Drones Can’t Win Over the Taliban – Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US

Times are not easy for Pakistan – the country is waging a seemingly endless and futile war on the Taliban, American drones in the north are seeking their prey, and the war is claiming the lives of innocents as well as jihadists. The new offensive operation by the army has led to hundreds of thousands of refugees. The country itself is being torn apart by the political struggle, with anti-government leaders promising a revolution. Will Islamabad ever see the end of the Taliban? Is there any sense to the negotiations? What about the US – how much of an ally is it for the Pakistani people? We ask these questions to Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US and a professor at Boston University. Husain Haqqani is on SophieCo today.

Follow @SophieCo_RT

Sophie Shevardnadze: Former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, international relations professor at Boston University, Husain Haqqani, welcome, it’s great to have you with us today. I’m just going to start from the current events. There are threats to the Pakistani government from hardline extremists, but also, from what I understand, the military takeover – is an army coup likely?

Hasan Haqqani: I’m not sure whether the army would like to take over directly – the army wields tremendous influence, and I think it would like to continue to wield that influence. Unfortunately what that does is that it paralyzes decision making – the civilians cannot make decisions because the army is constantly looking over their shoulder and the army doesn’t really control everything, because after all it has to contend with the civilians. So, it paralyzes decision-making, it’s not a good situation to be in, but that’s the situation we find: the army not liking the civilians, the civilians not liking the army, and yet, the army takeover not necessarily imminent.

SS: There’s another factor – the anti-government cleric Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri led a mass revolt last year, and he is now promising to lead the revolution. Now, in your opinion, is he backed by the real force, or is he just being delusional?

HH: I think he has basically a few thousand supporters – even the last time when he came to Islamabad there were a few thousand supporters. The question is why he is doing it. He has lived abroad for quite a few years, why does he feel confident enough to bring his supporters into the streets, challenge the authority of the government? A lot of people suspect some foul play. You must remember that in Pakistan’s history, street demonstrations have sometimes been used by the intel services, intelligence, as a means of trying to exert influence on civilian government, and sometimes even to depose it. Is something like that happening? We don’t have evidence, but we certainly have a lot of suspicion.

SS: Why do you think the current parliamentary government is in such a weak position? How did it come to this? It’s besieged from all sides: extremists, the military, now the Qadri threat. Why?

HH: First of all, the best way to run Pakistan under a civilian government is building relationships across the board. No civilian political party has sufficient strength to run the country on its own, even if it wins an absolute mandate like Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League did, the Muslim league doesn’t have support beyond Punjab; Pakistan is a country of several regions – it needs a little bit more consensus building. That’s one of the problems. The other problem, of course, is the civil-military divide. The civilians have to be very adept at handling the civilian-military issues. A third is the ideological divide. Pakistan is ideologically still very polarized between those who want Pakistan to be some form of an Islamic state – everybody has their own version of an Islamic state, but they want an Islamic state – and those say that Pakistan needs to be a pragmatic, functional state. And then, above all, that is the whole Pakistan ideological DNA of constantly wanting either parity with India or competition with India, which makes it very difficult to invest in things like healthcare and education and run a functional economy – when the civilian government makes decisions about the economy, sometimes a military thinks that those decisions are motivated by corruption, not pragmatism; courts interfere, the institutions have not yet worked out a manner in which full democracy can move forward.

SS: Let’s talk about the Taliban, for instance. I mean, for many the Taliban represents extreme, extreme Islam, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in strong favor of engaging the Taliban militants in peace talks. What do you make of that? Why do you think it’s there?

HH: First of all, we must understand that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998 said that he actually admired the Taliban because of their commitment to Islam. This brings us to the problem that I have been writing about and speaking about openly. Pakistanis now need to revisit the very fundamental idea of Pakistan as an Islamic state, because if it’s going to be an Islamic state, people in jackets and ties are not going to be able to define Islam – Islam is going to be defined by the mullahs, and every mullah will offer a different explanation and different vision of what an Islamic state is going to look like. And that is the real reason of why Pakistan is in such a mess. Now, the Taliban represents the most extreme form, and there are Taliban that have been used by the Pakistani state for influence in Afghanistan in the past, and there are Taliban who are now coming back and hunting and fighting the Pakistani state inside Pakistan. There needs to be much greater clarity about Pakistan’s future direction. Prime Minister Sharif said he could talk to the Taliban who are fighting in Pakistan and persuade them to accept some kind of a compromise – not realizing that you become Taliban because you are uncompromising. Your belief system is so hardline, that you do not like people who do not do exactly what you tell them to be. So, these are not people who are amenable to reason. Now, as far as fighting them is concerned, fighting them would require a national consensus, or some kind of national support. If the Pakistani public opinion remains divided between those who think, “Well the Taliban are at least good Muslims,” and those who think, “the Taliban are just being mislead by some foreign forces to attack Pakistan,” then in that environment, how is the soldier supposed to decide in the battlefield which Taliban should he shoot, which Taliban should he negotiate with?

