By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
When Pakistan came into being in August 1947, there were good about 23% who had not voted for Pakistan. These included religious elements including Jamaat-e-Islami, National Awami Party led by Ghaffar Khan in Frontier and Khan of Kalat in Balochistan. Some reconciled while others did not and became snakes in the grass. GM Sayed in Sindh and some Bengali politicians also started espousing regionalism and nurturing anti-Pakistan feelings. India kept supplying milk to the snakes but its biggest success was in East Pakistan where the Bengalis were successfully subverted to seek independence.
The religious right expressed its commitment in Pakistan by getting Objectives Resolution passed by the first Constituent Assembly in March 1949, which catered for viewpoints of seculars and Islamists and provided fundamental principles on which future constitution was to be based. It maintained a balance between Pakistan’s Islamic identity and demands of a modern democratic society. However, it triggered a silent war between the two which is continuing to this date. Seculars hold the Islamists responsible for all the ills in the society due to their rigid and bigoted stance. The Islamists on the other hand see liberals as west lovers and toadies of Washington who have adopted western culture to please the western world but have made the plight of Pakistan dismal.
Since their perceptions and lifestyle are at a tangent, the two have little tolerance for each other. The seculars desiring to make Pakistan a secular state present Jinnah secular minded and draw strength from his 11 August 1947 speech to prove that he also had similar ambitions. The Islamists reject this notion and quote tens of addresses and statements of Jinnah reflecting his Islam oriented thoughts and his strong desire to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state on the model of Khulfa-e-Rashda. This clash of perceptions and Punjabi-Bengali rivalry over power sharing were among the key reasons which obstructed finalization of constitution for nine years.
Tragic assassination of Liaquat Ali in October 1951 weakened the political class and strengthened bureaucracy under Ghulam Muhammad. The religious right led by Maulana Maudoodi demonstrated its street power for the first time in 1953 when they launched an anti-Qadyani movement in Punjab. Chief Minister of Punjab Mumtaz Daultana had secretly supported them to embarrass PM Nazimuddin since he was cross with him. Strict martial law enforced by Maj Gen Azam Khan in Lahore crushed the Khatm-e-Nabuwat movement. Failure of political institutions to create a legitimate base and to provide stable political system led to military intervention in politics in 1958.
Notwithstanding excellent economic results achieved by Pakistan during the ten-year rule of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, process of democratization suffered a setback. Strengthening of the centre disillusioned Mujibur Rehman and he put forward his six points which amounted to secession. Religious Right was trounced in first general elections held under Gen Yahya’s regime in end 1970 in which secular parties Awami League under Mujib in East Pakistan and PPP under ZA Bhutto in West Pakistan swept the polls. It led to polarization of two wings and ultimate division of the country.
1970s saw rise of secularism in Pakistan under ZA Bhutto which became one of the causes for nine parties mostly of Religious Right to group together and launch Nizam-e-Mustafa movement in 1977. Other reasons were fascist policies and rigging in elections. So powerful was the movement that it propelled Gen Ziaul Haq to forgo Bhutto’s act of benevolence in selecting him as COAS and usurped power in July 1977. During his eleven years rule, Religious Right acquired political power for the first time while secularists led by PPP were pushed to the backseat. Islamization of society became a popular slogan duly promoted by Zia. His efforts to curb growing trends of secularism and persecution of PPP and al-Zulfiqar ruffled the feathers of the secular class which never forgave him.
Over 22 years have lapsed since his death in an air crash which was an act of sabotage, but still the wrath of liberal writers and PPP leaders in particular fall upon his soul. They hold him explicitly responsible for growth of religious extremism in Pakistan and militarization of the society. Conversely, the Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan and even within the Arab world remember him as Mard-e-Mujahid.
