Abstract: In a recent survey conducted in Pakistan, students from the elite universities have vouched for a non-secular country. What can be the possible reasons behind such an outcome? Are there any quick-fix solutions for a stable Pakistan, not only politically but socio-culturally as well?
Undeniably, Pakistan as a nation-state is going through a turbulent period. The Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) acts of double-crossing the Americans in Afghanistan as unraveled by WikiLeaks have been wedded with the brusque comment of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron denting the credibility of the state itself. And all these are against the static background of the jihadi complex that persistently permeates the geographical territory. Even natural disasters of the worst kind are not sparing ‘the land of the Quaid’.
The civil-military administration has been found woefully inadequate to handle these matters; especially the harrowing floods and the strife at Karachi where mafia ridden political clashes disrupted normal life to a ludicrous extent.
In view of the above, encompassing the present as well as gory past, strategic analysts have even posited solutions which entail a balkanization of Pakistan. If Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is merged with Afghanistan, it essentially appeases the belligerent Pashtuns. Baluchistan and Sind may be declared independent. That solves the long term Baloch insurgency problem at least. And Punjab can become its own master and does not remain the political ruler of recalcitrant and thus reluctant ‘vassals’. After all, it is the inhabitants of Punjab who are numerically the majority in today’s Pakistan.
The fireball of hatred that was ignited at the Lahore Conference of the Muslim League in 1940 is now engulfing the very concept of two-nation theory itself. The cry of ‘Islam in danger’ has viciously transformed into the cry of ‘the land of Islam in danger’.
The jihadis whom ISI nourished till 9/11 have become the monstrous Frankenstein. Thus, it is neither the hubris nor the devious plan of a nation-state which coerces it to ‘hunt with the hounds and run with the hares’; rather it is a sheer existential compulsion which forces it to chart that path.
It may not be an altogether different matter that the present generation of youth in Pakistan is still asymmetrically bent toward the communal agenda; albeit to a slight degree. Ayesha Siddiqa, a renowned political analyst, recently conducted a survey to judge the ‘secular’ bent of mind of the Pakistani youth. She took a sample of about 600 interviewees from across Pakistan. All of them belonged to top universities of the land. And the question posed to them was rather direct: “Should Pakistan become a Secular state?”
Not unexpectedly though, 56 per cent of them went for the negative. This story has been carried in the August issue of Newsline, a premier magazine of Pakistan.
What is rather interesting is the fact that 44 per cent of the youth vouched for a ‘secular Pakistan’. The land which was created over thousands of corpses of both the communities, over the largest mass exodus ever recorded in History and over the emotions of millions could have definitely asked for less. The indications of this percentage are noteworthy.
Though the majority is still emblematic of the prevalent politico-social cacophony, the rising minority attempts to bear an insignia of ‘change’. One aspect is important here, however. The sample space which responded to the interview was from the educated group and that too from the ‘elite’ universities. Hence, they necessarily do not form a part of the actual ‘rising number’ of dissenting ‘enlightened’ youth of Pakistan.
Nonetheless, a fascinating fact which emerges out of this survey is that the education system of the country is yet to be completely sabotaged by the theocratic-military elements. Value based education imparting sense of justice, democracy, rule of law and secularism is probably still extant. Furthermore, the media in Pakistan is not an endangered species.
Talib Qizilbash, the online editor of Newsline, in a correspondence with the author exhibited overt enthusiasm when he asserted: “I did expect many to say yes to secularism; thinking that educated elites are more liberal and westernized and that they would see a majority of the problems in our country to be related to religion or some distorted version of it or the government’s promotion or manipulation of it, and that they would be cognizant of it”.
Nevertheless, he was quite pragmatic when he opined that may be the socio-political ethos of his people, the elite included, is dominated still by the historic legacy of partition of the sub-continent. The thought-process of the people of Pakistan is fuelled by the memories of the past, the rationale behind the two-nation theory and the consequent Indo-Pak hate cycle.
Is there any solution to this helical ascendancy toward anarchy, not only political but social and cultural as well?
Almost since inception, Pakistan has seen military leaders and in fact a decent number of them. If they did not possess a de-jure regime, then they had a de-facto control of affairs; at least the baton of maneuverability was in their hands. Critically speaking, no military leader had in essence acted as an emancipator for the nation-state. On the contrary, they had had the dubious distinction of pulling the state toward the ‘state of anarchy’ and in establishing an oligopolistic administration.
It is high time that the military as a corporate institution delivers to Pakistan a manumitter. Pakistan needs not a Mahdi, but a redeemer. The nation is overdue for a persona of the stature of Kemal Ataturk. The Turkish stalwart, apart from being a highly competent army officer to have thwarted the Allied advance at Dardanelles in 1915; ushered in a socio-cultural revolution almost single handedly in the land of Caliph.
In the years following 1926, Mustafa Kemal introduced a radical departure in Turkey from the age-old socio-political architecture of the Ottoman Empire. For the first time, there was a clear separation of religion from politics and civil life. Mustafa Kemal said, “We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and our legal institutions from the bonds which, even though they are incompatible with the needs of our century, still hold a tight grip on us.”
Such path-breaking reforms undertaken by Kemal made him earn the surname of ‘Ataturk’ or Father of the Turks.
The point of consideration here is whether the jihadi-military complex in Pakistan shall allow the germination of such a leader? Will the people of Pakistan be able to come out of the historical bondage that they are in since the coinage of the term ‘Pakistan’ by Rahmat Ali loitering in the corridors of Cambridge in 1933? Even if the witnesses to the pogrom of 1946-48 are not able to come out of the Indo-Pak hate cycle, will the post-colonial neo-generation seek to carve a fresh trajectory?
Well, the signs are there, at least in the above mentioned survey. Nevertheless, nationalistic moorings howsoever irrational, may continue to exist even after the coup d’etat of a hypothetical Kemal Ataturk; at least vis-à-vis India. In fact, in another survey by Newsline itself, an alarming 64 per cent of Pakistani students are reluctant to hand over the Jama’at-ud-Da’wah chief Hafiz Saeed to India. The hate cycle shall take some time to assuage but a socially, educationally and technically rejuvenated Pakistan will definitely be a stable Pakistan. And a stable neighbour would create a far more conducive regional temperature for India in particular and South Asia in general.
In the words of Pakistan’s slain leader Benazir Bhutto: “Democracy in Pakistan is not just important for Pakistanis, it is important for the entire world.”
However, birth of a Kemal Ataturk may have negative fallouts for South Asia at large. A strongly nationalistic Pakistan shall always try to spread its wings. But at least there will be a shield: that of rationality. Mustafa Kemal had the audacity to drive out the Italians from Anatolia, and still possessed the mind to accept a territorially limited Turkey. If an Ataturk reigns in Pakistan, then there shall be no Pervez Musharraf to tell any Benazir Bhutto:” We will put the flag of Pakistan on the Srinagar Parliament” (an excerpt from Bhutto’s revised autobiography, ‘Daughter of the East’)
At present though, the question posed to the majority student-citizens of Pakistan regarding their vision of a secular country would simply be a koan. To them, Quaid’s speech after independence urging his countrymen to accept all the nationalities and embrace all religions, probably if not necessarily, reverberates as mere rhetoric.