The art of denial for a select group of Pakistanis starts at an early age, resulting in an adult whose everyday reasoning is based on little research or fact. For such a person a decision or position is made first and then ‘pseudo-evidence’ gathered to give credibility to their prejudiced point of view. For the critical thinker amongst us, the need to fight this disease of sanctimonious and often one-sided arguments flooding the information highway has become vital. No longer should we sit back passively and allow the Machiavellian game that the journalistic community with certain ‘academics’ is playing with Pakistan.
A recent article in the German publication Deutsche Welle is a prime example of prejudice over reason when addressing internal governance issues that are afflicting Pakistan. The article is based on a recent report published by the newspaper Dawn that highlighted the existence of Shariah Courts set up by the Islamist organization Jamaatud Dawa in the city of Lahore. The ‘court’ as per Dawn will dispense “speedy justice,” taking up citizens’ complaints and issuing verdicts in accordance with the Shariah. Although such tribunals—not courts– already exist in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the fact that there is one existing in the city of Lahore without the authorities taking any action is apparently of great concern to the German readership. In order to help them understand Pakistan’s internal issues an independent US based journalist and self styled Islamism expert Arif Jamal gives his reasoning — or lack of— as to why the government is not taking any action.
The answer succinctly put forth by Mr. Jamal is; because the military will not allow the government. Such a simplistic answer, to an issue with such a complicated history, leaves this reader upset and discombobulated. Whilst the question of a parallel Afghanistan like judicial system existing the way this German newspaper claims is incorrect the issue of lack of reform in the politicized judicial system which creates the space for such tribunals has some truth. However, nowhere in the interview is there any real analytical insight. There is no historical context provided about how the religious far right gained a foothold in Pakistan.
Nowhere does the expert on Islamism, explain the birth of ‘Islamic socialism’ that occurred when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto began his quest to become prime minister of Pakistan. There is no mention about the fact, that Bhutto through back channel dealings with the religious right, came into power and as a reward gave them importance.The Federal Sharia Courts birth during Bhutto’s handpicked general, Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship is a historical reality ,so is the fact ,that the current government ruling the country came to power as a result of their close links with Zia and the belief in his religious ideology. At no point in the interview does Mr.Jamal highlight the fact ,that successive civilian governments that came after Zia refused to take up the issue of the Federal Shariah Court or make any amends to the Hudood Ordinance despite Pakistan having a flexible written constituion.
In his prejudice he completely absolves the government and the judiciary in failing to tackle corruption and injustice. Nowhere in his analysis, is there any talk about the lack of governance that continues to plague Pakistan, due to the corruption of the political class.
There is no mention of the fact, that there is no effort by the government in taking on the religious right. A bitter reality witnessed by all of us in Pakistan when the interior minister negotiated with religious fanatics wanting to declare murderer Mumtaz Qadri a martyr. It was truly appalling that in his analysis he failed to mention the fact that the current government agreed with the demands of these goons and promised that no change will be made to draconian Blasphemy laws of the state. No mention, that the only courts dealing swiftly with terrorists are the military courts and that the media regularly reports on this. Not a word about the fact that the media consistently reports on the fact that because the majority of the political and judicial community cloaks themselves in dishonesty, the common person has no recourse but to go to those who promise them swift justice.
The military after Zia has been consistently and successfully trying to shed the ghost of Zia. Zarb-e-Azb is proof that as far as the military is concerned, they are in all out war against extremism and those that promote such ideologies .Government touts like this US based gentleman, regularly come out of the woodworks in effort to undermine these efforts and put the blame on the one organization in Pakistan that is actively challenging Islamism. The purpose of such people, it seems is simple–let Pakistan remain in this state of chaos because it suits the politicians and judiciary. By constantly blaming the military, and living in the past, the narrative —- at least the hope is—- will never get to the real issue. The real issue being, that there is a deliberate lack of transparency regarding the religious far right and their affiliation with the government and judiciary and how these two branches support, back and appease radical groups like the JUD.