By Aakar Patel
Concerns about growing religious extremism in the neighbouring Islamic republic have been growing since 2001
How is Pakistan seen by India's Muslims? Since 2001, the view has turned increasingly negative. Let's have a look at such views in three very different Indian publications. One is the conservative Urdu daily Inquilab, read almost exclusively by Muslims. The second, the liberal online paper New Age Islam, published in Urdu and English. Lastly, the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's organ Panchjanya, published in Hindi and read almost exclusively by Hindus.
"The nation should have known the consequences of using terror to combat India. The world was not unaware of its breeding of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (sanpolon ko doodh pilaya). Now the snakes are poised to swallow Pakistan (nigalne ke dar pe hain)"
In India's biggest Urdu newspaper Inquilab, Khalid Sheikh wrote under the headline ' Pakistan ka kya hoga?' He felt Pakistan's current problems were the result of its own doing (" jaisi karni waisi bharni"). The nation should have known the consequences of using terror to combat India, he said. The world was not unaware of its breeding of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (" sanpolon ko doodh pilaya"). Now the snakes were poised to swallow Pakistan (" nigalne ke dar pe hain").
Pakistan's leaders were unconcerned (" kaanon par joon tak nahin rengi"). But the world was watching it. The ease with which the Taliban had attacked and destroyed the P3C Orions in Karachi had worried America, Sheikh wrote. It was now concerned about how safe Pakistan's atom bombs, which numbered between 70 and 120, were.
In 2001 Pakistan was viewed as a failed state (" nakaam riasat"). After Osama bin Laden's killing, it won't be long before it is seen as a rogue state (" badmaash riasat mein tabdeel hote dair nahin lagegi").
At the time of Partition, it had been predicted by the wise (" sahib-e-baseerat") that Pakistan would find it difficult to exist (" apna wajood rakhna dushwar hoga"). Sheikh quoted Maulana Azad as writing in 'India Wins Freedom' that Pakistan would be unable to find its bearings (" Pakistan kabhi paedar aur mustahkam na reh sakega"). Its foreign policy consisted of hating India (" Hindustan dushmani") and pleasing America (" Amrika khushnudi").
"A market research company surveyed Pakistanis to ask them what sort of government they wanted. The results were unsurprising. The majority of Pakistanis picked khilafat, for which the Taliban are also agitating. How is it possible, then, that anybody could defy the Taliban?"
The writer thought Pakistan's insistence that relations with India would improve if the Kashmir issue was settled was untrue (" dhakosla hai"). Pakistan was an unreliable neighbour (" ghair-mu'atbar padosi") which was a master of creating tension. If Kashmir was resolved, something else would be conjured up.
Sheikh praised Nawaz Sharif's statement that Pakistan had to stop hating India if it had to progress. US President Barack Obama had said the same thing and America ought to, as France had, terminate military assistance to Pakistan.
Answering the question he had first raised, Sheikh said it was difficult to say what would become of Pakistan because it seemed beyond redemption (" aise mulk ke bare mein kya kaha jaye jahan aawe ka aawa hi bigda hua hai").
In New Age Islam, Dr Shabbir Ahmed wrote on the blasphemy law under the headline ' Pakistan mein tauhin-e-Rasul (PBUH) ka wahshiana qanoon'. Ahmed said Pakistan was obsessed by this issue (" hysteria mein jakda hua hai"). Narrow sectarianism had divided the nation, and every sect thought of others as faithless and hated them.
This frenzy was plunging Pakistan into a state of barbarism (" jahiliyat mein ghota zan hai"). Ahmed feared Pakistan might succumb to civil war (" aisa na ho ke Pakistan khana jangi mein gharq ho jae").
He said Pakistanis had divided Islam (" deen ko tukdon mein baant diya hai"), and quoted verses from the Holy Quran on the Romans (30:32) to support his argument. It was unfortunate that the majority of Pakistanis, including the educated, were in agreement with disagreeable mullahs. Even intellectuals and lawyers had signed on (" scholars aur wukla ne tauhin-e-Rasul (PBUH) qanoon ki puri himayat ki hai").
People believed that punishing blasphemy with death was law in five out of 54 Islamic states, but when asked, only two could be named: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It was difficult to name other states with such harsh laws, though Afghanistan, Sudan and Iran came to mind.
Ahmed wrote that the Holy Quran prescribed no punishment for blasphemy. No one could be ignorant of the clarity of the ayat “la ikraha fi ad-deen" (there is no compulsion in religion) because Allah had sent this message to all humanity. This principle was independent and absolute (" is usool mein kisi tarah ki ki riayyat bhi nahin hai"). With many examples, Ahmed pointed to the pardoning and gentle nature of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which he felt was being distorted by Pakistan's law.
In Panchjanya, the RSS Hindi weekly, Muzaffar Hussain wrote on May 22 under the headline “Adhikansh Pakistani Islami khilafat ke paksh mein" (A majority of Pakistanis favours khilafat).
He reported the findings of an opinion poll. The market research company MEMRB had surveyed Pakistanis to ask them what sort of government they wanted. Did they want khilafat as prescribed by Islam? They were also offered the option of tyranny (" anya vikalpon mein janta se poocha hai ke kya woh tanashahi pasand karenge?"). Hussain wrote that by this was meant martial law, and it was related to something found commonly in Muslim nations. This was the presence of sheikhs and kings (" Islami deshon mein aaj bhi raja aur sheikh hain") who ruled through lineage for generations. The last option offered was democracy "as the world knew it".
The results were unsurprising to Hussain. The majority of Pakistanis picked khilafat, for which the Taliban were also agitating. How was it possible, then, that anybody could defy the Taliban?
Neutral Pakistanis (" Tattastha log") were merely being realistic in staying silent against extremism. Why should anyone endanger their life by opposing khilafat? (" Islami khilafat ka virodh karne ki himmat kaun kar sakta hai?")
The survey was conducted in 30 cities and 60 villages. Those in favour of khilafat were 56%. These people said that Pakistan's creation was rooted in religion and the state should therefore be Islamic. Those favouring dictatorship were 22%. They felt Pakistan had progressed only under military strongmen (" jo pragati hui hai woh keval sainik tanashahon ke karan hui hai"). Only 11% of Pakistanis preferred secular democracy. These figures did not vary significantly between urban respondents and those in villages, those who conducted the survey said. There was some difference however with respect to the residents of Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. In these cities, 40% preferred martial law and 39% preferred khilafat. In Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, those who wanted khilafat were 60%. In Balochistan and Sindh, about 35% preferred martial law.
The survey did not vary much by age. Those between 16 and 60 preferred khilafat by 66%. Surprisingly, both the illiterate and the very literate approved of khilafat.
Hussain felt that the collapse of the Turkish caliphate had left Muslim nations in disarray (" Islami jagat titar-bitar ho gaya hai"). Both Bhutto and Gen Zia had wanted Saudi Arabia's king to be crowned caliph of all Muslims.
Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media and a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar.
Source: The Friday Times, Lahore