The menace within

Pakistan was created to tolerate all people regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity and gender. However, in order to achieve this ideal, and this is palpable from recents events, our country has not matched neighbouring India in building our state institutions as a democratic nation. But this was because Pakistan was caught off guard when treachery struck us and “they”, the Indians, had “Joe”. So we might have an excuse.

Sadly, the military has dispossessed the Pakistanis of Mr Jinnah’s legacy of freedom. In that way Pakistan is still wedded to the vestiges of imperialism. In India, however, Pandit Nehru (or “Joe”) expeditiously settled the country’s constitution, whereas in Pakistan the seeds evil were sown when the venal Muhammed Munir CJ appeased his military masters by murdering democracy in its nascency. Munir upheld Ghulam Muhammed’s dissolution of the legislature in 1954 (for the Constituent Assembly’s failure to produce a constitution within a reasonable timescale) and in doing so he legitimised perpetual tyranny and violence in Pakistan.

I will not expand too much upon what Munir CJ did but he affirmed dictatorship – for example, in Dosso v The State, he used Professor Hans Kelsen’s theory of “pure revolution” to legitimise Ayub’s 1958 military coup d’état. Kelsen, of course, was truly repulsed by this and disowned what Munir falsely attributed to him.

Subsequently, the consequence of Pakistan’s death as a fair and just “democratic” state (murdered by the army, politicians and the judiciary) is that we are left without any rights, and owing to the lack of any independent institutions we Pakistanis are poorly equipped to change the nature of the state.

Following our historic “alliance” with the US, suicide terrorism has become a wide ranging menace in Pakistan. Pakistan’s terrorism statistics which are quite extreme are available here. But what is the profile of the suicide bomber in Pakistan? What are his instructions? How and where he emerged from are just some of the matters which this post will investigate.

Accoriding to Riaz Hassan (who is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology in Flinders University in Australia), the dilemma of the Pakistani state in relation to suicide bombings is comprehensively connected to the Islamisation policies of General Zia, the Afghan jihad and Musharraf’s (“historic”) post 9/11 alliance with America.

Equally, it is also arguable that the 1979 Iranian Revolution created enough fervour among Pakistan’s Shias to resist Zia’s singular theologically Sunni state, and at the present time Sunni Islamists are able to manipulate the idea of Shias wielding power in order to radicalise young men to carry out suicide bombings. The export of Pakistan’s unemployed young men to fight in Afghanistan’s jihad has provided impetus to the decline of law and order in our own country. The fact that following 9/11, such men abandoned the jihad in Afghanistan and relocated on home soil is now undermining our own country’s existence. Minorities are right to be concerned about a potential ethnic cleaning or genocide in the near future if the state fails to reclaim its authority from extremism.

In Pakistan on the Brink (chapter 8 on “Education in Pakistan: a survey”) – available here online – Tariq Rehman establishes that Pakistanis who have a western education tend to be fairly open to democracy, offload Islamic law, oppose the development of nuclear weapons and repudiate the notion of a modern jihad. In comparison, “conservative” Pakistanis who oppose democracy, condone jihad and conservative Islam are people who are located at the lower stratum of society. (However, one should be careful in approaching this some universal truth.) Unsurprisingly, jihad allowed people a life out of unemployment and poverty. For Abbas, Pakistan’s drift into extremism (2005; 202-3):

The unemployed youth of Pakistan had found an occupation, an ideology, and a new family in which they found bonding and brotherhood. They had motivation, dedication and direction … [they became] the elite in the cause of Allah, and they developed the infectious pride to inspire thousands of others into following them.

These “conservative” elements in Pakistan are not influenced by the west and consider the Islamist counter-narrative espoused by extremists to be the panacea for the state in Pakistan: for such people, the values of an Islamic state must be paramount and secularism must be quashed. Moreover, in a calculated move to thwart the influence of the Shias, the Pakistani state  sought to bolster its Sunni project through madrassas. (Which grew almost six fold in just over two decades – with 570,000 in 1998 in comparison to 100,000 students in 1975.)

The madrassa programme bred many types of fundamentalisms which were mostly Sunni and despite petty differences on petty things among themselves, they all shared the common objectives of killing Shias, minorities (Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis) and of establishing an Islamic state. In short, such groups only believed in intolerance, murder and impunity; and to achieve all this they became heavily armed.

