From Maududi to Aafia

By Nadeem Paracha

She’s being called the “daughter of the nation” who needs to be rescued from the fanged jaws of the Americans. Her name is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Pakistani TV channels and drawing-rooms are buzzing with talk of this gallant woman who was recently found guilty by an American court for attempting murder, and on whose defence the government of Pakistan has already spent a whopping two million dollars.

On February 5, when Karachi became the horrid scene of two bomb attacks that killed dozens of men, women and children, leaders of various mainstream religious parties (especially the Jamaat-i-Islami) were marching up and down the roads and streets of Lahore condemning the American court’s verdict, insisting that Aafia was innocent, and demanding she be released and returned to Pakistan immediately. Not surprisingly, the Taliban followed suit.

A few days earlier, when TV channels were airing the shameful scenes of groups of lawyers outside the Lahore High Court cursing and abusing media men and the relatives of 12-year-old Shazia, who is said to have died at the hands of a senior lawyer and his family, these religious parties were behaving as if the young maid’s torturous death meant absolutely nothing compared to Aafia’s plight in the US.

Not a single rally or a word of condemnation in this respect slipped out from any of the many defenders of Aafia’s cause. Clearly, her champions are not bothered by the plight of those women who face humiliation and rape every day and then linger in a depressing wilderness and a psychological void. How come these women too are not the daughters of this immaculate bastion of faith called Pakistan?

What’s more, never have these highly vocal keepers of Aafia’s sanctity even superficially censured the aggravating antics of monsters like the Taliban and Al Qaeda at whose murderous hands thousands of innocent Pakistanis have lost their lives. None of the many women, children, and men who were mercilessly slaughtered by these monsters, it seems, were noble, good, or innocent enough to also be celebrated as the brothers, sisters, and children of this nation by the Aafia brigade.

In an excellent piece written by Anas Abbas on the issue, the writer rightly questions the validity of the vocal frenzy exhibited by the religious parties and their skewed mouthpieces in the popular mainstream media about the ‘insults’ that Aafia has supposed to have faced in custody.

Abbas is on the ball when, after pondering the Aafia fan club’s protests, he asks, “why did we not see this in the case of two other missing Pakistani women?” In other words, why such a hue and cry for a convicted felon and not a peep about women like Zarina Marri, who also went missing? Accused of harbouring Baloch nationalists, Marri was abducted by the Pakistan Army from Balochistan in 2005 and is believed to have been kept in an army torture cell in Karachi.

For that matter, why hasn’t the Aafia brigade previously taken up the case of Dr Shazia Khalid, a medical doctor and an employee of Pakistan Petroleum Limited, who was beaten and raped by Captain Hammad at Sui Hospital in 2005. She was then drugged and moved to a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. Later, she was put under house arrest and prevented from contacting lawyers, doctors and human rights officials. After her release, she managed to leave Pakistan after facing death threats.

For every single Aafia, there is a Zarina, Shazia and, of course, a Mukhtaran Mai – victims of either violent feudal traditions, untouchable establishmentarian arrogance, and the maddening forms of social hypocrisy that have been eating up the moral fabric of Pakistani society for decades now.

In the context of the unprecedented and highly subjective media attention that Aafia is getting in Pakistan, Abbas is absolutely right in asking: “Why was Shazia Khalid’s and Zarina Marri’s families never interviewed by Pakistani TV channels? Why was Shazia Khalid’s interview to the BBC never aired by the so called “free” Pakistani electronic media? Why have we not seen mass scale demonstrations in Pakistan for the justice for these two women? Why are pictures of Shazia Khalid not the highlight of every newspaper, TV channel and Pakistani activists’ blogs as pictures of Aafia are?”

The truth is, politico-religious parties and conservative flash-in-the-pans that have sprung up within the country’s electronic media and political spectrum, stand ideologically bankrupt, operating in a vicious vacuum created by the constant failure of Political Islam and ‘militant jihad’ to impose their own versions of ‘Islamic rule’ and revolution in the Muslim world.

Cleverly ignoring the brutality of an experiment gone wrong (i.e. state-sanctioned jihad and a lopsided, undemocratic mixing of religion and politics), these parties and individuals now concentrate on utilising all kinds of modern electronic and communication media.

