Jinnah, Ahmadiyyas, & Nawaz
The underlining ‘twin-nation’ theory compounded Pakistan’s confusion with its own tryst with destiny.
Liberals in Pakistan quote the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's address to the Constituent Assembly to suggest a secular aspiration, "You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or 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". Equally the hardline Islamists, invoke Jinnah's contradictory quotes to suggest theocratic moorings, "Who am I to give you a Constitution? The prophet of Islam has given us a Constitution (Quran) 1300 years ago. We have to simply follow and implement it, and based on it we have to establish in our state Islam's great system of governance". Though, Jinnah's personal predilections and behavior, including handpicking Zafarullah Khan (a Ahmedi, for Foreign Minister) and Jogendra Nath Mandal (a Hindu, for Minister of Law) shows a calculative tactician in Jinnah who played to multiple galleries at the same time, was certainly was not the puritanical zealot, as some would suggest towards justifying their own intolerant impulses.
The underlining 'twin-nation' theory compounded Pakistan's confusion with its own tryst with destiny. Intermittent military coups and the electoral desperation of the civilian politicians drifted the Pakistani narrative towards reimagining and redefining its identity (disowning its syncretic Indian heritage and adopting the Arabised/Wahhabi motifs) and ultimately, asserting its majoritarian instincts. Various retrograde fault lines were allowed to fester and resurface as the vulnerable 'minorities' got increasingly singled out – Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, and Jews were suddenly under the scanner. However, the intolerance extended to the Muslim community with many getting declared as 'kafirs', like the Ahmediyas, whereas even the Shias were made to face the brunt of sectarian dissonance. The 1953 and 1974 anti-Ahmediya riots were the precursor to the infamous Ordinance XX, that formally prohibited the practice of Islam, and the usage of terms and titles that resembled Islamic practice – in one stroke, Ahmediyas were declared 'non-muslims'. Under the watch of the ultra-religious General Zia-ul-Haq, the officially sanctified oppression of Ahmediyyas got an instant fillip and benefactor in the state.
The Ahmediyas have always punched above their weight in terms of contribution to the Pakistani society – from the forgotten genius of the first Nobel laureate from Pakistan, Prof Abdus Salam, to the finest Pakistani military commanders like Maj Gen Iftikhar Khan Janjua, brothers Lt Gen Abdul Ali Malik and Lt Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik. Yet the desecration and removal of the word 'muslim' from the sentence 'first Muslim Nobel laureate' on the tombstone on Prof Abdus Salam, is a telling state of prevailing sentiments. Irrespective of regimes from the current PML-N government, previous PPP governments or even the Gen Pervez Musharaf era, no government has had the gumption to honour the 'White' in the National Flag (signifying the minorities) and revoke the repressive ordinances that discriminate against minorities, especially the Ahmediyas. On the contrary, the blatant misuse of the blasphemy laws has made the likes of Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of the former Governor, Salman Taseer, into a folk hero!
The curse of opportunistic politicians like former PM Nawaz Sharif, who run with the hare and hunt with the hound, haunts the Pakistani polity. Contrary to his secular and democratic posturing, Nawaz Sharif is the protégé of Islamist Gen Zia-ul-Haq and was a supporter of the Military rule in the 80's. His political pandering to Gen Hamid Gul (known as the 'father of the Taliban') in stitching an alliance with religious parties is well established. However, the ambitious and mercurial Nawaz was thereafter in an uncomfortable truce with the shadowy Pakistani Military establishment, which continues till date. Besides his famous tiff and dismissal by Gen Pervez Musharaf, he has had a tenuous relationship with all Pakistani Military Chiefs who have served with him i.e. Generals Abdul Waheed Kakar, Jehangir Karamat, Raheel Sharif and now with ongoing shadow boxing with Qamar Bajwa.
For the quintessentially wily politician in Nawaz Sharif, his gambit in choosing a 'safe' Pakistani COAS has never really paid off – from a 'Mohajir' in Musharaf, to superimposing Raheel Sharif and Qamar Bajwa by superseding senior officers. Invariably the Pakistani military has refused to succumb to political appeasement or division and has retained their institutional relevance and bite by remaining united against the civilian dispensations, especially those of Nawaz Sharif. This has led politician Nawaz to play the victim card (read, Kargil), religious card, Kashmir card, geopolitical card to even sectarian card, albeit, in a surrogate manner.
Much before Gen Qamar Bajwa was appointed as the Pakistani COAS, news of his 'Ahmedi links' was doing the rounds, as he is married to the niece of the legendary, though Ahmedi, Maj Gen Iftikhar Janjua. It is in this backdrop the sudden and unprovoked sectarian rant by Captain Safdar Awan, the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif (married to Maryam Sharif), needs to be contextualised. Captain Safdar's recent hate-speech included, "….enemies of the finality of Prophet Muhammad should not be inducted into armed forces and key posts… Ahmadis, Qadiyanis are enemies of the nation…". Expectedly, the Pakistani Military reacted strongly and Captain Safdar Awan's expression was rebutted by the DG ISPR, "We are a Muslim-majority state but the white part of our flag stresses that Pakistan is for all irrespective of one's sect or religion". Even Nawaz Sharif issued a statement disassociating himself from the hate-statement, yet the bee in the bonnet was unleashed, nonetheless.
Captain Safdar further scratched the bigoted faultlines like praising the murderer Mumtaz Qadri. His history of a sham suspension (and subsequent reentry) into PML-N, when the heat from the cadres got too much in 2012 is symptomatic of the Nawaz Sharif double-speak and convenient-usage by family members, that is aimed at various quarters. While the Pakistani Military gets a lot of deserved flak for suppressing the democratic culture in Pakistan, the short-sighted civilian politicians too have a lot of blame for the imploding tinderbox within the Pakistani society. They would stop at no limits to further their own topical relevance, even at the cost of long-term peace, unity and sustainability of Pakistan. Today, the Military publically takes pot-shots at the politicians on the economy and the politicians retaliate with the worst possible insinuations of xenophobia. With each passing day the Islamist Jinnah emerges stronger than the secular Jinnah in Pakistan, and with it, the vulnerable lot like the Ahmadiyyas get damned.
(Lt General Bhopinder Singh (Retd) is Former Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands & Puducherry. The views expressed are strictly personal.)