The Shattered Ummah

 Perhaps as a consequence of being a nation born in the shroud of its Islamic identi­ty, Pakistan has always looked towards the wider Islamic community, or the “Um­mah”, more than other nations. The Islamic world is a geographically congruous land spanning several continents and cultures, united many times in history under a myr­iad of diverse rulers. It was only natural, that on the advent of the twentieth century, with nationalism gaining steam across the world, pan-Islamism would also find mass appeal.

From the ruins of colonial empires, as independent Muslim states started emerging across the world, for one golden moment it seemed the dreams of pan-Islamists might come true; that the Islamic nations could form their own power bloc in world politics and perhaps survive in the bi-polar, Cold War world with a modicum of independence. That golden moment came on February 22 in 1974, when Lahore hosted all the leaders of the Islamic world in the summit of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – iconic leaders such as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Mujib ur Rehman, Shah Faisal, Anwar Sadat, Yasser Arafat and Muammar Gaddafi. It was not to last for long.

One by one, the vicissitudes of the Cold War violently claimed the lives of each lead­er, and before long local disputes and rivalries had broken up the OIC in a collection of quarreling states. A few ruinous wars and US-led military interventions later the Um­mah was drawn and quartered up into irreconcilable pieces.

This is where we stand now. Pan-Islamism as an ideology is a ghost of its former self, and economic realities have overtaken the heady ideological motivations of the past cen­tury. For Pakistan to look towards “friendly, brotherly, Islamic” states such as Saudi Ara­bia or the UAE to come to our aid in this time of peril, we’d be living in a fool’s paradise.

While the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi can belatedly say that the UAE or any other country had the right to maintain bilateral relations with countries of their choice as a face saving measure, he must come to terms with the reality as well.

Pakistan is the only Islamic country still hoping that a shared religion and history might compel other states to forego realpolitik concerns and take up the cause of Kash­mir. That world doesn’t exist anymore, perhaps it never did.

Instead we must look to rationalize our relations with these “brotherly states”, clear the mist of pan-Islamism from our eyes, and operate on a transactional standard, as they have done with us in recent history.