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Articulation through violence

To make an idea amenable to practice, what is required are attendant signifiers of nationalism like language, culture, history and geography.

Articulation through violence
— AFP / Arif Ali

Munawar Hassan’s enunciation where he has elevated Hakimullah Mehsud to the esteemed status of a shaheed (martyr) has evoked a sharp response from the other side of the ideological divide. This liberal section of Pakistani bourgeoisie articulates its views more on the social media, the scope and spectrum of which is fast growing. But some Jamaat interlocutors react to the liberal take with their usual belligerence through electronic media, which too is profoundly influenced by the right-wing ideology.

Emergence of electronic media appears to have worked wonders for the Jamaat interlocutors. They are using their freedom of expression vehemently against the fast vanishing breed of liberals in Pakistan. The ubiquitous Jamaat spokesmen appear with their ‘incisive’ analysis on almost every subject under the sun on Pakistani channels. That, too, is absolutely mind-boggling particularly in the days when the frontiers of knowledge have become so diversified and virtually limitless. They spout poison particularly against those with liberal views because they are perceived as agents of the diabolical other, the West. They obviously question their loyalty to Islam.

According to them, the upholders of liberal thought cannot be taken seriously and some of them can even be ridiculed as jahil on the most frivolous television debates ever witnessed. However, the army’s concern over that ‘counter-intuitive’ assertion by the Jamaat’s ameer rattled these stalwarts quite tangibly. As a consequence, they were put on the defensive; indeed a rare occasion at least in the last 40 years.

Liaqat Baloch’s condemnatory statement about army’s interference in political matters may put the holy alliance between the Jamaat and the army, conjured up first in 1971 against the Bengalis, into jeopardy.

Hassan’s feting someone like Hakimullah Mehsud as shaheed opens up a new avenue of deliberation around the abstractness of the idea underpinning Pakistani nationalism. When an abstract idea holds precedence over nationalism’s other signifiers like culture, language, geography and a common bond emanating out of the shared history, bloodshed becomes a norm.

Any idea, no matter how great it claims itself to be, needs validity from the objective conditions of the day, a fact which is clearly lost on the Jamaat stalwarts. Interestingly, Hassan did not have any such commonality with the deceased Hakimullah. One of the contradictions in his eulogising Hakimullah pertains to the latter’s stance towards the constitution of Pakistan to which the Jamaat was one of the signatories. Concomitantly, with divergent languages, cultures, geographies and histories, the only glue that unites them is that of an abstract idea.

The argument I want to advance is that to make an idea amenable to practice, what is required are attendant signifiers of nationalism like language, culture, history and geography. That is the only way the idea can be divested of its abstractness and transformed into a livable proposition.

Ironically, in the case of Pakistani nationalism, the abstract idea has secured not only centrality but so much of importance that its other determinants had been squeezed out altogether. Therefore, in such a circumstance, even Pakistani geography ceases to be of any consequence.

The Jamaat ameer, while calling Hakimullah a shaheed, is refusing to attach any importance to the geographical reality of Pakistani nation state. For him, the abstract idea is the only thing worthy of importance. Some of the pro-Jamaat interlocutors have the gumption to say this rather openly on the electronic media.

Another anomaly plaguing Pakistani state as well as its people is the stark difference between the social and the political. Despite the dominant discourse being exceedingly religious, Pakistani people nevertheless are not favourably disposed to hand over the reins of power to the JI or the JUI. Therefore, these political groups/parties have taken a route of coercion to assert their political self. Besides, the religious parties, particularly the Jamaat-i-Islami, have invested substantially in the socio-cultural realm through controlling education and vernacular media, not only conceptually but practically too.

Pakistani state, since its outset, shirked responsibility towards education and health. The Jamaat picked education and started working steadily to have complete sway on it. The decade of 1980s helped it immensely towards that end. The Jamaat was not only visible among the students of colleges and universities but also among the community of teachers. It had a pervasive presence among schoolteachers too.

Gradually, it was successful in having a strong imprint on the ethos of the middle echelons of Pakistani society. Hence, the Jamaat ideology resonates very clearly in the Pakistani media and educational institutions.

Worryingly, the only determinant of Pakistani ‘social’ is the abstract idea, fully couched in a puritanical Islam which sets stringent limits on the expression of the cultural self. Increased interaction with Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, solidified the puritanical streak in all religious parties considerably. Now that the religious parties see no possibility of coming into power, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s rule being the best they could ever achieve, they are influencing the ‘political’ through the ‘social’.

Thus the underlying notion of employing militant means for political gains becomes understandable. Pakistan’s religious right has been gradually turning militant since the Afghan jihad. Now militancy is the only means left for them to express themselves.

The greatest threat posed to the state of Pakistan is from them whose creed gets articulated through violence.

Tahir Kamran

tahir kamran
The writer is Professor in the faculty of Liberal Arts at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

One comment

  • The effects of the Afghan Jehad had been militancy in the tribal areas and this was grasped by the Ji and JUIF this has been ignored by the state so long that it has almost become a reality. The religious parties finding support amongst the terrorists have made themselves into a political arm of these groups. The commercialism is to the benefit of both the parties and since the state had been ignoring it the common man suffers. The sparks are turned into flames by foreign sympathizers all in all the common man is helpless and the state lacking the political will and support of the intelligentsia is at a disadvantage now the military and these groups are to come up one to one due to changing situation around the country lets see that the state prevails and these groups are brought to justice. Martyrs or not they have to answer for a lot to the nation if left alone we will even declare common murderers as Martyrs.

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