SS: Well, that’s exactly my next question, actually, because if the government does pin its hopes on a peace treaty with the Taliban, isn’t launching a military offensive a strange step in that direction?

HH: Absolutely! Look – it reflects confusion, it reflects ideological confusion. The real ideological confusion is: are the Taliban just some people who are angry with the state, who are angry with America in Afghanistan, or are they people who have a vision that means taking Pakistan, and everywhere else, everywhere where there are Muslims, into the VIII century. All evidence points to the fact that these people want to drag our society into the VIII century. They don’t want young girls to go to school, they don’t want to have religious pluralism, they want to kill anybody who doesn’t conform to Islam as they see Islam. They don’t consider Shia as Muslims, they don’t consider Sunni, Barelvis as Muslims, they don’t consider Ahmadis as Muslims, they don’t want Christians, they don’t want Hindu. They want the purification of society, they slaughter people like goats. These people are not people of the 21stcentury, so how does the 21stcentury negotiate with the eighthcentury? What can be the compromise? Look, Sophie, negotiation always means finding middle ground. So, for example, you want 100, I am willing to give 20, we can settle on 50…But here, these are people who believe that either everything that they think God has ordered them to impose has to be imposed, or there is nothing else. Such people will never be amenable to negotiation.

SS: Talking about 21stcentury fighting the eighth century – I mean, we see that even NATO’s latest armament is unable to defeat the Taliban. So, for example, this latest anti-Taliban North Waziristan offensive is one amongst many previous ones that have also proved futile – or is this one any different?

HH: The big difference is that the eighthcentury uses 21stcentury means of destruction to impose eighth century ideas. So, my point is that you cannot have a negotiation between the ideas. Now, as far as the military tactics are concerned, the Taliban has the advantages of terrain, they have advantages of surprise, and they have the advantage of confusion within society. Look: in Russian, when, for example, extremists have ever attacked in any city, the terrorist attack – the whole nation has been united in thinking: “These are terrorists, we need to fight them” – and so, your military, your intelligence service, all kinds of law enforcement people are all on one page. In Pakistan, we have deliberately created confusion over the last six or seven years – we have always said “No, no, no, people who operate in the name of Islam are good people” – even when they are slaughtering people like goats! So, what we have is a confused state apparatus. And, a confused man, even if he has 21stcentury NATO weapons, cannot really prevail. What you need is clarity – what are we trying to do? Are we trying to build a modern Pakistan, which allows people to practice Islam, which encourages people to remain moral, but which is not going to be bound by any clerical vision of an Islamic state? We are not doing that, and the Taliban has an advantage.

SS: So, just a tiny bit more about the Taliban. Pakistani Special Forces and the military helped create the Taliban, hoping to wield influence in the region through them. So why is Islamabad so involved with the Taliban now? Has it been worth it? What do you think?

HH: I think the Pakistani military does realize that the Taliban has become a problem for Pakistan, but it is just too late. The Taliban has sunken deep roots in Pakistan, and now it’s very difficult to beat the enemy when it was previously your friend and your creation.

SS: Now, Washington’s drone program has been active in Pakistan for years now, targeting the Taliban, mainly, but also causing civilian casualties, and that has been kind of a problem. But is that now becoming less of an issue for the Pakistani government? What do you think?

HH: I think the current government has been able to work out some kind of an arrangement with the Americans, whereby most of the drone strikes are now taking place only with some kind of coordination between Pakistan and the US. So we don’t hear too much about them. When the drone strikes were not coordinated, Pakistan used to leak the information to the media – we are not seeing those leaks, and therefore we are seeing less of a reaction as well. And groups like Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf, which was running the campaign against the drones, have now shifted their emphasis to other issues.

SS: But what do you think of the whole thing? Just, like, in general, the bigger picture – the US drones attacking extremists in Pakistan – is it a good thing for you?

HH: Well, very frankly, the drones were used primarily because Pakistan was not launching a ground offensive and there was no other way of paralyzing those people. You know, the American attitude was “We have a list of people who need to be paralyzed, who need to be taken out, so that they are not a threat internationally” – they don’t attack Americans abroad, they don’t attack Americans in America. That was the strategy, it was not only for Pakistan or Afghanistan, it was also for Yemen. Everywhere where there was no ground capability or air capability in the region to fight the terrorists. I think that if the Pakistani military manifests its interest in fighting the terrorists inside Pakistani territory, then there will be less drone strikes. Now, there are other issues relating to drones, which I think are even bigger: can drone warfare be deemed regular warfare? It’s basically war by assassination, you are just assassinating people. In a regular war, a soldier can point a gun on another soldier and say “Surrender” and the man can surrender. There is no option of that in this particular warfare. So those are moral issues, ethical issues, that the international community needs to sort out, but, I think, in the case of the Pakistani northern territories, and northwestern areas primarily, it was the lack of action on the ground that made the Americans use drones.

SS: But let me ask you this – putting the moral factor aside, can the Taliban be defeated without the drone offensives? What do you think?

