By Saleem A Sethi, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, September 30, 2013
Before I go down with a feeling of shame, let me be clear of all the confusion and let me take a clear stand against the barbarians knocking at the door. Since death is inevitable, why not go down with my country’s flag in the hands?
83 of my most peaceful and downtrodden countrymen are killed and hundreds maimed in their place of worship. How callous it is to call them Christians or ‘minority’? They were sons and daughters of the soil. They were more Pakistani than anyone claiming to be better on the basis of being a Muslim. Faith has nothing to do with citizenship. “You may belong to any religion or cast or creed – the state has nothing to do with the business of the State” said Quaid-e-Azam on the eve of independence.
And this brutality took place in a country whose founder had assured all its citizen in that same speech that, “you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan …” But he didn’t know about today’s Pakistan or he would have added “… and be killed”. Yes. Go to your place of worship and be killed is what today’s Pakistan is all about. But why confine killing to places of worship alone? Go to your office and be killed. You are free to go to the market and be killed. If you are child, go to your school and be killed. There should be a passion for being killed; every inch of this country has become a killing field. Just step out, or don’t step out, and be killed. Wish you good luck!
But who has turned Pakistan into a war zone? In a descending order the list is something like this; 1) United States of America, 2) Pakistan Army (ZiaulHaq only initiated the process – it was continued by his predecessors down the line), 3) Saudi Arabia, 4) Jamaat-e-Islami (and later other Sunni groups), 5) Iran, 6) Iran’s affiliated Shai groups and 7) The country’s weak political class.
In order to defeat communism USA and the rest of the capitalist world inducted religion into Afghan war after 1979 Soviet invasion of that country. To our bad luck, Iranian revolution occurred in the same year and the new regime started threatening Saud family rule over Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia responded with investing hugely in Afghan fighters (Mujahideen) and other Sunni groups all across Pakistan. Zia ulHaq, who was faced with a legitimacy crisis and was already beating the religious drum, grabbed the opportunity and let his country become the hostage of religious bigotry for decades to come. Afghanistan provided ground for the policy of Strategic Depth which was continued whole-heartedly by the military till recently – some say a fraction in there is still following it. God knows! After the Mujahideen fiasco in the aftermath of Soviet withdrawal, a new force was prepared, trained and then launched into Afghanistan by the powers that be here. But during six years of rule they showed their ugly face to the world. Came 9/11 and the rest is history.
They ran away towards us. But we were adamant to remain in Afghan depths. Ironically, another dictator was at the helm of affairs at that time facing the same legitimacy crisis. This was an opportunity for him to cash in on. To remain in American good books he officially sided with it. But to blackmail it and to continue with the ‘deep’ policy, he tolerated and nurtured groups that were to become an existential threat in the years to come. Terrorism started to grow and US was made to believe that the choice was between him and those ‘throat slitting beasts’. This policy was later equated with ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’. The duplicitous military action of those (and later) days is now cited by the Taliban apologists as ‘failure of the military option’.
In order to make the terrorists presence acceptable for the people inside the country it was necessary to cause a deliberate confusion about them and their objectives. Hence the hilarious division between good and bad Taliban; the good ones fighting for the cause of Islam and Afghanistan (also Kashmir) and the bad ones involved in terror acts inside Pakistan. This confusion was compounded by the confusion that already existed in the minds of the people about their own national identity caused by Zia ulHaq’s introduced educational indoctrination. The Jihadist philosophy had not only affected those it was meant for (Afghan Mujahideen and Taliban) but also those who were involved with feeding that into their minds (people from the armed forces). Later efforts to lend some degree of legitimacy to them did the trick. Not only that the people became their sympathizers but potential political leadership also became its victim. No wonder then that the masses, the politico-religious leaders and the newly emerged political party and its leadership explain everything in terms of American invasion of Afghanistan, foreign conspiracy, not-our war, drone attacks, our own people and rubbish like that. Sometimes you see people in higher and sensitive positions humming this narrative.
