Interesting political times are ahead. Both internal and external realities are likely to push political forces in Pakistan to change their respective alliances. It would be difficult for President Musharraf to further postpone patching up with the liberal political parties any longer. At the same time it is equally difficult for major liberal parties to play tough and reject a workable solution with the establishment to break the present impasse.
Let’s first see why President Musharraf should seek support from the liberal political parties? The post 9/11 script outline for the Muslim countries was written by Osama. Whether he is alive or dead is not the question. The catalyst role played by him in sharpening the contradictions between the religious-cum-nationalist forces on one side and the rising global secular values on the other has to be recognized. Osama’s supporters in the Muslim world are defending the weakening medieval values in the name of religion against the rising globalised culture and values.
By default as the head of Pakistan government, President Musharraf had to choose the side soon after 9/11, and rightly so. It was not a matter of choice; it was a compulsion to go against religious extremism. I think Pakistan, like all countries with Muslim majority, were destined to come to this juncture sooner or later. 9/11 just advanced the date. In the case of Pakistan this change in policy should have been made soon after Zia’s government came to an end. But the establishment continued to support the obscurantist and Jihadis.
To reverse the long-standing policy of supporting religious extremism and to join the natural course of social, political and economic development, the military in Pakistan has to build alliances with the liberal parties in the country. And let the unadulterated democracy flourish. Any other artificial dispensation cannot withstand the religious element’s opposition to democratic and secular values.
Apologists of these religious parties see them as a symbol of anti-imperialism, nationalism and supporter of democracy in Pakistan. Some even look at the obscurantist as defender of our culture. We should differentiate between the anti-Americanism of the religious parties and anti-imperialism. They do not offer any alternate solution to the world economic order, which can help in poverty alleviation and bring down inequitable distribution of wealth.
As these parties draw their strength from petty-bourgeoisie and reject all modernization, they have strong fascist tendencies. Their public democratic posture is in conflict with their intolerant ideology. Democracy is incomplete if it is not based on the principle of equal religious freedom and opportunities. And all religious parties are opposed to this basic principle.
While the religious parties have recognized the challenges of the present times and flocked together forgetting their sectarian division, the liberals and secularists have not realized that eventually ideological lines have to be drawn. This is an appointment with history. No matter how confused our liberal parties and government may be on ideological issues, they should not miss it.
One has to look at these developments at home in global perspective. The world has entered in an information and knowledge age breaking all national and religious boundaries promoting globalised secular values. Change in means of production brings on change in relations of production, which leads to new social and ideological values. This is how human history has moved ahead and nobody can stop it. The onslaught of the information revolution has resulted in strong resistance by all such forces, which do not recognize that socio-economic changes are inevitable. Their resistance can postpone the movement of history, but not cancel it. And this is not peculiar to the Muslim societies, it is happening in Christian, Jewish and Hindu societies too.
President Musharraf should form new alliances with his natural allies as the task ahead is difficult and the present political element in his government cannot deliver the future. The journey to build natural political alliances started on last Wednesday when the National Assembly passed the Women Protection Bill. The ideological lines were drawn. It would be a bumpy ride ahead, but historical compulsions have set the destination. (firstname.lastname@example.org)