Pakistan at the Crossroads

By Dr. Israr Ahmad
Posted: 26 Zulhijjah 1420, 2 April 2000

[Summary of the address by Dr. Israr Ahmad, Ameer of Tanzeem-e-Islami during a Friday Congregation at Darussalam Mosque in Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, Pakistan.]

Standing at a crucial and decisive juncture in its history, Pakistan must choose one of two paths: it could either choose to submissively follow US directives in return for a fresh lease on existence, or it could choose to engage in the struggle to restore its historical and ideological roots in Islam even at the cost of international ostracism. The statements made by Mr. Clinton during his recent “stop-over” in Pakistan have brought this choice to the very center of our national existence, a choice that we can no longer ignore or postpone.

Mr. Clinton’s visit has brought to the fore the dilemma or predicament that lies at the core of Pakistan’s being. Pakistan is a country that owes its genesis to Islam, and to the vision of an Islamic ideological state, but it exists in a world that is moving in the opposite direction, a world where the dominant ideology and civilization is characterized by secularism, permissiveness, and consumerism. Pakistan allied itself with the West during the Cold War, and in return received foreign aid and military support that somewhat helped the country in facing the enmity and nefarious designs of India. Pakistan chose to become a partner and supporter of the US primarily because of its fear of India, but also because the Western system of capitalistic democracy was perceived to be relatively congenial to some of the Islamic values as compared to the overtly atheistic socialist system of the USSR. The elite classes in Pakistan, who had inherited political and bureaucratic power from the British, were completely westernized in their beliefs and lifestyles. At the same time, movements for the revival of Islam as a socio-political order and of Iman as a deeply felt inner reality continued to attract and mobilize many among the middle class. The reliance on foreign aid and loans actually represented slow poisoning for our economy. These aids and loans brought an artificial state of well-being and comfort, precluding us from becoming economically self-reliant. Many of us became used to living a lavish and luxurious lifestyle, and others began to dream of comfort and ease without hard work and methodical struggle. Corruption permeated in the higher echelons of the state machinery, and billions were “earned” by bureaucrats, politicians, and general by dubious means.

The revolution in Iran galvanized Islamic movements throughout the Muslim world, creating the specter of Islamic fundamentalism to haunt the West. The movement for Nizam-e-Mustafa in Pakistan was hijacked by the military, and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq ruled Pakistan in the name of Islam, further stimulating dormant religious sensibilities. The Afghan Jihad brought large amounts of sophisticated weaponry in the country, adding a militant dimension to the hitherto ideological Islamic movements. Pakistan, as a conduit of US arms to the Afghan Mujahideen, benefited in terms of more foreign loans, military aid, and American tolerance of its nuclear program. All this, however, lead to the virtual demise of Pakistani economy. The whole scenario changed with the end of Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR. Western capitalistic democracy was declared triumphant and unrivaled at the “end” of human history, vassal states like Pakistan become superfluous and irrelevant in the global game of hegemony, and, instead of Pakistan, India acquired the position of the darling of the West. Parliamentary democracy, secularism at the constitutional level, and permissiveness in the general society make India much more harmonious with the spirit of the times than Pakistan. Moreover, in an age where the entire world is moving towards market economy, India with its almost one billion population forms a much bigger market than Pakistan.

Mr. Clinton’s statements should be analyzed in this background. The US President has said, in effect, that Pakistan must chose between the two paths that are open to it, each of which will have definite consequences. Mr. Clinton has suggested that although Pakistan has already become a “failed state,” the West is willing to grant it some more “life-support systems,” provided it can prove itself “worthy” of this new assistance. Mr. Clinton wants Pakistan to forget its raison d’Ítre and ideological basis, to wholeheartedly adopt the western democratic model along with all its implications and to restore full democracy; this implicitly includes the demand of recanting the non-Muslim minority status of Qadiyanis as well as revoking the law that makes blasphemy against the Prophet a punishable act. Mr. Clinton also wants Pakistan to abandon its claim over Indian held Kashmir, to accept the Line of Control as a permanent boundary, to sign the CTBT and to roll back its nuclear program, to crush the Jihadi Islamic groups, to terminate its relations with the Taliban Government in Afghanistan, to crackdown on the religious seminaries and to establish state control over the mosques, to comply with all the directives and demands of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization even if this requires further oppressing its already exploited populace, to accept the supremacy of India as a regional super-power, and to implement the feminist agenda of Cairo and Beijing Conferences. This is one path that is open to Pakistan.

On the other hand, we have the option of rejecting this agenda and to choose Islam. Choosing Islam implies that Pakistan must re-establish its relationship with its ideological roots and must rely only upon Almighty Allah (SWT); it must make meaningful progress towards the implementation of Shar'iah in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology; it must purge the economy of all kinds of riba; it must stop paying interest on its international loans and offer “debt equity swap” as a possible means for paying off the capital; and it must develop close relationship with Taliban government and work towards establishing a confederation. Pakistan should accept the Chinese offer of closer friendship, although it must be kept in mind that friendship with China is going to be temporary in the long run. Ultimately, we must rely solely upon Almighty Allah (SWT).

Even though the present Pakistani government showed some ambivalence in the beginning, several indicators suggest that it is in the process of choosing the first path, that of fulfilling all US demands. There is a clear possibility of a strong reaction against the government coming from religious parties, Jihadi organizations, and their supporters. If we choose Islam, we would do so at the risk of being isolated and ostracized in the world. We must put our trust in Almighty Allah (SWT) and in no one else, because if Allah (SWT) is on our side, then no one can bring any harm to us.