Monday, August 26, 2013

The Telegraph

Front Page > Opinion > Story


Zia-ul-Haq: religious force
What’s wrong with Pakistan? By Babar Ayaz, Hay House, Rs 599
When a veteran Pakistani scribe like Babar Ayaz titles his work What’s wrong with Pakistan?, it is bound to invite curiosity — especially in India, owing to striking similarities in thought, views expressed and information furnished. The book begins with “the genetic defect of Pakistan” and meanders through the turbulent vicissitudes of the nation. From the “thrust of Pakistan movement, exploitation of Islam, Zia’s brand of Islam; unbridled growth of mosques, madrassahs and Jihadi groups; the Pakistani army; living under Indian fear; policing for the US; Pakistan-China enduring relations; the rising source of religiosity between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan; Baloch insurgency; the lost colony of Bangladesh; Pak-Iran and Pak-Afghan relations”, the book takes up an array of issues. The candid views are backed by accuracy and credibility, making the book a fresh and balanced assessment.
The book begins in August 1997, on the eve of the golden jubilee of Pakistan, during an interview with the BBC World Service, in which the author maintained that “although the Muslims were a small minority in India, they ruled the sub-continent for almost 650 years, and it never occurred to them that they were a separate nation. However, after 1857, when it came to democracy, where numbers matter, the fear of being ruled by a Hindu majority suddenly started haunting the Muslim elite. And after centuries of convenient amnesia they realized that they were a separate nation”.
Dutifully, but grimly, he points out that “it is an unfortunate aspect of our reading history that while the Muslim invaders and revivalist writers such as Iqbal are raised sky-high by the Muslims, those who resisted the Muslim invaders are heroes of the Hindus and other natives of India. But... history is full of Muslim invaders who conquered India or a part of it from other Muslim rulers. So who is the hero in this case?” However, he says that what united all shades and creeds of the pre and post-1947 Muslim society of Pakistan was “the idea of majoritarianism”, making India the alibi for the constitution of a common cause amongst them.
Owing to an extra dose of religion and religious identity, it did not take long for Pakistan to become a “security state” instead of a “welfare state”. To draw strength, the rulers soon started to “exploit religion”. When things failed, the army stepped in, and when the army failed, a hardcore “religious general”, Zia-ul-Haq (picture), stepped in, turning the army into a religious force. Shuja Nawaz, the Pakistani defence expert, aptly underlined the religious tenor of the Pakistani army: “786, these three numbers represent the numerological equivalent of the opening sentence of the Quran, ‘Bismillah-er-Rehman-er-Rahim’, as this became the identification number for the General Head Quarters of the new Pakistani army”. The number was emblazoned on all gates, posts, and vehicles “as a reminder” that this was the “army of a Muslim country”. And it was left to Zia-ul-Haq to set the process of converting a professional army into an Islamic army — in which was adopted the new slogan, “Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabillillah” (Faith, Abstinence and Holy War, in the name of Allah).
The result was there for all to see. Close association with the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s followed by cross-border terror and fundamentalism — created, nurtured and operated with the help of the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani and Kashmiri jihadis across the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir — led to a penetration of Islamic extremism into the Pakistani military, much deeper than was anticipated. Unsurprisingly, “Pakistan is becoming one of the main centres of global jihad”.
The situation went from bad to worse when the Pakistani army — which was practically the ruler of the state — started “appeasing and using the most dangerous non-state actors — militant Islamists”, thereby outsourcing the foot soldiers’ job to them without losing man power. Zia also managed to create “significant numbers of the army personnel... actively involved in terrorism” resulting in an early retirement of many young captains and majors to join the jihadi groups. Pakistan became a highly weaponized country that created “granaries for training these jihadis”. It became a “lucrative business and less dangerous for the army” to “redirect” these religious fighters towards Indian Kashmir. And the show, to this day, goes on.
The author identifies six rounds of jihad (against, and in, foreign soil) undertaken by Pakistan since 1947: 1. Liberation of Kashmir, 1948 (sending in a private army of tribal people); 2. Operation Gibraltar, 1965 (covert war); 3. Conquering the Bengalis, 1971 (by Yahya Khan); 4. Afghan Insurgency, 1978-1989 (a joint venture with the United States of America); 5. Kashmir Insurgency, since 1990 (by turning the Afghan war assets towards the official enemy, India); 6. Kargil, 1999 (after the plan was presented to Nawaz Sharif in 1999, he allowed it without taking into account the serious ramifications).
The author quotes credible sources to point out that the “Pakistani army is connected with several of the 104 jihadi organizations which still comply with the norms set by the army.” And giving credence to the enjoyable book is a quote from a speech by the Pakistani army chief, Parvez Kayani, on Saturday, April 20, 2013, at the graduation of the 127th Long Course of the Pakistani Military Academy, Kakul: “Let me remind you that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Islam can never be taken out of Pakistan. However, Islam should always remain a unifying force.” Implicit in this speech is the concern that Islam is no longer succeeding in unifying the nation. Hence there must be a target, as a counter-force, which will ensure that the Pakistani army unites the nation. And that unifying counter-force is India.

No comments:

Post a Comment