by Fahad Ansari (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 5, Rajab, 1431)
“Pakistan First”, was the slogan coined by former Pakistani military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf in his very first address to the people after grabbing power in October 1999. It was to be the underlying theme by which he would govern for nearly a decade.
“Pakistan First”, was the slogan coined by former Pakistani military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf in his very first address to the people after grabbing power in October 1999. It was to be the underlying theme by which he would govern for nearly a decade. It became the catch-all excuse that was used by Musharraf to justify every action, no matter how outrageous it appeared to both the Pakistani and the wider Muslim public. These included his government’s unquestioning support for the US War on Terror, betrayal of the people of Kashmir, and secularisation and Westernisation of society.
Musharraf’s supporters contend that he had little choice in the matter due to the immense pressure being placed on the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The thrust of the argument is simple: if Pakistan did not comply with US orders, it would also have been attacked militarily and ruined through economic sanctions. Further, by refusing to assist the US, archenemy India would have grabbed the opportunity to cultivate stronger ties with the only superpower of the time. Finally, cooperation with the US would bring much-needed financial benefits to Pakistan. Put simply, the “interest of the nation” necessitated it; the policy was dubbed: Pakistan First.
Such a policy led to the establishment of US bases in Pakistan for monitoring and surveillance of Muslims living there, the utilization of Pakistani soil to launch deadly drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistanitself, and the detention, torture and ultimate sale of hundreds of Muslims (including Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children) to the US. In essence, in return for some loose change, Pakistan sold the blood of the Muslims of Afghanistan to the US. In doing so, Musharraf insisted he had protected “the interests of the nation” which took priority, irrespective of the suffering this would cause to his Muslim neighbours.
It was this same attitude of “Pakistan First” that led Musharraf to betray the 60-year-old Kashmiri struggle for independence from Indian occupation. By abandoning Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir, Musharraf made an unprecedented surrender on an issue that goes to the heart of every Pakistani’s genetic make-up. To rub salt in the wound, Musharraf began working actively to hasten the normalisation process between India and Pakistan making enormous unilateral concessions such as abandoning the Kashmiri groups, dismantling training camps and imprisoning their leaders together with reducing troops along the Line of Control and abandoning financial support for the Kashmiris. This has resulted in the number of resistance activities in Indian occupied Kashmir dropping to its lowest since 2001, while the Indian occupation troops have continued their crimes including perpetrating such horrors as the rape of women, and gruesome murder and torture of Kashmiri youth.
The “Pakistan First” slogan continues to influence government actions even today with the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency, relentlessly kidnapping dissidents, and detaining and torturing Muslims from other countries on behalf of the US and Britain. Pakistan’s territory is routinely used by the US to launch murderous drone attacks, not just on the Muslims of Afghanistan, but also on the sons and daughters of Pakistan.
Such submission to Western imperial demands is motivated by the desire to do what is best for the Pakistani “nation”. Yet when one examines Pakistan’s plight over the last decade, one is forced to ask whether all this has actually been in its best interests. According to recent government statistics, 40% of Pakistan’s 170 million people live below the poverty line, an increase of 10% from a decade earlier. This means nearly 70 million Pakistanis are deprived of basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, food, education and medication; such families and their children are forced to think only of survival.
Corruption continues to plague the country with an indicted ex-convict, Asif Ali Zardari, now serving as president. Economic growth has slumped drastically and foreign debt is rising. The energy crisis continues to deepen. Food insecurity and water scarcity are reaching alarming levels. Insecurity and random terrorist violence continue to plague all provinces. For several years now, Pakistan has been involved in an exhausting military campaign against its own people in Baluchistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Area(FATA) and Swat, during the course of which entire villages have been flattened by artillery and aerial bombing, with thousands of civilians killed and almost two million displaced. So controversial has this policy been that it has caused deep divisions to the extent that Pakistani soldiers sent to fight their brothers in faith have defected to the other side. This dismal record has earned Pakistan a place in the top ten Failed States rankings for 2010 alongside countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo.
