Pakistan at the crossroads

No one can deny the fact that Pakistan is in a deep mess. However, when we look at the offered solution to put this country on the right track, we don’t see anything other than ways to keep the nation in the vicious cycle in which it is caught.

The solutions on which there is a consensus in both secular and religious circles are: the military dictatorship should come to an end. There should be free and fair elections. Democracy and civilian rule should be restored. Beyond this, religious parties claim that the Islamic system should be established in the country, a claim being challenged by the secularists with a long list of justifications. There is a need to honestly assess if any of these offered solutions will take the nation out of the quagmire in which it is gradually slipping ever deeper with each passing moment.

For an effective assessment, we need to use a few questions as standard parameters and bench marks to see if any of the offered solutions will help.

The basic question is: do we realize the extent of our loss? To appreciate our loss, we need to ask: do we understand that, like many other former colonies, we are still not free from the colonial clutches of our past? That de-facto colonization will not come to an end even if the military dictatorship somehow terminated in the near future? That Pakistan will not be an independent sovereign state even if there are free and fair elections held tomorrow, the military returns to its barracks and civilian ‘leaders’ take over control? That those who we consider as the leaders of Pakistan are not leading us in the right direction? And that the Islamic system will never be established even if the religious parties involved in the present political order win 100 percent of the seats in national and provincial assemblies?

To understand the extent of the loss, we need to consider the number of ‘will nots’ in the above questions and ask, why not?

These are not rhetorical questions. None of the directly and indirectly occupied countries can reach the right solution until they look at their predicament in the global context. Pakistan is no exception. Of course, protesting the removal of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice is necessary. No doubt, we have to struggle for the rights of the illegally detained individuals and struggle to loosen the military grip over our necks. However, we need to ask why all this is happening to us and if what we consider as solutions are really solutions or simply other means to perpetuate de-facto colonization under a different label.

When looked at in the global context, we are passing through the darkest age of human history. The tyranny in the name of democracy is set to get worse. There has been no true democracy and, under usury, there will never be a true democracy in the world. As always, might is right and the rule of a few continues to exploit the majority with far more effective ways of deception, confusion, control and domination.

In this context, Pakistan came to being, not with the will of colonialists to grant Muslims a separate homeland, but as a result of strategic withdrawal with the strategy to keep the former colonies dependent, at war with each other and always ripe for economic exploitation.

Muslims thought it the other way. March 23rd, 1940 was a momentous day in contemporary Muslim history. That day the Muslims of the then British India had formally reached the decision to carve out a destiny of their own. The destiny, as it instantly came to be known was Pakistan. Pakistan did not stand for separation per se, it was not conceived as a Muslim ghetto living on the sufferance of the rest of world; it was a charter of freedom from the colonial-imperialist world order.

Before facing the communist challenge, those were the heydays of imperialism, secularism and territorial nationalism. The demand for a sovereign and independent state which claimed Islam as its raison d’etre was meant to be a clean break from imperialist control and imperialist ideologies. Pakistan was meant to be `the greatest Muslim State of the world’, as the leader of the movement, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had clearly spelled out as their main task to the would-be officers of the future Pakistan army – that was going to be a reality after 11 days. The visionaries didn’t entertain the possibility of an army serving colonial masters, enslaving and bankrupting their own nation.

The movement for Pakistan was unlike all other national freedom movements in the Muslim world, from Morocco in the far west to Indonesia in the Far East. The movement was a precursor of the wave of liberation that soon swept the entire Muslim world. Although neither rich nor a military power, the new and nascent Islamic state of Pakistan found itself duty-bound to contribute morally, materially and politically to the freedom of almost every Muslim state that emerged on the world map after 14 August 1947. Such was the sense of commitment and enthusiasm to the Islamic cause and Muslim world in the early years of Pakistan that King Farooq of Egypt is reported to have derisively remarked that it appeared Islam had been revealed now – in Pakistan.

This is a bench mark for comparison. Where do we stand today? Remember the Washington Times’ May 6, 2005 cartoon which shows a US soldier patting Pakistan caricatured as a dog. Instead of mending the ways in which we have sold ourselves, Pakistani parliamentarians urged the government to seek an apology from the cartoonist. As if that would change the perception of how Pakistan is viewed today!

The commitment to Muslim causes around the world was an integral part of the Pakistan movement. However, that is no more. Why? Simply because Pakistan is not what it was meant to be. Will a civilian government bring back that commitment?

Will a ‘democratic’ government restore that will? Will any of the civilian ‘leaders’ stand up like Jinnah and tell a Friday congregation as he did on November 2, 1940 that it is “our duty to help our Muslims brethren wherever they are” and going on to assure full support for the sovereignty of Afghanistan, Egypt and Turkey and the independence of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and all other Muslim countries? Instead our commander in chief is one of the main architects and sustainers of the occupation of Afghanistan and thought to be sending troops to Iraq as well.

The problem is that we have forgotten the raison d’etre of Pakistan. Instead, the colonialists of our age inherited the same mentality as that of the secretary of state for occupied India, Lord Zetland, who wrote to viceroy, Lord Linlithgow that he could not “help thinking that if a separate Muslim State did indeed come into existence in India, as now contemplated by the All India Muslim League, the day would come when they might find the temptation to join an Islamic Commonwealth of nations well nigh irresistible’.

Lord Zetland explained: “The Call of Islam is one which transcends the bounds of country. It may have lost some of its force as a result of the abolition of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, but it still has a very considerable appeal as witness for example Jinnah’s insistence on our giving an undertaking that Indian troops should never be employed against any Muslim State, and the solicitude which he has constantly expressed for the Arabs of Palestine.” The sickness of our collective mind was exposed on January 12, 2002 when talking with reference to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, our commander in chief declared on TV: “hum Koi Islam ke Tekedar to naheen.”

The coming into existence of Pakistan in August 1947 represented the actualisation of a long held commitment and vision to which Muslims in the sub-continent had tenaciously held on despite the loss of political power in 1857 and the liquidation of the Ottoman caliphate in March 1924.

Pakistan was the only country in the world which did not define itself in terms of territorial, linguistic, historical and racial nationhood; it saw itself as an integral unit of the Ummah, and hoped eventually to remove the colonial disconnection in Muslim entity. Today, Pakistan stands in total contrast to its raison d’etre and none of the solutions offered point in the right direction.

Free and fair elections will never change the faces at the top. Civilian rule? Who else other than civilian ‘leaders’ invited the military to take over time and again? If not the civilian leadership, who helped the military dictator constitutionalise the dictatorship?

Similarly, mere democracy will never restore what Pakistan was actually established for. Religious parties, which petrified in the salt mines as a result of co-opting to work within the leftover colonial system, can never establish an Islamic system because they will not challenge the system through which they come to power. Remember the fate of Algeria and Palestine. In both cases, no one had even talked about establishing Islamic order. And Somalia, where occupation, war and chaos is preferred to a government in the name of Islam.

All this illustrates how the seemingly insurmountable problem that we face today is really outside Pakistan. Changing faces in Islamabad within the same pro-colonialist system, without any strategic insight and direction, will never solve our problems. The problem that lies within Pakistan is the lacuna of awareness of the bigger picture and the willingness of some, in utter ignorance, to sell themselves out. It seems that we have reached a stage in Pakistan where no change seems possible without a popular revolution; a revolution which would succeed provided the colonialists do not turn it into another Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. Even so, the final victory belongs to those who struggle for freedom, true independence and self-determination.