Jinnah’s Pakistan cannot be abandoned

The following article is reproduced with permission of the Jinnah Institute. The original article can be read on the Jinnah Institute website by clicking here.

This August has been cruel. Haunting images of Sindhi Hindus, essential to the cultural reality and demography of the province, leaving the country [i] shook those who believe that Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis. This year’s minorities’ day – August 11 – inspired by the famous speech [ii] of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on a secular vision of Pakistan was dogged by the controversy of Hindu pilgrims leaving for India, perhaps never to come back.

August 11 1947 was the day when pragmatic leader Jinnah, the architect of a contested idea, “Pakistan”, set a new and indiscriminately inclusive direction for the newly created state. His earlier references to the “Two Nation Theory” (of Hindus and Muslims being two distinct nationalities in British India) employed as a political instrument to carve a separate country, required re-calibration and a governable definition. 1947 was not a straightforward or a linear event. It was a sum total of several accidents, failed negotiations and the inability of Indian National Congress and Muslim League to agree on a federal power-sharing formula.

The television footage of bullock carts carrying the belongings of Sindhi Hindus reminded one of the Partition’s most heart wrenching scenes. Those frozen black and white moments of mass migration, captured with monochromatic cameras, denoting misery, up-rootedness and uncertainty are all too familiar. For similar scenes to be re-enacted and televised in the information age are chilling; they indicate that the messy after-effects of the Partition continue to bedevil us even today.

It must have been a humid August day when Jinnah uttered these words in 1947, extempore, standing before the Constituent Assembly: “… and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State” [iii]. Sixty-five years later, Pakistan’s Hindu community feels insecure and many reportedly want to leave the country. Have we betrayed Jinnah, our history, our future?

Jinnah believed that modern secular democracy was compatible with and inherent to the Islamic teachings and that a federal, plural Pakistan could easily blend the two. But his successors defeated and defiled this vision, settling for a mighty post colonial state reinvented for the native civil-military bureaucracy that despised the ‘elected’ political elites. These elites also considered democracy ill-suited for Pakistan, for Pakistanis and a federalist structure an anathema for the centralized ‘nation state’. Almost all of these dilemmas continue to date, with the most worrying prospectbeing treatment of the religious and ethnic minorities, which may continue to utterly baffle the course of inclusive democracy in Pakistan.

The only exception in recent times was Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, two-time former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who articulated a similar vision as the great ‘Quaid’ Jinnah. Her last book “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West” [iv] argued that in several Muslim-majority countries, democracy failures were due to political rather than religious reasons and in most cases the ‘West’ played a problematic role. Islam per se was not antithetical to a democratic system of governance. Is it surprising then that Bhutto was brutally murdered in 2007 by extremists and their patrons?

The major exodus of Hindus from Pakistan took place around the Partition years. Hindus were nearly 16 percent of Pakistan’s population in 1947. With the separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the numbers declined further, and now Pakistani Hindus comprise 1.6 percent of the country’s total population [v]. In terms of numbers, however, they are still a large community; over 2.8 million Pakistanis are Hindu [vi]. According to the 1998 census, there were over 3 million Hindus living in Pakistan with most residing in Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur regions of Sindh [vii].

Pakistan’s gradual evolution into a hybrid-theocratic state [viii] – with parts ruled under secular laws, parts ruled by traditional customs, and yet other parts under the yoke of one version of ‘Islamic law’ or another – has been a tragic consequence of the nation-state using religion as the sole marker of its identity, especially during the Zia regime, when a military dictator misused Islam and conservative elements of society so as to garner legitimacy to govern the country.

It all began with the ‘Objectives Resolution’ that declared the character of the state as Islamic without defining which Islam was it referring to [ix]. This becomes problematic considering that there are more than 73 sects or variants of the religion itself, some of which consider the others as non-Muslims [x]. The continuous adventures of the security establishment and Pakistan’s frontline status in fighting the Soviet Union during 1980s, through jihad or holy war, led to one particular version of Islamic jurisprudence guiding changes in Constitution, laws and cultural mores. The Arabisation and Wahabbisation of Pakistan since 1970s, in the wake of the Bhutto and Zia-led waves of Islamisation, have created generations of young Pakistanis believing in a monolithic Sunni state as the equivalent of an Islamic Republic [xi]. Thus, the constitutional freedoms and guarantees to the minorities are now subject to the cultural onslaught via the education system, ascendant seminaries and the media, which regurgitates this regressive, and exclusionary worldview day in day out. The Islamic Republic riddled in these pursuits has also turned blind to the diversity within Islam.

