Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sharia laws must be reinterpreted in Pakistan through Ijtehad

August 23, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Quite a sizeable number of Pakistanis are drinking anyway. Islam does not conclusively ban the drinking of liquor. Some forty years ago when west and East Pakistan were together, there were night clubs and liquor stores that remained opened till midnight.

Life was peaceful and people were united despite ethnic, sectarian and regional demarcations. Karachi was a city where the night and day were equally full of hustle and bustle. Lahore used to be the nerve center of the cultural galore and extravaganza.

People drank and still behaved as nice human beings, loved each other, helped other. There used to be social homogeneity, peace and sense of belonging to Pakistan. The people were safe and their businesses were secure and boomed.

Bazaars were always full of commodities of daily uses, vegetables, and fruit that were affordable even for the lower middle classes. It was seldom that the citizens expressed their aversions for each other on the basis of different faith or race.

Pakistan globally enjoyed an image of respect and a fast developing country whose pace of development was worth emulating for less developed countries. Social life was full of amusement with observance of seasonal cultural traditions and customs such as kite-flying, horseracing and other fun making ventures.

The hotels were safe, the negborhoods were safe, and the roads were good for traveling. Railway traveling was comfortable and safe. The terrorism that we have witnessed during the past several decades and undergone was unheard of.

And suddenly two major developments made the Pakistani society topsey turvey. It went upside down. It started moving in the reverse gear. One was the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. The second was the involvement of Pakistan in Afghanistan war in late 80s on the side of the Weston bloc that opened the gateways for religious zealots and militants. East Pakistan exercised a check on the religious extremism and faith-based prejudice.
Besides, Pakistan was flooded with all kinds of dangerous weapons and lethal drugs and the infiltration of mafias that traded, used and spread these drugs in Pakistanis society.

Also the unlawful exports of the drug like heroin by mafias and weapons traders involved Pakistanis in these highly nefarious activities. For the first time Pakistanis got addicted to the use of heroin and other dangerous intoxicants on a huge scale.

The creation of Taliban Frankenstein made a gigantic stride towards deterioration of already abysmal social degradation of Pakistani society. The Taliban were ferocious, uncivilized and ignorant Muslims. Their swift and lightening sway in Afghanistan with its corresponding deleterious fall-out on Pakistan started the drift from liberalism towards religious extremism and social obscurantism.

The Taliban’s gaining power and strength and their savage rule in Afghanistan also reinforced and empowered the dormant and less virile religious circles and lobbies in Pakistan. The religious outfits in Pakistan took it as a life time chance to assert themselves for a social and political take over of this country by every conceivable means. They inter alia, employed highhandedness, intimidation, oppression, religious edicts, militancy and the creations of countless religious seminaries and mosques to establish their fiat.

Every sect that was inactive or slumbering got engaged and started sectarian wars by throwing tantrums against their opponents. They let loose a specter of terrorizing the people on one hand and bombing and attacking the worshipping place of the rival sects on the other.

But while they were waging a sectarian war on each other they were intent and pressing for the society to be totally reshaped and colored in Islamic taboos in line with their narrow and skewed perception of Islam. The society was pulled in different directions on the turf of colliding faith.

General Zia being himself a religious fanatic though hypocritical and a mentor and chief patron of the religious right took giant leaps towards Islamizing Pakistani society with full brutal force of state.

It was a wonderful and pleasant time for the religious entities that enjoyed state patronage and perks and privileges. The real Islam was practically put on the back burner and another one, a sham, spurious revengeful, narrow, self-perpetuating, making money and merciless brand, came into being.

But before that in a bizarre and loathsome betrayal of his vision and ideals of liberalism, modernism and emancipation and equal society, the arch revolutionary for the free world Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made dubious decisions that placed Pakistan into the lap of ignorant and reactionary clerics.

Pakistan suffered irredeemably as it went into permanent and iron-clad clutches of Mullahs. The symbolism like declaring Friday as closed holiday, the sale and drinking of liquor was prohibited by law and similar superficial constitutional measures strengthened the gangs of the cutthroats bigoted religious forces.

As a result the society suffered a paradigm shift from good to worst, from liberal to obscurantism, from enlightenment to narrow-mindedness and from social emancipation to the slavery of the backward looking fanatics.

I would not blame general Zia more for unleashing a culture of religious extremism, dogmatism, degeneracy and oppression in Pakistan but a progressive, forward-looking Bhutto who in his zeal to remain in power further chained the society and handed it over the Mullahs in ransom for all time to come.

