By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan could be devoured by the merciless, ignorant and myopic religious networks, if their proliferation is not checked well in time and on war footing level. Pakistan indeed was created as an Islamic state and for the social, political and economic independence of the Muslims of the Sub-continent. The founders of Pakistan ought not to be blamed or berated for creating an independent homeland for the Muslims of India. Their vision to project Muslims as a separate nation was supported by the vast majority of the Muslims of India.
But what went wrong was the hijacking of this newly founded country by rulers, politicians and bureaucrats who did not possess the same level of commitment, integrity and passion as the founders and vanguards of independence were blessed with. Over a period of several decades Pakistan that was destined to be democratic, liberal, economically vibrant, socially modern and civilly advanced, has been turned into a heap of garbage, trampled with abject poverty, territorially truncated and politically a scarecrow.
It has remained dominated by the military adventurers owing to rampant and incessant political anarchy let loose by the incompetent, self serving, abject and characterless leaders. Even during those stints when the political leadership was at the helm, the country suffered, in matters of good governance, nurturing of democratic culture, establishment and consolidation of the nation building institutions, crafting of a civil society, bringing about cohesion among the ethnically divided regions and building it up as a stable country.
Yet the most devastating blow to Pakistan was the compromise of the political parties with the religious zealots to win their support for holding on to power. With the time passage, the religious outfits both in politics and out kept gaining clout, influence and authority. They became imperious and overbearing to such an extent that they succeeded in injecting such amendments in the constitution of Pakistan that pushed the country towards a theocratic state.
A county that was envisioned by the freedom fighters to be enlightened, democratic and a blend of both Islam and secularism drifted towards a course of medievalism, obscurantism and fundamentalism. The divergent religious sects aided by their cohorts in the political arena embarked upon a sectarian war of vendetta on each other as has been rife in the Middle East for ages. It continues unabated gaining more and more ferocity and rapidity as the time passes.
The latest version of religious extremism laced with militancy is the cult of Taliban. This conglomeration is neither part nor parcel of a political culture, nor bound by any territorial limitations, nor amenable to any law nor answerable to any government. They were given birth by the inept and shortsighted politicians and are now poised to swallow Pakistan.
We have seen their transcript of Islam and the fiendish manner they are determined to splash its sway across Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their model of Islam is drastically at variance with the format of Islam that is believed and has been practiced by the Muslims around the world all these centuries, notwithstanding the sectarian discords between the dominant sects.
These ignorant and myopic Muslim fanatics impose their model through brutalization and violent machinations. Killing someone even for not growing beard to a prescribed size or not wearing turban or using television, videos and watching movies is an unpardonable sin to be punished with death or rigorous incarceration. They are not afraid of death for the sake of advancing their weird creed and pattern of Islam that was never in vogue even in the worst of times and during the rigid theocratic eras.
A few years back, they were close to capturing Islamabad. Later they were successful in proclaiming their religious regime in Swat valley and adjoining areas of Malakand and Mardan where the people mostly are conservative. Their incursions were joined by other religious groups and militants and even political parties that wanted to convert Pakistan into a theocratic land. The lifestyle and political set up they want to enforce would isolate Pakistan with the rest of world as an island of religious bigotry, ignorance, hair-raising punishments, persecutions and rigorously regimented codes.
Their religious fiat would make robots of humans totally riveted to mosques and busy in performing rituals. Their edicts and injunctions would run counter to the established obligations, beliefs and teachings of Islam as enshrined in the holy book Quran and on which the Muslim scholars of all denominations have consensus. Even the enlightened and educated Muslims counseling moderation and middle way would not be spared by this freakish lot bereft of pristine Islam.
This is the most gubernatorial challenge, stupendous menace and impending tragedy to the survival of Pakistan as a liberal, democratic, enlightened and civil state. This would also be a travesty and perfidious distortion in the inviolable Islamic theology that is essentially rational, divine, tolerant, moderate, and without coercion or compulsion.
If these hard core Islamic freaks do not spare a teen age girl for advocating education for the girls how come they would tolerate more serious issues of our daily life: the way we eat, dress up, read and peruse legitimate venues of happiness. Just in case they take-over Pakistan, they would close all the female educational institutions, segregate males and females and put veils on the faces of women.
That would be the starting point towards turning Pakistan into a place where only beards and ignorance would grow: not leaning, education, research, innovation. In such a society liberty to use modern gadgets or even wearing western apparel would be banned. This is a sketchy portrait. The reality would be much worse and bleak. In that stifling situation there would be a civil war if the society and army reacts. It is better to nip this monstrosity and stem this diabolic tide presently before it is too late.
This onslaught by Taliban and other conservative forces cannot be dismantled by NATO or the armed forces of Pakistan alone. This threat can be effectively deflated and countered by a civil society. “Let a hundred flowers bloom”. The people have to be pulled out of the quagmires of illiteracy and ignorance and their livelihood and safely ensured. The courts, the police stations, the hospitals, the airlines, the railways, local governments and all state departments inter-alia should operate to give dignity of life to the people.
The public awareness has to be elevated through education and enlightened media. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (American Declaration of Independence) must be guaranteed. People should be liberated from the superstition, from the bondage of the abominable and parasitic institutions such as feudalism; shamanism false mystics, shrine runners (pirs), narrow religious cults and sects. A common code of Islamic faith or religious freedom should be evolved. It is imperative to separate church from state affairs.
This litany is not exhaustive. However it gives a rudimentary idea how should the landscape of Pakistan look like. The religious education should be imparted as part of the normal curricula in state run or recognized institutions or in mosques and not in privately run seminaries. The people with a hope in future, laced with the knowledge and feelings of being honorable and equal citizens, would resist and cast away reactionary forces.
As such they would act as a formidable bulwark against any movement or mission that converts Pakistan into a closed theocracy or turn them into religious robots as the Taliban or the fanatic religious entities within Pakistan want to do.
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