It was no mistake when the former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, reportedly commented in 2010 that “Hindus” were responsible for terrorism in Pakistan [xii]. Later, the Court staff clarified that the judge meant Indians, but the deep identity of a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan and ‘Hindu’ India hides all the diversity in the two countries where millions are trapped between such Kafkaesque visions of nation states. Our judges on different occasions have also expressed their outrage at the idea of Pakistan going ‘secular’. According to DAWN newspaper, the present Chief Justice, rhetorically asked the following question during court proceedings: “Should we accept if tomorrow parliament declares secularism, and not Islam, as the state polity?” In its astute commentary, the newspaper published the following in its editorial:

 

“…Secularism is not ladeeniat [xiii], it is not anti-religion, as has been the claim of religious conservatives since the 1960s. It is one thing for Islamic parties to make that deliberately false claim, quite another for it to have apparently gained traction in the highest court of the land. Secularism is a very specific and narrow concept the separation of religion and the state. Rather than being anti-religion, secularism is religion neutral. Standing in the way of those claiming that secularism is anti-religion and even vaguely anti-Pakistan at some level is one giant Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The speech that the Quaid made from the floor of the constituent assembly in 1947 was a clarion defence of secularism, notable both for the occasion and the powerful oratory … Perhaps the SC should ponder this question would a constitutional amendment passed on the basis of the Quaid`s speech be declared against the `basic structure` of the constitution?” [xiv]

Jinnah’s successors have been clearly defying the August 11 vision of an inclusive and neutral state.

Such is the state of affairs that today Hindus are worried about their physical security and cultural space [xv]. Pakistan’s Hindu Council mobilizes rallies for rights but out of fear is quick to pledge undying loyalty to the state of Pakistan. Amid this confusion and fear earlier this year, the former (Acting) Chief Justice of Pakistan, Rana Bhagwan Das made the following remarks:

 

“Article 25 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan speaks about the equality of all citizens, whereas article 36 provides for the promotion and protection of right and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the legislature. However, under article 41 (2) and 3rd schedule [xvi] to the Constitution, minority groups are not allowed to hold certain public offices such as the president and the prime minister, which is a manifestation of discrimination…” [xvii]

Justice Das has also advocated electoral reforms and the need to increase the representation. The current government has tabled a bill [xviii] that seeks to increase the number of non-Muslim seats in the Parliament – but that may be just one of the many, many reforms needed to be undertaken. Reaching a point where even a conservative (former) functionary of the state had to complain about the level of discrimination and say that Hindus are perceived as “second class citizens” speaks volumes of where we stand today. The good judge also pointed out the insertion of Article 2-A [xix] in our Constitution: “The narrative of the Constitution and legal discrimination in the name of religion through articles 2 [Islam as the state religion], 2-A and article 41 [xx] [stating that only a Muslim can head the state] of the Constitution renders the minorities less preferred citizens…” [xxi]. It is ironic that a constitutional provision – Article 2A – inserted by a military dictator remains in operation and is leading the juridical debates in courtrooms. Legal arguments now cite Article 2-A more often than ever.

