By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
The slaughtering of over 140 children by the Pakistani Taliban is a grim reminder of how religious rights have no faith in democracy and its order. That they can kill any one at their own will and the authorities are left to react once they have done their ‘duty’ shows how powerful have they become so far. Further, this reflects that the war on terror has failed on all account. Just a day before this incident, we saw the infamous Sydney show where a gunman kept hostage to so many visitors of the café keeping the authorities guessing his motives and resulting in killings of a few of the hostages. The killing spree of the gangs and thugs in the name of religion continues world-over and it is a matter of great concern as at the end of the day it is the common person who is becoming the victim of their hate mission.
Pakistan’s incident is a sad reminder of the existing situation there and the biggest crisis the nation faces after its birth in 1947. It is true that idea of Pakistan was conceived by those who wanted a political space for Muslims in which a majority including Mohammad Ali Jinnah were secular to their core belief but immediately after the death of the first generational leadership in Pakistan we have witnessed military rule, martial law and anarchy in the street. Still till 1980s, Pakistan had a better economy than India and in many things it was ahead including both our traditional sports of Hockey and Cricket. It produced some of the finest teams. In Hockey it actually replaced India since independence while it was a far better team till 1980s than the Indian cricket team.
The point I want to mention here is that there is no point in discussing whether Pakistan was created rightly or wrongly as we can produce argument to prove both the points. As an Indian passport holder, I cannot preach all the time that it was wrong decision. When you are amidst a political movement, you need to take a decision which all of us discuss years later. For any decision there are no one single situation responsible but a series of events. How can the condition of Muslims, their poverty and marginalization, communal riots not justify partition? Contrary to it, the creation of Bangladesh and continuous killings of innocent Muslims and minorities in Pakistan clearly indicate that as a national state it failed miserably probably because Jinnah never wanted a theocratic Pakistan. He was dreaming for a Pakistan of modern ideas which could provide leadership to Islamic countries like Turkey.
Pakistan today is not of the dreams of Jinnah. The military dictators killed the constitution and vision of Jinnah and handed it over to Islamic fundamentalists. When the people rose up against the martial law regime the military leaders got legitimacy through Islamisation process in the country. The long presence of Soviet forces in Afghanistan gave handle to Pakistan’s military regime to extract maximum in terms of money and arms from United States and other Western countries as each one of them was pitched against Soviet supported Babarak Karamal and Nazibullah governments there. It is ironical how the ‘biggest’ and ‘best’ ‘democracies’ in the world use religious rights to fight against communists, Americans needed ‘religious rights’ and hence creation of Taliban to counter. Zia ul Haq, the vilely dictator found it absolutely useful to fulfill his agenda of ruling the Pakistan through Islamisation process which provided his regime a legitimacy. Pakistan fought in between which constitution should be used to run the government. In less than sixty years of its independence, it reflected pathetically on the political leadership how they virtually created extra-constitutional forces to counter the opponents and legitimized themselves. Zia shamelessly went ahead ignoring international protest by hanging his opponent Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan slowly slipped into Islamic anarchy. Apostasy became the biggest weapons in the hands of the Islamic fanatics to threaten all those who tried to reason with people politically. Minorities were hounded and threatened for speaking their voices and believing in their faith. Zia’s Islamic goons were up in the street to threaten them most of the time. Blasphemy law was the best way to target them, grab their properties and convert them to Islam.
Zia’s death resulted in forces of democracy gaining ground with Benazir Bhutto becoming the prime minister. Internal fight for power among the political parties always strengthened the army which continues to use Taliban and Kashmiri Militants as the trump card against the opponent. It is a well-known secret that the entire Kargil operation was done by General Parvez Musharraf without even providing any information to his prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Though Musharraf was a ‘forward looking’ general yet he did play different games to compete with political parties. He was forced to retire from Pakistan and political process brought Nawaz Sharif back to the country from his long exile in Saudi Arabia. Asif Ali Zardari who was the president has to pave the way for new Muslim League government which gave lots of hope but soon the entire hopes evaporated. Pakistan is in deep turmoil now and if not things are not brought under control now the dirt might spill beyond its boundaries.
Those who justify Islamisation process of Pakistan did not understand that it would turn the table on them. That initially the entire process actually eliminated the religious minorities and their politics. Later, it claimed Ahmedis who the Islamists said were not Muslims at all and have no right to read Quran and enter into the mosques. The number of Hazaras or Shias killed in terrorist violence in Pakistan is exorbitantly high. Pakistan today is facing the biggest crisis and it is the creation of its state apparatus which suffered from the ‘power’ of a ‘Hindustan’. We did not call it Hindustan as officially India is called Bharat but Pakistani Muslim leadership in their attempt to justify the creation of a Islamic state always termed India as ‘Hindustan’, a term which is now being used by the Sangh Parivar and its propagated media in high decibel. They also narrate the similar stories of victimhood in partition that since Muslim got Pakistan, Hindustan must be for Hindus.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the champion of a secular society, for whom the problem of Hindus and Muslims is not cultural but political in nature and therefore immediately after independence he talked of a Pakistan which could be owned by everyone irrespective of their faiths but then when you take to a wrong idea, it will create wrong precedence. Pakistan’s successive regimes used the religious thugs for their political purposes and the result is today the state is feeling helpless in front of them. Whether it is Hafiz Sayeed or any one else, Pakistan cannot watch helplessly and allow them to spew venom against India but then we have our own Hafiz Sayed. In democracy, they say, the ultimate judge is the people and hence if people have elected them, hence we will have to listen to them and consider their ‘opinion’ important.
