Thursday, October 11, 2012

Malala, Taliban and the mindset of the Pakistani state

Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year Pakistani girl student and activist keen on getting education and advocating it for other girls, has been targeted by Taliban!

In this context, I would like to point out two things:

1. Every time Taliban repeat such a heinous crime, there is abundant outrage and endless condemnations both by the state and not-state elements. When such crimes are committed by non-Taliban ordinary or not-ordinary persons, or by the Pakistani state itself, that evokes far less condemnation from the non-state elements as well as other state elements. What does that amount to? That indicates what the Taliban go for is not that new or strange or unacceptable in this land; instead that means the Taliban has no right to do such things, this right belongs to us only!

That brings my second point to light.

2. The crimes of the Taliban put the Pakistani state, the ruling government, Leftist and Rightist political parties (all the religious groups or parties are basically political), print and electronic media, and civil society into a frenzy: they start spitting out fire against the Taliban mindset.

I do not differ with the notion of the Taliban mindset. That is there and that needs to be condemned and, more than that, uprooted. I did write a piece on this mindset, which is going to be shared below. What I am deeply disturbed at is the fact what is designated as this Taliban mindset is nothing alien to the Pakistani state, the Pakistani Right, the Pakistani Left, and a portion of the Pakistani media, academia and the civil society also.

The type of Pakistan the Taliban wants Pakistan to transform into is not much different from the Pakistans, the Right and the Left aim at making it. The Pakistani state has its own designs against its own citizens. They do not give any weight to the basic rights and freedoms which the Constitution ensures to each individual citizen of Pakistan. Just like the Taliban, all of them, be it Right or Left, want to run Pakistan according to the dictates of their political ideologies and turn Pakistan in the image of their political ideologies, and interests.

The only difference between the Taliban and the Non-Taliban Taliban is the way they operate in to achieve their designs: the Taliban do want to capture the State and they use every imaginable violent means to attain their goal; whereas the Non-Taliban Taliban (I must admit the difference of degrees between the violent Taliban and the non-violent Taliban; but between them there is no difference of kind.) use non-violent means to capture the state. However, the game is the state; both, or all those who share this mindset, are there to seize the political power to make Pakistan this or that type of state, or say to use the citizens of Pakistan to their interests.

So, there is a rat race in Pakistan to capture the state of Pakistan. That was the plague Pakistan has been afflicted with in its first 25 years or so, and it was that race because of which no constitution was accepted by all and sundry, and when in 1973 a constitution was agreed upon and enforced, the Pakistani state, the Right, the Left and the elite classes were least ready to follow it.

They never talk of the fundamental rights of the citizens the constitution talk of. They never talk of the basic function of the state, its protective function, i.e. the security of life and property of its citizens, and their rights.

That deliberate criminal neglect sowed the seeds of Taliban mindset in Pakistan, and with time as the state played its non-constitutional and anti-constitutional games, the violent Taliban grew taller and stronger.

In short, that is the story of the Taliban mindset. This mindset is not new to this land; it has it roots in the same soil, in the same state, and in the same society. In other words, it means when states are ruled by ideologies, not only do they grow such mindsets, they bear the fruit also, killing all the values human civilization values most.

Fighting that mindset is not easy; psychologists know better and reveal the details what happens when a mind fights against itself, and how difficult it could be. But a constitutionalist does have the recipe: to fight this mindset, the state must enforce the constitution and the rules and laws indiscriminately and single-mindedly, which in other words mean, the state must protect life and property and rights of each citizen; and let the mindset fight its own battles.

The Taliban mindset

In order to secure constitutional protection for Muslims, the, Muslim League, under Muhammad Ali Jinnah, argued in separatist language on the basis of a different religious identity. However, as the Congress would not budge on the issue, the Muslim League went ahead with its demand for Pakistan.

Thus, the constitutional issue was merged into a religious issue. Naturally when Pakistan came into being, Quaid-e-Azam found himself facing a dilemma: he had been using the rhetoric of separate religious identity and now wanted to make the new homeland a religiously neutral state, as is evident from his speech of August 11, 1947.

That it could not happen, and the controversy lives to this day, proves that.

Also, that a constitution could not be framed until 1973, or while a few were framed and enforced, whatever their merit was, they could not survive, is sufficient to demonstrate the point: transforming the constitutional issue (especially the right to religious freedom) into a religious one proved poisonous for the new homeland.

