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Toxic narratives

Raza Rumi

Al Qaeda’s plan for the region will succeed if Islamabad does not take stock of the deep penetration of its ideology into the folds of Pakistani society 

Clerics representing the Taliban listen to a reporter Clerics representing the Taliban listen to a reporter

The charade of talks being played by Pakistan’s major political parties, media and perhaps sections of the permanent establishment stands exposed. The prime minister, after giving a hard hitting speech in the Parliament, adopted the path of appeasement and appointed a committee to negotiate. The Pakistani faction of the Taliban movement – Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – appointed a few sympathizers as its nominees. The charismatic star Imran Khan was one of them, but he refused to negotiate on behalf of TTP despite advancing their case for the last few years. With no time frame and unclear terms of reference the so-called talks have foundered on the rocks of grim reality: the Pakistani state continues to give space to violent operations of TTP.

In the past two weeks, there have been more than 17 attacks of various kinds sometimes accepted by the TTP and at other times disowned. But groups that have owned the attacks are part of the network or affiliates of the loose network comprising TTP. There are at least three dozen small and big groups that are linked to the TTP. Many are off-shoots of state sponsored jihad outfits but have turned rogue or gained some measure of autonomy. This is why the key question that has dogged the talks is if any agreement between TTP appointed negotiators and the government would be accepted by all and sundry. The emerging consensus in the country is that it would not hold and violence would continue.

A chilling example of this syndrome was the admission of Mohmand Agency Taliban that last week they had killed 23 Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers who were kidnapped from Shongari checkpost in the tribal region in 2010.  A day later, a valiant Major of Pakistan Army was also killed. The brazen attacks on the law enforcement agencies have continued despite the much celebrated intent of the TTP to talk. The strategy of talking to ‘our own people’ as popularized by Imran Khan and other right wing parties therefore is backfiring. The Sharif government vacillating between the noises of tough action and appeasement scared of backlash in the Punjab as well as losing the right wing vote bank does not help matters either. Sharif’s dilemma is related to his popular base in the Punjab which his party does not want to lose at any cost. But there is more method to this madness. […]

February 25th, 2014|Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments

On secularism, Jinnah and Pakistan

jinnah delivering a political speechMy contribution for Jinnah Institute’s secular space

What are we fighting for? What are we aiming at? It is not theocracy, not for a theocratic state – Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Sixty-three years after the country was created, the term secular remains the most contested and misunderstood political concept in Pakistan. Mention the word secular and there is a litany of protests. The right wing thinks that secularism is an outright blasphemy of sorts, while the liberals hold that the genesis of Pakistan was through an anti-secular process. It is amazing that this happens in a country which was founded by a genuinely secular leader of the subcontinent. Until the 1930s, Jinnah was an undisputed ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity and even in 1946 he was willing to make political bargains within the context of a secular and decentralized India.

If anything, the Indian National Congress despite its rhetoric of secularism failed the ultimate test of being accommodative of the Muslim demands. Here ‘Muslim’ was not a religious identity but a broad banner for a community’s cultural, economic and political interests. It would be naïve to suggest that there was no religious motivation in Pakistan’s creation. In fact there were many who interpreted Pakistan as an Islamic country. However, Jinnah was categorical in his stance. There is enough evidence to suggest that he shunned the notion of a theocracy. Yet the contradiction of creating a country for Indian Muslims posed a challenge to the new state-project. For instance Jinnah is said to have told Raja Saheb of Mahmoodabad as to whose Shariah would Pakistan follow. Iskandar Mirza’s version is even starker when he quoted Jinnah: “Shariah? Whose shariah? No. I shall have a modern state.”
Whatever doubts on Jinnah’s intentions or political rhetoric employed by the Muslim League, Pakistan was meant to be a polity where state was separate from religion. Jinnah was unequivocal about the vision of the state when he spoke on the floor of Pakistan’s first constituent assembly on August 11, 1947: […]

October 22nd, 2010|History, India-Pakistan History, Pakistan|13 Comments

The Speech of Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949)

This is a historic speech and a document that posterity will re-examine. Seldom has one piece of legislation caused so much trepidation. Thanks to my firebrand friend Usman Qazi, I got to read this speech that I had heard about from many people. Here is the  text of the address of  Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949).

Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (East Bengal : General) : Mr. President, I thought, after my colleague, Mr. Bhupendra Kumar Datta, had spoken on the two amendments on behalf of the Congress Party, I would not take any part in this discussion. He appealed, he reasoned and made the Congress position fully clear, but after I heard some of the speakers from the majority party, viz, Muslim League Party, the manner in which they had interpreted the Resolution, it became incumbent on me to take part in this discussion.
I have heard Dr. Malik and appreciate his standpoint. He says that “we got Pakistan for establishing a Muslim State, and the Muslims suffered for it and therefore it was not desireable that anybody should speak against it”. I quite agree with him. He said; “If we establish a Muslim State and even if we become reactionaries, who are you to say anything against it?” That is a standpoint which I understand, but here there is some difficulty. We also, on this side, fought for the independence of the country. We worked for the independence of the entire country. When our erstwhile masters, Britishers, were practically in the mood of going away, the country was divided – one part became Pakistan and the other remained India. If in the Pakistan State there would have been only Muslims, the question would have been different. But there are some non-muslims also in Pakistan. When they wanted a division there was no talk of an exchange of population. If there was an exchange of population, there would have been an end of the matter, and Dr. Malik could establish his Pakistan in his own way and frame constitution accordingly. It is also true that the part of Pakistan in which Dr. Malik lives is denuded of non-Muslims. That is clear.
Dr. Omar Hayat Malik: On a point of order, Sir, I never said that. He has understood me quite wrongly.
Mr. Omar Hayat Malik: I never said that Pakistan was denuded of non-Muslims. My friend on the opposite has misunderstood me. […]

February 12th, 2010|governance, History, India-Pakistan History, Islam, Pakistan|4 Comments

Revisiting the concept of Jihad in Islam

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)*

The word ‘jihad’ is derived from the root juhd, which means ‘to strive’ or ‘to struggle’. It denotes the exertion of oneself to the utmost, to the limits of one’s capacity, in some activity or for some purpose.  This is how the word is understood in Arabic grammar.

Because fighting against one’s enemies is also one form of this exertion or striving, it is also sometimes referred as jihad. However, the actual Arabic word for this is qital, not jihad. Fighting with one’s enemies is something that might happen only occasionally or exceptionally. However, jihad, properly understood, is a continuous action or process that animates every day and night of the life of the true believer. Such a person does not let any hurdle affect his life, including desire for gain, the pressure of customs, the demands of pragmatism, lust for wealth, etc.. All these things serve as hurdles in the path of doing good deeds. Overcoming these hurdles and yet abiding by the commandments of God is the true jihad, and this is the essential meaning of the concept of jihad. There are many references to jihad, as understood in this way, in the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. […]

September 23rd, 2008|India, Islam, Islamophobia, South Asian Literature, Urdu|5 Comments