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Ali’s playbook

Continuing the path of confused conflation between his promised notions of ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan) and Riasat-e-Madina (modelled on the State of Medina), Prime Minister Imran Khan has failed to break free of the regressive playbook of misusing religion for political purposes. Having crossed the half-way mark of his elected tenure, Imran Khan oversees a battered economy, empty coffers, unhappy allies (including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), fear of blacklisting, societal unrest and a tinderbox like situation in contiguous Afghanistan.

Bhopinder Singh | New Delhi |

Choudhry Rahmat Ali is credited with coining the word ‘Pakstan’ in the pamphlet, Now or Never, published in 1933, albeit, without the insertion of ‘i’, that came later for more seamless pronunciation. Beyond the geographical context of regions suggested for its inhabitants, the word, ‘Paks’, importantly meant ‘pure/clean’, hence the ‘land of the pure’.

But the painful birth of Pakistan itself was mired in contractions, compromises, and refutations amongst its activists, so that it bestowed an uneasy and unsettled legacy on itself. The competing strains of leadership included the relatively secular anchoring of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, for whom the positing of religion as a basis of sovereignty was a political necessity ~ to the likes of Choudhry Rahmat Ali (inspired by radical Jamal ud Din Afghani), who conceptualized an extremist and puritanical ‘Continent of Dinia’, where anti-Hindustan (by extension, latter-day India), was at the heart of a revisionist and aggressive ideology. So different was the aspired outlook that Choudhry Rahmat Ali was to call the partition of August 1947 a ‘Great Betrayal’ and he called Jinnah Quisling-e-Azam (instead of Quaid-e-Azam, the father of the nation).

Almost 74 years after the independence of Pakistan, irrespective of the official statuses afforded, Choudhry Rahmat Ali’s envisioned ‘Pakstan’ seems to be the more pervasive fructification, as opposed to the more Westernised-liberal preferences of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Choudhry Rahmat Ali’s spirit of usurpation and militant interventionism based on religiousity led him to term Muslim-dominated enclaves within the landmass of latter-day India as Osmanistan, Siddiquistan, Faruquistan etc. ~ in complete consonance with the existential fixation of modern Pakistan, which despite the slap to its foundational ‘two-nation’ theory with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, still remains recklessly committed to support armed insurgency in Kashmir.

However, for all of Choudhry Rahmat Ali’s purported path of piety in Pakistan, the inevitable metamorphosis of extremist and bigoted intolerance has led to its featuring in the ‘Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories’ (NCCTs) in the parlance of the global watchdog agency on terrorism, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The claimed ‘land of pure’ faces the real-time ignominy of getting put on an international dashboard of getting ‘blacklisted’ or ‘greylisted’ for its nefarious actions on terrorism.

Earlier in the year, the FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer, had made a damaging comment on Pakistan when he insisted “there remained some serious deficiencies in mechanisms to plug terrorism financing”. Recently, the Pakistanis had made another bid to come out of the embarrassing ‘grey list’ ~ only to be told that it remains on the watchdog agency’s ‘increased monitoring list’ (euphemism for ‘grey list’), as the agency remained unconvinced about the sincerity concerning ‘investigation and prosecution of senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups’.

Such a shaming commentary would do immense disservice to both Jinnah’s, and Rahmat Ali’s conceptualisation of Pakistan, though the disproportionate sovereign investment in the latter’s path may perhaps explain the current situation.

India would be silently licking its wounds after having got used to the Pakistani patronage of the likes of Maulana Masood Azhar, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar etc., who had wrought havoc on India with Islamabad’s support and facilitation. Practically, none of them have faced any punitive consequences, the occasional drama of ‘house arrest’ and legal charades notwithstanding. All these perpetrators of violence and bloodshed against India have wrongly invoked religiousity to justify their cross-border terrorism ~ this seems to reflect the prejudiced and dogmatic spirit, straight out of Rahmat Ali’s playbook of hate.

Expectedly, the Pakistani leadership which has mastered denialism was seen questioning incredulously if FATF was a technical forum or a political forum, the suggestive import of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s statement, “some powers desire to keep the sword of FATF hanging over Pakistan” was not lost on anyone. Instead of genuinely reneging from its cancerous path, the finger of accusation was unmistakably pointed across the LOC (Line of Control), as the chosen playbook only imagines ghosts from India.

But it is not just India, but also Islamabad’s supposed ally in the ‘war on terror’, United States, which is fed up with the duplicitousness on terror by the Pakistanis. In recent Congressional testimony, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, complained about the Taliban sanctuaries on Pakistani soil. That this pietistic misuse is so slippery that it can eventually turn on its progenitor is an invaluable lesson in history, one that now stares at Pakistan itself as US troops exit Afghanistan and the doomsday prospect of a totalitarian and ultra-religious Taliban-led Afghanistan looms.

In arriving at such a desperate situation, the top US General minced no words in recognising the role of Pakistan when he said, “I would say frankly that it’s a situation they have not been terribly helpful over the last 20 years so that’s unfortunate for them that some of this is now gonna come back home in a way that they perhaps did not anticipate.”

However, amidst growing global concern on their commitment to terrorism, especially after housing the infamous rogue’s list from an Indian  anti-terror perspective besides the unmitigated awkwardness of having Osama Bin Laden in its military garrison township of Abbottabad, the Pakistanis remained defiant, and in denial. Foreign Minister Qureshi says cavalierly, “there is no justification to keep Pakistan on the grey list”.

Continuing the path of confused conflation between his promised notions of ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan) and Riasat-e-Madina (modelled on the State of Medina), Prime Minister Imran Khan has failed to break free of the regressive playbook of misusing religion for political purposes. Having crossed the half-way mark of his elected tenure, Imran Khan oversees a battered economy, empty coffers, unhappy allies (including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), fear of blacklisting, societal unrest and a tinderbox like situation in contiguous Afghanistan.

The ‘two-nation theory’ was debunked with more Muslims reposing faith in the composite ‘Idea of India’ in 1947 itself, as also by the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. But then Rahmat Ali’s playbook would always favour teaching ideology over history. The ‘greying’ of sovereign reputation is only consequential.