Linked to this has been the complete loss of Pakistan’s moral compass in terms of its Islamic values as it experiences what Musharraf labelled, “enlightened moderation”. Westerniza-tion of every facet of life is rampant with such blatant and provocative un-Islamic practices as bars, pornographic material, and large scale gambling making inroads into the main shopping centres of Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, andFaisalabad. National TV channels show drama artists wearing provocatively revealing clothing with intimate scenes becoming increasingly common, both on and off screen. No society is without its share of vices but it is the extent of acceptability of these evils in Pakistan that has witnessed unprecedented growth. By way of example, the most popular talk show on Pakistani television today is hosted by a transvestite, who engages in vulgar sexual innuendo-filled conversation with his guests. Politicians, movie stars and sportsmen all eagerly queue up to appear on the show. With such rampant corruption, some people view the devastating earthquakes and floods during this period as divine wrath.
Considering the above, it appears that Allah (swt) has chosen to withdraw His Mercy from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a result of its betrayal of the Muslim Ummah.
It is vital that the cowardly and untenable policy of “Pakistan First” be immediately re-assessed in order to save Pakistan from the brink of self-destruction.
Pakistan has been through an admirable period in its history when it faced difficult choices involving its neighbours that threatened the safety, security and stability of the country. On September 6, 1965, India launched a war of aggression against Pakistan by invading across the international border. Faced with an enemy far numerous in men and weaponry, Pakistan could have chosen the easy option and surrendered without a fight. After all, logically, this seemed to be the best option in the “interest of the nation”, to save whatever meagre resources it had. It could have been argued that had the army fought and lost, it could have led to the Indian army conquering the whole of Pakistan and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Yet, history gives a very different picture. Irrespective of the ultimate stalemate following two weeks of war, the impact of Pakistan’s courage in deciding to fight inspired ordinary people throughout the country. Civilians — men, women and children — all stood up and participated in the jihad in whatever capacity they could. This was not just the army’s war; this was the people’s war. As Maulana Maududi described in a speech on October 4, 1965, the effect of the war was to bring about a complete moral transformation in people with decline in crime and check on corruption, immorality, vices and sinful indulgences. Taqwa had become deeply entrenched in the hearts of the people with mosques overflowing with worshippers at every prayer.
Businessmen and traders refused to raise prices or hoard essential goods, a common practice in times of war. That prices remained stable helped boost people’s morale even higher. Whatever the duty of the people, it was performed with dedication and the spirit of jihad. People cancelled their holidays and contributed generously to the government’s defence fund on a voluntary basis and in amounts that no government could have achieved through the imposition of compulsory taxes. This was the result of the government choosing to trust in the promise of the Lord of the Worlds and not submitting to worldly fears. When one compares such unity and morale to the current situation in Pakistan, it is easy to see where it all went wrong.
In both September 1965 and September 2001, Pakistan was faced with a crisis that threatened its existence. In 1965, Pakistan acted courageously and its leaders put their trust in Allah (swt), even if temporarily. In return, the country was granted success in a truly holistic sense within 17 days. In 2001, the rulers chose to embark on the opposite path of cowardice and put their trust in America. Nine years later, the very foundations of the state are shaking.
As Maulana Maududi explained at the conclusion of the 1965 war with India: “This experience has once again demonstrated the truth that Islam alone brought forth Pakistan into existence; and Islam alone has been its mainstay that has protected and preserved it, and now it is Islam only which has won for us our victory and success, and we owe our survival to it… With all these things, we have also observed, rather experienced, that it was not our power in men and material that saved us but our Iman, our God, and our Islamic moral fibre and God-consciousness. This being the case, what greater folly there could be if we allow any weakness to creep in the very sources of our real strength and let those very weapons rust which ensure our victory over the enemy.”
Recent history has shown that worldly efforts alone, even the possession of nuclear weapons, will not protect Pakistan’s interests or guarantee its security. It is only when Pakistani rulers abandons the selfish slogan of “Pakistan First” and live by the motto its air-force proudly displays on their emblem that it will be saved: “Nasrun min Allahi wa-fathun qarib: With help from Allah, victory is near.”