This year has seen three disturbing trends. First television anchors in their zeal to sell religion during Ramzan undertook a live conversion of a young Hindu man. [xxii]This was a distressful display of insecurity that grips the public mind about the conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan. That a country with 97% Muslims had to convert one more was nothing but the pursuit of a totalitarian vision articulated by extremists. There is no legislation banning forced conversion in the country

Second, the case of Rinkle Kumari [xxiii] and now Manisha [xxiv] who converted to Islam apparently out of choice to marry Muslim men became communal and legal battles. The cases are still shrouded in mystery and such is the hold of clerics that every individual case turns into a battle for Islam. Human rights activist, MarviSirmed writing on Rinkle’s case had raised a pertinent question:

“The question arises why in last six months, kidnapping of Hindu girls, forced conversions and abduction of Hindu and Christian youngsters and saints is increased. ‘They want us to leave the country. They are forcing us to flee from our motherland. But we will not deter,’ said Amar Lal, Rinkle’s counsel.” [xxv]

The role of the police, courts and other law enforcement agencies was also not satisfactory in the case of Rinkle Kumari. The otherwise activist Supreme Court had to factor in the might of the clerics and treaded carefully while pursuing the promise of ‘complete justice’ enshrined in our Constitution. Sirmed puts it rather bluntly:

Anger and disillusionment after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Rinkle Kumari case is not limited to her family. It seems to be shared by Sindhis in general and Sindhi Hindus in particular…it is not very difficult to see how the entire state structure in collusion with landed influential politicians, religious elite and ‘independent’ media swindled the process of justice.” [xxvi]

Thirdly, there has been a increase in radical outfits and movements in the Sufi-worshipping province of Sindh. For instance, reportedly in district Khairpur, 93 seminaries out of the total 117 are not registered with the government and in the Umerkot district where many Hindus reside, there are more than 400 madrassas [xxvii]. Last year, a Hindu member of Sindh Assembly, Ram Singh Sodho, resigned from his seat and migrated to India after he received threats from militant groups. Yet all of this is not the case of extremism as kidnapping of Hindus for ransom is also the handiwork of criminal networks, which operate independently of militant organisations [xxviii]. A recent story in an Indian magazine looks how the Pakistani Hindus “are crossing over in ever larger numbers” and refuse to leave India even when their visas expire. “They prefer the life of illegal migrants with intermittent employment, and say that it is better than the discrimination and violence they face in their home country” [xxix].

Who are abandoned, condemned, forced to immigrate & forced to survive heartbroken

Some day even the goddess of time will have some pity on us!

May this happen I would ask to exactly this “Have you been forced to immigrate?”

- Halina [xxx]

These trends are inimical to the Sindhi cultural landscape, which has historically been a bastion of pluralism and syncretic belief systems. At the same time, much of Sindh remains a poor province mired by iniquitous land relations, absence of social services, and marginalization. It is not just the Sindhi Hindus who are bearing the brunt of poverty and exclusion; the landless haaris (peasants), the tenants on farms and existence of bonded labour haunt the idea of an independent and equitable Pakistan. In Sindh alone, according to Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, two million households own no land; and 26% of 700,000 households possess the lowest share in land – furthermore, over 80% of rural workers do not own homes and live on farms without the right to shelter [xxxi]. The plight of rural Sindhis (including Hindus) therefore is not only driven by increasing religious intolerance, but it has to do with their status as poor farm workers or tenants trapped in a system that refuses to change.This is another defeat to Jinnah’s vision as articulated by him on August 11, 1947:

“…if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor”.  

Sadly, too much of emphasis has been laid on independence from the Hindu majority in 1947, overlooking the essential fact: independence from extractive, exploitative colonial rule. The agenda of social transformation remains a pending one as the judiciary has reversed the modest land reform of the 1970s (comprising landholding ceilings determined by the Land Reforms Regulation, 1972 and Land Reforms Ordinance, 1977) by deeming them as un-Islamic applying a narrow interpretation of theology on private property. [xxxii]

Jinnah’s words are strikingly relevant today: “I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fairplay without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will, in other words, partiality or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.”

Pakistani Muslims and their diversity are under attack by armed militias aiming to purify the land. Thus Pakistani ‘minorities’ are no longer non-Muslim. The Shias, Ahmadis [xxxiii], Hazaras [xxxiv] are all suffering and physically endangered [xxxv] due to the grand departure from the type of Pakistani state envisaged on August 11, 1947. Instead of a neutral arbiter of citizen interest, the state is a partisan and often complicit in persecution of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Keeping the business of the state focused on welfare independent of religion, sect, ethnicity and other such differentiations of ‘creed’ has been abandoned with tragic consequences.

