The failure of religion in Pakistan

Published here: Express Tribune

Inciting violence in the name of religion has become an all too common theme in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to whip up mobs into a frenzy whenever the divine is concerned. Religious faith provides a route to inner peace for individuals and all of the major religions share the golden rule, to treat others the way you want to be treated. In the case of Pakistan, it has deteriorated into a tool to promote violence and deny women’s rights. Why is religion failing us? Islam was never intended to be Pakistan’s identity. Now we’ve allowed it to be hijacked by fanatics who have subsequently sabotaged our constitution. That was never Quaid-i-Azam’s vision, nonetheless each amendment to the constitution further engrained fanaticism in our society at the expense of minority rights and freedom of speech.

_88966425_35a62f92-b8c5-49df-812e-b3d3db72d6a5The violent mob that descended on Islamabad to demand sharia law while participating in a protest for the hanging of a murderer was appallingly misguided. The attack on Easter in Lahore was disgusting. The government appears to have a bottomless stomach for this ongoing violence.

Pakistan’s government is helpless as long as religion is tolerated as justification for murder, rape, and violence. It has become the victim of its own mutated constitution and cannot differentiate between a sin and a crime. For instance, Christians celebrating Easter, the hanging of a murderer, and a woman’s protection bill could all represent symbols of betterment of our society. In practice, they are construed as secular concepts and a threat to Islamic principles.

In the rest of the world, we’re seeing the implications of this fanaticism that is broadcast nonstop. 20150912_blp502Muslim refugees escaping from ISIS might just get banned all together from Europe following terrorist attacks and ogling of women at public swimming pools. Looking at the US, a once farce of a candidate like Donald Trump has a real shot at the presidency since his statements about banning all Muslims or requiring them to carry an ID card are increasingly popular.

An ideal way to reverse this trend is for religion to be stripped from the constitution and for the rule of law to be supreme. Blasphemy law and the Islamic Council would also be abolished since these primitive laws and institutions have no room in a modern world. This would free everyone to observe their faith as they see fit and also provide personal freedoms to Pakistani men and women that the rest of the world takes for granted. Can any of this happen in our lifetime? The momentum doesn’t favor the optimistic as Pakistan’s government 2992already conceded to the mob in Islamabad and assured the protestors that it won’t amend the country’s blasphemy law or pardon those convicted of blasphemy. Will the government eventually learn from history and realize that each concession to these fanatics, dooms the nation to an even longer period of self inflicted hell? While military operations can destroy the terrorist infrastructure, the government will eventually need to step up and address the obsession with religion that has seeped into our identity. This is unlikely to happen until the voices of reason are loud enough to silence the madness of mobs.


International Women’s Day



Afghanistan prepares for 2016

5184Lt-Gen John Nicholson, President Obama’s nominee for commander of American forces in Afghanistan spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee about Pakistan’s role in the peace and stability of the Pakistan/Afghanistan region. His words amounted to nothing more than the usual “Pakistan needs to do more”. Repeating these words for more than a decade doesn’t change the facts, then again the US doesn’t let facts get in the way of their will to wage foreign conflicts. US commanders know very well that if operations are conducted on one side of the border with Afghanistan, then supplementary operations must be carried out on the other side for any lasting success to be had. We may never be told the honest reason why this didn’t occur.

Pakistan conducted operations in Bajaur, Dir, Mohmand, Swat, Buner, Aurakzai, Khyber, Kurram, and South Waziristan. Each agency was cleared but nothing improved in the tactical or operational posture across in the the coalition. Instead, Fazlullah, Faqir Muhammed, Latif Ullah Mehsud etc found a warm welcome in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. For the first time, the US military even admitted, through a statement by Lt Gen Nicholson last week, that they are not targeting the Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

Among other problems are the reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan1800213_607731872686248_6136073308889134881_n Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighting the incompetence and corruption which have plagued training and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Almost a trillion dollars have been wasted and needless to say that these issues have been written about numerous times.

Perhaps the most damning evidence of failure in Afghanistan comes from the SIGAR office, which reported that the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001. Their territorial gains include the Helmand province, a region that shares a 250 km-long border with Pakistan. Large quantities of opium is grown in Helmand, which is then used to produce most of the world’s heroin. The harvest earns up to $3 billion a year. You could say that the insurgency’s funding is “blooming”. To make matters worse, ISIS is also establishing roots in the country.

Per Lt-Gen Nicholson, the Afghan forces are getting “rebuilt” for their fiercest fighting season yet. The reasons for the rebuilding “are a combination of incompetence, corruption and ineffectiveness,” said Gen. Wilson Shoffner, the head of public affairs for the U.S.-NATO mission. However, for most of the US troops on the ground, the Afghan forces have been a distraction or the butt of a horrific joke known as “man love Thursday” due to their reputation for raping young boys in the lead up to holy Friday as reported in detail by the New York Times.

Not wanting a repeat of what happened in Iraq after a complete withdrawal, there is an increasing likelihood that thousands of US troops could remain in Afghanistan, despite Obama’s plan to completely withdraw by 2017. An unnamed senior Pentagon official told imagethe Washington Post that “What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave”. However, instead of following the same inconsistent approach of the past and relying on a break through with the peace talks, the US government would be wise to heed the outgoing US forces-Afghanistan commander General, John Campbell’s advice of needing to do more to beat the Taliban. More, in this case, must include coordinated efforts on both sides of the border with Afghanistan.


Time to end child abuse and ban the CII in Pakistan


Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald

The Council of Islamic Ideology termed the ban on child marriage bill as blasphemous! Even though it’s recommendations are non binding, the National Assembly is all too eager to accept the CII’s decisions on women and children so as not to ruffle any feathers.

In 2013, the CII suggested that DNA evidence in rape cases is inadmissible and instead preferred four witnesses who observed the crime. The council also rejected Women’s Protection Act of 2006 and it opposed the Domestic Violence Bill as well. In 2014, I wrote about the need to abolish the CII. Two years down the road, we’re still in the same boat. With the current government kowtowing to Saudi Arabia, the CII and madrassah situation is not about to change anytime soon.

Read my latest on the issue here: Breaking free of the Primitive Mindset 

Further reading:

  1. The State and the CII
  2. Women: Pakistan’s second-class citizens




The War on ISIS


The Economist


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