Saturday, August 11, 2007

JINNAH'S PAKISTAN AT 60

The military assault by the Pakistani Army on the Lal Masjid, right in the heart of Pakistan’s capital, to flush out jehadi militants, is a watershed event in the 60 year turbulent history of Pakistan as an independent Islamic state. It was an event waiting to happen. As the fallout reverberates and unfolds in its multi-layered dimensions, it will question the very foundational basis of Pakistan’s legitimacy to exist as an independent nation. How the now ‘mainstream’ establishment handles the completely unexpected (by them), inevitable turn taken by the extremist jehadi elements they have assiduously and venomously created and cultivated for decades as a major weapon of state, will determine whether there will still be a Pakistan ten years from now.

The slain cleric of the Lal Masjid, Ghazi, had stated in a TV interview before the assault that the Pakistani government had asked him to stop teaching the chapter on jehad in the Holy Quran to his students, a request he had declined on the ground that it was not possible not to preach the teachings of Allah, even though the government felt that the Lal Masjid had become an incubator of terrorism.

To understand why the chapter on jehad has become the fountainhead from which Islamic terrorists draw inspiration and justification for their deeds, a brief peep into the origin of Islam is necessary. The first jehad was fought by the Prophet himself against those who refused to accept his prophethood, i.e. Islam. One of the jehads (battles) at Medina against the Meccans and Jews resulted in his victory. After the battle was won, he ordered the beheading of all the 800 captured soldiers of the defeated Jew Army and taking of all their women and children as slaves, proclaiming both acts to be the Will of God. In the current rules of warfare accepted by most countries, mass massacre of defeated, unarmed soldiers, and the sexual and other exploitation of innocent women and children is a war crime. Things were quite different during the medieval times all over the world, including Europe, and such acts were a common and acceptable outcome of military battles, particularly those fought for religion. Perhaps it was the requirement of those extraordinary and difficult times when Islam was struggling to take root that those who accepted the Prophet and embraced Islam were forgiven, while those who did not were not spared.

Jehadi terrorists of today draw similar, though horribly distorted (in our view) justification for the killing of the 'enemies' of Islam, be they fighting soldiers or passive supporters (ordinary citizens, women, children), Muslims who do not accept their version of Islam, or people of other religious denominations who do not accept Islam. There are no 'innocent' citizens in the jehadi lexicon. Even if there are a few, well, that is collateral damage, as the Americans love to say. Add to this the promise of young virgins for those who die fighting for Islam and you have a perfect recipe for extremely merciless, ruthless and dangerous jehadi terrorism that now threatens the very existence of Pakistan as it exists today.

The founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was widely perceived as a secular, liberal, westernized barrister who, initially, championed the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity and a united independent India. However, when Mahatma Gandhi emerged on the scene as the tallest leader of the Congress party, Jinnah, unlike Nehru and others, could not accept Gandhi’s leadership, and joined the cause for a separate nation for Indian Muslims, in areas where Muslims were in a majority. Yet, Jinnah never, ever became an ‘Islamist’, propagating a rigid, distorted, radical and exclusive Islamic nation as Pakistan has increasingly become.

On 11th August 1947, addressing the constituent assembly of Pakistan, Jinnah defended the division of India on the basis of religion saying that a united India would have led to a terrific disaster. Yet, his vision of Pakistan was as secular as it can get. He exhorted Pakistanis to “work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations,…”

He further went on to add “I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vaishnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long, long ago. No power can hold another nation and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued his hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State….. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State….. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

This could have been Gandhi or Nehru speaking.

Had this vision been adopted, we would have had two sovereign secular countries in the sub-continent. Here lies the irreconcilable contradiction and the most fundamental flaw in the two nation theory. If Pakistan and India were to be identical secular twins, then essentially, Pakistan would be nothing more than a confused creation of desperation, of Jinnah’s failure to thwart the Gandhi-Nehru combine and become the Prime Minister of a united, secular India.

