Islamic Perspectives


Musharraf Must Not Win His Referendum

By: Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

(April, 2002)

Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf,  recently announced that he will hold a referendum to legitimize his rule. There are two primary reasons why the people of Pakistan should not let Musharraf win this referendum, even if they made the terrible mistake of welcoming him when he seized power in violation of the constitution. 

First, if he wins the referendum, it will perpetuate the idea that it is alright to forcefully seize power first and legitimize it later. This is a very harmful idea that will keep Pakistan backward. Just as the powers of the world with which Musharraf has aligned himself never tire of telling us that the terrorists should not appear to win, similarly the people of Pakistan should now send the message that the dictators who seize power by force without regard for the constitutional process should not appear to win. If Pakistan is to be a progressive modern country, then its leaders should come to power by due process and not by military coup, regardless of whether the coup is bloody or bloodless. This is also demanded by the Islamic political teaching (see,

Second, if Musharraf wins, this will strengthen him in his policy of supporting the USA in its “war on terrorism” which is really a war for keeping the people of the world under control, especially the Muslims. This war means that the human rights of Islamic movements will be even more severely restricted in the name of “combating terrorism”. School curricula will be revised so that certain parts of the Holy Qur`an are not quoted or at least not given their due, e.g. those that talk about jihad. If the general wins he will become the president of Pakistan for the next five years and will surely move vigorously to take Pakistan further away from Islam. 

In an interview to Jim Lehrer on PBS’ News Hour on February 13, Musharraf was asked about whether he would like to shape Pakistan into a secular state on the footsteps of Kamal Ataturk of Turkey. His answer was that although Pakistan should be an Islamic country, there should be no “theocracy” in Pakistan. Now “theocracy” is a Greek word meaning “rule of God”. In the West the word has a negative connotation because of the specific history of the Christian church. But to say that we want an Islamic Pakistan and not the “rule of God” is a contradiction in terms and a manifestation of where this dictator, who is said to be a drinker, womanizer, and an admirer of Ataturk wants take Pakistan: further towards secularism and away from Islam. 

In the same interview Musharraf also said that he wants Pakistan to be a progressive modern country. Hopefully, by this he does not mean what his hero meant. When Ataturk came to power he forced the Turks to wear European hats and banned the Turkish fez. He also decreed in 1928 that the Turkish language should not be written in the Arabic script but in the Roman script. Later, Friday was replaced by Sunday as the weekly holiday (

The real character of a progressive modern state is respect for the constitutional process and the rule of law and this is not a direction in which Musharraf is qualified to lead Pakistan. 

In view of this it is clear that every Muslim well aware of what is going on in the world should do everything in his/her power to ensure that Musharraf does not win the referendum. 

We should avoid being militants except as a last resort, but we must not avoid doing jihad in its many peaceful forms, such as jihad through political means. Here is an opportunity for us to practice the obligation of jihad in a peaceful way. Let us campaign, whether we are Pakistanis or not, against this dictator who has a program of weakening Islam in Pakistan still further and strengthening the evil tradition of unconstitutional seizure of power. 


No Verses Of The Qur`an Should Be Suppressed 

The Holy Qur`an is a mighty expression of that freedom which comes with faith in the one true God and the hereafter and with submission to the Almighty. Its message is capable of shaking the existing powers to their very core. What God did once through Moses to one Pharaoh He accomplishes through the Qur`an again and again. A British colonial governor, after experiencing Muslim resistance in India went back to his country and spoke in the Parliament. Lifting a copy of the Holy Qur`an in his hand, he said to the ruling class: “As long as this book rules the Muslims, you cannot rule them.” It is said that soon after this, orientalist studies of the Qur`an started or intensified so that the message of the Qur`an may be undermined.  

Once again the powers of the world are uncomfortable with the Qur`an. They want Muslims to tone down or altogether suppress aspects of its message that threaten them. Even some Muslim kings and dictators seem to be more than willing to collaborate in this effort to neutralize the message of some parts of the Qur`an, e.g., its verses about jihad. 

It is now up to the ordinary Muslims to make sure that the Holy Qur`an, whose every word is full of divine love, wisdom, and justice and which is the last hope of human freedom and salvation -- is not neutralized or compromised in any way. 

God, of course, knew that His word will make some people uncomfortable and they will try to suppress parts of it in various ways. So he has already warned us: 

Surely those who suppress the clear signs and the guidance that We have sent down, after We made it clear in the book for men are those whom God shall curse. Others who (are entitled to) curse shall also curse them. Except those who repent and amend and make manifest (all that has been revealed) – to these I shall turn in forgiveness and I am oft-forgiving, merciful (2:159).