Eight-year Afghan Jihad in which large number of Mujahids from north-western tribal belt and Frontier Province voluntarily took part gave further strength to Religious Right and resulted in militarization of poor segment of society. Had Pakistan not acted pro-actively by waging a proxy war there was every possibility of the Big Bear stepping into Pakistan in its age old quest for warm waters. After the historic success achieved by Afghan Mujahideen supported by Mujahids from other Muslim countries resulting in humiliating withdrawal of Soviet forces in February 1989, no plan was made to disarm and demobilize the holy warriors laced with weapons of all hues or to demilitarize the war torn region. Resultantly, gun and drug cultures flourished unchecked both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
During the eleven-year democratic era (October 1988-October 1999), secular leaders of two mainstream parties made no effort to reverse trends of militarism in the form of Kalashnikov and drug culture and sectarian war. They remained too engrossed in letting down each other. Islamic revolution in neighbouring Iran fuelled sectarianism in Pakistan. With no dearth of weapons and with drug trade booming, society got radicalized and gave birth to number of sectarian religious groups duly supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia. Mosques and Imambargahs were attacked with impunity. Pakistan got immersed in deadly sectarian war throughout the nineties. Rural and urban Sindh got afflicted with ethnic tensions. Fires of sectarianism and ethnicity impacted upon governance and economy of the democratic era. Shahbaz Sharif bottled the genie of sectarianism in Punjab through targeted actions but the disease remained uncured.
PPP-PML-N extreme animosity enabled Gen Musharraf and his team of Generals to remove democratically elected heavy mandate regime of Nawaz Sharif prematurely and to take over reins of power. After 9/11, Musharraf not only agreed to fight US war on terror against own people in tribal belt but also ruthlessly persecuted Islamists all over the country to become acceptable to the western world. His pro-US policies gave rise to anti-Americanism and helped religious parties to unite under the banner of MMA and form governments in NWFP and Balochistan after 2002 elections.
Although the military regime upturned economy from negative to positive and shot up the GDP to 7% through better governance and management, he being liberal in thought and action championed concept of enlightened moderation which was a guise to promote secularism. While he became a role model for the liberal and secular forces, he was resented by Islamists because of the infamous U-turns he took on Afghanistan and later on Kashmir. Several life attempts were made on him but he survived. Whole of FATA and several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Peshawar became restive. In the aftermath of his poorly executed Lal Masjid operation in July 2007, terrorism seeped into urban centres of Punjab as well as Islamabad.
When he ordered a military operation in Balochistan in response to Nawab Akbar Bugti led insurgency in 2005 and Bugti died in a cave in which he was hiding, it triggered Baloch nationalism. His unwise sacking of chief justice Iftikhar in March 2007 ignited countrywide lawyers’ movement. By the time he imposed emergency on 3 November to save his seat he had become an isolated man. Both the Islamists and the seculars detested him. Fearing impeachment, he worked out a deal with Zardari with the help of USA and abdicated power in August 2008. He was allowed to proceed to London with full protocol.
One of the foremost conditions imposed upon the current rulers by Washington was to ensure continuation of war on terror as well as honor all the secret deals made with Musharraf irrespective of its consequences to the country. Once they gave their commitment that they will do as told to do, the infamous NRO was invoked. NRO is their lifeline which has been disrupted by the apex court. Instead of acting upon the instructions of the apex court, the NRO affected rulers are defying it. They have opened a second front against the Supreme Court portraying it as partisan and desiring downfall of democratic government. Whenever pushed to the wall, Sindh card is played. Taking up of Zulfiqar Bhutto’s hanging case with superior court to correct the wrong committed is also intended to give a message that judges are not always fair.
The democratically elected government comprising an amalgam of three secular partiesPPP-ANP-MQM rather than pacifying the militants in northwestern tribal belt antagonized by Gen Musharraf further angered them by launching series of military operations to please the patrons in Washington. 2009-2010 saw maximum acts of terror in cities. The US nominated pawns holding key appointments are helping the US intelligence agencies to carryon with subversive activities unchecked. The ruling regime is responsible for letting loose hundreds of well trained foreign assassins like Raymond Davis and drones to kill Pakistanis as a price for receiving aid from USA and in the process seriously compromising national security. For their personal security, the ruling regime is spending huge amount of taxpayers’ money to buy bulletproof cars and to keep security guards at residences and to establish Red Zones.