Pakistan has to take some existential decisions. Its survival now depends on if its state wants to revert to what Jinnah had outlined in terms of justice, equity and retaining the inherent pluralism of Pakistan. A tolerant Pakistan, at peace with its neighbours is vital to achieve progress and ensure the security of its diverse citizenry especially the poor and the marginalised.

There is, alas, no other option.


Endnotes

[i] Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-19211843>.

[ii] The full text of Jinnah’s speech can be found here: http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/constituent_address_11aug1947.html/

[iii] The full text of Jinnah’s speech can be found here: http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/constituent_address_11aug1947.html/

[iv] Bhutto, Benazir. Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. New York: Harper, 2008.

[v] Library of Congress, Feb. 2005. 10 Aug. 2012. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Pakistan.pdf>

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Population Census Organization, Govt. of Pakistan. Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <http://www.census.gov.pk/Religion.htm>.

[viii] This term has been used by Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani scholar. I have used it narrowly. Siddiqa holds that Pakistan is turning into a hybrid-theocratic state “which encapsulates a mix of economic neo-liberalism, pockets of social liberalism, formal theocracy and larger spaces experiencing informal theocracy.” See: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20120309&page=2

[ix] Full text of Objectives Resolution, now a preamble to the Pakistani Constitution, can be found here:http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/preamble.html

[x] Web. 06 Aug. 2012. <http://www.real-islam.org/73_8.htm>.

[xi] For a detailed discussion, see Sadia Toor’s book “The State of Islam”, New York: Pluto Press, 2011.

[xiii] An Urdu mistranslation of the term ‘secularism’ – ‘irreligious’ or ‘anti-religion’ – introduced and popularized by Islamic parties of Pakistan.

[xiv] “SC`s responsibility?”; editorial, Daily DAWN.  http://archives.dawn.com/archives/32294

[xvi] The third schedule has oaths of office where all senior constitutional functionaries such as the President, Prime Minister, Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly, and others, have to swear: “That I will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan”.

[xix] Article 2-A makes the Objectives Resolution of 1949 an operative part of the Constitution and thus justiceable. Prior to this, it was a preamble in all constitutions (i.e. 1956 and 1962) of Pakistan.

[xx] The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pakistan’s Legislative History,

[xxi] Web. 10 Aug 2012. <http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/>

[xxiv] Rinkle Kumari, a 19 year old Pakistani Hindu, was allegedly kidnapped by one Naveed Shah and forcibly converted to Islam so that they could be married. Eventually, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice of the case and sent Kumari – now named Faryal Bibi – to a shelter (forcibly, as Marvi Sirmed claims in her article: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20120413&page=9)

[xxv] In August 2012, a 14 (some reports say 16) year old Hindu girl by the name of Manisha Kumari disappeared from her parents’ home Jacobabad; a few days later, she called her parents and informed them of her ‘voluntary’ conversion to Mahvish, and of her marriage to one Ghulam Mustafa Channa. Manisha’s parents maintain that she was abducted. See: <http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-62900-Hindu-girl,-14,-converts,-marries-Muslim> and <http://hindusofsindh.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/forceful-conversion-yet-another-victim-manisha-kumari/>

[xxvii]  21-27 Oct. 2011. Web. 10 Aug 2012. <http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20111021&page=4>

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Aug 2012. <http://fountainink.in/?p=2412>

[xxxii] The decision of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court dated August 10, 1989 in Qazalbash Waqf v. Chief Land Commissioner (PLD 1990 SC 99).

[xxxiii] 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Aug 2012. <http://fountainink.in/?p=2384>

[xxxv] According to the “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2011, “the country’s interpretation of Islamic law allows offenders to offer monetary restitution to victims and allows victims to carry out physical retribution rather than seeking punishment through the court system”. See: <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/193145.pdf> . Shia killings have increased in recent years and banned militant outfits and their leaders have been set free by the courts due to lack of effective prosecution.

