By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
As the political pack in Pakistan wrangles over nothing and the country dips further into a heavy load that cannot be shed, no matter how long the load-sheddings become, 2010 comes to an end, marking one more point of reference on one of the calendars humanity now uses. The year ends without any improvement on the hope factor and without a hint of any real change in Pakistan or the world in general despite Wikileaks whose head has mysteriously disappeared from the news media.
That there are no signs of hope in Pakistan may be a direct consequence of the moral and intellectual character of its leadership, but for the world at large to be so filled with dark hopelessness is indeed a great tragedy for the entire human race. The downward spiral with which the century started has yet to see an upward turn: we are still living in the nightmarish world created by George W Bush and his British crony whose name one does not wish to pronounce lest it taints the paper with blood. That nightmare was inaugurated by two ruthless wars which unfolded countless human tragedies, most of which will never become part of history as recognizable individual tragedies; rather, they will forever remain collateral damage.
Yet, amidst the ever-increasing collateral damage of the unending war of terror started by George W Bush, one wishes at least to have a hope that there will come a time when someone in Pakistan will have the courage to stand up and say: one more drone attacks in Pakistan or else the US embassy in Islamabad will be shut down.
The fact that Pakistan has lost its sovereignty requires no further proof than the recent statement by its prime minister in the Parliament in which he called the drone attacks “counter-productive” and repeated his government’s demand that the US give Pakistan the drone technology and leave to it such actions against militants. What does it mean to issue such a statement in the parliament other than acknowledging the fact that the Pakistani government cannot stop these attacks! This, amounts to admitting the loss of sovereignty because, for all practical purposes, a drone attack is an attack on Pakistan by another country; not merely an attack on some unknown militants.
During 2010, there has been a sharp increase in these attacks. Number of people killed is anybody’s guess, as no one is counting. The drone war is not recorded anywhere in public debates, neither in the United States nor in Pakistan, occasional whimpers by Jamat-e Islami notwithstanding.
Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world which has given the United States a blank cheque; even the servile Egypt receives more respect. Then there is Hugo Chávez who has refused to accept Washington’s choice of ambassador to his country, because the nominee, Larry Palmer, made some statements earlier this year suggesting that morale was low in Venezuela’s military and that he was concerned Colombian rebels were finding refuge in Venezuela. Even though the US state department has said that it stands behind its nomination of Palmer, Chavez refuses to admit him. “If the government is going to expel our ambassador there, let them do it!” he said in a televised speech to his nation, “if they’re going to cut diplomatic relations, let them do it! Now the US government is threatening us that they’re going to take reprisals. Well, let them do whatever they want, but that man will not come.” What a difference between this bold stand and whimpers coming out of Pakistan!
There are obvious differences between the two countries, but regardless of those economic differences, there is no justification for the servile attitude of Pakistani leadership. The sinking fortunes of Pakistan are not merely related to its economic dependence on United States; they are a direct result of moral bankruptcy of its political leadership.
All that Pakistani politicians seem to be interested in is an unending parade of petty political games. In a country where no one feels safe, where all the growth indicators have been going down, and where basic necessities are becoming increasingly scarce, no one seems to be concerned about any long-term strategy to meet the power short fall or to curtail the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. It is hard to believe that Pakistan at the end of 2010 is the same country which witnessed one of the greatest tragedies of its national life in this same year. It seems no one remembers the floods anymore. The desperation witnessed during those weeks, the hopelessness of people who would rush to aid workers, fight over rice and sugar, stronger men would slap the faces of women and children to get food away from them, people would pick up grains of sugar from the ground and put them straight into their mouths. These memories of those days, when the entire nation was feeling an urgent sense of moral decay, but also a sincere repentance and hoping for the Divine grace, are all gone with the wind.
It is hard to believe that the same nation is now filled with the same old habits of life and its entire political leadership is again immersed in yet another petty affair. As the year 2010 comes to end, one cannot rejoice in any possible opening filled with hope; instead, there is this heavy feeling that the same old pattern of national decay will continue in the new year and perhaps for years to come.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of
Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), and then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he pursued his research and study on various aspects of Islam in Pakistan, where he also worked as Director, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) between 1991-96 and as Director, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998-99).
During 1999-2001, Dr. Iqbal was Program Director (Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley, USA.
Dr. Iqbal has published books and papers on the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West, the contemporary situation of Muslims, and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include Islam and Science, God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives , Science and Islam, Dawn in Madinah: A Pilgrim’s Passage , The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009) and a few more titles.
He is the General Editor of the forthcoming seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, the first English language reference work on the Qur’an based on fourteen centuries of Muslim reflection and scholarship. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.