It is indeed unfortunate when old friends quarrel. Especially, when they have prospered together for years, stood by each other’s side during thick and thin, and refused to allow reason and sanity to inflict injury to their relationship. However, if the falling out is brought into public light, not by those who hold feelings of resentment or jealousy, but by themselves, it is an indication of the end to a glorious era.

Jamat-e-Islami Chief, Munawar Hassan, whose inability to retract and rectify mistakes far exceeds his talent for committing blunders of magnificent stature, it appears, has achieved the impossible. For years, intellectuals and activists have called upon religious political parties to sever ties with the military and act independently, but all in vain. It had to take a man of firm beliefs and convictions, undeterred by consequences, unmovable in the face of a storm of condemnation and ridicule, to lead JI out of the cold, dark night, and right into the blistering heat of a bright, new day. Let’s just hope that the party is not blinded due to the sudden exposure, even if it cannot be accused of ever relying on foresight, as none is required to move backwards.

Stained by its historical opposition to Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the movement for Pakistan, JI has faced tremendous difficulty to distract the masses from its questionable past. But one wonders, for what purpose exactly? It makes sense to strive to clear oneself from mistakes of the past, if the present is not another tale of miscalculations and blunders of equal magnitude in the making. JI, once again, finds itself on the wrong side of history. If terming a dreaded terrorist - responsible for the murder of thousands of Pakistani citizens and soldiers, a “shaheed” - and then, in an amusing act of falling face first into a pool of spilled milk by questioning the martyrdom of Pakistani military personnel at the hands of militants, is JI Chief’s idea of a rebirth, it is no surprise that the result is a still-born. If anything, it has added weight to the appeal of forcefully recruiting the ‘leadership’ into a crash course for critical thinking and statecraft, which might equip them with the art of uttering words without unintentionally exposing the dire state of their political acumen.

Pakistan Army, which has recently attracted much praise from many, and criticism by some, for only following its constitutional obligation of not interfering in politics, was prompted to break its silence over Mr Munawar Hassan’s “irresponsible and misleading remarks”. A press release by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) accused the JI Chief for inventing a logic for “political convenience”, and demanded an apology on behalf of “the people of Pakistan” and “families of shuhada of armed forces.” Having ruled Pakistan for the longest period since its inception, it is understandable why the military would be a victim of the delusion that it is a representative of the people of Pakistan and has the right to demand apologies on their behalf. This response, although justified in its sentiment, is still beyond the parameters which the military must operate within. Perhaps, it could’ve been avoided if the rest of the political leadership had played its part, and not taken an easy way out. Mr Shehbaz Sharif could not even find the courage to name Mr Munawar Hassan while expressing grief over the remarks by a “certain religious leader.” But, even this aberration failed to knock some sense into the obtuse JI. It felt it sufficient to just term the statements as a personal opinion of their Chief, without offering any clarification whatsoever over the party’s official stance over the contention on the greatest philosophical question of modern times: Who is a shaheed? Instead, it went on the usual tirade against drones and the US, only stopping short of accusing ‘foreign powers’ of installing a microchip in their Chief’s head, forcing him to say things which make no sense.

Why is it acceptable in Pakistan for people who attract attention only because they are politicians or public figures to utter whatever nonsense they like, and then get away with it by simply claiming that it is a “personal opinion”? Talk show hosts do not invite Mr Munawar Hassan to their shows for his personal views. The public isn’t much interested either. If they simply cannot resist the temptation, they can always quit politics and spend the rest of their days regularly updating statuses and tweeting on Facebook and Twitter. ‘Leaders’ must realise that when invited in their official capacity, they have no right to use the avenue as their personal space. It’s unethical, and so is recklessly adding to the confusion of the already bewildered masses. They are being shot and bombed routinely by an enemy which is clear in its aim, and has displayed its ability to go to any length to achieve it. But, due to parties like JI, which would rather disperse into thin air than call a spade a spade, the rest of the country is yet to find the clarity and ambition which is critical for its survival. The people of Pakistan must identify the wolves parading around them under the guise of messiahs, and reject them along with the poison they peddle religiously. If JI is operating on the principle that the enemy of my people is my friend, then one is compelled to think: Maybe, Bangladesh has the right idea.

The writer is a member of staff.

shahbaz.sandhu@hotmail.com

 @Shahbaz_Sandhu