PPP’s Losing Strategy

PPP Supporters Protest Blasphemy

A famous quotation attributed to the British political philosopher Edmund Burke says that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. That may be the least that is necessary, but it’s not the only path. Evil can also triumph when good men undermine their own cause by taking a page out of evil’s playbook. Unfortunately, that seems to be happening among some in PPP, and it’s a losing strategy.

As elections draw near, politics naturally takes a turn for the worst. Disgust at the now well-known YouTube video was justified, but the hijacking of the people’s sentiments by religious parties and banned groups was not. By calling for a national holiday, PPP’s strategy to limit these group’s ability to exploit the situation was not only too clever by half, it actually played into the hands of extremist groups.

While most people have focused on the holiday’s giving legitimacy to the demonstrations, what has been largely overlooked is that the national holiday gave extremist groups cover to carry out violent attacks. By nightfall on Friday, groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa took to the media to proclaim that any acts of violence were not carried out by their organisations who protested peacefully. As proof, they dared anyone to provide evidence of JI or JuD supporters doing such acts while they provided photos and videos of their supporters waving flags and chanting peacefully.

Of course this is a classic smoke and mirrors operation. All these groups had to do is make sure to document their supporters with flags acting peacefully, while their supporters without flags created mayhem. With the entire nation on holiday, it would be impossible to sort out who is who. Before you think this is going a step too far, keep in mind that we’re talking about groups that claim they don’t engage in violence and believe they’re telling the truth because they have redefined violence.

Unfortunately, some PPP leaders didn’t stop with the passive strategy of declaring the national holiday that gave cover to the extremists, they started parroting them themselves in order to appeal to the national mood.

Headlines reporting Rehman Malik’s telling the West to stop supporting Pakistan’s enemies sounded more like a speech at a DPC rally than the statements of a Federal Minister. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Rehman Malik has ventured off of his script in an attempt to appease the right wing – the worst episode being when he threatened to kill blasphemers with his own hands following the murder of one of his own party leaders by a crazed lunatic.

Then there’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour who sounded more like Mullah Yousaf Qureshi than a Federal Minister when he announced a bounty of $100,000 for murder of the maker of the offensive video. Granted Bilour is ANP and not PPP, but as the leader of a coalition government, the PPP must take responsibility for his presence in the Cabinet.

That these statements and the national holiday are poorly thought out should be obvious. Not only do they undermine the PPP’s position as a modern, progressive political party, they also gain nothing. Let’s face reality – no matter how much support PPP leaders give for right-wing issues, they will never be enough to win the support of the right-wing.

Munawar Hasan and Hafiz Saeed attack the PPP as irreligious not because they want PPP to accept their positions. They do it because they have nothing to offer the people and therefore have to rely on attacks. Giving in to their demands will not neutralise their attacks, it will only make their demands more extreme. Today it is protests against an internet video clip, tomorrow its funding for jihad…then what? Continue down this path for very long and at a certain point, the PPP becomes completely irrelevant.

And this brings us to the point. If the PPP leadership does not have the courage of conviction to sack Federal Ministers who cross the line to openly advocate murder, on what moral authority are they asking for our support?

The PPP became the most popular political party across the nation not because it campaigned on religious symbols, but because it campaigned on the substance of our religion. What is ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ if not the command of almighty Allah to care for the poor of society? Just as Islam was spread across the region not at the tip of a sword but by the demonstration of tolerance and love that was shown by earlier Muslims, the PPP’s popularity was gained not through threats and intimidation but by fighting for the rights of the country’s poorest and least powerful.

Bilawal’s passionate speech on the martyrdom of Salmaan Taseer Shaheed exemplified the type of courageous and inspirational leadership that the people are desperate for – one that stands up for justice without fear, not when it is toeing the popular line, but when it stands out. In this, he has reminded the people of his mother who never pretended to be an extremist to gain popular support, but rather watered the roots of tolerance and democracy with her own life’s blood.

We have seen this courage in other recent PPP leaders, also: Salmaan Taseer Shaheed, Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed, Sherry Rehman, Farahnaz Ispahani. We have heard it in the statements of Ahmad Mukhtar and Nadeem Afzal Chan, both of them unwavering in speaking out against the sectarianism that is ripping our nation apart at the seams. This should be the public face of what is supposed to be the nation’s largest liberal party, not appeasement and parroting.

There is another, less popular quotation from Mr Edmund Burke that bears remembering as well: “I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.” The PPP does not need to sacrifice tolerance to align itself with the religion of the masses, it only needs to faithfully stick to its founding principles. Doing otherwise is a losing strategy.

The Unintentional Shaheed

We as a nation are facing a crisis in thought. The level of critical thinking that drives the major discussions of the day is not only dismal, but also useless to informing and educating our public.

