Division of Pakistan (1971) & the role of religious leadership

The clergy in Pakistan has been a power to reckon with ever since its creation in 1947. They gained popularity among the illiterate population, economically drained by the English raj and loss of power after the demise of the Moghul (1526-1857 A. D.)empire and they have never looked back. In fact they have been instrumental in shaping the psyche of a nation which was to become Pakistan when the British left. When they found a brand new country, they started to exert pressure on the ruling intelligentsia through their pressure tactics and emotional black mailing, that the country be ruled by according to their wishes and whims and preferably by them alone. Later day Pakistan became a sad saga of their disfigurement of the entire social fabric.

A Mogul court where art & culture prospered for 1000 years

The various sects sprouted rapidly, each one claiming to be the true representative of Islam. That was the beginning of modern-day chaos in the name of religion. Those sects prevailed. When the struggle of independence was started by All India Muslim League in 1906 A. D. the clergy saw it as a threat to their own empires which were giving them lavish income through their rich and powerful followers. The national poet of Muslims of India,

Dr. Iqbal, the poet who presented the two nation theory in India during British rule.

Dr. Mohammad Iqbal took notice of their ulterior motives and was very vocal in his poems about the hypocrisy of these mullahs who were illiterate, drowned in centuries old version of decadent Islam and refused to keep up with liberalization of the society and democratic thought process. Not only that they infused in the masses the fear of change from being dominated by the feudal lords (of which they were mostly the paid employees) to the thinking human beings. Through his poetry in Urdu and Persian, he emphasized that these mullahs are like Jews who amass wealth and change the meanings of the holy book to suit their needs. Middle class of undivided India loved this loud rebuttal of centuries old voices of mullah. Iqbal rapidly gained popularity among the Muslims of India. He warned that mullah (the so-called religious leader) is not the true follower of their religion and has distorted and abducted the religion for his own benefits. His poetry still reminds us of the hatred he had towards this class of people who did nothing but were instrumental in making Muslims believe that acquiring education was tantamount to being a heretic and that education is a sin linked directly to blasphemy. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was one of the very few educated people who made Indian Muslims believe that education is no sin and it’s not a monopoly of the English. He opened Aligharh university and trained a whole class of liberated, enlightened Muslims. But the masses living in remote rural areas were oblivious of all these changes. They were under the feudal rule and the local mosques were ruled by the imams who were paid by the landlords. He declared his employer as the second of god on earth and made him stand on a pedestal far higher and unreachable for the rest of the common folk. The imam was not only paid by the feudal lord, his family was also taken care of by him and his womenfolk. It is pathetic to note that all his religious knowledge was confined to some books and treatises written in the era of Abbaside caliphate in Baghdad.
During the independence movement the most prominent religious leaders of that period (1935-1947) vehemently opposed the creation of Pakistan. Among them Mr. Modudee of Jamaat-e-islami became one of the controversial figures in post independence Pakistan as he took a U-turn and declared himself and his party as the saviors of the newly born country against the influence of the Western ideologies. This dilemma of cleansing a whole country of about 160 million people has continued unabated since those times and has, in the course of time, given rise to a very ugly, intolerant social structure of its own.

The followers of Mr. Modudee became avid supporters for Gen. Yahya Khan who was given the responsibility to rule the country by the out- going field-Marshall, Gen. Ayub Khan, the later took matters of the newly born country, Pakistan, as early as 1958, when he declared the first Martial law and lay the foundation of the subsequent lawlessness by deviating from the guiding principles of democracy and the constitution. Army had found a leisure job in Pakistan and they were not to be deterred from reaping its benefits. Ayub ruthlessly destroyed all the democratic institutions and political leadership of the country during his absolute dictatorship from 1958 to 1969. He was the first army chief to declare martial law only 11 years after the creation of a republic. Jamaat-e-Islami joined hands with the autocratic ruler, Gen. Yahya Khan and dreamt of purging the country of “unIslamic” elements began in earnest. The armed wing of this Jamaat, the IJT (Islami jammiate e tulaba) took the matters of education and administration in their hands and with the backing of martial law and its generals succeeded in sowing an atmosphere of terror throughout the country. Learning started to have a downhill course and was replaced gradually by the get-degree-to-earn-a-living phenomenon. This change in the mindset of students of colleges and universities was to have far reaching deleterious effects in the national psyche of the middle class. There was not enough vision or political will left in the country to combat such venomous onslaught on the minds and thinking of people.