HH: I think that drones were only a way of eliminating leaders, but the Taliban has shown a remarkable capability of recruiting new members and I think basically the idea of Talibanization needs to be confronted. Somebody needs to stand up in Pakistan and say: “This way forward is not a way forward. These people represent ideas that are not acceptable to Pakistani society, and these people are not Pakistan’s partners for regional influence.” Unless that happens, the Taliban will continue to recruit all the way from Karachi to North Waziristan. Look, the North Waziristan operation will result in a lot of internally displaced persons. These people will include the future Taliban; as long as the ideology of the Taliban is alive, they will continue to recruit all over Pakistan.

SS: I’ve spoken to many Pakistanis who are actually surprised when people are interested in their internal politics, so, like, you know, “it’s not about your business” – but I’m thinking, obviously, the internal politics of Pakistan are a concern for the rest of the world, at the very least because of its nuclear program. Can Pakistan insure the safety of its nuclear arsenal against any threat?

HH: I think Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has the same kind of safety arrangements that most countries do. The real problem is – is Pakistan a secure nation? It’s a different question…

SS: Well, that’s what I mean by the internal problems, because there is so much turmoil around who is governing the country.

HH: What happens when extremists take over the country, for example – and that is something the Pakistanis should be open to talk about. Unfortunately Pakistanis have become very, very defensive in their arguments with the rest of the world. Look, Pakistanis can travel to fewer countries without a visa than even North Koreans. Pakistan has become the country that is being held responsible for the revival of polio in the world. These are things that Pakistanis should be aware of. We can’t turn around and say “our internal problems are not the problems of the rest of the world” – no, they are, because our internal problems are causing problems for the rest of the world. Also, polio is a global problem, terrorism is a global problem, extremism is a global problem – either we control it, or the world will have to come up with ideas to control it, and nuclear weapons proliferation is one of them. As long as we can assure the world that the nuclear weapons are in the control of an authority that itself is responsible – and we have not done that in the past, if you remember. Our nuclear designs ended up in Korea, North Korea, and Libya and Iran. We blamed one man, Dr. A. Q. Khan, but we must come forward and hold all those who did it accountable. Either we are a responsible nation, or the rest of the world will continue to wonder about us and our ability to be responsible nation.

SS: Especially that no one in the international community has the right to come and check up on your nuclear arsenal – that’s also a problem. But, there is another thing. Seeing how the Taliban threat is getting stronger and relations with India are actually getting smoother…I mean, originally, the nuclear bomb in Pakistan was created because India seemed to be a threat. But what does Pakistan need the bomb for now?

HH: I won’t get into what Pakistan needs the bomb for or not, because I have my own views on Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent. I am, personally, one of those who feels that Pakistan should be part of some international nuclear restraint regime, but I am a very small minority in Pakistan. The problem in relation to India is that relations may be smoother on the surface, but deep down there – not. Every Pakistani child is still taught in schools that India is still Pakistan’s eternal enemy. I am one of those who advocates a reorientation of Pakistan completely. Pakistan needs to think of itself as a trading nation, not as a warrior nation. We need to trade with India, we need to trade with Afghanistan, we need to de-emphasize this whole Islamic identity that has made us into jihadists rather than productive people who engage with the rest of the world in a more reasonable way. I think, unless that is done, the nuclear issue will only be one part of the bigger problem. The bigger problem is what is the purpose of Pakistan in the world? Is Pakistan always going to be a warrior nation that wants to be India’s equal, without having the economic resources or the size of geography and population – or is Pakistan willing to be a nation that pays attention to its 180 million people?

SS: You know, a while ago there were reports that the US Special Forces were getting ready to move into Pakistan and seize the nuclear arsenal in case pro-Taliban elements came or come to power. Now, do you think that’s a realistic plan? Do you think Washington still has that plan in mind?

HH: Look, Americans make all kinds of plans. I don’t know if you know that the Americans even have a plan to deal with some kind of zombie takeover of the world, so they do these exercises, but I don’t think it’s practical for American special operations forces to arrive in Pakistan without some kind of support base inside Pakistan. And you must remember – 83 percent of Pakistanis have a negative view of the US. So if American troops ever come to Pakistan, it will result in a kind of chaos and a war-like situation which I don’t think the Americans want. I think the Americans would like to have a government in Pakistan that takes responsibility for Pakistan’s nuclear program, and I think it’s in Pakistan’s interest to make itself part of the global community with restraints rather than an un-restrained country that doesn’t allow international observers into Pakistan even for normal check-ups on its nuclear technological facilities. This kind of isolation is not good for Pakistan. It makes Pakistan more like North Korea, rather than like South Korea, which is an economically prosperous and open society.

SS: Talking about North Korea, you know that US intelligence spends just as much time spying on Pakistan as it does on North Korea and Al-Qaeda. Why is it that they feel they need to spy on its ally?

