Moderation and Pakistan
29 February, 2012
By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
It requires larger than a man to admit one's follies. Let's try as a nation to rise to those heights and confess that we did err in "over-Islamising" Pakistan and that too quite unwarrantedly. This has unfortunately given birth to religious polarisation and sectarianism tearing at the very fibre of our national unity. There was no need for it at all. We were Muslims before and would remain Muslims ever, come what may. In that we are also Shias, Sunnis, Hanfis, Shaafis, Malikis, Hambalis, Deobandis, Breillevis, Ahl-e-Hadis, Wahabis, Zikris, Bhais, Bohras, Agha Khanis, etcetra, and will remain so always. No amount of persuasion or persecution will make anyone change his/her beliefs or religious practices and rituals that one has been following since childhood. Why surfaces these trivialities now which were never a subject of discussion or dissension before? I am talking of the pre-Pakistan period. Everyone was leading a life of harmony alongside with others. Muharram, which has now become the most contentious and polarising issue used to be solemnised by all with equal reverence and solemnity. In most cities of the pre-partitioned India Sunnis' Tazias were at times larger and more beautifully made than those of Shias. Even Hindus were seen putting up Sabeels in Lahore and other cities on the Muharram processions' routes.
Here in Pakistan too every thing was fine, displaying the spirit of tolerance and cordiality. Then, in 1977 ZAB rigged the elections and was in no mood to oblige the opposition parties by holding the re-elections. The parleys between the two protracted for months and the undercurrents of the general unrest in the country started surfacing here and there. Opposition mostly comprising of Islam Pasand parties (Nau Sitaray) found it most opportune to rally the masses under the banner of Islam against Bhutto otherwise known for his secular and socialistic modern views in the orthodox circles. Agar thori si pi laita hoon to kisi ka khoon to nahin peeta. (If I drink a little, I don't drink anyone's blood). What could be a better slogan than Nizam-e-Mustafa to get to the hearts of the naïve masses? Though the whole scheme of affairs was a political ploy than a sincere effort to serve the cause of Islam, yet it worked. However, at the same time it sowed the
seeds of suspicion in the mind of the Muslim minorities as to which Nizam-e-Mustafa would be imposed upon them. Echoes of "Nizam-e-Mustafa laikin Intizam-e-Murtaza" type of slogans soon started reverberating all over the country. Though the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement faded out after a while, yet the sectarian aftermath left behind by it haunts us till today. Innumerable sectarian organisations and Lashkars sprang up all over, some with clear-cut manifestos of decreeing the opponents as Kafir and Wajabul Qatal. Bhutto gone and Zia coming gave further impetus to the Islam pasand parties and the process of Islamisation of Pakistan gained further momentum. The last nail in the coffin of the enlightened moderation was driven by the rise and fall of Taliban in the neighbouring Afghanistan and its spill over in the bordering provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan, whose sizeable Pathan population resides in places as far as Karachi spreading the germs of extremism and sectarianism in those places as well.
The Islamisation trend is imperceptibly making inroads in our all walks of life. The younger generation who has no knowledge of our Indian past is being brainwashed unwittingly. The so called intellectuals feel it their patriotic duty to not only rewrite the history but also encourage us to divest ourselves altogether from our pre-partitioned past to the comical extent of even denying ourselves the pleasure of listening to the pre-1947 songs like Awaz day kahan hai – Duniya meri jawan hai and thousands more like it sung by the artistes born, bred and buried in what is now Pakistan! But since they sang these songs in the pre-partitioned days of India, we disown them. We refuse to do anything with the Purshpura of the past (Peshawar) the capital of emperor Kinishka or try to remember it as the most beautiful city of the flowers of its time. We have Takushilla (Taxilla) but hardly visit its ruins and stupas or take pride in the fact that once upon a time it was the largest seat of leaning in the world. We take off at a tangent from the day Muhammad bin Qasim landed in Sindh and tag ourselves as an unidentified appendage to the Islamic – nay - Arabian history and heritage. Unfortunately, our Arabian heritage also stops dead at 600 AD and we know nothing of its pre-Islamic period. We just ignore it and divest ourselves from it by calling it Zamana-e-Jahliat.
Jahliat or whatever, there must have been people living there in some form of society and being governed by some system. There must have been noblemen, chieftains, kings, rulers, men and women of distinction to have left some mark on the Arabian peninsula. When there were significant and highly developed civilizations in the region and around like that of ancient Babylon (Iraq and Mesopotamia) with its hanging gardens, Damascus of Syria – the most ancient city of the world, the Pharaohs and Cleopatra (Egypt, Sudan and Nile) with their pyramids and sea going flotillas, Syracuse, Darius, Nowsherwan-e-Adil (Iran–Persia) with their rich culture and literature, going thousands of years back, why do we stop at the dawn of Islam in Arabia and do not wish to know or try to research our any past there? Or, is it because that Emperor Bikramajit of Hindustan wielded some influence over the Arva-sathan (land of the horses), which with the passage of time and due to the South Indians' pronouncing 'v' as 'b' got transformed into Arbistan (Arabia). A horse is called 'arva' in Sansikrit and Sathan is the 'place' as Paki-stan, Afghani-stan etc. or as in Punjabi 'thaan'. Otherwise too historically there were strong ties between the Hind, Hindis and the Brahmins and the pre/post-Islamic Arabia. Holy Prophet (PBUH) is said to have been treated by a Hindi Tabeeb. Imam Hussain asked for going to Hind as one of the negotiating terms with Yazid at Karbala. Husaini Bahmins (Brahmins) are found in India even today, who observe Muharram fervently each year and correctly in the month of Asadh (Hahd).
Agreed, Muslims had little future in the independent India, particularly after the British departed from the scene. Therefore, Quaid ably aided by Iqbal did them a great favour by carving out a separate homeland for them, which offered them vast economic opportunities. However, Pakistan was not created to be an orthodox religious state, which unfortunately the present creed of the politico-religious parties is trying to make it. Father of the nation wanted it to be a dynamic and progressive country wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed. Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. Wherein we shall not kill each other on the basis of sect or religion and shall observe Enlightened Moderation in our all-mutual dealings. Let's, therefore, rise to the occasion and try as a nation to make Quaid's dream of real Pakistan come true.