July 2001 News

The ‘bad Guy’ Image And How It Gets Made

9 July 2001
The Indian Express

NEW DELHI: GENERAL Musharraf began by building his image as that of a man with an enlightened vision. After he faced opposition from the right-wing orthodoxy, he analysed it by saying that only one per cent of the Islamists in Pakistan were really extremists. That meant the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis were enlightened like him. It is possible that his religion minister did not think that enlightenment was what Pakistan could live with. So now we have what may be called in Urdu ilaj bil mithl, a kind of mithridatic Islamisation to make the poison of the extremists ineffective. In Pakistan, the best gambit is to do it through Islam because no one objects. Most Pakistanis go quiet or go along, no one really knows how to oppose wrong things done in the name of Islam. The first extraordinary ‘‘correction’’ to enlightenment that our religion ministry did was to declare that the destruction of historical statues by the Taliban was quite Islamic. This could mean that all the statues in Pakistan’s museums could be destroyed. Or if someone destroyed them, the religion ministry will go along. The next thing the ministry has done is to send a list of ‘‘items’’ to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to consider as contents of a new ordinance called Hisba Ordinance, which Musharraf may promulgate as his bit of Shariat. That will kill the germs of extremism among the one-per cent population that is getting out of hand; it will also kill the population’s hope of getting rid of the morass of a Taliban type of Islam into which Pakistan is sinking despite the one-percent rhetoric adopted by opinion-makers. The Taliban did arouse passions in countries where Buddhism is still alive in one form or another. In Myanmar, mobs have gone around burning mosques and Muslim houses, forcing many to flee. In Japan, the reaction has been anti-Muslim, or rather anti-Pakistani; some people have even tried to desecrate the Quran. We don’t know if the rest of the world protested along with Pakistan, but it would have been better had others too shown the same kind of official hurt that Pakistan has experienced under its Penal Code provisions. The Penal Code of course is for internal purposes and one can’t deny that there are more desecrations of the Quran daily in Pakistan than in Japan. Namaz as Musharraf’s Shariat: The Hisba Ordinance will start doing what the Islamic measures taken by Bhutto did to him after 1971. He banned liquor and apostatised the Qadianis to defang the mullahs. But that step, far from being mithridatic, spurred the clergy on till it got rid of him to usher in a new Islamic phase in cohabitation with the Army. Today, the Army has cleared the decks for the clergy once again. The Hisba Ordinance will presumably please the warrior priests, but will Musharraf be able to save his skin from the one per cent he wants to neutralise? Reading the statements of the owners of religious militias, the Enemy Number One remains Musharraf himself, ‘‘an American agent and a slave of IMF and the World Bank’’. From the sketchy press reports, the Hisba Ordinance will set up a system of namaz that General Zia tried to establish in his time but failed. The Ordinance will see to it that business closure is complete five times a day when namaz is being offered. If someone is open, presumably there will be punishment for it, and the police will be happily involved in capturing the new crop of culprits because it will absolve them from the tougher duty of capturing armed dacoits against whom the citizen no longer has any protection. CII chief S.M. Zaman has always resented the fact that Pakistan’s weekly holiday is Sunday and not Friday. That could be included in the Ordinance too, and if General Musharraf dares to delete anything, there can always a 33-party alliance of the religious parties willing to take to the streets till the chief executive signs on the dotted line. This storm could add itself to the tornado expected in July 2001 when the clergy perceives that the UBL appeal to the Supreme Court over riba is a chink in the armour of the General and decide to test his strength. The Sunni-Sunni conflict: But the Sunni-Sunni thing was on for some time. The Barelvi were asserting themselves since 1991 against the dominance of the Deobandis, but no one paid heed. We were so happy with jehad conducted by the Wahabi-Deobandi warriors of Islam that we forgot that Barelvis too could be pretty tough. Of course, the Barelvi-Deobandi divide is quite old and has become violent in the past. But the Barelvis had to lie low mostly because the Deobandis had become toughened with limitless jehadi funds and the military training manuals the Americans had bequeathed to the Afghans when they were there. Pakistan’s image is ruined by the many-sided bloody vendettas going on. There is the Sunni-Shia conflict to which now we have added the Sunni-Sunni conflict. Xenophobia is rampant in the country, which has killed not only Iranians because they are Shia, but also Americans because the US is the enemy country. The clergy has been issuing fatwas of death and the Western embassies have been issuing advisories to their citizens against travelling to Pakistan. To top it all, the India-Pakistan ‘‘war’’ is taking on a sinister dimension. No one knows who actually kills people in bomb explosions all across Pakistan. India too has a similar situation back home — the difference is that Pakistan is seriously destabilised by this covert war while India is not. No one in his right mind will invest here when all this is going on. When General Musharraf’s own Shariat is enforced, violence will be associated more firmly with the state of Pakistan.

 

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