Danger of further Talibanization of constitution looms
Strange are the ways of politics: on the one hand former President General Pervez Musharraf is being tried by the present government, for violating the constitution by promulgating emergency, ostensibly to curb terrorism while actually it was terrorism against the judiciary and media.; on the other hand the same government has constituted a committee to negotiate with the terrorists who have ruthlessly murdered around 50,000 people including about 5000 military jawans not only violating the constitution but also all local and international laws. The dichotomy is glaring.
In Musharraf’s case the government has compromised and not tried him on the more serious crime i.e. bringing a coup against an elected government on October 12, 1999 for pragmatic consideration that it would have required indicting not one general alone but the whole military. And that’s not all, the judges who provided legal cover to the military coup and even obliged the general by allowing him to change the constitution where required.
So Musharraf’s coup against the former Chief Justice and his colleagues has taken precedence over the coup against an elected parliament. Now Musharraf is faced with a hostile judiciary and media and his only bet is that the army supports an honourable exit from Pakistan, where he returned under the delusion that the people still love him. He may be having tacit support from his institution but doesn’t have the fire power of the terrorists groups organised under the TTP umbrella.
So what does this weak-kneed policy of the Nawaz government prove? That ballot power had to surrender to the bullet power on the mountains and in the valleys of FATA. When the two committees would sit down to negotiate the obvious TTP demands would be to release the terrorists arrested by the government so far for killing hundreds of innocent people and military personnel and implantation of Sharia a’ la Mulla Omer and Al Qaeda. Now the question is will the military agree to release the terrorists in their custody knowing well that these terrorists will join their cadres and strengthen the TTP? It would be foolish if they will fall for that.
The second demand regarding imposition of Sharia may include, as it did in Swat, to introduce Nizam-e-Adl. Next they can ask for having Qazi courts with only Madrassa educated Islamic scholars. They can also ask for making the ulema body like the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) as the supreme body instead of the Parliament as they do not believe in democracy and elections. Which according to TTP and Al Qaeda literature are the ‘curse of the western civilisation’. They can also ask for making ruling of the Federal Shariat Court final instead of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and to appoint only the Muftis to the FSC.
Will all this be acceptable to the government and the parliament? Some Islamists are arguing that with the insertion of the Objectives Resolution as the substantive part of the constitution in 1985 General Zia opened the door to the Islamisation of the constitution. They also quote Article 31 of the constitution to emphasis that implementation of Sharia is possible under this provision, but the point they miss is that it does not use the word enforce instead it talks about ‘steps shall be taken to enable The Muslims of Pakistan’… 31(2) says ‘shall endeavour’; only 2(a) says make the teaching of Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory’; 2(b) says ‘promote unity and the observance of Islamic moral standards’; and 2(c) calls ‘to secure the proper organisation of Zakat, [ushr] auqaf and mosque.’ (Italics added to emphasize). Now 2(a) and 2(c) have already been implemented in Pakistan. The rest of the Article 31 does not provided for forced enforcement as the TTP and its advocates want.
Leaving the constitutional issue aside and without indulging in the debate that there are various interpretations to Sharia which divide the Muslims of the world as nothing was written for over a century after the Prophet (Pbuh), the real problem of Pakistan is separating politics and religion. Rising religiosity and the attached militancy has not only made religious teaching controversial and divisive, it has also kept the Muslim societies way behind the developed world which moved towards secularism centuries ago.
Some leaders and journalists are telling us that all the killings in FATA were for the quicker and effective judicial system implementation. If that is so then why the people of entire Pakistan are not picking up arms against the corrupt painfully slow judicial system? Killing and hanging bodies on poles, bombing and whipping for a civilised cause is not justified from a democratic and secular standpoint. It’s barbaric. So it’s naive to believe that the long-drawn Taliban battle was just for Sharia. There is definitely more to it than what our detractors want us to believe. Inspired by Al Qaeda these Taliban leaders believe in the world Islamic revolution starting from a base in Pakistan.
Undoubtedly, peace is important and little respite is welcomed by the people who have been living under the cross-fire of Taliban and the army. So if you take the camera around to ask whether peace talks should be given a chance people are not going to criticize the talks with TTP. They also fear for their life before commenting on the talks because Taliban have been silencing all dissent across the country.
Yes, in politics we have to be pragmatic but that doesn’t mean we should disregard what is good and what is not good for the country in the long run. The government should have encouraged and supported the local people to resist the Taliban. People want an ally which can be relied on in the struggle against Taliban and not the government who would give in to the fascist forces.
It is advocated by the supporters of the talks that the government has to negotiate with the people as you cannot use military indefinitely against your own people. Absolutely right! But what they fail to recognise is that if a group of people has taken up arms against its own people and the state, you only negotiate peace from the position of power. Everybody knows that eventually the solutions are found on the negotiation table, but it shouldn’t be while compromising on basic democratic principles.
In spite of the violation of this basic principle of politics and negotiation there are little chances for any accord unless to appease TTP the government succumbs to further distortion of the constitution by Talibanising it. Indeed this is likely to be resisted by secular forces democratically. The signs of this resistance are visible on the political horizon.
The writer is author of What’s wrong with Pakistan? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org