Pakistan Must Return to the Vision of Jinnah
By Nayyer Ali MD
The horrific massacre of over a hundred school children should be a wake-up call to the people of Pakistan, and to the Pakistani elites, that the Taliban must be destroyed. However, Pakistan has had many wake-up calls in the last eight years where terrible killings and terror acts have occurred and yet the army and the politicians look the other way and pretend this has nothing to do with Pakistan’s own misguided policies of the last 20 years.
It stretches even further back than that. This whole mess stems from the failure to follow the guidance of the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whose goal was never to create an Islamic state, but rather a state in which being Muslim would not be held against you. The fact that the Muslims of India, in spite of a handful of high profile exceptions, have done so poorly in socioeconomic terms since 1947, falling behind even the Dalits, proves how prescient Jinnah was. But he was also aware that the state of Pakistan had to be a state that served its people, not one that supported one religion or a particular sect of that religion.
It was that great liberal secularist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that first poisoned the well by trying to mollify the mullahs by inserting a clause in the 1973 Constitution declaring the Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims. Rather than satisfying the mullahs, it just whetted their appetite, and General Zia al-Haq, who overthrew Bhutto and had him hanged, then imposed his version of Islam on the nation.
It was during the 1980’s, while Zia was in power, that Pakistan got mixed up in the Afghan war with the Soviets. Instead of making it a national cause, the Pakistanis and Saudis and Americans decided to make it a religious cause, turning it into a Jihad, and drawing in Muslims from across the Arab world to fight the Soviets. The Soviet defeat gave the Pakistani establishment, both military and civilian, the notion that religious fanatics could make good proxies to fight Pakistan’s enemies and help it achieve its foreign policy goals. After the Soviets left, Pakistan, under Benazir Bhutto, threw its support to the newly formed Taliban in 1994, and helped it to overrun almost all of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, other groups were formed to carry out guerrilla attacks in Indian-held Kashmir in an attempt to get India to give up the province. At its height, India had to deploy 500,000 security forces to keep its grip on Kashmir, and in the process carried out awful human rights abuses against the Muslim civilians.
But after 9/11, Pakistan was forced to give up its blatant support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and US dislodged them turning over the country to Karzai and the forces that made up the Northern Alliance. But Pakistan was not ready to give up its strategy. While supporting the US on the one hand, it continued to nurture the remnants of the Taliban that had fled to Pakistan, and by 2006 the insurgency in Afghanistan had begun to take off again.
It was about that time that some of the Pashtuns in Pakistan in the Tribal areas began to coalesce as a Taliban group, but as a Pakistani Taliban whose goal was not to take power in Kabul, but rather in Islamabad. They briefly took hold of Swat Valley before being driven out, then have been in the Tribal areas where they have taken refuge. The problem is that the Pakistani army and politicians want to hold onto and support the “good” bloodthirsty fanatics that do Pakistan’s bidding in Afghanistan or Kashmir, but they want the “bad” bloodthirsty fanatics to stop terrorizing the people of Pakistan. This can’t work.
The policy of supporting extremism is a total failure, both in practical and moral terms. It has led to the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis, and kept a senseless war going in Afghanistan. Does anyone seriously think the people of Afghanistan would be better off if the Taliban somehow regained power? There is only one answer to this scourge. Those who oppose the state of Pakistan must be destroyed, unless they renounce violence and lay down their arms. But the Pakistani elite must realize that will only work if all extremists are treated the same. The Taliban must be dissolved, whether they are Afghan or Pakistani. No other route will end this carnage. The people of Pakistan must understand that this terrorism is not coming from the CIA or the RAW, but has sprouted from the common source of religious fanaticism that has been hurting Pakistan for decades. Pakistan must return to the vision of Jinnah, a modern nation-state that treats all its citizens as equals, and protects their human rights and provides for their dignity.