NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 06

The march on Islamabad

Before the Partition, students all over India would get together to spoil a religious party’s anti-Pakistan rallies, gleefully chanting the slogan, “Down with Birla’s money bag.” They thought it was Birla’s money behind the rallies.
The Barelvi scholars supported Jinnah. The Deobandis, tooth and nail, opposed him. Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani was an honorable exception on Jinnah’s side. History bears a witness that Muslim religious scholars, schools of thought notwithstanding, have more often than not succumbed to the greed for money. Our leader of assault on Islamabad is himself a glaring example of this susceptibility.
They called the Quaid-i-Azam “Kafir-e-Azam”, the great nonbeliever. When Pakistan became a reality, the same religious leaders claimed its sole proprietorship clamouring for a theocratic Pakistan, far from Jinnah’s dream of a state formed as envisaged by the Prophet (PBUH). The mainstay of our religious parties has been their street power. Undeterred by their abject failures in elections they thrive on their nuisance value to pressurize every government. The extreme governmental reaction came as a martial law in 1953, followed by a death sentence for Maulana Maududi that was never carried out. On moral plain, by comparison, our clergy has been more fallible than the Christian Church or Hindu Brahmins. And when the religious bigwigs say that they had laid innumerable sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan, it sounds like a big joke. But they set the rules and want to play the game on their own terms.
Fazlur Rehman speaks from a self-assumed high moral ground. His confidence is growing with the support of parties with regional loyalties and aspirations with little clout at national level. The PML-N and the PPP cunningly wait on the fence ready to jump on the bandwagon if and when the going got good, hoping Maulana’s solo flight will turn into another PNA-type movement of 1977. That is closing eyes to the ground realities.
The differences between the two campaigns are enormous and varied. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, despite his democratic showings, was a typical feudal lord. He was a great man. His mistakes were also as huge. He had become power drunk and arrogant. He stopped seeing the obvious. He had been cruel and unscrupulous in dealing with his political opponents, friends and foes alike. Except for his demagoguery he had become a complete failure. He had ruined a fast-growing empire built by Ayub Khan and had brought it to naught. He was hanged for a sin that he had not committed but for all those sins which had gone unreported. The destiny had uncannily led him to his end.
Jinnah was an example of a modern Muslim. He was truthful, honest to the hilt, trustworthy, straightforward, sincere and a true lover of the holy Prophet (PBUH). The ritualistic obligations remained a matter between him and his Maker. On the human grounds he was a perfect follower of the Prophet (PBUH).
Imran Khan is an honest and sincere man. He loves the Prophet (PBUH). He wants to turn Pakistan into a state like Madina. Governance is more a matter of attitude than aptitude. Good intentions, honesty and sincerity lead the way to good governance, that will eventually come and come big. Ayub Khan’s Pakistan was an enviable developing country. His progress could not stand the storm of Bhutto’s malice because it was not backed by institutions. Imran Khan is an ardent believer of strong institutions. Today’s Pakistan with an honest and God-fearing leadership has the potential to grow much higher and mightier than the Pakistan of Ayub Khan.
In the face of Maulana’s revolt, Imran Khan’s first step meets all the human and democratic norms. He wants to talk the Maulana out of his uncompromising stance. Benazir Bhutto had allegedly bought the Maulana’s silence by a few million dollars and an imposing new Mercedes Benz. Pervez Musharraf and the astute Chaudhry brothers were able to win Maulana’s loyalties. The price of the deal is not known, except that it could not have taken place without plenty of dough. Imran Khan cannot do that. He has to pick up the gauntlet and fight purely with democratic and legal wherewithal.
The Maulana must be allowed to come to Islamabad, stage a protest or a sit-in as it suits him. How long he can sustain his protest, no one can tell. If India were backing him, it is a rich country. It can afford any price. Yet a peaceful protest cannot end Maulana’s predicament. All his efforts and bragging will fizzle out ringing the death bell for his political career and dreams of his supporters sitting on the boundary unless he makes an out-of-the-box move.
The government should not be in any doubt. It has to be firm, not reckless and arrogant like the duo of Shahbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah in the Model Town tragedy. The Maulana, like many of his ilk, has no sense of proportion. He can at any time go berserk. Show of decency and restrain can encourage him to become practically as belligerent as he sounds. For him it is a last-ditch battle. Now or never. So, it is for his beleaguered supporters, Bilawal and Maryam Nawaz. They all want to break the shackles and gain some political space that continues to shrink.
The government can show its intentions by strict security measures and if the situation demanded, call even the defence forces in aid of civil power. Martial law, or even curfew, is not any worthwhile option. If talks fail to knock sense into stubborn heads, then let it come to pass. For the last seventy years the Mullah power has kept every ruler on the tenterhooks. It’s time to face the menace squarely. The ugly retrogressive forces must give way to making Pakistan a truly progressive and enlightened country. Call it the State of Madina.