In February 1948, Mr Jinnah said, “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.”
Jinnah was a Khoja Shia Mohammaden by faith. Fatima Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan filed a joint affidavit to this effect. The Khoja Jamaat in Bombay confirmed on several occasions that Jinnah remained a member of that Jamaat, paying his dues regularly and fully. His main lieutenant, Zafrullah Khan, was an Ahmedi. Jogindranath Mandal, who represented the Muslims in the interim government on behalf of the Muslim League, and then became Pakistan’s first law minister, was a scheduled caste Hindu. The idea that the state that Jinnah founded would, in 2014, be subject to callous, bigoted interpretations of two committees of mullahs of one sect no less is preposterous. Under the Taliban’s version of shariat, a Shia Khoja Mohammaden like Jinnah is a kafir (infidel), punishable by death. An Ahmedi to them is a blaspheming apostate and a Hindu is a polytheist, both categories deserving of capital punishment.
One of the mullahs on the Taliban committee is Samiul Haq, disparagingly known as ‘Maulana Sandwich’. He has the audacity to claim that the Taliban are fighting for the supremacy of the constitution. Nothing can be farthest from the truth. Pakistan may have enacted a number of Islamic provisions in its constitution, but the constitution of Pakistan envisages a democratic state run by the representatives of the people. The constitution of Pakistan does not give the Council of Islamic Ideology the power to rule or make the law. That is the preserve of the members of the legislatures elected by the people. The constitution envisages no decision-making role to the mullahs.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, the Lal Masjid imam, is more ideologically consistent when he says that the constitution is a man-made document. He wants the state to bend down and kneel in front of the Taliban. The terms of reference of the negotiations are to be the Quran and Sunnah, according to him. The question again is: who is the interpreter? We, the people of Pakistan, Muslim or non-Muslim, Shia or Sunni, reject the interpretations of murderers, crooks and those who escape in the dead of night in burqas. Such cowards who attack civilians and kill innocents with impunity for disagreeing with them cannot be the interpreters of Islam or Pakistan’s constitution.
A state like Pakistan cannot negotiate with the Taliban. We are talking about the 27th largest economy in the world according to purchasing power parity. Its armed forces on active duty are the eighth largest in the world. This country has about 30 million Shias. There are close to four million Christians and four million Hindus who call themselves Pakistanis. There are also four million Ahmedis who have been forced to call themselves non-Muslims. In total, Pakistan has in excess of 43 million Pakistanis who do not subscribe to Sunni Islam. Within Sunnis, the clear majority is of Barelvis who disagree with the Deobandi school of thought to which the Taliban belong. Within the Deobandis, a significant section disagrees with Taliban ideology. All in all, a very tiny minority will accept the Taliban and their dictates. Their numbers cannot exceed more than half a million. Why then is the state so willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the Taliban?
The answer lies in the cynical use of the Taliban factor by politicians like Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan. Of the two, one would have hoped that Imran Khan would have been driven by the higher objective of Pakistan’s survival and success. Unfortunately, Imran Khan has calculated that the Taliban factor can be used as a stick to beat the central government with. The central government, under Mian Nawaz Sharif, has therefore been hard pressed to out-Taliban the Taliban.
Here is the problem though. Negotiating with the Taliban will mean the unravelling of the Pakistani state. Not only will it lend legal justification to all groups and rag tag outfits waging an armed struggle to seek the state’s attention by engaging in violence, it will also impute redundancy to the constitution as a whole. As we stand, many of the articles of that document have already become redundant. This, however, will be an abrogation of the constitution. Article six for one is a clear example. Here you have two mullahs, Maulana Samiul Haq and Maulana Abdul Aziz, clearly flouting the constitution, abetting and collaborating in the overthrow of the constitution and yet they are free men. As long as such characters are allowed to roam around freely, trying General Musharraf for treason is discriminatory.
The state needs to act and act fast. The only negotiation that can happen between the state and the Taliban is on the time and mode of surrender — nothing else. Anything beyond that, especially in so far as acceptance of demands is concerned, is specifically barred by the constitution. Taliban sympathisers and supporters need to be rounded up and tried for treason as soon as possible. Similarly, if the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government offers to allow an office for the Taliban in Peshawar, it should be dismissed forthwith and the province ought to be placed under Governor’s Rule.
Remember, a society driven by fear cannot fight. What is the most the Taliban can do? Kill more of us? We should say to them: do your worst; Pakistanis are not afraid of the craven who hide in caves. As the great Muslim ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, once said, “One day of the life of a tiger is preferable to a hundred years of a jackal’s.” We face a cowardly foe, who attacks without warning and attacks only innocent civilians including women and children. Each one of us, therefore, needs to find in ourselves the courage to defy. Say no to dialogue, or there is annihilation that awaits our country.
Our rulers are accustomed to underestimating the worst of conditions and are habitual in not ...