Institutional Radicalization : flawed argument

Self styled MQM Professionals Group (whatever that is) representative Ali Chishti (AKC) has written an article Institutional Radicalisation of Public Schools that is making the rounds on internet. This represents my comments on the article which tries to blame right wing elements (as defined in Pakistan) whereas I believe that it lies squarely with left wing or secular (again as defined in Pakistan) elements of the society or ruling class.

AKC claims that ‘radicalization of curriculum was introduced in 1950. However,  fails to mention who introduced it into the curriculum?It cannot be the mullah as the first mullah to actually rule the country came on the scene in 1979 in the form of ‘mard-e-momin’ Zia Ul Haque. Including the founding father Jinnah and whoever followed him in the next 30 years i.e., Liaquat Ali Khan, all Governor Generals and Prime Ministers, Iskander Mirza, Ayub, Yahya and Bhutto were all seculars in their attitudes, actions and beliefs. They might have used religion but that is it, they USED religion. It has always been seculars that unleashed the Frankenstein of religion to elongate their rule or to serve some other purpose into Pakistani society/curriculum yet the blame lies with Mullah.

With the exception of mard-e-momin himself Zia and his protege NS, the ruling elite of Pakistan has always been staunchly secular in its outlook. Even the current rulers and before them Musharraf was secular. Hence in 63 years of history of Pakistan, almost 50 years we are ruled by seculars.

The author then suggests that because our education teaches Kasabs and Tanvirs that we are Muslims first and Pakistani second that is why we are in this situation. Had we been taught to believe that we are Pakistani first, would this not have happened? Barring the fact that religion or Islam is the thin web that is holding the various ethnicities in this country together, what about Balochis where being Pakistani does not even feature I believe 3rd, 4th or 5th down the line. I am not blaming Balochis here. Balochis are very secular and lest anybody forgets they have been fighting the secular ruling elite (civilians as well as army) in their struggle for freedom. What I am implying is that just because they call themselves Muslim first should not be cited as a sign of radicalization. What about Mohajirs because by calling ourselves as such technically we are implying (or rather explicitly stating) that we are Indians first and Pakistani second?

The author even brings up Zaid Hamid when he is way past his shelf life and has been discarded by military establishment as a used condom (could not find a better metaphor). Since the failure of his 23rd march gathering on Minar-e-Pakistan, nobody brings him up anymore with the exception of so called liberal bloggers/columnists to get some point across. Kiani and/or ISI have decided (since the WSJ report that militants are now a bigger threat than India in eyes of ISI) that Zaid Hamid is no longer needed. Surprisingly, the celebrity followers of Zaid Hamid are the ones who have not gone through the radical curriculum of this country_ pop singer Ali Azmat and fashion designer Maria B.

The author starts off by touching upon material in Punjab board textbook which is only taught to the lower classes of the society (the very people that the secular leadership of this country has ignored). Who ever can afford it sends his or her kids to O Levels and A levels. It is just the lower middle classes and lower strata which the state has ignored that are taught such material or taught at madrassas. Regardless of people’s belief about them, Madrassa’s serve an important purpose_a whole strata of the society that has been ignored by the state in terms of welfare, Madrassas caters to them.

During the commando’s era, in the aftermath of Kashmir earthquake in 2005, everyone and the world media observed that  JuD (followed by MQM and JI) was the first one on the ground with the farthest reach when the army and civilian infrastructure were found wanting. There was a vacuum that they filled. Same is the case nowadays with the world media going nuts that why is Falaah-e-insaniyat carrying out relief works or why the aid money should not reach or be diverted to these institutions. Amazingly during both times we have the most secular ruling the country and both times they have left a vacuum that is filled by such charities/institutions.

I am not justifying religious school curriculum or training or their actions. I am saying that there is large vacuum that has been left by the seculars that have ruled this country and these charities/organisations/madrassas have risen to fill it.

I am tired of this secularism debate as if it is the solution of all our ills. As mentioned above, what surprises me most is that this country has been ruled by seculars (politics, bureaucracy,army) throughout its history with the exception of Mard-e-Momin and his protege and we always end up blaming the mullah for its ills. At the moment, the country is being ruled by as secular a coalition can be, and tell me if I am wrong, I have not seen a single step in de-radicalization. However, as recent events show, it has also radicalized the secular Mohajir and Pathan elements in Karachi (no hand of right wingers and talibans and or mullahs here). Both of them are pretty secular and pretty anti-right wing.

Parting thought: How many schools/ educational institutions the secular elite of this country has set up compared to the thousands being set up by religious organizations. Talk is cheap and this is what I have seen the secular crowd do.

I have seen MQM’s power over people in 80s and 90s. They could have done so much i.e., set up universities, schools, hospitals and all they would have needed was to ask people and people of Karachi would have poured their hearts and wallets out. This is the sway MQM/Altaf Hussain held over them. So what did he do. He trained them to be terrorists. Sialkot lynching is nothing compared to what went around in MQM torture cells. Youtube even has video of 90s where an edhi ambulance is running around picking up bodies in gunny bags that have been drilled into with drilling machines and have cigarette burns. The way MQM tortured and killed their secular brothers of Haqiqi, not even Taliban have resorted to such method of slow killing lest anyone forget how barbaric seculars can get.

Again, not justifying Talibans/madrassas/mullahs etc. Just saying that those who push for secularism are the very ones who are to be blamed for getting us to this position.

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