The constitutional amendments made by Bhutto provided a carte blanche to the religious parties to be free to turn Pakistan into primitive medieval religious state and spurred collision between sects and denominations. The religious legions started dictating the state.
If Pakistan is to stay as a modern and enlightened society, with equality of gender, with social liberty, with the blossoming of human rights, it should be renamed as Democratic Republic of Pakistan.

Every possible effort should be bent, state regulations be enacted and civil society be mobilized to diminish and erase the overbearing impact and pervasive fear of the extremist religious parties and self-serving conglomerations. Religion should be separated from the state affairs.

The construction of new mosques should be made contingent upon the size of minimum population. It is ludicrous to build several mosques of afferent denominations in a small locality of a hundred or so citizens. One mosque should be allowed to be built not less than ten or twenty thousand population. All the sets should pray in the same mosque if Islam is one religion.

There should be no bar on brewing selling, or drinking liquor. There can be strict rules and corresponding punishments under law for those violating the social peace as are implemented in Islamic countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and even in Gulf States.

The theocracy that the rigid and orthodox clerics want to establish in Pakistan cannot succeed in the longer run. Even the society in Medina during the time of the prophet of Islam and his worthy successors was not a theocracy. Islam factually is a liberal, tolerant and developing religion. Theocracy is against the human nature, social liberalism and human spirit for legitimate enjoyment.

All the religious seminaries must be affiliated with the country’s established educational systems with religious teaching and islamiat as one of the subjects. Students should have choice to choose subjects according to their discretion and desire. However Islamiat can be made compulsory till the middle grade levels.

The rights of women should be protected as equals in the society. The obsolete mode of teaching holy book Quran or religious knowledge by sitting on the ground and cramming and repeating it should be replaced by normal teaching in class rooms.

We in Pakistan do not need religious radicalism or fundamentalism but an open society that treats its citizens with respect and honor and gives them rights that they receive in developed and modern societies. The religious bigotry and backwardness based on sectarianism and a maze of fruitless rituals should be discarded.

The state should be sovereign and independent of the pressure and encroachments from the religious lobbies that have their own narrow agendas, ever plunging the society into chaos and sectarian feuds.

As we all know people are still drinking albeit not openly. The liquor is brewed in mohallah (wards) in cities and in villages. The charas or hash (green in USA) is smoked on large scale in Pakistan. These domestically and unscientifically manufactured alcoholic drinks are dangerous for human consumption.

So it would be socially and even economically legitimate if the old times are revived and liquor sale and drinking is allowed under the strict watch of law. The other venues for legitimate entertainment such as the horse racing, pursued by Saint Pir Pagara should also be permitted. Society must be stopped from slipping into the medieval paradigm.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Priorities for a Pakistani Prime Minister

August 15, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

If I were the Prime minister of Pakistan I shall declare Healthcare and Education free for all citizens of Pakistan. I shall build as many educational buildings as would be needed to cater for all the students from primary to the highest faculty level in the country. Even it means slashing funds from other departments and army, I shall not hesitate to take this most urgent and overdue decision.

There will be a mandatory education tax on every transaction in the country. There will be an additional tax on wealth and incomes of the people. Every utility bill will charge a separate education and literacy tax that would go directly to the accounts of the respective Independent school districts (ISDs).

The provincial administrations would charge this tax in their provinces that would be exclusively utilized on education at all levels which means from the primary to the university levels.

The country would be divided into independent district schools (not the administrative districts) that would run their own schooling and college system of education. The colleges and universities’ administration would be separate from these ISDs.

Similarly the healthcare, no matter how costly, will be free for every citizen in the country. For government hospitals every citizen would be issued a health insurance card which means that health expenses would be covered by the government insurance network. Those who would like to go to the private hospitals, the private insurance companies would be allowed to insure the people to cover a part or whole cost on the treatment.

For healthcare there would be another health tax that would be levied along with the education tax on every business transaction, on utility bills and on incomes. More hospitals would be built that would cater to the growing number of patients.

The system of maintaining all the details from issuance a medication to the discharge of patient would be computerized and made immaculate. Every detail would be entered so that no mismanaging or mal-practices take place.

The agricultural tax would be charged and the income thereof would be spent on providing food to the indigent segments of society. A meticulous, computerized and well documented system would be put in place to obviate misuse of funds in doling out financial or food support to the needy and deserving.

