An Attack on Pakistan is an Attack on Islam

The image of Pakistan , as evinced by global media reports, throws up a large number of contradictions that seem irreconcilable. On the one hand there is the often-presented romanticized picture of a tolerant Islamic state, conjuring up images of a nation worthy of inspiring the Arabian Nights. A “responsible” nation wronged by India and by the United states , a misunderstood nation that symbolizes peace and equality of Islam. A forward looking nation led by a latter-day Ataturk, who speaks of “enlightened moderation” as the cure to Pakistan’s problems caused by rampant religious fundamentalism.

On the other hand there is the less flattering picture of
Pakistan , one of a nation that maintains training schools for Islamic terrorists who operate from India to Indonesia and from the Philippines to Russia . The nation housing the headquarters of international terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (Army of the Pure) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of the Prophet Mohammad). The nation that harbors the Al Qaeda and gave rise to the Taliban, under whose bigoted rule, millennia old statues of the Buddha, apostle of peace, were destroyed as statues were “anti-Islamic”[i]. A nation that holds and protects, without punishment or censure, and with state sanction, international criminals like Abdul Qadeer Khan, a nuclear weapons proliferator [ii], Dawood Ibrahim, a millionaire thug, leader of an international crime syndicate, and mass murderer responsible for one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India in 1992 [iii], and Omar Saeed Sheikh, a kidnapper and murderer, the mastermind behind the beheading of the Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl. A nation in which women are possessions who can be raped and then punished for adultery [iv], and where female toddlers can be betrothed to adults as punishment for a crime by a third party [v]. A nation of poverty and illiteracy, led by a fantastically wealthy military elite leadership, who simultaneously claim the ability to control their nation, as well as inability to control parts of their nation [vi].

Is there any way in which these divergent and at times contradictory views of
Pakistan can be reconciled? 

It turns out that it is possible to reconcile these views, provided one is able to consciously give up the notion that religion has no role to play in affairs of the Pakistani state. The separation of religion from state, to produce a secular government is a construct that seems to work in Western and some non-western democracies. In such systems, the national laws and government do not interfere with the religious beliefs of the citizens because they view religion as a private, personal issue. Religious leaders in turn do not have the power or the authority to interfere with government policy. Religion and national policies form separate “compartments”, either of which cannot dictate terms to the other, and it is assumed that state policies on international relations with other countries are not motivated by religious concerns. However, this deliberate separation of religious affairs and affairs of the state has never existed in Pakistan, where religion is used with state sanction to whatever extent necessary, and without following any firm rules about the extent to which religion can control the government, or vice versa.

The role of Islam in
Pakistan should not be underestimated. Ignoring this or sidelining the role of Islam in Pakistan can only lead to a failure to understand Pakistani compulsions and actions.

The Islamic
republic of Pakistan was born as a nation for Muslims. Pakistan watcher and recognized friend of Pakistan , Stephen Cohen, chose to describe Pakistan as follows: “ Pakistan was to be an extraordinary state--a homeland for Indian Muslims and an ideological and political leader of the Islamic world. Providing a homeland to protect Muslims--a minority community in British India--from the bigotry and intolerance of India's Hindu majority was important”[vii] 

“Bigotry and intolerance” of hundreds of millions of Hindus, who had been under Muslim or British rule for several centuries, is mentioned casually as a truism for which Muslims needed protection in a separate nation, Pakistan. This ideology had no place for the protection of Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists, also religious minorities and presumably at equal risk from Hindu bigotry. The new state was formed for Muslims. With the word “Paki” meaning pure,
Pakistan was to be a state of pure Islam, purely for Muslims, despite the early rhetoric of a soon-to-die Jinnah.[viii] One of the rallying cries of this new Islamic state was “What is the meaning of Pakistan ? There is no God but Allah” (“ Pakistan ka matlab kya? La illah ilallah”)

In keeping with this pure Islamic ideology, the percentage of non-Islamic minorities in the Pakistani population has dropped from over 15% shortly around the time of Pakistan's creation in 1947 to about 3% today [ix]  [x]. Until recently Pakistanis had to swear by their Islamic identity before they could obtain a passport, and Pakistani passport holders are unique in the world in having their religion, Islam, mentioned on their passport [xi]. Even people who live as Muslims in other parts of the world, such as Ahmedis and Shias do not meet the exacting requirements of the purity of Islam in
Pakistan . Ahmedis are non-Islamic by law in Pakistan – a law that enjoys widespread public support in Pakistan . Such is the requirement in Pakistan for maintaining a particular pristine Islamic ideology capable of resisting all attempts at change or reform.

