The Central Problem Pakistan Needs to Tackle

Ayesha Siddiqa, author of “Military Inc.,” termed the Pakistani elections held in February of this year as the third fair and free election. (The 1970 and the 1988 elections are the other two.) The new, but temporary, Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gillani, would exit once Asif Zardari wins a seat in parliament.

The two biggest parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of late Benazir Bhutto (now under her husband Zardari’s leadership) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N or Nawaz group) of Nawaz Sharif formed a coalition government along with Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). (The government ministers belonging to PML-N have resigned over the issue of reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges sacked by General Pervez Musharraf’s government last year. The PML-N is for immediate reinstatement whereas PPP is not in a hurry.

Should Musharraf be Impeached?

The impeachment process would simply be a waste of time and money, an ego satisfying matter for his critics, and would divert attention from the core problem gnawing Pakistan right now.

The people advocating the removal of Musharraf should remember that the circumstantial-twins, Sharif/Zardari are not saints either. <1>

Sharif’s record is no better. Back in November 1997, his men stormed the Supreme Court and disrupted Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah’s hearings of case against Sharif. Shah was later removed.

In the same year, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the party leaders absolute power over their members in parliament. At that time, Sharif’s Party was in majority and so he became immune from vote of no confidence and thus from being removed from power.

He also altered the Thirteenth Amendment, thus snatching the presidential power to remove the prime minister.

Corruption is not a new thing to either the western or the eastern leaders; Sharif was very good at it too. <2>

About Zardari, the less said the better; he is an outright rogue.

Musharraf is accused of towing the US line on its “war on terror.” One wonders, how different Sharif would have been if he would have been in power on September 11, 2001.

During the first US war against Iraq in 1991, Chief of the Armed Forces Mirza Aslam Baig, to embarrass Sharif, opposed sending Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia whereas the latter was in favor—even though Pakistan wasn’t openly threatened by the US State Department, the way Musharraf regime was by the then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. Sharif could have at least joined Baig to test latter’s intention. (Very soon, Baig showed his true color; he flew to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to lick the asses of their monarchs.)

“Allah, Army, and America”

It is said that three A’s, “Allah, Army, and America,” runs Pakistan—more appropriately, they actually halt Pakistan from going anywhere. To be fair to them, the politicians, capitalists, and feudal lords are not any better

The Army

The army has taken a back seat, for the time being, at least. However, being the custodian of Pakistan, any minor excuse will be enough for it to jump into the driver’s seat.

As to the US “war on terror,” Washington doesn’t have to worry; the Chief of Army Staff (and the former head of ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence), General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, is the man it feels can do business with. He has also been selected for the US Army Command and General Staff College’s International Hall of Fame.

The United States

The day Gillani sworn in as the new premier, the Terrorism Hit Men, US Deputy Secretary of State, John D. Negroponte, and assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Richard A. Boucher were meeting Musharraf. <3>

On the other hand, Sharif has talked about the US role in Pakistan:

“If America wants to see itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed.”

“I have told the US officials that the government wants peace in the world but does not want to turn Pakistan into a murder house.”

What will happen is that the US will maintain a low profile, while bombing the targets it wants to but issuing denials. Chances are pretty slim that Sharif may become unmanageable. If that happens, then the US can always ask Saudi Arabia to tame him. (After he was removed from power in 1999 by Musharraf, Sharif spent his time in exile, in Saudi Arabia.) As for Zardari, he is very close to the US. And the day he thinks of walking a different track, the US could pressure the European governments to expedite the corruption cases against him in those countries.


Allah’s warriors are multiplying like insects and worms and have become immune to the barbaric bombings by the United States. They have become bold and it seems no area in Pakistan is outside the range of their suicide missions.

The JUI’s Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the person who it was thought had some leverage over the Taliban is, according to Nicholas Schmidle, himself under threat from them for his soft stance <4>.

And it is these religious fundamentalists who the new government should deal with first.

But How?

For the new government, there are two ways to deal with this problem: One is a head on collision in a violent way and turn Pakistan into Bloodistan—and it would be bloodier than the 1990’s Algeria, because of the US involvement in the region. And the other one is a head on collision in a non-violent manner, which, of course, won’t be without violent reaction from the fanatics.

The second course is much more preferable and will cure the root cause rather than applying temporary patches. For this treatment we need to go back in time

1953 Violence Against Ahmadi Muslims

In 1947, the British left India after dividing that country into India and a new nation of Pakistan. Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs engaged in gory violence. Over a million people died and over 10 million people migrated, the largest in history.

Within thirteen months, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, passed away. (He was known as Quaid-e-Azam or the Great Leader.)

Quite a few leaders of Islamic parties were against the creation of Pakistan. Nevertheless, once Pakistan appeared on the world map, some of them opted for Pakistan. Many others were already residing in the new nation.