Three glaring incidents took place in Pakistan within first two months of 2011 in quick succession. Anti-blasphemy law was moved by Sherry Rahman which led to murder of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer at the hands of religious fanatic Qadri and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti by unknown terrorists. Latter had been made the chairman of parliamentary committee to review the bill and recommend suitable changes. The two gory incidents took place in Islamabad. Introduction of anti-blasphemy law in the parliament had whipped up frenzied emotions of all the religious forces and for the first time they got assembled on a single platform under Namoos-e-Risalat Tehrik. They vowed to fail all attempts to affect changes in the law asserting that no change could be made in divine law. They asserted that the government was doing it at the dictates of America. Fury of the Islamists petered out only when the government repeatedly assured them that there were no plans to consider the anti-blasphemy bill.
While this battle was raging between the charged up Islamists and peeved government officials, another disquieting incident took place in Lahore wherein an American citizen Raymond Davis shot dead two motorcyclists on the plea of self defence. In another related incident, the backup vehicle of Lahore Consulate in its bid to rescue Davis trampled to death a pedestrian. These two incidents further stimulated anti-Americanism particularly after the wife of one of the victims of Davis committed suicide since she feared she will not get justice and Davis will be released scot-free. Startling disclosures about Davis’s involvement in acts of espionage and in coordinating drone strikes, together with revelations of presence of CIA’s network in Pakistan added fuel to fire.
Religious leaders of all hues once again got activated when they learnt that the government was all set to release the double murderer. A warning was hurled that in case he was set free it would trigger Middle-East type uprising in Pakistan. Davis’s sudden release on 16 March under mysterious conditions followed by one of the heaviest drone attacks in North Waziristan on 17 March killing nearly 48 innocent people deeply anguished the nation. They recalled that Aimal Kasi after killing two Americans in Virginia in 1993 had escaped to Pakistan but was handed over by our authorities to USA to be executed.
Not a single Pakistani suspected of terrorism has been spared by USA. Most were put in Guantanamo Bay Prison and dealt with ruthlessly. In case of Davis, he was caught red handed murdering two persons and it was established that he was deeply involved in anti-state activities. Yet he was kept comfortably in jail and released in indecent haste. It gave rise to anti-government and anti-establishment sentiments and propelled religious forces joined by Imran Khan led Tehrik-e-Insaf to give a call for strike. They asserted that Dayat (blood money) under pressure was not permissible in Islam and that the government had played a cruel joke with the nation to please USA.
While the tempers of the people were still high, occurrence of another appalling incident of desecration of Holy Quran by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida left all and sundry in Pakistan aghast. The non-Muslim world including the UN is mum over this act. Religious Right again came on the streets to give vent to their injured feelings. Several violent protests took place in Afghanistan resulting in deaths of 24 civilians including seven US soldiers and UN staff members.
In the three-year rule of PPP, Pakistan has become politically unstable, socially traumatised, energy starved and economically ruined. Insurgency in Balochistan has got converted into a separatist movement duly backed by foreign powers and Karachi has become a killing ground for target killers. Corruption has scaled new heights, street crimes have intensified, morals have nosedived and so has poverty graph. Suicide rate has increased in the last two years due to unprecedented inflation and price hike. The rulers have got discredited because of their all round poor performance but there is no remorse or any desire for self-correction.
Instead of alleviating the hardships of the people and consolidating home front to confront external challenges, whole effort is on completing five-year rule by hook or crook. For that, a new political grouping with widely differing ideologies is being shaped and talk of national government is in the air. Except for PML-N, others like PML-Q, MQM and JUI-F are inclined to form a broad based government. Notwithstanding a belated effort to tackle critical issues seriously, there is lack of political will and sincerity of purpose. None wants to bring a wholesome change. Rebellious Tehrik-e-Insaf, which has a relatively cleaner past but a small vote bank, has also softened its stance towards MQM and PML-Q. 64 years have lapsed since Pakistan achieved independence, but our rulers refuse to learn from history and keep repeating the same mistakes