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Land of Hades: Pakistan in Throes of a Struggle With its Soul

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The author is an air warrior, military historian and writer on warfare and military history

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Background

Pakistan which means the land of the pure was carved as a Muslim majority state from the subcontinent. It consisted of two parts West and East Pakistan. Both regions professed the Islamic faith but that was about all that was similar between the two regions. There was a wide disparity between the two regions and the western people generally looked down on the east who are mostly Bengalis as something inferior. Many referred to them as small black men. The west Pakistanis tried to shove Urdu down the throat of the Bengalis who had a very ancient culture. The net result of all this was that an uprising took place in the east and Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory collapsed like a pack of cards.

The newly formed state of Bangladesh was carved out on 16 December 1971. Bangladesh was born in bloodshed, anarchy, and penury. But now there is a change and is relatively prosperous with a per capita income and GDP that is double of Pakistan. In contrast, Pakistan is in an economic crisis and Pakistan PM Imran Khan has accepted it.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the founder of the Pakistani state and it is a well-known fact that he was a very secular individual and many of his speeches and writings are available, where he clearly stated that it is not the job of the state to propagate religion and everybody in Pakistan whether it be a Hindu, Sikh, or Christian will be free to follow their Mazhab(religion)

Jinnah died in 1948 and after him, the leaders who followed instead of trying to build on his ideas decided to go in for an extremist philosophy. A notable man in this transformation was Zulfikar Bhutto. He brought in prohibition and also declared the Ahmediyya community as non-Muslims. He also started talking about the Islamic bomb.

Bhutto was followed by two generals Zia ul- Haq and Parvez Musharraf. It is no credit that Zia got Bhutto hanged on the fictitious charge of murder and Parvis Mushrush was complicit in the murder and assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Both the generals had no political base of their own and the only way they could continue in power was to pander to extremist philosophy. It was during the period of these two generals that extremism began to take roots in Pakistan and it was nurtured by the Pakistan army.

The Pakistan Supreme Court on three occasions justified military rule under the Doctrine of Necessity. This was mostly at the point of the gun and there's no guarantee that this clause will not be used again.

Under the rule of the Pakistan army, extremism flourished in Pakistan so much so that the Pakistan army gave a safe haven to Osama bin Laden, a mere hundred kilometers from Pakistan capital at Abattobad. The notorious terrorist was discovered by the Americans and shot dead.

.Pakistan also began to cater to extremist policy and the major powers of the world the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations not only put Pakistan on the FATF grey list for terror financing but the EU parliament also took away many trading rights and privileges because of its persecution of the minorities.

Further drift

The extremist philosophy has taken roots in Pakistan during the last three decades of military rule. I've already pointed out the main reason for this was the Pakistan army's wish to remain in power. It also browbeat the Supreme Court to justify military coups and subsequent rule under the Doctrine of Necessity. Pakistan is the only country in the world to have made use of this doctrine in modern history.I will be the first person to say that most of the Pakistan society is not interested in extremism but there is a minority that is not only vocal but violent which is hijacking the Pakistan state and the government and the army have been sympathetic to them, these people have flourished.

One of the most contentious laws in Pakistan, which has been condemned by human rights organizations all over the world is the blasphemy laws that were made stricter by General Zia-ul Haq. These laws have made death a mandatory punishment. The net result of all this is extremely bad; so bad that recently on second December 2021, a Sri Lankan Buddhist national is lynched to death. The Lanka parliament has condemned the murder and the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan himself said that it is a shameful act but these are only words because as it stands 85 of about 100 people in the world on death row for Blasphemy are from Pakistan.

What is Imran Khan going to do about them? even those who have been acquitted of the blasphemy charge and then sent abroad; the men who made these allegations have never been punished. So there is no chance that despite the announcement by the Pakistan government and people who have been arrested for this crime anybody will ever be punished. It has never happened so far and I don't see how it is going to happen now.

The other affected group is women in Pakistan, where the notorious Hooded ordinance was promulgated by Zia-ul Haq. This ordinance took out crimes against women like rape from the purview of the Pakistan penal code and put them under the Sharia. One need not go into details about it but it is well known that under sharia, allegations of rape can never lead to conviction because there is a requirement for 4 eyewitnesses and the evidence of one woman is equal to half of a man./In a shocking incident, a Pakistani girl who was making a video on Pakistan day at the Memorial in Lahore was surrounded by 400 men, stripped naked and assaulted. The police arrested over a hundred people but there's been no follow-up.(https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2021-08-18-they-beat-her-with-shoes-and-stripped-her-of-her-clothes---hundreds-of-men-brutally-assault-a-pakistani-girl.S1xseW35lY.html)

Now we have the news that 4 women were stripped naked and paraded publicly for a petty crime in Punjab.(https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/4-women-stripped-paraded-naked-on-allegations-of-shoplifting-in-pakistan-2641404)


Present situation

The entire blame rests at the door of the Pakistan army which even now is going ahead with negotiations with the terrorist organization Tehrik-e Taliban, Pakistan (TTP). Many of their men who had been charged for crimes have been released and Pakistan leadership led by Imran Khan is desperately trying to placate them. I

Another policy of Pakistan is the dream of trying to match with India. I do not see why have such a dream because India has a GDP of $ 3 trillion to Pakistan's $430 million. Pakistan also has been relying on China and earlier the United States to fight their battles but they must know that in the 1971 war despite all the friendly noises by President Nixon( no wonder he's called tricky Dick) the United States did nothing. China also never came to the help of Pakistan in the wars 1965, 1971, and 1998. It is a fallacy of the Pakistan state thinking that China is going to fight its battles with India. Pakistanis must be aware that China and India have an annual trade of $100 billion this is not going to evaporate in a minute. In contrast, Pakistan's trade with China is a paltry $20 billion

Epilogue

I feel very sad when I write all this but we must remember that writers like Voltaire inspired the French revolution; so the writers have to call a spade a spade. There are many in Pakistan who are in complete agreement with me. I have received so many emails from individuals in Pakistan who do not agree with all that is going on in Pakistan. They form part of the silent majority because the Pakistan army is backing extremists and the extremist can do anything to the extent of even killing an opponent.

Pakistan has to eschew the politics of populism. The people must ask why out of 56 Muslim countries in the world Pakistan is the only country asking for the expulsion of the French ambassador and on that ground, massive agitations are launched.

I am a great optimist and I am pretty certain that it will not be long before the majority of the Pakistanis who are against all this nonsense will unite and throw out the army. Once that is done even the ship of the Pakistan state will stop sinking. Pakistan will develop like a vibrant Muslim state and must try and follow the message left by the great Turkish leader Kemal Mustafa Ataturk and MA Jinnah. One must keep in mind that Jinnah was born a Hindu and only converted after his father converted to Islam, I think this will happen but if it does not, Pakistan will perpetually become the land of Hades.

More references

https://criterion-quarterly.com/the-hudood-ordinances-of-pakistan-and-the-denial-of-justice.

https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1128&context=cilj

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345045595_ZIA-UL-HAQ_AND_THE_RISE_OF_RELIGIOUS_EXTREMISM_IN_PAKISTAN

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