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Topic initiated on Wednesday, March 9, 2011  -  3:12 PM Reply with quote
The dragon’s teeth sown long ago

The dragon’s teeth sown long ago

Ayaz Amir
Friday, March 04, 2011

"We have played with fire and folly. We have nurtured myths and fantasies, far removed from any notion of reality. We have planted the seeds of intolerance and fanned the winds of bigotry, convinced that we were doing so for the greater glory of the faith. And now we are reaping the consequences.

Shahbaz Bhatti is not the first victim of hatred and bigotry, nor will he be the last. The furies we have created, the demons let loose, will claim more victims even as the rest of us perform the rituals of superficial sorrow.

If nuke capability was a formula for national confidence, which it isn’t – let’s be clear on this score – Kahuta and the bomb should have given us confidence. We should have been able to shed our fears and concentrate on schools and hospitals, the pursuit of knowledge, not tanks and guns.

Pakistan had everything in it to become the crossroads of east and west, gateway to India on one side and Central Asia on the other. It could have become the starting point of a heady journey through history and fantasy, fact and fiction. But only if we had chosen to live like a normal nation, devoted to the normal tasks of nation-building, instead of living in the clouds and from the 1980s onwards raising holy armies in the name of ‘jihad’.

We should have been more careful of the law of unintended consequences, how our desire to liberate Kashmir had led us on a journey ending in the division of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Forgetting this history lesson, with CIA and Saudi help we set out to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation and ended up fanning the flames of hyper-religiosity and extremism in Pakistan.

We should have checked our horses then but puffed up by a misplaced sense of achievement we embarked on another journey dedicated anew to ‘jihad’ in Kashmir. We ended up with burned fingers again, Kargil one of the trophies of this misplaced sense of adventurism.

Still we refuse to learn, bent upon having our say in Afghanistan once again even as the lights go out one by one in Pakistan and the country slips further into disorder and mindless violence.

All our various lashkars, lashkar-e-this and lashkar-e-that, including the mother of all lashkars, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, are products of the same fertile soil assiduously ploughed and cultivated in the name of ‘jihad’ by our strategic masters.

The political class may be in power nominally but limited capacity and a serious lack of ideas have hampered its ability to challenge the military’s hold on ideology. Nor, as we have seen time and again, has it been able to stand up to the clerical armies on emotionally-charged issues such as the anti-blasphemy law.

When Salmaan Taseer was gunned down the government and the political class as a whole should have taken a clear stand instead of ducking behind equivocations, and the prime minister and sundry ministers declaring over and over again that the law was not being amended. This conduct stemming from fear only emboldened the holy armies.

Now the misguided passions ignited by the inane controversy over the anti-blasphemy law has claimed another victim: the only Christian minister in the federal cabinet, the very decent Shahbaz Bhatti. May the Lord of the Worlds rest his soul in peace.

His crime was to seek justice for the Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, condemned to death by a sessions court on the charge of blasphemy. He had received death threats and had asked for enhanced security, including a bullet-proof car. If anyone deserved such a car it was Bhatti, especially after Taseer’s assassination at the hands of one of his own guards, hailed as a hero by the armies of the bearded, which is a measure of the depths to which Pakistani society has sunk. Why wasn’t the security he deserved provided to Bhatti? We can be pretty sure for some pretty smooth explanations from Interior Minister Rehman Malik, ever-eloquent and ever-unconvincing.

But the larger questions remain. When will we finally change course and recognise that the roots of violence and extremism lie in the kind of confused state we have managed to create? And how much further sacrificial bloodletting will make us confront the fact that the idea of Pakistan, propounded none too clearly by our founding fathers, has been hijacked by elements the founding fathers would have been hard put to recognise?

The idea of a separate Muslim state was open to misinterpretation in that it provided a handle to religious elements, most of them dead opposed to the Pakistan movement, to go a step further and insist, as they have done ever since, that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Which is not quite the same thing as Muslim separatism.

Islam was in no danger in undivided India. But the Muslim elites of Northern India felt insecure at the prospect of being dominated politically by a Hindu majority. The demand for Pakistan was thus a political and not a religious demand or theological battle cry. It is the bankruptcy of our English-speaking governing classes which allowed the far right to subvert and distort this history.

Today’s Pakistan is not Jinnah’s Pakistan. If it has a godfather it is the ghost of Gen Zia under whose command the army and intelligence agencies, instead of being agents of modernism, became instruments of ideological regression.

The fight against extremism will not end when American forces start leaving Afghanistan. It will enter a new phase and if the Taliban triumph this will mean more complications for us as religious forces, already on the march, get more emboldened.

So the task really is to get rid of the ideological baggage – more like ideological nonsense – which we have amassed over the years. Are we up to this task? This is the challenge facing Pakistan and in meeting it Kahuta and the bomb, our arsenal of Ghauri and Hatf missiles, will be of little use. This is a battle of ideas and this must be won if the forces of darkness which have Pakistan in their grip are to be defeated.

The army’s responsibility is clear. It must undergo some kind of a cultural revolution if we are to put the past behind us and look for salvation within Pakistan’s borders rather than without. If the army remains an engine of reaction, if it doesn’t break out of the Ziaul Haq mould, if it doesn’t give up its dreams of Afghan glory, we are doomed.

The political class also has to expand its horizons if it is to give a lead to the army, as it should. The idea of reinventing the idea of Pakistan has to be a political endeavour if politics is to acquire the supremacy in national affairs that so far it has not achieved.

We face a different problem from the Arab world. The Arab masses, long shackled in dictatorship, are seeking the light of democracy. We have democracy but without substance and meaning.

In the Arab world the masses are the motors of change. In Pakistan the masses cannot undertake the task of reinventing the Islamic Republic because this is a task whose urgency they have yet to recognise. Where then are the knights who will undertake this task and around which round table? We have to find an answer to this question if we are to emerge from the dark."

An article in "The News". This is a burning question in all our minds how or more importantly can we emerge from the dark?

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