This material does not reflect the views of the Jinnah Institute, its Board of Governors, Board of Advisors or the President. This material may not be copied, reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part without attribution to the Jinnah Institute (JI). JI publishes original research, analyses, policy briefs and other communications on a regular basis; the views expressed in these publications are those of the authors alone. Unless noted otherwise, all material is property of the Institute. Copyright © 2012 Jinnah Institute.

Tolerance Matters

In my last article I asked the readers if it is justified to have Anti-American sentiments after I had come across an article talking about Farah Ahmed, A Pakistani American woman standing for city council elections and how the US state of Texas had denounced all personal propaganda created against her for being of Pakistani origins. I came across another piece yesterday of similar nature and I find myself asking readers the same question once again.

As mentioned in this post, at a Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, local republican blogger John Hugh Gilmore was harassing Muslim women before he got arrested for disorderly conduct.

According to witnesses, Gilmore saw the women wearing hijabs, or headscarves, traditional to more conservative Muslim women and started asking them questions, confronting them and taking their pictures without their consent. Fortunately dozens of other Americans saw what was happening and jumped in to defend and protect the two women. Here is a what one eye witness had to say about the whole incident.

I also want to mention here that in last weeks Sunday Washington Post there was an article on front page that talked about how Muslims are adapting to US after the terror attacks of 9-11 and also gives a great insight on how an average American is so tolerant of Muslims living in US.

Of course, one will find all kinds of people globally as bigotry isn’t confined to geographical boundaries but I find it extremely interesting to see that people in America still stand up and defend our culture and religion, yet we fail to defend non-Muslims in our own country. A prime example is this article where a prominent media celebrity lashed out at an American USAID (ironically an organization that provides aid to our social sector) employee for accidentally brushing his chair against hers at an Islamabad restaurant.

It should come as a no surprise to anyone that we have high levels of intolerance in Pakistan, religious or otherwise. Our religion teaches us the value of Haqooq-ul-Ibad and yet we fail to see. In order to prove that our religion is superior, we deprive religious minorities of equal justice and alienate them. Extremists and Islamic fundamentalists vandalize churches and loot and burn small Christian villages. We manipulate the law in any way possible to give us the upper edge, the exact same thing our religion teaches us not to.

Not just Christians, but other religious groups face cruel and inhumane treatment in Pakistan as well. We treat all of the religious minorities as second-class citizens and use the Blasphemy laws as a tool for oppressing the small and weak. As far as intolerance goes, women have particularly suffered as well, under the controversial Hudood Ordinances and with recent case of Aasia Bibi, the Christian women accused of blasphemy under the blasphemy law.

In his address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 Quaid-e-Azam rooted for a state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion and that the State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. Here is an excerpt from the speech

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”.

Our religion also teaches us the same virtues of patience and tolerance and justice. I understand that a common Pakistani has become so frustrated with social problems, energy crisis, rising inflation, crime, terrorism and uncertainty that we do not care about coping with these issue while at the same time keeping in consideration the convenience of others. The everyday grind is tiresome no doubt, but venting frustrations at someone without reason is no answer. If the local Americans can stand up for foreigners amongst them and stop injustice wherever they see it taking place, I’m sure we can do the same too.

Fazlur Rehman’s About Face on Blasphemy Law

Well, well, well…look who has turned an about face on the blasphemy law! It is none other than JUI chief Fazlur Rehman himself.

Fazl-ur-Rehman

This is the same man who termed requests to reconsider the blasphemy law “a favor to the US” last December and then after Salmaan Taseer Shaheed was murdered could not bring himself even to condemn such an act, but rather issued an equivocating response that partially blamed Governor Taseer himself.

Consider JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who said that the murder was the result of the failure of the country’s democratic institutions “by this he meant, he said, the failure to implement Islamic laws in the country. When pressed on the issue, he said that the country was experiencing “extremism on both sides”, religious and secular forces which were hell bent upon proving each other wrong.

When Minister Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed was also murdered for the same reason – speaking out against the misuse of blasphemy laws – Fazlur Rehman was so cowardly that he could not even stand to pay respect for the slain minister. Apparently, two short minutes time was too much to ask.

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.

The reaction in Dawn is 100% correct. Fazlur Rehman speaking out against such vigilante killings now is the height of hypocrisy.

