By Shireen M Mazari
seems to have become the hallmark of societies and
people all across the globe. Here in Pakistan, we
have been seeing the continuing negative fallout
of intolerance, with some political representatives
giving full vent to their abusive and violent nature.
Only recently, abuse was heaped on the journalist
community by a cabinet member within the hallowed
halls of the Parliament itself, reflecting the scant
regard we have for this institution.
A more dangerous intolerance is reflected in the
blasphemy law which continues to be used to harass
and abuse the minorities. Presently, we in Islamabad
are witnessing the horrible case of the victimization
of the Christian nursing community of PIMS. Already
an underpaid and mistreated profession, they now
have to face the wrath of the law breakers of the
Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine. Shame on all of
us who claim to be enlightened and moderate Muslims
for our inability to support the beleaguered nursing
community. Should we not be more vocal and visible
in defense of all our citizens?
Of course, more often than not, intolerance rears
its ugly head in a clumsy fashion that tends to
have an impact contrary to the one being sought.
This was clearly demonstrated in the bizarre attempt
to sabotage Ayesha Siddiqa's book launch. The result
was to make everyone aware of the publication and
the book sold out! Additionally, it allowed the
author to gain a certain political credibility by
declaring that she had to leave the country because
of threats even though her departure was pre-planned
in connection with her book launch in England.
However, it would appear that it is not just Pakistan
and its Establishment that is overcome with intolerance.
The International Institute of Strategic Studies
(IISS) of Britain, which also gets partial funding
from the British government, seems to have acquired
a rather intolerant approach in terms of accommodating
journalists whom Dr Siddiqa regards as hostile!
That is why the correspondent of The News, who had
the nerve to publish a story disliked by the doctor,
found his invitation to the IISS book launch revoked.
As Dr Siddiqa is prone to conspiracy theories and
has recently written about "co-opted intellectuals”,
the manner in which the IISS has been behaving towards
Pakistan makes it abundantly clear that it has a
strong anti-Pakistan agenda -- clearly reflected
in the recent nuclear proliferation dossier which
has already been critiqued for its bias and non-academic
approach in an earlier column. This would lead one
to believe that while there are the "co-opted
intellectuals” of the state, there are equally
a large number of self-termed liberal "co-opted
scholars” linked to the state's detractors,
especially external, who provide funds and access
to this group.
While many aspects of this notion of "co-opted
intellectuals” can form the basis of an interesting
and relevant debate both at the national and international
levels, as a former university academic who spent
over 16 years teaching at post-graduate level in
Pakistan, I take issue with the claim that most
of our universities have never stopped free debate
-- and certainly at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU)
where I spent most of my university career, debate
was most heated during the oppressive regime of
dictator Zia. Ironically, when I challenged in the
High Court an ordinance promulgated by the general
as chancellor of QAU, it was the anti-Establishment
co-opted intellectuals who were heading the Teachers'
Association at the time and who chickened out of
officially taking up this issue legally -- leaving
it to "opportunists” to bear the burden
of the legal option just as we were left to defend
and post bail for the QAU teachers arrested or targeted
in the so-called "Pamphlet case”.
That is why the good doctor should have used her
time as a visiting teacher at QAU to continue and
expand the tradition of free debate instead of walking
away from her teaching commitments, sometimes midway
through a course (DSS, Spring 1998). But then, teaching
in itself is of little interest to Pakistan's external
detractors and hence to their "co-opted intellectuals”.
Which brings me to the fascinating issue of linkages.
Linkages amongst people and between people, institutions
and events allow one to discover patterns emerging
in what initially seem like random events. If one
understands the linkages, one will begin to understand
why, if Dr Siddiqa's data is being challenged by
the Establishment, it is members of the Establishment
that have to accept the responsibility. While I
am still in the process of reading the book, Dr
Siddiqa has cited sources for most of her data --
as opposed to her assertions which are simply assumed
(which has led to General Hameed Gul's legal action)
-- and if one looks at the footnotes, the sources
are primarily from the Pakistan military. So if
retired officers, who held sensitive positions of
power, are giving her "erroneous” data,
should Dr Siddiqa be faulted or does the fault lie
with her sources that would be taken as reliable
by any academic? At the end of the day, given that
foreign and Pakistani intellectuals/academics are
co-opted by one source or another -- be it the home
Establishment, anti-Establishment forces, foreign
detractors and so on, if one is to accept Dr Siddiqa's
notion of co-option -- can there ever be any genuine
scholarship distinguishable from agenda-driven works
in the realm of the highly value-laden field of
political science, beyond mere theorizing?
Consider the following interesting facts: The naval
establishment, under its Chief Fasih Bokhari, inducted
her into the navy on deputation as Director Naval
Research in 1998. After our nuclear tests, Fasih
Bokhari called many of us writing in support of
these tests to his office and told us the nuclear
tests by Pakistan were a mistake. It was the same
Fasih Bokhari, who went to an IISS seminar -- yes,
the IISS again -- in the Gulf and critiqued Jinnah
while declaring that the creation of Pakistan was
a mistake. While Javed Hashmi has been incarcerated
for much less, Fasih Bokhari has suffered no such
penalty for what he said.
Dr Siddiqa, as she herself had informed me at the
time, also acquired foreign funding for bringing
together Pakistani and Indian naval officers in
what I thought was a rather clandestine interaction
before the dialogue process had been initiated.
But she found support from within the Pakistan Navy
for this venture. Therefore, why was there a complete
silence and acceptance of all these happenings by
those who are now pointing a critical finger to
Dr Siddiqa's external linkages? And why should Dr
Siddiqa feel the need to accuse other intellectuals
and academics in order to establish her credibility?
Intolerance works both ways -- and is present both
in Pakistan and in the so-called secular US and
Europe -- and in all its forms it should be unacceptable
because it undermines acceptance and respect of
"the other”. The difference is our intolerance
is condemned while their intolerance has become
kosher, because it targets Muslim states and polities.
Yet everyone is co-opted in one way or another:
only the choice of co-option is the individual's
-- with domestic forces (of one type or another)
or with external forces.
(The writer is director general of the Institute
of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The