Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan’s

Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan: A multifaceted personality

By Tahir Ali

(The News 2008)

Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan was born in 1955 in a village in the district of Swabi. He is widely recognized as a writer, columnist, and intellectual throughout the country. He is also a known religious scholar and competent TV compare. He delivers lectures both within and without the country. He obtained his elementary education at his hometown. Then he joined Cadet College, Hasanabdal, and later on the Cadet College, Kohat. After having acquired the degree in medicine, he decided to specialize in psychiatry. He established his private practice in Mardan.

He has a comprehensive personality. Besides being a doctor, he obtained religious education in different Madrassas. He served as a student leader as well. Then he joined Jamat-e-Islami but left it soon. He later joined Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf but quickly parted ways with it. He also also contested elections. Recently, he has been appointed the Vice-Chancellor/Project Director of International Islamic University Mamdheri Swat built at the same venue which was the centre of the notable Swati cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

In his own words, he is a humanist who strives for the well being of the whole humanity. He doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, urges self-realization and critical self analysis and stresses that once we overcome our shortcomings, the external world will steadily become favourable.

He is not happy with the rampant emotionalism in our society and thinks that our reactionary psyche has done us much harm.

God has bestowed upon him the quality of presenting his propositions in simple language. He is clear in his thoughts and terse in his utterances.

He has written some books in both Urdu and English languages. Some of his works include, “ Dialogue with the West”, “Pakistan and the Twenty First Century”, “Islam and women”, Jihad and War, some important discussions”, “Modern issues and Islam”, “The Struggle for Islamic Revolution”, and the like.

The News on Sunday interviewed him recently before he left for Indonesia for a special lecture. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: Pakistan is faced with a multitude of challenges and problems. What do you think are the most pressing problems Pakistan faces today?

Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan:  I divide these problems in three categories: Primary, secondary and tertiary ones.

The primary reasons for our present state of affairs are the widespread illiteracy and poverty in our country. We are amongst the lowest literate nations in the world. We boast off having 40% literacy rate but that too is questionable by world standard. Education has never been in our priority list. No uniform system of education could be developed as yet. The country as a result has been divided in water-tight compartments.

Our religious education system too is defective. What actually is being imparted is sectarianism in the name of religion. Interfaith dialogue, peaceful coexistence and tolerance were never fostered here.

In terms of poverty too, Pakistan is bracketed with the poorest of countries. The so-called economic development claimed by successive regimes here is cosmetic and superficial. Our ‘robust’ economy cannot do without US loans. The middle class has always been shrinking. The gap between haves and have-nots is widening. A society develops when 70 to 80% of its population belongs to middle class. Good social and moral values are bound to emerge in a society where there is a strong middle class.

TNS: Could you tell us what are the secondary and tertiary problems?

DMF: Lack of democracy, justice, rule of law, integrity and tolerance in our society has also done us much harm. We call them secondary problems not because they are less important but due to the consideration that they are the by-products of illiteracy, poverty and absence of a sizeable and vigilant middle class.

All these five are prerequisites for peace, development and prosperity in states. But they are practically non-existent here. Political demagogues often deceive people because the majority is ignorant. There is no democracy, so no accountability. There is no justice and no rule of law that’s why people take law into their hands. There is less business and investment because integrity is missing. And we see plentiful incidents of violence for tolerance is at the lowest level in our society.

The tertiary problems comprise those of extremism and terrorism and their associated evils. They are interlinked in one way or the other with the above phenomena.

TNS: What is terrorism? Is it restricted to a particular area or society?

DMF: There has been no agreed upon definition of the term so far. Terrorism is defined as recourse to violent means to achieve political ends. If the use of force alone is the yardstick to judge someone as terrorist, then individuals, organizations and states that use force for political objectives could equally be declared terrorists. Also, terrorist for one is a hero for others. And terrorist of the past may well be declared a freedom fighter later and vice-versa.

Historically speaking, terrorism has been in vogue in many developed countries in the past. For example, in USA, vigilantism, the old name for present day terrorism, motivated people to take up weapons to set everything right by force- it continued for more than 200 years. Cowboys, who were particularly popular in Texas where Bush comes from, were American Taliban- And we all know how the Hollywood eulogized and idolized them in thousands of films.

