The Nation, Lahore

4 Zilhaj, 1418 - Thursday, April 2 , 1998, Lahore 



War of survival

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

On 23 March, 1998, unfortunately we did not have any big celebration planned for Pakistan Day in Seattle. I just got back from an international students function and instead of sleeping, started to surf the Internet. I decided to search for Pakistani newspapers on the Internet to read about all the celebrations on the Pakistan Day. But there were news of massacres of fellow Muslims in Pakistan in the name of Islam. The Pakistan Day newspapers were telling us stories of Pakistani Muslims killing other Pakistani Muslims to 'purify' the religion. So now, if the Western media blames us as a failed state, who is to blame?

Pakistan was certainly not made for religious extremism. In reality, Quaid-e-Azam was declared as 'Kafir-e-Azam' by these so-called religio-political leaders. There were only a handful of Muslim scholars like Maulana Shabbir Usmani who supported the demand of Pakistan with full heart. Pakistan was envisioned as a safe place for all Muslims (all sects) and all non-Muslims who chose to be Pakistanis. But all these dreams got shattered by the inept and corrupt rulers of Pakistan whose only object was to survive in the office no matter how big price the price people had to pay for it. Even though the late Prime Minister Zulifqar Ali Bhutto played a major part in the division of Pakistan in 1971 but he was not alone in the first twenty years of Pakistan which paved the way for the separation of East Pakistan. Even after the defeat of 1971, Gen Yahya Khan tried shamelessly to cling on to power. No one thought about Pakistan in the long-term, everyone was so busy in playing the game of musical chairs.

But how long a nation or a country can survive the excesses of its leaders? Intellectuals in Pakistan and also from abroad have been giving warnings about the future of Pakistan unless we mend our ways. We have been blaming them of creating fear but if we read our daily newspapers now, we would be stupids not to predict the same thing ourselves.

Why extremism was and is now being allowed to flourish? It is true that worsening economic conditions and corrupt political leadership provide the most favourable breeding ground for it. When I say corrupt political leadership, I am not singling out political leaders involved in financial corruption but also those political and military leaders who ruled this country with only one objective - to prolong their rule as much as possible. Those political leaders are also responsible who did not take brave decisions in the interest of this nation but rather tried to save their vote bank. And at times, they even encouraged these conflicts just to weaken any real opposition or threat to their rules.

Those writers and newspapers are also responsible who claim to be independent and vocal against different governments but failed to speak openly against the sectarianism. They thought that it was too risky a subject to touch. Religious scholars who did not speak against the religious extremism of their own sect even though they knew it had nothing to do with Islam are also responsible.

Why can't political parties of Pakistan who are not religious extremist themselves unite on one platform and decide that they would act together against one enemy - sectarianism. If they don't do this, the flames of sectarianism which are engulfing our nation right now will eventually finish this state to the end. If we really want to survive and enter the next millennium not like some African country like Somalia, we need to fight our this enemy which is within. We face more danger from internal strife than from India or any other country. Lets fight this war and every Pakistani should speak if he sees that a maulana of his mosque or Allama Sahib of Imam Bargah are teaching a lesson of hatred. Every Pakistani should be brave enough to challenge the claims of his own sects which declare other major Muslim sects as non Muslims. Every Pakistani should do this for their own survival as when there are communal riots, none distinguishes between active and nonnative.

These so-called Muslim Mujahids on both the sides even don't care about the deaths of young children and women. And our own Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) even forbade the killing of kafir women and children in the wars some fourteen hundred years ago. And we claim to be the true followers of this "Mohsin-e-Insaniyat (PBUH). We know that Islam has a history of four fiqhas and if these were not different to each other than who needed them. So, we should not think about other's practices as un-Islamic only on the reason that they are different or strange to us.

Let us concentrate on the similarities and not on the differences. Let us fight for our own survival with lessons of love, patience and tolerance. This is too damn important a battle to leave to the rulers alone.


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Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar
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