It is very interesting to note that the Federal Investigation Agency, Islamabad has ascertained (2007) that there are at least 72,400 armed and trained militants in 10 Sunni Islamist groups which have a natural alliance with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Saudis (such as SSP, Lashkar-e-Umar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi), whereas there is only one Shia militant outfit (Sipah-e-Muhammed) which consists of 1,500 Shia extremists who are supported by Iran. The stage, it seems, is set for a “genocide” or other crimes against humanity and we are powerless to stop all this.

Riaz Hassan argues that no singular reason drives Pakistanis to join the jihad. Hassan explains that:

Unemployment, poverty, social rejection, an unhappy family environment, lack of education, a romanticised notion of jihad, a sense of alienation and powerlessness pervasive among marginalised youth and the growing influence of the mosque and seminary network, all play a role in the indoctrination and radicalisation of young men.

Out of a sample of 25 suicide bombers, in 2007 the Federal Investigation Agency found that the majority were from a poor background; they had also received a religious education. However, 7 out of the 25 people concerned were matriculates whereas all the people in the said sample were single.

According to Riaz Hassan, who affirms Rana’s 2004 thesis (in A-Z of Jihadi Organisations in Pakistan), “persuaders” for the “noble mission” issue a two-page manual (“A Guide to Mujahidin”) to recruits which advises them not to stay in one place for more than a day, not to “trust Punjabis” (as they have strength in numbers in Pakistan’s intelligence services), act in a “law-abiding way” and keep organisational secrets to themselves.

So much has happened in Pakistan of late which is deplorable that one is unable to keep up with it. To conclude the present discussion PLD will rely on terrorism statistics which are from the period 1996-2006. These exhibit an incredible rate of suicide bombing. In this period, 1996-2006, a total of 1,249 people were killed in terrorist attacks of which 680 (or 33 per cent) were targets of suicide bombings. This trend has only spiralled upwards and PLD plans to acquire the statistics from 2006-2011 to present a fuller picture of the problem of terrorism in Pakistan’s radically mutating society.

Common sense demands that prior to implementing change which dispels Islamic extremism and averts further damage to our country, our politicians and armed forces should investigate the nature of the change envisaged and act collaboratively with all elements in Pakistani civil society to objectively ascertain whether the desired results are achievable: mature and competent politicians never act alone without advice and consultation. No one should act just on their whims or beat a hobby horse.

So what can the Pakistanis do to stop their country from self-destructing? Well they can do an awful lot. Firstly, ministers of state such as Sherry Rehman should take on board that their ill-advised and ill-conceived attempts at addressing only one side of the story in relation to “our” blasphemy laws were very poorly timed and unnecessary.

As a “steely” politician (Guardian describes her as “steely” but PLD emphatically rejects this description as she only represents her party’s venality, plutocracy and delusion), Rehman should have had the foresight to consider the predicament of the five hundred Muslims who are charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. Focussing exclusively on one case is more than a bit misleading and a narrow approach simultaneously plays into the hands of the western media (which exclusively covers blasphemy cases involving minorities such as Asia Bibi’s) and the extremists – who are eager to legitimise aggression, violence and fear.

Rehman’s folly in not considering the consequences of propelling herself centre-stage into the limelight are increasingly evident as extremists have used her ill-conceived proposals to make the killing of ministers and governors a hobby. Why did Sherry Rehman, a federal minister of state, use a private members bill to introduce amendments to the blasphemy laws? Why did the government not use a government bill for this purpose? Is the PPP not in power in Pakistan? Answer: Sherry Rehman went for the Glory. Problem: we will now face more terrorism and suicide bombings. The poor, of course, will suffer the most: that is our Pakistani way.

PLD disagrees with the Guardian’s coverage of Rehman and pleads her contributory negligence (if not direct intent) in creating the mess or tamasha in which our country is presently stuck. Rehman’s ill-advised foolish unilateral action, which was uncoordinated with the other political parties, the clergy and the electorate, which was without any consultation, only proves the PPP’s incompetence and inexperience in dealing with law reform in Pakistan.

So the age-old question arises yet again: how to save Pakistan from calamity?

Education, education, education: in secular state schools and by people who are not mad or extremists. The state would be well advised to invest in education rather than in extremism (for what purpose: to attack Joe’s country? or the US?).

Most people in Pakistan are very amenable to a great friendship with our neighbours. India is a logical and great place to start such a friendship – we were one country after all. Politicians with more foresight would help as well. And the military establishment needs to do a lot to reverse the flow of the madness which was unleashed upon us following the upheavals of the late 1970s and 1980s.

If, like Pakistan’s people, the Pakistani state could cultivate a few friendships in our neighbourhood, it might help our overwhelming problems which seems to multiply with each passing day.

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