It was then a widely known fact that the chief martial law administrator and later self-proclaimed president, Gen. Yahya, is a drunkard and had all the immoralities of a (sub)human being. But in their hatred of liberal, left-wing politicians and reformists, modernist liberal groups, the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership was convinced that by joining ranks with the general, they can advance their cause of purification-of-the-unclean masses of Pakistan. The country had its first general election in 1970 and the Paksitan People’s Party, headed by deposed foreign minister, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto won the majority vote for national assembly in the then West Pakistan. During that time the country had an eastern wing, East Pakistan. The popular leftist leader, Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman of Awami League (people’s party) was the only winner in the East Pakistan. The dispute arose as to who would be the next chief executive of Pakistan, as both Mr. Z. A. Bhutto and Mr. Mujib ur Rehman had their positions of strength in the West and the East Pakistan respectively. The clergy were badly defeated in the general elections and it was a clear indicator that the masses don’t approve of them and don’t envisage their leadership as being capable to run a state.

It was hard for the right-wing extremists to accept this fact. While the political dialogue was in progress, General Yahya supported a militant group of Jamaat e Islami in the Eastern wing and they formed “Albadar”, a para military force backed by the military government in West Pakistan. Their objective was to eliminate and curb the separatist movement within East Pakistan. While the political dialogue was continued, president Gen. Yahya Khan declared that he will deal with the situation with a heavy hand and would not allow any separatist movement to succeed. He clearly indicated towards Sh. Mujib ur Rehman and his famous ‘six points’ agenda, asking for more provincial autonomy. Martial law was once again declared and the politicians were blamed for a deadlock. Fuel was added to the insignificant fires of separatism and soon it engulfed the whole Eastern wing. The commander Eastern front, Gen. A. A. K. Niazi proudly proclaimed that army has saved the nation from a disaster. But the real disaster struck on December 16, 1971 when the same general surrendered in the pulton maidan (platoon grounds) in Dhaka in a ceremony attended by the victorious Indian army, headed at that front by Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora. East Pakistan vanished from the world map and a new sovereign state of Bangladesh was born. Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman was elected as the first head of the state. Ironically, ever since that humiliating defeat in which more than 90,000 officers and soldiers of Pakistan army were taken prisoners of war by India, it was once again a civilian, liberal, left-wing leader, Mr. Z. A. Bhutto who managed to win their freedom with his bilateral talk with the then Indian prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The clergy in East Pakistan reportedly were blamed for the macabre scenes of massacre, arson and rape and there is substantial evidence to prove it.


After the tragedy of 1971, in which Pakistan was divided, lessons were not learnt. Z. A. Bhutto

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The visionary leader of Pakistan

was given the leadership of the remaining Pakistan as the army thought it was too demoralized to keep ruling the country, it had taken a huge tragedy not less than breaking up of the country to make them realize that their training in defence colleges and war courses are not designed to rule a nation but to serve the civilian government. In 1971 when Mr. Bhutto was given the task of balming the wounds of the worst defeat in many centuries by a Muslim army, he took up the unbearable responsibility of governing the broken and broken-hearted Pakistan. Within a few years the country was on a road to democracy and social reforms. Mullah and religious leaders fumed with hatred as their’s have been the fate of the defeated. Public had rejected them in 1970’s general elections, but they had the delusional ideas of being the saviors of the country and on their shoulders they thought they have the huge responsibility to cleanse the nation of the liberal leadership and democratic thought process. This particular thought process was alien to their beliefs, which were not even remotely Islamic but totally in line with the dictates of the feudal lords and petty businessmen who resented the large-scale reforms by Bhutto’s regimen. They didn’t have to wait for long and in 1977 they had their turn to plunge the country once again into the abysmal depths of myopic vision and autocratic rule where no liberal thought process or visionary leadership could prosper or dare to speak out.


Published by Dr. Afaq Ahmad Qureshi

Physician, writer, broadcaster, journalist, translator, free lance writer, poet, political and social analyst and critic. Writes plays and features for electronic media, interested in numerous things from sociology to medicine to history and art. interest in books and internet, writes for http://www.blogcritic.com also; editor for an internet journal; at http://twitter.com/dr_afaqaq.

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My Notes: Dr. Afaq Ahmad Qureshi

Its about Pakistan, the world, the people, culture, and books.

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