October 2009


Shaheryar Ali

091028125531_mast_fm226Today is the third day of censorship being imposed on the BBC in Pakistan BBC news goes on air throughout Pakistan via a series of privately owned FM networks. With the explosion of private TV channels in Pakistan, the standards of journalism have a suffered a great deal. An ideological media fuelled by militant Islamism and Pakistani nationalism is on an ideological crusade in Pakistan whose first victim has been “objective reporting”.

Pluralism and democracy has been completely lacking in the local free media of Pakistan. All the news papers and TV channels have exactly same editorial policy. One gets the feeling he or she is reading sameBBC-Urdu news again and again. Most of it is objectively incorrect. Most of this media has been fiercely loyal to the policies of Pakistan’s ruling oligarchy. It may take sides on different issues which represent the interests of different factions of oligarchy depending on the Right wing and Pakistani Nationalist dominated press’s opinion of whose “patriot” and whose not but when it comes to broad general interest of the oligarchy inform of the ideological boundaries of state, the media is wholly partisan without any significant exception. The mania against India, denial on state involvement in nuclear proliferation and Islamic fascism, denial of existence of anti colonial struggles like those in Balochistan and Pakistani occupied Kashmir [written and Azad Kashmir or Free Kashmir in all Pakistani media] are to quote few examples where all Pakistani media has exactly same opinion to express, the opinion of Pakistani ruling elite and its state institution

Censorship_Press_Obey2Pakistani authorities always had a problem with the BBC. From the day BBC had collaborated with the local FM radios to increase its coverage in Pakistan; it is being opposed by Pakistani authorities in one way or another. There is usual bureaucratic red tape which always comes in handy when Pakistan wants to censor the BBC. This contract is incomplete and this rule has been violated bla bla bla. The real reason is that Pakistani authorities are fearful of objective reporting. Being a Lefti I am no fan of BBC, but unfortunately the standards of journalism have been deteriorated to such an extant in Pakistan that BBC appears to be the most objective news source in Pakistan. That’s a pity but that’s a fact!

The real crime of BBC is not what is officially being cited, i.e. violations of laws and procedures because if “Rule of Law” was such an important issue in Pakistan, it would have checked the local news channels as well. According to the society for Alternative Media in Pakistan, all news channels in Pakistan are in violence of PEMRA law through which they were granted licenses. None of them have deposited amount fixed in law of their annual income in treasury which they were bound to do so. These news channels do not go off air because they are doing state propaganda to a vulgar extant. BBC does that too, but it tries to maintain at least an illusion of objectivity, even that is not acceptable to Pakistan. The crimes of BBC are:

 

Reporting on Balochistan:  The coverage of BBC Urdu service on Balochistan cannot be called pro-people or pro-Bloch by any means, its crime is that its “reports” about Balochistan: Which no one else does in Pakistan. It tells that people are dying, some people are demanding freedom. Its will give opinion of the resistance as well that of government.

Coverage of Divergent views on Judiciary, Army, Nuclear Issues and Taliban: This along with the views of state institutions and other parties

 

Like laws apply differently to two chief justices who broke the law and took oaths of loyalty to same military dictator, depending on whom Jamate Islami and the Right supports, Laws apply differently to BBC and Geo in Pakistan. What’s going on Pakistan against BBC is a hideous press censorship. Even more hideous is the role of Pakistani media which cries foul every time it’s touched but is silent on the continuous censorship of Baloch press and the BBC. Same goes to most Pakistani bloggers, the stalwarts of secularism and Jinnah’s vision who also don’t see anything which is on the wrong side of this Post-colonial state. None wrote any thing against continuous harassment, closure and censorship of Baloch press and now of BBC.

We have not learned anything

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Muslim creationist, cult leader, Dawkins’ nemesis, messiah. Halil Arda tracks down the real Harun Yahya

With thanks: JZ [a friend, reader and contributor]