That it provided various elites, including military and religious, with an excuse to exploit the absence of a constitution to their benefit is undeniable, and it was they who tried their best to ensure that no constitution should prevail in Pakistan.

The fundamental rights of the citizens, which found a mention as far back as in 1928 in the Nehru Report, remained a chimera in Pakistan until the lawyers’ movement brought them to the streets in 2007. Socialism, populism, religion, and a mixture of parasitism and welfarism completely eclipsed the issue of fundamental rights.

All the politics through the last six decades can be summarized thus: from the very beginning, a constitutional issue, i.e. the issue of fundamental rights of individual citizens, was confused with the issue of state’s control of individual citizens’ lives, i.e. the State’s right to determine what is best for its citizens including their religion.

Principally, the only point of a constitution is its ability to protect life and property and fundamental rights of individual citizens. Also, the State’s control of its individual citizens is a relic of the monarchical past where instead of law, the ruler was the law, with a divine right to take care of his subjects. When law rules supreme, however, it means the laws and the State give equal protection to every citizen’s life, property and fundamental rights. That is why all the attacks on constitutions first require the suspension of these fundamental rights.

That brings us to two beliefs: that it is right to deprive others of their natural freedom, and that it is not. Whether those who deprive others of their freedom also try to control their lives or not is beside the point: what is important is whether this deprivation is achieved by force or by (false) law. Such rule of law, ensuring the fundamental rights of each citizen to live his life as he wished, was missing in Pakistan, creating a vacuum which many groups and parties, religious, sectarian, ethnic and otherwise, and conglomerations of intellectual, political, business and military elites rushed to fill. That this vacuum was deliberately kept intact and prolonged is obvious.

That this explains what is happening around us in Pakistan today again proves that the nature of the crises is constitutional. It explains the onslaught of the Taliban as a violent resurrection of that mindset which was never brought under the constitution nor dealt with constitutionally. The absence of a constitution, and when we had one, its sheer violation by all elites, intellectual, religious, political, business and military, strengthened that mindset.

Additionally, this mindset was deliberately strengthened by all the elites to perpetuate their rule and hegemony and to protect their interests. It was nourished and nurtured and trained at the cost of constitutional provisions relating especially to fundamental rights and, especially, religious freedom.

So, what was sowed by the intellectual, political, religious, business and military elites is being reaped mostly by ordinary citizens in the form of absolute insecurity that threatens their very existence without any reprieve in sight. This tragedy is deeper than our imagination can fathom: the number of Hardcore Taliban in Pakistan may well be smaller, as is repeatedly claimed these days by the political and military elites, at hundreds or thousands who will be wiped out in months, but who can enumerate the number of Softcore Taliban living amongst us? The Softcore category can be divided into active and passive. Religious groups and parties fall into the active, while the passive are those ordinary citizens who are unaware of their own Taliban mindset. This passive category openly believes in depriving others of their freedom and controlling their lives according to its own scheme of thought. That may be why we see no mass agitation against the Taliban in spite of their killing us indiscriminately.

To fight this war we first have to admit that we are in the midst of an intellectual as well as a real war. The constitution of 1973 should be the rallying point for all who do not believe in depriving others of their freedom and who believe in the fundamental rights ensured in that constitution. Not only will that help us fight both the Hardcore and Softcore Taliban but it will help bring harmony, peace, stability and happiness to Pakistanis.

[This article was completed on November 15, 2009.]

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1 comment:

  1. The path of development covered so far by man, is patchy, with a leap at some avenues and a lag at others. In Europe, the path of freedom from the Pulpit landed in the cantonment of slavery to the King, but the travel continued there, resulting in the idea of being ruled by no one but Law. This travel was not taken by any others inhabiting this world.

    In our part of the world, the King's Disease syndrome persists, since times of yore, in all it's vigor, call it Hardcore or Softcore Talibaniat.

    Rule of Law can be precisely defined as "A vehicle of respect for human dignity", which we never rode.

    A childhood limerick has come to my mind which defines what our society really is; "Aik tha teetar, aik batair. Larnay main thay dono sher" Both wanted to become what they were not. As a result one lost it's beak and the other its tail.

    Unfortunately, everyday incidents, the like of which little Malala has suffered, are growing and will grow. We will perhaps "like serpants of yore, eat our own offsprings".