Richard Clarke described Pakistan as a nation of “pathological liars” on the Bill Maher Show last year. He also called Pakistanis “paranoid.” In the public mind there is little apart from suicide bombings, terrorism, violence and corruption associated with Pakistan. Commentators freely call Pakistan a “nursery for terrorism.” Every news item from that country confirms this image — whether the shocking news that Osama bin Laden lived just by Pakistan’s premier military academy with Pakistanis claiming they had no idea about his whereabouts, or the shooting, a couple of weeks ago, of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old girl, whose only crime was that she wanted an education.
Surely there is more to Pakistan than this? Yes, there is. Here is the reality:
1. Pakistan’s Democratic Foundations
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, created a modern Muslim state in August 1947, the first of its kind in the Muslim world. A brilliant, successful lawyer with a reputation for integrity and rigid principles, he advocated women’s rights, minority rights and human rights. One of his first acts in August was to declare himself the “Protector-General of the Hindu community” and to attend church to reassure the minorities of their inclusion in the Pakistani nation. In his first address to the Constituent Assembly in the same month he laid out his vision for Pakistan: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Fatima Jinnah, Jinnah’s sister, played a key role in promoting the visibility and rights of women. Women ambassadors, governors, parliamentarians and editors soon made a mark. It was with this background that Benazir Bhutto emerged as the first female prime minster in the Muslim world. Today, there are some 70 female parliamentarians in the National Assembly and the foreign minister of Pakistan is a woman.
2. The Widespread Influence of Nonviolence in Pakistan
Sufi Islam — which promotes the notion of sulh-i-kul, or “peace with all,” and non-violent political movements and humanitarian initiatives — is widely supported by millions of Pakistanis. The great Sufi centers which attract thousands of worshippers every week are spread throughout Pakistan, and the historic city of Lahore can boast the shrine of the celebrated Sufi Master, Data Ganj Baksh. The qawwali, Sufi devotional music, sung by groups like that of Fateh Ali Khan,