Mainly using the internet, they bypass conventional political routes (where they have failed), and instead operate like large cyber fringe groups. But they have enough demagogic appeal to attract the commercial and ratings-hungry attention of the mainstream populist media (especially television).

They are likely to fare badly in an open (and real) democratic and political playing field, so keeping in mind the above-mentioned scenario, their constituencies cannot be found in the physical electoral geography of Pakistan. Instead, their constituencies lie in the nation’s drawing-rooms and cyber cafes.

Thus, unlike in the past when their agenda aimed to pressurise the state and schools of the country to impose their version of Islamic law and doctrine, today, these parties and individuals are reaching out to a cyber-savvy and TV-viewing audience through websites crackling with the most conspiratorial assumptions about Pakistan, Islam and their relation to the rest of the world.

The idea behind this (both directly and otherwise) is not all that new. It smacks of Abul ala Maududi and Syed Qutb’s insistence many years ago on the need to socially prepare and indoctrinate the society so it can be readily mobilised for that final ‘Islamic revolution.’

Whereas conventional Islamist organs like Jamaat-i-Islami and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood initially used university and college campuses and even the electoral dynamics of democracy for the above purpose, by the early 1980s, the JI, excited by the prospect of grabbing state power (when it was invited to join the Ziaul Haq dictatorship), short-circuited Maududi’s evolutionary Islamist mantra by encouraging Zia to implement Islamic laws and doctrines that were alien to Pakistan’s Islamic polity and traditions and thus began to mutate the society’s natural religious evolution.

Islamist terrorism today is clearly symbolic of the frustration the once heroically perceived ‘mujahideen’ and jihadis began to experience when, buoyed by the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, they failed to convert other Muslim countries towards their brand of faith and jihad.

Interestingly, this failure and its violent consequences has seen the jihad brigade’s indirect spokespersons and sympathisers in cyber space and the media go back to the Maududdist drawing-board, that of initiating the Islamic revolutionary process on a social level, specifically through the media.

But the problem is, as mentioned before, the world-view being popularised by the sympathisers has already mutated Pakistan’s social evolution. In other words, instead of Pakistan’s social and cultural polity taking a natural and modern evolutionary course towards developing a collective democratic mindset that respects ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity and understands the elements that make a country develop a progressive relationship with other nations and peoples, the Islamist worldview has only managed to make the society collapse inwards, hiding from imaginary demons in the shape of ‘anti-Islam’ and ‘anti-Pakistan’ forces which are supposedly obsessed by the idea of destroying the country and its religion.

This is the mindset and worldview from which many Pakistanis are screening Aafia’s case. However, this worldview is blind to the fate of various Pakistani women who have suffered miserably at the hands of religious bigots, feudal lords and military regimes at home. Since Aafia’s image falls well within the precepts of this worldview (hijab-wearer, anti-America, Jew-hater, etc.), she is automatically raised to the status of being a cross between a heroine (a sort of Lady Saladin), and a helpless damsel in distress.

The truth is, if one is ready to face being socially ostracised by allowing himself to closely study the Aafia case objectively and without the crippling sight of the Islamist worldview, he is likely to concur with the American courts’ decision that, yes, Aafia was not innocent; at least not as innocent as her many sympathisers would have us believe.

9 thoughts on “From Maududi to Aafia

  1. The curious case of Aafia Siddui and the conspiracy theorists!

    By: Ahmed Naqvi

    Aafia Siddiqui’s legal case has done its round in Pakistan’s media. From the anti-government newspaper The Nation, to the relatively liberal and seemingly unbiased Dawn, everyone has taken a swipe at this jaw-dropping, mind-numbing political situation. Yes, political situation. Though her curious case may have been shrouded under a dark cloud, the manner in which the opponents of this government have turned her case into a ticking time bomb is truly disgusting.

    Recently a protest was carried out in Gujranwala at the behest of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Why? They wanted to “condemn” the jury decision made by a US court, which went against their wishes. I have no complaints with holding a protest, it is a privilege we all share given by our constitution, but tell me, how many of the protestors knew the details surrounding the case? Is it not ironic that people argue for the supremacy and sovereignty of courts in their own country, but “condemn” the courts of another? Furthermore, you want the United States to be respectful, but all you can do is burn the US Flag and effigies of their political leaders. Practice what you preach; it is really not that hard.

