Who is the ‘real’ enemy?

Recently, I had the good fortune of seeing Ajoka Theatre’s play Dushman, an adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The play touches upon some of the most significant vices that plague Pakistan.

One issue is the usage of words like ‘jihad’ and ‘mard-e-mujahid’ in fiery speeches delivered by religious zealots and politicians alike. These words are used only to play with the emotions of the masses in order to win them over and use them for one’s own political goals. One thing that perturbs me though is: are we such an ignorant bunch of people that we cannot fathom right from wrong? Illiterate people can be forgiven for being taken for a ride due to their religious sentiments, but there is no excuse whatsoever for the so-called educated people who believe in such propaganda.

Anything that goes wrong in Pakistan is immediately blamed on India or the West, especially the US. It is ironic that we are so gullible as to disbelieve any authentic research or facts just because a handful of Jews, Americans or Christians are involved with it. It is extremely easy for anyone, be it a politician or an extremist, to brand someone as an ‘infidel’, ‘traitor’, ‘enemy agent’, etc., just because that person dared to oppose or challenge the other person’s and/or the majority’s views. The ignorant masses are brainwashed by opportunists, leading them to hate people who have been branded as ‘enemies’ by these opportunists. This wave of brainwashing that has spread in Pakistan is actually fuelling the jihadist movement.

Most people mistakenly believe that Ziaul Haq was responsible for the Islamisation drive in Pakistan, but in reality Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was actually responsible for fuelling the Islamisation movement. After the loss of the East wing, Bhutto tried to salvage what little was left of Pakistan and tried to re-Islamise the country so that the multi-ethnic country could be saved from further disintegration. The so-called ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ Bhutto was the one who led the elimination of the leftists from Pakistan’s horizon. It was in Bhutto’s time that the foundations for Islamisation were laid. Bhutto paved the way, Zia only solidified it.

“In the early seventies, Z. A. Bhutto, in a precarious political position, governing a drastically diminished territory, strove to win the support of the religious sectors of the population. He had the textbooks altered to placate these factions. An integrated Pakistan, one strong Islamic nation that could overcome separatist movements and prevent another splitting such as the creation of Bangladesh, was the mandate. To appease the conservative clerics, such policies as the declaration that Ahmadis were ‘non-Muslims’ were enacted under Bhutto. Textbooks laid even greater stress on the Islamic perspective of historical events. Islamiyat was made a required subject up until class eight. The use of the phrase, ‘The Ideology of Pakistan’ had already been inserted into social studies textbooks during Bhutto’s first term, and pre-Islamic South Asian history was obliterated” (‘Pakistani Studies Textbooks Can Cause Cognitive Dissonance in Students’ by Yvette Rosser).

During Zia’s time, the jihadist drive took off due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The mujahideen were created by the CIA with the help of Pakistan’s intelligence services to resist the Soviets. The trend of using the name of Islam as a tool to further personal agendas began in Zia’s time. Today, we see people relying heavily on religion in the hope of being relieved of every misery. Like the moth is attracted to a flame, the public can be seen running to every nook and corner of the country in pursuit of Pirs and Aamils, etc., to get them out of trouble or fulfil their heartfelt desires. One can even see a hint of religiosity in the field of cricket, but the cricketers must realise that relying on prayer alone cannot win them the game. In order to win, they need to stay fit and work hard.

Which brings us to another issue. The question that Ibsen raised in his original play and which Dushman asks again is intriguing: “Is the majority always right?” Shahid Nadeem, who has adapted the original play, writes in its introduction, “Collective will and wisdom is a great virtue, but shouldn’t we question the established and certified truths every once in a while?” Why are we afraid of questioning our age-old beliefs? Are we so insecure about our faith that we would blindly follow our religious beliefs without ever questioning their logic? To many, the concept of jihad is still unclear and yet they do not dare question the mullahs who preach the waging of it against every non-Muslim. We claim that Islam is a religion of peace, yet we do not question why a ‘peaceful’ religion would allow such indiscriminate violence against non-believers. Is it logical to believe that Islam would allow violence while claiming to be a peaceful religion? Allah does not stop one from asking questions and exploring the logic behind Islam’s teachings. Only the theologists who are afraid their lies would be caught if the masses start asking questions are the ones stopping us from questioning different aspects of the mullahs’ interpretation of Islam.

Another issue raised in the play was the state of press freedom in Pakistan. It was shown how the government representative threatens to cut off the advertisements of the media group if it sides with the opposing faction. Although the media resists this threat, the added threat of standing against the military leads the media to back off. The use of coercion to quash the truth is a norm in our country, even though claims that the media is free are chanted every now and then. Granted that the state of press freedom is much better than it has ever been in the past, but the underhanded threats and the use of spin journalism are still found in abundance. If the government wants Pakistan to actually progress, it must let the truth be told and let the public decide what they want. The public should decide who the ‘real’ enemy is instead of the authorities choosing their enemies for them.

One interesting aspect of a politician’s nature was highlighted in the play when Dr. Hadi’s brother accuses Hadi of creating the whole scandal only to snatch the nazim’s seat from him. The doctor is left bewildered as he has no inclination whatsoever towards politics. The only reason he wants the public to know the truth is for public safety, whereas the politician – who is the representative of the people and is responsible for public welfare – is only concerned about his political career, and not the public. Look at Pakistan today. Our so-called leaders are one and the same. They are all selfish (well, most of them are) and are only interested in power, money and the perks of power instead of trying to serve the nation. Most of them are those who keep appearing again and again in every government, be it a democratically elected government or a military-dominated one. They have no trouble switching loyalties to whichever side is in power. Why are we letting such leeches run our country when they are sucking the country dry of its blood? When will we realise who our ‘real’ enemies are? When will we wake up to the fact that we need a change in our system, a revolution? Leeches do not leave by themselves; they have to be taken out. Unless and until we take these politicians out, we will be stuck with them forever.

As an ‘aside’, it is recommended for everyone to go see Dushman as Madeeha Gohar’s direction was flawless. The performances were absolutely brilliant. A review by this scribe was published on The Post’s Showbiz page on Friday, November 3, titled ‘Dushman: a befitting tribute to Ibsen’. The play would be performed again at Rafi Peer’s World Performing Arts Festival 2006 on November 12 at Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore. It is not one to be missed!

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