In his August 11, 1947 speech while laying down the fundaments of Pakistan’s ideological moorings, our founding father Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah clearly warned us of some of the most lethal evils, if not nipped in the bud, would cause us irretrievable damage — sooner than later. How true when we look at the tragic incidents such as Parachinar and Quetta where Shias were singled out by the Tafkiri terrorists for a bloodbath just on the eve of Eidul Fitr.
This is not for the first time. A country that had comparative sectarian and communal peace for more than three decades owes it all to military dictator General Ziaul Haq who started the rapid process of converting Pakistan into Tafkiri state from a liberal, secular and progressive democratic country that was the vision of the Quaid. Having not even iota of popular legitimacy, he blatantly resorted to divide and rule.
It became a state policy to promote Tafkiris while igniting sectarian fire wherever possible. While he used to distribute among soldiers religious writings and commentary of Holy Quran by Maulana Maudoodi, his intelligence agencies created ethnic and sectarian groups to erode power of the main stream political parties especially the PPP that had essentially populist egalitarian agenda. By the time of his divine fall from skies, he had also sold out Pakistan as supplier of proxy warriors for the American Jihad against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in return for suitcases full of millions of unaccountable dollars.
As a consequence of Ziaist legacy, Pakistan today is reaping the bitter harvest of sectarian seeds that he had sowed. He got Afghan and Pakistani youth in the religious seminaries trained as Jihadis who later emerged as Taliban. I remember Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto telling President Bush Sr about the American training and funding of Jihadis that “you are creating a Frankenstein that would be well-nigh impossible to put back in the bottle.”
Till then only dim contours of American policy to create world-wide uncertainties to control the natural resources in the Middle East had started taking shape. His son Bush Junior gave it the name of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that were neither here nor there-his excuse to invade Iraq. What we have seen in Libya, what is going on in Syria, confrontation between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar, unending war in Afghanistan—all are manifestations of Pax Americana—be they under the cover of ISIS or Daesh.
Parachinar and Quetta incidents are not in isolation. These are part of same scheme of things. We refuse to see neither the enemy within nor the enemy we are sleeping with. Our civil and military leaders and clerics rush to condemn the perpetrators of such blood bath as Parachinar as sinister acts of our enemies and refuse to believe that such dastardly mayhems could be the work of Muslims belonging to Tafkiri sect. One would agree with the view that it was time to call a spade a spade.
Today by virtue of our biased state-management Pakistan has been rendered into a highly polarised society rendering life short, brutish and nasty for Shias, Ahmadies and other minorities. And by the way it is not the outsiders who come and kill but Muslims within whose cheer leaders use the pulpit to declare this community or that eligible to be killed under the command of the religion. Only recently reports have come about of a Muslim man being dragged and burnt alive on charges of blasphemy in Punjab. This was much more like Ahmadies in Chakwal or Christians in Sialkot where villages and housing enclaves have been torched with inmates inside. It is really strange that a common crime takes ages to be solved, any horrendous blood bath such as Parachinar takes no time to make the law-enforcers reach the conclusion to pinpoint the enemy outside. Indeed, it is easier said than done.
Pakistan has allowed itself to be used, it has allowed its territory to be abused as no man’s land for sectarian wars, its people to serve as fodders for the guns of others. It is regretful to say with a sad heart that our leaders have no concept of what it means to be a sovereign country. National interests have no meaning for them, what matters most are self-dividends.
MAJ did not mince his words to spell out unequivocally that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state, that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state, and that all its citizens—Hindus will be free to go to their temples, Christians to their churches, Muslims to their mosques and others to their respective religious places. Every one irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender—will be equal citizen in the political sense.
In Pakistan religion was to remain a personal affair, neither the state would be involved in it nor would it want religion to interfere in the affairs of the state. In his Pakistan all its citizens were to be equal, each having total freedom to pursue his religion independently without encroaching on the rights of other citizens. He was clear that no one will be allowed to pursue sectarian agenda nor would anyone have the right to deny or interfere in the pursuit of other religions.
Regretfully instead of burying deep down Ziaist legacy of religious divide, those who currently monopolise power in Pakistan believe in the Goebbelian philosophy bequeathed to the science of state-management by Hitler’s unbeatable master of propaganda Joseph Goebbels. The method behind his madness has been the most favourite information management tool with all military and civilian dictators. However, it seems that the present incumbents have outdone them all in pursuing the Goebbelian notion that it is the absolute right of the state/government to supervise/formulate/manipulate public opinion to suit in its selfish interests.
The author is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.