In Europe too, the trend manifested itself after the advent of Renaissance and enlightenment and continued for centuries. French revolutionaries were Taliban of the West, who tried to reform their society by force. All these people had some common attributes: they were sincere, active, passionate, armed and fought for their ideals.

Terrorists (force users) through out ages have been seeking some sort of justification. Renaissance was motivated by liberalism, US freedom struggle sought solace in American nationalism. In South America, where religion is strong as in Pakistan, reformists used Liberation Theology for the purpose. Scientific socialism, language, area and other phenomena too have been used as the bases for violent reformation and liberation movements.

This vigilantism would have been in practice even now had the collective western conscience not come to the conclusion that development and empowerment of institutions was vital for a peaceful, caring and prosperous society.

TNS: How did extremism and terrorism develop in Pakistan?

DMF: A number of factors and actors are to blame in this connection. The above mentioned shortcomings in our polity served as causes of frustration in Pakistan. Things were, however, made worse first by the erstwhile USSR’s and of late by the American aggression against Afghanistan.

USA, Zia-ul-Haq and the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) along with the global pan-Islamist movements like Muslim Brotherhood, are the main culprits responsible for promoting it in the region and worldwide. They joined hands probably in an unconscious alliance to defeat communism. US was happy that it would punish USSR for its role in Vietnam by putting guns on the shoulders of Afghans, so it supplied arms, money, training and media support to freedom fighters; The Arab kingdoms also followed suit. The JI and other religious outfits around the world supplied human resources to fuel the war. Hundreds of thousands of militants converged on Pakistan with their hard-line ideologies. Pakistan welcomed them because it was a base-camp for the ‘Jehad’. Many of these hardliners opted to remain in Pakistan after the war ended. Zia still needed them for Kashmir so he facilitated them. They established their strong holds and are now fighting their erstwhile supporters, the Pakistani military establishment and USA.

It is an established fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan have been trying to destabilize each other by using their respective oppositions. If Afghanistan supported the Pukhtoonistan movement, Pakistan too patted Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani (PBR) and Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar (EGH) on their backs since early 70s. I personally met both of them in the JI’s Peshawar office way back in 1974. Jamiat-e-Islami was the sole opposition party in Afghanistan then with PBR as its president and EGH as secretary general.

When Zia decided to lend military support to Afghan fighters against the Russians, he also went for the divide and rule policy so that Afghanistan always remained subservient to Pakistan. So, with the blessings of Zia, Hizb-e-Islami (HI) emerged out of Jamiat-e-Islami, Younis Khalis formed his own faction of HI, Professor Sayyaf was called from Saudi Arabia and facilitated to form his own group, the Sufi school of thought in the Mujahideen also formed its own organization, pro-Zahir Shah group united under a new umbrella, Shias developed their own outfits and various other splinter groups were formed across Afghanistan on linguistic, territorial and sectarian grounds. Afghanistan was sharply divided. These divisions in Afghanistan had also its repercussions in Pakistan. The entire nation saw with awe and anger the emergence of Sipahs and Lashkars in pakistan.

TNS: People say the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan posed a threat to the security and solidarity of Pakistan. Was it so? Also, what should have been done in that situation?

DMF: Opinions differ on the issue. But even if it did pose any danger, Pakistan should have opted for peaceful political and diplomatic channels to deal with the situation. A Dialogue with USSR then would have been useful; it certainly would have allayed Soviet apprehensions on our role in Afghanistan. Probably it would have withdrawn its forces once an independent, impartial or non anti-USSR Afghanistan had been guaranteed. Militant option could have been used but only as a last resort and after a sovereign government in exile and combined army had been formed. But what Zia did was nothing short of dividing the unfortunate land into many states.

The Afghan model was bound to fail. It would invariably turn into a nightmare. Afghan parties were funded separately; each established their strong bastions and no-go areas. Each of them could now challenge the authority of the state. Mind you when an organization of people gets money, weapons and authority to rule within a specific area, as they were, it becomes a state within itself.

TNS: Recently there has been a phenomenal increase in suicide bombings. Which elements are involved in the development of the syndrome?

DMF: Suicidal attacks are basically a sociological phenomenon. It is the outcome of extreme frustration, depression and reactionary approach. Many incidents of suicide attacks are cases of misguidance. There might be some exceptions but people coming from poverty, puritan groups, broken families and some traditional as well as revolutionary outfits normally adopt this course.