HH: I think that the Pakistan-US alliance is essentially now just a charade. Everybody knows that Pakistan’s strategic calculus is very different from America’s strategic calculus. I’ve written a whole book called ‘Magnificent delusions’ in which I say that the Pakistani delusion is that it can maintain its strategic calculus with American assistance and their support, whereas the American delusion is that they can change Pakistan’s strategic calculus by giving it aid and arms. These two countries need to review their relationship in a very significant way, and we must come to terms with the fact that there are people in Pakistan who have ideas about how they will fight America and there are Americans who think that Pakistan needs to be brought under restraint much more than they say publicly. So, I don’t think that the alliance is really an alliance anymore, and I agree that the Americans are conducting the kind of surveillance in Pakistan that they usually reserve for countries that are deemed as hostile. And that is not good, by the way, that is not good either for the US or for Pakistan.

SS: Just a little bit more about the nuclear program. I mean, the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, is responsible for safeguarding the nuclear arsenal – but is it really as untrustworthy as the US thinks it is?

HH: No, I don’t think…look, I think sometimes these questions are framed wrongly. I mean, who is it untrustworthy for? No Pakistani would want Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to fall into the hands of either the Americans or Indians or anybody else. People like me worry about what happens when people with jihadist sympathies take over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons were designed primarily as a deterrent. We already have that deterrent capability. Why do we need to expand on our nuclear weapons program when 42 percent of our school-going age children do not go to school? We need to think about the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is that it’s not just Americans, Sophie, many other countries also are getting concerned about Pakistan as a petri dish for global terrorism. Most of the people arrested in Europe have had some kind of relationship – either they went through Pakistan or were in Pakistan when they became radicalized, and those are things that we need to address for ourselves. So a radical Pakistan which is also nuclear is definitely a problem. But a nuclear Pakistan that is responsible and takes responsibility for its nukes? I don’t think that needs to be confronted in the same way.

SS: Ambassador Haqqani, thank you very much for this insight about Pakistan’s internal and foreign policies. We were talking to Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, international relations professor at Boston University. We were talking about the threat of the Taliban and Pakistan’s nuclear program. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, we will see you next time.

Reworking the Idea of Pakistan

Soon after Partition, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah told the American ambassador, Paul Alling, that he wished for India-Pakistan relations to be “An association similar to that between the US and Canada.” Jinnah had no way of predicting the rise of Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex. Nor did he envision that his successors in the Muslim League would join Islamist leaders in basing Pakistan’s nationalism on the idea of perennial conflict with, and permanent threat from, India. Just as the perceived threat from Hindu domination prompted the call for Pakistan’s creation, the new rallying cry for an ethnically diverse populace was the ostensible threat from India to Pakistan.

This required keeping alive the frenzy of Partition and a contrived historic narrative. It also necessitated the glorification of past and present warriors and the building of a militarised state. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru foresaw how a national state of paranoia across the border imperiled India-Pakistan relations. He tried to comfort Pakistan’s leaders that disagreement with the idea of Partition before it took place did not mean India would now use force to undo it.

Nehru chose the Aligarh Muslim University, whose alumni had played an active role in the demand for Pakistan, as the venue for a speech that addressed Pakistani concerns as early as March 1948. He reassured those who accused India of seeking to strangulate Pakistan. “If we had wanted to break up Pakistan, why did we agree to Partition?” he asked. “It was easier to prevent it then than to try to do so now after all that has happened. There is no going back in history. As a matter of fact, it is to India’s advantage that Pakistan should be a secure and prosperous state with which we can develop close and friendly relations.”

“Pakistan has come into being rather unnaturally, I think,” Nehru told his audience. “Nevertheless, it represents the urges of a large number of persons. I believe that this development has been a throwback, but we accepted it in good faith.” According to him, “It is inevitable that India and Pakistan should draw closer to each other, or else they will come into conflict. There is no middle way, for we have known each other too long to be indifferent neighbours.” The first Indian prime minister also laid out a vision for India to “develop a closer union” with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries — a vision that seems to be shared by Narendra Modi. But Nehru made it clear that India had no “desire to strangle or compel Pakistan” because “an attempt to disrupt Pakistan would recoil to India’s disadvantage.”

“If today, by any chance, I were offered the reunion of India and Pakistan, I would decline it for obvious reasons,” Nehru continued. “I do not want to carry the burden of Pakistan’s great problems. I have enough of my own.” Nehru proposed that a “closer association must come out of a normal process and in a friendly way which does not end Pakistan as a state but which makes it an equal part of a larger union in which several countries might be associated” — an early envisioning of Saarc.

Bengali leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy also cautioned against declaring Pakistan an Islamist ideological state and warned that slogans of permanent war with India would only undermine Pakistan. Addressing Pakistan’s constituent assembly on March 6, 1948, Suhrawardy insisted that Pakistan’s future rested on the “the goodwill of the people” of Pakistan and the “mutual relationship between the Dominion of Pakistan and the sister dominion, [the] Indian Union.”

