Pamir Times arranged an interview with Maulana Attaullah Shahab, a leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (GB) and member of the Gilgit – Baltistan Council. Maulana Attaullah has written books, pamphlets and articles on the political, social and economic issues of Gilgit – Baltistan.
First part of the interview, originally taken in Urdu, is being presented below. __________________________________________________________
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem facing Pakistan today?
A: We are struggling to become a nation. There are multiple identities in Pakistan and people tend to introduce themselves on ethnic or sectarian lines, instead of identifying with the state. That’s our biggest problem.
Q: What are the major issues of Gilgit – Baltistan?
A: Since Gilgit – Baltistan has been an administrative part of Pakistan since its independence, good and bad trends from Pakistan have flown into our region also.
There is no religious unity. What to talk of unity, there is division, rather collision of sects. People think on regional, ethnic and religious grounds.
Also, a scripted drama is being played in Gilgit – Baltistan on behalf of the global powers. The characters have been fixed, the plot is there and now we are increasingly seeing Gilgit become a stage for the drama. The drama is of sectarianism.
Q: What solutions do you suggest for resolving these issues?
A: I think fear of Allah and fear of Law is what we need to work on in Gilgit – Baltistan. Creating fear of Allah is work of the religious circles, while ensuring fear of law is work of the government and administration.
The government needs to ensure that those who challenge the writ of government are brought into the cage, with iron hands.
Q: Despite of the presence of several military and paramilitary forces in Gilgit, why can the writ of government not be ensured? Why has even a single person not been brought to justice by the governments and administrations?
A: That’s what I am wailing for. The summary of all these issues is that there is no fear of law in the region.
We cannot create fear of law by placing security personnel in the region. For that you will have to ensure processes that are used to nab and punish the culprits and perpetrators of sectarian, ethnic and other crimes. The criminals should have the fear that they will not be able to escape from law if they commit a crime. They should have the fear that their lives, property, education, means of livelihood, everything, will suffer if they commit a crime. That’s when there will be fear of law.
Q: Some people say that sectarian crimes are not committed by local people. They argue that most of the criminals are non-locals. How do you see it?
A: I told you that when a drama is being performed the characters can be anyone. Local or non-local does not make a difference.
Q: There cannot be a disagreement on the fact that fear of law is vital for creating a just society. What do you have to say about fear of Allah? How can the fear of Allah be created? Who will create it?
A: Frankly speaking, if those lecturing us on fear of Allah do not fear Allah themselves, how will they be able to preach or teach the same?
A teacher once taught his student; “Son, whenever there is a difficulty, read Bismillah seven times and the difficulty will be gone”. The student took this as an instruction and vowed to follow it always.
One day the student and his teacher were travelling to a far-off place. They came close to a river and saw a boat. The student read Bismillah seven times and asked his teacher to sit in the boat.
The teacher got afraid. He said to himself, true that I have taught him the power of Bismillah, but what if this boat sinks? He backed out.
That’s the situation we are facing in Gilgit – Baltistan. If the preachers and religious leaders are not true followers of Islam and if they do not fear Allah, how can they be expected to preach fear of Allah (خوف خدا ) in the region?
Also, our newer generations have been injected with the poison of sectarianism. Now, when the religious leaders try to teach them about fraternity and respect for belief, the youth tend to question their truthfulness and credibility as leaders. The youth ask, today out of fear of government or any other fear you are telling us about being part of “Ummah”. Why did you teach us differently in the past?
These are some of the things hindering peace process in Gilgit – Baltistan.
If you talk of solution, we will have to activate law enforcing agencies, we will have to increase effectiveness and efficiency of judiciary and we will have to make the administration non-sectarian and state oriented.
As a step forward towards establishing fear of Allah, we will have to encourage dialogue, tolerance and compassion through our words, as well as our actions.
Q: Are you satisfied with the governance mechanism of Gilgit – Baltistan?
A: There is a lot of potential in this setup. It is better than all the previous governance mechanisms tried in Gilgit – Baltistan. The actual issue relates to our ability to implement the governance mechanism effectively.