Few weeks ago I had a discussion with my lawyer cousin and we traced the extremism history from the time Z. A. Bhutto banned alcohol to events until last year. The very nature of extremism is frightening enough that even thinking about a solution can give you cold feet.
After looking at problems from various angles we came to unanimous conclusion that education is our primary problem that paved the way for extremism; however, it wasn’t the lack of education but the nature of it that caused a shift in the mindset of Pakistani population. During 50s, 60s and even 70s the people of Pakistan were dynamic and took part in matters of the nation with keen interest. So much was their power that they brought down Ayub Khan’s government with sheer determination. The power continued to be displayed until Zia Ul Haq took the stage and began educational genocide of Pakistani youth.
Having text books re-written to focus on Islamization of Pakistan (practically ignoring any right non-Muslims have in this country), using religious zealotry to prepare Holy Warriors to fight against Satanic Russians in Afghanistan and using brute force to silence any voice being raised against him. In order to further strengthen his footing, he based it on religious parties by passing Blasphemy Laws and taking Anti-Ahmadi and Alcohol Prohibition laws to a whole new level.
A process that began in late 70s was never corrected and after 30 years it has now become uncontrolable monster. What can you expect from a child who learned his school lessons the following way.
A for AK47
B for Bomb
The current Pakistani youth is largest in the nation’s history, and majority of it has roots in 80s in which they were born. The education system created such a severe polarity that a self-destructing societal system came into existence that is now slowly destroying society’s fabric. Let us look at the impact of this and other education systems in Pakistan.
This is the education you were imparted with and ultimately led to zealotry. Pakistan was created for Muslims, therefor a large number of migrating Muslims were inclined towards Islam and its teachings. Zia’s Islamization of Education resulted in preparing hardliners in the regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Souther Punjab and certain urban sections of Sindh. The rest of Pakistan also had an impact which was repelled somewhat by local Sufi ideologies, but it succeeded in further closing minds of people, making them intolerant and short-tempered to anything they feel against Islam in anyway. Even if well educated from renowned institutions, the members of this particular society received hardliner education directly or indirectly with political instabilities, ethnic violences and repeated military coups providing nurturing grounds for hatred seeds to grow. Now we actually have scholars that defend this extremist education and ways to counter it are no where to be seen.
A sizable section of population enjoy Secular education from families and private institutions and are found in urban areas, particular richer sections. The members of this society interact regularly with foreigners and detest people who dress and act Islamic or have more narrow views where religion is concerned. This lot has the greatest reach to resources such as media, internet, books etc that improves critical reasoning and permit them to achieve personal excellence in the field and profession of their desire. Majority of these harbor passions and dreams which would be very difficult if not impossible if they attempt to attain them from religious point of view, especially where music is concerned. Many secular minded groups and individuals are vocal against laws like Blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi, citing history of violence that has been caused due to their misuse for personal gains.
The receivers of this education usually belong to middle, lower middle class or lower class who follow religion to its basics and are often fan of teachings of renowned Sufi saints. These people have the lowest voice in society since they live to stay in peace and preach and provide peace and harmony to those around them. This education is not provided at any educational institution and people either are taught by moderate individuals or learn through books and written records from moderate people. They have nothing against either Extremist group or Secular group, considering them both to be at opposite ends which only results in problems and conflicts.
Apart from these three distinct groups, there is one more group that is composed of lost souls. These are individuals who do not know where to go. They can be fitted in any group but they also don’t belong to any group. They either don’t have an idea themselves or are too confused to realize what they really believe which side to choose.
With such a mix, it is hardly surprising to see conflicts arising where both literate and illiterate, education and uneducated are seen divided on matters with such passion and extreme that they are even willing to kill the other. What more, both groups at either end don’t have full information about the matter they fight about. Be it Blasphemy laws or listening to music, they are always at odds with each other. Even two friends who grew up side by side, may even studied in the same institution, would still be opposite of each other with one having extremist mindset while the other secular.
Between these two, the moderate ones find themselves without voice and often silenced by one or the other. This group has the least media coverage, the least resources and the least possibility of making an impact. Ironically, the majority of the country’s population either belong to moderate group or to no group at all.
Our leaders sacrificed a whole generation of Pakistanis and made them into zombies; slaves to their ideologies who bicker, fight and kill each other on the name of religion. The moderate Muslims still have superiority of numbers but their minds are weaker and resources limited compared with those of Extremist and Secular mindsets.
The only way me and my cousin saw the solution of our problems is that we, the current generation, have to sacrifice ourselves and probably our future in order built future of our country and upcoming generations. We have to head out of our cozy, pampered lives and get into the muck and dirt of our nation where the majority lives, spreading education and attempting to reverse the harmful effects of education that is meant for only destruction. A child of 3 years would start learning and until he/she passes Matriculation, the time period would be more than a decade. We need to spend at least 10 years of our lives educating the young, very young and old of our generation in order to develop a peaceful Pakistan.
It is now up to us to decide, either consider ourselves sacrificed for the destruction of Pakistan, or we sacrifice ourselves to save the future of both our country and our future generations. The time to decide is NOW.