Pakistan’s changing ideological profile

Published: March 11, 2014
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

Pakistan’s current leadership is, perhaps, unaware that when it shows camaraderie and weakness towards dealing with militants, it is sleepwalking the country into a dangerous ideological and political metamorphosis that could tear it apart. This is not a false alarm. It is getting clearer by the day that the Taliban, with the support of radical mullahs, a few naive politicians and a ratings-addicted media are successfully manipulating the state’s ideological and territorial contours. If the government continues to pander to them, it will alter the very nature of the state and undermine the genesis of its creation.

It is not merely a choice between the government opting for negotiations versus a military operation. It is much more. Maulana Aziz of Lal Masjid fame and his Taliban mentors consider the Constitution inadequate. Democracy, for them, is a Western concept and Pakistani laws are Anglo-Saxon laws and un-Islamic. Democracy is too liberal a concept for them. They want the replacement of Pakistan’s constitutional structure, (if necessary by force) with Sharia. Their ideological mentor is Mullah Omar and they draw inspiration from the Afghan Taliban and would like to replicate their model in Pakistan. While no one can claim monopoly over religion, when it comes to the Taliban, you have to fall in line with their interpretation of religion, or else! Declaring democracy to be incompatible with Islam, they want to revert Pakistan back to a theocratic dictatorship of sorts about which they themselves are not clear as to how it will function. Their approach is no different from that of al Qaeda, when its leaders challenged their governments to be un-Islamic.

They ignore the reality that the largest Muslim states — Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia — have all institutionalised democracy and Pakistan, too, has been successful in strengthening its democratic form. If we go back a little, Pakistan itself was created through a democratic movement, but the Taliban and its allies threaten to reverse the process and take us towards a theocracy. It is not their love of Islam, but their desire to capture power that is driving them, even if it means converting Pakistan into a land of suicide bombers and zealot mullahs.

It is an ironic twist of history that while the present military is fully supporting the democratic process and allowing the civilian leadership to regain its constitutional authority, the government, instead of purposefully curbing militancy, is succumbing to the dictates of radical elements. Through a well-conceived plan, the Taliban assassinated Benazir Bhutto, followed it by murdering ANP leaders and several others, including from the MQM, to suppress the voice of moderate parties. Notwithstanding its inherent weaknesses, the PPP stands reduced to the status of a provincial party. The ANP has been pushed into the background and the MQM remains constantly under threat. The TTP is now throwing rings round the PML-N leadership and through a brilliant manoeuvre, succeeded in embarrassing Imran Khan by nominating him as their representative on the negotiating committee.

On the contrary, our political leadership appears devoid of national will and purpose in dealing with this hydra-headed monster. It has, at every stage, yielded to the militants — giving them legitimacy and respectability. The interior minister has been indiscreet, making casual and irresponsible remarks — that the Taliban be ‘invited to play cricket’ and ‘not all Taliban are against Pakistan’— and repeatedly insisting that they engage in dialogue even when they continue slaughtering our soldiers, murdering innocent civilians and spreading their network of sleeper cells. For many politicians, years of Pakistan’s involvement in exporting jihad in Kashmir and empathising with the Afghan Taliban has numbed their political sensitivities and they are not even conscious of their extreme drift to the right. This, perhaps, explains their attitude of going to any length to accommodate the militants.

A wave of Talibanisation has swept Fata, large parts of K-P and is spreading across the country. Nawaz Sharif is hoping to prevent the Taliban’s influence from spreading into Punjab. Insisting on negotiations despite repeated terrorist attacks seems to be a part of this approach. But this could be a forerunner to splitting the federation because Sindh and Balochistan will not accept Talibanisation. And as Ayaz Amir and others have warned, it will accentuate the cultural and political divide across the Indus and lead to the fragmentation of the country.

Sadly, the fact that is not being recognised is that it is the innocent people of Pakistan who are the victims of Taliban and a vacillating government. At the international level, there is not much sympathy with Pakistanis because people fail to understand what is going on and how trapped we are between ruthless militants and a weak national leadership. Many assume Pakistanis sympathise with the Taliban and fail to appreciate the courage of Malala who is standing up to them. Mosques should not be used against any sect or minorities for spreading hatred and venom in society. Surely, the clergy should make their contribution in reforming societies, but not use the pulpit to propagate politics and spread Talibanisation.

Incitement to hatred at any level has to be discouraged and punished by the state to send a clear message that virulent attacks on sectarian, religious and ethnic basis will not be tolerated — they are an attack on everyone. When those who spread hatred and sponsor suicide attacks are jailed as child exploiters and murderers, then perhaps, the writ of the state will be established. When we ask our Muslim brother countries to stop funding sectarian violence in Pakistan, perhaps then only we will be able to tackle terrorism at its roots.

The challenge the government faces is enormous. It will have to muster the courage to fight terrorism at its source, if Pakistan has to survive… how many judges, innocent civilians and military personnel need to die before that will happen is the question all Pakistanis are asking.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • wisdom wisdom
    Mar 11, 2014 - 11:24PM

    Respect for your thoughts and Pakistan has been ruined due to poor thinking ability of politicians. Most of the Mullahs are Hippocrates which are inciting people against anyone who is not agree with them . Our whole leadership is seemed to be very confused on every national issue. Everyone is playing politics and no one is thinking about Pakistan. State of Pakistan is in danger itself whose people are under attack but poor minded politicians are still making foolish decisions . I don’t understand how Taliban are making bombs of different types by their Islamic teaching (that they have) as they say that ISLAM is against democracy but bombing mosques is not against their SHARIA. HAZRAT MUHAMMAD (SAW) established state of Madina and did not enforced Sharia with force. The fact is that they are puppet of foreign powers which want to gain power by taking dictation from them and surely foreign powers dont want to see Pakistan on the map of world. TALIBAN has nothing to do with ISLAM as pornography and other things were caught from their hideouts during military operations


  • asif
    Mar 11, 2014 - 11:37PM

    The Lt Generals of the Pakistan Army should keep a keen watch on these developments. A lot is being purposely compromised by the “government” due to external influences and vested interests.