The education would be compulsory up to the secondary or senior school level. If a student would fall out, the responsibility would devolve on the parents and guardians for not sending him to the school. The drop-out from the schools would have to be watched. As an alternative, they would have to attend the vocational and technical skills of various categories from a mason to an electric technician so on so, as make amends for his lack of normal academic education.

Those who excel and would be brightest in results and academic performance would be encouraged and motivated to join post-doctorate and post-graduate research institutions in various fields. These research scholars and academics would receive all benefits and faculties from the government to produce results for inventions and promote scientific knowledge. The education from higher secondary to masters and for doctorates and research would be voluntary. But still the cost would be borne by the government.

With the creation of research institutions and universities within Pakistan, the need and urge for going abroad for such research oriented education would diminish and our scholars and brilliant minds would not suffer from deprivation and dependence upon the foreign centers of excellence for admissions.

The plans and models of building that we have in Pakistan are highly faulty, old fashioned and insecure and suffer from acute shortage and absence of facilities and decorum that we find in western countries. We shall have to rebuild and remodel our institutions from elementary, junior to senior high school levels so that the students are not exposed while sitting in class rooms and can be accessed by outsiders.

The pattern of the management of administering these institutions can be copied from the USA and other west European countries. The school buildings from elementary level down below to KG levels are like citadels in United States: neatly maintained with police presence inside and a well protected and neatly lined up parking areas. The students are provided lunch in schools and that takes care of their proteins and wholesome food needs.

I would not mind managing the hospitals and health systems in Pakistan on the patterns of the developed countries. In health sector the prototypes of hospital buildings and entire network from admission to the treatment and dispensation of related facilities can be imbibed and implemented in Pakistan. In America for instance, there is an element of accountability in every sector in the health domain.

The medicines and drugs that are provided by the USA hospital pharmacies are given in the bottles that are of the same sizes and shapes throughout the country. All information from the names of doctors to the patients and medicine’ name and use are given on the label. This system eliminates the chances of spurious or stolen drugs or the staff to sell the drugs in the black market.

The education and the healthcare systems in the United States despite their drawbacks are marvelous. If a portion of that can en implemented in Pakistan, the health of the citizens would undergo a revolutionary healthy change.

All schools and colleges would be well stocked with books, computers, and other necessary inputs that would be helpful in the learning and getting fast information.
The monster of ghost schools would be buried forever by locating such institutions and imposing heavy fines and sending the perpetrators of such crime to jail for longer terms.

All the text books would be first supplied by the publishers to the school libraries and handed over to students at a reasonable cost. In this entire free education system, the students will pay for the books on subsidized rates.

To study the educational systems in developed countries and to understand the designs of the buildings and look into other facilities such as school buses etc, a group of experts in their respective fields would be sent for instance to United States and UK. A commission of reputed academics and educational scholars would be instituted to submit implementation of all these measures within six months.

The third urgent reform that I would immediately undertake is the control of the fast growing population. Pakistan’s population in 1971 when East Pakistan seceded was 70 million. Barely in 40 years, it is reaching 190 million mark.

The growth of population at such a rapid rate renders the development plans ineffective and futile. By the time the plan matures there are countless more individuals with needs for food, clothing, housings, medicare, water, electricity and other social benefits and civic facilities.

Pakistan number’s one problem like other poor and developing countries is the burgening population that makes redundant every scheme and efforts for economic prosperity and social uplift of the society. Pakistan’s resources are insufficient and are not expanding in proportion to the growing population. Hence these prolonged power outrages and civic and social mess.

A single or two children restriction will have to be imposed in Pakistan to put a stop to the galloping population pushing Pakistan into further poverty and more societal chaos. We should, at all costs check and restrain the exploding population and correspondingly develop and whip up more resources by expanding industrial and agricultural sectors without further loss of time.

It is good for the health of Pakistan’s economy and that of its citizens if one loaf of bread is available for one person than one for four or more persons.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Afghan Refugees must be sent back to Afghanistan

August 5, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for 30 years now. Roughly 4 million refugees came to Pakistan following the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union armed forces in 1979.

The massive upheaval, the brutalities by the invaders and the evolving civil war situation forced million of Afghans to take shelter in Pakistan. By now their number should be doubled or trebled because the Afghans and Pathans raise big families.

These refugees were lodged in various camps including the largest called Jalozai near Peshawar. But a large number of Afghans spread all over Pakistan where they purchased properties and businesses and thrived with the passage of time.

Although the UNHCR was involved into the refugee transition in Pakistan, it was primarily the host country Pakistan that had to bear the major brunt of such a huge influx of human beings. Pakistan herself has always been beset with the phenomenon of fast growing population.

