Sunday, July 6, 2014

Detoxifying mindsets

The military operation in Waziristan was a long-time coming. Great gains against entrenched terrorists have been made with air, and now, ground offensives. Fortunately Zarb-e-Azb has support all across the country.  

The Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 was just passed by the National Assembly giving dramatic and sweeping powers to the government in its fight against terror. Searches can occur without a warrant, militants can be shot on sight with orders from a Grade 15 police officer or higher, suspects can be kept in custody for 60 days after a judicial remand, and convicted terrorists could face 20 years imprisonment.  

Opposition groups, mainly the JUI and the PTI, and human rights activists have expressed immediate protests, fearing that the Pakistan Protection Ordinance would provide legal cover for the government’s repressive agenda. Especially after the police brutality in the Model Town tragedy, as well as the missing persons’ saga, these concerns are understandable.  

But to think that a military offensive in North Waziristan by itself would be enough to rid us of the daily ravages of terrorism is myopic at best. There are some built-in protections in the Pakistan Protection Ordinance to curb its abuse.  

Pakistan is at a point where there needs to be a multi-dimensional approach to free it of the chokehold of terrorism. In peaceful times we would have the luxury of safe-guarding human rights; at a time of war with an enemy that has invaded the hearts and minds of significant segments of the population, preserving the integrity of Pakistan, as well as countless lives and major national assets, far outweighs the possible violation of human rights.   

Zarb-e-Azb is an immediate surgical event; the Pakistan Protection Ordinance will serve to combat terrorism in the short to medium-term. They need to be bolstered by a well-organized and properly implemented effort to detoxify mindsets, for it is terrorism-condoning mentalities and America-Israel-India hating conspiracy theories that have created and sustained monsters in our middle.  

The Pakistani mind has undergone a gradual and sustained poisoning. The 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan created a refugee crisis in Pakistan, an already economically weak and overpopulated country. Prior to 1938 Saudi Arabia was only known for its vast deserts, and as home for Islam’s two holiest sites. As its oil industry progressed through the 1970s so did its hegemonic aspirations. Billions of dollars were, and continue to be, spent in its world-wide export of its literalistic Wahabi-Salafi ideology. A significant part of this move has been the literature that sports the stamp of the Saudi Religious Ministry.  

I grew up in a soft, attractive, tolerant and inclusive environment in Lahore and Karachi. We went to a milad every day in Rabiul Awwal, visiting shrines of famous Sufi saints helped me to reflect on how they formed and solidified their relationships with God. And the beautiful shalwar kameez worked for us in comfort, cover and style. The long arm of literalism ruined all that. Honoring Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has to be guarded for it is considered bidat or innovation by some, paying respects to Sufi saints is classified as blasphemy and modesty is only defined by jilbabs (head to toe gowns), hijabs, niqabs and gloves. Never mind the prominent premise in Islam that all actions are judged by their intentions, and all intentions are known only to God.  

The Wahabi-Salafi mindset is devoid of the joy of faith. And it rationalizes corporal and capital punishment for offenses contrary to the five schools of Islamic jurisprudence.  

Poverty stricken, uneducated, disenchanted and hopeless segments of Pakistan’s population were swooped up as victims to an ideology that promised the nebulous but delivered death.  

Perhaps we need the creation of the Pakistan Protection Ministry, focused solely on the eradication of terrorism in Pakistan. Curricula in public and private schools as well as madrassahs need evaluation and necessary amendments. Perspectives on history is one thing but rewriting it altogether and inoculating young minds with extremism is quite another.  

Friday khutbas in mosques across the country need to be monitored as well. Notifications to all mosques of fatwas against suicide bombing issued by Al-Azhar University of Egypt as well as prominent Pakistani clerics need to be sent by the government to each mosque, and imams persuaded to regularly mention the sanctity of life as revealed in the Quran and practiced by  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).   

The media has an important role to play especially in this age of technology and social media. Television programs with Islamic scholars like Javed Ahmad Ghamdi and Shujauddin Sheikh are not only packed with knowledge and infused with perspective; they are veritably nourishment for the soul.  

There can be no vacillation with regard to our commitment to banish terror from the boundaries of Pakistan. Each one of us needs to grasp this and promote it in every way on a daily basis.  

We are a nation made of the steely determination of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the vision of Allama Iqbal, the brilliance of Dr. Abdus-Salam, the martyrdom of Aziz Bhatti and the courage of Malala Yousufzai, among numerous other inspirations. Together we can make Pakistan an icon of peace and progress; unity, faith and discipline can make it happen. I know so.