Published in The Nation, December 30, 2012.
Half-cocked measures never work. Public sentiments are echoed in slogans like ‘drone attacks must end’, ‘stop supporting Baloch separatism’, ‘Black Water and the likes must end terrorism in Pakistan’, ‘stop interfering in our domestic affairs’. But these are mere public appeasement proclamations, made in a manner not to offend our masters. The people, however, know that nothing short of a total breakaway from the US will end our plight. Half-cocked measures never work. And we cannot breakaway unless the current political order is replaced with something more dynamic. They have permeated to the very roots of this system and will control any change within it. This political carousel, irrespective of new players, will continue to remain compliant to US objectives. For any positive outcome, these shackles have to be entirely removed and a new citizen friendly order created; adjustments to fit ankle size will not reduce the pain.
The fear is that any push for a new political scenario will stir up US sensitivities and activate their involvement in the course of change, to enable them to stay on top of it. Failing this, they will be forced to commence the last phase of their plan to dismember and defang us. They cannot let this, however mild, Islamic country slip out of their grip. Without the Army’s backing, whose battle cry is “Allah o Akbar”, the push for such a change would create a scenario which could unroll towards fragmentation.
Our hostility with the US will strengthen the currently stirred up extremist sentiments, while rendering our secular state vulnerable. Both will then create chaos in the country – the US to dismember it and the extremists in an endeavour to gain control over it. Between them, we will be torn apart. We cannot remain on the current secular path and seek to rid ourselves of the US. If we must close our doors to the US, we have no option but to open our hearts to Allah and go for an enlightened Islamic government. This is our only empowering option.
Pakistan is an Islamic country and you can drag it only so far from its ethos. Our support to US occupation of Afghanistan, in clear defiance of the Holy Quran, has brought forth horrifying results: bombs exploding in mosques in the name of Allah, soldiers killing children in the name of Allah; everyone is talking in such haste, no one wants to stop and ponder. Both sides are saying, “We are the good guys, let’s kill the bad guys”, without regard to the basis of our muddled criteria. In this self righteous prudence calculus, bloodshed has become insignificant and Allah has become irrelevant. The true message of Islam has been lost in this battle between the unlettered idealists and scholars enlightened by the Western sunrise.
The government and the electronic media are exhorting the people to stay on this allegedly middle course between the two extremes, and classify this as the course recommended by our Prophet (pbuh). However, the middle path does not lie between kufr (disbelief) and faith in Allah, but within the realms of our all encompassing deen (way of life in Islam). You cannot be a part time Muslim; after your namaz (prayers) you cannot fold and put Allah in the closet along with the prayer mat. He is part of each moment of our life. And that is what makes it bearable. And that is what makes it beautiful. Taking the true middle path is our only way out today.
Such a change requires dynamic and visionary leadership. However, our state machinery is neither designed to take a long term perspective, nor capable of taking decisive steps. Our decisions will continue to be based on immediate concerns. We are merely going along with the momentum of the tide, trying to stay afloat, without any clue or care about where we are headed. Our leaders sit back and indulge in petty political game-playing, which is all that they can handle. Without a bold initiative we will continue to remain amongst the trodden and never actualize to our potential as a nation. It is during such hard times that nations rise and shine.
The idea of standing up as a truly Islamic state is not as fearsome as some of us have been made to believe. The immediate image that comes to mind is of frenzied gun toting jihadists forcing the population to their version of Islam; of lashes and stoning; of a society living in fright and anguish: a Talibanised Pakistan. The reality could be far from it. This religion came to end tyranny and oppression; there is no coercion in it. Islam is a message of social justice, benevolence and peace, not only for the Muslims but for the entire community. If it does not bring tranquillity and serenity in the lives of the people, then it is not the true message of Islam but some distorted version of it.
Imposition of Islamic law will be a revolutionary change, but its enforcement will be evolutionary. And there is no fear of conflict in its imposition. These have already been resolved, since our constitution clearly expresses that laws shall be in conformity with the Holy Quran and Sunnah and that personal laws shall be according to each sect; so there is no dispute about “Whose Islam?”
Immediate enforcement of Islamic law on the entire population is neither practically possible nor socially conducive. Creation of enabling environment will take time; a system of justice will have to be established before we can talk of punishments – and all this has to commence from the top. Change in the economic order will take its own time. Social changes will certainly take longer.
Today, in this environment of chaos and hopelessness, an Islamic government can be the only guarantor of peace and stability in Pakistan. Allah has left us with no other option.
The writer is a retired lieutenant general and former corps commander of Lahore.
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