While Maulana Fazlur Rehman can now say that “such acts [of violence] amount to taking the law and constitution into one’s own hands”, the fact remains that religious and hardline political parties, such as his own JUI-F, have played an incendiary role in bringing matters to this pass. And this is true not only in terms of the recent furore over the proposal to bring the blasphemy laws under parliamentary review but also in a larger sense — over the decades the mindset that produced extremist and dangerous groups has been steadily nurtured.

Still, as Dawn correctly observes it is essential that such religious leaders are finally coming to understand that the issue is NOT between secularism and religion NOR is it between liberals and extremists. Rather the only issue is one of law and order and of basic justice and human rights.

The question remains however whether Fazlur Rehman is merely willing to speak a few conciliatory words or if he will be willing to bring to bear the full strength of JUI-F to honour the sacrifice of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti as well as everyone who has been a victim of misuse of the blasphemy  law for some personal or political ends.

The religious parties have been quick to carry out massive street protests when it suits their agenda. Will they now organize protests against misuse of blasphemy laws? Are they willing to walk? Or is this simply talk?

Speak Up For Pakistan

Yet another staggering loss for Pakistan, Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination is further proof of the brazen confidence with which extremists kill our leaders. The assassination of the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, should have awakened us to the fact that we are now fighting for our country. The brutal killing of Minister Bhatti must remind us that we can never go back to sleep.

“This is the horrible fate of this cursed person,” read the leaflet the murders left on the scene. Exactly what was his crime, one wonders bitterly. Was it that he was a Christian? Was it that he worked tirelessly to protect the minorities of our homeland? Was it that he devoted his career to honoring the white stripe on our flag? Yes to all the above.

In these bleak times, I am reminded of a hadith my mother would often quote.

“If you see evil, you must try to stop it by your hands; if you cannot do that, then at least speak out against it; and if you cannot do that, then at the very least do not accept it in your heart – but that is the weakest position for a person of faith.”

The cold-blooded murders of brave leaders who struggle to protect the innocent – what is that if not pure evil? Will we allow these monsters to win? Will we doom our Christians, Shias, Ahmadis to death? I write this while listening to a Pakistani newscast as it analyzes various conspiracy theories on the Raymond Davis issue. I want to scream, “STOP! A minister has been shot dead outside his mother’s home! Let’s talk about that for a little while! Let’s tackle the issues that aren’t as convenient as America-bashing. Let’s talk about our own people who are now terrified to go out. Let’s talk about the parents too scared to send their children to school, because they are minorities. Let’s stop accusing of politicians of corruption, for just one day, and honor our politicians who led with pure hearts and are gone. Let us mourn Minister Bhatti!”

As Pakistan grows increasingly dark and dangerous, we must stop and make tough personal decisions. Do we want to see Jinnah’s Pakistan replaced with Zia’s Pakistan? Will we be brave enough to speak out?

If you are Muslim, and if your Islam is a religion of peace, then speak out. Do it for a tolerant society, one where people do not have to fear going outside their homes. Do it for the idea that all people are created equal by a just, merciful God. Do it for the simple reason that inaction means Pakistan is lost.

Divided We Fall

Leftovers from yesterday’s establishment have us chasing shadows. An American with connections to the CIA shoots two armed men at Mozang Chowk and now we are regaled with stories of thousands of Raymond Davis’s acting as silent assassins stalking the streets. Jamaatis march in the streets demanding ‘blood for blood’ and making fiery speeches condemning the ‘foreign hand’.

Shaheed Shahbaz BhattiWhile this is going on, there are operatives planning and preparing to commit more murders against innocent Pakistanis. Only this time it is not thieves brandishing guns that will prematurely lose their lives, but government officials. It is not a claim of self-defense that will be made by the gunman, but a declaration of war. And the response is too often silence.

Of course, those responsible for killing almost 10,000 Pakistanis over the past years are not Americans. They are not Raymond Davis’s wearing grey shirts and carrying Glock pistols, rather they are wearing kurtas and carrying Kalashnikovs and suicide vests.

