When do ‘turning points’ become a death spiral?

Mashal Khan

I have been hesitant to write anything about Mashal Khan lynching. What can be said that has not already? Not only this time, but the time before? And the time before that?

Some are expressing a ‘cautious optimism‘ that the strong reaction against Mashal Khan’s murder coming from certain quarters of society points to a ‘turning point’. But three years ago, we were told that the bloody APS massacre was a ‘turning point‘. Since then, we have witnessed many ‘turning points’. Sabeen Mahmud murder was a ‘turning point’. Safoora Chowk bus attack was a ‘turning point’. Sehwan blast was a ‘turning point’. Lahore Easter blast was a ‘turning point’. These are just a few examples.

With due respect to these courageous voices, I cannot help but have the exact same thought as blogger Dan Qayyum

The problem is so deeply rooted in society that even the defences of Mashan Khan cannot challenge it. So many are arguing that he did not ‘deserve’ lynching, but inside this defence is the acceptance that someone does deserve it. That the violence and hatred is not the problem, only the problem is that the wrong person was targeted. Zarrar Khuro describes this cancer perfectly.

We have nurtured our own disease, have fed this cancer of the soul, this cancer which has a mind of its own; this cancer with purpose. The fault lies with a society that sups on hate and willingly butchers its own children at the devil’s altar, mutilating their bodies and crushing their skulls like some kind of ritual sacrifice.

And so here we stand, bending over backwards to ‘prove’ that he was not a blasphemer, that he was a ‘good’ Muslim and did not deserve the fate that should, by implication, be reserved only for the not-so-good. But none of that matters either, because evidence is accusation, is a death sentence to be carried by public acclamation in some dark, murderous perversion of democracy.

Our dilemma can also be found in our debates about blasphemy laws themselves. Over and over again we see cases where innocents are tortured and killed due to blasphemy accusations. Most often these are not tried, sentenced, and executed by the state. They are accused and lynched. Yet the debate is always about how to ‘prevent misuse of blasphemy laws‘. But what law is it that was misused in lynching of Mashal Khan? What law was misused in the lynching of Shama and Shezad? What law was misused in murder of Salmaan Taseer or Sabeen Mahmud or Rashid Rehman or any of the others who have been killed not by any law but by lawlessness?

State institutions have been strongly pushing the fight against blasphemy. From government to judiciary to even ISI, all institutions have been promoting the narrative that blasphemy is a major problem of Pakistan. Political leaders tell us that the offence of blasphemy is ‘unpardonable‘ while Mullahs threaten ‘dire consequences‘ if anyone dares try to reform the laws. What did they think was going to happen?

The solution, we are told, is to also give death penalty to those who misuse blasphemy and take the law into their own hands. But in the most famous case fake blasphemy killing, the killer was given death penalty and hung. It did not make him a warning for our society.

It made him a hero.

Qadri Janaza

 

Building Pakistan’s Future

Mumtaz Qadri MosqueFew things tell as much about a society than the physical space itself. America’s Statue of Liberty, London’s grand palaces, the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Amsterdam – each of these gives a glimpse into the heart and soul of the society. In Pakistan, too, our architecture tells our story. You cannot know Pakistan without knowing Lahore Fort, Shalimar Bagh, Islamia College, and Mazar-e-Quaid. Architectural landscapes change along with societies, though, and what we are building today is a glimpse into where we are headed tomorrow.

In Pakistan, the future we are building is usually discussed in terms of transportation infrastructure. Whether the controversial Orange Line Train in Lahore, or game changer CPEC, we are told stories about development that will usher in a bright future for the country. However, these are not the only projects taking place, and they may not even be the most important ones.

Jamia Hafsa, the infamous Lal Masjid madrasseh whose students swore allegiance to Daesh, has been granted 20 kanals plot in Sector H 11-4 Islamabad for construction of new facilities.

Across the capital, Faisal Mosque is getting competition from a newer construction – the mosque built to honour the convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri. This mosque has proven so popular that it has raised funds to double its size.

Religious extremists are not the only ones expanding their space in the country. There has also been an rapid growth of building by DHA, one of the Army’s construction companies. DHA has even spread outside of its usual areas, announcing new developments in Balochistan also.

While religious extremists and the military expand their presence across the architectural landscape of the nation, secular political offices are being bulldozed. This is not a defence of Altaf Hussain, but nobody suggested bulldozing PMA Kakul when a COAS was charged with treason.

Projects like Orange Line Train and CPEC will make it easier to travel and transport both in major urban areas and across the nation. But it is what is being built for people to travel to that that will define our future.

Did we really love Edhi? These two pictures say it all…

Whole world stopped to mourn when it was learned that the great man Abdul Sattar Edhi had died. His death was even reported in The New York Times who called him ‘a revered figure’. There is no doubt that Edhi Sahab was revered by many, but since the past few days I have not been able to stop looking at these two photos and thinking about what it says about our society.