One of them, Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar is credited with the following couplet written to denigrate Jinnah whose wife Ruttenbai Petit was a Parsee or Zoroastrian:

Ik Kafira ke waste Islam ko chhora
Yeh Quaid-e-Azam hai keh hai kafir-i-azam <5>

For an infidel (wife) he left Islam
Is he the Great Leader or the great infidel

Within no time the religious bigots targeted the Ahmadis, one of the Muslim sects, with hateful speeches and literature, while demanding publicly on May 1, 1949, that they be declared non-Muslims.

In 1868/69, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) claimed that he has received a revelation from Allah. The one in 1890 informed him that Jesus was taken off the Cross and once his wounds were healed he escaped to Kashmir in South Asia where he met his natural death. The belief that Jesus will himself appear on the Day of Resurrection is incorrect; the fact is that someone from among the Muslims with the qualities of Jesus will appear as the Issa-ibn-Maryam (i.e., Jesus s/o Mary).

According to most Muslims, the injunction in Koran that Muhammad is “the Seal of the prophets” closed all doors for any newcomer to claim the prophethood. Ahmadis interpret it differently.

The anti-Ahmadi activities of the Islamic parties going on for sometime reached another stage in January 1953, when Majlis-i-Amal issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims and to remove foreign minister Choudhary Zafrullah Khan, an Ahmadi, from his post. Many Shia leaders expressed the same views.

This ultimately led to violence against the Ahmadis. Many people died and an Ahmadi mosque was burned down. The government appointed an enquiry commission.

Munir Report

The commission’s findings, known as the Munir Report, submitted by Justice Mohammad Munir and Justice M. R. Kayani in 1954, is such an enlightened document that none of the ruling hypocrites in today’s Pakistan dare mention it; forget about publishing it. Though, it is these times that demand that it should be made a compulsory subject (alongside Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech) in educational institutions and the Islamic madrassas.

(Forget Pakistan, even the “greatest democracy” won’t go for that kind of bold and pure reasoning. However, the truth may come out from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ when Rev. Jeremiah Wright speaks out.)

The Report points out two important things. The first one is that Islam and democracy are incompatible <6>. The paragraph I’m quoting is a bit lengthy but it’s worth reading.

“When it is said that a country is sovereign, the implication is that its people or any other group of persons in it are entitled to conduct the affairs of that country in any way they like, and untrammelled by any considerations except those of expediency and policy. An Islamic State, however, cannot in this sense be sovereign, because it will not be competent to abrogate, repeal, or do away with any law in the Qur’an or the sunna [practices and customs as observed by Mohammad]. Absolute restriction on the legislative power of a State is a restriction on the sovereignty of the people of that State, and if the origin of this restriction lies elsewhere than in the will of the people, then to the extent of that restriction the sovereignty of the State and its people is necessarily taken away. In an Islamic State, sovereignty, in its essentially juristic sense, can only rest with Allah. In the same way, democracy means the rule of the demos, namely, the people, directly by them as in ancient Greece and Rome, or indirectly through chosen representatives as in modern democracies. If the power of the people in the framing of the Constitution or in the framing of the laws or in the sphere of executive action is subject to certain immutable rules, it cannot be said that they can pass any law that they like, or, in the exercise of executive functions, do whatever they like. Indeed if the legislature in an Islamic State is a sort of ijma’[consensus], the masses are expressly disqualified from taking part in it because ijma’-i-ummat [consensus of the Islamic community) in Islamic jurisprudence is restricted to ulama [Islamic scholars] and mujtahids [Islamic jurists] of acknowledged status, and does not at all extend, as in democracy, to the populace.” <MR, p.210>

When the commission asked the religious leaders to define a Muslim, each one had a different meaning than the other leader.

“… the claim that a certain person or community is not within the pale of Islam implies on the part of the claimant an exact conception of what a Muslim is…. Below we produce the definition of a Muslim given by each alim [Islamic scholar] in his own words. This definition was asked after it had been clearly explained to each witness that he was required to give the irreducible minimum conditions which a person must satisfy to be entitled to be called a Muslim and that the definition was to be on the principle on which a term in grammar is defined.” <MR, p.215>

After interviewing each of the leaders, the commission concluded:

“Keeping in view the several definitions given by the Ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the Ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else.” <MR p.218)

All the ulama agreed that the Ahmadis are not Muslims but none of the two ulama agreed on what constituted a Muslim.

The ulama were also questioned as to what if India were to declare itself a Hindu state? The answers were either indifference to the plight of Indian Muslims; or the conquering of India; or in time of war, an advice to the Indian Muslims that they should side with Pakistan. <MR, P.227-230)

The Munir Report’s logic prevailed and so the Ahmadis remained a part of Islam.

In 1974, Ahmadis were Declared non-Muslims.

