Peace within and peace without – Part III The Fort

In South Asia on 24. July 2012 at 16:25

This series of three articles sets the focus on Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and the nation’s internal security threat. The first article will be about the western border, better known as Durand line, followed by an analysis on the Kashmir conflict and the sister nation in east and in the end on the internal security threats.

“Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large. We have no aggressive design against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our full contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service, August 15, 1947

The Fort

All nations in the process of creating a sense of nationhood experience communal violence. If the interest of those in power do not reflect the interest of the masses or segments of these then it’s a major trigger for such incidents. But the endurance and brutality of violence depends on how the state machinery and the social fabric tackle it. Does it encourage, neglect, ignore or incite it? Or is it a genuine concern from state and society to end such incidents?

Pakistan came into existence for the needed protection and development of the backward Muslim masses of Subcontinent. Despite being a majority Muslim state the cause of its creation was soon linked to a wish for an Islamic state. From that point onwards those in power have tried to make an identity so narrow that political, ethnic and religious difference in some way or other has caused dissidence in the eyes of the establishment.

Further have strongmen since independence tried to hide their failure with economic growth by making state more dependent on political Islam. Thus religion as understood by some rigid clerics was gradually incorporated into the constitution. When state is that much involved in one type of Islam that is of Islamist state – which itself is a controversial doctrine – then all deviant from this type of identity is hence an act against the state. This approach for six decades has caused much havoc, killing thousands of people and more do die due to lack of the writ of state. It has also given a law which itself discriminates and lacks the needed equality and principle for a sustainable state.

The law

In the case of a riot between two communities, the age old custom is to put the warring parts to negotiation table. Usually elders sit down and agree for compromises and seal the deal for no revenge. These forms of conflicts are a part of human history where territory, security for one’s own social group is first priority, and where the foreign element is shunned. In modern society the responsibility to protect resides in the state. The social contract is thereby that people are protected and gets welfare in exchange they pay their taxes and to their duty – rights and duties.

In such a state all citizens must be equal. Freedom of belief and expression of culture is secured in this state with the pretext that one set of beliefs or culture will not get overhand in comparison to others.

Pakistan has had three constitutions, the third and current of 1973 introduced numerous freedoms and rights in addition to a bicameral legislative, executive Government and independent judiciary. The Objectives Resolution (1949) was included in all the constitutions which demanded that laws should not be formed against the teachings of Quran and Sunnah. Now this term is not problematic in reality as the definition of teachings can be variable. But in the case of Pakistan those who interpret the teachings are rigid themselves, besides they do not represent the plurality even within Pakistani Muslims.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during his election (1970) sought the support of minorities as Hindus, Ahmadis and the major groups of Sunni traditionalists and Shia throughout Punjab and Sind. 20 of 81 legislators Bhutto got in National Assembly were Ahmadi, yet due to pressure from amongst other Muslim World League / Gulf States and conservative voices inland he declared the community non-Muslim in the Second amendment of 1974.

Bhutto’s hangman and successor General Zia-ul-Haq would during his reign through ordinances amend the blasphemy laws which would criminalize Ahmadis identifying themselves as Muslims (1984) and even the critical approach to some disciples of Prophet Mohammad which is a part of Shia doctrine (1980). Now law requires court procedure, but simply the offending part is enough for groups to get enraged in cases of blasphemy that both police and judiciary is helpless. For after all, what is offensive and what are derogatory remarks? Definition lies at the hands of culprits.

Clergy through the Federal Shariat Court (1980) has gained influence on the state apparatus, especially on the legislation and more importantly on the fundamental pillar of equality. Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has the power to declare any law passed by the legislation as un-Islamic and thereby void. If Parliament so willed to reform or revoke laws then FSC and Supreme Court has the full right to put hurdles as the definition power of what is Islamic or un-Islamic is not written and subject to their interpretation.

If a sect or a set of beliefs are un-Islamic to one group, then the group is in full right to find theological argument for its refutation of the said group’s beliefs. State should not be a part of it, this to ensure state objectivity and its fundament to treat all citizens equally. And if one group is not ‘correct’ in its belief, then other groups cannot take law into its hands to persecute them. The fundamental rule of a society is that to have security for your own beliefs, it requires security for the beliefs of others. This is not happening and is due to the so called ideology of Pakistan, which the few powerful has formed and which has damaged the many and the weak.

Its implications

State ideology has resulted in politically and ideologically motivated school curricula. In consequence Hindus long been portrayed as enemy and ‘jihadists’ as heroic warriors in school books. Reforms has been initiated but not implemented due to pressure from certain religious groupings. Provincial Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (ANP) has implemented some reforms while the heavy populated Punjab province (PMLN) has not done a bit.

Madrassah network operated by religious groupings are also a part of the reason for the deteriorating security situation. Many of these are funded by sectarian affiliated groupings and states in the Gulf region. In 1979 about 2.000 madrassahs existed in Pakistan, but with the huge proliferation and support from state and foreign states as Saudi Arabia during 80s and 90s the madrassahs are numbered to about 28.000. Only about 8.000 of these are registered.

Now the increase in madrassahs is due to three major factors. First being Zia-ul-Haqs policies for ‘islamization’ and his alignment with puritanical creed from Saudi Arabia. Money therefore channeled to support theologically aligned groups. In reaction Iran now a theocracy supported their affiliated groups. The entire Muslim community was internationally divided in this period due to Saudi-Iran rivalry, Revolution in Iran (1979) and Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), proxy war on sectarian lines and support for affiliated groups thereby increased.

