Don’t let mullahs take over Pakistan

Published: December 28, 2011
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While the mullahs in Lahore were waging jihad (at least through their hateful speeches) many progressive Pakistani and Indians were praying for peace. PHOTO: REUTERS

I had goosebumps reading the recent news that several criminals gathered in Lahore under the banner of the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and aligned themselves with the Pakistan Army. Was it a conspiracy to malign the army, I wondered. Who could be behind this?

You see, I have no sympathy for characters like Hafiz Saeed who have eroded Pakistani society and have pushed it in a state of profound crisis. Our health, livelihood, the quality of our environment, our social relationships, our ideology, economy, and politics have all been affected. It is a crisis of intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions; a crisis of a scale and urgency unprecedented in the 65 years Pakistan has existed.

I called a progressive friend (a leading journalist) to share my concern and at least rhetorically, he had gone back several years – suggesting we need a rag-tag army of people like Hafiz Saeed to counter threats from India. My friend had a fit when I suggested that India is not a threat.

Undoubtedly, India has the potential to become a regional hegemony and Pakistan must protect it’s sovereignty, independence and dignity. But these wayward mullahs who have managed to drown the voices of reason and rationality are rapidly destroying our country. With petrodollars supporting tribal and Wahabi influence, Pakistan’s social structures and behaviour patterns have become so rigid that this country can no longer adapt to changing situations.

But I am lucky to have many other friends who are willing to give peace a fighting chance. While the mullahs in Lahore were waging jihad (at least through their hateful speeches) many progressive Pakistani and Indians were praying for peace. A prominent Pakistani activist Beena Sarwar wrote on her Facebook wall:

There were a dozen people over at our place for nihari this afternoon, watching football (!!). We turned off the TV at half-time and sat in silence together to Pray for Peace Between India & Pakistan.

Here is my response to the Facebook posting mentioned above:

Beena Sarwar my friends know that I am not a “praying type” so I didn’t pause between Jets and Eagles game today to pray  Had I taken a moment of silence I would have said the same lines that many of my tribe have been saying for centuries: “Dear God, I have come to the conclusion you probably don’t exist, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that any one view I hold may turn out to be mistaken, however unlikely the odds seem. So if you are there, if I am wrong will you please slap some sense into my people in India and Pakistan. Would you please explain to them that what divides them is so tiny compared to what unites them. Please give my friends on both side of the borders, courage to find the similarities instead of accentuating differences. Please give them the strength to negate the narratives of division crafted by those with hegemonic intentions. Please give them the intellectual integrity so they can recognize the good in each other. Please God – if you really have all the power that everyone assigns to you, will you please let South Asia unite in my life time. I don’t ask for much God- let my people travel and trade freely. Learn and entertain openly. Work and innovate collaboratively. Please God, if you are there….

I am glad to have people like Beena – but unfortunately she is an exception and not a rule. I am concerned about Pakistan’s outlook because there is an eerie uniformity of opinion. Even those who are tolerant, progressive and democratic are willing to condone mullahs. Whereas growing civilisations display endless variety and versatility, those in the process of disintegration show uniformity and lack of inventiveness.

Unless Pakistan’s progressive and democratic forces are willing to take on the retrogressive elements, we will concede our right to opinion, education, and a way of life that is unacceptable to the mullahs.

Fundamentalists will prohibit freedom of expression and use all coercive apparatus to crush opposition. Education will be discouraged, and whatever little is allowed, will be subverted by distortion of curricula. You can argue what is new – it has always been the case. It is the intensity that will change. We are not talking about tribal areas. This monster is already in cosmopolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore.

I want to simply point out that religious conviction and religious doctrine have contradictory effects. Some people are motivated by their religious beliefs to challenge oppressive social systems and oppressive relations in the world. At the same time, organised religion and much of religious doctrine is used to reinforce the oppression of the masses of people, to preach submission before the established authorities and their oppressive rule. In Pakistan, rulers have used religion to oppress masses – and we must not empower these mullahs to oppress us any further. As Lenin said, every reactionary order is in need of two functions, the hangman and the priest, and they go hand in hand and complement each other.

So unless you are ready to lock up your sisters and daughters and throw away reason and rationality, you must fight back. Without an iota of doubt these monsters will destroy Pakistan to the point where you will not be able to recognise this country. It is not enough that Jamaat-e-Islami does not win votes – their ideology has hijacked our entire parliament, perhaps even our entire nation. Unless you clean up your offices, your neighbourhoods, and your educational institutions from tyrannical views, Pakistan will not survive.

Stay on high alert! Don’t let proponents of the past take over your beautiful cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Ibrahim Sajid Malick

Ibrahim Sajid Malick

A Pakistani-American writer, technologist, and social entrepreneur. Malick graduated from New School for Social Research with a masters degree in anthropology. He holds several technology and management certifications.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.