Pakistan Negotiating Terms of Surrender

Federal Ministers meeting with Religious Party LeadersWhile government and military leaders promise a fight till the end against religious extremists, the reality appears to be carefully working out the terms of surrender. PM Nawaz and his Cabinet have agreed not to carry out any counter-terrorist operations in Punjab after the deadly suicide blast at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on Sunday. According to the PM, “There is no room for any [military] operation in Punjab as there are neither any safe havens of terrorists here nor a territory is controlled by militants”. While PM is taking responsibility for this decision, there is little doubt who really makes such calls. GHQ has decided that militancy and extremism will be permitted to spread in Punjab.

While the militants remain free to spread their poisonous ideology and prepare fresh attacks, the state is also taking its marching orders from religious extremists. This was recently shown when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah permitted Ulema to re-write a women protection law that after it was passed by the people’s elected representatives. Now it appears that surrender has once again been the result of religious extremists using threats to hold the nation hostage.

After supporters of a convicted killer seized the capital, government has reportedly given in to a series of their demands:

‘1. All arrested during the sit-in will be released.

2. All cases against various Ullema will be reevaluated.

3. Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law will neither be changed nor reevaluated.

4. No person involved in blasphemy will be spared.

5. Ministry of religious affairs will be told about the implications of Nizam-e-Mustafa (SAW).

6. The schedule list will be evaluated and the names of innocent will be extracted from the list.

7. All cases against protestors will be annulled’

Pressed with questions about the surrender, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar did not deny the agreement, only responded that there has been no ‘written’ agreement. Nisar further explained why saying that “No one has the authority from the government to finalize any deal in writing.” Interior Minister appears to be trying to fool the people by speaking vaguely while actually giving everyone the understanding that the agreement was actually made verbally as per the statement of the extremist leaders.

More and more analysts and experts are recognising that military operations alone are not enough to rid the nation of the scourge of terrorism. The extremist mindset must be addressed also. However, just as the state has ruled out military operations against terrorists in certain parts of the country, the state also appears to have decided to give in to the demands of unelected clerics and extremist religious party leaders. Let us call this strategy by its name: Surrender.

Events show how deeply extremism has rooted in society

Mumtaz Qadri supporters

When militants carry out attacks, we tell ourselves and the world that they are not Muslims and religion has nothing to do with their barbaric acts. When a Pakistani like Tashfeen Malik is involved in an attack overseas, we point out that she spent time in Saudi Arabia. When a Pakistani like Saad Aziz is involved in attacks in Pakistan, we say that he must have been influenced by RAW. Maximimum Pakistanis are moderate and peaceful, we say. And I am desperate to believe it. But two events this week have shaken my confidence.

The first is the case of the 15-year-old boy who cut off his own hand and delivered it to his Imam after accidentally raising his hand when asked who had stopped praying. Raising one’s hand at the wrong moment is an honest mistake that every schoolboy has made at one time or another. Instead of understanding the boy’s predicament and comforting him not to worry, though, the crowd quickly accused him of blasphemy leading him to cut off his own hand and deliver it as apology. This is horrible enough, but what came next made me fear for our country.

Ahmed said that he has seen a video in which the boy is greeted by villagers in the street as his parents proclaim their pride.

No complaint has been made, he said, so no police report has been filed and there will be no investigation.

This what we have let Pakistan become. A country where children cut off their own limbs out of fear of being labeled a blasphemer, and their parents and villagers praise them for it.

I know what you are thinking. This is a terrible thing, but these are poor ignorant people. They are backwards and uneducated and do not represent Pakistan. True. And I was happy to shake my head in sadness for this poor boy as another evidence of need for more education. Until I saw this.

This video is Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar MNA son in law of Nawaz Sharif giving speech in favour of Mumtaz Qadri. This is not a 15-year-old boy who knows no better. This is not a backwards villager or an uneducated mullah. He is a retired Army officer who was educated at MCJ. He is elected Member of National Assembly. And he is a member of Prime Minister’s family. In other words, if the poor boy who cut off his hand represents Pakistan’s poor, Capt Safdar represents the elite. And here he is proudly praising an extremist murderer and I am reminded of the crowds of lawyers showering a killer with rose petals, and a passage written by another lawyer Feisal Naqvi hits me like a brick.

So far as I have been able to tell, there is a very small supply of enlightened Muslims and a very large supply of unenlightened Muslims. More importantly, the social credibility of the enlightened portion of the Ummah seems to run a very distant second to fire-breathing idiots who demand that we should stone sinners to death.