Jinnah’s vision was, therefore, summarily shelved by other leaders and Pakistan was systematically ‘Islamised’, adopting a hostile stance towards India and driving out virtually all Hindus and Sikhs from there, even as Nehru and Maulana Azad were exhorting Muslims to stay on in India and not migrate to Pakistan. Hostility to ‘Hindu’ India became the sole raison-d-etre for the existence of the ‘Muslim Only’ state of Pakistan. Islam was systematically injected into almost every aspect of civil society, to propagate and continuously reinforce the theory that Hindus and Muslims were completely incompatible and that the ‘liberation’ of Muslims from Hindu India was a ‘jehad’, a jehad unfinished since Muslim majority Kashmir was still under Indian occupation.

Some rabid elements even harbored (still do) dreams of reclaiming Delhi in the name of Islam. Remember Gen Ayub Khan's boast of having his evening tea in Delhi, in 1965? The Pakistani political, military and religious leadership fanned this idea in an increasingly fundamentalist and intolerant manner, particularly after Muslim East Pakistan broke away in 1971, dealing a severe blow to the very basis of existence of Pakistan. In the process, the idea has progressed, as it logically had to, to the belief that if Islam cannot accept a dominant 'Hindu' India, how can it straddle the irreconcilable contradiction of accepting the ever increasing and overwhelming dominance of Christian West over the entire Islamic world?.
Two generations of Pakistanis and a large number of Muslims in India have grown up on this poison pill of hatred and intolerance, spawning a full fledged industry of terror and violence, which has provided a fertile ground for extremists of other nationalities too, thanks to the help given by the US to evict the Soviets from Afghanistan and the total support given by Pakistan to the fundamentalist Taliban there. Bin Laden could have found no other place in the world to propagate his ideology and train jehadis to kill for Islam.

In the wake of 9/11, Musharraf had no choice but to align with the US against the Al Qaida and the Taliban his country helped flourish and unleash the most horrific face of Islamic fundamentalism and terror. As he himself had admitted then, it was a question of ensuring the very survival of Pakistan. Notwithstanding this purely tactical and opportunistic alliance with the US, the hard fact remains that the ideology put in place remains intact. No government in power there can effectively check this if it has to survive. Even if we were to lull ourselves and believe that the hawkish commando, 'Kargil' President of Pakistan has genuinely become a dove after 9/11, there is little he can do to stem the flow of the poison that has corrupted the very soul of his country and which has been exported like blood cancer to large parts of the globe.

The jehadis have now gone out of the control of the ISI and the government which bred them in the first place. Thanks to Laden and the Taliban, they have acquired a life of their own and have turned against everything they find ‘un-Islamic’ in civil society even within Pakistan. The Lal Masjid episode is only the very visible expression of their intolerance and missionary obsession to make Pakistan completely Islamic as per the Taliban model of Afghanistan. Things have already slipped almost completely out of state control in most of the remote, tribal areas of Waziristan, the Frontier, Baluchistan etc.

The Americans are increasingly talking of almost invading Pakistan, realizing that it may be beyond the capability, perhaps motivation too, of the state of Pakistan to destroy all terrorist camps and hideouts and rein in the madrassas which are the breeding ground of terror. Headstrong, unrepentant and brain-dead Pakistanis, including the former ISI chief, the most hawkish Gen Gul, seem to believe that their nuclear weapons and military power will prevent the American forces from stepping into Pakistani territory. Little do they realize that the way Pakistan is hurtling towards a self-created disaster of unprecedented proportions, it is only a question of time, unless the nation wakes up.

It is worthwhile repeating Jinnah’s words to the constituent assembly on 11th August 1947. “We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

60 years down the line, Jinnah’s Pakistan has, in the core of its being, become the ‘truncated, moth-eaten Pakistan’ he had once described geographically. A crucible of hatred, intolerance, violence and anarchy is not what Jinnah had envisioned.

If Jinnah were reborn, he would be the first to admit that the idea of a united India would have worked and that it is the partition of India that has actually led to a terrific disaster. Ironically, he would find no place in the Pakistan of today and would have to apply for Indian citizenship to live in his house in Mumbai as a proud citizen of a secular country he had once dreamt his Pakistan would be.
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Readers may also like to read:

1. Pakistan: dangers of the multi-ethnic Islamic state
2. 'A thousand cuts' bleeding Pakistan
3. A vote to save Jinnah's Pakistan. Will it?
4. Musharraf mauled: Jinnah's Pakistan next?