Halil Arda
Inspired by the high profile of its Christian American counterpart, Muslim creationism is becoming increasingly visible and confident. On scores of websites and in dozens of books with titles like The Evolution Deceit and The Dark Face of Darwinism, a new and well-funded version of evolution-denialism, carefully calibrated to exploit the current fashion for religiously inspired attacks on scientific orthodoxy and “militant” atheism, seems to have found its voice. In a recent interview with The Times Richard Dawkins himself recognises the impact of this new phenomenon: “There has been a sharp upturn in hostility to teaching evolution in the classroom and it’s mostly coming from Islamic students.”
The patron saint of this new movement, the ubiquitous “expert” cited and referenced by those eager to demonstrate the superiority of “Koranic science” over “the evolution lie”, is the larger-than-life figure of Harun Yahya.
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Operating from Istanbul, Yahya is the founder of the Science Research Foundation, an impressive publishing empire that boasts more than 60 websites dedicated to his writings. It provides documentary films and audio recordings in fifteen languages, including Turkish, English, Russian, Amharic and Arabic, and claims to sell more than half a million books a year, including the infamous 850-page, fully illustrated Atlas of Creation, which was sent free in two volumes to dozens of universities, libraries and prominent scientists (including Richard Dawkins) across the world. In painstaking detail, with a mass of photos, graphs and statistics interspersed with verses from the Koran, the Atlas purports to prove that Darwin was utterly mistaken, that each plant and animal was created intact, and that no modification through natural selection ever took place.
Yahya has publicly offered a lucrative prize for anyone who can produce a “transitional fossil” – the lack of which he claims proves evolution to be false. When Dawkins publicly lampooned the research in the Atlas of Creation (he pointed out that one of the photos of a Caddis Fly was in fact a fishing fly, complete with metal hook, stolen from the internet, pictured)Fishing Fly used by Okatr in Atlas of Creation, and labelled Yahya a charlatan on his website, Yahya used his considerable influence and battalion of lawyers to sue for libel and have Dawkins’s website banned in Turkey. This is just one of thousands of cases he has brought before the Turkish courts.
Despite the shoddiness of his science Yahya has found a ready audience among those looking for scientific justification for their rejection of the West. Over the past decades he has served as an adviser to several Turkish politicians, and received endorsements from across the Arab world including Saudi Arabia and Dubai, where his stalls feature prominently at book fairs. He has also proved a fascinating subject for the Western media, offering all-expenses-paid flights to Istanbul to any journalist wishing to interview him, and making himself available for radio interview whenever required. In recent years he has been interviewed by the Irish Times, by American National Public Radio, by Gordon Liddy on Radio America, by the American science magazine Seed and even by The Skeptic magazine.
While coverage in the West tends to treat Yahya’s scientific claims with derision (though all are still posted on his website as evidence of his growing influence), he is treated far more seriously across the Muslim world. From daily newspapers in Egypt and Bosnia to influential satellite TV stations like al-Jazeera and (the Iran-funded) Press TV, to small Muslim broadcasters in the West like Radio Ummah and Radio Ramadan, Harun Yahya’s argument, with its appearance of scientific credibility, its crowd-pleasing critique of Western materialism and its promise of the imminent collapse of the “Darwinist Dictatorship”, is enthusiastically welcomed by a new audience hungry for compensatory narratives of Islamic superiority. As the American journalist Nathan Schneider argued, to judge Yahya’s message on its scientific content alone misses the point: “its power, for those who are not scientifically literate, lies in its vision of redemption.”
As well as being confidante to Islamist radicals, Yahya has received endorsements from conservative congressmen in the US for his strong stance against Islamic terrorism, is feted by extreme orthodox Sanhedrin Rabbis in Israel for his anti-atheism, and has ambitions to create a Turkish-Islamic union, a new Ottoman Empire girdling the world from Eastern Russia to Western Nigeria, which would unify the Islamic world under Turkish leadership.
But how many of those who enthusiastically swallow Yahya’s message are aware that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who, in 2008, was convicted of running a criminal organisation? If his final appeal before Turkey’s Supreme Court fails, he faces up to three years in prison.
Martin Rowson's illustration of Adnan Oktar and his gang
How did such a man acquire the standing, and the financial resources, to be a player in global debates about the origins of life and the future of relations between Islam and the West? To answer this I have travelled repeatedly to Istanbul over the last few months (at my own expense), contacting sources and speaking to former members of his group, to journalists and political commentators who have followed his bizarre career and to legal experts who have defended individuals targeted by Yahya’s organisations. Many of my interviewees spoke on condition of anonymity, out of fear of the barrage of court cases his defectors and critics have been facing in recent years, described by one of his former acolytes as a campaign of “legal terror”.
As I arrive in Istanbul in July 2009 I am told that while he awaits the outcome of his final appeal Yahya can be spotted visiting Istanbul’s high-end shopping malls Kanyon and Istinye Park, accompanied by an entourage of men and women dressed in expensive, identical, designer clothes, their eyes concealed behind sunglasses. In his trademark garb – well-groomed beard, white linen suit and designer shades – he cuts the figure of a man of authority and influence, a man confident in his own importance. But is anything about him what it seems?
Certainly not the name Harun Yahya, which is a pseudonym used mainly for his operations in the English-speaking world. His real name is Adnan Oktar though in Turkey he is also known as Adnan Hodja (Preacher Adnan) and, to his followers, he is Adnan Agabey (Big Brother Adnan). Born in Ankara in 1956, by the late 1970s he was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, where he studied interior design. During this time he fell under the influence of the ideas of a charismatic Islamist preacher and moderniser, Said-i Nursi, in particular Nursi’s marrying of Islamic mysticism with scientific rhetoric.
It was in the years of violence and repression following the coup of September 1980, which installed a military junta, that Adnan Oktar began to emerge as a public figure in Turkey. In an environment of political and cultural instability, with Turkey threatened by Cold War politics from without and the clash between Kemalist secular modernisers and a rising tide of Islamic militancy within, the stage was set for a new character, a modern Turkish-Muslim man. On to this stage walked Oktar, clutching the first of his books, Judaism and Freemasons, a derivative retread of anti-Semitic clichés in the manner of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which identified Jews and the masons as the devious obstacles to the emergence of a new, powerful Turkish-Muslim nation. “The principal mission of Jews and Freemasons in Turkey,” Oktar wrote, “was to erode the spiritual, religious, and moral values of the Turkish people and make them like animals.”
