Like most Pakistanis, I was stunned in disbelief to see the breaking news of the late Salman Taseer’s assassination; Not that I am a fan but rather, the direction in which Pakistan is headed. Like every citizen of this country who believes in Jinnah’s vision, I was disturbed and saddened by events that followed.
None could have articulated our feelings and the direction that Pakistan is headed, better than Imran Khan. In his interview to CNN he related this unfortunate event into a causative equation, “In fact Pakistan is imploding. This country is going down.” Rather than his usual dynamic and imposing demeanor, he appeared tense, grim and somber. His face reminiscent of the first loosing matches of 1992 world cup reflected the concerns of every Pakistani; Betrayal of Jinnah’s vision of a plural, progressive and communitarian society.
This article is not an obituary of an assassinated Pakistani politician, but instead assess what lies ahead for Pakistan It critically appraises the future course of Pakistan’s politic body. Hours after the assassination, I formulated a hypothesis and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. As Events have unfolded, my worst fears are coming true.
“Salman's assassination is beyond symbolic. This is the start point of a struggle between the forces that bank on the establishment and mullahs for power and the true democratic forces within Pakistan. Does it bring an end to the era of the Punjab Progressives like Faiz, Mian Ifthikhar and Dr. Taseer, or will the pyre burn?”
Aisha Sarwari articulates my fears when she wites, “He had come to be the only man who defined the fight that is the only fight worth fighting – between the mullahs and the progressives. Before him, no one had dared vocalise the fact that there remains an ideological divide in Pakistan.”
Notwithstanding that the event is a criminal act I am more concerned at the trends that this assassination is leading to.
The religious right spearheaded by political parties has taken a position on the incident declaring the assassin a hero and the dead governor an infidel who deserved no funeral.
During the entire run up to the assassination, all political parties distanced themselves from the slain governor and left him isolated with few civil activists, minority leaders and opinion makers to face the wrath of the right. Even the ruling PPP hierarchy distanced itself from the slain governor and stalwarts like Babar Awan and the Prime Minister publically distanced themselves from the infidel politician.
A large segment of the Rawalpindi Bar Association has put its weight behind the assassin, garlanded, kissed and hugged him.
The governments in power at provincial and federal levels have failed to take action against those who are justifying the assassination on religious grounds or offering head money on those condemned under PPC 295C. There are no measures in sight to contain this fervor.
The internet media is flooded with admiration of the assassin. Facebook has numerous profiles and communities portraying him a knight.
Elements of the government in power are screaming helplessly that Police investigations are being interfered with.
The security apparatus in Pakistan has shown its low motivational state, lack of training, commitment and non seriousness in security of VVIPs.
But all this has not happened overnight.
The story began with Jinnah’s plural Pakistan which was systematically replaced with political manipulations of religion to sustain the emerging political elites and the establishment. It began with Jinnah abandoned on the roads of Karachi grasping for fresh air followed by insertion of the religious identity in the constitution. A time has now come when even educated Pakistan term Jinnah’s address of 11 August a figment of fiction.
Religious forces that supported the Khilafat Movement under Gandhi and opposed the creation of Pakistan slowly began to overawe the Muslim League that created Pakistan and had opposed the Khilafat. As time passed, numerous Muslim Leagues that were created to suit the establishments dishonored Jinnah’s Pakistan. They proceeded into short term expediencies that have now resulted in intolerance, violence and lawlessness; all in the name of religion.
As this trend spread, many members of the minority communities who worked in cahoots with Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah elected to either move back to India or to other countries. Even many war heroes who served Pakistan in its two wars emigrated. As Raymond Durrani puts it:
“When it comes to win a game, whether that game is in a sports match, in politics and or in democracy, the winner requires only one extra point over its opponent. In the game of creation of Pakistan, that one point (actually 4 points) came from the Christian MPs and the Speaker of the House of the Punjab Assembly who happened to be a Christian to make Pakistan a reality. Do the masses of Pakistan Muslims know who and where those members of the Christian Pakistani Nation are? “
Similarly, the uprisings in Kashmir had the intellectual, material and political directions from men like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mian Iftikharuudin of Progressive Papers Lahore and Dr. Taseer and those who spent long hours with Jinnah and Iqbal. Pathetically, these heroes of the Kashmir struggle were thrown into cages by the dictators for conspiring against Kashmir and we in schools were forbidden from reading Faiz’ poetry.
In yet another Shakespearean irony, a man who earned and paid honest taxes to Pakistan in its worst times, and one who turned anything he touched in business to gold and whose father acclaimed and buried Alim ud Din Ghazi in Lahore, himself fell to bullets as a purported infidel.
Ever since, this trend has grown.
Pakistan was chosen as an Islamic Containment Bulwark against a so called godless Russia during the Cold War. USA called Pakistan to an international Jihad against the infidel Soviets during the occupation of Afghanistan. The West and many Arab states created the sectarian outfits to fail Iran’s Revolution. Tragically, at each occasions military dictators seeking legitimacy obliged and plunged Pakistan deeper into the militant syndrome. The present WOT serves to air and ignite these violent trends with the conclusion that any moderate who speaks up for Jinnah’s Vision is called an enemy agent, infidel and traitor.
Jinnah’s Pakistanis are fast loosing space and relevance. Is there one to challenge these forces of regression?
I agree with Imran Khan when he says, “Pakistan is imploding. This country is going down”
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.