By Vaqar Ahmed
7 Nov 2012
If I were a rational person I would not be writing this blog. In the past I have lamented the proliferation of garbage, lauded junkies and soothsayers at a sufi saint’s shrine, delved into nostalgia about rail travel, and written about other harmless subjects. These blogs and features received mostly bouquets and some brickbats from the readers.
But today I want to talk about a very difficult subject. No, I am not confessing that I am a serial killer or a closet drag queen; sorry, nothing juicy like that. This particular subject has been like a thorn in my heart for many years but good judgment and sane counsels from friends has stopped me from pulling it out of my heart and speak out what I really think about it. Pakistan’s poet laureate Faiz Ahmed Faiz perfectly expressed this feeling thus:
Harf-e-haq dil mein khatakta hey jo kantey ki tarha
Aaj izhar karein aur khalish mi tjaey
(The truth that lives in the heart like a thorn)
(Speak it out, now, and banish the pain)
You see, I have a serious problem with the question, “What is the ideology of Pakistan?” I can see you, dear reader, sniggering and saying, “Every man, woman, transvestite, child, the 25 per cent literate or the 75 per cent illiterate, and even some intelligent well brought up parrots know that there is a single word answer to this question, and it is Islam. Even the country’s full name is “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and according to the constitution, “only a Muslim can become the head of the state”.
So case closed; get back to writing about garbage dumps because that is where you rightly belong.
I think dear reader, you are right and I should stop here. But, what to do about the thorny medical condition that Faiz Ahmad Faiz has talked about in his verse? No, I cannot stop; I belong to the Faiz tribe and must banish this pain, now.
You see, all manner of thinkers, whether liberal (simple, leftist or Islamist flavour), or radical (again of the three flavours) or secular, and any valid combination thereof have me totally confused.
The simple liberals say: Pakistan was created for the Muslims who could not possibly thrive in a Hindu dominated India. Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. Thus, the ideology of Pakistan is Islam. They quote Quaid-i-Azam’s speeches to support their point of view.
I humbly submit the following questions and opinions to this august group:
1. What about the large number of Muslims that were left behind in India? If the larger Muslim populace could not survive under the domination of the powerful Hindus what chances did the much-diminished population of Muslims have? Imagine, if today all the Muslims were in an undivided India they would have constituted nearly 40 per cent of the total population! That would have given them serious political clout to fight for their rights.
2. Consider that by creating a new state based on distrust and hatred, it actually created two warring states on day one of their creation. This intense animosity between the two countries has remained the single most important factor in the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Internally, every leader in Pakistan has cynically invoked the specter of the fear of India and milked the cow of national security whenever faced with domestic unrest and disaffection. The distrust of India gives immense clout to the army that gets a free hand to spend the poor country’s money on defense. What has that expenditure given in return? Half the country was lost and the remaining is living under very insecure conditions. Soon there may be nothing left to defend!
3. What happened as early as 1971 to that great common bond of religion that was the basis of creating a new nation? Just 24 years after the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan more than half the population decided they had enough of being part of the great Republic?
4. Following the partition of India in 1947, Mohammad Rushdi’s lovely voice sang to us on the radio;
Hum laayen hein toofan sey kashti nikal key
Iss mulk ko rakhna meray bachoo sumbhal key
(We have steered this boat through stormy waters)
(My children, take care of your precious country)
And stormy waters they were; millions killed, maimed, raped and displaced on both sides. A human tragedy occurred on a colossal scale that was not anticipated by any of the great leaders of the Hindus, Muslims or British. Who should history hold responsible for these massacres?
The same saga was repeated in 1971. Once again, thousands killed, raped or maimed. Only this time it was the blood of Muslims mingling with the blood of other Muslims and the semen of Muslim Pakistani soldiers entering bodies of Muslim Bengali women. No Sir, this does not fit well at all in your raison d’être for Pakistan, the famous “Two Nation Theory”. Where was the mother of all bonding, “Islam”? Unless, of course, you say that East Pakistan and West Pakistan were two nations in this case! More likely, years of exploitation by the West Wing gave the Bengalis a broken heart that no bond could keep together and no balm could heal.
“To hell with the short, dark, cowardly Bengalis, they were a burden on our economy anyway. Good riddance!”
Sir, I cannot argue with this impeccable logic based on sound military and economic theory.
