|Welcome to Pakistan!|
First posted: 28 October 2012
A former Lord Mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, was given almost an entire page, by Bradford's Telegraph & Argus, to state his views on the state of Pakistan today.
I can sympathise, at least in part, with the general tenor of what Ajeeb has to say about Pakistan. However, there is much that is wrong with his analysis - primarily his urge to point the finger away from the Pakistani people itself.
Ajeeb laments the fact that for over "nearly seven decades" Pakistan has suffered from "long periods of army dictatorship" as well as from "the gradual growth of extremism and terrorism". And, as usual with Pakistan and all the Arab states, the finger is pointed in all sorts of directions other than inwards - mainly away from 'the people'. As with the Arab states, all sorts of people and events are blamed, from American imperialism and military dictators (in cahoots with the West) to the Taliban and drone attacks.
Yet even if, say, "British colonialism" and all the rest were really the essence of pure evil, you'd think that after all these years the Arab states and Pakistan would have finally got around to rectifying at least some of their own problems and, who knows, brought about a modicum of democracy. Perhaps all this finger-pointing at others is actually part of the problem. After all India was a colonial country which became the biggest democracy on the planet.
What is it about Pakistan and the Arab states that they can't seem to get their shit together? Are they children? Or is it partly the problem that Westerners, mainly Leftists and liberals, treat them as children (in their racist 'anti-racist' way)?
Ajeeb is keen to speak about the military dictatorships and the 'political elites' making things bad for Pakistanis generally. However, why does the Pakistani populace allow these things to happen in the first place? In Europe we've had revolutions, mass activism and wars to get rid of dictatorships and elites. This has also happened in many African (non-Muslim) countries. It also happened in the United States. In some cases, vast changes for the better (sometimes for the worse) occurred over very short periods. Yet Ajeeb appears to suggest that 'seven decades', despite the problems, is not that long a period to sort things out in Pakistan. The American and French Revolutions were relatively short affairs.
So I would say that Islam - not the 'extreme Islam' of the Taliban, or of the ‘Pakistani terrorists’ - itself must have at least a part to play in the hell-hole that is Pakistan. After all the peoples of Pakistan, not the state itself, have been Muslims for over a thousand years. (The first Muslim invasions of India began in the 7th century. That is, I'm talking about the Muslims of India.)
The perverse thing now is that the contemporary Islamists of Pakistan, and elsewhere, claim that they will sort out all (just like socialist revolutionaries) of Pakistan's problems. They will certainly get rid of Ajeeb's 'political elites' and their 'selfishness'. They will end corruption, perhaps. They may even get rid of 'army dictatorships'. But what will they put in their place? A regime that is not corrupt, sure, but one that is very much worse. Not a military dictatorship: a totalitarian Islamic regime which will impose full sharia law; just as General Zia (plus his 'military dictatorship') did in the 1970s.
Many people, especially many Westerners, would prefer corruption and even military dictatorship to the hell which a totalitarian Islamic regime would impose.
I know it's not very fashionable amongst liberals, Leftists, Labourites, T & A journalists and even Conservatives to point the finger at Islam itself. However, the Pakistani people (or population) has been Muslim for over a thousand years. Pakistan was created, in 1947, as a 'state for Muslims'. (Not much fuss is made about this, by Leftists and liberals, as they do in the case of 'the state for Jews' – Israel.) And that state has existed for 'nearly seven decades'. Surely Islam has some part to play in all this. And to say it hasn't is like saying that Nazism had nothing to do with the state of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. (Whatever bad things the Germans did or believed at this time wasn't really anything to do with Nazism.)
Alternatively, you can argue, as groups like the UAF/SWP do, that Islam is really an religious epiphenomenon of the much more important and fundamental (material, not religious) things which have affected Pakistan, such as colonialism and continued Western imperialism.
Alternatively again, you can argue that it's all about Pakistan's culture, not about Pakistan's religion. The problem is that Islam is a cultural phenomenon. Not only that: Islam has been a cultural phenomenon for over a thousand years for many of these people. After such a long period, this convenient and neat distinction between Pakistani culture and Pakistani Islam cannot amount to much - or indeed to anything.