In the absence of pre-emptive or anticipatory plans for development; the additional burden of several million foreigners took its toll on the Pakistan’s fragile economy by considerably impairing it. Besides it led to a colossal social upheaval.

Though for a specific period of time, the most appalling and ruinous impact of the Afghan refugees’ sojourn was deforestation of the lush green valleys in the NWFP province (renamed Now Pakhtunkhwa Khyber) where the slopes and ridges of the mountains were covered with pine trees for ages.

Now these picturesque, serene and captivating valleys, dales and forests are barren, bald and denuded because the Afghan refugees cut them mercilessly for fuel and also for selling them in the timber markets.

The transportation sector that was one of the major mainstays of income for the Pakistani middle class families and even of wealthy entrepreneurs was robbed partially or wholly by the Rich Afghans who had tons of money brought from Afghanistan. They gave tough competitive challenges to the local transporters by cheaper fares and better vehicles.

Being physically tough, with no hold barred atmosphere for them, and nothing to fall back upon or lose, they applied themselves wholeheartedly and with dedication and resilience to create a new destiny in Pakistan by making as much money as they could through fair or foul means. The ordinary Afghans took up menial jobs.

After the exit of the communist army from Afghanistan in 1989, a fraction of the refugees returned to their country of origin. But because of the porous borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the cross border movement of these refugees can never be stopped.

If some refugees are repatriated to Afghanistan they return after some time. Such porous borders also facilitate the murderous incursions of the radical militants to move to either side for clandestine trading or for launching attacks as and when they want.

The Durand Line demarcated by the British in 1893 between Afghanistan and the British India (now Pakistan) is a kind of imaginary and ineffectual line that was never converted into a permanent border till now despite several initiatives taken even after the establishments of Pakistan from both the sides. There was always a stumbling block that came in the way of materializing this indispensible goal.

Afghan society, by and large, has been a more tolerant, progressive and liberal society as compared to other Islamic states and even Pakistan. The Afghan society and the people cherish the galore of ceremonial festivities and celebrate these with highly extravagant and lavish display. The girls from the Muslim families are married to Sikh and Hindus and members of other faiths and denominations.

The businesses from a cloth shop to airline ticketing are equally owned and run by non-Muslims mostly Sikhs who had settled in Afghanistan during the reign of Raja Renjaeet Singh. So in way it is a society that is secular culturally and far from the religious taboos and bigotry that one can find in other Islamic societies.

These refugee Afghans who were mostly from the lower and middle class families brought that culture of conspicuous openness with them. In Pakistan too they would rock and dance in their marriage ceremonies and in other joyous festivities in the same manner as they did in Afghanistan. Even those Afghans who came from the villages were not as rigid Muslims as one can find on this side of the border called the tribal belt.

The Islamic rigidity was forcefully injected and instilled in the Afghan society by the Taliban that and prior to that by the Islamic volunteers called Mujahedeen and Jihadists who converged on Afghanistan to fight against the communist forces of the Soviet Union.

Those crusaders or Jihadist groups also mobilized and goaded the local Afghan Muslims cadres on the slogan of fighting a heathen occupant and invader for the sake of Islam However, the strings of this decade long holy war were being pulled by the Christian western countries, particularly the United States; an inveterate foe of the Communist Russia.

Thus there came a turning point in the lives of liberal and cosmopolitan Afghan society when Islamic jihadists motivated them under the banner of Islam. The Jihadist groups imposed this religious regime under coercion, intimidation and with extreme brutalities as later demonstrated by the Taliban during their sway of 6 years (1996-2001) over Afghanistan.

This paradigm shift took place in Afghanistan that betokened a diametric change from liberalism to Islamic extremism. With the fusion and amalgamation of Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbeks races and even Iranians with more rigid faith, the Liberal, open and even secular Afghanistan became the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

But those Afghan families who migrated to Pakistan as refugees did not suffer from such inhibitions. They were relatively free to follow their permissive cultural chores and traditions in Pakistan which was still relatively a freer county and safe from the civil war raging in their homeland.

The Afghan families married profusely in Pakistan both males and females and thus cultivated and created kinship that would ensure them or at least their children to become safe and part of a more secure and developed society of Pakistan.

But the adverse fallout of this colossal migration has been very deep on Pakistani society. One was the indulgence and involvement of the Afghan refugees in illegal and ubiquitous criminal activities.

