May 19, 2018
Young Turks’ Revolution for Pakistan
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan is in the dire need of a group like legendary Young Turks who spearheaded and carried forward the reformist movement (1889-1908), paving way for Turkey to shape up as a modern, secular and liberal state. The Young Turks were progressive, modernist patriotic, liberal and democratic. They mounted a campaign against Abdul Hamid II, the Sultan and the Caliph of the decadent Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks’ movement served as a catalyst and a harbinger for the flowering of an intellectual and political life that threw up the secular revolution of Ata Turk, who laid the foundation of a modern Turkish state.
The Young Turks’ movement started secretly under the name of “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP). It was conceived in the military college of Istanbul by the dissident young soldiers and gradually spread among other sections of Turkish society such as college students, writers, journalists, and artists. In 1908, the group succeeded in forcing Sultan Abdul Hamid II to restore the parliament, which he had suspended in 1878. The restoration of legislature is called the second constitutional era and is symbolized as the Young Turk Revolution that continued from 1908 until 1919.
Let us not forget that the religious dogmatism in Turkey in the closing chapter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was much more severe and radical than what one can see now in Pakistan. Turkey under the Ottoman Sultan or Caliph Abdul Hamid II suppressed all such endeavors by individuals and organizations that would be seen as promoting the western concepts of democracy, constitutionalism, liberalism and civil liberties, so much so that the press was placed under the brutal censorship. State coercion was lavishly used to suppress progressive trends expressed by word of mouth or literature.
Young Turks’ Movement brought about a change that was nothing short of a monumental socio-political revolution. The movement of Young Turks unfurled the beginning of a journey from an obscurantist religious empire towards a modern secular state. The founder of new Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk who defeated the invasion forces and laid down the foundation of a modern Turkey with its hallmarks of nationalism and secularism, was a member of the Young Turks’ fraternity.
Having given a lengthy curtain raiser of the Young Turks’ revolution, let us now focus on the currently prevailing conditions in Pakistan that bear a great deal of resemblance in ideological aspects with those of Turkish Ottoman Caliphate. Although Pakistan doesn’t have an orthodox caliphate yet the religious political parties such as JUI, JUP, and JI, the religious clerics, religious militant entities such as, Tehrik Nifaze -Shariat Mohammedi, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sipah-e- Sahaba and the latest Taliban Islamists are engaged in a mission to revive the pristine Islamic Caliphate system of governance. Already in Swat valley the Taliban’s Islamic Justice system has been enforced. It is foregone that the Islamic fundamentalist revivalists would not remain confined to these remote northern areas and at an opportune moment would march on to the rest of Pakistan.
While Sultan Abdul Hamid used the state police and power to suppress the proponents of a modern democratic system, in Pakistan these are the religious outfits that want to Islamize Pakistan. For this aim, they relentlessly use every means including the suicide bombing to instill fear, destabilize the society and force the government to accept their eventual Islamization of Pakistan as they have already done in Swat, Dir and Malakand. Their terrorist activities are also a response to the foreign military forces that are stationed in Afghanistan to hunt and liquidate Al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
The Pakistan’s political parties and leaders lack the courage and moral prowess and indeed a vision of a modern state to countervail these ferocious opponents of progress and the fierce road blockers to the creation of a modern state. Moreover, the leaders are rank opportunists and in order to cling to power, they would even go to any extent to compromise with forces inimical to Pakistan. The Pakistan’s establishment is using its army to fight the religious militancy in tribal regions to not save Pakistan from slipping into a theocracy. They are doing this at the behest of the foreign dictates and calls. On the whole, barring a tiny minority, the Pakistani leaders tend to be cronies and surrogates of foreign powers.
