Daily Archives: June 26, 2010

Pakistan’s Medieval Constitution

Courtesy Wall Street Journal

By MIRA SETHI

In the early hours of May 28, Khalid Solangi was shaken awake by his wife. She told him that she’d heard news of a bloody attack on two Ahmadi mosques in Pakistan. Khalid’s older brother, an Ahmadi Muslim American, had recently flown to Lahore for a wedding and they feared he was one of the victims. “My wife said to me, ‘Your brother has never missed the Friday prayer.'”

And so Khalid dialed his sister-in-law’s number. She confirmed the worst: Her husband had called from his cellphone minutes earlier, asking her to pray for him and the others trapped inside the mosque. “The next thing we heard was that my brother had been martyred,” said Khalid. “He had gone to Pakistan for a wedding. He didn’t even live there.” Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

Contestations of Ijtihad: The Need For Debate

A.A Khalid has sent this exclusive piece for PTH. We are truly encouraged by the fact that there are so many rational Pakistanis who want to rescue their religion from the clutches of bigots and extremists. We would like more and more people to join this debate and develop a discourse which sadly is missing since the days of Allama Iqbal. Raza Rumi

In liberal circles of religious scholarship there is a contention that ‘’ijtihad’’ is the epistemic tool which will solve all our grapples and puzzles of establishing a suitable religiosity for our time.

Ijtihad is elevated from its formal place as a mere tool of legal reasoning restricted in the classical tradition to books of law, to that of an intellectual principle and a citadel of a rational religiosity. Ijtihad is indeed forms part of the rationalist tradition of Islam and as such is the natural ally for reformists and liberals in the Muslim World. But ijtihad, which means intellectual exertion and in a technical sense juridical adjudication, to solve legal problems which have no precedent in the normative texts or in the jurists’ corpus is not naturally an epistemic tool for liberals.

Ijtihad can also be illiberal and can also be disastrous; one can argue the totally unprecedented phenomenon of violent extremism instigated by demagogues and ideologues is indeed ijtihad gone tragically wrong. If ijtihad is taken to mean that all Muslims can interpret their faith as they wish in accordance to what they see as new soicio-political circumstances and new contexts then we must be cautious. After all conservatives and radicals can forward absolutely shocking and regressive opinions as ijtihad as much as a liberal can forward progressive and enlightened opinions as ijtihad. We need to avoid this epistemic anarchism and try and elaborate sensible parameters. Though the determination of these parameters in terms of dealing violent extremism will be easy as violent extremism and radicalism clearly are beyond the pale and their actions clash with the fundamentals of Islam, the real issue is betweeen conservatives and liberals/reformists. Issues such as Islamic law, politics, ethics, morality and epistemology will be where trying to agree on a set of sensible parameters will be difficult. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

Nuclear Arsenal and Pakistan: Wrong Medicine for the bruised identity

Another thought provoking piece by Raza Habib Raja.

Right now more than anything, the nuclear status of Pakistan is constantly being discussed and drummed up in the national media. A state which by all accounts has failed to deliver even the basic necessities is being widely projected as one of the most important states by the rightwing intelligentsia. However it goes beyond this. The nuclear arsenal has become our sole “credible” claim to glory and consequently the justification for all the conspiracy theories according to which the entire world is wary of the “mighty” Pakistan. This conspiracy theory culture which is outwardly looking shifts the blame to foreign powers, jealous of Pakistan’s nuclear might, and aiming to purge the country of its “crowning” jewel. Right wingers like Ahmed Qureshi and Dr. Shireen Mazari have constructed entire careers on perpetuating this culture of suspicion which is fueled by mythology built around glorification of Islamic fortress, Pakistan.

But why have we come to this stage? Why are we seeking a strange delusional solace in a device which is supposed to kill millions? Why our entire intellectual thrust is on perpetuating a strange culture of suspicion where every barbaric act, EVEN IF CONDUCTED AND FULLY CLAIMED, by our home grown Frankenstein monster, is construed to be planned by the foreign powers solely to take hold of nuclear arsenal.

The answer lies in the thoroughly bruised identity, particularly the way it has evolved after the debacle of East Pakistan. East Pakistan debacle among many other things shattered the myth of superiority of Pakistani army’s quality. Before 1971, even within army circles, a martial race myth had gradually been constructed. According to this myth a Muslim soldier is far superior in quality due to extraordinary valor originating out of faith. Besides faith, this myth was also fed by marshal race theory according to which areas belonging to Northern Pakistan were inhabited by a genetically marshal race which was superior in fighting quality. The proof cited was that the British largely recruited from this area. The glorification of army was not merely restricted to army as a fighting unit but stretched to include the state of Pakistan as Ayub era was a military rule. Military rule practically defined state. Ayub’s tenor was a far cry from the earlier “chaos” and it also saw active nation building done and supervised by the military. While in power and at the helm of the affairs, the army’s image also became the national image. Middleclass which is actually identity conscious started to perceive army as an integral part of Pakistan’s identity. Continue reading

108 Comments

Filed under Pakistan