By Durdana Najam
The state of Pakistan has adopted a holistic approach for the elimination of terrorism. Military operations in different parts of the country are in progress, but a narrative to develop national thinking against extremism—the root cause of terrorism—- has been found missing. Many codes of conducts to make people a good human being had been issued earlier by progressive religious scholars, but nothing seemed to have registered with a nation that is increasingly becoming intolerant, divisive and ruthless. With this new approach, summarized in a draft called Paigham-e-Pakistan, it would be the state’s prerogative to declare Jihad, and no one, in any capacity, is allowed to either give a call for the imposition of Shariah or announce the existing governing setup contrary to Islam.
Paigham-e-Pakistan comprises a joint declaration and a unanimous fatwa. Claimed to reflect the collective thinking of the state of Pakistan , the document has been prepared with the assistance and support of state institutions and with the cooperation of all the leading madrassas and religious organizations of the country. The document was issued earlier this month in a seminar, held under the auspices of the International Islamic University, inaugurated by the President of Pakistan .
The message contained in the declaration makes adherence to the 1973 constitution, and to the legal system prevailing in Pakistan imperative, because, as ratified by the Council of Islamic Ideology, 95 per cent of Pakistan’s laws are in line with Quran and Sunnah. It further says that any disagreement among different sects leading to hate speech and sectarian violence would be considered anarchic and punished accordingly. No individual, the document declares, can take the law into his/her hand on the pretext of blasphemy, only the state can ascertain if an act of blasphemy has been carried out or not. Suicide bombing or killing others in the name of Islam are pronounced contrary to the teaching of Islam. Finally, disregard for the international charters and covenants are made impermissible acts, with an emphasis that the geographical boundaries of Pakistan cannot be used to recruit, train or protect terrorists.
The Fatwa extracted from the 22 points of the joint declaration, declares Pakistan an Islamic state where the sovereignty belongs to Allah. The fatwa rejects all kinds of extremism, either to enforce Sharia through violence such as suicide attacks or to take up arm struggle against the state of Pakistan . All such activities would be dealt fiercely using both the ideological and kinetic forces available to the state. It also declares the on-going military operation as legal.
The responsibility to enforce the Paigham-e-Pakistan is laid on three entities: the academic/religious institutions, the government institutions, and the mosques. The curriculum, it is advised, should teach the ethics of disagreement and the pulpit of the mosque should be used to generate feelings of welfare among the people. The government institutions are also guided to treat the people of Pakistan with respect and provide them with equal opportunities, and fundamental rights as enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. A whole section is also devoted to the personality of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as a leader. Many verses from the Quran have been quoted to illustrate punishments for those who create chaos on earth. Many pages are given to the discussion as to why a just society is essential for the betterment of society and for elevation of Muslims to the level where God is pleased with them. The document is indeed a good attempt to make Pakistan an ideal state, where people could live in harmony, but in reality, will this piece of paper make any difference especially when a lot has been left unsaid.
The document has failed to provide the reasons as to why Pakistan has become an intolerant society, why the people have taken up arms against the security agencies and armed forces of Pakistan , why the increasing number of people believe that Pakistan is not a truly Islamic state and why do they take law into their hands to avenge personal or religious vendetta. Perhaps the reasons might have been argued while the document was being prepared, but putting them on the table would have led to more awareness about the responsibilities and the actions needed to undo the mess. Without honest introspection and debate, all future actions would emanate from the position of self-pity and victimhood. Whereas, the reality is that Pakistan is a victim of its wrong policies vis-a-vis the role of religion in the national and foreign policies.
The document talks about creating a just society. Who will ensure that a just society is established? If the reliance is on the existing system then should we believe that the document is already inapplicable? A country where the conviction rate is 2 per cent, where the judicial system is breaking apart under the weight of millions of pending cases, where parallel justice systems, in the form of Thana culture and jirgas, are still allowed to run with impunity, and where institutional checks and balances favour the power lords, how do the compilers of Paigham-e-Pakistan, see the country becoming a tolerant society. When justice is not dispensed, the only course left is corruption, and if that requires mutating religion, people would not mind.
The niceties of Paigham-e-Pakistan, notwithstanding, unless the state adheres to its responsibilities towards the constitution of Pakistan and its legal orders, expecting it from the commoner, to eradicate extremism, is a tough call.