Islamabad: With terrorist attacks in Pakistan which is witnessing a growing religiosity that has brought greater intolerance among its people, experts have expressed concern about the possibility of the country being engulfed by religious extremism.
Security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana writing in Dawn says religiosity has begun to define the Pakistani citizenry and this phenomenon is encouraging a tunnel vision. His piece is titled ‘The soul of Pakistan’.
Recently, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was trolled and hounded on social media and even received a death threat by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) former spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.Trolls also cast doubts on Malala’s patriotism who after the attack on her by the Pakistani Taliban had received medically treatment and education in the UK
The trolls, says Amir Rana, reflect religious, politico-ideological and patriarchal sensitivities and biases, which have become the character of Pakistan’s social media consumers.
According to author Amir Rana, “Such trolling in Pakistan is not new as many campaigns of the sort have been unleashed over the years”.
While highlighting that the ideological and political credentials of these Twitter users are well known, the author raised concerns over the lack of counter-responses towards such malicious tweets.
The social media campaign against Malala was mean; most of the trolls appeared willing to allow concessions to a notorious militant, who had claimed responsibility for the killing of hundreds of innocent Pakistanis.
Does this relate to support for Ehsanullah’s ‘religious credentials’ and the state’s provision of impunity to him, or was it a manifestation of inherent biases against Malala and others of her ilk?” asks Rana.
As such malicious tweets against Malala continued to pour, Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government failed to give a strong response. Instead of taking the matter seriously, Khan opted to “brush it under the carpet as it usually does with issues relating to religion or religious groups”.
It is interesting to note that while the Pakistan Prime Minister uses religion to showcase his vision for the country and often uses “state of Madina” in his speeches, he does not challenge the radical views of the religious groups on statecraft and governance.
“If the government really believed in the state system established by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Madina, it would be projecting Misaq-i-Madina as the document of its vision. Misaq-i-Madina was the social contract formed to defuse tensions among different communities, including those between the Muslims and the Jews of Madina,” says Amir Rana.
However, Imran Khan’s stance on religion can be seen as an attempt to profit from the religious sentiments of the people and also to counter the political challenges posed by the religious political parties.
According to the author, a common man views the ‘state of Madina’ as a perfect ideal state based on a just society.
As the establishment views that “only religion can glue the nation together”, it is ready to share power with the religious parties even if it does not share the latter’s ideas on statecraft.
Citing the reason for such behaviour, Faisal Devji, professor of Indian history at the University of Oxford and author of ‘Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea’, has said that the clergy, due to their declining status, has emerged as “ideological brokers for groups making claims to power in the name of religion”.
It is highly probable that the clergy might soon be successful in having an alliance with the civil-military bureaucracy, Amir Rana opines.