Pakistan’s Qadri Factor
The national capital Delhi continues to be clouded by confusion and lack of direction one week after the barbaric beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistani forces in Jammu and Kashmir. And this state of affairs is primarily due to the failure on the part of the present government headed by Manmohan Singh—and that, in turn, is due to the disproportionate influence over it by the habitual peaceniks, often foreign-funded—to comprehend the nature of Pakistan as a State. As I have written a number of times in this column in the past, Pakistan’s very justification as a State has been essentially as an anti-India entity in the sense that Muslims could not have lived in peace and prosperity in a Hindu-dominated India. Because, so the reasoning behind the partition of the country in 1947 went, Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate nations and cannot coexist. Though this two-nation theory is highly flawed, evident from the subsequent breakup of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh as a new country in the map of the subcontinent, the ruling establishment in Pakistan is still awed by it.
No wonder why in Pakistani textbooks of history, Muhammad-bin-Qasim, the first Muslim conqueror of the Hindu-dominated Sindh province in the 8th century, is declared the first Pakistani citizen. The story of the Arabs’ arrival in Sindh is counted as the first moment of Pakistan, with the glorious ascendancy of Islam. These textbooks teach, “The Muslims knew that the people of South Asia were infidels and they kept thousands of idols in their temples.” The then Sindhi king, Raja Dahir, is described as cruel and despotic. “The non-Brahmans who were tired of the cruelties of Raja Dahir joined hands with Muhammad-bin-Qasim because of his good treatment.”
After the subsequent consolidation of Islam in Iran and Afghanistan under the Ghaznavid dynasty, the Pakistani historians say, “During the 11th century, the Ghaznavid Empire comprised what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the 12th century, the Ghaznavids lost Afghanistan, and their rule came to be confined to Pakistan… By the 13th century, Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal… Under the Khiljis, Pakistan moved further Southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan… Many Mongols accepted Islam. As such Pakistan remained safe for Islam… During the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ disappeared and was completely absorbed in ‘Pakistan’… Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, yet except for its name, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity, for centuries.”
The moral of the story is obvious—unless its dominance and superiority is accepted, an Islamic Pakistan cannot have meaningful relations with a Hindu India. As long as this typical mindset of the Pakistani ruling establishment is not changed, India will remain their eternal enemy. In this typical mindset, and it is very important to note, there is no role for Sufism—a unique liberal trait of Islam in the Indian subcontinent that talked of peaceful existence of mutually influencing of all the religions, particularly between Hindus and Muslims. The ruling elites of Pakistan think that the identity crisis of their country will be best resolved if the country detaches itself from the civilisational and cultural ethos of the subcontinent and adopts the practices and the value system inherent in Islam prevailing in the Arab world, typified by the extreme variety of Wahabism in Saudi Arabia.
However, establishing this new identity for Pakistan is not proving to be an easy task. For, all told, the majority of Pakistanis is not prepared to severe its sub-continental Sufi legacy and embrace the one forced by the Arab-funded fundamentalists/terrorists and their backers in the Army. In my considered view, the chaos that one witnesses in Pakistan today—separatist movements in Sind and Baloochistan, disloyalty of the people living in North West Frontier province who do not consider themselves different from their fellow Pasthuns in Afghanistan, animosity of the so-called Mohajirs (migrants from North India), Shia-Sunni clashes and growing incidents of terrorism that have killed more Muslims than “Kafirs”—is essentially due to the unsuccessful quest for an Arab-identity for Pakistan.
It is in this context that one should view the emergence of a new factor in Pakistan today – the Islamic cleric Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri. He returned from Canada (where he holds his second citizenship, which is allowed in Pakistan) last month and now leading a massive protest movement. At the time of writing, he has brought Islamabad to a virtual halt and is demanding for a radical overhaul of the current political system. His demands include the dissolution of the Election Commission and ensuring the candidates standing for election pay taxes (it bears noting that the tax-net of Pakistan is almost negligible, covering about only 10 percent citizens). He is campaigning for the reformation of Pakistan’s “democratic system”. He is threatening to throw the “criminals” out of Pakistani politics. He has also made a call on dissolving the legislatures of the country, including the National Assembly, resignation of the President and Prime Minister, and the formation of a caretaker government. He is talking about creating a “peaceful” Tahrir Square in Islamabad.
Response to Qadri’s movement has been unimaginably huge. Nobody knows what will happen to him by the time these lines appear. As I write this on January 17, President Zardari has promised no violent suppression of his movement, but an arrest order against him has been issued. All told, Qadri is right when he says that the Pakistani politicians have failed the country. But the problem is the timing of the launching of his movement. After all, Pakistan will have general elections shortly and an interim government is about to be formed. So observers are surprised over his demand for the immediate resignation of the government, that too at a time when the Pakistani Supreme Court under the present chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has done, in collaboration with the Army, everything possible to kill democracy in the country—he ordered the other day the arrest of an elected Prime Minister over the allegations of corruption in stead of asking him to resign first from the post to face prosecution. Then there are questions over Qadri’s huge financial resources behind his movement.
These are legitimate questions; but Qadri has right credentials otherwise to lead Pakistan and reverse the country’s journey into chaos and disintegration. A religious moderate from the gentle Sufi tradition, Qadri abhors the austere Saudi-influenced radical Sunni Islam. He has published a weighty tract of 600-page fatwa against terrorism in 2010. He says, “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts. The world needs an absolute, unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism”.
He also denounces those who try to justify suicide bombings by claiming Muslims who carry out such operations are martyrs destined for paradise. “They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim umma (Islamic community),” according to him. “No, they become the heroes of hellfire and they are leading towards hellfire. There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad (holy struggle).” He has a different view on blasphemy—the subject of so much controversy in Pakistan. In one video clip he is shown speaking in English (in Lahore, he had studied in a Missionary school and taught Law in the Punjab University for many years) where he says: “Whatever the law of blasphemy is, it is not applicable on non-Muslims. It is not applicable on Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims minorities. It is just to be dealt with Muslims”.
Qadri is a “sheikh ul-Islam”, one of the highest positions in Islamic jurisprudence, and also the head of Minhaj ul-Quran, a global Islamic group that runs educational institutions in Pakistan and Britain. Incidentally, Qadri has knowledge of Hindu scriptures, the Gita in particular. He had visited India last year and was a guest of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. In Ahmedabad, he had a two-hour televised address on the essence of Gita and Koran. He had advised Gujarati Muslims to shed their “sense of victimhood” and march on.
Obviously, Pakistan needs a guide and leader like Qadri to resolve the country’s identity crisis, the mother of all its present woes. However, one wishes he did not go the way Anna Hazare went in India—noble goals but bad timing and wrong company. He needs to be reminded of the adage—the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
By Prakash Nanda