Ehtram-e-Ramazan Vigilantes Attack Journalists In Islamabad

Haqqania Masjid VigilantesIn May I predicted ‘will we see Ehtram-e-Ramzan lynch mobs‘ this year due to government and media whipping up hysteria over anyone smoking or eating or drinking during Ramzan. With Eid only a few days away, I thought my prediction was completely wrong, but now thanks to these Haqqania Masjid vigilantes it has been proven partially correct.

On Tuesday, a crew of journalists was attacked by some Mullahs on an out of control rampage in the capital. According to reports, cameraman Rashid Azeem was performing ablution at Haqqania Masjid to offer Zuhr prayers when he was confronted by a cleric who based on nothing accused him not being honest about observing his fast. After being corrected mistake, the cleric became enraged. When the journalists went outside to begin their recording, clerics and students of Haqqania Masjid viciously attacked the journalists even sending cameraman Rashid to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) for a medical examination.

As a result, officials have threatened to throw the journalists in prison for violating Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance even though there is no evidence that any one of them has committed any crime and that they were the actual victims of these violent and out of control Mullahs.

Eid Mubarak.

Ian Chappel feels safe. Do you?

If you haven’t seen it, you have probably been in a coma. Ian Chappel said that he felt safer in Pakistan than in England. It was a statement that has been broadcast and re-broadcast and printed and shared over and over again. Why? Because it fits the narrative that the state wants to project and the narrative that we want to hear. But is it true?

Obviously Ian Chappel is not a state mouthpiece, but his actual statement has been taken out of context. Here is what he actually said:

“We have only been here for a few days… we are probably safer in Islamabad than we are in England at the moment”

Why ‘at the moment’? Because at the moment, England was experiencing tension following another terrorist attack. It was not a statement about the security of Pakistan, but the momentary insecurity felt in England.

Making the point even further, let us look at what else is happening at the same time as we are celebrating being ‘safer than England’.

In a breaking development, the state is now saying that the Chinese teachers murdered by ISIS were ‘preaching‘. Authorities have not said what they were allegedly ‘preaching’, but the message is clear that after terming the reports as fake news designed to humiliate the armed forces, now the state is blaming the victims for their own killings.

Is Pakistan safer than England? Who am I to answer this question? Instead let us ask Ian Chappel.

Or maybe we can ask the 38,500 Pakistanis who applied for asylum in UK last year what they think.

Pakistanis-2nd-highest-asylum-seekers-in-britian

Recent events prove now is the time for a modern nationalism

Diverse PakistanSeventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.

Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.

Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.

While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.

Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.

Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.

If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.

As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.

Will we see Ehtram-e-Ramazan lynch mobs?

octogenarian has been beaten black and blue in a rural Sindh district for eating during the fasting month of RamazanSenate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs has hardened punishments for eating during Ramazan, and anyone who smokes or eats openly during this holy period will face imprisonment. Many have responded to this action with the obvious questions of whether forced piety is completely missing the point of the sacrifice. However, there is another question which is much more troubling and that is whether this move by government will cause a rise in Ehtram-e-Ramazan lynch mobs.

The question is not so far fetched. Already we have seen the rise of blasphemy lynch mobs as Islamabad High Court and no less than Prime Minister himself have called it ‘unpardonable’ and whipped up religious sentiments to the boiling point. The result of this practice of inventing problems where there are none has resulted in tragic loss of life by lynch mobs including the most recent murder of student Mashal Khan.

Already we have seen the warning signs. Last year, an octogenarian was beaten black and blue for eating biryani given to him in charity. He was not the first victim of these Ramazan Vigilantes. In 2013, a video of a man in Karachi being beaten senseless for eating during Ramazan also went viral.

Karachi man beaten eating RamazanWe should remember the commandment that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’, but also we should remember that Ramazan is a time of humility and reflection on our failings, not the failings of others. By playing with the people’s religious sentiments during this holy time, political leaders are playing a dangerous game that our society cannot afford.

Are we heading toward another bin Laden disaster?

Today is 6th anniversary of that black day in history when it was revealed to the world that Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was not only living comfortably in Pakistan but was living comfortably outside PMA Kakul. After six years, still we do not know the full details of how this was allowed to happen. Whether the state was complicit in protecting and hiding bin Laden, or whether our agencies were so incompetent that they could not find him even while he is living next door, the answers in the Abbottabad Commission Report have been hidden from us.

The government says that the facts cannot be made public because doing so is a threat to national security. Such excuses do not give any more confidence in the state’s role. Even though the full report has not been published, though, there are some parts that have been leaked by the media, and these might give us a clue as to what actually happened. For example, while saying ‘The U.S. acted like a criminal thug‘, the leaked report also says this:

“Although the possibility of some degree of connivance inside or outside the government cannot be entirely discounted, no individual can be identified as guilty of connivance.”

In other words, the commission could was not confident that Osama bin Laden did not receive state support, but they were unable to learn who it was that was helping him.

This was also stated by ex-DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durrani who said:

“I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did.”

Whatever happened six years ago, are we repeating it today? A high level government official recent admitted that ‘he was “100 percent” sure that bin Laden’s 26-year-old son, Hamza, a rising power in Al-Qaeda, is also in the country under ISI protection’. Hamza has been termed ‘Al Qaeda poster boy‘ and his name has been placed on global terror lists. If ISI is protecting him, are we heading toward another disaster?

Right now, most of these are still only questions and possibilities because the actual facts are unknown to us. They ARE known to someone, though, and the nation should be taken into confidence. Till date the state has insisted that the facts of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan must be hidden to protect national security. They have it backwards. However negative or embarrassing the facts are, making them public is the only way to make sure that they are not repeated, which is the only way to protect our national security.