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A country lost

Published Aug 26, 2012 02:02am

IT began with the flag. A strip of white slapped on, but separate and away from the sea of green — the problem was there from the very outset: one group cast aside from the rest.

A more prescient mind would have thought to put the white in the middle, enscon-ced in a sea of green, a symbolic embrace of the other.

But why blame the flag?

It began with the founding theory.

A country created for Muslims but not in the name of Islam. Try selling that distinction to your average Pakistani in 2012. 1947 was another country and it still found few takers.

Pakistan’s dirty little secret isn’t its treatment of non-Muslims or Shias or the sundry other groups who find themselves in the cross-hairs of the rabid and the religious. Pakistan’s dirty little secret is that everyone is a minority.

It begins with Muslim and non-Muslim: 97 per cent and the hapless and helpless three. But soon enough, the sectarian divide kicks in: Shia and Sunni. There’s another 20 per cent erased from the majority.

Next, the intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafi and the Ahl-e-Hadith. Seventy per cent of Pakistan may be Hanafi, five per cent Ahl-e-Hadith.

Then the intra-intra-Sunni divisions: Hanafis split between the growing Deobandis and the more static Barelvis.

And finally, within the 40 per cent or so that comprise Barelvis in Pakistan, there’s the different orders: the numerous Chishtis, the more conservative Naqshbandis and the microscopic Qadris.

In Pakistan, there is no majority.

There’s the terror that every minority lives in: non-Muslim from Muslim, Shia from Sunni, Barelvi from Wahabi, secular Sunni from rabid Barelvi — the future is now and it is bleak.

Some mourn the passing of Jinnah’s vision and seek solace in his Aug 11 speech. But there never was an Aug 11 version of Pakistan: it was stillborn, killed off by the religious right as soon as it was articulated.

The 1954 Munir report has been forgotten by most, but it contains some of the most poignant remarks on Pakistan’s search for an identity and peace within.

“The Quaid-i-Azam was the founder of Pakistan and the occasion on which he thus spoke [on Aug 11, 1947] was the first landmark in the history of Pakistan. The speech was intended both for his own people including non-Muslims and the world, and its object was to define as clearly as possible the ideal to the attainment of which the new State was to devote all its energies….

“We asked the ulema whether this conception of a state was acceptable to them and everyone of them replied in an unhesitating negative, including the Ahrar and erstwhile Congressites with whom before the Partition this conception was almost a part of their faith. If Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi’s evidence correctly represents the view of Jamaat-i-Islami, a state based on this idea is the creature of the devil, and he is confirmed in this by several writings of his chief, Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder of the Jamaat.”

But if the ulema hated Aug 11, surely they loved the Objectives Resolution, the death knell of a pluralistic and tolerant Pakistan that followed a year and a half later?

Not quite. Again from the Munir report:

“The Quaid-i-Azam’s conception of a modern national state, it is alleged, became obsolete with the passing of the Objectives Resolution on 12th March 1949; but it has been freely admitted that this Resolution, though grandiloquent in words, phrases and clauses, is nothing but a hoax and that not only does it not contain even a semblance of the embryo of an Islamic State but its provisions, particularly those relating to fundamental rights, are directly opposed to the principles of an Islamic State.”

The Objectives Resolution denounced as a hoax? To stand on a street and claim that in the Pakistan of today would be to invite a lynching. And yet, that’s exactly what the ulema of the 1950s said, on the record, in full view of the public and history.

Confused? You should be.

The contortions and convolutions of the religious right in Pakistan are enough to make the head spin. But that’s not really where the story of how Pakistan has arrived at the miserable place it has is located.

The religious right and its more rabid cousins have come to dominate Pakistan not because they are more coherent, united and organised.They have come to dominate Pakistan because theirs is the only discourse being peddled.

You fear for the 11-year-old girl accused of blasphemy, you weep for the dead Shias of Babuser Top, you blanch at the relentless persecution of Ahmadis, you shiver at the thought of life as a Hazara in Balochistan — but in all of it, you know there’s little that can be done.

A declining state unable to protect its most precious assets; a social contract between society and state that was never quite signed; dark forces long unleashed in society that have never really been challenged — who can stand up and how?

A general speaks out, a police chief stands up, a politician denounces intolerance, a preacher reaches out to other denominations, a television deity urges introspection — if any of that and all of that were to happen now, today, would it really help recover the vast spaces afforded the religious right and their monstrous counterparts since the birth of the experiment we call Pakistan?

The future is now. The future is theirs. The future belongs to the right.

You and I, we’re just living here on their sufferance.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Twitter: @cyalm