Pakistan’s steady decline since 1977 – by Ayaz Amir

Returning to the kingdom of moral decay
Source: The News, October 05, 2012

Mr Majid Nizami, foremost champion of that nebulous concept celebrated as the ideology of Pakistan – and therefore my favourite ideologue – for all his renown is a modest and self-effacing man. On any normal working day his photograph in his own newspaper does not appear above six or eight times, front-page and back-page. Columns lauding his priceless services to the nation are usually not more than one or two – every day of course.

Years ago when Syed Ghous Ali Shah was chief minister Sindh, at a function in Islamabad dedicated to the music and culture of Sindh, with the CM present in all his glory, the then Sindh culture secretary, the very active and articulate Hamid Akhund, spoke effusively of Shah Sahib’s services, not quite saying it but almost implying that Shah Sahib was the best thing to have happened to Sindh since Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, if not Muhammad bin Qasim. Writing later about the function, where the music was wonderful, I said that Mr Akhund must have taken Shah Sahib’s name at least 20 times.

A few days later I received a letter from Mr Akhund saying that he had personally gone through the audio recording of the entire function and he could say with authority that he had mentioned Shah Sahib’s name only 7 times.

Punjab University vice chancellor, Dr Mujahid Kamran, has earned the nation’s gratitude by awarding an honorary PhD to Mr Nizami for his services to journalism. The ideology-of-Pakistan school is strong in Lahore and the Punjab University is one of its strongest bastions. It is only proper that the University should honour one of its very own.

The Punjab University’s major claim to fame has little to do with anything as mundane as scholarship. It has more to do with something far more momentous: for years on end being the leading breeding ground of what can only be called ‘danda-bardar’ or stick-wielding Islam, the version of the faith propagated and defended with singular zeal by the student adherents of the Jamaat-i-Islami….the ‘danda’ their favourite weapon, decorated suitably with nails when the occasion so demands.

Woe to anyone who challenged this dominance. The left was in disarray or had been crushed. And when Gen Zia became the Republic’s supreme pontiff – complete with oily smile, the full display of teeth and the unsmiling eyes, a frightening contrast – the Jamaat’s student wing was given full rein, its officially-sanctioned mandate the stamping out of anti-Zia dissent from colleges and campuses, especially in the months leading to Bhutto’s hanging. In this it brilliantly succeeded. The PPP’s student wing, the PSO, was no match for it.

In the retrospect of memory even the stick-wielding brand of the faith in full cry in those bygone days seems so benign compared to the Kalashnikov variety of the faith which is the living reality today. From one thing to another: who says we have not progressed in any department of life? The death of reason: a day in the Republic’s life should be devoted to this.

Malik Ishaq – foolish the man who will cross him, or be on his wrong side – is the self-proclaimed scourge of all heretics from the true line of the Sunni faith. His achievements in this field, the trophies he may have gathered, I dare not name. He is now emerging as a political leader in South Punjab. Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi of the Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat – the reinvented version of the old Sipah-e-Sahaba, scourge likewise of all deviators from the one and only path of the true Islam as seen and interpreted by the Maulana and his followers – is also emerging as a political force.

The old Sipah-e-Sahaba began as a Jhang-based organisation (hence the evocative term Jhangvi). But the influence of its later incarnation, Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, is spreading far and wide, much beyond the confines of a single district. Now these groups have their sights set on electoral politics.

And there is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, commander-in-chief of jihad and war against the forces of evil. Time was when his Lashkar-i-Tayyaba kept to the shadows, engaged in a life-and-death struggle along remote hills and valleys in distant Kashmir. Now in the avatar of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah it is stepping to the fore and assuming a larger profile. In the marches organised recently by the Defence of Pakistan Council – with which, let it be stated for the record, the ISI has not the slightest connection – most of the muscle and money were from Hafiz Saeed’s organisation. Welcome to the emerging Pakistan.

And I am crying about the closure of YouTube. Hasn’t the point been made and in the wake of the righteous blasphemy riots hasn’t our faith been reaffirmed? And the point having been made, and made forcefully by our collective fervour, cannot permission be granted to return to the kingdom of moral decay as represented by YouTube? So many blows we have struck for the integrity of the faith but the ban has lasted for too long and I am feeling the pinch, as would so many others, about the absence of song and dance so readily available when the kingdom of moral decay was just a click away.

One thing I find hard to understand. We protested against that third-rate film, and rightly so. But even as the agitation across the enraged world of Islam was at its height, horrid cartoons, premeditated blasphemy, were carried by a French weekly newspaper. Not a word from the Ummah, the great brotherhood of Islam. Then more provocation in a Spanish newspaper…and again not a word, not a squeak of protest, no rallies, the Defence of Pakistan Council quiet, even my friend Gen Hamid Gul uncharacteristically silent. Quiet after the storm or passion spent?

An inconsequential TV channel in Cairo, purveying a fundamentalist version of the faith, had the offending film dubbed in Arabic before showing it, setting off the firestorm which touched the world of Islam from one end to the other. As inflammatory work goes this was pretty slick and effective. And of course no one bothered to ask who had lit the spark and whether there any hidden agenda was involved. Our anger was all and like chaff before the wind we were swept by it. A baffled observer would still wonder why no outrage against the later cartoons.

But for our holy fathers who took to the barricades with glee it was a useful battle inoculation. Their cadres were out in front fanning the flames. Mainstream parties may have the votes but there should be few doubts as to who has the muscle power: the new kids on the block who are leaving the old religious leaders behind.

People of my generation who have seen it all, first-hand witnesses of the Republic’s steady decline over the last 30 years, are in the happy position of knowing that nothing can be done. The more things change the worse they get. It lies not in our power to reverse the decline and what the morrow holds, the prospect after the elections, we do not know. So let spiritual sustenance flow, absolutely essential under the circumstances, and let the moral decay of song and dance be at hand….Uss ke baad aaye jo azab aaye.

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