STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

We all witnessed mayhem on TV across the country and I saw some firsthand. It was senseless, brutal defiance of authority leading to the breakdown of law and order. I was crossing a roundabout and saw a small group of teens wielding sticks, lighting fires, beating up people and breaking wind shields. I am no novice to political demonstrations, having indulged in politics for five decades. This was different. It was planned disruption, deliberate violence intended to create fear and intimidation. This is not Islam.

This is not what my Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, preached or practiced. He was all about love, care, affection, kindness and generosity. Yes he was firm when it came to Huqooq Ul Allah and strict when ensuring Huqooq Ul Ibad.

It was over forty years ago when I got my first opportunity to pay homage to Rouza e Rasool on the 27th night of Ramadan. Those days crowds were smaller and fewer restrictions. I was lucky to sit near the Rouza to say my Nawaful and recite my favorite verses from Holy Quran. Tears rolled down during dua as I sought blessings. I came away feeling cleansed, light with joy in my heart and a spring in my walk.

Since then I had many opportunities to revisit. Each time the feeling is the same, at times even better. My beloved Prophet has never let me down. I seek his guidance; Allah’s blessing in his name and get a strong sense of protection. I have read accounts about him and his life by Muslim and Western authors. They all came to the same conclusion; he is the greatest human that ever lived. He doesn’t need these crazed unruly mobs defending his honor. The best way to honor him is to follow his teachings and attempt to follow in his footsteps. From a humble beginning in Medina our Holy Prophet inspired mankind to become better humans and spread the message of Islam throughout the world. It succeeded and continues till date.

I am a history buff. During my travels many years ago, I visited the southern Spanish city of Cordoba and visited “La Mezquita”. This glorious mosque reflects full splendor of Muslim era. I drove onto Granada to visit Al-Hamra “the Red One” palace and fortress to get the true flavor of the spread of Islam. A few years ago during a visit to Romania, my host took me to the fortress where Salahuddin knocked down resistance from Europe. From Istanbul to Delhi to Agra, all the places that I was fortunate to visit, one understands what true belief can achieve.

Somewhere along the way Muslims got lost. From being the pioneers in multiple fields, we degenerated. While West built universities, Muslim rulers built palaces. The ruling elite amassed fortunes and consolidated personal power, brutalizing the common man whose rights they were supposed to defend. For over a century lack of education and ignorance led the disenfranchised poor to gravitate towards factions within Islam that preached intolerance and aggression. These leaders trampled over Huqooq Ul Ibad while promoting Huqooq Ul Allah through their own interpretations aimed at perpetuating their power base.

Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam. The rights and duties towards fellow Muslims and mankind, “Huqooq Ul Ibad” exist today as follows: the leaders looted the nation; the judiciary failed to dispense justice; traders fleecing the poor; police brutalized the masses instead of providing security; inefficient bureaucracy enriching itself; “Aartis” have a steel vise on farmers; Mullahs create friction and promote violence; ignorant politician totally self-indulgent; Mafias sucking human blood with a big straw; total elite capture on resources and institutions; poor breeding like rabbits out of ignorance; farmland being converted to urban jungles; shocking waste of water resources; air severely polluted; bribery rates shooting up; self-serving media promoting divisions in society. This my friends, is today’s Pakistan.

How did we get here? By aping the West blindly, we adopted Westminster style democracy. Did anyone study whether it suited our needs? Are we ready for it? It was blindly promoted by Western trained urbanites with no clue how rural areas operate. Intellectuals, lawyers and civil society living in a world of idealism. The rural elite jumped at the opportunity fully aware of their iron grip in their spheres of influence. They would always have a piece of pie no matter who ruled. Rogues amongst the capitalist elite were chuffed because they could buy influence at will to rake in more money.

What did we achieve? Weak, selfish divided governments severely restricted in their ability to bring any meaningful change to this corrupt and inefficient two-tiered system where individuals are stronger than the institutions. It has created two set of laws: one for the poor, the other for the rich and powerful.

The nation needs to revisit the basics of our system of governance. It is no longer a unipolar world with USA dictating everything. It is now a regional world with local alliances based on common interests. It is no longer a divide between capitalism and communism that we grew up with. It is a divide between Western democracy and Eastern style authoritarianism. For many years I have been looking for a success story of Westminster style democracy in the developing world that is not corrupt and inefficient. I will elaborate on the realities of the new world in my future writings. We require changing the systems for changing times to safeguard “Huqooq Ul Ibad”.

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