Following publication Oktar was arrested, charged with promoting a theocratic revolution, a crime against the secular code. He eventually served 19 months, though he was never formally charged. During this period he was confined to a prison clinic, and then Bakirkoy Mental Hospital, where he was diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and schizophrenia. Though I have seen the formal diagnosis myself, it is still not clear whether the symptoms were genuine. Some, like his former colleague Islamist author Edip Yuksel, who was imprisoned in 1986 at the same time, believe Oktar was faking to avoid compulsory military service and criminal charges. (“Which is ironic,” wrote Yuksel, “since he was indeed mentally ill; he was a delusional maniac.”) Already by this point, Yuksel reports, Oktar believed himself to be the Mehdi, the messiah foretold in Sunni theology.
While Oktar was building a public profile through his books, the real work was taking place backstage, as he began to assemble a group of followers dedicated to his twisted vision. Combining his undoubted charisma (something even his most ardent opponents concede) with a gift for manipulation, Oktar set out to build a cult around himself, drawing extensively on the techniques pioneered by messianic gurus like Charles Manson and Jim Jones, and in particular employing the strategies of the Moonies, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Scientology in targeting disaffected but affluent and educated young people, insisting they turn their worldly goods over to the cult, and vigorously enforcing rigid hierarchies and punitive rules.
Though, as with all cults, it is extremely hard to understand what draws young, rich and educated people in, Dilek, a former follower of Oktar, gives something of the flavour. Now a suave businesswoman in her late 30s, Dilek remembers how she first met Oktar, visiting him while he was still in mental hospital, after her then boyfriend had turned out to be a follower. “I was expecting someone who frightens you off, someone terrible,” she told me. “He was the opposite. He was tall, with rosy cheeks and blue eyes. He was laughing a lot, he was full of love.” She was seduced.
On his release Oktar began to hold meetings in cafés and private residences in Istanbul’s posh suburbs, where a growing number of rich and beautiful young people gathered for debate and prayer. Soon Dilek donned a headscarf, but only outside her parents’ house, so as not to alert them to her new-found religious commitment. All her friends in the group were graduates of expensive public schools, educated in foreign languages, and most were the children of rich families and many of well-known personalities. In the early days the discussions invariably led to Oktar’s particular interest in Jewish conspiracies. “There was a chilling hatred against Jews and Freemasons,” Dilek recalls. “The Jews were the people who ruin the world, and we were the good Muslims to fight against them.”
Such “awareness-raising” meetings and discussion groups are part and parcel of Islamist group mobilisation. Yet Oktar’s group soon took a different turn. “Suddenly Adnan Hodja repudiated all oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of Muhammad (hadith) and decided that the Koran would be the only point of reference,” says Dilek. “Henceforth, he reduced the five daily prayers to three, and he dropped the veiling of women. He told us the Mehdi would emerge from Turkey, and he would come with an army of youth. He never said that he was the Mehdi himself, but we all believed that he was.”
Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, Oktar built up his community. Followers were especially active in the swanky summer resorts along the shore of the Sea of Marmara. A friend of mine, who spent most of her holidays in the late 1980s at her parents’ summer flat in the area, recalls how the followers’ targeting worked: “They bought flats there and singled out attractive girls and boys. The boys were very good-looking, boys who can easily charm you. I guess this is why they started with the boys. Once the girls entered the cult, they had to give up sexy fashion, so they wouldn’t be able to attract new members. But for the boys, the rules were more relaxed, so that they could continue recruitment.”
The social organisation within the group was becoming rigidly hierarchical and, as is common in messianic cults, sexual relations were tightly controlled, with the putative messiah given access denied to others. Oktar considered all female members his legitimate possession. Berk, a recent defector after seven years, describes the groups: “There were sisters (bacilar), concubines (cariyeler) and brothers (kardesler), the male members. The brothers were allowed to marry the concubines, while the sisters were all married to Adnan Hodja.” Of course these marriages were not legal, but they were treated as such within the group. As with Scientology, discipline was maintained through humiliation, the threat of expulsion and physical violence. “I know personally,” Berk told me, “that Oktar beats the sisters.”
Okatr also insisted on uniformity in dress, behaviour and even home furnishings. “Everyone had to be the same,” says Berk. “The hairstyle, the shoes, the jackets. It had to be the most expensive brands, like Versace and Gucci, and it had to be exactly how he wanted it to be. Even our communal flats had to be furnished according to his taste. It had to be heavy antiques, all with gold leaf and dark wood.” Video cameras were installed in the communal apartments, which allowed Oktar to exercise control over his followers and outsiders. As the criminal indictment vividly illustrates, young girls were lured into sex parties with the promise of being admitted to the group, but ended up having to perform sexual acts with men of influence, whom the group needed for its economic and political success. The encounters were filmed and used to coerce the men in question to act in the group’s interest. In witness statements, the models Tugce Doras and Seckin Piriler give detailed accounts of how members of the group treated them as “sex slaves” and how Oktar and his followers compelled them to perform oral sex and other sexual favours.
No matter how bizarre the rules, Oktar was able to provide them with apparent legitimacy through his reading of the Koran and Islamic history. Concubinage was justified by reference to the Ottoman harems, while passages of the Koran were recited to justify the practice of severing the ties of the young followers to their families. As a leading legal scholar involved in some of the court cases against Oktar puts it: “In [Oktar’s] reading, the love for mother and father is an offence to God. Parents are seen as the executors of God’s will to raise the child. Once the child reaches adulthood, their role is fulfilled. If the parents happen to join, they are considered pious and may become fellow comrades. If they remain ‘infidels’, they are considered enemies.” It was with this justification that the followers cut off relations with their parents, on whose financial and social resources, however, the group ultimately depended. The indictment details the way in which followers were encouraged to plunder their parents’ bank accounts and sell their assets.
