by: K. Ashraf
One young Pakistani intellectual made a telling statement about Pakistani nation. He wrote: “Pakistanis are a democratic nation trapped in undemocratic state.” I would like to give this statement a slightly different twist: Pakistanis are a culturally secular people trapped in culturally religious state.
Of course Mullahs have somewhat influence in Pakistani society but they are not as powerful as state institutions present them by giving them more than due acceptability in national discourse about national issues. This acceptability of Mullahs even becomes more evident when we form committees like Royete-Hilal and create a media circus three times a year by inviting Mullahs to decide the moon-sighting and hold so called nonsensical Mushaikh conferences to address critical national issues.
When Pakistan came into existence it was simply called Pakistan. It was neither Islamic nor Republic of Pakistan. After creation of Pakistan, Mullahs who originally opposed the idea of Pakistan,
they started pushing their agenda to impose Sharia in Pakistan. Mullahs pressed the then legislator assembly to pass a resolution in which they proposed to declare Pakistan ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan.’
From that point on, there was no end to Mullahs’ demands. They constantly used the demand of imposition of Sharia or Islamic System in the country to wield more power and influence in Pakistani society.
State machinery adopted two pronged strategy to deal with ever growing Mullahs’ influence: crackdown and appeasement. The Mullahs who adamantly challenged state authority, government cracked down on them; and the mullahs who cooperated with state authority, government appeased them time to time by giving them certain privileges.
It was a flawed policy. Mullahs neither needed crackdown nor appeasement. Crackdown and appeasement both strategies worked to the benefit of Mullahs. In each case they gained more influence and power in Pakistani society.
Unfortunately, government never realised the mistake it made by devising crackdown and appeasement policy towards Mullahs. Instead, government not only continued this policy, it tailored it time to time to accommodate its proxy war strategies in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
In a way, this policy is mother of all ills Pakistan suffered from throughout her history. All disruptive movements are linked with this policy of cracking down on adamant Mullahs and appeasing cooperative ones.
Healthy societies always maintain a fine social balance. All classes play their due role within well defined social or constitutional parameters. No particular segment of society crosses its limits and tries to redefine the lines for other classes. If this fine balance breaks down due to the extraordinary influence of one or the other segment or class of the society that society becomes sick and starts facing social, cultural, political and economic disorders.
Other than military generals, Mullahs are another class which developed too much influence in Pakistani society due to ‘Crackdown and Appeasement Policy.’
The challenge posed by Taliban should have taught some lessons to Pakistani establishment. Unfortunately, Pakistani establishment is still continuing this ‘Crackdown and Appeasement Policy.’ On one hand it is fighting a war with Taliban and on the other it is appeasing another class of Mullahs to get statements against Taliban to provide moral grounds to its anti Taliban warfare.
The fact of the matter is Mullahs are way out of required social parameters. They are defining Pakistan’s social, cultural, political and economic fault lines. Mullahs’ this relevance in Pakistani society is a serious challenge.
Pakistani establishment, intellectuals, media, opinion makers and other important classes have to decrease Mullahs relevance in Pakistani society. Government of Pakistan should not make crackdown or appease Mullahs out of the way. No appeasement of any type of Mullahs should be the clear state policy, period. Pakistani intellectuals should not make Mullahs part of Pakistani discourse. Media should refrain from inviting Mullahs while discussing Pakistan’s social, cultural, political, military or economic issues. The opinion makers should also avoid weighing in Mullahs opinions on such issues.
Other then the steps to be taken by various social segments of Pakistani society, Power and influence driven Mullahs also need to recognize their social limits. They have to get out of peoples’ lives and withdraw back to their spiritual realm. They should demolish and roll back symbolic religious extensions in Pakistani society. Their pervasive presence in Pakistani society is destroying Pakistani society’s social balance.