    It is unfortunate that whenever Pakistan is mentioned in the media, we seem to be under a cloud of negative news stories. With the amount of media covering the case, one would think that Mrs. Siddiqui would take the opportunity and prove her innocence on an emotional front. What did she end up doing? Much to the delight of Zaid Hamid, Aafia Siddiqui lambasted Israel and Zionism (which has nothing to do with her legal case) and refused assistance provided by her government. I find it truly amazing that the MIT graduate did not take a smarter route and ended up looking like well – not innocent.

    What is more regrettable in such situations is not the outcry we witness in Pakistan but the instigators who enjoy making the situation a political mountain. These nincompoops play with the emotions and sentiments of the Pakistani nation. One of them seems to be enjoying the spotlight with a fashion designer, while the other is nothing short of a brilliant fable writer. You guessed them – Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quraishi. Zaid Hamid is a comic story and it is hilarious to see how he is making rounds in schools and colleges promoting the Pakistan Allama Iqbal envisioned. It is an insult, that a character as shady and repulsive as Hamid’s, is trying to create parallels with one of our most noble and revered leaders.

    To truly understand the fable writing of Ahmed Quraishi, one only needs to go through his website and find all the predictions he has made. Sadly, none of them have come true. How I wish they had, it would have saved me some research and allowed me to concentrate elsewhere! Working in collaboration with The Nation, Mr. Quraishi has gone to great lengths slinging mud on diplomats, bureaucrats and elected officials. Singing a populist tone, he lambasts the United States for constant drone attacks, but refuses to pen a single word against the Pakistan Army who has sanctioned such strikes. He loathes Anne Patterson and the United States with a passion, but had no issues applying for employment opportunities with US companies. Does he truly think that he is our messiah by making himself look like a fool?

    The Nation enjoyed the verdict against Aafia Siddiqui. Using the political storm created by the case, the paper blasted their favorite punching bag, Ambassador Haqqani and the federal government for not securing the release of Aafia Siddiqui. It is strange that they would think that an Ambassador has the ability to give an innocent verdict and advocate a criminal case. It was the same logic that led them to believe Mr. Haqqani wrote the Kerry-Lugar Bill!

    In a recent article, Kaswar Klasara articulates that Mr. Haqqani flew all the way from the United States to the PM Secretariat in order to clear his position after he badly failed to pursue Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s case efficiently. Mr. Klasara believes we live in a day and age without any telephones or emails. Surely, Mr. Haqqani could have made a simple phone call to PM Gilani instead of enduring a grueling fifteen hour flight?

    Also, how could The Nation possibly publish an article without calling for the Ambassador’s resignation? Using information from his beloved “source”, Klasara states the Presidency and PM Secretariat were proposed by certain quarters to replace Hussain Haqqani by a suitable career-diplomat. Now this rings a bell! Oh yes, it was Ahmed Quraishi and his little gang sitting at their writers cubicle in The Nation offices some time ago, creating a rumor where Mr. Haqqani was being removed within 48 hours. That “time ago” was October last year.

    Stop the hate Mr. Quraishi and Mr. Hamid! Nothing good can possibly come out of it. All you guys are doing is taking advantage of the gossip and drawing room politic culture present in Pakistan by instigating downright lies. Fuelling conspiracy theories is not the solution to the problems we face today. It is not going to help anyone’s cause. This path of destruction that you two are leading conservatives on is not going to stop the militants from blowing up another school in Peshawar or them killing a few innocent civilians in Karachi. Too many lives have been lost; too many politics have been played. Stop indulging in these malicious activities; it is time you two started acting with some maturity and dignity.

  2. The lengths that NFP goes to belch out his monotone is becoming rather boring. He has a one point agenda, a cure-all. Before you read the next line, you can foretell with a zero chance of error what the next paragraph would be.

