Sunday, October 10, 2010

The future of Pakistan

Khaled Ahmed in The Friday Times, October 8, 2010:

Identity under ‘jahiliya’ exclusion: Dr Walter Andersen, Acting Director, South Asia Studies, John Hopkins University, wrote in 2007: ‘The real choice facing Pakistan has much to do with identity – and that choice will have important international implications. Will it become an inclusive homeland for its many different ethnic groups – or will it become an Islamic state, somewhat like Iran, driven by regional and international visions of sacred inspiration. I would presently bet on a more democratic and inclusive future. But if the latter less tolerant future occurs, we all have a problem’.

Chances are that the state may find its own identity pushed to the extreme right under the ideology of jahiliya propagated by Al Qaeda whose following in Pakistan comes from the clergy and their madrassa network, the jihadi organisations fielded by the state to fight its wars of ‘destiny’, and the common man alienated from the ‘weak state’ of Pakistan. The concept of jahiliya is inward-looking and focuses on the defects of homo islamicus ; and therefore initially it is the Sunni Muslim who will bear the brunt of this new identity-formation. After that, while becoming somewhat like Iran, Pakistan will fight an ‘intermediate’ sectarian war with Iran under an Al Qaeda banner before taking on the West. (Al Qaeda is fighting Iran in Iraq and its subordinate militia, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is fighting the ‘excludable’ Shia in Pakistan.)

Pakistan’s ‘pre-modern’ seduction: In pre-modern times, Pakistan as a state would have disappeared because of its rapidly declining will to live. Today, it can become like Afghanistan and Yemen and Sudan – despite its nuclear assets – but the prevailing international order will prevent it from disappearing. Because of its extreme economic dependency on the outside world, Pakistan may even take some pragmatic steps to water down its medieval ideology and identity-coercion. It is quite clear now that it simply does not have the ideological conviction to fight the ‘superior’ puritanism of Al Qaeda. But it can be helped by a world community scared of Al Qaeda’s destructive outreach and, in return for this help, Pakistan may make an effort to strip itself of its coercive identity without even risking an intellectual discussion of it.

In Pakistan a prime minister can be educated in a Christian school and his children can be born in a Christian hospital, but he will not realise that a Christian cannot be treated in his own family hospital because of the use of zakat funds in it. The smell of ‘zimmi’-hood is quite strong in Pakistan and presages the days of ‘destiny’ which Pakistani identity is looking forward to. There is no ‘jizya’ imposed on the non-Muslims yet, but in Al Zawahiri’s mind the plans for imposing it are quite advanced. Not many clerics will disagree with him. And many more communities will be added to those who will pay the ‘jizya’. We all know who the ‘excludable’ communities are.