With the local elections in 1994 came an unforeseen opportunity for Oktar. The hardline Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), the predecessor of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), won control of the municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara. But the new Islamist mayors (in Istanbul this was Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now Turkey’s Prime Minister) lacked the expertise and the social and economic networks to govern effectively. They needed allies who were both sufficiently Islamic and well resourced. With his eye for exploiting the main chance, Oktar stepped forward. The journalist and editor Fatih Altayli, who has taken on Oktar repeatedly and had to fight off dozens of libel cases as a result, sees this as a crucial moment of consolidation: “In 1995 and ’96, companies from Oktar’s sphere of influence made big business deals with municipalities under the control of the Welfare party, especially in Istanbul and Ankara. During a raid at a meeting of the group, for instance, the police arrested Oguzhan Asilturk, an acting minister in the Welfare government, and one of the leading ideologues of political Islam in Turkey. It was really during these years, that they gained a lot of economic clout. Followers even established companies in Dubai.” Some followers joined the trail of Turkish investors to Central Asia and set up businesses with the money they had extracted from their parents, with profits routed back to Oktar.
Another military intervention, the “bloodless coup” of 1997, saw the government of Erbakan forced to step down and the Welfare party disbanded. Oktar lost his political influence (something he has never regained with the current Islamist AKP government, who are eager to steer clear of him). Nothing if not bold, Oktar rebranded again.
In 1998 the Science and Research Foundation, the group Oktar had formed in 1990, launched its campaign against Darwinism, distributing tens of thousands of free copies of his book The Evolution Deceit in Turkey, paving the way for the Atlas of Creation and Oktar’s new role as the spokesman for Muslim creationism.
It is highly doubtful whether any of these books – or indeed any of the 150 books he claims to have written – were actually written by Oktar. Berk, who was part of the inner circle at the time, confirms this: “There is a group of followers who are commissioned to write the books. For every book, they will take a few key sources written by Christian creationist authors, mostly from the US. They plagiarise the chapters and paragraphs that agree with their creationist approach. Then they add the photos, a few ayat from the Koran, and sometimes a bit of a commentary. None of the ideas belong to Oktar.”
Sensing another opportunity immediately after 9/11, Oktar instantly shed his formerly virulent anti-Semitism and published a piece called “Islam condemns terror”, designed, apparently, to curry favour with America.
Oktar’s group already had established good relations with US congressmen in 2000, when his Science Research Foundation received the endorsement of seven members of Congress and retired Senator Steve Symms, who described it as “a major influence for good among the younger population of Turkey” and praised its “commitment to democracy, preservation of national and moral values, and respect for law”.
Adana Oktar's plan for a Turkish-Islamic Union
Since then Oktar has become an ardent proponent of interfaith dialogue, attempting to unify believers of all stripes against the corrupting influence of Darwinism, which he now holds responsible for Fascism, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Most recently, he has been talking about the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which would bring peace to the entire Muslim world under the leadership of Turkey.
Oktar’s ideological and political promiscuity seem to support the claim that he has no genuine beliefs at all, and merely opportunistically jumps on issues which will further his notoriety, following the lead of smarter followers. As one former follower told me, “We had something to please everybody: Ataturk, namaz (prayer), creationism and, if need be, cocaine.”
But with so many ideas taken up and discarded, and their leader facing jail, might the group be nearing exhaustion? True, the Science Research Foundation and the followers have initiated thousands of court cases. Three hundred alone were brought against the model and one-time sympathiser Ebru Simsek, who spoke out against Oktar after she refused his advances, and a barrage of faked naked photos of her were made public. Oktar’s followers have shot thousands of compromising videos of everyone who has come into intimate contact with the group. They have intimidated prosecutors, judges and lawyers with endless streams of complaints and faxed denunciations and printed libellous advertisements in the Islamist media, defaming their critics. They been especially effective on the internet, setting up numerous websites to denounce their enemies, while using the Turkish courts to silence them – the Dawkins site is just one of dozens they have had banned. “They may be only a few hundred people,” one lawyer told me, “but the damage they have inflicted is considerable. Damage to the families, to the judicial system, and to Turkish politics.”
However, and despite the serious shortcomings of Turkey’s legal system, they have eventually lost every single one of the cases they have brought, thanks in large measure to the courage of solicitor Rezzan Aydinoglu, who works virtually full-time on behalf of Oktar’s victims. According to investigators most of the business ventures in Central Asia have failed. Both factors will have eaten into Oktar’s resources.
And there may be deeper, structural reasons for the group’s decline. In the late 1980s, after several babies were born to group members (whether Oktar’s or not is unclear), Oktar forbade sexual practices that would lead to pregnancy (his followers were limited to anal or oral intercourse). Since then there have been no more births in the group. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Oktar’s formerly aggressive recruitment has abated, too.
What remains is a closed community of broken individuals. Berk, who has had to endure his fair share of slander and court cases, nevertheless feels compassion for his former comrades: “You have to understand that these are people who have sold everything they had; they sold what their parents had. They possess nothing. Many are now in their late 30s and 40s. They have lost their families and their social networks, and they have lost the ability to socialise. The only thing they know is to talk about Adnan’s distorted version of Islam.” Dilek, who broke with the a few group years ago, left two sisters behind. Her family sees them once or twice a year, when they visit guarded by a group of brothers. “They are like zombies,” she told me. “As if there is nobody inside.”
Oktar continues to be a public figure in Turkey, where a two-part, five-hour interview with him was screened on national television in August. The final ruling on his appeal is due in October, and Razzan Aydinoglu told me it is very likely he will lose. But this may be just the kind of thing he would enjoy, turning it into evidence of his martyrdom.
Clearly Oktar is a master of manipulation, a “cunning charlatan” as Erip Yuksel calls him, but it is not this alone that has allowed this deluded, empty man to achieve the prominence he has. He is a symptom of our own sickness. Thanks to the “War on Terror”, Oktar could paint himself as a credible alternative to radical Islam; thanks to our timidity and incompetence around issues of faith he can gain credibility as a representative of Muslim sentiment and a champion of “inter-faith dialogue”. And, most of all, for many disoriented Muslims, he provides a compelling vision of a superior Islamic science.
He is a deluded megalomaniac who has artfully exploited the global resurgence of religious sentiment to cheat us all. A ludicrous man for ludicrous times.