    And it is getting downright shamefull. This particular line: “she is automatically raised to the status of being a cross between a heroine (a sort of Lady Saladin), and a helpless damsel in distress.” Well for those who do know her humanitarian efforts before she was kidnapped know better:

    BTW, the case of Ms Zareena or Shazia etc is entirely different. Their distress, though condemnable, does not come even close to what dr afia had to endure. I wonder why NFP chose not to mention the fate of her children, perhaps because none of them is “(hijab-wearer, anti-America, Jew-hater, etc.”?

    Shame on you. Go back to your drug addiction. You still seem to be in a stupor, nevertheless

  3. That’s rightly said Nadeem , biased and prejudice mind-sets of people against America , People on media nowadays are brain washing and making you Anti-american while it is mentioned in our constitution that we will make efforts to establish good relations with big powers of the world in order to stay intact on world map !

    Dr. Aafia siddiqui’s case is indeed a sad and tragic story, Here we protest and insist judiciary to be indepndent and everyone to obey court’s decision and yet we are not accepting American court’s decision this is double-standards.

    There are several more cases like dr. aafia’s ever worse than her case but sadly no one is concerned about those cases since america’s role wasnt in there. We need to broaden our spectrum and start taking things with an open mind and be not a puppet repeating ” we hate america” slogan raised by an unknown but that is for sure that the person who raised this slogan is not in favor of Pakistan !

    Great work nadeem.


  4. Assalamu Alaikum
    If Jamaat e Islami starts protesting for every single person you will be the same people saying Jamaat kaa dimagh kharab ho gaya hay, lugon ka sakoon barbaad ker dia hay.
    I will keep it short. Some years back, after the Laal Masjid case, a Tablighi friend of mine sent me an e-mail saying if Jamaat E Islami would have opposed the government’s decission to break into the Masjid and put their people there, it wouldn’t have happened. I sent him the reply saying if Jamaat would have done that Musharraf would have ordered to kill them also then you guys would have again blamed it on Jammat e Islami for killing its innocent people. Though Jamaat e Islami was one of the main party who did their best to stop the demolition of the Masjid but people still say they did not do anything, I told that Tablighi friend that Tablighi Jamaat is the biggest Muslim Jamaat in the whole world, why didn’t day just created a wall around the Lal Masjid, I didn’t receive a response.

    What I mean is the please take your own responsibilities, don’t just blame things on others. If Jamaat e Islami start protesting for every single person you will be the same people saying Jamaat kaa dimagh kharab ho gaya hay, lugon ka sakoon barbaad ker dia hay.

  5. Its such a shame dat u pakistanis cannot c how america is makin ur country a banana republic-ur comments r lyk dessert servd2d oppressor by d oppresd

  6. Writer’s opinion related to projection of Aafia’s case seems flawed. It is rather easy to compare the cases of Shazia and Aafia. Both incidents are extremely deplorable. But let me put some arguments:

    1. Aafia’s case needs more attention because the oppressor in this case is a foreign state and its security / judicial apparatus. Its not actually only the matter of one woman’s captivity, the larger issue is the impunity with which Aafia was allegedly picked up by security agencies and handed over to USA without any trial. The way, the fundamental rights of a Pakistani citizen were mercilessly taken away in favor of appeasing another state is what makes the incident more worthy of our outrage and anger.
    Conversely, other cases of rape and women abuse or murder originated within the country and the culprits are Pakistani citizens whose trial and accountability is possible through courts in Pakistan (the flaws in our police and judiciary is a different subject altogether but at least in theory, we atleast have a way to round up and punish the culprits).
    Bottom line is that Courts and security agencies in USA are beyond our control hence this show of outrage and anger for Aafia remains the only possible way left to us to put whatever pressure (effective or futile, whatever) we can on those who matter.
    For Allah’s sake, do not (intentionally or unintentionally try to downplay the cause of Aafia by this very illogical arguments of yours that if Shazia’s case is not taken up, then there is something wrong to project and support Aafia’s cause.
    Just to conclude please reply to my following question.

    If a woman inside a home is slapped on the face by a family member and on the other hand if the same is done by an outsider, what would be more painful and worthy of more protest.

  7. Agree, NFP—-surely shazia and others are more Pakistani to deserve our support and activism! last time I checked, the best one can have with a US passport is Pakistan origin card!!!

    and Id add Zia’s darling Israr Ahmed to the ideolgical mix (or should it be myth?) constructed!!!

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