Pakistan’s path to a modern Islamic republic has become problematic. Certainly, the country has also failed to make the necessary progress towards a modern and enlightened Islamic state. Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan has a constitution that reflects Islamic values, more than any other country. The implementation of the constitution is now problematic, however. The society is polarized into liberals, moderates, and radical thinking. Most importantly, political parties do not adhere to it. The political system of Pakistan is now largely dysfunctional, to say the least. Fake religiosity is having a negative impact on Pakistan’s politics. The Islamic Republic cannot, and should not, allow any violation of the constitution under the guise of religion. Obviously, saying this is easy but implementing it is exceedingly difficult.
Today, Pakistan is threatened within from extremism. The new Sharif coalition government must tackle religious extremism now, as it is becoming a threat to the country's progress. It is hoped that the new government chooses the correct path on this sensitive issue, however. Rule of law is paramount in any democracy but some of the Supreme Court’s verdicts have not helped the cause.
Undoubtedly, all previous governments were not up to the task and had failed to protect Pakistan’s vital national interests. Plus, both faced an immense image problem because of corruption allegations pending in the courts of Pakistan. Soon, the leadership of both parties will face jail terms for their gross corruption and other misdeeds.
Undeniably, Pakistan had suffered from an acute image problem and must shed its image as a hotbed of international terrorism. It was only now that there was some evidence of a change of direction. Much more needs to be done on this score, however. Pakistan desperately needs a change of direction. The previous civilian governments, both the PPP and the PMLN, had miserably failed to boldly act and change Pakistan from within. The PTI government was not much better, either.
Pakistan does not have the luxury of time. The future governments will be facing a plethora of problems and would have to act immediately. The future of Pakistan depends on such prudent actions and some rethinking. A frank and open discussion on these issues must commence immediately. Remember, there are no sacred cows within Pakistan. Notwithstanding the opinion of the military brass, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the only thing sacred for the citizens of the country, not its military. Because of past failures, Pakistan is facing an existential crisis which emanates from several internal and external factors. In the end, both the Nawaz, Zardari and Imran Khan governments had been impaired because of massive corruption, incapacity and endless and unwarranted political bickering with the Pakistan military and supreme court. The morale of the people was at its lowest in history.
India, arch foe of Pakistan, smelled blood and was going for the kill. It was accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism and was bent on destroying its global image as a responsible military power. There are some serious challenges facing Pakistan by Islamic fundamentalism. It certainly does have a tiny lunatic fringe. Although specifying it to a particular region like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not true, as such. More importantly, the role of madrassahs or seminaries as incubators of jihadists is exaggerated and a myth.
Islamic radicalism is misunderstood in the West, especially in the US. Anti-Western sentiments are now very pronounced not only in Pakistan, but all over the Muslim world. All segments of Muslim societies, including the educated classes, have turned against the West. The distrust between the two peoples is not just at the level of the governments, but at societal level also. Hence, the urgency to start a frank dialogue. Remember, Pakistanis are a proud nation. Despite all the problems, they demand respect and some space to resolve their problems. Eventually, the radicals, among the Muslims, will be defeated, but not through military means alone.
If the global alliance does not cater to the roots of the Islamic fundamentalist phenomenon, then even with the defeat of IS the problem will not be solved. As explained elsewhere, a ‘mushrooming effect’ takes place, another successor shall be launched sooner rather than later. The near elimination of its parent organization al-Qaeda from the Af-Pak region did not end the story and it resurfaced in the shape and form of IS. Similarly, the demise of IS will result in some other entity somewhere in the Islamic world. Therefore, it is prudent to globally confront Islamic radicalism by employing both tools — military and softer ones. The emphasis in the long-term must be on the softer tools. That is obvious.
Among other stark failures of the Muslim world, including Pakistan, is the serious intellectual failure that had resulted in paralysis of both thought and action. Why this has occurred is due to glaring failure of leadership, especially national political leadership. With very few exceptions, the entire Muslim world, including Pakistan, is beset with brutal, corrupt, insincere, and very mediocre political leadership which has prevented the people from reaching their full potential as politically active citizens.
The incumbent Sharif coalition government faces enormous and complex challenges. It was hoped that with the emergence of the Sharif coalition government, the military’s power would be gradually reduced. However, the opposite has happened, which is unfortunate, to say the least. The hybrid political system is becoming problematic. In the future, only a clean, efficient government that delivers required public services can keep the military in check. Such is the sharp reality of Pakistan’s troubled politics. It is hoped that the future governments will deliver and earn the trust of the people, and then be able to keep a lid on the military’s interventions.
Going back to the Pakistan movement in the 1940s, one realizes the spirit of being Muslim and slogans of Muslim League. Islam had always been part of the Pakistani nation. Any understanding of Pakistan should place Islam as an integral part of the nation’s development. However, Pakistan was far more liberal in the past, as compared to today. This is tragic.
Why is religiosity in large parts of the Muslim world, including Pakistan, increasing but not the true practice? The cardinal principles of Islamic society: social justice, compassion and fair play are not being actualized today anywhere? The basic governing principles are being discarded. The question is why?
The people still hope for a just, tolerant and liberal Islamic Pakistan.