Second factor was the US-Pak-Saudi sponsored ‘jihad’ against Soviet Union. Madrassah networks were used to send youth to fight with US backed weapons and ammo against communists. When war was over the youth had became of age and formed the notorious Taliban. The withdrawal of Soviet resulted in many groupings, one today known as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Jamaat-Ud-Dawa) which roams streets openly with their bigoted message.

Third factor is the failed policies to reform educational sector during 90s under the governments of Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) and Benazir Bhutto (PPP). Economic growth was not satisfactory and many of the poorest chose to send their children to madrassahs with free clothing, food and education (despite being only religious). About 10 % of Pakistani students enroll into this system. Pakistan is also among the nations with the most children who do not attend school about 7,3 million or where school is not affordable for students about 20 million.

Pakistani Army and its Intelligence which operates as a state within a state also have a hand in the whole state of affairs. Until recently sectarian outfits that target Shia Muslims have had free room to recruit and get financial assistance in the very heart of urban cities. This came under tense pressure following 9/11. Military has tried to eradicate such links, but at the same time it is keen to have allies among the many groupings in case of need. More is the use of and creation of separate militant groups who are used to fight specific targets which are considered a threat against the state. Again what is a threat or against the interest of the state is for Generals and intelligence agencies to define.


These factors, which are abnormal for a modern democratic state to have has all resulted in a sense of lawlessness within the framework of law and institutions.

Being an Ahmadi in Pakistan is equivalent to being a Jew of African descent in the heart of Berlin during the rise of Third Reich. Discrimination is all from barring Ahmadis from being recruited into the bureaucracy, military and other institutions to their mosques being razed if they contain calligraphy and minarets. Groups as Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC) are these days spreading pamphlets to shopkeepers on not to sell products owned by Ahmadi merchants. This affects the much loved mango drink produced by Shezan. This cultish bigotry and hate speech is a decades old tradition among the hardliners such as Majlis-e-Ahrar, Jamaat-e-Islami and even the Barelvi groupings. In periods as now when rhetoric’s are at its worst Ahmadis are even killed in different incidents.

Another major trend since 80s has been the sectarian affiliated violence. Since 1989 incidents of sectarian violence has been numbered to 2.631 and deaths to 3.904. These numbers are in addition to the about 14.000 civilians who has been killed in terrorist attacks since 2003. State do not encourage or support sectarian violence, but when such occur, the security apparatus (and ministry) point fingers at ‘foreign elements’ instead of really make an effort to fight groupings which openly boast of such incidents.

More so, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sippah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP/ASWJ) and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba  (dubbet Punjabi Taliban) all enjoy free hands and support within political circles and in the urban areas of Punjab. Their small but armed grouping threaten those who challenge their powerbase, be it judiciary or politicians who really want to eradicate these. It does not help that Rana Sanaullah Khan (PML-N), Law Minister of Punjab province freely roam with SSP chief during election rallies.

Recently attacks on Shia Muslims have again increased. ‘Punjabi Taliban’ in agreement with Pakistani Taliban cooperate both on common targets as moderate political personalities and those of so called deviant understanding of Islam. Hazara Muslims, who are in majority Shia Muslims has been the target of Afghan Taliban during their rule, and now are the point of attack in Baluchistan due to their distinctive Turko-Mongol looks. Be it doctors in Karachi, Politicians in Punjab, Tribals in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara in Baluchistan or simply being Shia Muslim they are all targets. Security forces, administrators and media are all quiet on this carnage.

This silence is due to the understanding of not mentioning anything which harms the state ideology and its faults. State choosing one sect and school of thought over the other do err in its judgment. But to keep the ‘Fort of Islam’ narrative in stubbornness the criticism is censored, so are deaths of Shia Muslims. In comparison, gang warfare and target killings in Karachi are covered in all media. People’s worries are shared and actions are demanded. This is a dual line which is selective on the value of human life.

Another effect has been the free flow of weapons and drugs throughout Pakistan. Weapons are that easy available that the heavy influx of these undermines state sovereignty as groups arms themselves. Gangs in Karachi, lashkars in Punjab, Taliban in tribal areas and paramilitary proxy groupings in Baluchistan all claim their writ, while the writ of Islamabad gets second rank.

Future discourse

As the current situation is unbearable the many institutions and different segments of society needs to cooperate on several fronts.

Pakistan’s constitution lacks equality because of the many exceptions and amendments to the many given rights. In such a sense brave politicians, from all over the political specter must cooperate to amend or remove ordinances, amendments and laws which are harmful for the fundamental principle of equality. In this process judiciary, clergy and civil rights groups involvement is also of high importance. Without this very principle at base, the country will continue to have first and second class citizens by law.

Education reform and strengthening the education facilities to the many students should be a high priority. The ministry should be chaired by a high profile politician to symbolize its importance. The budget allocations should reflect the dire emergency at this front. Again cooperation between political parties, both at centre and in the provinces is needed to swiftly and efficiently enforce this policy.

Security forces political cells, both informal and formal must come to an end. If a grand cooperation between the different political parties can cripple ISI and military influence in politics, then it will benefit all the parties and the people in future discourse. It is worth mentioning that officers from within the Army and ISI, retired and in service has hinted their own will for peace with India, cooperation with Kabul, cutting of defense spending and reduction of a politicized Military.

Law and order departments and institutions needs to cooperate for an overall and long term curbing of the free weapons flow within the state. That goes for extremist terrorist networks and the many gangs in urban cities. There will also be a need to challenge political parties and their cronies who carry weapons during political events.

Pakistan’s founder wanted peaceful relations with neighbors and world at large. At home front he wished a stabilized situation. His dream of an equal society in a democratic Pakistan is probably clearly stated in his address to the constituent assembly:

“… no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state … now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”

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