The thefts, the bank robberies, the break-ins, the kidnappings for ransom, the drug trade, and prostitution sprouted and surged phenomenally and voluminously. There have been countless feuds of killings and violent episodes between the locals and the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

With the induction and sway of the religious extremism, the Pakistani society also underwent a colossal metamorphosis. It evolved a dual yet heterogeneous complexion. One was that the religious radicals attained ascendency that had started during President Ziaul Haq’s tenure who assumed a role of supreme and zealous mentor for the religious right in Pakistan.

But the other side of this change was the affluence of crime and immoral waywardness that was one of the offshoots of the liberal Afghan sections now residing in Pakistan. The Afghan jihad and the exodus of Afghans to Pakistan led to the so called mushrooming of the culture of Kalashnikov and lethal fire weapons, proliferation of killer drug such as heroin, besides giving birth to lax and licentious culture.

The Afghans are obligated by a deadline of 2012 to return to Afghanistan which means next year. Yet such a possibility seems to be remote and unrealistic. It is utterly impossible for the Pakistan authorities to physically push back the Afghan refugees beyond the Durand Line.

Even otherwise the Afghans who have immersed and integrated in Pakistani society in every manner would never go back and it might take decades before they can be identified as Afghans. In view of the second or third generation of Afghan refugees, the identification of their roots and origin as Afghans, seemingly, is a tall order.

If the government conscientiously and aggressively takes up this task of sending back the bulk of refugees, Pakistan will be relieved of great demographic and economic burden that it is sustaining almost for three decades now.

Moreover with the exit of refugees there would be ample jobs and business opportunities that would be available to the local population. There is a strong and predictable possibility that the persistent high crime rate and incidence would markedly dwindle.

This hypothesis is based on the fact that the Karachi suburbs are also inhabited by the Afghan refugees who could be instrumental in destabilizing this society for having no interest or love or patriotic sentiments for this country. The Karachi mayhem and killing sprees and sporadic violence have their roots in ethnicity and race antagonism. The Afghans might be stoking that civil war by taking a part on one side or the other.

When we are talking about the refugees being accommodated in Pakistan then by all yardsticks those pro-Pakistani immigrants languishing in Bangladesh in shanty towns since 1971 justifiably deserve to come to Pakistan. These were the people who opted for Pakistan even under vey trying and dangerous conditions and are faced with unspeakable hardships ever since.

Some of them migrated from India during the 1971 crisis and supported Pakistan in face of the mortal threat of extinction to their lives. Yet they are living with one kindling hope that they may be owned and accepted by Pakistan one fine morning.

Pitiably the successive governments in Pakistan accorded a scant attention and little concern to the grave, inhospitable and inhuman conditions these Pakistanis have been living for four decades now.

They still love Pakistan and are waiting for the day when they would be allowed to migrate to Pakistan and settle here. If that happens that would be a very modest reward for their monumental patriotism and unwavering allegiance to Pakistan. This utter apathy and callous indifference is simply mind-boggling and inexplicable.

The Afghan refugees are totally alien. In contrast, the Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh have deep affiliation and fondness towards Pakistan. Afghan refugees would always remain alienated and cannot nurse a deep or even superficial love and liking for Pakistan.

The successive Afghan governments have been viewing Pakistan as an enemy country after partition of India. They lay claims on our territories adjacent to the border areas and even up to the Indus River.

Let us recall the chilling saga of Hijrat a side show of Khilafat Movement (1919-1924) to Afghanistan that took place early 20th century (1920-1921) and whipped up by a group of myopic and fire spitting religious demagogues. That is a story of grievous disaster and brazen betrayal by the Muslims from tribal areas and Afghanistan. Its narration entails a trail of tears.

Responding to the call of the religious preachers to migrate from Darul harab( where Muslims are not safe, meaning British India) to Darul Islam( a brotherly Muslim country where Muslims can be safe- in this case Afghanistan), thousands of families sold their land and property to migrate to Afghanistan, deeming it as a brotherly independent Muslim state. Afghanistan, instead of welcoming these uprooted Muslim migrants for the sake of Islam refused to absorb them and sealed her borders.

That resulted in unspeakable sufferings for the migrating Muslims. Countless died, became victims of fatigue and diseases, and turned virtual paupers with their money robbed or spent. It was a horrendous disaster. Some of those ill-fated migrants went as far as to the Soviet Union and settled there.

And in a reversed situation Pakistan has hosted nearly 4 million Afghanis allowing them education, jobs and all social services that are available to the Pakistani citizens. These Afghan nationals are as free in Pakistan as they were in their own country before migrating to Pakistan.