With religion dictating the fundamental question of the nature of Pakistani citizenship, it is little wonder that Islam crops up in every aspect of life in
Pakistan . Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947, Pakistani leaders have sought to use military force to occupy the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir , merely because the majority population in that state are Muslims. When all out war failed, Pakistan trained and armed terrorists who continue to wage a bloody campaign of religious ethnocide in India . Pakistani governments have denied this. That these denials were lies is well known, but what is significant is that Pakistani leaders have described even the act of telling a lie as an Islamic right. Late Pakistani supremo General Zia ul Haq told President Reagan that Pakistan would deny involvement in Afghanistan and added the words “Muslims have the right to lie in a good cause” [xii] . And so the tradition of lying for what is considered a good Islamic cause continues to this day. While Pakistan officially denied having been involved in the Kargil operation with India , alleging that the battle was fought between Indian forces and “freedom fighters”, - the recently launched website of the Pakistani President General Musharraf carries a photograph of General Musharraf with Pakistani troops during the Kargil operation.

The fact that Islam is the state religion of
Pakistan , and that Pakistan has sought to follow the “sharia”, or Islamic law, is perhaps an internal matter of the Pakistani state. But the internal effects of the sharia in Pakistan has a bearing on the overall development of Pakistan , and the rising incidence of poverty, illiteracy, and the burgeoning population of Pakistan . Education in Pakistan (where it is available) is primarily from privately funded Islamic schools called “madrassas” that impart an education in Koranic studies which does not include the “3 R's”. Such an education is considered all that is necessary in Islamic Pakistan, and girls are not admitted to madrassas, leading to lower literacy among women. Islamic laws have been enacted that can be misused for lopsided justice in which a rapist is let off and the raped woman accused of adultery [xiii]. A huge population of illiterate women with no access to birth spacing methods have resulted in a high birth rate and a population “bulge” of young people with little education and no jobs, ripe for induction into some madrassas that double up as schools for Islamic extremists.

By identifying itself as synonymous with
Islam , Pakistan presents the world with a fait accompli. 

Any effort to reform education in madrassas is considered anti-Islamic, so the education system cannot be changed. Efforts to change the status of women again is countered by the “anti-Islamic” clause. As recently as March 2005, the Pakistani government rejected efforts to remove a law that allows “honor killing” of women saying that efforts at repeal were anti-Islamic [xiv]. The recognition of Pakistani trained Islamic militia as terrorists leads to reactions from Pakistani governmental and non-governmental entities that “anti-Islamic nations”, - a euphemism for
India , the US, and Israel - are seeking to destroy Islam. Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferated nuclear technology only to Islamic states barring North Korea . Any effort to implicate him is considered an effort to malign the father of the Islamic bomb. An urge for nuclear restraint by Pakistan is considered an effort to de-nuclearise the Islamic world. Criminals such as Dawood Ibrahim and Omar Sheikh are considered in Pakistan to have served the cause of Islam by committing terrorist acts against India and the US and are thereby liable for protection by the Pakistani state.

Pakistan , everything done by Pakistanis and their government is deemed Islamic, and any effort at change can invite the accusation that such an effort is anti-Islamic, and therefore inappropriate and ill advised for Pakistan . This has served as an effective deterrent against change in Pakistan , and has allowed successive Pakistani governments to get away with acts that amount to international crimes [xv]

One question that stems from Pakistani actions is whether much of what is done is really Islamic or not. This is a question that should be answered by Islamic scholars from other Islamic nations. In the absence of widespread Islamic condemnation that
Pakistan has been misusing or misinterpreting Islam, it can only be assumed that Pakistani claims to ownership of Islam are genuine and legitimate, and that claims of such ownership are tacitly acknowledged and supported by other Islamic nations, who are clearly aware of Pakistan ’s claim to Islam.