I was struck by the misuse of the hallowed title of shaheed in our national discourse. In Pakistan, the word “shaheed” is employed by extremists to justify and defend their horrific agenda to the country, the world, and most importantly, to the young children – their recruits – whom they convince of the Islamic merits of cold-blooded murder. Progressives use the word shaheed as well, but there is a stark difference: the extremist wants to die and wants to kill, and the progressive is the one who loses his life in the fight for bettering the lives of others. For us progressives, we never intend to be martyrs, but we simply become shaheed.

To the extremists, a martyr is one who straps bombs to his body, waiting for when the bazaars are full and lively, before gleefully detonating. To the extremists, the gunmen who kill UN workers, the suicide bombers who kill men and women at a bus stop,those who consider Shias and Ahmedis to be Wajib-ul-Qatl do so as “proper Muslims.” And should they die in the process, they are to be considered the holy shaheed, forever sanctified in the twisted minds of the terrorists.

What can be as heartbreaking as the deafening silence of my compatriots when innocent people are slaughtered by the thousands, and they refuse to unite and push back against evil?

When there are voices for change, and people calling for reform, they are violently silenced. Governor Salmaan Taseer Shaheed was assassinated for stating the cruel blasphemy laws needed to be reformed, for making the very valid point that the law has been misused and innocent people have died because of it. But who in Pakistan has the time for contemplating valid points, for looking at history to see Zia made this draconian law, not our Prophet (pbuh)? Not media pundits. Not the maulvis on every street corner. His murderer, his own bodyguard, feels no remorse because he is comforted by the ideological monsters who continue to praise him. The Minister of Minority Affairs, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated because he was a Christian minister in the President’s Cabinet. In the eyes of his killers, that was his only crime and more than enough reason to damn him.

They did not know they would be shaheed that day, while the terrorists plan for months. The Governor stood up for the principle of justice for all, and it cost him his life. Our people die in the streets daily, but the stories disappear as the next news cycle begins. We as a society should never stand for the killers being called “shaheed.” It goes against the very heart and soul of Islam, and it ought to go against our own humanity.

We are in a miserable time indeed; the jahalat runs as profusely as the blood of innocent Pakistanis. It is time we stood up against it, and stopping the misuse of “shaheed” is just one way to begin.

Hum Sub Bhutto Hain

Bhutto at courtOn this thirty-second death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, allow me a moment to reflect on the meaning of this occasion without judgment. Bear with me whatever your political affiliation. I come to bury Bhutto, not to praise him.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a man. Like all men, he had his strengths and his failings also. Like very few men, though, he left a lasting impression on his country. When he founded Pakistan People’s Party in 1967, he did so under a revolutionary idea – that all power should reside with the people, not an elite.

Recall that this was a different time than today. There was no pan-Islamic democratic movement, and his rise followed a long line of dictators and martial law administrators. Actually, he too would be followed by one of the most damaging military dictators the country has suffered through. Bhutto had to know always that this idea of democracy would not be so easily put in place, and that the struggle would cost him dearly.

And yet, he willingly made this sacrifice. He went out every day knowing that it could be his last because he knew what was right for his country had to be done. He knew that if he, with all of his privilege, was not willing to sacrifice, how could anyone else be expected to?

I have been thinking about the words of Bilawal on Sunday:

We know our great martyrs lives will not be avenged if any insignificant man alone is held responsible. For us to have our revenge we must insure that the circumstances that allowed for Shaheed Bhutto’s Judicial murder never arise again. For us to take revenge of Shaheed BB’s assassination we must defeat the forces of violent extremism and dictatorship that together assassinated my mother. To do this we must dedicate our lives to the establishment of a fully functioning democracy in Pakistan.

I contend that this sentiment holds true not only for avenging the death of ZAB, but of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto also. And not only for Bhuttos, but for the 50 people who were martyred at the shrine of Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar; for the 12 year old boy killed by a suicide bomber at Dara Adam Khel; and for the thousands of innocent Pakistani men, women, and children who have been killed by ruthless madmen who use violence as a tool of power. The only revenge is not through violence, but through the continued struggle for justice, equality, democracy, and basic human rights for all Pakistanis.

In the 1990s, militias roamed southern Mexico, slaughtering the peaceful people as a means of control through fear and violence. An Army rose up and defeated these death squads not with bullets, but with something more powerful – the idea of freedom and human rights. The leader of this band of revolutionaries was not a famous athlete, a business tycoon, or a media celebrity. He wore a mask at all times and was known only as ‘Marcos’ or ‘Delegado Cero’ (Delegate Zero). As can be expected from such a mysterious figure, journalists, intelligence agents, and politicians all demanded to know the identity of the rebel leader. Soon, a slogan began to appear painted on the walls in cities and villages across Mexico: “Todos somos Marcos”. “We are all Marcos.”

