Can Pakistan ever be ‘Islamic enough’ to satisfy its clerics?
The Peshawar High Court, on Jan. 8, ordered the release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), after accepting his bail application. The court declared “his health is deteriorating with each passing day,” meaning he shouldn’t die in custody. The maulana was arrested in 2009 after then-Army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani acted to end an Islamic “revivalist” movement in Swat-Malakand that had started to execute men for not observing shariah law and hound women for venturing out without male guardians.
Pakistan, under the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, allowed the radical TNSM to flourish because Sufi Muhammad had led his personal army into Afghanistan to fight the infidel intruders. His rejection of the Pakistan Constitution was tolerated until his son-in-law, warlord Fazlullah, took over the Swat Valley and “Islamized” it to his liking. The slide started while the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a clerical alliance, was in power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Peshawar, during this time, became a cultural desert with gangs of clerics, posing as “guardians of the faith,” whipping citizens under the doctrine of “amr bil maruf and nahi an-al munkir” (ordering good and punishing sin). Today Fazlullah is killing innocent Pakistanis with his suicide-bombers sent from his hideout in Afghanistan.
Sufi Mohammad has been acquitted of hatching conspiracy against the state. Meanwhile, the PMLN government in Punjab has sought to appease Hazrat Pir Khwaja Hameeduddin Sialvi from Sargodha, who has been threatening to overthrow the provincial government if sharia law is not imposed.
The debate over whether Pakistan is “Islamic enough” is not new. In 2009, current Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote an “alternative” Constitution for Pakistan under the title of The Morning and the Lamp during Fazlullah’s rule of Swat. Even today, if you ask the clerically-dominated Council of Islamic Ideology in Islamabad, you will get the same answer: Pakistan is not “Islamic enough” under sharia law, and therefore jihad against the state is justified to set it right.