Shaheryar Ali

Some Theoretical Considerations: Death of Pluralism

“The article is intended to be the theoretical first part of a series of article on the suppressed cultural identities[A Pakistan you never knew] in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, One on the fate of Pakistani Jews has already been published and can be reached here

A couple of years back I was reading a research report by a very intelligent Pakistani academic who works for the International Crisis Group, Dr Samina Ahmed on the rise of sectarianism in Pakistan. Being trained in the progressive tradition myself I was familiar with the theoretical framework in which Dr Ahmed operates, state and its origin, adaptation of an ideological character by the state, cold war and Jihad etc. What strike me and infact fascinated me was a passing remark by her on working ideology of all sectarian groups of Pakistan, she wrote they all operated on the “principle of exclusion

This was a remarkable observation if one wants to understand the ideology of sectarianism and a sectarian state. States are not just material institutions of economy and violence, state has an ideological aspect as well. Structures of the state create a significant influence on super structures of the society on which it is maintaining control. That means through different ideological institutions, states create culture and patterns of thoughts which help the state to keep control [Gramsci and Althusser]. It has been explained as a mental condition in which a slave thinks and takes his slavery to be a state of “freedom”. This intervention into ideology or the “ways of thinking” became the obsession of western Marxists who were trying to understand failure of revolutions in the Western Europe. A series of whole new disciplines emerged like critical theory and cultural studies which focused on the ideological and cultural aspects of state and/or capitalism

As postmodernism became more influential in universities of Europe and North America, the critique was extended to a similar analysis of “reality” [Baudrillard] and alterations in human perceptions by Capitalism and state/super state. The ideological foundations of Pakistan state [not to be confused with official “Pakistan ideology”] lie in the communal/nationalist strife [Saigol,Rubina] which presumed an “absolute difference” between Hindus and Muslims. Jinnah put forward an argument which utilized “cultural difference” as base of civilization, which differentiated Indian Muslim from Indian Hindus with whom he shared same ethnicity and language [Bengali speaking muslim became part of a different civilization and nation than Bengali speaking Hindu from whom he originated in the first place through conversion]. Hindu and Muslim emerged as grand identities which were rhetorical in entity as demonstrated by the work of great Indian historian Romila Thaper, that before British Colonialism term Hindu or Muslim were rather meaningless in the sense that they didn’t constructed a unified socio-political identity. With the professed anti-clericalism and modernism of founding fathers of Pakistan, ideological intervention became all the more important and a unified cultural umbrella needed to be constructed to legitimize the claim of “distinct civilization”. This logically meant to suppress the ethnic, national and indigenous identities to construct the “Muslim identity” only through which survival of Pakistan was envisioned.

