Exiting the Grey Zone
Engaging any individual resident in Pakistan for views over the country’s ills, and a plethora of ailments, ranging from terrorism, rampant crime, runaway inflation, massive corruption and so forth will endlessly gush in response. Whereas each concern deserves thorough attention, the state as a whole however is grappling with an issue far deeper – and it is this inner cancer that has to be identified and treated in order to successfully address the long list of symptoms Pakistan is plagued with today.
Throughout Pakistani society, there flows a persistent contradiction that embodies itself across all social circles, organisations and all the way up to the political framework including government policy. In its wake this incongruity has divided the nation, and prevented any common thread amongst the population from developing that could have collated them together, unifying the people to work collectively for the mutual benefit of bettering the motherland.
The manifestation of this issue takes place in many ways. Bizarre scenes in restaurants maybe witnessed, where devout women covered head to toe and men with flowing beards frequent regularly, yet the TVs present remain busy beaming endless streams of Bollywood & Hollywood films full of near nude women thronging the screens in provocative dances or poses.
Media and cultural institutions of the country will be awash with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia come February 14th, yet conservative families will be left struggling to reconcile the onslaught of subliminal messages to glorify the resultant girlfriend-boyfriend culture.
The giving and taking of interest is condemned as abhorrent, yet annually the government commits to spending about one quarter of the budget in interest payments alone towards the ever increasing domestic and external debt.
To this day, civilian politicians and military spokesmen alike struggle immensely to justify the armed forces’ full scale assault on the tribal areas under the umbrella of a foreign defined War On Terror, pitting brother to fight brother in an endless cycle of violence that has left thousands dead with no end in sight, whilst both sides eagerly champion the religious moral high ground.
The prevalence of such oxymoronic equilibriums throughout the fabric of Pakistan’s political and social strata is the root cause underpinning perpetual turmoil and what prevents a sound structure to be built to deliver advancement to the people.
For any state to progress effectively, it must establish a platform upon which the populace is bound together in terms of agreed criteria to judge upon and further an emotion to drive this thought. This raison d’etre, and the subsequent policies and legal systems devised from this, is what constitutes an ideology – a term which is unfortunately misused very often and misapplied in many cases.
The sole ideology that has prevailed throughout the history of Pakistan right up till this day is that of capitalism, which in consistency with secularist presupposition separates any possible role of the Creator from governmental affairs. This ideology, with its origins in Europe during a time when thinkers arose and challenged the role of the corrupt church in state matters and developed primarily over the last two to three centuries, lays a view for life as the utmost fulfilment of pleasure for the maximum number of people, and in doing so it conveniently sidesteps the question of whether a Creator exists or not and whether this Creator, if present, should assume a role in societal regulation or not.
As predominately the case with capitalism in theory, these policies are to be delivered via a democratic ruling mechanism, where legislative responsibility is handed to a select band of supposed people’s representatives – in Pakistan’s case its federal parliamentary assembly members and senators. This has been the case for roughly half the nation’s timeline, with overt or covert military dictatorship imposing authority throughout the remaining period. However in either case power has come to rest in the hands of interest groups, a mixture of indigenous and foreign, with the resulting policy making undertaken for their own gain, with hardly any benefit delivered to the masses. And this has created a grey zone – where the establishment has continuously pumped the idea into its citizens that Islam is at the heart of state governance and decision making, whilst in reality the total opposite has been taking place. Thus the people have continuously gone along with this to their detriment and in reality they have been made to live by and execute unislamic policies and practices which stand in complete contradiction to their dispositions.
The Islamic ideology on the other hand stipulates a clear basis upon which legislation is drafted, namely that it is done so in line with the expectations of the Creator, Whose existence is intellectually established through a rational thought process. Furthermore, this regulatory order has not been left to one’s imagination to conjure up, rather it has been illustrated in great detail by the final messenger Muhammad ﷺ, right from the start of the period he ﷺ was appointed as head of the first Islamic state established in Medina and as subsequently continued by the khulafah rashideen – the righteously guided leaders from amongst the companions that succeeded him ﷺ as rulers.
The only remedy therefore, to reverse Pakistan’s fortunes and to set it on the path of recovery, is to align the ideology of the state with the dominant public opinion. This dilemma presents itself to both sets of clearly defined ideological activists that are aspiring to shape and lead society today – but the challenge for each is the mutually exclusive inverse of the other.
For the secularists the task is to make the public’s thoughts and emotions conform to the capitalistic policies that rule the nation, i.e. there will be tolerance of the vast majority’s affinity for Islam as long as it does not exude into the corridors of power. However any ambivalence on behalf of those ruled towards the current political status quo is equally counterproductive in the long term, as it fails to gather the people behind the enacted policies and in turn results in their dismal or non execution. The secularists therefore, be they leaning to the liberalist left or the conservative right, must address the underlying issue here and thoroughly convince the masses, as pioneering European activists of the ‘enlightenment’ period did centuries earlier, that the Creator is to have no role in temporal affairs whatsoever.
For Islamic political activists the conundrum is in the complete reverse. Sovereignty has resided largely with the country’s federal parliament since Pakistan’s conception, despite the fact that the momentum behind the partition was fuelled by the then British India’s Muslim segment, who campaigned and struggled for decades to establish an Islamic polity where all ruling would be in strict accordance to Islamic stipulations – a desire which resonates as loud today as it did then. In this predicament campaigners for an Islamic model face the essential obstacle of reconfiguring the legislative pillar of the state, away from one where laws are derived by way of majority voting amongst elected representatives, to one where rules of the Creator, enacted 1400 years ago but applicable across time, are enforced comprehensively and radically across all spheres.