The political use of religion has proved to be a highly divisive force in our short history of 75 years. Islamist parties, when they contested elections or launched political movements, always talked in the idiom of “Kufr” and “Islam”, which in other words meant that those who supported Islamists were true believers and those who opposed these parties were non-believers or worst “Kafir.” This became very problematic as those who were opposing Islamists were often on the right side of public opinion. But in Islamists’ parlance, they were the enemies of religion or Islam. The problem, however, persisted in theoretical terms, despite the fact that the majority of Pakistanis never accepted Islamists’ interpretation of events of the country’s political history.
Things have changed for the worse. Islamists have been replaced by mass parties who are using the idioms of Islamists in front of large crowds. These are crowds, which are ready to accept the divisive philosophies, idioms and jargon hammered into their heads by popular political leaders like former Prime Minister Imran Khan. In his press conference in Peshawar to announce the program of his long march, Imran Khan repeatedly labelled his political campaign as “jihad.” Remember: his political movement or protest campaign is directed against a coalition government of political parties, of which a majority consist of believers. The implication is that the theoretical problem of divisiveness — Kufr vs Islam — that we have inherited from Islamists’ style of politics of the 1970s would come to haunt us in a magnified shape. Imran Khan’s jihad means that all of its political targets could be dubbed as non-believers. This may seem innocuous as the word “jihad” is one that we use in everyday discussion in our society. But in Imran Khan’s case, this word is coupled with the Quranic verse of “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong,” which by now has almost become a constant refrain in the former prime minister’s political discourse. Imran Khan uses this Quranic verse to remind the army troops and its leadership of their duties for deciding between himself as an agent of Piety and his opponents—which he describes as evil or bad.
None of this is harmless. Imran Khan might not be a religious authority but has certainly attained the status of a cult figure amongst his core followers. And there are Muslim societies in the modern world where such divisive discourse by political and religious figures has led to large-scale violence and bloodshed. The example of Egypt comes to mind, where extremist religious groups in the 1980s and 1990s carried out large scale bloodshed in the wake of such divisive discourse by religious and political figures. In modern parliamentary politics, the majority and minority are fluid concepts and political groups are formed and disintegrated in the changing circumstances – based on economic and social-interest-based scenarios. Even many religious scholars have advocated against using religious terminology in politics within Muslim society, where 98 percent of the population comprises of believers. Creating such divisions within a Muslim society amounts to creating discord amongst the believers – by the estimation of a majority of ulema in the modern age.
Imran Khan can’t be granted the allowance of being ignorant of these implications of his words. He has repeatedly used the word “jihad” to describe his political protest whilst sitting in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa—a province which has not completely come out of the effects of religiously-inspired insurgency. This is a region of the country where our state uses the word “jihad” for their operations against militant groups and at the same time Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also uses the same terminology. This is a province in which the worlds of a TTP militant and an ordinary man of religious inclinations sometimes overlap, with the results and implications which the Pakistani state is still trying to control. And this is a province where troops sometimes found it hard, in the past, to distinguish between their organisational slogans of jihad and TTP’s religiously inspired propaganda to attract young recruits. The result was desertions, which were reported by the local media.
Perhaps the humiliation that Imran Khan faced while he was unceremoniously kicked out of the corridors of power was too strong a shock for him to digest. His target seems to be the organisational integrity of the Pakistan Army. Otherwise, he would not have used the word “jihad,” the Quranic verse of “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong” and the Army’s duties towards the society and country – all in the same breath.
The median age in Pakistan is around 18 years. Among whom are the output of 30,000 madrasah’s over the last fifty odd years. It should be clear why the appeal to jihad or kafir is falling on receptive ears.
When the dust settles there will be an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan modeled after her neighbor.
The existing constitution, an unrepresentative document, will be replaced with one purportedly based on Sharia.
Whipping, amputations will follow.Women will be sent back indoors. Imran Khan will be removed.
Expect a mass exodus of professional class, again similar to what occurred last year in Afghanistan. Looting and violence will follow.
Islami touch episode shows the disgusting evidence what these born again Muslims are selling. The image with Wasim Suri shows a tasbih held hand holding the mic claiming to be a lover of prophet while SMQ and everyone keep a straight face. What a bunch of bigots! No doubt the failure of this regime was so spectacular. You can fool some sometimes but not all, all the time.