By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
By the time I sat down to write my weekly column there was no news about the success of negotiations between the mullahs at Faizabad chowk laying siege to Islamabad and Federal Interior Minister Rao Ahsan Iqbal. The clerical sit in is now over two weeks old and the environment is full of hot and stinking air generated by assorted beards protesting over something that was rectified immediately. Now theirs is show of ‘engineered’ strength to make mockery of the writ of the state.
Though strange it seems and one can understand the vulnerability of the government that is neither here nor there, as to why the security apparatus does not include the task of clearing Faizabad Chowk as part of its larger exercise against terrorism. Blocking the main entry point to the Federal Capital is an enemy act.
The matter seems more confounded since those who had laid siege to the federal capital had put a doddering PMLN-government in a tight corner. Since one cannot discern who is doing what and at whose behest, one would have liked to leave it at that. However, a document issued by the US mission in Geneva at the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan delivered by Jesse Bernstein, the delegation of the United States, on November 13, 2017, in the 28th session reads as follows:
“The United States welcomes the Pakistani delegation to the UPR Working Group and recommends that Pakistan:
1. Repeal blasphemy laws and restrictions and end their use against Ahmadi Muslims and others and grant the visit request of the UN Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
2. Pass an anti-trafficking law that prohibits and penalises all forms of human trafficking.
3. Undertake, track and report the investigation and prosecution of security forces who commit human rights violations and abuses.
4. We commend Pakistan for passing the Hindu Marriage Act, which allows, for the first time, members of the Hindu community to register their marriages. We note increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for sex trafficking, and passage of anti-honour killing and anti-rape laws which, if enforced, should reduce violence against women and girls.
5. We note with concern the enforcement of blasphemy laws, and restrictions against Ahmadi Muslims, and the use of blasphemy and other laws to intimidate political opponents and settle personal disputes. Finally, we are also concerned about the International NGOs policy restricting operations of non-violent organisations.”
This statement needs to be read in the light of what has been happening in Pakistan since the day Khatam-e-Nabuwwat clause was deleted from the Election Bill. Law Minister Zahid Hamid claims it was an inadvertent deletion while the protesting clerics believe that it was a deliberate move to remove the controversial clause. Since it seems clear there had been some sort of understanding reached between Pakistan and the American governments to correct the law that is the root cause of abuse against minorities-irrespective of his or her caste, creed, colour or gender. No religious book or constitution gives the state the power to decide religious belief of an individual.
National Assembly and Senate passed the new Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Bill rectifying the mistake; other changes too were reverted back to its original form. The clerics, however, are not willing to give up their siege until Law Minister resigns besides acceptance of their other conditions that include withdrawal of cases against clerics accused of committing acts of assault and other serious crimes. In this context Chief Minister of Punjab’s demand calling upon the Law Minister to resign – seemed to be an act of back-stabbing. Obviously, it means what is happening in the country is a triangular fight – irrespective of deposed prime minister’s Nawaz Sharif’s ultimatum that he is out there for a battle to do or die.
General Ziaul Haq replaced all the civilised norms and brutalised the society, fostered intolerance and hatred at every level gnawing the very roots of a secular Pakistan. He hanged Shaheed Zulfikar Bhutto not only to please his American masters but also to stop him from ushering in socio-economic changes for the greatest good of the largest number. His successor – General Pervez Muharraf used the religious extremists as hired killers for the assassination of martyred Benazir Bhutto who was last hope for completing the mission of Jinnah’s dream of an egalitarian Pakistan.
Never did Muhammad Ali Jinnah ever think of Pakistan as a theocratic state. Religion was no issue in British India, Muslims were free to practice their religious beliefs, so were Hindus, Christians and other communities. What Muslims dreaded in a Hindu India was their economic annihilation at the hands of brute majority. As such the idea of Pakistan which came much nearer to 1946-47 was essentially agenda for the economic survival of the Muslims.
If one looks at the famous address of Allama Iqbal (Allahabad 1930) there is no mention of Pakistan or of an independent Muslim state. Same is the case in the Lahore Resolution baptised as Pakistan Resolution after Pakistan got established. When MAJ made a categorical declaration in his August 11, 1947 speech in the Constituent Assembly: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” it had a historic background. MAJ’s knowledge of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and history was not superfluous. He understood much better than the Muslim clerics the fundamentals of Islam and especially its spirit. When he said Islam is in the bone marrow of Muslims, he meant it. It was not to please the mullahs.
According to the Quaid, Allah (SWT) is Rabul Alamein – that – He is the Rab of entire human kind. Had he been Rab of Muslims only he would have titled Himself as Rabul Muslemeen. When He was sending Muhammad as His last Messenger, he could have given him the title of Rehmatul Muslaimeen. Since Prophethood ended on Muhammad he was given the title of Rehmatul Lil Alamein. Obviously Rab’s title and his last Prophet’s are for the entire universe of humankind – as such both in nature and spirit are secular.
The Quid also saw in Islam fundamentals of modern democracy. Mosque served as an assembly, concept of Ijteema and Ijtehad based on principles of consensus are what good democracies have as democratic fundamentals – debate, discussion and consensus based decisions. Islam has no room for dynamistic politics. Had there been such Prophet (PBUH) could have appointed Hazrat Ali (RA) as his successor. Huququl Ibad is yet another institution guaranteeing supremacy and secularity of the law. On the Day of Judgment God will have nothing to do with injustices done by one individual against the other. Only the person who is victim will have the power to forgive and not God.
PML-N government in any case is on its way out-sooner than later. Instead of appeasing the clerics and getting bended to touching the ground, Interior Minister Rao Ahsan Iqbal should sort them out primp and proper instead of doing his utmost to appease them. He should tell the mullahs to lay off and get lost. Notwithstanding his own affiliations with shady clerics in the past, he can redeem it all by clearing the Faizabad Chowk by showing power of the state. The new alliance between PTI’s Imran Khan and “father of Taliban” Maulana Samiul Haq’s JUI-S is not a good omen for democracy nor Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate terrorism neither reviving Quad’s dream of a secular Pakistan.
(The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)