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Viewpoint: Facts speak for themselves

While both houses of parliament passed “the Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Bill, 2015” and “The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2015” with comfortable majority the JUI-F and JI abstained. Notably, both parties had supported the proposal of trying terrorism suspects in military courts during the recent all-party conferences but have now taken issue with the new clause in the Army Act that says any person belonging to a group/organization who, using the name of religion or sect, commits an offence mentioned in the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 would be tried in military courts. They say the reference to groups using the “name of religion or a sect” is discriminatory and excludes those involved in targeted killings in Karachi and acts of terrorism in Balochistan. The obvious answer to the objection: each problem is different in origin and hence has to be dealt with in a different way.

Their main worry though is about action against seminaries. Speaking outside the Parliament House, JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said “the language of the bill is an attempt aimed at linking terrorism to religion.” He may have his reasons to deny reality but those who killed more than 55000 Pakistanis used the fair name of religion to commit their crimes. Anyone and everyone is a target, including religious leaders who disagree with their methods. Maulana himself has been lucky enough to survive three attacks by religious extremists. Former JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad too was attacked but escaped unhurt. A respected religious figure associated with JUI-F Maulana Hassan Jan was killed in Peshawar for issuing a decree against suicide bombings. The same people murdered another religious scholar Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi of Lahore’s Jamia Naeemia along with several others in a suicide bombing for declaring suicide bombings as un-Islamic.

While the Taliban have been massacring ordinary people as well as religious leaders critical of them, sectarian terrorists have been targeting leaders and members of rival sects as well as followers of a strain within the mainstream Sunni school of thought at various Sufi shrines. They have not spared even the Eid Miladun Nabi processions celebrating birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam, since they regard these things as ‘bid’at’ (innovation in belief). The facts speak for themselves. The two religious parties should acknowledge the truth for what it is rather than directing their ire at the public representatives for trying to stop terrorists from wreaking havoc on innocent lives in the name of religion.

The JUI-Fs and JI’s real problem is the government decision to streamline the affairs of the madrassahs and put a check on their foreign funding. Money, of course, is of primary concern. The usual claim is that these places have always been rendering a great public service by providing religious education along with food and shelter to children from poor families. The issue though is not the traditional maddrassahs that survived on donations contributed by local communities, but the ones that have mushroomed during the recent decades financed by some Arab states and Iran. According to a WikiLeaks cable, for instance, sectarian seminaries in southern Punjab alone get as much as $100 million a year. There, of course, are no free lunches in this world. Most sectarian seminaries are involved in fighting the Gulf countries proxy war for regional influence. They would do anything to keep the money pipeline flowing. Those that are not involved in any such activity need not worry. They should have no qualms about presenting their books for audit, either. While on the subject, it is worthwhile to note that the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary, run by Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, (leader of a breakaway faction of JUI) boasts the distinction of having among its alumni people like Afghan Taliban Amir Mullah Omar, chief of the Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent Asim Umar, and Jalaluddin Haqqani of the powerful Afghan mujahideen group, the Haqqani network.

While ranting against the amendments, Maulana Fazlur Rehman also said the approval of the bills is an attempt at making Pakistan a secular country. “Pakistan”, he added, “is an Islamic state and we will not allow anybody to turn it into a secular state.” While claiming the right to allow or disallow anybody what to do in Pakistan the JUI-F chief as well as the JI need to be reminded about an important part of their own history vis-a-vis the creation of Pakistan. Both parties had vehemently resisted the new Muslim homeland. Maulana Mufti Mehmood, father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and head of JUI before independence when it was called Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, had this unforgettable comment to offer about the making of Pakistan “thank God, we were not part of the making of this sin.”

JI founder Maulana Abu Ala Maududi was among the most vociferous opponents of Pakistan. What he thought of the new country is plain from the following nuggets from his writings: “The establishment and birth of Pakistan is equivalent to the birth of a beast”, “Pakistan is a fool’s paradise and an infidel state”; “Pakistan is napakistan”. And, of course, he made several disparaging remarks about Mohammad Ali Jinnah. To be fair to them, however, leaders of most religious parties, including the then JUH and JI, had an ideological difference of opinion with the struggle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. They had argued that Islam being a universal religion could not be confined within the boundaries of a nation-state. They never renounced that position. And yet the same parties are now claiming to be the self-appointed custodians of this country’s ideological frontiers. In so doing they have been distorting this state’s founding ideals as laid down by the Father of the Nation in his famous August 11 speech in the constituent assembly. The nation’s elected majority representatives must not allow anybody to dictate the direction the country needs to take. It is for them to decide how best to eliminate the existential threat religious extremists pose to Pakistan.

saida_fazal@yahoo.com 

Saida Fazal, "Viewpoint: Facts speak for themselves," Business Recorder. 2015-01-08.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political parties , Constitution-Pakistan , Military courts , Terrorist threats , Terrorism law , Religious extremists , Taliban-Pakistan , Army act , Pakistan