Religious extremism is the most alarming and biggest threat to the stability of Pakistan. The island of theocracy that the Islamic extremists want Pakistan to become is not going to work. The minority denominations would remain exposed to the religious vendetta and discrimination as has been witnessed in such regimes. The people of the present times would not like to revert to a mode of living that would rob them of their freedom of expression, freedom of movement and the liberty to lead their life the way they like. While the other Islamic parties do not oppose scientific inventions and modern technological devices, the Taliban consider the modern gadgets as un-islamic and destroy them as they had done in Afghanistan. The quick fix punishment system is an anti-thesis to the modern judicial system synthesized by the humanity over centuries of hard worked and social evolution. Pakistan stands the nightmare of being thrown into the mold of a religious state that has never been established even in the oppressive autocratic Islamic dynasties.
So logically, the war against the extremists is not only to save the hard-won independence but also to save Pakistan as a modern and progressive state. Islam and modernity have to blend for a viably functioning of a modern state. The example of Turkey offers a shining precedent to counter and combat the apostles and agents of doom, obscurantism and darkness with steadfastness, firmness and as a bounden responsibility. The compromise with the exponents of an Islamic creed that is essentially not Islamic is the least viable solution to the ideological chaos that looms large over the horizon of Pakistan. After all Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey are also the Islamic countries. But they profess and practice a refined and reformed version of Islam that incorporates both the boons of modern technological advancements and religious obligations. Saudi Arabia, for one, despite being an orthodox religious state has sectarian peace.
Pakistan’s stability is at stake both from the religious radical militants and the corrupt political parties and leaders. Pakistan has been sinking into the abyss of socio-political chaos and instability, because our political leadership ignored the institutional build up, rule of law, supremacy of constitution, democracy and respect for popular will. These leaders have been thriving on the miseries of the people of Pakistan. The gulf between poor and rich, privileged and impoverished, haves and haves has been unremittingly widening. The abominable feudal system, the khanates, the Sardari serfdoms and strident civil and military bureaucracy was never serious to put Pakistan on a path that leads towards the destiny of the honorable nations. The judiciary with a few exceptions of principled individuals has been on auction and has served as hand maiden of the rulers. Woefully, a country with so much of land and manpower, strategic importance and abundant hidden natural resources is poor and fractured along ethnic, religious sectarian and regional lines.
It is in this worrisome situation that the role of Young Turks is of inevitable and paramount importance. The Young Turks will not come from the senior army hierarchy. They will emerge and born from the lower and middle ranks of the army. The civil society may be strong but in face of poverty, disempowerment of the masses, superstition, illiteracy and break down of labor union system, it cannot neutralize the baneful over-lordship of the religious and other pressure groups. The civil society activists can agitate but cannot dislodge and force the reactionary forces to retreat. It is the army that with its organization, discipline and weaponry can stage a revolution like that of Young Turks. That landmark revolution transformed the sick man of Europe with a rotten and stinking, moribund, theocratic empire, into a modern state that to this day is Islamic but not retrogressive and backward looking.
The young Turks of Pakistan army will be joined by the intellectuals, writers, media, intelligentsia, academics, engineers, scientists’. NGOs, and liberals, the upholders of the civil society and the votaries of a modern state. It must be understood that for the last 1400 years, the real Islamic state has never come into being. There is not the remotest possibility that it can happen now or in the future. The religious teachings and doctrines that collide with the imperatives of modern times will have to be amended or conformed in such a way that without undermining the spirit of the inherent philosophy of Islam these can be implemented. An orthodox Islam or its conservative teachings cannot be enforced as these have always been followed more in breach than in observance.
Our material considerations overweigh our subjective religious beliefs. Disregarding what Islam ordains, even the deeply religious bigots charge higher profits and care for their own interests than of others. The confusing and contradictory religious decrees from myriad Islamic theologians and sects make the believers practically observe only the perfunctory rituals than the rigid and hard to follow tenets.
