This is a question that I get asked from time to time, usually when someone takes offense at my daring to take a point of view that goes against the Ghairat Brigade talking points. It’s a cheap trick – when you have no other answer, accuse someone’s patriotism. This question couldn’t help but come to mind again after the numbness following yesterday’s assassination wore off. Reading the reactions of people who I respect, people like Ahsan Butt who is despairing, and MSS at Cafe Pyala who is so angry, I realized that this question is often misused, but sometimes it is not entirely inappropriate.
In his anger at the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed, MSS lashes out at the people whose own inactions and careful hedging on the issue of extremism clear the way for the violence, hatred, and intolerance.
I write that I condemn the spineless, self-preserving hedging about of the spineless, self-preserving f—wits swarming TV and newsprint. I write that I condemn the willful, witless intolerance seemingly decent people practice through their silence during bloodthirsty sermons delivered in mosques and drawing rooms. I write that I condemn those whose reaction to events like this is a diminishing of their personal and political engagement with the world around them rather than an expansion. I write that I condemn every parent, grandparent or caregiver who lets strangers dictate their child’s moral code.
Ahsan Butt independently makes the same complaint.
Please don’t give me any nonsense about allowing the political system to work, or letting institutions develop, or other claptrap. These are our institutions at work. We need to understand this. Our military spawned these nuts. Our society tolerates them. Our judiciary celebrates them. Our media excuses them. And our political parties are either beholden to extremist forces, or so intimidated and pusillanimous because of them, that they may as well be the same thing. When Rehman Malik says things like “I will shoot a blasphemer myself” and Babar Awan says things like “There will be no change to the blasphemy law” and the Gilani government doesn’t even provide a bullet proof car to its targeted ministers and also withdraws support from Sherry Rehman at a crucial time, that is our political institutions at work. And mind you, this is the “liberal, secular” PPP. Forget the Army or the ISI or the PML(N).
Both blogs will be accused of pessimism, both will be accused of despairing when we need a positive outlook. This is the line I would have taken in the past, too. But today I can’t help but think that they have a point.
MSS points also to a Dawn story that should be shocking to anyone who respects democracy and the rule of law, not to mention basic human decency.
THREE REMAIN SEATED: But many in the house and the galleries were surprised to see three bearded members of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman remaining seated in their chairs when the rest of lawmakers stood up to observe two minutes’ silence for Mr Bhatti.
There was no immediate explanation what motivated the JUI back-benchers, in the absence of their party leader, to violate a parliamentary etiquette, and a directive given by the chair, in agreement with some voices raised in the house, that members stand up to pay a silent tribute to their assassinated colleague.
Fazlur Rehman should be pressed to answer for his actions. Why did he choose to show such contempt and disrespect for the murdered Minister? This is not a question of blasphemy law, it is a question of BASIC HUMAN DECENCY. Fazlur’s action, consciously chosen, can be easily interpreted as sympathy for those who murder men in the streets when they disagree with their opinions. Is this what his action meant? Why does he not come clean and admit it?
What about Munawar Hasan, Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, and Maulana Ameer Hamza? Their immediate response is to blame CIA, Black Water, ‘Foreign Hand’ and all the other bogeys that provide cover for and distract attention from the jihadi gunmen who have already admitted guilt.
The question, ‘Whose side are you on?’ is typically used to accuse people’s patriotism by suggesting that they’re tools of the CIA, the US, or the West. But maybe it’s not the question but the assumption that is incorrect. We should be asking not whether people are loyal to Pakistan or the US, but whether people are loyal to Pakistan or the jihadis. There is no ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’. This lie must be stopped. Speaking against bogey men like Raymond Davis is cheap. It’s easy. If you are a real patriot, speak against TTP. Speak against LeT. Speak against SSP.
Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was a real patriot, and her blood has watered the soil of the country that she was loyal to. Salmaan Taseer Shaheed was a real patriot, and his blood has watered the soil of the country he was loyal to. Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed was a real patriot, and his blood has watered the soil of the country that he was loyal to.
What about you? Are you on the side of Pakistan or of jihadis? Will you speak out against the real enemies of Pakistan? Or are you going to hide in your chair like Fazlur Rehman?
The question here is not meant to accuse anyone. It is meant as a serious question. Lets get it all out in the open, please. I am only asking because I truly want to know. Every day I am spilling out my own position. I am very open about it and yet it seems nobody can hear me.
But you…your silence is deafening.