Today in Pakistan, we face a number of growing problems. From the skyrocketing of preventable diseases to poverty and corruption to the spread of violence fueled by religious extremism, Pakistan has become engulfed in crisis. Instead of working to fix the problems, however, too many of our ‘best and brightest’ are expending their energy to cover them up in a well intentioned but misguided effort to improve Pakistan’s image.
In Pakistan, religion is supreme. Which is why one would be forgiven for taking the mistaken impression that the Ulema, or religious clerics, would have great influence on society. Actually, they are almost completely irrelevant, and their irrelevance is a result of their own words.
Pakistani protestors delivered a strong message in London, but it was perhaps not the message they had hoped for. Promoted as ‘Million March’ for Kashmir, the demonstration was meant to sensitize the world on the tragic issue of Indian occupation of Kashmir. Instead, it only sensitized the world on the acute political polarization among Pakistanis.
Pakistan is currently experiencing cross-border firing as a result of failed foreign policy. This is well known. Here is a riddle for you, though: Which border am I talking about? The sad fact is that it could be the border with India, where cross-border firing has been flaring up again at the Line of Control. It could also be the border with Afghanistan, where cross-border firing left an innocent civilian dead earlier this week. It could also be the border with Iran, where artillery fire has once again ignited. Each of these situations will be dismissed as unique crises caused by issues specific to those borders, but what other country in the world is currently suffering cross-border firing from every side? The truth is, each of these crises is rooted in a failed foreign policy that has turned our country into a hub of international terrorism.
Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani issued a statement on Wednesday that condemned religious violence, terrorism, and sectarianism. Unfortunately, the solution proposed by the respected clerics was…death.
“It is an un-Islamic and condemnable act to declare any Muslim sect a disbeliever and deserving of death.”
There is no question that sectarianism and hate speech are diseases that are crippling this country, but why does the answer to everything have to be to kill someone? Life is already too cheap. Yes, we need to discourage sectarianism and hate speech. We need to discourage violence. And, yes, there are certain crimes for which death is a fitting punishment. But we need to think of a better way of discouraging people from declaring someone as kafir and condemning them to death than declaring them as kafir and condemning them to death.