Pakistan’s Perilous Drift
The carnages carried out by the Islamist militants in Peshawar church and Nairobi shopping mall should serve as warning from the extremist forces that they can strike at will against the civilized world at their chosen time and place. No words could be enough to condemn the outrageous act perpetrated by the merchants of hate against the hapless Christian worshippers in Peshawar and the shoppers in Nairobi and the embarrassment it has brought to the Muslims.
The forces operating in badlands of Somalia, militancy-infested Af-Pak regions and elsewhere have been out to provoke anger and hatred against non-Muslims living in their midst. It fits their puritanical fantasy of raising states that are free for them to roam and establish their fanatic hold over people. Hatred and bigotry are outcomes of Puritanism which in itself is the product of obscurantism. Puritanism and pluralism cannot go together just as a religiously, socially and ethnically diverse society cannot think of according primacy to a single faith and culture. It is perhaps this realization that propels the Islamic extremists to seek ethnic cleansing as betrayed by the twin massacres. Peshawar attack on the churchgoers bears the stamp of the ideology that is driving the Islamist fanatics to purify Pakistan for the followers of their brand of Islam. By no stretch of imagination Christians in Pakistan or Afghanistan could be linked to the West against whom the militants are up in arms. And killing innocents such as worshippers or shoppers only provides the grist to the Western propaganda mill to paint the entire Islamic world in darkest colours. It is the very same ideology that views members of the Shia community as malcontents and directs attacks against them.
If the civil society and the people at the helms in Pakistan could understand this much and reexamine the perilous trajectory the nation has followed in the last three decades, it can perhaps begin addressing the distortions in the polity owing to the genetic defect inherent in the nation’s birth. Denial of liberal ethos required by the modern day societies by the 20thcentury Islamist thinkers has led to the emergence of forces of darkness all across the Muslim world. It is time to question if a particular faith could be the basis of nationhood. Once this is granted legitimacy, it is bound to unleash both the centripetal as well as the centrifugal forces into action as is being seen in context to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those outside the periphery get branded as enemy while the dissenters within are dubbed heretics and fifth columnists. Religious and scriptural text being primitive, race begins to produce more archaic—“and therefore more authentic”—interpretation than thou. This endless march towards madness can only prove to be the undoing of the nation as well as the faith.
Pakistan has been adrift for long. Its ideology of nationhood is being interpreted in most narrow terms by the myopic ideologues who have moved to the centrestage of power. The relentless pursuit of the very idea of gaining, rather grabbing, strategic depth by co-opting Afghanistan into its scheme of things has destabilized Pakistan from within. It is time it casts away all such designs and rebuilds itself as a modern, liberal, prosperous nation that respects all the social, ethnic and religious diversity it is naturally endowed with. A nation brimming with superabundance of creative youth, fertile soil, massive energy resources, strategic location on the crossroads of Middle East and Central Asia, carries all the promise of its emerging an economic powerhouse and a disseminator of soft power. Nations in Europe and Asia that have been much smaller and more diverse, have survived and thrived in greater style. There is no reason why this cannot be achieved by Pakistan without its irredentist ambitions against its neighbours on the two flanks.