Suhrawardy briefly served as prime minister in 1956 before being barred from politics under martial law. He died in exile a few years later. But his admonition, within a few months of Pakistan’s creation, still rings true. “Now you are raising the cry of Pakistan in danger for the purpose of arousing Muslim sentiments and binding them together in order to maintain you in power,” Suhrawardy told Pakistan’s rulers. He warned that “a state which will be founded on sentiments, namely that of Islam in danger or of Pakistan in danger” will face perilous circumstances.

Most of Pakistan’s current problems — the rise of the Taliban, the prevalence of conspiracy theories, religious and sectarian strife, the campaign by extremists to deny Pakistani children the benefit of the polio vaccine, the potential for international isolation, the lack of institutional balance and the dominance of the military — can all be traced to the original sin of Pakistan’s post-independence leaders.

Pakistan’s establishment has disregarded Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call to keep religion out of the business of the state and ignored Suhrawardy’s proposal for collaborative ties with India. As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sets about trying to normalise relations with India, he would do well to revise the Pakistani notion of “permanent enemy”, which is inculcated at all levels of schooling and through the Pakistani media. Sharif should recall Suhrawardy’s warnings and embrace Jinnah’s vision of India-Pakistan ties. He should start changing Pakistan’s national discourse, without which forward movement might prove difficult.

What Barriers Prevent Reconciliation Between India and Pakistan?

The meeting between India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, may have opened an opportunity to mend a relationship fraught with violence and territorial dispute. Jeffrey Brown gets two views on the contentious relationship from Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the U.S., and Sumit Ganguly of Indiana University.

Mamnoon Hussain: The New Man in Pakistan

He may be a figurehead, but the president who is elected today is worth keeping an eye on for signs of where Pakistan is going.

Pakistan will elect a new figurehead president Tuesday, completing the first successful transition in the country’s history from one elected civilian government to another. The man widely expected to win the election, Mamnoon Hussain, is a virtually unknown member of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), the political party led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which returned to office in legislative elections held in May. Sharif will now control all constitutional levers of power.

Mamnoon Hussain, the next figurehead president of Pakistan. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

Governing Pakistan and addressing its myriad problems, including the continuing menace of terrorism, will be no easier for Sharif than for his predecessors.

In May Pakistan’s electorate voted largely along ethnic lines. Sharif’s majority is derived primarily from support in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, which is home to an overpowering majority of the country’s soldiers, civil servants, journalists, and judges.

Lacking support in other regions, Sharif will only heighten divisions in an already polarized nation if he presses his advantage in numbers without seeking consensus on even minor matters. As it is, Punjabi dominance has fueled resentment among smaller ethnicities, including an ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan along the border with Iran and Afghanistan.

Sharif is two months into his third term as prime minister. His previous two terms were interrupted by Pakistan’s all-powerful military, the last time in 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif’s government in a coup d’état.

Although he began his political career as a protégé of Islamist military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, he is said to have matured into a pragmatic conservative with wide popularity among Punjabis. But his success in office depends largely on his ability to rebuild Pakistan’s economy as well as wresting control of foreign-policy decision making, which continues to remain in the hands of the all-powerful military.

So far Sharif’s foreign-policy views have been far from clear, adjusted for the benefit of the audience of the moment. His hands are somewhat tied by the anti-Western, hypernationalist rhetoric unleashed during the election campaign by his party as well as by the supporters of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.

The bombast fuels a Pakistani view of self that contrasts greatly with how the rest of the world sees this nuclear-armed, terrorist-infested Muslim country of 180 million people.

Sharif has promised to fight terrorism with the help of the West and to resume the peace process he had started with India in 1999. If he can deliver on these promises, he will earn the gratitude of a world that worries about Pakistan as an epicenter of global jihad. But Sharif and Khan both represent a major problem that afflicts Pakistan’s politics. Leaders say one thing to Westerners in English and another to their compatriots in local languages.

The bombast fuels a Pakistani view of self that contrasts greatly with how the rest of the world sees this nuclear-armed, terrorist-infested Muslim country of 180 million people.

Pakistan’s national discourse is based on denial of the concerns of other nations. During the 1980s Pakistan denied it had a nuclear-weapons program only to celebrate its existence after nuclear tests in 1998. Jihadi terrorist groups and their leaders are still hailed as heroes, and some even openly participated in the election process without fear of penalty.

Pakistan’s media, both free of government restrictions and unrestrained by concerns about accuracy, constantly feeds conspiracy theories to a nation that tends to blame outsiders for its problems.

Conspiracy theories are often a substitute for examining harsh facts, such as the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Nationalist bombast supersedes the need for analyzing the country’s underlying economic and social problems.

In such an environment, the parties of Sharif and Khan ran campaigns that created expectations without offering concrete solutions. For example, Sharif has promised to build a bullet train from Karachi to Lahore without explaining how he would pay for it. Similarly, Khan’s demagoguery about shooting down drones drew applause from his enthusiastic followers without examining its implications for U.S.-Pakistan relations.

It is important that Pakistan remains a democracy and makes peace with its neighbors. But if Sharif is to succeed in halting Pakistan’s perilous descent, he must forge national consensus and change the Pakistani worldview. Instead of offering to pay Pakistan’s bills, as has been the case in the past, the international community must now encourage Pakistan’s elected leaders to fully take charge, tame the militants, and educate their own people about the country’s problems.