JinnahA study of discourse emerging from ruling elite of Pakistan, the PML and colonial administration which they inherited from Colonial administration suggest an obsession with monism themes as opposed to pluralism. Jinnah’s slogan of “Unity, Faith and Discipline” itself speaks of need to “unify and control”. The slogan relates more to ideologies of totalitarian regimes of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany than to the Liberal tradition of Western Europe to which Jinnah is said to be trained in. Ethnic identities became the “others” of Muslim identity and as a result an existential threat the new state. The question of national rights was diverted by Jinnah’s stern warning against the “evil of provincialism”, the need to construct a “unified culture” so strong that a man as modern as Jinnah who took up the case of muslim socio-cultural rights in India, stood in Dacca and thundered “Urdu Urdu and only Urdu!” a language which was not the language of even 0.2% of Pakistanis at the time Those who demanded an equal status of Bengali along side Urdu were to called traitors and communists. After Jinnah’s death things became worse and PML which lacked any popular base in East and West Pakistan joined hands with Clerics and Islamic Fundamentalists whom Jinnah thoroughly despised. Jinnah’s handpicked Prime Minister Nawabzada Khan Liaqat Ali Khan, a member of feudal aristocracy passed the Objectives Resolution and state acquired an ideological character.

The ideological apparatuses of the state in form of media, mosques,

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Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung

universities and colleges started molding the minds of people. Considering one to be a Bengali or Punjabi was something like treason, same was the case with being Muslim. In British India Muslim was a broader and loose cultural identity which related more to practice of circumcision and burial of dead as opposed to cremation. Different sects of muslims existed and considered their sect to be true version of Islam but due to neutrality of the state didn’t operated on the “principle of exclusion”. The party which took up the issues of muslim socio-political and cultural rights in British India, the All India Muslim League comprised of “muslims” which were distinguishable by their heterodoxy not their orthodoxy. Sir Aga Khan was the president of All India Muslim League who was the Imam of Ismilies which were engaged in a bloody struggle against Sunni and Twelver Shias for more than 1000 years and who were considered “apostates” by clerics of both mainstream sects. Muhammed Ali Jinnah also belong to the Ismaili faith but later converted to more mainstream Twelver Shia faith but was a non practicing muslim by all standards. Many important leaders like Raja Sahib of Mehmoodabad were twelver Shias. Sir Zaferullah Khan was Ahmedi or Qadiani. Dr Allama Muhammed Iqbal was a revivalist who was opposed by Sunni orthodoxy and was rumored to be a Ahmedi as well the controversy ended when he denied these claims by writing an article in Statesmen condemning Ahmedi faith. [Controversy still exist weather he was Ahemdi for some part of his life and even after condemning Qadiani faith he considered Lahori group of this faith as part of muslim community]

Nawab Bahaduryar Jang another prominent leader of All India Muslim League belonged to “Mehdivia” sect. a sect similar to Ahmedies which considered pious saint Syed Muhammed Jonpuri as the Mehdi. Due to this heterodoxy and professed modernism of All India Muslim League the muslim clerics were bitterly against it. But this was to be changed when this movement was to end in formation of the “Muslim Homeland” [Not an intention of Jinnah according to some historians, most notably Dr Ayesha Jalal]. With the formation of Muslim homeland the question “Who is Muslim?” acquired a phenomenal character. Before partition as we have said earlier this question was not very relevant because of its oppositional character to the rival identity “The Hindu”. After partition of India on 15th August 1947 all this changed. Muslim identity lost its contrasting “other”, a “moth eaten Pakistan” meant that its founding fathers were already paranoid about its chances of survival; the land which they got was hub of forces which opposed partition of India. Punjab was firmly in grip of feudal, with which Jinnah forged an alliance to make Pakistan, the Unionist Party held power in Punjab. All India Muslim League lacked support and organization in Punjab, the “salariat” class which was motivating the struggle for Pakistan was weakest in Punjab [Alavi,Hamza]. NWFP the province of overwhelming muslim majority despite best efforts of Jinnah stood with Bacha Khan and Indian National Congress. The 1946 elections which were held to decide the issue of muslim representation saw defeat of Muslim League despite support from the British in the NWFP. In Bengal muslim league held popular base but it was due to independent minded progressive leaders whom the central leadership didn’t trusted, Hussein Shaheed Soherwardi, AK Fazel-e-Haq, Molana Bhashani all were to be purged along with all mass base! Jinnah had to lean heavily on “socialism”[He went as far as declaring Islamic Socialism to be guiding ideology of Pakistan in Chittagong] to gain currency in Benagal but his negotiations with the Americans in 1946 had already decided Pakistan’s future alignment with “Anti-socialist block”. Bengali was suppressed, NWFP government dismissed, the party banned and its news paper “Pakhtoon” suppressed [start of press censorship in Pakistan, all this happened in first year of Pakistan]. The party headquarter was bulldozed and police opened fired on unarmed party workers at Barbra killing hundreds of Pushtoons, this despite Bacha Khan’s oath of loyalty to Pakistan. In Sindh , GM Syed had already left Muslim League depriving it of much popularity, the loyal faction of  Sindh League was  also disenfranchised when Jinnah dismissed Sindh government as well when CM opposed  partition of Sindh [separating Karachi from Sindh] This would be the start of never ending Sindhi-Mohajir conflict. Balochistan had to be annexed by force when upper and lower houses of Parliament of State of Qalat explicitly rejected proposals to join Pakistan. Khan of Qalat signed the document of accession but wrote himself that he didn’t have the authority to do so.