It explains everything about the so-called confusion that is prevailing in the body politic. This is exactly the same narrative the state encouraged and propagated over the years for the continuation of its flawed strategic policies. Coupled with the Islamization wave that swept the society, these appear to have devastating effects for the future of the state that we know it today. These policies cost us great material resources that resulted in further weakening of the state’s already weak administrative structure; thus giving a chance to the terrorists to exploit those weaknesses of the state and play on the frustration of the masses. Add to it the negative portrayal of politics and politicians through the media and other contemporary propaganda tools and one needs no further elaboration of the ‘confusion’ phenomenon.
But it needs further discussion as to why it has boomeranged on its originators and how badly it hit its standing and undermined its core interests. It’s true that for a long time since the first ever martial law regime, the responsibility of every failure was laid at the doorstep of the civilian side. But the cost of our strategic policies and our desire to become military leader of the Muslim world ultimately started taking its toll on the whole of the state. Civil institutions and utilities began to crumble one after the other but our policies didn’t allow us to look at the welfare or administrative sides of the state. So, a time came that the masses subconsciously accepted that the state had failed. And it is but natural that once human beings reach that stage they look for alternatives. The alternative was already there; the solution of all our problems lay in the implementation of Islamic Shariah.
No other reason was offered for our mundane failures other than the corrupt political class and our waywardness from the path of religion. It was all right, or was thought to be all right, so long as religion was represented by a few unpopular religious leaders and parties. But after the first Afghan war it all changed. Sitting four-wheelers with stuffed pockets and armed with AK-47s, rocket-launchers and what not, Mullah became a force to reckon with. But the state did not mend its ways and kept on investing even more in religious elements and slogans until they had suicide bombers in their arsenal as well.
Now, we stand at a point where we have realized that they are going to annihilate the society but people sympathize with them instead of the state. It is because we purposefully led the people to accept them. We gave them room to maneuver in. Now when they have the flag of religion in their hands, and the state is without a social welfare umbrella – without education, health, sanitation, justice, law and order, etc. – we are at a loss how to convince the people we were joking.
But this is also not the whole story. There are many more grey areas which don’t let us move forward even now. There are deep intrusions of fundamentalist thought in almost all the state institutions; because institutions are made of individuals from this very same society. And our society has been exposed to indoctrination of the worst kind for the last about 30 years now. Generations have been lost to it. It will require more than a military operation now to restore sanity in the society and to assemble this mass of people into a nation.
But the question is, are we prepared for that? Sadly speaking, no; not at all. Our political leadership generally does not fully understand the contours of our dilemma. The younger generation is victim of a vicious propaganda. Our education system and curriculum are in shambles to meet the challenge. Our military is at the crossroads. And our state as whole is confused. Oops! Seems we have come full circle. We started from confusion and reached there at the end.
And why not? The ones who want to build a new Pakistan are bent upon reintroducing the same syllabus in education institutions which brought us here. No Zia-made law can be touched by anyone for fear of being declared infidel by religious lobbies. Things which we need for clearing some of the confusion are banned. Youtube has completed one year without Pakistan – or is it vice-versa? Even those individual sites are banned by PTA which speak against the militants’ narrative. On the other hand Jihadi sites are working round the clock to propagate against the state and its armed forces but nobody dares to touch them. Can a consensus be built in such a situation? Can somebody help clear my confusion as to what is going on inside the power corridors?
But no matter whether somebody helps me or not, I have chosen my side since childhood. I will stand with my state. I will stand with its armed forces when they will act to protect my motherland. I will stand by my brothers and sisters belonging to other faiths. I will stand with Pakistanis regardless of cast, color or creed. And I will not consider those people as ‘my own’ who slit other people’s throats on grounds religious or worldly. They are not my people. They are Imran Khan, MaulanaFazlurRahamn, Syed MunawwarHasan and Javed Ibrahim Paracha’s people.
I have positioned myself. Will everybody else, please?