سیاسی اسلام کے بے ایمان چوہدری


حسین حقانی

 کبھی کبھی میں سوچتا ہوں کہ اگر امریکہ اور پیپلز پارٹی نہ ہوتے تو ان وسعتِ مطالعہ سے محروم کالم نویسوں کا کیا بنتا جو ان کو گالیاں دے کر رزق کماتے ہیں۔ اللہ تعالیٰ کی رزاقیت کا کمال ہے کہ پتھر میں کیڑوں کو بھی رزق فراہم کرتا ہے اس لئے بعض لوگ سرکاری ملازمت کے ساتھ کالم نویسی کے پردے میں گالیاں دینے کے کاروبار کےذریعے رزق کماتے ہیں اور رزاقِ عالم ان کی کم علمی پر صرف راز کا پردہ پڑا رہنے دیتا ہے۔


گزشتہ دنوں توہینِ رسالت کے نام پر دنگا فساد کی تازہ مہم شروع ہوئی تو ایک بار پھر امریکہ، پیپلز پارٹی اور اس خاکسار کو بھی رگیدنے کی دکان پُر رونق نظر آنے لگی۔ اس موضوع پر امریکہ کے اخبار وال اسٹریٹ جرنل میں شائع ہونے والے میرے مضمون پر تبصرہ کرتے ہوئے ایک صاحب[اوریا مقبول جان کی طرف اشارہ ہے] نے ، جو شاید عبرانی نام رکھنے پر اپنے والدین سے اتنے ناراض ہیں کہ اپنا غصہ قابو میں نہیں رکھ پاتے، اسے میری منافقت کا پردہ چاک کرنے کے مترادف قرار دیا۔ نہ میری دلیل پر غور کیا نہ اصل موضوع پر۔ بس مذہبی جذباتیت کے گرد لفاضی کا تانہ بانہ بُن کر امریکہ پر برس پڑے۔

حقیقت یہ ہے کہ حضور صلی اللہ علیہ واٰلہ وسلم کی شان میں کوئی گستاخی ہو تو ہر مسلمان کا دل دکھتا ہے۔ لیکن گستاخانہ بات کا چرچا صرف وہ لوگ کرتے ہیں جو اِس گستاخی کی آڑ میں سیاست کرنا چاہتے ہیں۔ برصغیر ہندو پاک میں یہ دھندا پرانا ہے۔ 1927ء میں پنڈت چموہتی نے حضور اکرم کی شان میں گستاخی کرتے ہوئے “رنگیلا رسول نامی کتاب لکھی تو کسی نے اس کتاب کو پڑھا تک نہیں۔ 1929ء میں پنجاب کے احراریوں نے اس کتاب کے خلاف احتجاج کیا تو مسلمانوں میں غیرت کی لہر دوڑ گئی۔ کتاب کے پبلشر کو عدالت نے بری کر دیا تو علم دین نے اُسے قتل کر دیا اور اس کی حمایت میں بھی بڑی پُر زور تحریک چلی۔ لیکن میرا سوال یہ ہے کہ کیا غیرت کی اس تحریک سے حضور پر نور کی شان میں ہونے والی گستاخی کا ازالہ ہو گیا؟ گستاخانہ کتاب آج بھی انٹرنیٹ پر دستیاب ہے۔ اس کتاب کے نام پر تحریک نہ چلی ہوتی تو نہ کوئی کتاب پڑھتا ، نہ اس کا چرچا ہوتا۔ پچھلے ستر /اسی برسوں میں غیرت و حمیت کے نام پر چلنے والی تحریکوں نے مسلمانوں کو مضبوط کرنے کی بجائے مزید کمزور کیا ہے۔

اوریا مقبول جان

 1967ء میں ٹرکش آرٹ آف لونگ (Turkish Art of Loving)نامی کتاب میں بھی حضور اکرم کی شان اقدس  میں گستاخی کی گئی۔ کتاب نہ زیادہ فروخت ہوئی نہ پڑھی گئی۔ لیکن1971ء میں سانحہء مشرقی پاکستان کے تناظر میں پاکستان کی منظم ترین مذہبی سیاسی جماعت نے اس کتاب کے خلاف احتجاج کا فیصلہ کیا۔1970 کے انتخابات میں شکست اور مشرقی پاکستان میں فوجی کاروائی کی حمایت کو نبی رحمت کی شان میں گستاخی کے خلاف مظاہروں کے ذریعے دھونے کی کوشش نے غیر اہم کتاب کو اہم بنا دیا۔ کتاب آج بھی فروخت ہو رہی ہے۔ اس کے خلاف مظاہرے صرف اس کی تشہیر کا ذریعہ بنےہیں۔ سلمان رشدی کی “شیطانی آیات”(Satanic Verses) کا معاملہ بھی ایسا ہی ہے۔