Is there any wonder why there is not outrage over these killers? Look at the cast of characters who are out whipping up the masses into an emotional frenzy over Raymond Davis, a lone gunman who shot two armed men. Whether he committed this act in cold blood or in self-defense, it was an isolated and bizarre incident that seems to involve the spy-vs-spy games of intelligence agencies more than any ideology or greater scheme.

Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion included former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Gen Hameed Gul, Chairperson DHR Amina Masood Janjua, former diplomat Roedad Khan and former MNA from JI Mian Aslam. To show solidarity with the protestors, eminent human right activist Tahira Abdullah and world record holder in ‘O’ Levels Exams Ibrahim Shahid were also present on the occasion.

It’s this same crowd who after hearing TTP has claimed responsibility for killing Bhatti have blamed it on…CIA.

“Accepting the responsibility of killing the minister soon after the incident by ‘Punjabi Taliban’, as reported by media, is an ample proof that the CIA is behind this crime because the US spy agency had been staging such ‘dramas’ of ‘Punjabi Taliban’ after committing the crimes of same nature earlier,” [Chief of JI Sindh Chapter Asadullah Bhutto] said in a statement on Wednesday.

This is beyond unreasonable. It is deep into the territory of suicidally stupid.

Shaheed Salman TaseerThe assassinationa of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were not part of some CIA operation to undermine Pakistan. If it is, why does the JI never speak out against these crimes? They spare no resource for the glorification of Mumtaz Qadri. They are relentless in their cries of justice for Aafia Siddiqui. They can find nothing but forgiveness and excuses for Taliban militants who strap bombs to the bodies of children and send them to kill women in the market. But they can not shed a single tear for the thousands killed by jihadi militants. They can not say a prayer for the soul of a martyred soul if he is seeking to protect the weak and defenseless.

No. This is a war not against secularism. It is not a fight against moderation. It is more than that only. It is an attempt to silence the voices of the minorities and oppressed. It is an all out war on the founding vision of Pakistan as expressed so well by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947.

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

These Taliban jihadis and the Jamaatis who facilitate and excuse their crimes would gladly tear the national flag into shreds, ripping from it the bold white bar that proudly proclaims the rights and protections of minorities in this country. They would have us abandon our own people.

Let us not forget that Pakistan was born to protect the rights of Muslims from mistreatment by a Hindu majority. It was this oppression that we were supposed to learn from, to rise above, and to wash clean as we built our own society. Again the words of Jinnah are a stinging reminder:

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this.

The Taliban and their Jamaati sympathisers will speak every ill against India and Hindus. They will point to every instance of a Hindu oppressing a Muslim and say that it is their nature to do evil. But point the mirror back at these monsters and you will see that they are exactly what they preach against. They condemn BJP for facilitating violence against minorities in India, and yet they relish in the same evil.

Thankfully, there are some brave souls, some true Pakistani patriots who are willing to stand against these forces of evil in the country such as PM Gilani and MNA Farahnaz Ispahani.

Pakistani government leaders condemned the attack.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital and offered condolences to Bhatti’s grieving relatives.

“Such acts will not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism,” he said, adding that the killers would not go unpunished.

“This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari. “The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”

This is a good start, but we need more. The voices of the people must be united to stomp out this virus, the infection of militancy and sectarianism that is killing us. As a united people of 180 millions, we cannot be overcome by this virus. Only if we allow ourselves to be divided against each other, if we allow ourselves to be placed into smaller groups such as Ahmadi, Shia, Christian, Sufi. Then it will further divided into Deobandi, Barelvi, Wahhabi and the killing will continue. Then it will divided further and madrassah will fight madrassah, mosque against mosque until finally there is no one left.

We can stop this madness, this descent into a cycle of murder-suicide. But only if we come together and refuse to be divided. We are all Deobandi, Barelvi, Wahhabi; we are all Sufi, Christian, Shia, Ahmadi; we are all Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtun.

WE ARE ALL PAKISTANI

With apologies to Pastor Martin Niemoller…

First they came for the Ahmadis,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an Ahmadi.

Then they came for the Christians,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Christian.

Then they came for the Shia,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Shia.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.