  • jamal
    Mar 11, 2014 - 11:46PM

    The present situation presents some very ripe opportunities for Generals waiting in the wings.


  • Mar 12, 2014 - 3:26AM

    Pakistan from becoming a modern progressive Muslim nation with freedom and liberty for all is fast becoming a laughing stock for Muslims worldwide as we Pakistanis are unwilling to confront the holybeardwalas who are making the nation into a land where mullahs can roam free and wild and the rest of Pakistanis the 99% be damned to suffer!


  • jamshed kharian-pak
    Mar 12, 2014 - 4:17AM

    pakistani english elits are not Clear what they want or are devoide of anything new ideas any more how to manage pakistan, on the front of pakistan’s national assembly is written in Arabic there is no god but Allah (read 1rst Qalima), but in side the house they speak english they talk about english laws (english laws are in force in Islamic pakistan!), the first language in private or higher education is english!!! where are we in england ontario or usa australia newzeland! pakistan of today there is no structure of it’s own! we Muslim Pakistanis are governed by foreigners speak & use foreign luanguage 90p dont understands! East Pakistan was destroyed by english elits, they are Bombing practicaly everywhere in Islamic pakistan, pakistani english administration capture pakistanis & handed over to usa etc!!! what?! yes as a Muslim i support Islamic Pakistan where our Islamic Culture is protected & prosper yes Islamic Revolution By Force of course! english is no more profitable for Muslims of Islamic Pakistan! pakistan need political Change, change of political system is need of the hour


  • Feroz
    Mar 12, 2014 - 9:03AM

    How is a Lt General who was part of the think tank of the saviours that constructed the Jihad policy in Kashmir and strategic depth policy absolving himself and his Institution of responsibility, putting the blame on Civilians who do not control Security or Foreign Policy. Only in Pakistan this is possible.

  • KH
    Mar 12, 2014 - 9:04AM

    I lost interest as soon as the writer concluded that PPP has been reduced to a provincial party because of Taliban. Sir I think you were outside Pakistan last 5 years I guess.


  • MSS
    Mar 12, 2014 - 12:05PM

    The analysis is 100% correct regardless of who is to blame. Time is running out for Pakistan to take the bull by the horns or the bull will give gory wounds to this nation.


  • pakiindi
    Mar 12, 2014 - 1:13PM

    What are we going to do now? There is no way out because we cannot import politicians, and also cannot export Mullahs.


  • Parvez
    Mar 12, 2014 - 1:49PM

    Although what you say makes absolute sense and needs serious thought by those in power today, the impression one can not but get, is that you ( your parent organisation ) is shifting responsibility. In layman’s terms its called ‘ topi kisi aur ka sar par rakhna ‘.


  • Mar 12, 2014 - 3:23PM

    Mosques should not be used against any sect or minorities for spreading hatred and venom in society. Surely, the clergy should make their contribution in reforming societies, but not use the pulpit to propagate politics and spread Talibanisation.


  • Avtar
    Mar 12, 2014 - 11:50PM

    Well reasoned position. One of the problems with Pakistani politicians and religious leaders is the rationalization of dichotomous diametrically opposite views. They do not see any contradiction in their position. On the one hand, Mullahs are despised by the people but the same people do not oppose the Mullahs’ view and thereby tolerate the misleading propaganda.
    Religious leaders and politicians vocally oppose the West and at the same time they or their family members have citizenship of Western countries. (None of them asks for Chinese immigration from visiting Chinese dignitaries!) On the one hand the Western concept of democracy is used when it suits them and oppose when it doesn’t. One cannot have it both ways. This is one of the dilemmas holding Pakistan decision makers back and keeping the country in a mess, it is in. Recommend

  • gp65
    Mar 13, 2014 - 3:08AM

    “Pakistan’s current leadership is, perhaps, unaware that when it shows camaraderie and weakness towards dealing with militants, it is sleepwalking the country into a dangerous ideological and political metamorphosis that could tear it apart”

    Excellent point. Was the military government under Musharraf aware about this exact same fact when it feted Ilyas Kashmiri? What about when collections for jihad were being openly collected from mosques under their very nose?

    What about General Zia who not only allowed but encouraged radicalisation of madrassas in order to find people to feed into Afghan jihad for which the army leadership was remunerated highly?

    This policy of being in bed with militants is not new and it was NOT designed by the civilians.

    The rest of your article of course is correct.Recommend

  • Sayed Haider
    Mar 13, 2014 - 4:33AM

    An excellent expose of our political leadership and their vested interest. It is also unfotunate that the leadership does not have the capacity or capability to lead the nation or resolve such complex issues that the country confronts. They are in power by monetary investment that was not legit to begin with. They have no moral or intellectual investment to lead the nation out of its crises. These leaders are safe with their bank ccounts in foreign banks and factories in various countries out side pakistan. So General Sahib, we are doomed to fail unless people rise to elect real leaders.


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