It is good that Indian Prime Minister offered his condolences to victim of Peshawar massacre of children. The gesture of schools moaning was great along with show of solidarity by Indian Parliament but it is time we need to ponder. After the slaughtering of these innocent children in Lahore, Indians are in ‘preaching’ mood. Every channel is ‘guiding’ Pakistan of ‘war against terror’. Unfortunately all of them keep quiet when similar things are happening in India. Pakistan’s extra-constitutional apparatus is a fodder for right-wingers here in India who are also bulldozing our constitution and threatening. There is no difference between a Muzahid leader speaking in Pakistan and spewing venom and the Shiv Sena leader or a Hindutva loudspeaker speaking the same way. After this government came to power these loudspeakers are roaring and have become louder.
Pakistan is paying the price of the flirtations of its leaders and military regimes with the religious rights. India that way was fortunate enough that immediately after independence its leadership understood this and opted for a secular India. Democracy may have lots of follies and we complain about them still people have got that small window to use their right which the theocracies and military regimes do not offer. Theocracies result in fascist tendencies. India and Pakistan opted for political democratic models but without challenging the existing social norms. It would not be possible for political democracy to succeed in environment and culture of theocracy that push for majoritarian tendencies and consider every minority as a ‘dissent’ and dissent as a ‘threat’ to the country.While we grew as political democracy but not really matured as political parties did not have power to sideline the religious rights. We too started appeasing the religious rights and ignoring the dangers of majoritarian communalism. World-over, minorities suffer from identity crisis but in our societies the majorities always believed that minorities are gaining at their cost. South Asia is suffering from that and each community has to act responsibly because a majority community in Pakistan may be a minority in India or elsewhere and similarly a majority community in India is a minority elsewhere. Whatever we do to our minorities’ impact their psyche elsewhere resulting in deep-rooted prejudices as well as threats of intimidations.
South Asia has to grow by secular democratic process. The imposition of religious values and religion by state is dangerous. Can we imagine a South Asia with common text books, common history books and common social studies ? Is it possible ? It could be possible if we want to make our children better human being and not through religious agendas of our particular thoughts. Yes, a common thread could be humanist principles of calling a spade a spade. We all know that all religion in the world talks of common brotherhood. Obviously none talks of sisterhood but at the same point of time, we should know that all the religions despite their ‘greatness’ also resulted in holocausts and killings of innocents. How can we justify an Islamic nation if we oppose a Hindu Rastra? If we oppose a Buddhist nation, we cannot support a Christian theocracy. For every theocracy the minorities are the biggest obstacles in their long term agenda. Theocratic ideas are nothing but fascist ideas and that is why these days it is not just the state but its tame surrender to extra constitutional forces is giving rise to fascist elements in our countries.
If Pakistan is feeling helpless to Hafiz Sayed then we too do not have a great record. All those who are crying to finish Christianity and Islam from India are roaring and roaming free in the country. It is this tendency of majoritarianism that gives rise to intimidation and threat to minorities and dissent. Such tendencies often hijack the democratic process and put the society to the hands of religious rights who are afraid of modern ideas so they will speak against girls education. They will speak against love marriages. Yes, they will hate everything that is modern which they will term as ‘westernization’ while enjoying everything that the western societies produced. Culture becomes a handle for them to beat the opponents. If we compare these fascists in India and Pakistan, we can find commonality among them. They threaten the minorities with dire consequences. They justify violence against women and blame the women for violence on them and they use the vulnerability of the state apparatus.
India and Pakistan can learn a lot from their miserable failures. It is not a time for preaching. It is time to act. Promote secular liberal values in your lives. Promote that kind of polity and encourage people to people contact. As long as we support violence in the name of religion, we will not succeed. Pakistan and India should focus on their poor, on their women and work towards removing those hurdles which are the bane for our society. We must work for a secular Pakistan in the very similar way as I say, we must strengthen a secular India. How great would it be when the polity in the both the countries is secular and children learn common history and culture. Weakening of secular forces in our countries has already harmed our societies a lot and if we wish our children should grow, it is time, we must work for secular humanist societies otherwise the religious fascists are ready to kill you anytime without having any remorse and remember they always have a book to justify their mindless violence.