Jinnah Must Be Turning In His Grave
By Najam Sethi
A NEW anthology of writings on, and sayings of, the Qaid- e- Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was launched in Karachi last week before a distinguished gathering of the city’s intellectual and media elite. In its preface, the authors, Liaquat Merchant ( President of the Jinnah Society) and Professor Sharif al Mujahid, wrote that the book “ includes thematic essays on some critical aspects of Jinnah’s politics and leadership— such as the sort of constitutional set- up visualized by him… his role in institutionalizing civil liberties, and in emancipating and empowering women….” In his presentation, Mr Merchant dwelt at length, amidst applause, on the sort of democratic, constitutional, just and secular Pakistan envisioned by Mr Jinnah in which all sects and minorities would be equal citizens of the new state of Pakistan.
The same day, every newspaper carried headlines from the sayings of Sufi Mohammad, the self- proclaimed leader of the Tehreek- e- Nifaz- e- Shariat- e- Mohammadi ( TNSM), and Muslim Khan, the spokesmen of the Tehreek- e- Taliban Pakistan, the conqueror of Swat, that the constitution of Pakistan, signed and approved by every political party of the country, was un- Islamic and unacceptable; that the Supreme Court, for whose supremacy and independence the country has recently witnessed nothing less than a revolutionary upsurge, was un- Islamic and unacceptable; that democracy, for which tens of millions of Pakistanis have fought and voted for over the last sixty years, was un- Islamic and unacceptable; that women, whose heroic struggle for emancipation and representation which has been backed by all mainstream political leaders across the spectrum, are mere chattel who deserve no education and have no human rights.
BOTH gentlemen proclaimed their determination to extend their “Islamic system and views” to the rest of Pakistan by force. The same day, Buner, a neighbouring district of Swat in the NWFP, fell to the TTP. As on the fateful day in 1971 when General A. A. K. Niazi signed the surrender document in Dacca dismembering Pakistan, Mr Jinnah must have turned in his grave the day Pakistan’s supine parliament approved the Nizame-Nizame- Adl Regulation giving legitimacy to an unholy peace deal signed between Sufi Mohammad and the NWFP government at the point of a Taliban gun. The tragic irony is that President Asif Zardari did not want to sign that document into law, and dragged his feet over it for months, because he believed it was inimical to Pakistan’s national interest.
But a chorus of aggressive voices, from the Awami National Party that won the vote in Swat but succumbed to the fear instilled by the Taliban, to a hoard of “ media- mujahideen” whose rightful hatred of American imperialism has wrongly blinded them to the folly of sympathizing with and accommodating the Taliban and Al- Qaeda, coupled with the stunning refusal of the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Muslim League( Nawaz) to condemn and resist the Taliban onslaught, compelled Mr Zardari to turn to Parliament for cover.
Only the Muttahida Qaumi Movement ( MQM) that rules Karachi, and a clutch of liberal journalists and papers ( including the writer) has had the consistent courage and imagination to stand up and be counted among Pakistan’s foot soldiers against the TTP. Thankfully, however, the tide is beginning to turn. It began after the TV channels plucked up the courage to show the outrageous flogging of a young Swati girl in public by the Taliban. The supporters of the Swat deal in the state and media desperately tried to stop the transmission, then they tried to rubbish the episode by turning on the NGO that took the film and accused it of being an “American agent”. But Sufi Mohammad and the Taliban spokesman have alienated all of Pakistan by their recent outbursts against the constitution, Supreme Court, women, democracy and rule of law.
Worse, by acts of omission and commission, they have repudiated the core elements of the “Swat deal” (to lay down their arms and not to use force to seize other territories) and the Nizam- i- Adl (to accept the Qazis appointed by the NWFP government, to allow the right to appeal by the yardstick of the constitution, etc) even before the ink on it was dry.
The TTP’s armed seizure of Buner district and encroachments into Dir, coupled with continuing attacks on security forces in Hangu and elsewhere, have all but exposed the capitulation deal of the ANP and Army. So it is a relief to find even some “media mujahideen” ruing the Taliban’s folly in breaking their word and exposing their true aims and objectives.
M EANWHILE, two disquieting facts cry out for redress. The first relates to the lawyers and civil society movement which heroically defended the cause of the chief justice and Supreme Court for two years. Where are its articulate spokesmen and its agitated young cheerleaders today when the lawyers of Swat are being sidelined from their profession and the law and constitution and democracy and women and minority rights are being trampled upon by the TSNM and TTP? Indeed, where is the chief justice, Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, whose suo motu actions in defence of law and liberty have given him a legendary status but who is now silent in the face of the Taliban threat to the very law and constitution that he has vowed to defend and uphold? The second, is the role of the Pakistan Army and the PML( N). After having created and nurtured the Taliban for so long, the Army has now blithely handed over the ownership of the war against the same Taliban to the civilian order of the day. It supported the Swat deal and stood by while the Taliban liquidated civilian officials and landlords allied to the ANP during their peaceful conquest of Swat and then Buner. But it swung into action unilaterally with helicopter gunships and jets when its own soldiers were attacked by the Taliban in violation of the same deal.
Mr Nawaz Sharif’s attitude to the TTP and TNSM has been no less equivocal.
He supported the Swat deal and urged the Zardari government to desist from military action “ against its own people”. Now he has the gall to tell a foreign newspaper that the Taliban are a menace and must be resisted “if they try to export their brand of Shariah to other parts of the country”. He has not once said the same thing on Pakistani television and thrives on opportunist ambiguity on this issue.
The writer is the Editor, Friday Times and Daily Times (Lahore)