Edhi Janaza

Abdul Sattar Edhi Janaza

Qadri Janaza Mumtaz Qadri Janaza

Western Conspiracy To Defame Pakistan Exposed

The following submission was received from our dear reader, Beens…

F7

Earlier this week, the man who killed Governor Salmaan Taseer died. A small funeral was held to remember this man, attended by only few lakhs of his closest friends and well wishers. In other words, it was not even a major event. When I turned on the TV, I didn’t even see anyone mentioning it. It was such a non-event! Then as my driver was taking me to meet some friends at Hot Spot I was posting a selfie on Twitter and my timeline was filled with people posting photos and videos of the funeral and talking about extremism spreading in Pakistan. I was completely confused! Immediately I noticed that majority of people spreading these news stories and photos were not even Pakistanis. They were mostly Westerners. What do they know about Pakistan? I’d bet most of them have never even been to Rendezvous!

Then I noticed that I had a DM from a friend from school asking if I was safe! OMG! HOW RUDE!!! My day was ruined…or at least I thought it was. I let out a loud huff and my driver asked if I wasn’t feeling well. I HATE when he does that, so I hit him with my new bag that daddy just bought me, and do you know what he did? He nearly swerved into someone’s ugly old Camry. IDIOT!!!

Well, if I thought things were bad then, I was not prepared for what was coming. I arrived at Hot Spot and saw that everyone was already at our table, only they weren’t looking happy to see me. Actually, they were all looking nervous. I didn’t understand at all. “Why do you look like that?” I laughed. “Did someone die?” They just stared at me. “Have you seen Diplo’s Facebook?” someone finally asked.

Just last Saturday we all went to the rave and had the BEST time. I spent all night Tweeting and Instagramming photos of myself just to show all my friends from school who were sitting in London feeling TOTALLY jealous while I was at the party of the year! I tagged Diplo in all my photos so that he would re-post one. Did he post something where I wasn’t looking good? No. Actually, he did worse. He did the UNIMAGINABLE.

Diplo posted a photo of himself AT A SLUM.

Diplo in Isloo

OMG!!! IDIOT!!!

Now all my friends are going to see this and think THIS is what Pakistan is like! Where did he even find a place like that?

I’m not a political junkie. I leave all of that to the experts like Ahmed Quraishi. However after this week I am CERTAIN that he is right. There is DEFINITELY a foreign conspiracy to defame Pakistan. How can there not be? Why else would these ‘Gora the Explorers‘ keep reminding us about poor people and militants and other awful things? It’s not fair!

Actually, I don’t blame Diplo. He was OBVIOUSLY taken to wherever this is by some RAW agent probably from MQM who is just JEALOUS and spent YEARS building this fake slum in order to defame Pakistan. How do we even know this is IN Pakistan? It’s obviously a photoshop!

The good news is, daddy could tell I was in a terrible mood when he got home and he asked me what was wrong. I told him about all the horrible things that had happened and he promised to take me shopping in Dubai. I love a happy ending!

Qadri’s Funeral Exposes Ground Reality

Mumtaz Qadri funeralMore than 100,000 people took over the streets of Rawalpindi to honour a convicted killer this week. Showers of rose petals followed the ambulance as the killer’s supporters took selfies to memorialise the occasion. Prayers were given at mosques, and leaders of religious parties cried and pronounced the convicted killer as the hero of Muslims.

Media was carefully controlled in order prevent violence, but even under a virtual media blackout the crowds grew to incredible sizes. If there was peace, it was more likely due to the fact that there was no one challenging the public sentiments.

Mumtaz Qadri was convicted of murder and handed the death penalty, which some have pointed to as a hopeful sign that the state is asserting its authority and taking an uncompromising stance against vigilantism and extremism. I am afraid I must respectfully disagree. What, after all, is ‘the state’? Even with all its flaws, we do live in a democracy, and in a democracy the state is a reflection of the people, not a group of elite rulers. The Court may have given a judgement against Qadri, but the people have also given their judgment and they are far outnumbering the Justices who condemned the killer.

The liberal intelligentsia will dismiss this event in many ways. They will point to the organising power of religious parties looking to score political points from a tragedy. They will accept that there is obviously an element of extremism in society, but will argue as always that it is a minority compared to the ‘silent majority’ of peaceful, moderate citizens.

What is the reality, though? The reality is that it was not extremists and madrassah students who were crying over the body of Mumtaz Qadri. It was ruling party Ministers

And it was not just Jamia Hafsa niqabis, it was ‘moderates’ who declared their support for the killer.

Aisha Ghazi support for Mumtaz QadriThe ‘state’ will continue to try to cover up this reality by banning media coverage, but it will not change the ground reality which is that violent extremism has become so ingrained in our society and media blackouts will not change it. Opposition politicians will give threats and warnings to the state as expected, but the real warning is coming from the masses.

Aisha Ghazi threats Pakistan government