Bilawal ended his speech to the PPP CEC with the slogan, ‘Jiye Bhutto’. This is meant to invoke the unbending spirit of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who sacrificed their lives for the ideal of social progress and democracy. But these two martyrs of Pakistan are not the only ones who show that strength of purpose. It is that same determination of spirit that makes each of us go out each day to continue working to build a free and prosperous Pakistan for the future of our children. That fire in Bhutto’s heart is the same fire in our own hearts that drives us to sacrifice for our country and to never, never give up on the promise of Jinnah’s vision.

And so, on this 32nd death anniversary of Bhutto I borrow the words of William Shakespeare:

I speak not to disprove what others say,
but here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Bhutto once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Bhutto,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

As I look out the window onto my country torn by distrust, fear, and the violence of ambitious men who will stop at nothing to stop the rise of democracy, I realize that on this death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it is not one person only that I honour, but many. It is for Hussain Ali Yousufi, Imran Farooq, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti. It is the thousands of brave soldiers and police who willingly risk their lives to defend the freedom of their country and their people. It is the spirit of democracy that lives on in us all.

Hum Sub Bhutto Hain. Pakistan Zindabad.

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?

Latest Victim of CIA/Blackwater Assassins?

We don’t know for certain, but it appears that the CIA/Blackwater assassins have taken their latest victim. Mohammad Imran was sitting at a bus stop in Danda Village when three foreign agents approached him and gunned him down for passing ‘insulting’ remarks against the holy prophet (PBUH) during a discussion at a village café.

I say that we don’t know for certain only because there is absolutely no actual evidence of CIA/Blackwater involvement in this case. But based on what we have learned from such luminaries as Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Hasan, and Hamid Gul, we are able to know that CIA/Blackwater agents are responsible for killing those such as Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who are against the blasphemy law.

This is obviously due to the intense Muslim piety of CIA/Blackwater agents who cannot stand to hear any insults passed against our Prophet (PBUH). It also explains why, despite the country crawling with Raymond Davis’s out hunting blasphemers and their sympathizers, the leaders and supporters of groups like Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa can walk the streets safely. They know they will never be touched by the CIA/Blackwater assassins who share their beliefs.

Thanks to these wise men, we know that CIA/Blackwater only targets Pakistani liberals. When those liberals get too out of hand and become ‘liberal extremists’, then the CIA/Blackwater assassins take out their Glocks and their masks and set out to kill them in cold blood.

I know there has been some confusion about this thanks to the propaganda of these ‘liberal extremists’ in the media. Thankfully, some brave souls in media are willing to tell the truth. Shireen Mazari speaks out against the “so-called ‘westernised elite’ [who come] out to protest and hold vigils for those murdered by alleged religious extremists but fails to act in a similar fashion to protest the killing of innocent people by drones in Fata, or the regular kidnappings and abuse of Hindus in Sindh.”

Exactly right, Dr Mazari. Thank you for having the courage to recognize in black and white that it is ridiculous to accuse religious extremists for murdering people. We all know that religious extremists in Pakistan would never murder anyone, it is only CIA/Blackwater that murders innocent people. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipah-e-Sahaba are merely youth development clubs for practising English and good manners! Hindus are truly lucky to have such a bold defender as Shireen Mazari looking out for them.

It also explains why certain ‘intelligence sources‘ have been able to see the foreign hand at work at in the assassination of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. As it was explained in Jang, these foreign agents made a fatal mistake by using the name Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab. First of all, everyone knows that there are no killers in Punjab which is populated only by angels. Besides, the intelligence sources looked through their contact list of militant groups and could find no Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab registered.

The excellent evidence was also given that Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers “threw on the road the pamphlets with Kalma-e-Tayyaba printed on them and also the name of the holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after killing Shahbaz Bhatti. No Muslim can ever think of dropping on ground such sacred material however”.

This is clearly true. No Muslim can ever think of dropping on the ground such sacred material. Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman Imran Yousafzai was clearly mistaken when we sent a press release saying,

Hizb ut-Tahrir has distributed hundreds of thousands of pamphlets in its campaign for Khilafat rallies, thousands of stickers, posters and poll cards have been pasted; thus this message has been already delivered to thousands of people.

No, it must be a mistake. Or a CIA/Blackwater plant. Or RAW. Certainly RAW is involved.

What is not a mistake, though, is that it has become unsafe to sit at the bus stop because you never know when a CIA/Blackwater assassin is going to shoot you for insulting the Prophet (PBUH). It has become unsafe to attend a Shia procession because CIA/Blackwater suicide bombers can not stand for partisans in their midst.

In fact, the safest thing for any Pakistani to do is to grow a beard, join your local lashkar, and support the establishment of a new caliphate. Because it seems this is the only way to stay out of the sights of the CIA/Blackwater terrorists who so much hate Pakistani liberals.

Right Fazlur Rehman?