All these events which took place in first years or couple of years after birth of Pakistan unfortunately counterpoised “Muslim identity” against the local identities which also represented political opposition to Pakistan’s ruling elite. It became a rule to suppress any expression of cultural identity other than the official “Muslim” one. This was to be what I call “death of Pluralism” in Pakistan. After deciding the fate of national identities, the project of defining “muslim” came on agenda. Death of Jinnah accelerated the process and state’s alliance with fascist theorist Abul ala Maudaudi emerged. He gave a series of lectures on Radio Pakistan on Muslim Nationalism. Objectives resolution was passed, later Anti Ahmedi agitation started, the anti clerical vanguard in state tried to give a final resistance to the clerics. Justice Munir’s report tried to put clerics at their place but it was too late. A unified and oppressive muslim identity emerged which put all heretical muslim sects in a continuous state of fear of being declared “apostates”. The irony of history is that with this most of the founding fathers of this country also joined the ranks of “apostates” All alternative cultural expression vanished from the country, the Hindus, the Jews, Homosexuals, Heretics, Nationalists all had to face “cultural Holocaust” After Ahmedies Shias were targeted and now Bravelies are trying to protect their “islam” from muslims

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Sir Zafrullah Khan

Shaheryar Ali

It was a pleasant evening and I was conversing with a progressive intellectual of Pakistan who was a Marxist revolutionary during the revolutionary times and now is a billionaire who runs an empire of NGOs through out Pakistan.  After the collapse of Soviet Union it was quite easy for these “revolutionary” intellectuals who literarily had no roof over their heads to sell their skill and talent to the international donors, a slight twist of language which converted “bourgeoisie” into elites did the trick and now most of them are richer than fellows of traditional propertied classes who were once their main declared enemy.

My dear friend was deeply distressed over the latest developments in Pakistan. The epic drama of entrenching and hostage taking in the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army in the Garrison town of Rawalpindi had pushed him beyond the limit. Playing with his glass of red wine which he had brought from France where he went to attend a conference on “Poverty alleviation”, he said to me, “Your country will become Afghanistan, this conflict will continue for at least 20 more years”. “They entered the GHQ. Killed a brigadier and took men hostage remained there for 24 hours” he continued. “It’s the damn headquarter, the heart of our defense establishment, can any one imagine such an incompetence? Where were the mighty ISI and MI” he kept lamenting. “The state of our state has been exposed in front of the whole world, our guardian cannot guard themselves” he sipped his wine, which perhaps didn’t soothed him at all. “Did you hear that press conference by Nawaz Sharif?” he asked me.

Whats there to listen? I said “Lier Lier bloody lier , he is a damn bloody lier” he threw away the glass. His sculptured face though showed the shadow of age but held its old mystique. His cheeks were now the colour of wine he was drinking. I wanted to remind him of his empire’s support of Judicial movement and his praises of “progressive Shahbaz

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Sharif” and his great administrative skills. These skills are clearly evident from Aata to Sugar crisis and attacks on Police Training center, which has become a ritual of the sort by the terrorists. I wanted to remind him about his praises of Sharif’s principle stand on “judiciary”. “Did you by any chance manage to read the decision of Lahore high court on the petition challenging the arrangement of leasing thousands of acres of land in Seriki southern Punjab to Saudi Arabia?” I asked him. “Yar is that the issue?” Southern Punjab is being talibanized , you know its become the den, I have just seen the mighty complex they are building in Bahawalpur.” He informed me. Yes I know, from Taank and DI khan, they enter Bakher and from there spread to whole Seriki wasiab, there are sleeper cells in Kabirwala , Mianchannu , Multan, they have been  piling up explosives for more than a year now. One depot of theirs exploded accidentally in Mianchannu demolishing the entitle village, I know whats going on in Bahawalpur, I also know why in certain mosques in this entire region study circles of university students are being conducted these days., I also know once again slogans of “Kaffir Kaffir Shia Khaffir” are being visible on the walls of this region” I said.

