Islamist Radicalism In Pakistani Politics

The country is being traumatized under the burden of religious fanaticism and obscurantism

Islam, in Pakistan, has transformed from a multidimensional universal religion into an ossified and stilted cult of Islamism. How this happened has a historical context, beginning in 1947 when Pakistan emerged as a new state. The division of India at the end of the British Raj was only possible when the British decided to give their blessings to the so-called TwoNation theory, which recognized demands for a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims.
By 1948, the state and religion had merged into one odd entity. But thereafter the official political slogan that the State of Pakistan served Islam in the two wings of the country, East and West Pakistan, self-destructed when the people of East Pakistan fought and broke away from the domination of West Pakistan, to create Bangladesh. Many West Pakistanis were surprised to find out that a common religion, Islam, was not capable of stemming popular demands for a separate homeland.
Thus, a crude form of religiosity in the guise of Islamism had entered the political arena; people accepted this political Islam as their true Islam. This false consciousness, wherein the political ideology of Islamism was embraced as true Islam, has poisoned the body politic of the country.
The introduction of the blasphemy laws in the Pakistan Penal Code in the 1970s and 1980s gave a big boost to the sectarian religious parties, most of which adhered to the Sunni branch of Islam, and to the militant extremists who have been hellbent on imposing political Islam as a way of life over the country. As a result of the blasphemy laws, they were free to assert their power and influence over the state and the civil society in a way and to a degree that had not been seen before in the shaky history of this country.
Thus, a coercive brand of Islamism replaced an old, tolerant, and all-inclusive brand of Sufi Islam that was the traditional faith of the people of this vast region of the Indian Subcontinent before 1947. This traditional faith gradually came under increased pressure from the politicizing activities of an anti-egalitarian, anti-socialist and antidemocratic Islam led by the Jamaat-e-Islami and its founder, Maulana Maududi, who was a renowned and influential ideologue of a totalitarian ‘Islamic ideology’, or Islamism.
While the state became more and more associated with the Sunni versions of Islam as propounded by sectarian and intolerant clerics and preachers, violence and recriminations against other groups and religious minorities increased. A person’s religion was no longer a personal matter, but a matter of concern for the state authorities, legislature, and the judiciary to determine whether or not a person was a Muslim. In this way, people’s right and liberty to choose their belief on the basis of conscience no longer existed. An arbitrary and coercive religious policy became the norm.
If any unfortunate Pakistani, whether an official or a layman, is accused by any Pakistani ‘Muslim’ of having transgressed the limits of the hegemonic Sunni beliefs, he or she is in big trouble. Any such allegation, even without any substantive proof before the judicial bodies, is used as suspicion of a breach of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan, which both the hardline Islamist parties and also the major liberal and populist parties support for their own political motives.

people’s right and liberty to choose their belief on the basis of conscience no longer existed

How can a falsely accused person show that he has not committed any offence when, from the outset, the allegations by a ‘Muslim’ accuser are accepted as ipso facto true by the police and the courts of law?
This is the state of affairs in Pakistan, a country being traumatized under the burden of religious fanaticism, obscurantism and infantile world-views. People living in democratic countries, where the rule of law and basic human freedoms are taken for granted, cannot understand that such violations of basic rights are taking place in Pakistan at the present moment.
The major disruptions of civic and public life which started a few weeks ago brought Islamabad, the metropolis of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, to its knees—a situation showing a new low ebb in the affairs of the state and society. The Law Minster of Pakistan, Mr. Zahid Hamid, became the latest target of the religious militant parties, which have gained enormous political leverage within the country. They demanded the resignation of Mr. Hamid. Faced with such a massive physical confrontation in the form of a huge show of force by the fundamentalists, the government gave in to the unreasonable demands on 27 November 2017, and thereafter the siege of the city also came to an end.
However, this backing down by the government is also seen by the extremists as their major victory. Thus, the road to Islamization continues to broaden its parameters while the mandate of the government and public authorities shrinks.
It is obvious that religious extremist parties and groups have become emboldened enough to defy the law and order authorities with impunity. They have gained enormous street power; they can always appeal to ordinary citizens. They can attract huge crowds to disrupt the civic life of this hapless country. All this is carried out in the name of defending the honor and the final status of the Prophet; embracing their actions as honoring Allah and the dignity of Islam!