It is not to suggest that Pakistan should have treated the displaced Afghans in the same callous manner. But what is to be pondered is the attitude of the two nations though both are Muslims states: one repelled their Muslim brethren in adversity and the other embraced them.

If Afghan refugees are returned to Afghanistan then also the illegal immigrants from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh whose number runs into thousands and who mostly live in Karachi should also to be sent back to their respective homelands.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Of Referendum and Liberalization in Pakistan

August 2, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi
Of all the dangling dangers, the fundamental threat is to Pakistan’s unity. The state of Pakistan is held hostage by various inimical forces, mafias and subjective ideologies. Pakistan is on the verge of fragmentation from within.

In a country where the lives of citizens are not safe, how can one talk of prosperity and social harmony. The principal problem is that Pakistan has not yet started to shape up as a modern and enlightened state.

The four provinces are like four giants vying and at war path with each other. The recent devolution of powers and transfer of ministries to the provinces has made little impact on the acute friction that exists between the provinces.

It is therefore, essential that these are broken into several administrative units or smaller provinces in order to erase and dilute the antagonism between them.

But before that is done, a referendum should be held to elicit the opinion of the people in these provinces whether they still would prefer to live within a united Pakistan and within a federal system. This is necessary because of the ethnic wars and local insurgencies going on in Karachi, in Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa Khyber (formerly NWFP). In Punjab too, a segment of population is disgruntled because of rampant feudalism and family fiefdoms.

It is important to recreate a new Pakistan and get a fresh mandate from the people to live within Pakistan. This move would douse the flames of separatist tendencies that are leaping higher and higher day by day. This referendum was called for after the cessation of East Pakistan to give a chance to the Pakistanis to assert their willingness to live together in the left over Pakistan.

Such referendum should also be conducted in the tribal regions where people are living in no man’s land and are isolated from the rest of the population. If they opt to remain independent let them be. If they choose to live within Pakistan let them join as a province with writ of Pakistan established there.

A similar referendum should also be held in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan regions, notwithstanding their disputed status, to establish that the people there want to be part of Pakistan or otherwise. With these watershed measures the separatists movements would die their own death and Pakistan would emerge as a stronger and stable country than ever before and for the future.

A million Pakistanis with predominant portion from the youth should march on to Islamabad and camp there to press for the much needed, imperative yet stalled constitutional and administrative changes and decisions that are needed to make Pakistan a really democratic, stable, prosperous, viable, independent, progressive, peaceful, liberal, humane, accountable country.

The demand of the marchers should be the speedy reconstruction and recalibration of the nation building departments and institutions like Railways, Revenue and Taxation, police, steel mills, PIA, electoral system and so on.

The camp should press for starting and completing those projects that are fundamental for the robust economy and uplift of Pakistan. The stamping out corruption and similar vices from the society, the end of nepotism, the termination of nefarious practice of by-passing rules and transparency and similar vital demands should be on the agenda of such a march and congregation.

Pakistan can never survive or prosper as a theocratic state. The sectarianism, the extremism in religion will have to be moderated to enable Pakistan to become liberal and a viable state. The simple argument is that if in Bahrain, Syria and Iraq the main political tussle has boiled down to a conflict between Sunnis dominated country or Shia dominated state, how could be there iron clad guarantees that both these main sects in Islam would co-exist in Pakistan without spilling each others’ blood, as these have been doing for centuries.

Pakistan is more fragile and vulnerable as the religious fundamentalists have driven Pakistan to a state of incessant anarchy, perpetual chaos, lawlessness and exposed it to unrelenting violence. The sectarian animosity between the fringe yet strident sects such as between the wahabis and Deobandis on one side and Brelvis, naqbandis, Qadiris, Tabligee Jamaat and sainthood etc on the other cannot be sunk or removed.

It clearly means that the faith should be of private and personal nature and should be kept out of the portals of state and governance. The people should be free to adhere to their sects and follow their faith. But they must never be allowed to forcibly impose it on others as it leads to bloody sectarian conflicts that destroy the stability, peace and unity of a society, as we can witness in Pakistan.

No one should be allowed to use religion, sect and faith for exploitation of state, society or people that has been at the root of Muslim societies in the past and that kept them primitive and dogged by infighting between various sects.

There is no way that the sects that remain unflinching and inflexible about their specific dogmas and elements of faith can co-habitat with tolerance and without prejudice. For instance the Wahabis are against most of the ceremonial rituals and rites that Qadri, or Naqshbandia or the believers of saints and shrine culture perform and practice.

