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Pakistan’s Era of Social Engineering

, April 13, 2016, 0 Comments

pakistan-era-social-engineering-marketexpress-inThe creation of Pakistan was a product of insecurity and uncertainty about the Muslim identity in a Hindu majority Indian Sub-continent. Although, a lot of people in India and Pakistan credit Mohammed Ali Jinnah as the creator of Pakistan, but, the truth is at a vast distance from this belief. The story of Pakistan began in the 18th century, when the Mughal Rule and its then glorious might and influence was withering. The year 1739 could be considered as a watershed moment, largely, because the idea for the creation of a purely Islamic space in the Sub-continent gathered momentum the same year. Nadir Shah, a Shia Muslim and founder of the Afsharid Dynasty of Persia, was on a rampage with his military conquests in the 1730s.

After successfully, invading Georgia (East Europe) from the tight clutches of the Ottomans, the Shah wiped off Esfahan (Iran), and penetrated deep into the Hindu Kush conquering Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore. His next target was the rich and glorious Mughal Empire in Delhi, which was embattled by the resurgence of the Maratha Power. In February 1739 Nadir Shah in association with his loyal commander Heraclius II of Georgia invaded Delhi by decimating the Mughal might in Karnal, Haryana. It was a gigantic setback for the Mughals as apart from losing an astonishing amount of wealth, including the splendid Peacock Throne and the resplendent Kohinoor diamond, the invasion exposed the frailty of the Muslim rule in the Sub-continent.

Land of the Purely Insecure

Shah Waliullah an Islamic scholar who witnessed with much despair the destruction of the Mughal Empire by Nadir Shah, raised critical questions apropos the future of Sunni Islam and Islam per se in the Indian Subcontinent. Shah Waliullah just like Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi, an Islamic scholar and a Hanafi Jurist during the era of Akbar the Great, was against the idea of fostering a secular and multi-religious state. Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi had charged Akbar the Great of apostasy for his liberal and accommodating attitude toward the Hindu subjects of the Mughal Empire! Unsurprisingly, Shah Waliullah blamed the Delhi carnage to the religious tolerance exuded by the Mughals in Delhi.

He compared that brand of secularism to betrayal of Islam, and hence, felt the destruction of the empire was pretty much an anticipated eventuality. That defeat didn’t just opened up the Sub-continent to the European invaders like the Brits but empowered the local princely powers to flex their military muscles, thus weakening the Muslim rule in the Indian Subcontinent.

Age of Alienation

Shah Waliullah, spearheaded a movement to distance the Muslims of the Subcontinent from the Hindus, not just ideologically but physically, too. He was apprehensive about the loyalty of Indian Muslims toward Islam owning to them being converts. He strongly believed in alienating them socially, culturally, ideologically, and physically to preserve and protect their Islamic credentials. His belief that Islam’s purity is hard to protect on non-Islmaic soil without an Islamic order of rule and administration was central to his alienation movement.

This movement after Shah Waliullah was passionately taken onto another plane by Ahmad Sayyed Barelwi, a revolutionary Islamist in the 19th century. The British occupation of the Sub-continent and the changing economic and political landscape, widened the gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims. Although a lot of people are of the opinion that it was Mohammad Ali Jinnah who proposed the two-nation theory the seeds of that idea were sowed in the 18th century itself.

In reality, although, Mohammed Ali Jinnah believed in creating a secular and multi-religious Pakistan he faced massive opposition from the likes of Abdul Ala Maududi, who was a pious Islamist. Abdul Ala Maududi, was a towering figure in the Islamic world. He was the first recipient of the Saudi Arabian King Faisal International Award for his service to Islam in 1979. Interestingly, upon his death, he also became the second person in the history whose prayer was observed in the Kaaba, preceding King Ashama Ibn-Abjar.

The shaky secular credentials of Pakistan collapsed soon after the assassination of Qaid-e-Azam. In the 1970s  with the rise of a staunch Maududi exponent, Muhammed Zia-Ul Haq paved the way to the complete Islamization of the Pakistani society. A staunch proponent of Abdul Ala Maududi, Zia-Ul Haq would often silence the moderate voices questioning his islamization project by saying that Pakistan cannot afford to become a second-rated version of India. He believed it was Pakistan’s purely Islamic credentials that makes the country superior to oppressive Hindu India.

Era of Social Engineering?

Circa 2016, in many ways, is also a watershed moment for Pakistan. Though nothing much has changed in the military, the Intelligence, and the Foreign Policy front, a plethora of changes in the social structure of the country is evoking a sense of optimism. There have been fantastic and incredible changes on the social front that augurs good for the future of Indo-Pak ties.

Some examples of these changes are the passing of the historic Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, the National Assembly’s resolution to observe national holidays on Holi, Diwali, and Easter. Not to forget the surprisingly brave decision to dish out a death sentence to Mumtaz Qadri, who in January 2011 assassinated the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer for speaking against the nation’s blasphemy law!

All these changes galvanized intense national debates with varied emotions. A point in time when the radicals and the moderates clashed, ideologically. No matter how severe and harsh the resistance was from the radical elements of the country the government didn’t succumb to the outrage and the anger of the radical elements. While the country is yet to recover from the deadly attack on the Baccha Khan University in Charsadda and the highly deplorable Easter Sunday bombings in Lahore, these changes talk a lot about the social engineering initiatives at work in a country that had almost forgotten about her minorities.

I believe every Indian must support this commendable and incredibly courageous social engineering project at work in Pakistan. This could be an era of trust building and consensus building in our historically violent neighborhood. A socially stable, cohesive, and united Pakistan is in the best interest of India, too!