Najam Sethi's E d i t o r i a l
Pakistan's First Independent Weekly Paper March 19-25, 04, Lahore
Certain Quranic verses have been expunged from a textbook on Biology for Class XI. Apparently, these tended to suggest that jihad was obligatory on all Muslims. One could, if that was the intention, also misconstrue from them that Jews and Christians were permanent enemies of Islam. ...
However, the opposition parties led by the MMA walked out of the National Assembly in protest when the federal education minister, Zubeida Jalal, explained why the verses had been expunged. The MMA’s response was expected. It has a strong vested political interest in "Islamising" everything under the sun, including biology and science. ...
It is amazing, though, that in this ruckus no one has asked the relevant question of how mention of ‘jihad’ is compatible with the biology syllabus? How, and why, did these verses find their way into the biology textbook? Clearly, this question hasn’t been asked because the answer is bound to lead to embarrassing disclosures about how the state has systematically indoctrinated its citizens over the past quarter century by means of a particularistic exegesis of Islam since the time of Zia ul Haq. ... But the cumulative impact of this policy of indoctrination has been disastrous for Pakistan. It was meant to put down the liberal-left in Pakistan on the one hand and prepare the youth for jihad to push a certain "national-security" paradigm centring on ambitions regarding Afghanistan and India on the other. But it was a Faustian bargain since it resulted in the loss of internal sovereignty by the state and the rise of anarchic tendencies based on a millenarianism that has no tolerance for the state’s about-turn in the new reality of today.
This trend runs contrary to the modern notion of the nation-state and hinders its capacity to exercise effective domestic control or even calibrate its external policies. One of the worst fallouts of this indoctrination has been to compromise the integrity of the territorial state itself. Since every state is wedded to the idea of self-defence and advancing its interests, it is interesting that the rightwing should emphasise ‘jihad’ as the only way of doing it.
It is important to remember that there is no juridical consensus on who can declare jihad – is it the state or can any individual or group ask the Muslims to do jihad? But the balance tilts in favour of the state and for good reason, too: if individuals can be given even a slice of the state’s monopoly of violence, it would sound the death knell of the state. This is why in practice the Islamic states have always guarded their sovereignty ruthlessly.
The present trend is born of special circumstances in which the Pakistani state establishment was a willing player. But now that the circumstances have changed, the state finds it difficult to alter course because in pursuing these policies it unwittingly ended up strengthening those non-state elements whose interests are linked to the continuation of those old national security policies in which they had a degree of autonomy and leverage from the state.
One thing is clear. Recent bomb attacks and other terrorist acts show that the idea of jihad is totally misplaced and is doing great harm to Pakistan. But the rightwing is in no mood to voluntarily vacate the political space it has captured in the past 25 years.