The following article By Kamran Shafi was originally published in today’s Dawn
As I sit listening to possibly the greatest song — ‘Alif Allah Chambey Di Booty’ by the incomparable Arif Lohar, and the remarkable Meesha Shafi — to come out of the Land of the Pure for many, many years, especially after the passing away of the great (and unlamented in this barren desert of a country) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and start to write this piece, with tears in my eyes at the beauty of the music and the lyrics, there comes the news that upwards of 35 devotees have been killed at Data Sahib, Lahore by two suicide bombers.
Curiously, and sadly, the news comes at exactly the time that Arif sings beautifully, followed by Meesha so very beautifully too: “Wangaan charrha lo kurrio mere Data de Darbar diaan.”
I was already in tears, but down they came, coursing down my cheeks. Damn you, and your black hearts I say to those who so cruelly killed the devotees of the Sufi saint, the guardian of the city and the people of Lahore. Is nothing sacred to these beasts anymore, I ask. These monsters who go about mowing down poor people in the name of religion?
For it was mainly the poor who got blown away at Data Sahib, most of them the poorest of the poor come there to ask Ali Hajveri’s intercession with the Almighty for His munificence. Most, indeed, to partake of the free food always on offer at the shrine, donated by those who feed the poor in God’s name.
What sort of beast is this whose hunger for innocent blood is seemingly insatiable? Who unthinkingly blows himself up taking tens of innocent bystanders with him? What sort of twisted thinking do his handlers and exploiters have that they are so empty of even an iota of kindness and compassion that they cause the killing and maiming of fathers and sons, brothers and husbands, mothers and daughters, sisters and wives of other human beings?
And then we are told that they should be brought to the negotiating table. Are these the sort of people who will listen to reason? Is this beast to be trusted, especially when you speak to him from a position of confirmed weakness? To negotiate what? The terms of surrender of the state? How much more harm must come to the people of Pakistan before those who matter realise that what is going on is a planned takeover of the state by the barbarians?
Make no mistake, gentlemen, this is nothing but a creeping coup d’état by the forces of darkness, a coup that will spare no one, including politicians of every hue. There is no right or left for these beasts, it is them against everyone else — an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan is the goal.
Recall their takeover of Swat and areas of Hazara division until they were barely 50 miles from Islamabad, the capital of the Islamic Republic. Remember too their in-your-face arrogance when they went as far as to conduct a flag march on the motorway itself, from the Swabi to the Mardan interchanges. Wake up to reality, please, before this country is taken over by the obscurantist forces in conjunction with their cousins in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have quite rightly attacked President Obama’s announcing a timeline for starting the withdrawal from Afghanistan, something that has been written about in this space several times. Senator McCain is absolutely right when he says the Taliban will just wait for the withdrawal to start and then increase their attacks.
Gen Petraeus, the new commander of US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan, too, has announced that ISAF and the United States are in Afghanistan until a favourable outcome of the war against terror. We in Pakistan should applaud this because it is important the Taliban are kept busy by the Americans so that they don’t turn their kind attentions towards us.
And now for some civil society gup shup. The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Association (Pesa) is a worthy organisation which was part of the effort to oust Musharraf, and which also played a part in the movement to restore the superior judiciary. It was a rather sharp thorn in Musharraf’s side because it is made up of senior retired officers of the three services, now well led by the good Adm Fasih Bokhari.
It so got up the Commando’s nose that he had the effrontery to refer to Pesa’s members as “spent cartridges” a typical army term of disrespect and ridicule. Of course, what it immediately showed was that Musharraf was much rattled by his own turning against him.
Pesa has now taken up the matter of all civil society organisations (CSO) to come under one umbrella, verbatim: “Pesa has repeatedly been asked by a number of civil society organisations to take the lead in bringing all CSOs under one umbrella to give a stronger, more united, consensual and balanced voice to the aspirations of the people of Pakistan”. Pesa further envisages a watchdog role for the new umbrella organisation also, which might “require calls for peaceful rallies or demonstrations, where action by government is not seen to be timely or adequate”.
Its main concern seems to be holding the (civilian) government to account for its acts of omission or commission: might one suggest it first hold its own member’s former organisations to account? The three services have clothed themselves in shrouds of secrecy so that nothing about them comes out in the public domain. For example, while we are daily regaled with how much an MNA costs the state, there is nothing about how much a lieutenant general or a major general costs.
While we hear of massive corruption in the award of civilian contracts we hear nothing of the mega defence deals, ever. The excuse is secrecy, lest the enemy finds out. I don’t suppose we have heard of Jane’s which will tell you exactly what Pakistan bought and when, in one minute flat!