This question of whether Pakistani behavior is truly Islamic has even greater impact on
Pakistan itself, and the so-called “Islamic world” at large. Pakistani leaders can hardly claim that the actions of their nation are not Islamic because doing so would mean giving up their claim on Islam and also losing the freedom the “Islam card” gives Pakistan , so that it can continue to break all norms of international behavior without fear of condemnation or retribution. 

But while
Pakistan lays claim on Islam, the picture of Islam that is emerging from Pakistan is not one of an egalitarian religion of peace, but that of an intolerant faith at war with everyone else. This is the new “Pakistan-sponsored image” of Islam, which can only be changed by the community of Islamic nations, who surely must have the concern and interest to do this. Cleaning up the image of a “Violent and vengeful Islam” that has been effectively promoted by Pakistan cannot come from non-Islamic states. It shows no signs of coming from within Pakistan . That responsibility lies with Islamic states. The non-Islamic world can only stand by and watch.

References and Footnotes

[i]  Bamiyan Statues destroyed,
[ii]Pakistan: Khan Gave Iran Machines Usable for A-Bomb, Yahoo News , Thu, Mar 10,2005,
[iii] Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian underworld don, man behind the planning and financing 13 explosions in Mumbai in 1993 in which almost 300 people died. Ibrahim is wanted in connection with cases of arms supply, counterfeiting, drugs trade, funding alleged criminals, murder and smuggling. He lives in and operates from
Karachi , Pakistan .
[iv]  In Pakistan, if a woman reports a rape, four Muslim men must generally act as witnesses before she can prove her case. Otherwise, she risks being charged with fornication or adultery-and punished with public whipping.
[v]  A tribal council in
Pakistan has ordered the betrothal of a 2-year-old girl to a man 40 years older to punish her uncle for an alleged affair with the man's wife, police said Monday.
[vi]  Balochistan-seething under Sardars and Subversion " Our predicament is that only about 5 percent of the province falls within the police jurisdiction and that means the writ of the government remains very weak, says a senior police official. "
[vii]"The Nation and State of Pakistan" Stephen P Cohen  
[viii]  "In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims-Hindus, Christians and Parsis -- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of
Pakistan ." Quaid-i-Azam, Feb. 1948
[xi]  Religion column back in Pakistan passports: Pakistan's government approved the controversial restoration of a section identifying people's religion in the country's new passports on Thursday, in a move seen as surrender to Islamic radicals.
[xii]PERCEPTIONS JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS December 2000 -February 2001 Volume V - Number 4 (a publication of the Foreign Ministry of Turkey) "Several hours later, President Zia, the truly authoritative figure in Pakistan, called President Reagan I heard the President ask Zia how he would handle the fact that they would be violating their agreement. Zia replied that they would just lie about it. 'We've been denying our activities there for eight years.' Then, the president recounted, Zia told him that, 'Muslims have the right to lie in a good cause'."
[xiii]  "..specifically the "zina" or adultery law under the Hudood Ordinance has legally blurred the distinction between rape and extramarital sex, resulting in the imprisonment and/or physical punishment of numerous women who have come forward with charges of rape without witnesses. Consequently, many rape victims are deemed criminals in a Pakistani court of law.
[xiv] The Pakistan government has allied with Islamists to reject a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of "honour killing". The parliament rejected the bill by a majority vote on Tuesday, declaring it to be un-Islamic.
[xv]  Major military changes in Pakistan by A. H. Amin "What major powers do not understand is that the Muslim elite uses the slogan "Islam is in danger" once their personal class interests are threatened as in 1940-47 or when US imposed sanctions on Pakistan from 1989 till 2001. This elite uses the slogan of Jihad once they hope to get US aid as in the Afghan War or once they have no hope of getting
US aid and need cannon fodder for dying in Kashmir , Afghanistan or elsewhere."