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Islam and Politics ( 31 Aug 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Nawaz Sharif under Fire

By Farooq Sulehria

26 aug. 2011

The birth of Bangladesh not merely shattered the Ideology-of-Pakistan myth, it also   exploded the notion of Imagined Community. A community cannot be imagined out in the absence of essential commonalities: race, colour, geography, history, language, and religion in some cases.

Decades ago, on the eve of August 14, Manto for once tried in vain to ‘separate India from Pakistan and Pakistan from India’. He asked himself: Will Pakistani literature be different – and if so, how? To whom will now belong what had been written in undivided India? Will that be partitioned too?

He continued: ‘What my mind could not resolve was the question: what country we belong to now, India or Pakistan? And whose blood was it that was being so mercilessly shed every day? And the bones of the dead, stripped of the flesh of religion, were they being burned or buried’.

On the eve of recent August 14, addressing a seminar in Lahore Nawaz Sharif also tried to ‘separate India from Pakistan and Pakistan from India’.  He concluded: peoples of both the countries were natural allies as they shared common cultural heritage, language and even cuisine despite the presence of ‘border’ between them.

Understandably, a media house considering itself the guardian of Pakistan’s ideological frontiers is indeed perturbed by Sharif’s statement (incidentally founding father of this media house appeared in court to testify against Manto when Manto was charged with obscenity). Similarly, a fiery anchorperson invited Zaid Hamid, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Siraj ul Haq, and a PPP parliamentarian Nasir Ali khan, to grill PMLN’s Senator Mushahidulla. The anchorperson, quoted Jinnah to prove Sharif’s betrayal of Pakistan’s ideology and two-nation theory.

Every guest, except of course Senator Mushahidulla, invoked Jinnah to claim how impossible it was to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims. None of them realized there are as many Muslims living in India as perhaps in Pakistan. By and large, Muslims in India have been living peacefully with their Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Atheist, and Buddhist compatriots. No doubt Hindu fundamentalists have posed a serious threat. Massacre in Gujrat, spearheaded by Chief Minister Modi, or demolition of Babri Mosque, speak volumes about the saffron threat. However, in Sri Lanka, England, the USA, Malaysia, Indonesia and host of other countries, Hindus and Muslims are peacefully living together. Pakistan’s own Hindu minority, in spite of persecution, is yet another example. World’s only Hindu country, Nepal enjoys good diplomatic ties with Pakistan. Hence, the problem is not infidel Hindus’ eternal Pakistan ‘Dushmani’ (enmity). It lies elsewhere as Ustad Daman points out:

Wahgay naal Attari dee nai takar

Na Geeta naal Quran dee aay

Nai kufr Islam da koi jhagra

Sari gaal aay nafay nuksan dee aay

(Wagah and Attari do not exchange blows

Nor do Gita and Quran engage in a fight

Between apostasy and Islam, there is no bickering

Only profit and loss must always be kept in sight.)

It is the praetorian character of the state that requires an eternal ‘Hindu India’. Amos Perlmutter, an expert on civil-military relations, describes a praetorian state as that ‘favors the development of military as the core group and encourages the growth of its expectations as a ruling class…constitutional changes are effected and sustained by the military, which plays a dominant role in all political institutions’

Since country’s foundational identity was conceptualized on confessional basis i.e. an ‘Islamic’ country consisting not merely of a community imagined through the prism of religion but also facing an eternal security threat from Hindu India.  That India and Pakistan fought a war over Kashmir three months after their birth, established the primacy of national security agenda. Hence, 70 percent of nascent Pakistan’s first budget was allocated to defence. As military began to take hold of country’s politics, stress on Imagined Community’s confessional basis assumed extra importance.

A term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ was coined in the late 1960s and Jamaat-e-Islami, playing Kahki’s second fiddle, popularized the slogan: ‘Pakistan ka matlab kia, La Illa ha illalah’ [What does Pakistan stand for. There is no God but one].

An irritated Habib Jalib retorted:

Roti, kapda aur dawa

Ghar rehne ko chhota sa

Muft mujhe talim dila Mein bhi Musalmaan hoon wallah

Pakistan ka matlab kya

La Ilaha Illalah…

Amrika se mang na bhik

Mat kar logon ki tazhik

Rok na janhoori tehrik

Chhod na azadi ki rah

Pakistan ka matlab hai kya

La Ilaha Illalah…


(Bread, clothes and medicine

A little house to live in

Free education, as may right be seen A Muslim, I, too, have always been

What does Pakistan mean

There is no God, but God, The Rab-al-alameen

For American alms do not bray

Do not, the people, laugh away

With the democratic struggle do not play

Hold on to freedom, do not cave in

What does Pakistan mean

There is no God…)

Gen Zia went as far as to compare Pakistan with Israel in terms of country’s foundational links with religion. He once said: “Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out Judaism from Israel and it will collapse like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse. For the past four years we have been trying to bring Islamic values to the country”.

Thus, Gen. Zia’s Pakistan is a superb delineation of Benedict Anderson’s ‘Imagined Community’. British academician, Benedict Anderson defines the nation as “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”. Ironically, Pakistan is also a tragic deconstruction of Anderson’s over-blown theory.

Even before military could properly coin the ‘Ideology of Pakistan,’ it foundered in East Pakistan. After the general elections, East Pakistan engaged in ‘war of liberation’ when ruling military junta refused to accept the election results and Bangladesh appeared on the map of world. The birth of Bangladesh not merely shattered the Ideology-of-Pakistan myth, it also   exploded the notion of Imagined Community. A community cannot be imagined out in the absence of essential commonalities: race, colour, geography, history, language, and religion in some cases.

Nations have emerged, at a certain point in history, out of concrete subjective factors. The states, however, particularly in colonial world, have been fathered by imperialism in an ahistorical fashion. The Arab world is just one case in point.

Pakistan has faced separatist tendencies earlier in East Pakistan and now in Baluchistan. It is facing civil strife in Sindh where indigenous population continues to grudge, at times violently, the arrival of Mohajirs. But this is not to suggest the determinist solution that only way out of Pakistan, or Israel for that matter, is to dissolve them as some extremists would suggest. The solution lies in the displacement of Khaki hegemon. In case of Pakistan, it may imply an inclusive democratic set up that guarantees equal rights to subordinate groups and oppressed nationalities. It also imply a peaceful co-existence with India. One hopes Nawaz Sharif sticks by the statement he delivered this last week, when he comes to power.

Farooq Sulehria is working with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. Before joining Internationalen, at daily The News, Rawalpindi, Lahore-based dailies, The Nation, The Frontier Post and Pakistan. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications in Europe and Australia.

Source: View Point