Pakistan: A Passage To Military Secularism?

Pakistan is an “Islamic” country. Its official name is “Islamic Republic Of Pakistan.” It is on the paper only. Once a outspoken critic of the official hypocrisy had remarked that, “It is neither Islamic nor Republic.” The military and the bureaucracy were very angry and he was branded a traitor. The dust only settled when the critic quietly slipped out of the country for some time and waited for the opportune time to return to the country.

This is Pakistan. One cannot criticise the military. The voice of dissent is silenced ruthlessly. The military is a sacred institution. It has a covenant from the God almighty. You cannot point a finger. If one has to be a patriot, he must sing the songs of eulogy for the non-existent achievements of the valiant defenders of the country. They are the masters for a long time. They have ruled the country but maintained some face by using bureaucracy or the political leaders for their rule. They wanted to play the game silently without being exposed to the world. Countrymen did not matter. That faéade is gone now. The times have changed and it is the right moment to act unilaterally, without the possibility of slightest opposition.

It is the time of settling the scores. It is the time for dictatorial regimes to go ahead with impunity. The civilised and the most powerful nations of the world are fighting against terrorism, euphuism for “Islamic Extremism”, “Islamic Fundamentalism”, and “Islamic Radicalism.” The fight is against the “Islamic Militants”, “Islamists” and the “Islamic Terrorists”. The Western media according to their convenience or their whims coins these different terminologies. The meaning is the same. Either you are a “Moderate Muslim” (meaning you are a non-practising Muslim and hence acceptable) or “Extremist Muslim” meaning you are practising Muslim and hence unacceptable. This guideline is very clear. You must adopt yourself according to the dictate and moral values of the West or you are a persona non grata.

Military in Pakistan may not be good in managing the defence of its motherland but is astute enough in politics to grab this golden opportunity to consolidate its grip on the power. No more dramatics and hidden agendas. It is time to remove the traces of Islamic identity from Pakistan. Pakistani home minister, a retired general, has been given the task of eliminating the Madaris (Religious Schools) from Pakistan. These schools are functioning for centuries, providing the Muslim children a strong base to conform to their beliefs and religious identity. This is not acceptable to the Western masters and so the mission has to be accomplished swiftly and ruthlessly. All the Madaris are the breeding grounds of the terrorists. Muslim children are turned fundamentalists by them, etc, etc. These accusations are false and unfounded but the military must have some excuse to complete the task given by the invisible forces.

Formation for a National Security Council (NSC) was a cherished desire for the Pakistani Military brass but they were waiting for the right time to force it upon the masses. The time has come at last. General Musharraf has announced the formation of NSC. The National Security Council, which will comprise civilian and military leaders, will have the power to dismiss governments and parliament. NSC would consist of the president, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, four chief ministers, three armed forces chiefs and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This Security Council will provide security to the military rule not the country. This is dominated by the military and a few civilian representatives will be the rubber stamps for the military.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s latest address to the nation completes a package of constitutional reform proposals intended to ensure that the army will remain in charge whichever party controls the National Assembly.

General Musharraf has confirmed that he wants to institutionalize the army’s role in politics by giving constitutional powers to the National Security Council. The army is also worried about who else might contest the October elections. A recent decree requires all candidates to have a university degree. This means many prominent Pakistani politicians will be unable to contest the elections. Indeed, it is reckoned 90% of the members of the last parliament will be automatically prevented from seeking the re-election.

Many political parties have denounced these move by General Musharraf as a joke of democracy. General is not concerned about these voices as he has powerful friends in the world to help him complete his agenda. He has provided all the possible ways for the Army to perpetuate the rule without any real opposition.

It seems he wants adopt the Turkish form of the government where the army is the guardian of the secular constitution. There is a big difference though, between the Turkish Army and its Pakistani counterpart. The former, although guards the Mustafa Kamal’s legacy with an untiring zeal, is not corrupt. The same does not apply to the latter. Interesting enough, Turkey’s secularism is actually a pretext to keep Islam away from the people. That is why scarf is disallowed from parliament and the educational institutions.

Pakistani Generals are not ideologists. They are opportunists and the so-called war against terrorism has given them the opportunity to weaken the Islamic character of the society and perpetuate their rule. What will be the result of this adventurism? The time will be the judge.