An under current of messianic zeal is never far from the surface in Muslim societies. It goes back to the Prophets time. He would, however, temper his message with due consideration for human frailties and preferred persuasion to coercion. On the occasion of the signature ceremony on the peace treaty document (Suleh-e-Hudaibiah) between Muslims and the Quraish [lv] of Mecca, the latter objected to his title ‘Messenger of God’ under his signature. He scratched out the title when he signed the document, rather than forego the obvious advantages of the treaty.
He captured Mecca the following year with out firing a shot, or in his case with out launching an arrow. He did not seek revenge from the leaders of Mecca, forgiving even the woman Hinda of the Umayyad clan who had, after the defeat of Muslims in the second battle against the Quraish, chewed the raw liver of his favorite uncle Hamza.
The prophet was gradualist and tolerated affronts to his person with a smile.
About a hundred and fifty years after the prophet Abbasids took over the caliphate, which was by then full-fledged hereditary office. They got the clerics and jurists to meddle with the traditions of the prophet [lvi]. In the process all the saying which emphasized tolerance, compromise, free will in adoption of any creed, proscription of coercion in conversion, near equal status of women, fair treatment of minorities, pursuit of education etc were eradicated from the texts. A noted scholar Imam Bokhari found about six hundred fifty credible ones among the seventeen thousand then extant.
One “scholar” Ibn-e-Tamayya in early Abbasid period followed an intolerant version of Islam as propounded by one of early jurists of Islam, Imam Ibne Hanbal. Another disservice the scholars did to Islam was to proscribe Ijtehad-research, innovation and critical thought- thus closing the gates of rational analysis, leaving only blind belief in stead. The name of Imam Ghazali, an eminent jurist of his time springs to mind.
The intolerant version did not take root till the eighteenth century when a mediocre Arab cleric by the name of Abdul Wahab revived it. The founder of the house of Saud used it against the Ottomans..
Mainstream Sunnis in India shunned them before independence.
Wahabi sect was given a tremendous boost by the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia. Literally thousands of Madresahs- seminaries were established in Pakistan. The country suffers from grinding poverty and abysmally low literacy rate. If any one offered food, clothes and shelter, millions would swamp him. All the seminaries offered was memorizing the Quran and indoctrination in fantasy- of wine women and dance in the after world. The cadre of hypnotized youth when unleashed, went around targeting and attacking non-Muslims and even Muslims who did not agree with their handlers.
In historical terms, the recent set backs like establishment of Israel, the debacle of 1967 six day war, the 1971 Civil war in East Pakistan, the total reversal after early successes in 1973 [lvii] Yom Kippur war, Afghan Jihad and post Gulf II war demolition of Iraq, have driven Muslims further away from the path of development, sciences and enlightenment.
Taliban, got a new patron with messianic zeal, Osama Bin Laden, who was worth six hundred million Dollars. Of all the sections and ethnicities the Taliban were the best organized, financed and led. After soviet retreat they eliminated other factions in short order and committed atrocities especially on the minority Shias and women. They closed girl’s schools, sent all female workers, Doctors, teachers, and office workers home. Incessant warfare over two decades had left innumerable widows and orphans with no means of support. No longer allowed to work many resorted to begging and prostitution.
Taliban imposed “religious” courts where destitute women and other disenfranchised populace were summarily tried with out the benefit of defense, witnesses or even prosecuting attorneys. Deranged clerics handed down judgments after a few minutes deliberation. The punishment could be public beatings, amputation of a hand or foot or stoning to death. Thousands in Kabul’s main sports stadium watched the spectacle. On the streets religious police caned women not covered from head to foot, or wearing high heels. Men were subject to measurement of beards, which had to be regulation length, and the more zealous security guards would check the pubic area to see if it was properly shaved. Men had to wear ankle length lower body wear to play soccer- football. Members of one Pakistani soccer team had their heads shaved because they wore shorts.
The virus spread to Pakistan where a common slogan used to be “Who will save Pakistan, Taliban, Taliban”. Members of the “other” sect were murdered for the greater glory of Islam. In Karachi alone, scores of young Shia physicians were killed in cold blood. Mosques were torched, clerics butchered, and kidnapped. Christians and Hindus were not spared either.