یو ٹیوب پر مصری مسیحی کی بنائی ہوئی فلم بھی دنیا کے پانچ ارب انسانوں میں سے صرف چند سو نے دیکھی ہوگی کہ مصر میں اسلام کے نام پر سیاست کرنے والوں نے اس کی آڑ میں مقبولیت حاصل کرنے کی کوشش کر ڈالی۔ پوری دنیا کے مسلمان جو عسکری ، اقتصادی اور سیاسی کمزوریوں کی وجہ سے توہین یا ہتک پر جوش میں آجاتے ہیں غیرت ایمانی کی تازہ ترین دعوت پر متحرک ہو گئے۔ سیاسی اسلام کے بے ایمان چوہدریوں نے ایک بار پھر ایک ایسی بات کی۔ پہلے [توہین آمیز فلم کی ]تشہیر کی جو کسی کی نظر میں نہ تھی، پھر اُس تشہیر کے بعد اُ س کے خلاف احتجاج کیا۔

مجھ جیسے گناہ گار نے (جسے تقویٰ کا دعویٰ ہی نہیں ہےبلکہ جو اپنی نوجوانی میں ان ٹھیکیدارانِ اسلام کے ساتھ وقت گزار کر ان کے طور طریقے سمجھ گیا ہے) صرف اس بات کی نشاندہی کی تھی کہ غیرت ایمانی کے نام پر بلوہ کرنا بعض لوگوں کی سیاست کا تقاضا ہے نہ کہ حضور سے محبت کا۔ اس نفاق کا پردہ چاک ہونے کا طعنہ صرف وہی دے سکتا ہے جو تعصب میں اتنا ڈوبا ہو کہ دوسرے نقطہء نظر کو سمجھنا ہی نہ چاہتا ہو۔

“رنگیلا رسول ” سے لے کر “شیطانی آیات” تک ہر گستاخانہ تحریر کی تشہیر خود سیاسی مسلمانوں ہی نے کی ورنہ یہ گستاخانہ باتیں کبھی اہمیت حاصل نہ کرتیں۔ دنیا میں کہیں نہ کہیں کوئی نہ کوئی ہمارے دین اور ہمارے نبی کے خلاف کچھ نہ کچھ ضرور کہے گا۔ ایسی باتوں کو ڈھونڈ ڈھونڈ کر مسلمانوں کے جذبات بھڑکانے سے نہ دین کی عظمت میں اضافہ ہوگا نہ مسلمانوں کی کمزوریوں کا ازالہ۔

 حضور اکرم کی شان میں گستاخی کرنے والوں غیر اہم جاہلوں سے نمٹنے کے لئے ہدایات قرآن پاک میں موجود ہیں۔ سورۃ الاعراف کی آیت199 میں حکم ہے ” عفو سے کام لیجئے ، بھلائی کا حکم دیجئے اور جاہلوں کو نظر انداز کیجئے”۔ سورۃ الفرقان کی آیت 63 میں اہل ایمان کی تعریف یوں کی گئی ہے “رحمٰن کے بندے وہ ہیں جو زمین پر انکساری سے چلتے ہیں، اور جب جاہل اُن سے کلام کرتے ہیں تو وہ کہتے ہیں سلام”۔ سورۃ النحل کی آیت 125 میں کہا گیا ہے کہ “لوگوں کو اپنے رب کے راستے کی دعوت حکمت اور موعظت سے دواور اگر بحث کرو تو شائستگی سے دلائل دو”۔

اکیسویں صدی میں مسلمانوں کے بہت سے مسائل ہیں۔ ان مسائل کے حل کے حوالے سے ہمارے درمیان بہت سا اختلاف رائے بھی ہوگا لیکن اس اختلافِ رائے میں شائستگی کا دامن وہی لوگ چھوڑتے ہیں جو دین و مذہب کو سیاست کا سیلہ بناتے ہیں۔ اُن کی نگاہ میں ہر وہ شخص جو اُ ن کی رائے سے اتفاق نہیں کر تاوہ غیر ملکی ایجنٹ ہے، گستاخِ رسول ہے، اسلام کا دشمن ہے۔ حقیقت یہ ہے کہ اسلام اور رسول کی عظمت سڑکوں پر مظاہرے کرنے والوں کی وجہ سے نہیں ہے۔ اس عظمت کے تحفظ کا ذمہ خود اللہ تعالیٰ نے لیا ہوا ہے۔ کوئی کتاب یا کوئی فلم حضور اکرم کی شان میں کمی نہیں کر سکتی۔ کوئی کالم نویس اسلام کی عظمت کا ضامن نہیں ہے۔ اسلام محفوظ ہے اور مسلمانوں کے زوال کے دنیاوی اسباب کا علاج بھی سمجھدارانہ دنیاوی فیصلوں ہی سے ممکن ہے۔


ملا کی سیاست کی ضرورت ہے وگرنہ

اسلام کو ہر بات سے خطرہ نہیں ہوتا

How Pakistan Lets Terrorism Fester

ON the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death last week, Pakistan was the only Muslim country in which hundreds of demonstrators gathered to show solidarity with the dead terrorist figurehead.

