By Yasser Latif Hamdani
20 August, 2012
All of Pakistan’s current problems arise out of a deliberate distortion of the aims, objectives and raison d’etre of Pakistan
First of all, I must wish a happy Eid to all the marginalised Pakistani communities including non-Muslims such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs (who are being driven out of Pakistan) as well as the persecuted sects within our borders such as Ahmadis, Ismailis, Bohras and of course, Ithna Ashari Shias who are being butchered daily. Under the circumstances I am sorry but I cannot wish others similarly, notably the majority Muslims, because I do not believe in fake courtesy. If I were to offer Eid greetings to officially sanctioned Muslims of Pakistan, I would be forcing myself and would not mean it in the least. Frankly, a majority that mistreats its minorities is worthy of nothing but contempt and that is what I feel for most of my fellow Pakistanis.
As I write this week’s column, the war of words between the mullahs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the mullahs of the Centre has already commenced. Every year, the same controversy rocks Muslims of Pakistan. It serves them right. The Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee and Zonal Committees are full of jokers who have made a mockery of the great traditions of Islam. In this day and age when it is entirely possible to calculate lunar positions, to still empower a group of priests with a divine mission to keep the nation hostage to their own little ego trips is criminal and unworthy of a 21st century nation state. It is about time these mullahs were sent packing and the issue of the lunar calendar be entrusted to the metrological department to be determined on the basis of state of the art technology. No longer must modern Humayuns tumble down the stairs. Reason dictates adoption of state of the art technology to determine this holiday. We must of course remember that this is a nation that believes in cars being run on water. Frenzied dogmatic belief in magical thinking overrides any capacity to approach rationally all fundamental questions. The distinction between science, pseudo-science and belief eludes the average Pakistani mind.
One marvels at the patience and courage of people like Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy who continue to fight a losing battle against crazy people with ideas more suited to the year 1556 than 2012. I recently chanced upon a debate between Dr Hoodbhoy and one Hamza Tzortzis. Any logical, discerning person with the most basic ideas about science would be able to see that Tzortzis is a con artist who proceeds by name dropping and using pseudo-scientific arguments. Tzortzis was exposed by Hoodbhoy when he asked him to explain the fundamentals of the string theory, which he was relying on. Anyway, to my mind, the fundamental question is why a con-artist selling religion is allowed to enter into a serious debate with a physicist of Dr Hoodbhoy’s calibre. When I was at Rutgers University, we had our fair share of Christian and Muslim preachers coming on campus but never were they taken seriously to be allowed to debate with people like Dr Hoodbhoy. As Saroop Ijaz, lawyer-turned-wordsmith, says, this is well-deserved comeuppance for any MIT educated physicist who decides to dedicate himself to teaching idiots in Pakistani universities.
In my opinion, since General Zia’s ill-fated Islamisation project, a theocratic mindset rules every discipline in Pakistan, from law to science. From harnessing of the energy of djinns to running cars on water, science seems to be a lost cause in Pakistan. Similarly, people at the top in the legal pyramid have shown a profound disregard for established conventions, customs and practices of law. At the root of all this is a pigheaded belief that somehow, religion has to be fused with the state just because the state was born out of a communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Like Dr Hoodbhoy, Dr Ayesha Jalal is also waging an uphill struggle against the status quo in what passes for history in Pakistan. One hopes that her recent lecture on Jinnah on August 16 does not fall on deaf ears. All of Pakistan’s current problems arise out of a deliberate distortion of the aims, objectives and raison d’etre of Pakistan. So long as Pakistan remains wedded to the utterly baseless idea that it has fallen upon Pakistan to carry the burden of the spiritual welfare of 1.5 billion Muslims of the world, do not expect any progressive or scientific thought to survive, let alone thrive, in Pakistan.
If we do not put our faith in reason and rationality, we will be wiped out altogether. This is not a warning but a statement of fact. Any state with an ideology other than the ideology of the welfare of its citizens is bound to crash and burn because any other ideology is akin to a highly inflammable fuel source. It burns brightly and quickly and there is not enough to replenish it at the source. It is time — to paraphrase an author who should not be named — to replace our standard ideology with the ideology of equality, fraternity and justice for all Pakistanis regardless of their religion or gender. Only then can a reasonable, rational and progressive Pakistani nation emerge.
The writer is a practising lawyer.