Quraishi for a return to military dictatorship, most recently even praying for a Pakistani Mao – the dictator of China who was responsible for the deaths of over a million of his countrymen.
Pakistan is a country where even democracy will fail without some iron-handed intervention to set things right. Sometimes reform can’t be put to vote, as I argue in my column, A Smart Coup: Why One Last Military Intervention In Pakistan Remains A Possibility.
The right-wing, though the represent a very small part of Pakistani population, has a loud, booming voice. Sometimes their message booms with the sounds of bombs. They do not care about Pakistani people, Pakistani culture, Pakistani society. They have, it seems like, some sickness in their head that makes them only obsessed with violence. How can someone wish for a murderous military dictator like Mao to come to Pakistan and be taken seriously by educated, thinking people?
But even though these right-wing zealots represent a tiny fraction of Pakistani people, they are able to exploit the disagreements between liberal Pakistanis who fight each other over small issues. We can argue all day about whether Asif Iqbal or Wasim Akram was the better all rounder, but while we are fighting, Imran Khan is taking home the trophy!
Muhammad Ali Siddiqui’s conclusion is 100% correct. We must not fight each other, but fight the real enemy:
Well-funded, armed to the teeth, and with collaborators embedded in the media and civil and military bureaucracy, religious militancy poses the greatest threat to the Pakistani people’s political and cultural freedoms. It is here that the New Left should play its long overdue role and resist any attempt to turn Jinnah’s Pakistan into a barbaric theocracy that the very name Ziaul Haq symbolises.