Running with the hare, hunting with the hound

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Running with the hare, hunting with the hound

Saturday, 18 February 2017 | Hiranmay Karlekar

Running with the hare, hunting with the hound

If Pakistan is serious about suppressing terrorism, it must liberate a very large section of the population now in the thrall of fundamentalist Islam. This will not be easy. A tendency toward fundamentalism is latent there

There have been two catastrophic suicide attacks in Pakistan this week. According to reports, over 70 persons have died and many more injured, at a suicide attack inside the 13th century lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi shrine in Sehwan in Pakistan’s Sindh Province on February 16. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility. A bomb explosion in lahore on February 13 by a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), left at least 13, including a Deputy Inspector General and a senior Superintendent of Police dead, and dozens wounded. Together the two tragedies underline an important aspect of the self-created terror threat facing Pakistan. The ISIS and TTP are both fundamentalist Islamist organisations and, like most suicide bombers in the given context, the ones blowing themselves up in lahore and Sehwan must have been brainwashed in the name of Islam.

Despite strong military and Government action against, organisations like the TTP and ISIS (which is beginning to spread its tentacles in Pakistan) and Afghanistan, will continue to attract the allegiance of a large section of the  population, as long as the latter lies steeped in fundamentalist Islam. The same goes for organisations like the lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizb-ul Mujahideen. Except perhaps the TTP now, and the ISIS, the other organisations are liberally, if not principally, funded and assisted by Pakistan’s Directorate-General Inter-Services Intelligence ISI).  With all this money, they have little trouble in running publicity campaigns to attract support and recruits to carry out terror attacks and suicide missions, and build and sustain the infrastructure for housing, arming, training, motivating and educating them.  The massive scale of the campaigns also serves to enhance the appeal of fundamentalist Islam in general.

If Pakistan is serious about suppressing terrorism, it must liberate a very large section of the population now in the thrall of fundamentalist Islam. This will not be easy. A tendency toward fundamentalism is invariably latent, if not manifest, in a country in which Islam is the basis of statehood and national identity. Its founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, sought to give Pakistan a secular character. He said in a much-cited speech at Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, “You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed but this has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

His speech, however, was widely and viciously criticised by fundamentalist Muslims who made sure that there could no question of his views prevailing in Government-making — particularly after his death on September 11, 1948. Abu Ala Moududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami in India, who had shifted to Pakistan, mounted a vitriolic campaign for a fundamentalist Islamist Constitution. The Constituent Assembly’s first surrender occurred on March 12, 1949, when it adopted an objective Resolution saying that it was obligatory for the state to enable Muslims to order their lives in accordance with the teachings and requirements as laid down in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah — in effect declaring Pakistan to be an Islamic state. This was followed by another surrender when Pakistan’s first Constitution, which came into force on March 23, 1956, declared the country to be an “Islamic Republic”, the first Islamic country in the world to mention its religious character in its name.

President Ayub Khan, who was no fundamentalist and had little time for the mullahs, tried to reduce the Islamic content in the Constitution promulgated in 1962. He even tried to remove the word ‘Islamic’ before ‘Republic’, making it ‘Republic of Pakistan’. This unleashed loud screams of protest from Moududi and his kind. He joined the National Democratic Front formed by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, thus merging the democracy and Islamist movements. The word ‘Islamic’ was reinstated before ‘Republic’.

But Ayub Khan was himself not averse to playing the Islamic card. He mobilised the Ulema against Fatima Jinnah, sister of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who contested against him in the presidential election of 1965. Again, he exhorted, in the name of Islam, Pakistan’s people and military to fight India in the war of the very same year.

The liberation of Bangladesh, whose Constitution, promulgated on December 16, 1972, stated in it preamble that the “high ideals of nationalism, secularity, democracy and socialism” shall be the fundamental principles”, had a profound impact on Pakistan. It provided further grist to the Islamist argument  that the development resulted from the failure to tie the country’s two wings together with indissoluble Islamist bonds.

Even Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, considered a secularist, socialist and democrat, drifted with the current. The Constitution promulgated on April 3, 1973, declared Islam as the country’s state religion, reserved the offices of the President and the Prime Minister for Muslims. It made the state duty-bound to enable Muslims to lead an Islamic life, promote the study of the Quran and the Sunnah and teach Islamiyat at school. A Council of Islamic Ideology was crearted to ensure that every law was in harmony with the tenets of the faith, Pressured by fundamentalists, Bhutto had, in 1974, declared Ahmadiyas as non-Muslims. In the same year, he had staged a grand Islamic summit in lahore under the patronage of King Faisal bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

All this prepared the ground in Pakistan for a countrywide acceptance of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation drive which, in many ways, transformed Pakistan, particularly since it coincided with the country’s critical role in promoting, with financial and military aid in equal measure from the United States and Saudi Arabia, with jihadi Mujahideen groups against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which began with an invasion on December 27, 1979. Zahid Hussain writes in The Path to Catastrophe and the Killing of Benazir Bhutto, “Islam was incorporated into the Army’s organisational fabric. For the first time Islamic teachings were introduced in Pakistan's military academy.” Hussein further writes, “Islamic training and philosophy were made a part of the curriculum at the command and staff college. A Directorate of Religious Instruction was instituted to educate the officers corps in Islam.” Islamic education became a subject in promotion examinations. Officers were made to read The Quranic Concept of War by Brigadier (later Major-General) SK Malik and taught to be not just professional soldiers but soldiers of Islam. Scores of good, professional officer were sidelines for not being sufficiently good Muslims.

The process was accompanied by the Islamisation of Pakistan’s society. The massive proliferation of madarssas, which acted as assembly lines for turning out young jihadis for Afghanistan in an assembly, played an important part. Islamisation also proceeded in judicial, social and cultural arenas. Subsequent regimes have not been able to turn the tide, though the Army has seen some very moderate success in this direction. The genie is still out of the bottle.

(The writer is Consultant Editor, The Pioneer, and an author)

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