Hassan Nisar is a leading columnist and cultural critique from Pakistan. His sharp and incisive comments make him a controversial figure. His outbursts are deemed inflammatory by many. Often going against the public opinion and political sentiment, he has unruffled countless feathers throughout his prolific career. He speaks his mind never bowing to pressure.
Despite his controversial views, he enjoys a sizable support in Pakistan and more surprisingly has legions of fans in India. In this article some of views that reflect his unique ideology have been compiled.
As with many unpopular figures, he is often purposefully misquoted and conveniently misunderstood. Because of his non-conformist views, Mr Nisar has been branded a heretic and a traitor. A deeper observation of his views reveals the truth is otherwise. He remains a man who is angry, upset and disgruntled. He is a man who is resentful of the way the society has departed from the way he would like it to work.
He is a passionate man who formulates his views from a position of absolute morality. He is uncompromising on the standards based on fallible human condition. He is an idealist, a man who looks beyond the common indices that gauge the health and prosperity of a society.
Listed below is a summary of his unconventional views:
Distortion of History
“If you distort history, history will in turn distort you” Hassan Nisar.
He vehemently opposes the adulteration of history to achieve shortsighted political or ideological gains. He has criticised the syllabi in Pakistan which only focuses on the Muslim history rather than regional history of the subcontinent. This approach he says this alienates our nation from their surroundings. The sites of historic interests and native heritage holds no value in the eyes of the “son of the soil”. And therefore the rich history is treated as fable, relics as merchandise and monuments as ruins. An average Pakistani has little interest in the archeological gems of the Indus valley civilization or the Gandhara kingdom because they were pre-Islamic. Thus we are limiting the vision of our youth and that in turn curbs thier potential.
Mr. Nisar says that not looking into in your real ancestry but only seeking a past that has no genetic connection makes us nothing more than glory hunters and places our historians in the category of vandals.
Views on Democracy
Nisar is a proponent of democracy but his comments are often misunderstood in Pakistan where the nation is yet to observe “true democracy”. Note that in Pakistan the term is often confused with “Reign of pseudo political dynasties”.
He rates that the current system of governance in Pakistan is the worst in recorded history. “Over here in Pakistan” he says “Even a nincompoop can become the prime minster just because he is first heir of a political dynasty. In the olden days, at least squabbles and trials by combat between the siblings for accession to the throne brought forth the one that was capable”.
He further adds that democracy is machinery whose outputs depend upon the inputs. In other words garbage in equates to garbage out. Unless there is a strong procedure of vetting the corrupt and incompetent, the so called democracy in Pakistan will never bear any fruit.
His famous quote regarding the quality of leadership in Pakistan is as follows:
Views on Rampant Corruption
Corruption is a plague that has inflicted the society homogenously. Mr. Nisar says that the perception is wrong that only the elite are corrupt. He says regardless of the level on social strata, given the opportunity everyone tries their hand at exploiting others. He argues that off course, the scale of corruption rises exponentially as you move up the social ladder but has become endemic in our culture.
Unfortunately we have become a society that is so steeped in feeding off on corruption that if the practice was to stop, the society as a whole will seize to function. From a simple product as milk, to life saving drugs, one struggles to find purity in the land of pure.
Views on Inequality
Mr. Nisar in his frequent tirades has taken to task members and beneficiaries of the political dynasties. He has protested several times over the excesses and privileges forcibly enjoyed by the political elite. The heavy protocol of the officials that brings traffic to a standstill and the security measures that have robbed a commoner of personal safety, often feature in his critique.
It is clear from his views that he prefers progressive socialism as opposed to naked capitalism. Mr. Nisar commands a sizeable income from his writings, TV and public appearances but still leads a simple life. He strikes hard on status symbols or cultural practices that demark the social spectrum.
Critique on Criticism
Mr. Nisar has been accused of negative criticism or condemning just for the sake of it. As Benjamin Franklin puts it “Any fool can condemn criticize or complain and most fools do”. Hassan Nisar has been accused of cornering the nation into a dark alley with his metronomic rhetoric.
