Solutions for Pakistan: Liberation from Socio-religious Taboos That Hinder Its Progress
14 July 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
Unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan is not a religious but a
nation state. It should be liberated from socio-religious taboos that hinder
its progress and development like other developed nations around the world. It
was Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who switched Pakistan then relatively a secular
state towards a theocratic state. It was the unbelievable mind boggling
somersault that came from a highly modernized, secular leader and proponent of
democracy, human rights, equality and liberty.
submission of ZAB under pressure from the religious right and theocratic
forces to Islamize Pakistan was the most grievous debacle that plunged
Pakistani into a morass of religious fanaticism that has ever been swelling
and, of late, has assumed monstrous proportions. Thereafter, the society, the
state and the national institutions in Pakistan have remained subservient to
the burgeoning religious militancy. The predominant role of Muslim crusaders
in anti-Russian war in Afghanistan gave a kind of cart-blanche and brazen
leeway to further push Pakistan into the lap of theocracy and unhindered
mushrooming of religious dogmatism.
Mr. Bhutto spoke
in favor of downtrodden sections of society and by taking shelter under
Islamic socialism nationalized banks and industries. But these steps were
taken at a time when socialism was on the decline for being a failed economic
system. For the time being there was a bubble of economic boom and the people
believed here was a liberator and redeemer who will take the country to new
dazzling heights of glory and dignity.
But alas by two
disastrous decisions, he watered down his achievements of liberalizing
society, endearing Pakistan to the whole world particularly the Islamic bloc.
One was to block Awami League from forming the government and also to spur
Pakistan army and the morally bankrupt president for triggering civil war in
East Pakistan culminating into dismemberment of Pakistan.
The second devastating decision was the amendment in the
constitution that became a stepping stone for the clergy and religio-political
parties with Jamaat-i-Islami in the lead to hold and spread their obscurantist
agenda in Pakistan. He declared Ahmadis as non- non-Muslims. He banned liquor
first in 1974 in the army mess halls. After the PNA movements for
Nizam-i-Mustafa and against rigging of election in 1977, he again budged and
as a political ploy, declared prohibition on the sale of alcohol and closure
of liquor bars in Pakistan in April the same year. Ironically while the
opposition forced ZAB to go back on his previous agenda of opening up society,
they supported the advent of military rule under General Ziaul Haq in whose
tenure Bhutto was hanged.
Ever-since those blighted,
indiscreet and self-serving decisions just to placate the religious parties
and to stay in power became lasting millstones around the neck of Pakistan as
well as the society. Pakistan has been paying a heavy price for Mr. Bhutto's
egregious blunders made for the sake of personal aggrandizement. Had it been
done for the sake of Islam one could take it as justified and sublime. But
sacrificing his lofty agenda of building a new Pakistan on the altar of
expediency and as a bargaining chip for hanging on to power was outright rank
and loathsome opportunism.
His successor Gen. Ziaul
Haq was hundreds times more focused on Islamizing Pakistan and one shudders to
see in the hindsight how he forced his religious idealism by using naked and
brute force and state power in crushing the opponents and those who spoke for
fundamental rights and democracy. The Afghan anti-communism war gave an
enormous fillip to his myopic agenda and what was missing in the Islamic
impulse of Bhutto was irretrievably furthered and hammered by Ziaul Haq. The
passion of Bhutto for Islamizing Pakistan was a spurious ploy while that of
Zia was in right earnest, although both pushed Pakistan into a dreadful
religious paradigm whose latest manifestation are Taliban and Al-Qaida.
It is indispensable that some visionary, courageous and
progressive leader can reverse that retrogressive trend set in motion by Mr.
Bhutto and later by Gen Ziaul Haq. Towards that goal, the following reforms
are of utmost importance:
· The nomenclature of Islamic Republic of Pakistan should be changed to the
Democratic Republic of Pakistan.
· Liquor and similar beverages should be allowed in Pakistan under state rules
for sale and use. That would prevent illegal and underground trade of liquor,
forcing the people to use injurious and toxic drugs such as heroine and pot.
The people were free to use these delights in undivided India and for several
years after the birth of Pakistan. This fundamental right should be restored
· The religious seminaries should be integrated with the main schooling system
in Pakistan. The subject of Islamic teachings and jurisprudence can be made a
part of the academic syllabus.
· The number of mosques should be fixed for a certain number of residents in a
· The Imams and clerics (who lead prayer) should be appointed by the local
governments or administration. There should be some required qualifications
and knowledge of Islam for every Imam to be appointed. They should be barred
from sermonizing against their rival sects.
· Religious fanaticism and militancy should be curbed with full might by the
· The Shamanism (Peeri and Mureedi and fake sainthood) should be curbed at all
costs. The worship and idolizing the dead as redeemers of human problems has
to be banned.
· Feudalism in all forms should be eradicated.
· The rewards to the military officers by way of huge tracts of lands should
be discontinued. That was a colonial practice to create loyalists in the army.
The military top brass thus becoming landlords and big landholders try to
protect this anti-human institution.
· The sectarian outfits, the religious militancy, the groups involved in
destabilizing Pakistan on their own or at the behest of the foreign inimical
powers should be eliminated so that the people feel safe and resume their
· For trial of the terrorists, extortionists, killer gangs, saboteurs and
arsonists now spread all over Pakistan making a mockery of the Law enforcement
and legal system have to be killed on the spot or tried summarily to be
executed through summary trials. When peace prevails the traditional legal and
police system can be restored.
· The separatist movements and insurgents like the BLA should be handled the
way Sri-Lankan government dealt with the Tamil Tigers. The armed skirmishes
with BLA would not yield any desired results so soon. The army can launch a
quick and brutal blitz for debilitating and stamping out this network that
purportedly is fighting a proxy war for some foreign anti Pakistan powers. If
parleys can bring some kind of pacification, then that option may be tried
before launching a full scale army operation. Same treatment should be meted
out to the Taliban and those elements that want to turn Pakistan into medieval
· The FATA region should be declared a province of Pakistan like other
provinces. The frontier regulations and special status in regard to FATA
should be done away with. The FATA once joining as a part of Pakistan without
being administered under special status would end it as the hub of countless
criminal activities emanating from this region.
· The four existing provinces should be replaced by at least 16 provinces for
good governance and decentralization of powers.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a
former diplomat. This and other articles by the
writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com.