Things have actually been getting worse. The political wing of the parties on the lunatic fringe actually won elections in two provinces in Pakistan. In spite of all that the US combat of the Taliban has been, at best, ham handed. The deadly virus of Taliban is not far from engulfing Pakistan in an epidemic of extremism.
Though Benazir (BB) and Nawaz Sharif (NS) took turns in occupying the PM’s office for eleven years between Zia and Musharraf, yet except for the two year interlude when NS managed to sack a head of the Navy and force the resignation of the army chief, (Naval chief was dismissed on corruption charges that he received a kick back and army chief for suggesting that a Turkish style national security council comprising the President, PM, joint and service chiefs be constituted) real power remained in the hands of the Evil Quad (army-feudal-bureaucratic-mullah combine). They controlled the band and made the politician dance to their tune.
After Zia’s death in 1988, the new President and both houses of the parliament got to together and amended the constitution to provide for party based elections. Elections were announced, prepared for and held at the end of 1988.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by BB won the largest number of seats. They were just shy of overall majority. The party had done well in the Punjab.
Provincial elections followed a few days later. By making crass parochial appeals crass appeals to, a popular refrain was “Punjabi tere Turre Te Laga Daagh” [lviii]; it had been dishonored, protégés of Zia led by NS won in the Punjab. MQM won the urban seats in Sind.
Muslim minority provinces offered more than half of civil servants and an overwhelming number of business men, industrialists, bankers, trades men, teachers and professionals and almost the entire leadership of Muslim league that Pakistan inherited from the Raj. Muslims in the provinces, which came to constitute West Pakistan, could only offer Army officers and soldiers, decrepit feudal landowners. Sind and NWFP did not have a single ICS (Indian civil Service of colonial times, now CSP).
The Eastern wing was no better off. It offered jute, which was processed in Calcutta and one ICS officer.
Bitter turf-hegemonistic wars broke out between the “sons of the soil” (SOS), a term used for those born in the Punjab (bureaucrats born the Punjab) and non-sons of the soil-NSOS, (born in India). SOS had the weaker hand. In 1951 practically all the heads of Government departments were non-Punjabi immigrants.
NSOS also had more representation in the officer corp. than their percentage in the population would justify.
Ayub who broke the back of NSO bureaucracy by sacking all the NSOS senior officers, except for one who had married the only sister of three Punjabi senior civil servants. His successor Yahya did more of the same. Bhutto scraped the bottom of the barrel.
Bhutto promoted dissension between all sections of the society as a deliberate policy. Worst affected were Sindhi-Immigrant relations.
Bhutto won more seats in the Punjab and diehard Sindhi nationalists openly derided him as a tool of Punjabis. All he could do was to deflect Sindhi unrest to the immigrants. He introduced a rural–urban quota system; rural area residents, largely indigeneous Sindhis would be given preference to immigrants in all government jobs .
Zia had already effectively put an end to secular non-ethnic politics in Pakistan. Bhutto Paying lip service to religion, engineered dissension among all the groups, students included. He would later declare Qadianis as non-Muslims.
Altaf Husain, the founder of MQM, had founded an immigrant Students Organization.
During his time at the university, Altaf distinguished himself by not attending classes, or taking tests and by being disrespectful to his teachers. He managed to pass the Pharmacy final examination, or more likely was allowed to do so [lix].
Soon after graduation he left for the USA. He could not pass the US exam, so to support himself he drove a cab in Chicago. [lx].
During the mid eighties, he surfaced back in Pakistan, launched MQM and met moderate, success. But he had acquired a core of devout followers. An announcement that Altaf would address a public meeting was made late in 1983.
The day before the meeting I found the whole city was festooned with colorful MQM banners. I learnt later that a veritable swarm of well-led enthusiasts had worked in a very organized and disciplined manner and had draped all exposed surfaces of the city with Altaf’s proclamations. Many questions were raised and vocalized on the source of MQM financing. Detractors openly expressed the idea that it was underwritten by the Inter services Intelligence (ISI) [lxi] and American CIA.
A reported hundred thousand people attended it. It was actually a moderate number for Karachi, a city of many million souls. But what was striking was the discipline of the crowd. It rained buckets during Altaf’s speech. Not a person fled the downpour.