5. But the thorn is still residing in my heart and it is asking you, “Do you realise that the Bengalis are doing far better now in Bangladesh than they were in Pakistan? And the good Muslims, the Biharis (labeled Bhikaris or beggars by our great erstwhile Amir-ul-Momineen, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq) who supported a united Pakistan are still rotting away in the infamous “Geneva Camp”, homeless and stateless. And I guess it is relevant to remind you that you left a lot of Muslims back in India in 1947 too! Who is next on the list of your “Jamaican Farewell”?
6. Fast forward from 1971 to now. The country is splitting apart like a rag doll. The glue of Islam has come unstuck. It is not the infernal enemy India that has caused this. We are our own worst enemy. The Balochis are demanding a separate province. Parts of Pakistan are not in the control of the state. The demand for an autonomous Sindh is picking up steam. How do you explain this? All these people demanding independence are Muslims, not a Hindu or Sikh is to be seen. Reminds me of the famous poem about the five mice that set out to hunt and only one came back alive! I think you can guess who the last mouse left in the Islamic Republic is.
The secular / left-liberals claim that Pakistan was envisioned as a secular state. This group, ad nauseam, quotes M.A. Jinnah’s 11thAugust, 1947 speech that talks of equal rights for all religious groups in the newly formed Pakistan.
I pose the following questions to these well-meaning idealists:
1. Respected Sirs, if Mr. Jinnah had envisioned Pakistan as a secular state why did he bother to create it in the first place? Pre-partition India was secular and remains secular to this day.
2. If Pakistan was to be a secular state why do religious groups wield so much clout that even a so-called liberal, Mr. Bhutto, bowed down to their demand for banning alcohol (that he imbibed with a gusto himself) and declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims? It is clear that the religious extremists have far greater power than their performance at the polls suggests. Acts of violence against minorities continue unabated. Draconian laws created by Zia-ul-Haq continue to thrive and no one dare repeal them.
Lastly, the Religious groups claim that Pakistan was created to be a “true” Islamic state where every aspect of life and death will be according to the tenets of Islam.
To this fine group of Islamic scholars and fighters, I ask how did they determine that “true” Islam forbids modern education, imposes severe restrictions on women, instructs elimination of non-Muslims or bans a good game like football?
I will not insist on an answer since it is most likely written on the tip of a bullet.
So now I am in a situation that the great Caribbean crooner Harry Belafonte found himself in when he asked his father to tell him about the birds and the bees:
It was clear as mud, but it covered the ground
And the confusion made my head go around
Therefore, friends, liberals/leftist/rightist/centrists, I am going to give my answer: get ready to swallow the bitter pill.
The Muslim extremists are morally right! The ideology of Pakistan is Islam (remember, everyone is Pakistan knows that). The creation of Pakistan gave the perfect weapon to the likes of TTP and LeT. A weapon that was more powerful than any nuclear device. They got a complete country called Pakistan, beautifully packaged in green, with a big card on it that said, “Made for Islam”. You can argue till the cows come home that the brand of Islam of the TTP is not the “Real Islam”. If theirs is not the real Islam can anyone present an alternative model of an Islamic state? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan under the Taliban? Iran? (Sorry, these guys are Shias, thus non-Muslims). Mr. Bhutto tried to sell “Islamic Socialism”; he was hanged. Poor Mr. Salman Taseer just mentioned his dislike for the blasphemy law; he was killed and the killer was garlanded by no less than our lawyers.
No one can come up with such a model for the simple reason that a theocratic state cannot work in modern times.
I have no cure to offer. We cannot turn back the clock to 1947. However there are three minimum prerequisites for making a new start:
1. We must have the moral courage to privately and publicly declare that religion cannot be the basis for creating a nation-state. Once we have established this basic premise we do not let anyone – whether an elected representative or a religious extremist – use religion to exploit those honest, hardworking Pakistanis who are only seeking a square meal, some security of life and property, a decent education, healthcare and a little hope for the future.
2. We must insist that religion is a matter of one’s belief and faith and there can be no restriction on practicing it in the private realm, but that we must separate it from the affairs of the state.
3. We normalize our relationship with India and shift our priority from defense to regional cooperation. Internally, we divert our resources from national security to the social sector.
But I am afraid that none of the above will happen and we are more likely to hang the messenger.
Faiz Sahib, the thorn is out and the pain is gone and now as you said:
Ik mout ka dhanda baqi hey, uskko bhi hum nipta leingey.
(All that is now left is the business of death, and that too will be taken care of soon).
Vaqar Ahmed is an engineer turned part-time journalist who likes to hang out at unfashionable places like shrines, railway stations and bus stops.