History of Extremism in Pakistan

Source:  www.assistnews.net

Date:  2013-07-15

By Riaz Anjum, Advocate and Chairman of the Pakistan Christian Movement
Special to ASSIST News Service

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is known as the founder of Pakistan, was a lawyer, politicians, and beloved leader, revered in my country as Quaid-i-Azam [Great Leader] and Baba-i-Qaum [Father of the Nation).

Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Born in Karachi on December 25, 1876, his birthday is observed each year as a national holiday.

According to Wikipedia, Jinnah trained as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn in London, England and rose to prominence in the Indian National Congress in the first two decades of the 20th century. In these early years of his political career, Jinnah advocated Hindu-Muslim unity, helping to shape the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, a party in which Jinnah had also become prominent.

Jinnah became a key leader in the All India Home Rule League, and proposed a fourteen-point constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims should a united British India become independent.

However, in 1920, Jinnah resigned from the Congress when it agreed to follow a campaign of satyagraha, or non-violent resistance, advocated by the influential leader, Mohandas Gandhi.

Is the cross being destroyed in Pakistan?

By 1940, Jinnah had come to believe that Indian Muslims should have their own state. In that year, the Muslim League, led by Jinnah, passed the Lahore Resolution, demanding a separate nation. During the Second World War, the League gained strength while leaders of the Congress were imprisoned, and in the elections held shortly after the war, it won most of the seats reserved for Muslims.

Ultimately, the Congress and the Muslim League could not reach a power-sharing formula for a united India, leading all parties to agree to separate independence for a predominately Hindu India, and for a Muslim-majority state, to be called Pakistan.

As the first Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah worked to establish the new nation's government and policies, and to aid the millions of Muslim migrants who had emigrated from the new nation of India to Pakistan after the partition, personally supervising the establishment of refugee camps.

Jinnah died at age 71 in September 1948, just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the British Raj. He left a deep and respected legacy in Pakistan, though he is less well thought of in India. According to his biographer, Stanley Wolpert, he remains Pakistan's greatest leader.

But the Pakistan that Jinnah envisaged, is nothing like he was hoping for and sadly has become a hotbed or extremism and his dream as opportunity for all - including the minorities, for my country has been commandeered.

Sadly, various religious groups and parties have opposed Jinnah's vision and after his death, they came to Pakistan with a design to convert it into an Islamic state of their own vision and binding.

There's was a plan to hijack a progressive Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam had visualized and these elements have declared that they will not accept a liberal and secular Pakistan.

Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq

The rulers of that time -- Liaqat Ali Khan -- came under the pressure of Mullahs, and constituted a committee headed by Moulana Shabir Ahmad Usmani and a committee prepared a resolution (objective resolution) which was passed on March 12, 1949 and was made part of constitution by a dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was the sixth President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988. For General Zia, it was the first victory of the extremist wing.

In 1962 a Jamaat-e-Islami [Islamic Party] member of the Pakistan National Assembly used, for the first time, used the words "Pakistan Ideology" in parliament. This term did not exist during the Jinnah's Pakistan Movement, nor was it present at the time of country's creation.

Rulers of Pakistan, especially dictators, have been using Islam as a weapon for their personal benefit. A department of Awqaf [the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments] was created under the regime of president Ayub Khan and religious group/parties were permitted to collect funds from Mosques and shrines. In this way these elements became stronger.

In 1973 when major Ahmadia [an Islamic reformist movement founded in British India near the end of the 19th century] riots erupted the extremist people tasted their second major victory as the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government decided to declare the Ahmadi community as non-Muslim under the pressure of extremist elements.

A third victory arrived for them in 1976-1977 when religious parties/groups formed the Pakistan National Alliance(PNA) and agitated against the Bhutto government, consequently paving the way for Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq coup.

After Bhutto was deposed by his appointed army chief in a bloodless coup, he was controversially tried and executed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1979 for authorizing the murder of a political opponent.

With the arrival of the Zia government, extremist elements finally found state power. We can say extremism as project was set into motion by Zia-ul-Haq. During his regime, Islam was used as an instrument of power and religious groups/parties were supported by his government. In his regime, an objective resolution was made part of constitution and declared that Christians and other non-Muslims were secondary citizens.

All these demands which were not accepted by Quaid-i-Azam, his companions and Bhutto, were converted into laws in the regime of Zia. Many religious groups came into existence and some of them were part of the military wings in his regime. These military wings started to dominate each other. During their war of ideological domination, they did even began to assassinate each other.

It is the misfortune of Pakistan that these elements have become so powerful that they always been compelling respective governments so as to achieve objectives.

Pakistani Taliban punished a man accused of impersonating one of them to extort money in Swat Valley
(European Pressphoto Agency)

Almost no social change has come even after the dictatorial tenure of Zia. Extremism and terrorism, which Pakistan is facing today, are the outcome of the self-centered policies of General Zia.

Largely, the regime of General Pervez Musharraf, a retired four-star general and a politician who was brought to power through a military coup d'état in 1999 and served as the tenth President of Pakistan from 2001 until 2008, was considered a enlightened and modern because he pretended himself a modern and liberal person at national and international level, but in my view, the real situation was different from general perception.

He did not make any effort to repeal or amend most controversial blasphemy laws of Pakistan, which are always misused against Pakistani Christians. In his regime, his "rubber stamp parliament" did not table the "amended bill of blasphemy laws 2007" which was presented by M P Bhindara, a non-Muslim member of parliament.

Now extremist elements dominate almost all the fields and departments of life here in Pakistan, including the print and electronic media. It has become very difficult for human rights activists, especially Christian human rights defenders to work for human rights and persecuted Christians.

Kaleem Ullah, a well-known Christian social worker who opened many schools for Christians and other deserving students and Francis George Gill, a respected Christian journalist, have now left Pakistan due to continuous life threats from extremist elements.

Now Napoleon Qayyum, another human rights defender who has been working for persecuted Christians under banner of American Center for Law and justice (ACLJ) and the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has been receiving continuous life threats from these elements.

The Pakistani Government, security agencies, and the establishment, should take immediate steps to provide protection to Christian human rights defenders.

If we wish to develop our country and make Pakistan great and prosperous, we all should condemn extremism and terrorism, but also adopt tolerance rather than extremism. The country's establishment should encourage open-minded and secular people, because these people have contributed much to Pakistan, and they can develop and make Pakistan great and prosperous, something we would like to see happen.

Contact Information

Christians in Crisis International Ministry 

PO Box 293627

Sacramento, CA 95829  

916-682-0376