A few days later MQM announced a meeting in Hyderabad, a town about a hundred miles from Karachi. In an ostentatious display of solidarity MQM decided to bus thousands of supporters to the town. The route of the buses passed through a Pathan drug mafia dominated area [lxii]. Gangster mobs attacked the tail end and stragglers. Several hundred were killed.
The organized manner in which the dastardly deed was perpetrated led many to believe that it had been an officially abetted aggression. The Lt General Governor of the province was widely believed to have intimate connections with the under world. The tragedy proved to be a tremendous boost to MQM.
In 1984 a speeding bus had crushed a college girl named Bushra Zaidi. Thousands of students had witnessed the accident. The victim was of immigrant origin; the driver and conductor of the bus were Pathans.
Drivers worked long hours. Accidents were consequently common. They would seek shelter in the nearest police station.
But this was different. The victim was a young girl; she had died in the sight of hundreds of college students. The police had been complicit in keeping the culprits under wraps.
Ethnic riots broke out in an area called Aurangi, a huge shantytown, which provided shelter to Pathan migrants from the North who lived in uneasy proximity with a large number of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Pakistan army had used them to fight the Bengali militia and had trained them in the use of small arms and in concocting “Molotov” cocktails.
Riots soon spread to other parts of the city.
Altaf soon grew bigger than life. Public poured funds into the coffers of MQM..
In the municipal elections held after Zia died in a plane crash, MQM swept the polls for the city council in Karachi.
I attended a private fundraiser for MQM addressed by Altaf. The host was a former member of the “Brahmin” class of Pakistan, the coveted Senior Civil Services [lxiii]. Nearly all the “hereditary” and proletarian Mohajir leaders, the progeny of the founders of the country were in attendance. Hoping to get nominations to the assemblies, they eulogized Altaf in slavish fashion..
MQM was organized on fascist lines. Altaf’s cult of personality rivaled that of Hitler, with a dash of oriental superstition thrown in. His pictures were reported to have materialized in the tiles of the floors of Mosques and inside vegetables! Questions like “where was the Quaid-e-Tahreek, Leader of the movement born, or what was his mother’s name” etc figured prominently in the formal doctrinal examinations held for the rank and file.
Every one who was any one in Pakistani politics, Benazir (BB) and Nawaz among them, visited Altaf in his tiny townhouse. BB gave him a copy of the Quran. He gave her a Dupatta [lxiv].
MQM and PPP soon fell out. Altaf realized too late that PPP had given him oral assurances which they had no intention of honoring. The Mayor of Karachi was made impotent. Sindhi hatred of Mohajirs extended even to the sole Mohajir PPP minister Amir Haider Kazmi [lxv].
BB’s first term was marred by persistent riots between Mohajirs and Sindhis. Mohajir and Sindhi workers fought a gun battle in the steel mill. The army mediated the conflict. Police surrounded Purana Qila, Hyderabad, which housed about half a million Mohajirs and severed the Gas, water and electric connections to the area. The siege continued for several days till the COAS Aslam Beg, a Mohajir himself sent the army to break it.
BB indulged in unprecedented jobbery. All government offices, nationalized industries, businesses and banks had to find a berth for people presenting themselves with a “chit”, a note from BB or one her senior minions. Her ministers followed suit [lxvi].
Her spouse, Asif became known as Mr. 10% percent, after his reported facilitation fee. The couple bought a mansion in Surrey County in England. It boasted a heli-pad. He and BB were to be named in money laundering and other such cases in international court.
BB’s annointed goon, Naseerullah Babar, reportedly indoctrinated in counter insurgency techniques by the best CIA could offer, was the acknowledged godfather of Taliban. Armed personnel would suddenly surround localities. House to house search would follow after “security” services had surrounded the section of the town. Young men and some young girls who took the fancy of the marauders would be picked up and taken away to police stations. They would be mercilessly beaten in full sight of parents who would beg for reprieve. If they could pay adequate amount of bribe the victim would be released. Scores of hundreds of young men became victims of extra-judicial killing.
General Aslam Beg threw a party for his daughter’s wedding, which in opulence would shame the ones thrown by Caliphs of Baghdad. BB, the President and all power brokers attended.
After he retired, Aslam Beg told the Chief justice (CJ) boldly, nay sneeringly, that yes he had collected and diverted a fabulous amount of money to prop up favorite groups and under cut the opposition. The CJ spluttered incoherently but subsided when Beg glared at him.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.