Monday, May 4, 2009


In a previous post on Pakistan I had argued that, "religion and the affairs of a modern secular nation-state are not compatible, in as much as each of its citizens are different and diverse in thought and belief. Pakistan is a case in point wherein every individual is trying to exclude everyone else from Islam, based on his individual understanding. Who is the final arbiter in this? The government, which is already found wanting on this account"???

There have been more disturbing news coming in from Pakistan over the last few days. I have collated some articles from Pakistani newspapers and one from India giving out an analysis of the situation in Pakistan's North West. These are reproduced below. Each of these articles have some important message for India too.

The News: Monday, May 04, 2009

"Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad has said there is no need for a Constitution in the presence of the Quran and Sunnah.

In an interview with the Geo News, Sufi said taking photographs is prohibited in Islam and the same is true for video footage and photographs in the light of Hadith. The system of the Quran and Shariah is known as Shariat-e-Mohammadi and “we will continue our struggle for its implementation,” he added.

It is the responsibility of each and every Muslim to struggle for the implementation of Shariah in the country, he said. The TNSM chief said there was complete Shariah in Afghanistan, but the US had attacked that country to end Shariah there. He said it is the responsibility of the Muslim Ummah to go for Jihad."

"He said there was a great difference between democracy and Shariah. “Many religious leaders, including Kashmiri was for a piece of land and, therefore, it was not Jihad. He said there was great difference between democracy and Shariah. “Many religious leaders, including Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Samiul Haq, are trying to find Shariah in democracy which is wrong,” he added."

Do you agree with the views of the TNSM chief? Are democracy and religion compatible? Is a secular Contitution a pre-requisite for a democracy in any country?

Dawn: Institutions and religion: By Kunwar Idris: Sunday, 03 May, 2009

"The best chance of bringing peace back to the tribal areas and Malakand Division (Swat, Dir, Buner, Chitral, etc.) lies in dealing with the tribes through their own elders following their own traditional codes and treaties with the government — not under special regulations.

The puritanical social values imposed by the militant clerics would give way to normal conservative but tolerant and hospitable behaviour once the tribal hierarchy regains its lost authority. The army can kill or drive away the infiltrating fighters but only an autonomous political service would be able to organise the tribes to exclude the fanatical mullahs from the power structure. Besides reinstating the rule of power vesting in institutions and not in individuals, parliament and the Supreme Court must undertake a review of the relationship between state and religion. It is hard to deny that violent campaigns for Sharia directly flow from the constitutional provisions that make Islam the state religion and also bind the state to bring all laws ‘in conformity with the injunctions of Islam’. Maulana Sufi Mohammad can justifiably claim to be fulfilling a responsibility that is imposed by the constitution on all citizens.

The path to terror in Swat and elsewhere is blazed by the constitution of Pakistan itself. In Khyber Agency, rival lashkars are pitched against each other with their competing interpretations of Islamic injunctions. Some 35 years ago the parliament of Pakistan determined that the Ahmadiyya community was not Muslim. Is it not poetic justice that Sufi Mohammad should now determine that the lawmakers of Pakistan, one and all, are infidels?

Come to think of it, all parties claiming to be religious are, in fact, sectarian and the Taliban is the most violent manifestation of this. In Pakistan’s political context, faith has proved more divisive than unifying. It is a different matter though of not much concern to Sufi Mohammad that the vast majority does not agree with him on what those injunctions are. Sunnis belonging to what is commonly known as the Barelvi school and Shias (who are believed to be one-fifth of the population) openly denounce Sufi Mohammad’s campaign and accuse the government of abject surrender to his blackmail."

Can religion alone be a unifying force in a modern nation-state? What are your views?

Dawn: Sharia and democracy are incompatible: Sufi: Gohar Ali Gohar and Hameedullah Khan: Sunday, 03 May, 2009

"The Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) and the Swat Taliban have rejected the setting up of Darul Qaza and appointments of Qazis as a unilateral decision of the government, saying Sufi Mohammad was not consulted before the announcement.

