After the Pakistani killers of the Islamic State (IS) slew 88 devotees and wounded hundreds at the “Shia” mausoleum of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at Sehwan Sharif in Sindh recently, people thought it was an act of satanic cruelty. But IS knew Sehwan as “Shia” and that the saint buried there was renamed Usman to avoid being found out. The saint is revered by Muslims, Hindus, Ismailis and other branches of Islam; all dance together to the Qalandar’s mesmerising songs. Did the IS take itself out of the pale of Islam with this act?
No: It reaffirmed what Pakistan officially believes in. Javed Ahmad Ghamdi, a scholar and a member of the highest advisory body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, till religious parties got him to quit and flee the country, said the killers of Pakistanis were clones of their victims and a part of the diseased Muslim global nation. He laid out four characteristics of Muslims in the world, which make them behave as they do.
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The first is, wherever in the world there is “kufr” (non-belief) and apostasy, it has to be quelled through defeat at the hands of Muslims. The second is, all states must become Islamic and Muslims should strive to convert them to Islam. The third is, the modern nation state is unlawful under Islam and should be ruled by a caliph instead. And the fourth is, Muslims should have one global state ruled by a single caliph, not many states calling themselves Muslim.
Ghamdi said Muslims killed at Sehwan actually learned the above lessons at madrassas, residential “free” schools where boys are sent at the age of five because their families are too poor to look after them. After passing from the madrasas, most men become prayer-leading custodians of mosques or join the education department as teachers, instructing curriculums not very different from the madrassa doctrine.
This year, a judge of the Islamabad High Court declared Valentine’s Day as being against Islam: The word “love” put him off, as it had the madrasas, and Pakistanis couldn’t walk around in public with their red “love” balloons. Where hate speech is rampant despite a new law against it, love can’t be allowed expression. According to the Daily Insaf, some time ago, the Multan Intermediate Board exam was disrupted when examinees discovered one question in the Urdu paper said: “Write the blessings of love” (mohabbat ki barkatain). The students said they were not trained to write on the subject and considered it obscene: The mystics must have turned in their graves. The attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the saint of love, took place after a judge had outlawed love.
Pakistan is evolving from, according to Tilak Devasher in his easily-the-best book on Pakistan, Courting the Abyss, Jinnah’s lack of clarity on what the state would be. On August 11, 1947, Jinnah said: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” But on December 14-15, he told the Muslim League: “Let it be clear Pakistan is going to be a Muslim state based on Islamic ideals.” On January 25, 1948, he declared that Pakistan’s Constitution would be based on Islamic law (sharia) “to make Pakistan a truly great Islamic State”.
The climax of what Jinnah innocently founded has come today because the Blasphemy Law can’t be reformed as the madrassas are too strong and backed by terrorists who could be the state’s “strategic assets”. The most touching incident was reported last year from Hujra Shah Muqeem, a village south of Lahore, where a boy, mishearing a cleric’s question, “Who among you doesn’t believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Raise your hand!”, raised his hand and was publicly condemned as a blasphemer. The boy cut off his hand and presented it to the cleric.
The crucial question facing Pakistan is — what to do with the jihadi organisations that suit Pakistan’s geo-strategy, but have been condemned by the UN as terrorists? Ex-army chief General Pervez Musharraf embarrassed the state further by appearing on Dunya TV on February 18, claiming Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa was a “strategic asset” because “he didn’t kill in Pakistan”, but was helping the uprising in Kashmir.
Musharraf didn’t care much for Jaish-e-Muhammad though; he called it “terrorist” in his book. He probably recalled how Jaish had conspired to kill him; what piqued him perhaps was how Ahmad Saeed Sheikh, under death sentence in Hyderabad jail, somehow phoned President Musharraf from his cell, threatening him for calling off jihad with India.
The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’