He hits back saying that my purpose is not to spread despondency, it is rather to show a mirror. He uses the analogy of a doctor in this regards. He says that if someone has a compound fracture and a doctor diagnoses this, would you level the same charges against him.
“Unfortunately shooting the messenger has become a national trait” he says, “I am not a painter, I am only a photographer.”
Criticism on Illiteracy
Hassan Nisar often says “illiteracy breeds irrationalism and irrationalism in turn feeds illiteracy”. This is a viscous circle from which we have to come out. It is this deficiency that is robbing many Pakistanis of level headedness. He points out that there are over 600 verses in the quran that command us to think and to ponder. Thus by not investing in education we are guilty of not only social but religious disservice.
View on Morality
Hassan Nisar opines that morality does not begin with modesty of attire it is rather an attitude. Transgression and corruption is the biggest immorality that the nation faces today. We unfortunately have limited the scope of morality to only our attire.
Views on Pan Islamism
Although Hassan Nisar is not against Pan Islamism or the need for polity between Muslim countries but is against the emphasis on it particularly in these turbulent times. We should focus on bringing our house in order first rather than concentrating on the concept of “Ummah”. He says that sadly the concept of Ummah today is nothing more than a myth. Every Muslim enjoys more civil rights and liberties in non-Muslim countries and faces restrictions in other Muslim countries.
Views on Religion
The Quran that should have been the binding force within the Muslim Ummah he says has evaporated from the collective consciousness. It is a book today that is the most read but ironically the least understood and even less practiced.
Islam today according to Mr Nisar has been restricted to acquisition of Sawab (virtuous deeds) particularly in the sub-continent. He says that the Salah (one of the five daily prayers) was not just meant to connect humans to the almighty but it had additional purpose. The salah, he says is not an end in itself but a mean towards achieving several ends. It is meant to instil discipline, time management, increase concentration span, promote brotherhood and bring tranquillity to the soul. It is just like when a person decides to improve his general wellbeing, the exercise is a means towards the eventual goal of health and fitness. Sadly Salah has become just another item on the checklist and its spirit has been lost.
Similarly nearly all his views on religious understanding and practices focus on their spirit
Building up of Human Capital
If one was to distil Mr. Nisar’s entire thesis, the root to all ailments just boil down to lack of investment in the human capital. “Nation building” he says, “is the need of the day. We need to invest in good teachers; we don’t need good building, books in mint condition and pristine stationary in ordr to educate our kids”.
He points out that there are many examples of individuals that have studied in “Taat schools” (schools with no furniture) and achieved success at global level. We need to build character in our nation.
The dysfunctional nature of Pakistan which is a nuclear state with the lowest GDP in the club speaks volumes. Mr. Nisar says this is akin to a person whose biceps are strong but the rest of his body is paralyzed.
Love of the Prophet (PBUH)
Mr Nisar is a well-read man. The person he likes to quote most is the prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Unfortunately he says it is ironic we are a nation that is willing to lay down its life for the honour of the prophet but at the same time not willing to pay heed to his teachings.
He has written one of the most poignant poems in the honour of the prophet that highlights his deep love and reverence. He has mentioned on several occasions that we as Muslims often discuss the need of leadership but there is no need for that. We have leadership in the form of clear practices and living examples left by our beloved prophet.
Hassan Nisar seems like a lone ranger whose views are original and refreshing in a region where voices of discontent are often muffled.
He has championed causes that affect ordinary humans. It is this reason that his views transcend borders of humanity and religion. It is this reason that his words resonate with people in Pakistan and India. His understanding of the truth and reality may be argued but his integrity towards it is unquestionable. He may never acquire the status of a hero in Pakistan but he remains their bravest dark knight.
Readers are encouraged to add their favourite quotes by Mr. Nisar using the comments section.
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