A Karachi based Islamist tabloid ‘Daily Ummat’— through one of its reports— has squarely levelled the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan with some serious blows of allegations that, if unattended, would bump the genuine efforts to relinquish the terror factor in the region.
The news report was widely relayed by the youth on social media— some seeking support for it and others just inquisitively.
Generally, such reports have impact on the society, especially if the society is largely uneducated. Many thinkers and writers consider such reports promptly disposable and; we partially agree with it. Something that transmits infectious social agents to the subsequent users should be immediately disposed off.
But Isn’t it appropriate to answer the “Why” context before dumping something into the trash compactor? Ummat claims, on its website, that it provides genuine guidance to the people in national and international affairs. We should respect their good intention and dig a little bit into their report in order to squeeze the bitter truth out of it.
Engaging their readers into a current commentary, apparently on the Kohistan carnage, Ummat has blamed the Ismaili community to conspire against the state of Pakistan and prop up sectarian strife in Gilgit-Baltistan.
“Sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan is not a new phenomenon; there it took roots way earlier than the establishment of Pakistani organizations. The situation in the region aggravated when forces from a neighbouring country, for their own interest, started pressing a specific sect. The American allied Ismaili community who have always been dreaming of their own state was largely held responsible for this sectarian meddling,” the newspaper reported.
It looks an impeccable report and the editor might have fantasized himself that his investigative genius has cracked the Da Vinci code in the mysterious murder of 19 innocent people in Kohistan and many others in Gilgit. But could Ismaili possibly be involved in sectarian meddling, as Ummat has opinionated? Do they really conspire against the state of Pakistan? Is there any dream of an Ismaili state? Facts have to substantiate such an argumentation.
Modern Ismailis worldwide have earned a character of loyal citizens, devoted social, political and economic contributors and agents of peace. Their books and texts reveal that they take great pride in being part of the Muslim Ummah. They have founded some world class institutions to project the good image of Islam. One of their prestigious institutions is IIS in London that focuses research on Islamic civilization. The institute has pooled some finest scholarly brains from all shades of backgrounds – Shia, Sunni, Christians, Ismaili etc.— to enhance the knowledge of Islam in the world.
Professor Muhammad Arkoun (late), a Sunni Nigerian professor is said to be one of the members of Board of Governors, headed by the Aga Khan himself. Farhad Daftari, an Iranian Shia professor is reported to be one of the leading researchers of their institute. It seems that they are doing some serious stuff for Islam.
In the context of Pakistan, Ismailis take pride in the fact that Mr Jinnah was a son of Ismaili parents; nevertheless, he did not publicly disclose his religious affiliation. The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, the Aga Khan 3rd, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, as a matter of fact, led the Indian delegation— of which Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a member— to the Round Table Conferences in the Britain to thrash out the constitutional reforms in British India that later remained instrumental in the creation of Pakistan.
In his book ‘The Memoirs of Aga Khan’ he recalls the experience in the following words:
“It is no formality to say that it was an honour to be chosen to lead so notable a body of men— including the personalities of the calibre of Mr. M.A Jinnah, later to be the creator of Pakistan and the Quid-e-Azam.”
Ismailis also take pride in the fact that their Spiritual Leader was the first President of All-India Muslim League. To give the educational and political awareness to the Indian Muslims, Aligarh University was a historic milestone and the contribution of Aga Khan and his followers was unprecedented and unconditional.
Does Aga Khan influence his followers in politics of a specific country? In his book the Aga Khan 3rd outlines an interesting detail.
“It has been the practice of my ancestors, to which I have strictly adhered, always to advise Ismailis to be absolutely loyal and devoted subjects of the State— whatever its constitution, monarchical or republican— of which they are citizens. Neither I nor my ancestors have ever … We have told them that the constituted legal authority of any country in which they abide must have their full and absolute loyalty.”
It looks clear that Ismaili community cannot conspire or be disloyal to any state in the guidance of their Spiritual Leader. But does Aga Khan interfere in the political rights of his followers?
“All my teaching and my guidance for my followers has been in fulfilment of this Principle: render onto God (religion) the things which are God’s and to Caesar (politics) those which are Caesar’s” The Aga Khan explains in his book. It is clear that his followers have liberty to practice political affairs separate of their religious affiliation.
Ismailis of Karachi have absolutely no right to question the political authority of their administration, for they live under a constituted legal authority of Pakistan. But if the people of Gilgit-Baltistan including ismailis, voice for their political, legal and constitutional rights, then the media including Ummat should support them, if not then editors should stop dishonest propaganda to corner and endanger a specific community.
The current Aga Khan and his followers have been great friends of Pakistan. When the worse terrorism hit Pakistan and investors ran out of the country, it was the Aga Khan and his followers who pumped in investment. They are the backbone of the economy in the country— they own banks, hospitality establishments, textile companies, media outlets, civil society organizations, real estate business, emergency and disaster management bodies and research companies— at least you cannot blame them for being sold to RAW or CIA. They are satiated, rich community and less likely available for sale.
Does Aga Khan dream of any separate Ismaili state in the form of Gilgit-Baltistan? Ummat and other religious tabloid have been buzzing about this for quite a while in Pakistan. It is absolutely an absurd propaganda that time and again has been injected in Gilgit-Baltistan to puncture any realization of unity for rights in the region.
Would a man, who owns hundreds of multi-national companies— ranging from five-star hotels, banks, cell phone companies, airlines, network of developmental agencies— be ambitious to secure Gilgit-Baltistan for his personal state? Gilgit-Baltistan is a tough mountainous terrain with complicated political, strategic and environmental conditions that could hardly be of any interest for the richest people of the world such as the Aga Khan. A frog in a small pond articulates the whole universe in the limited empirical context within the four walls of the pond and such is the media calibre that engineers the Ismaili State Propaganda in Pakistan.
When it comes to loyalty to Pakistan what else can better justify a man’s loyalty other than the country’s highest military award? The government of Pakistan awarded its highest Military Award, Nishan-e-Haider to an Ismaili soldier, Lalak Jan who bravely safeguarded Pakistan’s honour in the Kargil war.
Does all this mean that there are no offbeat political moments in Gilgit-Baltistan that Ismailis have been taking part? Yes, there are definitely some nationalist parties, separatist moments and political and human rights activists in Gilgit-Baltistan who, with each passing day, are frustratingly demanding for their rights. The region has been denied political and constitutional rights for several decades and all the three major sects of Islam in the region are united to demand for their rights. One cannot blame a specific community in order to hide an embarrassment. Is there a problem? Yes there is a serious problem and it all depends on the government of Pakistan how it deals with the situation— power, propaganda or genuine political and constitutional discourse.
The report of Ummat has blamed many others to conspire in Gilgit-Baltistan including India, CIA, Canada, Raw, Local nationalist parties, Ismailis, local residents and Pakistani media without quoting any reliable or verifiable source. We however, did a little background check of the reporter and we were told that Mr. Saif Ullah Khalid writes for Islamist newspapers and largely relies on his angelic sources in Rawalpindi, he neither knows anything about Ismailis nor has enough education to understand the political intricacies in the region of Gilgit-Baltistan. The reporter, out blue, has claimed that ismailis have been held responsible for sectarian meddling but did not bother to elaborate who, when, where and why was held responsible.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan through this editorial want to get their message across to the Karachi-based Ummat to stop the bandwagon propaganda about them and get back to reporting on extortion and target killings in Karachi. You have literally offended the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and your report therefore advisably ought to be disposed of.
–Published in Dardistan Times