Slouching Towards Mosul

Pakistani Shia Muslims shout slogans to protest against the bombing which killed 90 people, in Quetta on February 18, 2013

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

–William Butler Yeats

Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has ordered that ‘those responsible for religious hate speech on social media must be brought to justice and children who face harassment at their schools because of their religious beliefs should also be protected’. The Chief Justice further recommended the creation of a a national council to overlook the protection of minorities. It is welcome news, but there’s a long way to travel between ‘saying’ and ‘doing’, and one worries that the esteemed Justice’s orders may be a case of ‘too little, too late…’

Army is receiving much support, and correctly, for finally responding to the presence of foreign militants operating from North Waziristan. Prime Minister Nawaz has expressed confidence that the nation will win the war on terrorism. But there is an important element that is being left out of the equation – sectarianism and anti-minority groups.

Extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehrik-e-Khatme Nabuwwat and others are not part of Zarb-i-Azb. Shia, Ahmadi, Christians and other minorities are still killed with impunity, and there is not reason to believe that terrorists like Malik Ishaq will not continue to openly spread hate speech.

The fear in everyone’s minds is whether Pakistan will turn into the next Afghanistan, but it’s not Afghanistan that we are in danger of following, it’s Iraq.

Iraq has descended into a full-blown civil war. The Jihadists have captured three towns and are marching on to Baghdad. They claim to have killed 1,700 prisoners in violation of Islamic and other laws governing warfare. They have also released gruesome pictures of mass execution of the captured Iraqi soldiers. Underlying this conflict is reportedly the old sectarian divide which has yet again resurfaced in Syria and Iraq.

The Supreme Court’s order is critical to Pakistan’s survival, but a Supreme Court order is not worth the paper it is written on if it is not enforced by the state. The government must immediately put into place the Court’s orders in full force. That requires the Sharifs to cut their ties with ASWJ and other sectarian groups. There should be no place in Pakistan for sectarianism or hate speech against any group.

American’s victory against al Qaeda in Iraq was short lived because they were unable to fix the underlying problems of sectarianism in the country. Army’s Zarb-i-Azb will succeed against the foreign militants in North Waziristan, but if we continue to ignore the seething undercurrent of sectarianism, extremism and intolerance, it will be another hollow and short-lived victory.

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