I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Pakistan has been hijacked. In order to answer the question, ‘how do we take back control of our country,’ we must first answer the question, ‘how did this happen?’ To answer this question, we must look to history.
Jinnah was a proponent of the separation of religion and state, and had a deep sense of fair play for all citizens. Look at his cabinet when his party formed the first government of Pakistan: a Hindu for the post of law minister and an Ahmedi, Sir Zafrullah Khan, at the post of foreign minister.
The essence of the League’s struggle was economic and political. The Muslim League comprised the petit bourgeoisie from Punjab to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, Muslim minority areas in undivided India, and Bengal. In the Muslim League’s camp were Ismailis, Ahmedis, Shias, Sunnis and other heterodox elements of Muslimdom. The Indian Congress Party, on the other hand, consciously promoted an orthodoxy amongst its Muslim members by and large. The maulanas of Deoband and other doctors of religion were firmly in their camp. It goes without saying that every Islamising impulse in Pakistan has come from groups opposed to the creation of Pakistan. This is a fact of history deliberately being swept under the rug.
This fact of history may be unknown to many young people, and that is how these same groups continue to wreak havoc on our political system. And wreak havoc they do. They may have opposed Pakistan’s founding, but once the nation was there, they have schemed to take it over. Consider the changes that they have made over the years.
But much of the upsurge in militancy occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s during the “Islamisation drive” by late military leader General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s support for the US-baked Afghan jihad or holy war against the Soviet invasion which saw a rapid growth of radical groups and madrasas.
Haq introduced several laws, such as the notorious blasphemy law, which are deemed discriminatory against non-Muslim minorities and fuelled tensions between different Muslim sects.
Subsequent governments did nothing to reverse the laws.
Military dictators, who ruled Pakistan for more than half of its existence, have also used militant groups to further policy objectives in Afghanistan and India and marginalise liberals.
“In earlier years, in order to pursue its foreign policy using the instrument of jihad, the state actively sought to create a religiously charged citizenry,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist and analyst.
“But, now that the Pakistani military and political establishments have become a victim of extremism, they are foundering in confusion.”
Former President Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler, though he espoused a modern and liberal version of Islam, repeatedly failed to get the laws reviewed while in office from 1999-2008.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a pro-West politician and a vocal opponent of the militants, was killed in December 2007 in a suicide attack blamed on militants linked to al Qaeda.
Civilian leaders are made even more cautious now in tackling radical groups by the tremendous fear of militants who have unleashed bomb and suicide attacks across the country.
“Religious intolerance is getting worse in Pakistan because the political leadership lacks the will to fight this,” said analyst Rizvi. “They don’t want to face the wrath of mullahs.”
This last point of Rizvi’s is the key. Before we can stop the madness that is infecting our nation, we must put together the political will to stand up to the bullys of intolerance. We do not need to stoop to their level of harassing and intimidating people, but we must not allow them to sweep history under the rug. We must not allow them to harass and intimidate us. There can simply be no appeasement of hatred and intolerance. It is a cancer that, left ignored, will destroy our country. That may not bother those few people who were opposed to the creation of Pakistan from the beginning, but it bothers the vast majority of the people in this country. It’s time for the silent majority to stop being quiet, and start speaking out.