In the early 1970s, the monster rose again. Under pressure from religious clerics and to maintain his grip on power, the Oxford/Berkeley educated Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto caved in and declared the Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Pakistan Constitution’s Article 260:3:

(a) “Muslim” means a person who believes in the unity and oneness of Almighty Allah, in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last of the prophets, and does not believe in, or recognize as a prophet or religious reformer, any person who claimed or claims to be a prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (peace be upon him); and

(b) “non-Muslim” means a person who is not a Muslim and includes a person belonging to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Parsi community, a person of the Quadiani Group or the Lahori Group who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name or a Bahai, and a person belonging to any of the Scheduled Castes [Dalits or low caste Hindus].

Current Situation

The condition of Ahmadis (and other religious minorities and women) had never been good, but with the passage of time it has greatly deteriorated. On the other hand, the power of Muslim fanatics has increased immensely. The Ahmadis cannot call anymore their places of worship as “mosques,” cannot greet people with “Assalam Alaikum” (or peace be upon you), cannot go for a Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.

The number 6 in the Pakistani Passport’s application asks to state applicant’s “Religion” and number 25 “Declaration in Case of Muslims” (iii) states:

“I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter nabi [prophet] and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Quadiani group to be Non-Muslims.” <7>

It is so easy to label another community’s prophet as an “imposter.” (So many interfaith groups have cropped up; what is urgently needed is the intrafaith groups.)

Such an open discrimination from the Government of Pakistan, toward its own citizens of a minority sect! None of the US official has to apply for a Pakistani passport and so, I presume, they are unaware of this blatant communalism. <8>

For quite some time now, some of the Sunni militants have been demanding the ouster of twelvers, Ismailis, and all the other Shias from Islam.

Then What?

Let’s say that all the Shias in Pakistan are declared non-Muslims. Does it mean that Pakistan—now a Sunni Muslim country—would become a paradise on earth? If anyone breeds that notion, that person is living (not in a fool’s paradise) but in a Taliban’s paradise—which is worst than hell. Next thing the fundamentalists would want to do is to force all the Sunnis belonging to various sects to become Wahhabis-the Saudi brand of Sunni Islam, absolutely intolerant and inhumane.

If it happens, does it mean that the Sunni zealots would be satisfied? No. Then they’ll go after their co-Wahhabis and make them wear the clothes they dim fit, would prescribe a certain length of beard, burn down the video/DVD stores, etc.

Are Taliban the True Muslims?

The Taliban’s Islam is to confine women in the four walls of the home, force men to grow beard and wear ankle length pants, and such savage and silly things.

If the Taliban wants to relive the Seventh Century, why don’t they follow the example of Prophet Mohammad thoroughly? Ride camels instead of SUVs, use swords instead of missiles, and use tablets and ink pots instead of computers and printers. Taliban are not fools. They know damn well that they cannot fight the white “infidels” with camels, swords, and tablets. There are thousands of things, such as cellular phones, which did not exist during the seventh century.

The Taliban (or the other Islamic fundamentalists) don’t have an unflinching belief in their Allah, who is considered by the believers to be the creator of the whole universe. Or else, why would they get violent every time anyone says something about Islam and/or Mohammad. Why don’t they leave it up to Allah to take care of Islam and its prophet?

Their fight with the United States is understandable for historical reasons, past and present. Their opposition of the leaders, most of them US puppets, deserves sympathy too. However, they lack the resources and the sophisticated means of “democracy,” “human rights,” “freedom,” and such sacred words—which are in the custody of the US—to carry on their agenda and hence they indulge in the mindless violence in the name of religion.

What the Government Should Do

The first step the government should take is to declare null and void the articles 360: a and b, and proclaim Ahmadis as Muslims, and apologize to them for the past folly. This will make the fundamentalists realize that Pakistan is a country belonging to all its citizens—irrespective of whether they are Christians, Hindus, atheists, or agnostics—and is not some kind of an Islamic seminary where the mullahs can dictate the rules. The government should emphasize that there are many Islams—as many as there are Muslims.

The government should make extracts of Jinnah’s August 11, 1947, speech to the Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly, a part of the Constitution. Here are a couple of extracts:

“… You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

“… you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” <202>

Then it should repeal all the blasphemy laws; nothing can be holier than human life.

B. R. GOWANI can be reached at


<1> The temporary-twins could turn long term-twins if some arrangement is worked out between them for rotating the post of prime minister. If it happens, it would be the saddest day for the people of Pakistan. Two filthy rich and corrupt leaders would loot together without fear of being opposed.


<3> I have rephrased John Perkins phrase “Economic Hit Men”. See his wonderful book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” Talking to Amy Goodman, he said:

“This [US] empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that.”


<5> “Munir Report,” p.11. Henceforth MR.

The religious clerics viewed Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan and other educated women as “prostitutes.” (Khan was the president of APWA or All Pakistan Women’s Association and was the governor of Sindh Province. She was married to Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.

<6> Or for that matter, no religion can accommodate true democracy nor can capitalism be the true carrier of democracy.


<8> I’m just pointing out the US hypocrisy. Personally, I wouldn’t want the US to interfere in any country’s affairs; it should just take care of the injustices and inequalities within the United States.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at