Last week, a high ranking US emissary visited Pakistan to determine the future political contours of the country. With stick and carrots, the players were asked "to behave."
The Europeans have also not lagged behind in suggesting to the people of "independent" Pakistan how they should choose to run their country. We thought that neither colonialism nor new imperialism had any place in the modern world where countries are sovereign and people are free to determine their political destiny on their own. But we were wrong especially in relations to Muslim countries, whose 80 percent rulers are chosen directly and indirectly by Washington, London and Paris on a regular basis. King of Jordan, President of Egypt, emirs of Emirates, rulers of Kuwait, military dictators of several African and Asian countries, even the rulers of the largest Muslim country, have the approval of the two former colonial powers and the only remaining superpower in the world today. Obviously, their priorities are set by the master and not by those in whose name they claim to govern.
Pakistan is not an exception. Its rulers, majority of its politicians, its top Bureaucracy, often its business people, even its religious leaders and intellectuals have directly or indirectly served the interests of the three axis of power. Those who tried to pose their independence showed their allegiance to either Saudi Arabia or Tehran. With a powerful army and all pervasive intelligence whose top officials have often received huge gifts in various forms from mysterious sources in Washington, London, Paris or elsewhere, the rulers have more than once manipulated elections and the political structure to the advantage of their masters. Knowing the weaknesses of their political leaders, many in the bureaucracy and law enforcement agencies have used their power to their full advantage.
An intelligence officer from India's famous Research and Analysis wing boasted in a private meeting of some supporters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad how successful he was in recruiting Pakistanis to his mission through supplying them with wine and money. The opposition in general has not lagged behind in giving false hopes and misleading people into movement that have weakened Pakistan. Conspiracies, murder, imprisonment and bribery are not too uncommon in the land whose state religion places a higher emphasis on honesty and integrity. Regionalism, ethnocentrism, tribalism, feudalism and materialism are the driving forces behind the social, economic and political machines of the nation created to make the equality, justice and liberty under the guidance of God almighty the cornerstone of its every day life. Many politicians and movements take pride in the number of murders they have presided over the years and many leaders boast their record in inspiring thousands to become martyrs. In the land of Islam, most religious leaders compete with each other in describing their opponent being non-Muslims.
Everyone celebrates the birth and death anniversaries of the founder of Pakistan with great enthusiasm but not many are willing to follow Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his commitment and dedication to the people and the country. By and large, a great majority of the people have forgotten the great sacrifice their forefathers (many of them are still alive) gave to make the dream of an independent Muslim nation come true. It is a deplorable and pathetic situation. Why on earth a nation has allowed itself to be humiliated by foreigners and exploited by its own? Why its intellectuals and middle classes have failed to create and cultivate a culture of tolerance and pluralism. While the army, the bureaucracy and intelligence agencies have their share in creating the ongoing situation, the religious hierarchy and leadership cannot absolve itself. The so called clergy or religious leadership turned Islam as a religion of vengeance, violence and vendetta. Ignoring the social, spiritual and economic needs the leaders fed people slogans and false hopes. They told them that Islam has all the answers and the Quran has solutions to all the problems, yet they failed to either spell the answers or solutions in their personal, family or organizational life. In this situation, the small ray of hope that has begin to appear on the horizon is the movement of intellectuals and lawyers.
It has the potential of bringing about changes of monumental nature if it remains peaceful, nonpartisanship and pre people. Obviously, the army, the political parties, the foreign intelligence agencies and other special interest groups will try to penetrate in the movement and run it to their advantage. Yet this is a risk worth taking at this time. Pakistanis in Diaspora have not yet come forward with any concrete ideas of introducing social change in their former country. They still have divided loyalties for General Parvaiz Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. They are still thinking in their parochial terms. They take pride in identifying them more as members of the Pakistan People's Party or Muslim League or National United Front (MQM). Not many are willing to think outside the box. Rather than spending their time and resources in organizing demonstrations in Canada, US, England or anywhere else, if they devote them to think and reflect seriously about the future not as pawns but as active players, perhaps they can contribute something positive to their country.
Otherwise, they will remain prisoners of their own politics without any hope of freedom. The Muslim world needs a strong Pakistan. The world needs a fort of Islam in that region to save millions from the aggression of those who still believe in racial and ethnic superiority. We need Muslims in the subcontinent to build a stable and vibrant Pakistan to hold off the onslaught of religious bigots and above all the people of Pakistan need a peaceful place to live a dignified life.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor in chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada and recently appointed director of programs at the Lahore based International Iqbal Institute of Research, Education and Dialogue. He can be reached at Aslamabdallah at aol dot com
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