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Islamisation

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A definitive history of Pakistan

Pakistan’s best-known historian, Ayesha Jalal, is back with a new book: The Struggle For Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics. This book essentially synthesises much of Jalal’s earlier work that by all accounts is rich and comprehensive. In short, the new book presents an overview of Pakistan’s progression as a national security state, a lop-sided federation to its current existential woes fuelled by state-sponsored Islamisation. Jalal acknowledges that the country’s Islamic identity was not enough to hold it together and the continued cycles of military rule turned it into a polity that cannot provide full citizenship rights to all Pakistanis.

This emphasis on citizenship is an important perspective that Jalal has brought forth to a global reader, who views the country as an epicentre of terror and blowing itself as a jihadi state. As the premier scholar on the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jalal refers to the origins of Pakistan as a “truncated … moth-eaten and mutilated state” in the most peculiar circumstances of 1940s and the breakdown of power-sharing schemes that were deliberated in that decade. Lord Mountbatten’s ominous sentence marked the start: “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are putting up a tent. We can do no more.” And even today in many parts of the country, the tent exists without a responsive state structure. Sixty-seven years later, Pakistan is a country of 200 million people with no local governments that can assure accountable services (including security) to its citizens.

Pakistan’s insecurity is rooted in that phase when it was widely projected that it may just collapse under the burden of its inherent contradictions. Over 40 million Muslims stayed in India; its two wings were 1,000 miles apart and the task of creating a nation-state was even more onerous given the diversity — ethnic, linguistic and religious — of the new state. Nearly 25 per cent of Pakistanis in 1947 were non-Muslims (today only four to five per cent are). The perennial debate on Pakistan’s national identity has not ended. […]

The Perils of Reporting in Pakistan

The toll of Taliban attacks is measured in more than bodies.

Stay in the news business long enough, and you become hardened to brutality. But the reports from Pakistan overnight hit me hard on Tuesday morning. How to comprehend such evil? One hundred forty-five dead at the Taliban’s hands, more […]

December 16th, 2014|Rumi|0 Comments

Zia’s unfinished business

My latest for Express Tribune

The ghost of General Ziaul Haq and his drive to turn Pakistan into a theocracy continues to haunt us. Under immense pressure from the courts and clerics, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is seemingly undertaking a purge of politicians who may not be ‘righteous’ under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

These articles emanated from the desire to create an Islamic legislature where only the “sagacious”, “righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen” could hold public offices. How can we define these vague terms, which are open to interpretation and abuse?

Articles 62 and 63 also suggest disqualification if a candidate is deemed to be against the ‘ideology of Pakistan’. Sadly, that very term was coined under the influence of Jamaat e Islami and General Yahya Khan’s comrade Gen Sher Ali contributed to its adoption for cynical reasons. History is a witness to Gen Yahya’s own conduct and the utter disdain he had for his Bengali subjects. The genesis of this term therefore is self-serving and purely hypocritical. Soon, the same junta trumpeting the ideology of Pakistan led an army action against Pakistanis and the events of 1971 remain a blot on our collective conscience. […]

April 7th, 2013|Pakistan, Published in the Express Tribune, Religion|8 Comments