I personally feel that President Musharraf ‘s comments, telecast in his TV address on January 12, on the religious extremist and jihadi groups in Pakistan were seriously meant as were the steps he announced to curb their activities.
Times have changed and, under pressure or by conviction, no matter which, Musharraf’s speech and subsequent statements, I believe, reflect the thinking of the majority of the people of Pakistan who are good Muslims but not fundamentalists.
Broadly speaking, the Pakistani people have supported the steps announced by Musharraf. The liberal, secular, politically active ones have welcomed the steps; some whole–heartedly, others on condition that Musharraf should also take firm steps to restore the democratic order.
For the first time in several years, Pakistan’s youth celebrated the New Year in a free and peaceful environment, without being subjected to violence by armed mullahs and the police. A clear sign of the sea change on the ground. So, the youth too is backing the change.
There are also some interesting and noteworthy examples of conservatives behaving moderately in the present context. For example, Allama professor Tahirul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, is a genuine Islamic scholar running a huge madrassa with a whole complex of computers and other gadgets of modern information technology. He has come out in full public support of Musharraf’s measures.
The whole range of Muslim Leaguers — old and new — fully support Musharraf’s measures. Today, all except the Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif are supporting Musharraf’s anti–fundamentalist measures. So is Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek–i–Insaf, former Pakistan President Farooq Leghari of Millat Party, Malik Meraj Khalid, former Prime Minister, Mustafa Jatoi, former Prime Minister and a host of others who are good practising Muslims but totally opposed to fundamentalism and hence supportive of Musharraf’s measures.
Even maulanas like Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani of Jamiat–ul–Ulema, Pakistan (Barelvi Group), though making loud noises, are simply not willing to come into the streets to support the jihadis of the Deoband school. So, in the ultimate analysis, only the different factions of the Deoband School are on one side and the rest of the Muslims on the other.
As matters stand today, Musharraf is going ahead with his government’s New Agenda, no matter what the sceptics in India, especially the ‘experts’ of the electronic media, have to say. Their counterparts on the Pakistani side, too, have been expressing reservations but have no alternatives to offer.
Archived from Communalism Combat, January-February 2002 Year 8 No. 75-76, Cover Story