The US aggression against Afghanistan and our support to the war on terror have also led supporters of Taliban to blow themselves up to harm our security personnel.

Also, when democracy, tolerance, education and justice are neglected in a society, extremism and terrorism will invariably emerge. We all have witnessed how far election related differences were dragged in our society in not very distant past.

Again, human beings are endowed with spirit of sacrifice. When this spirit couples with reactionary psyche in humans and with frustration, even some normal persons may come to the conclusion that suicide bombing is the best way to take revenge. While they may be right in their political analysis, but they are in the wrong when it comes to the strategy they adopt. This spirit of sacrifice is itself not bad. It needs to be channelized to the right side. They should be taught that solution to all our problems lies in our non reactionary, patient and judicious approach to world problems and in excelling in education.

Hopefully, extremism and terrorism will weaken with the passage of time. For example, Gandhi and Subash Chander both wanted freedom. Both were sincere. But the former won freedom through peaceful means and the latter who favoured violent means to reach at the target finds little support in today’s world. Similarly the Quaid-e-Azam waged a peaceful struggle and snatched independence from a disinclined British government. His opponents in Majlis-e-Ahrar and Khaksar Tehreek were for militant efforts to oust the British. The former won freedom and is respected worldwide while the latter are lost in history. Final victory is for the non-violent struggle though it may take some time.

TNS: How do you analyse the policy Pakistan chose after the 9/11? What would be an ideal option for Pakistan in its relations with the US and the West?

DMF: Musharraf’s Afghan policy was a blunder, rather a crime that greatly harmed our national interests. If Zia had gifted the Heroin and Kalashnikov cultures to our polity, Musharraf with his injudicious decision to join the US-led coalition brought with it the scourges of suicide bombings, terrorism and countrywide tensions.

Turkey’s strategy vis-à-vis the war on terror was the best and Pakistan should have learnt from it. The US requested the Turkish government for logistic support on Afghanistan. It agreed in principle but said it would take the issue to parliament for a final decision. Turkish parliament rejected the US request and that’s all. Though the parliament was suspended then in Pakistan, Musharraf could have bought some time, convened a national meeting of all political, religious, social and media groups and figures to chalk out a proper plan of action but he surprisingly okayed the US ‘request’ in so much haste that it surprised even the US administration. Pakistan offered its support and services in return for money which was also wrong as the US would definitely seek explanation and account for the money they gave. We should have told the US that our polity and the region would be endangered if we joined the war. We also could have sealed and fenced our border, even inside our borders, to block infiltration to and from Afghanistan. Any way, we should have avoided practical involvement in the war on terror. However, Pakistan joined the coalition and thus announced war on Alqaeda and Taliban. Pakistani supporters of Taliban, Tehreeki Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also followed suit, took up arms and started attacking our troops.

Coming to the second part of your question, I think we should seek only working relationship with the US and avoid both friendship and enmity with it.

TNS: Do you think the TTP is justified in its struggle against the Pakistani troops?

DMF: Never. I was analysing the whole situation. I tried to make the point that Musharraf administration fired the first shot in this connection when it joined the US coalition. Taliban only retaliated. But that doesn’t mean they are justified. Islam is against reactionary approach and vigilantism. It cannot be even thinkable that Islam, or any other religion for that matter, allows suicide bombings and terrorism that more often entail collateral damages and in majority of cases that also becomes central damage. It enjoins patience and tolerance. If you want to reform society, Islam warrants that first you should act upon what you say and then preach it peacefully. Reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in chaos, more loss, less advantage and anarchy in them.

In my view what the Pakistani authorities and Taliban do in tribal built is tantamount to inviting the foreign forces. There are many grey areas where questions arise on their respective strategies. Both should reconsider their present policies in the best interest of Pakistan. As a first step, Pakistan should come out of the coalition and try to mind its own business.

Again, military establishment has more often followed strategies that though may have benefited its corporate interests, but harmed the country’s in ultimate analysis. We should think as to why the whole world is pointing fingers at us and accusing us of double standards.

TNS: What should be done to take the country out of crises it is fraught with?

DMF: we badly need a uniform system of modern education, Poverty alleviation, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, a robust and big middle class, a strong judiciary and rule of law, eradication of corruption, patient and judicious approach to problems, tolerance, interfaith harmony and saying goodbye to emotionalism and Puritanism so that we could get an enviable position in the comity of nations.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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