Talking to media persons, after TNSM Shura’s meeting at its headquarter in Bilal Mosque Amandara, Therik spokesman Amir Izzat Khan said the setting up of Darul Qaza in Malakand was a one-sided decision by the government and TNSM chief was not consulted prior to the announcement in this regard."

"Maulana Sufi Muhammad said on the occasion that ‘delegating powers of Qazis to judges is Ghair-Sharaee,’ adding: ‘we want Sharaee Qazis in accordance with Shariat Muhammadi.’ He said TNSM wanted to transform the present judicial system into Islamic Sharia system.

He said Sharia and democracy are totally different systems, adding we consider democracy as Kuffar (infidelity) and believe in system of Quran and Sunnah. He said constitution of Pakistan is Islamic and it was not practically implemented in the country."

Taliban raze houses of Sikhs in Orakzai: Abdul Sami Paracha: Thursday, 30 Apr, 2009

"The Taliban on Wednesday night demolished 11 houses of the Sikh community in the Orakzai Agency for refusing to pay ‘Jazia’. The action was ordered by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief for Orakzai Agency, Hakeemullah Mehsud, after the deadline given to the Sikh community for payment of Jazia passed on Wednesday. Earlier, the Sikh community had postponed its decision about vacating the area following the demand of the Tehrik-i-Taliban for payment of ‘Jazia’ being non-Muslims for their protection.

The Taliban had asked the Sikh community living in the tribal area for centuries earlier this month to pay annual Jazia because ‘Sharia had been enforced in the area and every non-Muslim had to pay protection money’. The Sikh community comprising 30 to 35 families shifted from the Feroze Khel area to the nearby Merozai in Lower Orakzai Agency because they could not arrange Rs150 million demanded by the Taliban.
The Taliban had forcibly occupied shops of two Sikh businessmen, Sewa Singh and Kalak Singh, and houses of several Sikhs to force them to pay Jazia. Later, the Sikh community refused to pay Jazia and decided to leave Orakzai and settle in some other area.

Most of tribal families belonging to a particular sect have also migrated to different parts of Hangu and Kohat due to the fear of Taliban."

Hindustan Times: Issue of Sikhs in Swat is Pak's internal matter': 3 May 2009

"Even as more reports suggesting religious discrimination against Sikhs in the Swat valley filter in, Pakistan has brushed aside India's protest saying that it was an internal matter of the country and that India should not meddle in Pakistan's internal affairs.

The Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement that the issue was of "no concern'' to India as the Sikhs were Pakistani citizens. The statement came in response to India's official protest on Friday expressing concern about the treatement being meted out to minorities, especially Sikhs in the Swat valley by Taliban, in Pakistan.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said his country had responded to India's "verbal demarche'' on the issue by making it clear that the Sikhs were Pakistani citizens. "Pakistan is fully cognisant of the issue of the Sikhs and of the welfare of all its citizens, especially the minorities,'' Basit told a news agency."

Does India have any role to play in protecting the rights of the Sikh citizens of Pakistan?

My interest in Pakistan only stems from the fact that our two nations are geographically and historically linked. Anything that happens in Pakistan will have an impact on India. I firmly believe that it is in India's interest to have a stable and democratic Pakistan and I also believe that it is upto the people of Pakistan to create, support and nurture systems and institutions that will help Pakistan move in that direction. The signs at present are very disturbing. India needs to facilitate stability in Pakistan and also needs to learn valuable lessons on the role of strong and stable state institutions in governance and also the need of keeping religion definitely out of governance issues, and out of politics too. Religion practiced by individuals in their personal life can uplift the individual, and thus the society and nation, but used in the affairs of a diverse, modern nation-state can have disastrous consequences. We are witness to the events unfolding.

Watching the South Asian region one feels that India is the only island of stability in this volatile neighbourhood. Our founding fathers and our politicians must have surely done something right. What is it that we did right? and what is it that we need to safeguard with our lives, if required, to continue to develop and progress as a modern nation state while at the same time maintaining our biggest strength - our diversity?