Monday, May 11, 2009

Pakistan Watch - 9

Syed Mansoor Hussain in the Daily Times:

Many in the English language media within the country as well as in the foreign media maintain that the fight against the Taliban in Pakistan is somehow a fight between the forces of liberalism and democracy against the forces of religious extremism and a theocratic impulse. This is entirely wrong.

The forces of liberalism, democracy and secularism lost the fight sixty years ago when the Objectives Resolution was passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Since then, at best these forces have a fought a losing battle against the Islamisation of Pakistan. Today, Pakistan is firmly and without argument an Islamic state with a constitution that clearly and unambiguously states that no laws can be repugnant to Islam.

What Pakistan has seen since the death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1948 is essentially a fight between competing visions of piety. For the first twenty years of its existence, Pakistan was under the sway of a ‘kinder and gentler’ version of Islamic practice as envisioned by the Sufi influenced Hanafi-Barelvi majority of the country.

Once General Zia-ul Haq took over and the Afghan war started, the religious centre of the country rapidly shifted under official patronage towards the more austere and extreme Wahhabi-Deobandi interpretation of Islam. The Taliban are a product of that interpretation and find support within the country from those that adhere to that vision of Islam even outside the border areas.
Once the non-Taliban types are fully mobilised, what we will see is not necessarily a victory of secular democratic forces but rather of the Islamic ideation of a different mindset; but still very much Islamic and perhaps even equally extreme in its own way. I do not believe that Pakistan is headed towards an Iranian-style theocracy but we might not end up too far from it either.