From among over fifty Islamic states perhaps Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only two countries where a rigid conservative religious code is enforced. However, inside the four walls, all possible freedom in pursuit of happiness is exercised. In Saudi Arabia the American soldiers in their enclaves, drink and indulge in joyful activities. The Arab Sheikhs in their houses indulge in frivolous activities. Same is the case in Pakistan. Under the cover, from prostitution to gambling and drinking alcohol and all kinds of perfidies and religious violations occur uninhabited.
In Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, and elsewhere the night clubs, pubs and bars thrive. The sex business too is permissible. The people go to beaches, take part in gambling and do horse racing. Very few ladies observe purdah. Concurrently, these countries pursue scientific and technological research, have modern educational institutions for males and females, women and men work together in offices and factories and travel in the same bus and sit together. There is no gender segregation in all these Islamic countries. It is alone in Pakistan that all venues and windows of modern learning and technological progress are decreed by the extremists as anti-Islamic. It is in Pakistan that women’s freedom is curtailed.
No-where in the entire Islamic bloc, the schools of girls have been torched under the erroneous belief that educating females was un-islamic. In these countries, there is much emphasis on character building and attainment of knowledge than on growing beard and wearing particular robs falling to the feet. Yet our government strikes a deal with this freak breed of Islamists to allow them to impose a religious code that is neither human, nor Islamic, nor congruent with culture and needs and openness of modern civilized society.
The young Turks must suppress all obscurant tendencies that aim at keeping Pakistan as an island of ignorance, intellectual darkness and an abode of archaic medieval culture. The goals of Young Turks should be to turn Pakistan into a liberal, civilized and modern democratic state. They should enforce these goals with full might and ruthlessness. They must liquidate or sideline all those elements from political arena, business, bureaucracy, religion, and even army that support and stand for status quo and obscurantism. Accountability and transparent system in all domains of national life must be ensured even if it entails arrests and wiping out the reactionary elements. The Young Turks must stand by as gendarme to watch and oversee that the society and state of Pakistan are safely and surely embarked upon the course of a modern liberal state. In brief the church and the state should be separated.
Let us frankly admit that those people who urge or admonish others to practice Islam and become true Muslims are themselves not doing so. Most of the preachers and fellow Muslims are hypocritical and their conduct and beliefs militate against each other. They don’t’ practice what they exhort others to do. It means that religious fear is being used as a fashion and to look divine, chaste or pious before others. In our lives, barring our robotic beliefs and rituals; our conduct or living is conditioned by our needs and the dynamics of the society in which we live. The credulous humans who really believe that religion will bring peace are either too simple or do not want to come out of the fanciful yet bloated past. Peace has never been achieved between Sunnis and Shias so what chance does it stand for now.
So let us indulge in wishful thinking that like Turkey, Pakistan too will have “Young Turks” as the redeemers who, themselves, will be die-hard patriots, thoroughly honest, liberal visionaries, upright to the hilt and brutally uncompromising in making Pakistan a truly liberal, cosmopolitan, democratic, progressive modern state. They would reconstruct a Pakistan where public welfare will be the order of the day, constitution will be supreme, judiciary will be fair, legislature will be incorruptible and institutions will be efficient and geared for real nation building. They will build a Pakistan where equality, liberty, sectarian and ethnic harmony and rule of law would prevail; where the people would be free to pursue their beliefs without fear from the state and the overbearing religious sects. They will craft and reinvent a Pakistan where the privileged classes, Khans, landed gentry, aristocracy, elitist classes, feudal, Sardars and powerful mafias will be brought at par with the common citizens.
It would be a Pakistan where religious zealots and bigots would be marginalized both by force, via a cultural revolution and through blossoming of enlightenment and social awareness. It would be a Pakistan where religious tolerance will be an article of faith and where people would enjoy freedom of movement and expression. The Young Turks of Pakistan would ensure that the parents will not be killed for educating their daughters, the people not bombed for having difference of faith or opinion and where women will not be lashed for going out of their houses. For now, let us accept the stark reality that Pakistan is on the edge of a precipice. Young Turks’ revolution is the answer.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.