I am a middle class liberal Pakistani. I pray. I fast. I pay zakat. And I also believe in tolerance and moderation and have no need for hatred and extremism. I have always believed that I was not alone. I was part of the ‘silent majority’ of Pakistanis who also do the same. Right now, that belief is shaken and I am worrying more that I am actually a member of shrinking minority. For the sake of our country, I pray that I am mistaken.

Justice Khosa U-Turn on Rule of Law?

Justice Asif Saeed KhosaOnly a few months ago, Supreme Court of Pakistan maintained the conviction of Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri and even re-included terrorism charges so that there can be no doubt of his crimes. Heading the bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa gave a strong statement about the importance of respecting rule of law especially on sensitive matters.

“Will it not instil fear in the society if everybody starts taking the law in their own hands and dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy on their own rather than going to the courts,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had later asked.

Quoting instances such as the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, Justice Khosa had asked whether an individual has the right to act on his own in such matters without even first ascertaining the facts.

Justice Khosa was praised at the time for his bravery in making this statement, but now there are questions about whether Justice Khosa’s courage has reached it limits as the justice appears to have made a massive U-turn on the importance of rule of law.

According to media reports,  a Supreme Court bench has denied bail to the publisher of 102-year-old Ahmadiyya publication Al-Fazl despite that he has been rotting in prison for three years on blasphemy and terrorism charges even though the police had yet to submit the case’s challan in trial court. Here is what Justice Khosa reportedly said this time.

Justice Khosa observed that unfortunately when matters pertaining to religion were under consideration one had to ignore the law.

In one case, Justice Khosa bravely states the importance of rule of law. Few weeks later, a complete U-turn and he justifies ignoring the law if matters of religion are under consideration. Isn’t this the same justification used by TTP terrorists?

This is a dangerous precedent if a respected Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared that law may be ignored if matters of religion are involved. There must be an investigation and explanation provided by the Court. President Mamnoon Hussain should take notice of these reports and if necessary refer Justice Khosa to Supreme Judicial Council for review. Otherwise, a Justice of Supreme Court may have declared any illegal acts can be justified if matters of religion is involved.

A Tale of Two Protests

Pro-terrorism rally in Islamabad

One month has passed since a group of terrorists shocked the world to its core by mercilessly killing nearly 150 women and children at a school in Peshawar. In observance of this dark day, members of civil society across the nation gathered in demonstrations intended to respect the memory of the martyrs and to hold the government’s feet to the fire to turn the tide against the terrorism that plagues our country.

Media headlines have been dominated by another set of protests across the country, however. Across the country, people gathered not to protest against terrorism, but for it. These protests were not in support of the terrorists that attacked APS Boys Peshawar, they were protesting in favor of the killers of 12 journalists in France who worked for a magazine that published cartoons that were derogatory towards Islam.

These two protests, held the same day across the same country, shine a bright light on the harsh reality that we face. On the one hand, we are against terrorism when it affects us. On the other hand, we are sympathetic when attacks target people we don’t agree with.

When Maulana Pir Mohammad Chishti led a small demonstration in Peshawar supporting the terrorists in France earlier this week, many dismissed it as the embarrassing act of a small but vocal minority. In the past few days, though, the movement has grown.

On Thursday, National Assembly passed a resolution condemning the offensive cartoons. The resolution included a passing statement against “all kinds of violence”, but the text of the resolution holds the publication of the offensive material as worse than the killings. If there was any doubt about this, it was wiped away when lawmakers too to the streets chanting, “In the service of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are willing to die”.

Even liberal politicians like Rehman Malik took to terming the victims of the Paris attacks as the real “terrorists”.

More protests are being organized against the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Sadly, the growing number of demonstrations of sympathy for the French terrorists have even eclipsed the memorials for our slain children in the national and international media. They have also delivered a clear message that despite the rhetoric of abandoning a policy of ‘good Taliban’, for many of us terrorism is still acceptable as long as we agree with the reasons.

#CharlieHebdo and #PeshawarAttack are connected, but not how you think

Two apparently unrelated atrocities. In one, armed gunmen stormed into a school and murdered over 130 defenseless children. In the other, armed gunmen stormed into a an office and murdered a dozen journalists. The first took place in Pakistan, the second in France. The only seeming connecting between them for most people will be that both were carried out by Islamist terrorists, but this is not the whole story. Actually, what connects these two events could hold the key to stopping the terrorists once and for all.

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