Yet rather than asking tough questions about how Bin Laden had managed to live unmolested in Pakistan for years, the Pakistani Supreme Court instead chose to punish the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, by charging him with contempt for failing to carry out the court’s own partisan agenda — in this case, pressuring the Swiss government to reopen a decades-old corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari. (Never mind that Swiss officials say they are unlikely to revisit the charges.)

In handing down the decision, one justice chose to paraphrase the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. He held forth in a long appeal to religious-nationalist sentiment that began with the line, “Pity the nation that achieves nationhood in the name of a religion but pays little heed to truth, righteousness and accountability, which are the essence of every religion.”

That a Supreme Court justice would cite poetry instead of law while sentencing an elected leader on questionable charges reflects Pakistan’s deep state of denial about its true national priorities at a time when the country is threatened by religious extremism and terrorism.

Today, Pakistan is polarized between those who envision a modern, pluralist country and those who condone violence against minorities and terrorism in the name of Islam. Many are caught in the middle; they support the pluralist vision but dislike the politicians espousing it.

Meanwhile, an elephant in the room remains. We still don’t know who enabled Bin Laden to live freely in Pakistan. Documents found on computers in his compound offer no direct evidence of support from Pakistan’s government, army or intelligence services. But even if Bin Laden relied on a private support network, our courts should be focused on identifying, arresting and prosecuting the individuals who helped him. Unfortunately, their priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

In Pakistan, most of the debate about Bin Laden has centered on how and why America violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by unilaterally carrying out an operation to kill him. There has been little discussion about whether the presence of the world’s most-wanted terrorist in a garrison town filled with army officers was itself a threat to the sovereignty and security of Pakistan.

Pakistanis are right to see themselves as victims of terrorism and to be offended by American unilateralism in dealing with it. Last year alone, 4,447 people were killed in 476 major terrorist attacks. Over the last decade, thousands of soldiers and law enforcement officers have died fighting terrorists — both homegrown, and those inspired by Al Qaeda’s nihilist ideology.

But if anything, the reaction should be to gear up and fight jihadist ideology and those who perpetrate terrorist acts in its name; they remain the gravest threat to Pakistan’s stability. Instead, our national discourse has been hijacked by those seeking to deflect attention from militant Islamic extremism.

The national mind-set that condones this sort of extremism was cultivated and encouraged under the military dictatorships of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988 and Gen. Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008. A whole generation of Pakistanis has grown up with textbooks that conflate Pakistani nationalism with Islamist exclusivism.

Anti-Western sentiment and a sense of collective victimhood were cultivated as a substitute for serious debate on social or economic policy. Militant groups were given free rein, originally with American support, to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and later became an instrument of Pakistani regional influence there and in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan’s return to democracy, after the elections of 2008, offered hope. But the elected government has since been hobbled by domestic political infighting and judicial activism on every issue except extremism and terrorism.

Before Mr. Musharraf was ousted, a populist lawyers’ movement successfully challenged his firing of Supreme Court justices. The lawyers’ willingness to confront Mr. Musharraf in his last days raised hopes of a new era. But over the last four years, the Court has spent most of its energy trying to dislodge the government by insisting on reopening cases of alleged corruption from the 1990s. During the same period, no significant terrorist leader has been convicted, and many have been set free by judges who overtly sympathize with their ideology.

This has happened because the lawyers’ movement split into two factions after Mr. Musharraf’s fall: those emphasizing the rule of law and those seeking to use the judiciary as a rival to elected leaders.

Asma Jahangir, who helped lead the lawyers’ movement, has become a critic of the courts, accusing them of overstepping their constitutional mandate and falling under the influence of the security establishment. And Aitzaz Ahsan, who represented the Supreme Court’s chief justice during the lawyers’ showdown with Mr. Musharraf, is now Prime Minister Gilani’s lawyer in the contempt-of-court case — a clear indication of the political realignment that has taken place.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s raucous media, whose hard-won freedom is crucial for the success of democracy, has done little to help generate support for eliminating extremism and fighting terrorism. The Supreme Court, conservative opposition parties and the news media insist that confronting alleged incompetence and corruption in the current government is more important than turning Pakistan away from Islamist radicalism.

While fighting Pakistan’s endemic corruption is vital, the media and judiciary have helped redirect attention away from the threat of jihadist ideology by constantly targeting the governing party — a convenient situation for the intelligence services, which would prefer to keep the spotlight on the civilian government rather than on the militant groups they have historically supported.

Convicting the dozens of terrorists released by Pakistani courts should be a greater priority for the country’s judiciary than scoring points against the elected executive branch. And the Pakistani media should be more focused on asking why those deemed terrorists internationally are celebrated as heroes at home.

Until their priorities shift, the empty pronouncements of our leaders against terrorism and the sacrifices of our soldiers in battle with militants will not suffice to change the nation’s course.

Husain Haqqani, a professor at Boston University, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011.