Changez - Alive in Pakistan
As the pages of history are turned, it can be difficult to envision the same emphatic characters learned through books and in classrooms fitting into the saga of modern times. Names such as Genghis “Changez” Khan are often spoken about in folklore as if history exists in its own unattainable dimension, distinct from the perils of today. Over seven hundred years have passed since the peak of the Mongol Empire, the most influential and contiguous dynasty to exist in Central Asia in all time, but the legacy remains still.
To many, it may be difficult to understand why Changez Khan, a man with an insatiable appetite for blood could be looked at as such an admirable figure. His name in many circles has become synonymous with lying, killing and betrayal. He was quoted to have exclaimed that his greatest joy came after seeing the ashes of the cities and the tears of the people he conquered. But there is yet another side of the story, one of great humanity and rule of law (‘Yaza’) that is still applicable. It can be said without too much stretch of the imagination that the same roots laid out by his governance are encoded in the modern-day manifestation in at least one of the countries touched by his empire, that being the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Pakistan, in many ways borders on contemporary democratic ideals, but remains a theocracy at heart, and at times colluding in conflict. Throughout its sixty plus years of existence, it has seen its share of despots and warlords engaging in corruption and broken promises. On the political turf, not much seems to have changed in Pakistan since barbarians ruled. Its leaders seem to have forgotten Yaza and abandoned it for their own ad hoc interpretation of moral conduct. This is apparent in the recent developments at Lal Masjid where under former President Pervez Musharraf up to a thousand people were massacred for following a most fundamental adherence to Islamic Law and abandoning the state over something that would be considered First Amendment rights in the United States. Historically, nearly the same thing happened when Changez conquered Baghdad in his time. He entered the religious center in modern day Iraq and killed a few hundred people, some praying, others hiding. Both leaders claimed they were killing militants, but in the most recent case, they were almost all women and children.
Today Pakistan has a new President, Asif Zardari, formerly known as Mr. 10%, based on his infamous and unlawful taxing schemes and extortion. The President claims to be a follower of Yaza and used his knowledge superiority to defeat opponents when they were least expecting it in the latest election. The problem is that when he was elected he made a staunch promise to the party and the people of Pakistan that he would free the judiciary and restore the suspended judges that had been removed under President Musharref. This is a situation of utmost concern to the people of Pakistan and without it freedom towards granting a fair trial is impeded regularly. Only with a free judiciary will no single entity be treated as above the law. Right now, powerful landlords or certain members of the armed forces can easily be granted impunity from the law.
The dilemma with Pakistan, as seen from history’s eyes, is that our leaders instead of confronting the turmoil of our era prefer to bow down before individual situations and submit, many times abandoning the will of the people. These same leaders will easily thwart anyone who vocalizes criticisms towards the differing regimes. If someone who is not part of the elitist rank and file rises amongst the way, that man is seen as a hindrance to the structure and his voice is easily suppressed. Islamic law, although it may be difficult for the outside world to see at times, has its roots in democracy and makes a clear attempt to disable hierarchies where influential people become above the law. It is the hope of the people that Pakistan becomes democratic in nature, while still adhering to a higher purpose obtained through Islamic Law. These ideals, although difficult to pursue, need not be conflicting.
It is ultimately up to the people of Pakistan to join together and fight for their unalienable rights, a daunting task nonetheless. As seen today, the hope of a nation to balance democracy with Islamic Law may lie in one man, former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharief, who is currently leading the popular party. Pakistan needs a leader who is well-versed in the political landmines that lay before it, but someone who will not abandon the people’s voice when the time comes. During Sharief’s previous reign, he never forgot his elected role in providing education to all people, creating party networks fighting for labor rights, and ending feudal societies. The economy through the industrial sector rose and was successful. He made Pakistan a nuclear power, a source of pride for the Pakistani people. He did this not to threaten other countries, but for the purpose of defense.
Pakistan, although in the midst of mass international tensions, is comparatively a homogeneous nation of immense ideological solidarity throughout the overwhelming majority. The will of the people will not anytime soon separate or distinguish between the codes of ethics laid out in religion from that of the political arena. The conflict comes when leaders in Pakistan are boasted as sort of messianic figures, embodying the image of a god-like figure, much closer to divinity than any common man. This type of thought is dangerous and goes against a nation backed up by the concepts of old, Yaza. Pakistan as a nation needs to get back on track and find the roots of their ideology and interpret it in their own unique way that will be beneficial and yet not contradictory to modern political thought.
After Changez Khan passed and the empire was given to his descendants and successors, the new leaders became spiritually depraved, no longer wanting to follow Yaza, and the empire fell apart. They lacked the ability to commit to something that demanded high morals and unswerving loyalty and dedication to rigid principles. They instead concerned themselves with the pursuit of material riches and short-term goals of this world. Changez Khan warned about this in his time and his words are as true today as much as at any time in history. "If the great, the military leaders and the leaders of the many descendants of the ruler who will be born in the future, should not adhere strictly to the Yaza, then the power of the state will be shattered and come to an end, no matter how they then seek Genghis Khan, they shall not find him….. Be of one mind and one faith, that you may conquer your enemies and lead long and happy lives."
Guest post by Shahzeb Mughal and Malika Zafar.
Changez - Alive in Pakistan
- » Published on February 12, 2009
- » Type: Opinion
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