Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Failure of the Pakistan Project

نحمده ونصلى ونسلم على رسوله الكريم

والعاقبة للمتقين

The Two Nation Theory and it’s central concept of ‘Muslim nationalism’ has gradually morphed into what I call ‘Pakistani nationalism’. The Pakistani State, dominated by the military and the feudalists, very quickly realized a peril of ‘Muslim nationalism’ namely the religious element. That is because fundamentally Islam is a religion which very much espouses the principles of social justice and is strongly opposed to accumulation of capital motivated by greed. This is perhaps best illustrated in the activities and preaching of the Prophet’s illustrious companion and disciple, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (Allah be pleased with him), who put forward a very strong emphasis on the Verse:


وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلَا يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ فَبَشِّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ

And there are those who amass gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allah. Announce to them the tidings of a painful chastisement

(Sura 9: 34)

Furthermore, the Holy Qur’an is a scathing assault on Pharaonic authoritarianism, and this is definitely something that Pakistan’s military establishment was on some level conscious of and very anxious about. At the same time, the immediate threats to the sustainability of Pakistan, especially in its early years, were the various movements of ethnic nationalism and separatism, especially from the Pakhtuns (Pathans), the Baloch and even the Sindhis. The only ideological tool to strengthen the idea of Pakistan, a state created on the basis of religion, was to further emphasize the universality and dynamism of Islam. Hence the establishment have till this day always been mired in this dilemma of injecting a dosage of Islam into the public discourse from time to time in order to keep the ethnic separatists and leftists at bay, while trying to ensure that the dosage isn’t excessive in order to keep a check on the threat of Islamic “fundamentalism”. For the longest time, the “Deep State” was able to control and co-opt the hardline Islamic movements and sentiments to its benefit, especially in the context of the Kashmir and Afghanistan conflicts. However, beginning with in the Musharraf era, the State began preparing a new narrative and conspired to diminish the influence of even those Islamic movements and groups which it had co-opted and even nurtured. More puritanical Islamic movements, like the Taliban, emerged in Afghanistan and particularly the Pashtun belt which had a flavor of anti-Statism. This was the real threat to the Pakistani State, which was unable to combat such sentiments on an intellectual level given the State’s own corruption and deviation from Islam. It was only when such zealous movements made a fatal blunder and adapted tactics of terrorism under the influence of al-Qa’ida and the radical Takfiri ideology from the Arab world that this resulted in them becoming totally discredited to the benefit of the State. But rather than reforming itself to be more in line with Islamic ideals and principles, the State began promoting a brand of Pakistani nationalism based on origin in the land of what is now Pakistan and pride in the Pakistani State, particularly its “glorious” armed forces and being a nuclear-armed power, i.e., civic nationalism. The State in fact became more obsessed with security and as a result much more authoritarian than ever before. The new narrative has astonishingly resulted in the very abrupt decline of various religious movements and their marginalization. Coupled with increased emphasis on Western-style liberal education, the forces of religion are facing an uphill battle to stay relevant at least among the masses. That Muslims have always had a tendency to be in awe of power and the iron fist of the State is very well understood by the elitist ruling class. Being the most powerful institution by far, the State exerts an undue influence on the Muslim mind.
Now nationalism is inherently an idea that stands in opposition to the universalism and piety-based structure of monotheistic religion. Nationalism is intimately married with materialism and is overall harmful to spirituality. In the age of identity politics, nationalist sentiments quickly yield a relegation of religion to oblivion. Based on this, I predict that the Islamic movement, in the vaguest sense possible, has no future in Pakistan. All the dreams and hopes of various Islamic intellectuals, from a generation that is quickly dying off, have been dashed. If their forebears played an active role in the creation of Pakistan for the purpose of fulfilling the Islamic vision of a polity, all of their sacrifices have been rendered vain.

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