A unified and unanimous Islamic code that can govern or encompass the Islamic polities has never been worked out in the past nor can it be hammed out ever in the future. The Ommyads and Abbasids were secular dynasties that brutally suppressed the extremism and ideologies based on strict theocratic concept of Islam. But since those were family dynasties and autocracies these could not survive longer as stronger contenders vanquished them in due course.

The key to Pakistan’s internal strength is its economic vibrancy.The economic stability and strength comes if the factories are working with full capacity and the agricultural sector is giving its optimum output and people have jobs, self employment or business from a small cart to a factory.

The education sector should be able to accommodate all the students from class one to the highest academic level. The traffic is orderly and comfortable to take the citizens to and fro their jobs and homes. The healthcare is available in the hospitals with no spurious drugs and cost is covered by insurance. More importantly there should be no violence and law enforcement should be ideal.

In matter of faith there should be no restrictions. But for state to have faith and religion and a country to be attributed as religious must not be allowed. Pakistan can stay, survive and advance only as a modern and secular state whose majority is Muslims and where all sects and denominations should enjoy complete freedom of worship and religious practices. Yet these sects should never be allowed to hold the people in submission and exploit the state and people in the name of religion.

The sectarian wars in general and the religious radical militants in particular have been wrecking the society in Pakistan. This country came into being not to safeguard Islam but for the sake of the Muslims of the sub content.

The vision was to save Muslims from the tyranny of the majority with a hostile faith, because of their Islamic nomenclature. Unless the radicals can be bridled, the intra-religious animus is always a constant threat to the safety of the people on both sides of the divide.

We have seen that happening in the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and afterwards.
The sectarian godfathers and custodians are mafias in their field of operations. They can go to any extent in intimidation, coercion, brutalization and savagery to proclaim and impose their religious dogmas and fiat as they believe that God is on their side and whatever they were doing carried the divine sanction.

It is therefore, extremely indispensible to rein in the religious fanatics who are countless in numbers and are always braced against each other heaping the disastrous and divisive fallout on the fabric of society.

Pakistan is up for a horrendous challenge to her stability, violability and cohesion from lethal bands such as Talban, and similar cut-throat radicals that are not only projecting a savage and ugly face of Islam but can go to any extent of brutality and ferocity to destabilize the society for their over-lordship.

Anyone who thinks Taliban or a host of other religious outfits would help establish a glorious Islamic caliphate in Pakistan and elsewhere are simply deluded and victims of irrational and fanciful brainwaves as such a religious paradise never existed in the past when there were better times for religions.

An ideological group that kills its own people on the drop of the hat cannot be remotely connected with the utmost compassion and tolerance that Islam ordains or that is implicit in the teachings of this religion or were practiced by the founder and prophet of Islam.

These ferocious groups are reminiscent of savage entities such as Assassins or Hashashins who were a constant threat to the Islamic states in the past. Extremism all the more sectarian extremism brooks no humanity nor harbors any concept of a modern, tolerant and liberal state that Pakistan ought to be and that can be the starting point for Pakistan’s survival, stability and economic milestones.

Pakistan has got to be liberal, moderate and a modern Islamic state with a free society that is bound by laws, united by constitution, knit by established moral principles, woven by our cultural hallmarks and do and don’ts.

Pakistan should not be pulled in different directions by fanatical organizations tearing and fragmenting the society and instilling perpetual fear among the people. Moreover, such dogmatic regimentations keep the people mentally and socially backward and stunt their mindset for broad, progressive and constructive thinking.

Those religious scholars, ideologues, clerics and political leaders who talk of Islam and pledge to make Pakistan an Islamic state are mostly hypocritical and hide their odious pursuits behind the facade of religion.

They indulge in every conceivable malpractice and unethical conduct to grab power, earn mounds of wealth, run after sex, wallow in glamour, and steep in carnal and lecherous pleasures. Yet in public they profess and pledge to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state. However, Islamic system of governance with complete unity among disparate sects is a myth that cannot be attained.

The religious zealots act as second fiddle to the people in power in various ways. The vote bank of many political parties comes through the propaganda, support and help of the religious demagogues. It is so easy to declare a party Islamic or individual as good Muslim and other to decree as heathens and anti- Islam by quoting religious scriptures that can be interpreted in various ways. So the love of the religious clergy with Islam is subject to their being favored with money and offer of sparkling perks and privileges.

