The culture of religious intolerance has penetrated so deep into our social fabric that its repercussions are being felt globally and there appears to be no immediate resolution. But in order to tackle the problem, it must be seen in its historical context.
I was a young boy in early 1960s, living in a small peaceful city then called Montgomery (now Sahiwal). I’d no idea how many of my classmates were Shias and how many were from any other sect. Our friendship was above our sects and beliefs. Our parents never imposed any restrictions either with regards to our choice of friends. One of my closest playmate was a Shia and I used to attend majalis at his home, obviously without any concern being shown by my parents. Another close friend was Ivan Rajkumar Bannerjee, a Christian by faith. Quite a few of my chums were Sunni by faith and mind you, I was an Ahmadi.
We were peacefully co-existing in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Ivan used to visit my home and have meals with us, I frequently went to my friend’s homes and was treated affectionately by his parents. Students from a seminary located in our mohallah (colony) would regularly visit our home to collect evening meals.
We enter 1970s. The beginning of the decade saw an uprising against Ahmadis in a few districts of the Punjab including Montgomery which had by then been renamed Sahiwal. A few of my friends decided to stay at our home for the safety of my family. They all were non-Ahmadis. Such was the level of forbearance and tolerance that none of these youth faced any opposition or resistance from their parents/families. Amanullah was a diehard Pashtun among them from a very conservative family.
It was not until 1979 that things began to radically change. The USSR army was in Afghanistan by that time. The US government was in a fix, not able to decide how to respond to the situation. Pakistan was ready to jump into the fray. The general assumption at the time was that the USSR was keen to reach the warm waters through Balochistan. The launching of Afghan ‘Jihad’ was the beginning of the troubles for the world at large and for Pakistan in particular. The US and the West promoted Jihadi elements and blew their heroism out of proportion. Unfortunately the entire West failed to foresee the repercussions of their myopic policies. The concept of Jihad was viciously promoted by establishing a large network of seminaries funded by the West and by Saudi Arabia, both having different goals to achieve. Money, weapons, ammunition and mercenaries were pouring into Pakistan, en route to Afghanistan with just one aim: to force USSR out of Afghanistan.
I strongly believe that even the US had not the remotest idea that USSR would disintegrate in the process. Consequently, it had no plans in place for this contingency. When the USSR disintegrated, the Americans left the region promptly just too happy to be the sole super power on the face of earth. The West with the US in driving concluded that it was the ultimate success of the Capitalism.
Pakistan and the Muslim world were also not prepared for this abrupt change in the global map. What we had failed to realize was that vacuum created by the break-up of USSR had to be filled immediately.
Even more dangerous was leaving the Jihadi elements at their own or at the mercy of Pakistani intelligence agencies. The US and allies very well knew that potentially how dangerous these elements could be, with all the resources left at their disposal, with the kind of training they were made to go through, with the confidence they were enjoying by ‘defeating’ a mighty super power and last of all with all those madressahs intact that were churning out Jihadi elements even after the fall of the USSR.
The madressahs that mushroomed during and after Afghan Jihad were just producing narrow minded fanatics to serve a limited purpose. The US precisely knew it, it rather had been a party to this program, yet leaving that infrastructure intact merely because of its limited vision. When successive Pakistani governments were using these elements for Jehad in Kashmir,even after the demise of General Zia ul Haq?
It seems like the US didn’t learn any lessons even after 9/11. It still kept supporting a dictator in Pakistan, who kept bluffing them for as long as six years. In the meantime, the number of religious seminaries had swelled to four times from what it was just before 9/11.
Americans were happy after the USSR crumbled, they had become sole super power . What followed was inevitable, but the wizards of the sole super power failed to anticipate it.
Pakistanis had never supported the brand of Islam which Zia ul Haq, with whole hearted support of the West, tried to impose on us. We in Pakistan are still suffering for no fault of ours. The double standards followed by the West have landed us in trouble. But there is still time for the governments in the West to stop deploying their political and economic strenght behind illegitimate governments in Pakistan. Although the damage already done appears to be irreparable, yet there is always the hope that point of no return has not been crossed.
|The author is an educationist. Email: