Pakistan’s drift into extremism

Afzal Hussain PNG

 

 

 

 

 

By Barrister Afzal Hussain, Advocate High Court.

The Father of the Nation had a clear vision about what the country was going to be: an Islamic welfare state based on the principles of democracy, equality, and tolerance.  In a radio talk addressed to the people of the United States of America broadcast in February 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said: “The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly.  I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago.  Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy.  It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians, and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan”.

The true message of Islam is the message of peace, tolerance, equality of man, justice for all, love for humanity and co-existence. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was desirous of a progressive democratic country. Unfortunately, after Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali, during the despotic era of General Zia, the basic ideology of the state was entirely distorted.

General Zia turned Pakistan into a semi-theocratic-cum-autocratic state. The unholy justification behind the swift change in Pakistan’s ideology was attributed to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was the start of Pakistan’s drift into extremism. General Zia shrewdly secured support from Pakistani clerics, Arab monarchs and western powers, and he used this to prop up his unconstitutional and illegal regime.  Unfortunately, it all happened in the garb of portraying himself as an Islamist leader.

General Zia’s policies had not only tarnished the reputation of Pakistan but also maligned our great religion, Islam. In the last four decades, our society, that was meant to be an egalitarian society, has been transformed into an intolerant and bigoted society – and the absurd consequences of pursuing General Zia’s mission are well-known to the whole world ˗ deteriorating state institutions, fanaticism in society, zero tolerance for differing opinions, condemnation of the religious minorities, target killings of fellow Muslims, suicide bombings, discrimination directed against minorities and small ethnic groups, enactment of discriminatory laws related to women, and horrible sectarianism.

Regrettably, even after the departure of General Zia, his legacy haunts us. The state institutions have miserably failed to distance themselves from it. General Zia’s regime promoted only Saudi Arabia’s brand of Islam. It is time for the world to know that it is only the Saudi brand of Islam that encourages violence against non-Muslims, and even Muslims belonging to other sects.

The real message of Islam is the message of peace, love for humanity, justice for all humankind and tolerance. Since the 1980’s, even the successive civilian governments failed terribly to change the direction of the state.  It is high time: the mysterious mission started by Zia must end.

Freedom of expression; and the right to exercise religious beliefs are fundamental rights of  all Pakistani citizens. According to Article 3 of the Constitution, “the state shall eliminate all forms of exploitation,” therefore, further continuation of Zia’s legacy will be tantamount to further exploitation of the entire Pakistani nation, with particular emphasis on religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis.

As Pakistanis, we need to be more tolerant towards each other particularly towards religious minorities. Presently, in Pakistan, being a member of a minority community attracts double jeopardy. The current murky state of affairs that has engulfed Pakistani religious minorities requires immediate action and the collective efforts of all Pakistanis.  General Zia’s legacy and its inheritors have nothing to do with Islam. They are impostors causing damage not only to Pakistan but also to the true divine message of Islam. The true message of Islam is to strive for the establishment of a welfare state that will ensure peaceful living, tolerance, genuine democracy, equality, and socio-economic justice for all citizens.

The incumbent Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s older brother and maternal uncle both received the Nishan-e-Haider (highest military award) and that says enough for his family’s commitment to Pakistan. He is a pragmatic and progressive commander, and he has all the right credentials to steer his institution in the most sensible direction. Hopefully, under his leadership, the military will finally say goodbye to the mullahs (clerics). General Raheel Sharif has shown absolute commitment and courage by challenging the terrorists and he is determined to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning here that after 9/11, Pakistan took action against certain terrorist groups but our arch-rival India took full advantage of the situation and started financing terrorists groups operating against Pakistan. The international community must take stern action against Indian state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. Recently, on December 16, 2014, the heart-breaking massacre of innocent children in the Army Public School Peshawar, Pakistan has united the entire nation against terrorism.

The passage of the 21st Constitution Amendment, establishing military courts to deal with terrorists waging war in the name of religion or sect, is widely appreciated by Pakistani citizens, and it is a ray of hope in the bewildered land. Pakistan is at war – Yes, we are at war. It is time to take extraordinary steps such as invoking Article 245 of the Pakistani Constitution in the whole of Pakistan. The Armed Forces should be called in throughout the whole of Pakistan under the directions of the Federal Government, to act in aid of civil power to eliminate the terrorists operating anywhere in Pakistan.

The underlying principle to win this war should be the motto of our father of the nation i.e. “Unity, faith and discipline”. We must struggle for a better Pakistan, and must not lose hope, as there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

We call upon the conscientious members of the human family to support Pakistan in its war on terror.  It is not only the fight for Pakistan’s survival but it is the fight to safeguard the human race. Let us remember, the words of the great Persian poet and philosopher Hafiz Shirazi:

In the golden letters it’s written in the crystal-line sky, Good deeds will live all else will die.

Afzal Hussain is an eminent practising lawyer based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was called to the bar by the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, UK. He is an alumnus of Cardiff University and the University of London. He holds a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of Punjab, Pakistan. He has contributed articles on various issues to leading Urdu and English newspapers in Pakistan.

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