The religious groups are the overt or covert legions of the political parties and even foreign forces that use them to further their interests. The United States used these religious charlatans in a mammoth manner against the Soviet Union in eighties and afterwards. So their loyalty to religion is as peripheral and perfunctory as their knowledge about the spirit and underlying message and philosophy of religion.

Our leaders use Islam for their selfish ends and for keeping their hold on power and people. The nights of these leaders are lavish with unremitting bouts of wines and women and are sunk in wealth. But deceptively they go also to the shrines to lay wreaths, speak in mosques, express their support for religious parties and make laws that favor religious cronyism, ideological favoritism and rank primitivism in Pakistan.
Pakistan, we should never forget is a political entity with a land mass and is not meant to resolve religious discords based on colliding beliefs that are patently irreconcilable. Religions offer good moral baskets but in the present times, the nature of society is diametrically different from the societal paradigms of the past.

The theocracy that was prevalent in the past cannot function in the same way as it did hundreds of years ago when conditions, systems and environment were primitive and ripe for sprouting of religions. Now the societies have undergone a sea change.

A camel cannot be driven for travel although it is a holy animal for the Muslims. It does not mean we cannot drive car or travel on airplanes because these were not there when the religions were founded.

A harmonious fusion between the eternally accepted and acknowledged moral and ethical principles enshrined in Islam with the imperatives of modern societies, (that are getting integrated by days and moments), must be brought about.

For liberalizing and opening the Pakistani society, we can take a cue from other Islamic countries. It is only in Iraq and Pakistan that the sectarian strife is at its peak and unremitting. The societies in Islamic countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and several in the Middle East and North Africa are liberal by virtue of their culture and way of life.

They have liquor stores; the night clubs, the night life, the race courses, the gambling places, and similar manifestations and facets of recreation and enjoyment. These outlets are for the minorities and for those who cannot be a obscuranists in rigid sense.

The women in these Islamic countries enjoy equal rights and are treated with respect. People abide by laws and are patriotic. These countries have enviable religious harmony both for other Islamic sects and for non Muslims.

We have in the United States and in the western societies countless mosques. Millions of Muslims go to these holy places and are free to pray and observe their religious obligations and practices, in an environment of complete freedom. The flashy and lustful culture is there, but devout Muslims are not attracted to that. So the trends and culture of modernism and liberalism can coexist with the religious rituals and practices.

In Pakistan where liquor is prohibited by law and prostitution and child labor is a sin by religious injunctions, people still indulge in these odious things everyday and the Islamic exhortations five times from the pulpit do not make any difference.
The people still drink, the prostitution and rape goes on unhindered and other vices of serious nature like bribery, adultery and adulteration still keep happening.

It means that despite restrictions people violate bans because these militate against the human nature and urge to be happy and socially free to choose which way they would like to embark upon. Or else the law is not applied with full force and with honesty.

So these are artificial barriers and restrictions that are followed more in breach than practice. The gist is that a theocracy which wants to turn humans into angels without any human desires and physical ambitions is a utopia which cannot come about.

Our cultural patterns, folklore, habits, psychologies and mindsets, have been formed in the Indian sub-continent with ingredients and inputs from Turkey, Persian and Central Asia and even Greece through invaders and travelers.

But to change it altogether into an Arabian format or mold is not going to work because for that one has to use the repressive models of the seventh to 13th century prevalent in the Islamic empires. But still under those models the people were socially free because the social life, as written in history books, was as glamorous and happy as now in Europe and Far Eastern countries.

So while religions can be imbibed as a faith, the culture remains wedded to the indigenous soil and cannot be planted with seeds from outside. The Islam that we find in Malaysia cannot change the color or features of the people there, nor their folklore and cultural festivities have become nonexistent because they have a religion that negates such festivities.

Pakistan needs to build up a society that is studded with civic galore and resplendent with high social and moral values such as honesty, hard work, dignity, supreme nationalism, human and fundamental rights for its citizens.

It should be a society where the citizens are proud to be patriots and partake in national building with diligence and devotion. In this society there should be a harmonious blend between the mundane and temporal niceties.

There should be societal liberty within the framework of law. The state should not to be hijacked by bigots or the society not to remain in bondage of the reactionary forces and apostles of obscurantism. Here should be no coercion or prejudice or discrimination on the basis of faith, race, region, ethnicity, language, caste, affluence, power or high office. Law should be equal for all.

Pakistan is in dire need of socio-economic and political freedom and individual emancipation particularly women, both within and without as an honorable and proud nation. The camp of one million Pakistanis should keep striving for these monumental changes until these see the light of the day.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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