“And you still want to bash the judiciary instead of highlighting the real issue” he asked me. I thought about the state of distress my elder friend was in, the dream this generation saw of equality and change which shattered in front of them; they changed the course, compromising with western powers they took up the agenda of democracy, reformism and secularism, which too was failing in front of them. Taliban appeared as a ghost from their past to haunt them. “I am highlighting the real issue, though you may not acknowledge it” I commented. “You were also carried away by your dear friend Aitzaz Ahsan’s poetry—- Adel bina jamhoor na ga” I said sarcastically. “I am bashing judiciary but what Ali Ahmad Kurd is doing?” now the “azad manish judges are pharaohs eh? I took a sip from my glass and continued , “problem is my friend, you don’t have to attend namaz-e-janaza of murdered Bloch leaders, every second day in Quetta and face the angry eyes of Baloch nationalists who supported the judicial movement believing Ali Ahmad Kurd and Aitzaz Ahsan that it will result in rule of law” I said . “You don’t have to go through that ordeal every second day but Ali Ahmad Kurd

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

has too, he has to answer those in Quetta for those the murderous character of this state was not transformed into a Matriarchal one as Aitzaz Ahsan promised”. I went on. “and as for the dreams of Jinnah’s Pakistan and secular revolution you guys were bringing in imamat of Aitzaz Ahsan, General Hamid Gul and Qazi Hussein Ahmad, I just want to ask you why every sectarian monster incarcerated in Punjab has been released  in the past few months, the same monsters who are now entrenching in southern Punjab”. I asked him.

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

“One can’t accept an institution of a state to transcend the ideological boundaries of the state, they have a limited operative space Sherry” his face became redder. “ahan than what was the fuss all about my friend? What was the nonsense about revolutions and long marches, what was all that, last time I checked its called de-contextualization, you guys misled the public opinion exhausted the energy of the people to bring change and pushed them into disillusionment”. My voice raised a little and he winced. I helped myself to bar and put some orange juice in the glass and splashed a liberal amount of Vodka in it. I gave the glass to my friend; this will be soothing I told him. “The link between Punjabi sectarian organizations and Al Qaida has long been established. They were the first to join Al Qaida in Pakistan; they are the most advance tendency of extremism in Pakistan. They have demonstrated their ability by attacking Mumbai, GHQ and ISI instillations, why than they were being released by judiciary?”  I asked him. “You know Lahore High Court has made United Nation and Government of Pakistan ban on LeT practically ineffective. Now they have ordered the government to withdraw all cases against Hafiz Muhammed Saeed. Before that they released many people of other sectarian organizations , Supreme court of  Pakistan released Molana Aziz the monster of Lal Masid and he toured the whole southern Punjab with police escort instigating jihad. Only in Taunsa 300 burqa clad girls with strips of “Sharia or death” around their heads got their names registered with Aziz, this happened with the chants of “Jan Jan Taliban” now I was angry. “I hope Junaid Jumshaid and Aitzaz Ahsan will release a joint album of “Jaan Jaan Taliban and Riyasat ho gi maa ke jesi—adal bina jumhoor na ho ga” I taunted him.

“The judiciary in NWFP is giving similar concessions to Sufi Muhammed, his sons who were combatants in Swat were released what non sense is this? You people want more bloodshed in Swat? “Half a dozen or more poor human beings were burned alive in Gojra, the city PML-N chief, the police and these sectarian thugs burned people alive, our restored judiciary which was supported by NGOs and Human Rights brigade instead of acting on behalf of victims supported Blasphemy laws, the most honorable chief justice pledged to protect the Blasphemy law and to protect Pakistan from “conspiracies of Hindus and Jews” that according to the news paper reports” I told him. “Do you people have any decency left? Now you are crying over talibanization? You want me to curse Fazal-ul-reham and Zardari and mullahs, my dear friend you people are equally responsible. You brought back right wing partisans in judiciary and they have purged every liberal one” I continued.

Vodka had done the trick, my friend was now calm. “Ghulam Rasool!” he called his servant and clapped. “Yes Sir” he said. “Start the stereo”  “Janab what will you like to hear” he asked. My friend closed his eyes for few minutes and than said “Ub ke hum bichre tu shahid kabhi khabo mein millen— Sherry baba likes Ahmad Fraz” he told him and smiled. Servant knew well enough and soon the room was echoing with the voice of Hussain Hazervi.

“Wazirstan mein operation shuru ho gaya “the servant informed us. “Very good” he said. I had already read the International Crisis Group’s report on the expected failure of the operation and Army’s pact with two Taliban groups so was rather worried! “You havnt learned anything” I said. I took a big gulp from my glass and started listening to the wonderful ghazal

Nasha bherta he sharabe’n jub sharbo’n mein mile’n. But my nasha was already gone——-

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