Freedom to Kill, Taliban Style

Shia in Arabic
Shia in Arabic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To say that the murder of 82 of our fellow citizens is an atrocity is stating the obvious: But to make the Laskar-e-Jhangvi and members of other such monstrosities to see it as a monstrous act is another questions. How did we get here? What has brought us to a place in our history where one group from amongst us declares another “killable” and then goes on to perform a cowardly act of murder? And all in the name of religion?

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a monstrosity that arose from Sipa-e-Sahjaba in 1996, the organization that was launched by  Maulana Jhangvi during the time of Zia-ul-Haq.  Lshkar is a  group of brainwashed sunni youth fed upon the myths of shia practices that, somehow, insult the three of the four caliphs. There is no truth to these claims, but when it comes to indiscriminate killing of minorities, it seems, truth happens to be the first casuality. That most of our Sunni Ulama are openly hostile to their Shia brothers and sisters is beyond doubt. Even some as learned as Dr, Israr Ahmed displayed a pathological hatred of the shia. What distinguishes the Lashkar is that the entire edifice of their bloody politics is built around an open hatred of the shia.

While it is absolutely fine to have differences of opinion and have an open discussion about issues of right and wrong, sacred and profane, the current practices in Pakistani public sphere about all minority groups–Muslim-or non-Muslim–have left the so-called “state of exception” and become the norm. This should not come to us as a surprise, especially since we have allowed our mullahs to use their mosques to spew hate about other groups  without any legal or governmental restraint to their rhetorical acts of terror against other citizens of Pakistan.

The tragedy in Quetta, is, therefore,  not just an event; it is a symptom of our larger problems. It is also a reminder that no religion, no matter how pure and unsullied can bring us peace and love if its practitioners do not want to practice peace and love. It is sadly ironic that when we are asked about Islam, we always tell people that Islam means “the religion of peace” but in our every day lives, those who have hijacked the so-called Islamic identity understand only the politics of death and destruction. Obviously, we are to blame for this. In the last sixty years as a nation we have neither altered the socioeconomic hierarchy of our inherited colonial national identity, nor have we been able to construct a public sphere of civilized discourse. And now, surprisingly, the most vengeful and hateful elements of our religion have somehow taken it upon themselves to force upon us a nightmarish interpretation of the very sacred core of our religion.

I know this atrocity has brought a large number of Pakistanis to the streets to condemn these attacks and to stand in solidarity with their shia brothers and sisters. We need more of this solidarity. And we need a perpetual critique of every action that the murderers perform and we need to challenge them at every step, for what they do, have done, and propose to do is not Islam, and if this is the only interpretation of Islam then we are all doomed. A religion without love has no hope to create a transformative way of life. I do not think Islam is a religion without love: one glance at the life of the Prophet is enough to teach us that “muhabbh” is the ultimate essence of Islam.

So, let us force these lashkaris and their sympathizers to show us if they are truly Muslim. We need to ask them to show us something more than death and destruction and we need to ask them about love.



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A Shameful Foreign Policy: Deploying Pakistani Troops In Bahrain

The news trickling out of Pakistan suggest that Pakistan is seriously considering deploying Pakistan Army to aid the dictators of Bahrain against their own people. This, obviously, is a humiliating and troubling turn in Pakistani foreign policy: it will put us on the wrong side of history and make our army into a mercenary force for hire by powerful tyrants.

Reportedly, the  foreign minister of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, is visiting Pakistan to sort out the details. The Saudis, it is reported, have also put pressure on Pakistan and promised financial help or Pakistan in return for “lending” their troops to put down the popular uprising in Bahrain. It is also being argued that there are more than 30, 000 Pakistani workers in Bahrain and it is, therefore, in Pakistan’s interest to stabilize the regime there.

Yes, we know Pakistani economy is in trouble and we know Pakistan relies heavily on Saudi aid, but does that mean Pakistan’s army is available to rent for all non-democratic, non-representative, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East? The people of Bahrain have risen against their government: it is their right to do so. They are asking for equality, nondiscrimination, and equal rights for the Shia majority: that is their right, too.

The entire Middle East is in a democratic furor; we should not be the people who stand against this tide. Our army should not side with the tyrants and dictators and if they do so then it would be a sad and shame-filled episode in the history of Pakistan. We cannot even plead that the army has no say in the matter: they always have a say in political matters. If the Pakistan army deploys to Bahrain, it means the army leadership went along with the government’s decision, for they do not have a spectacular history of following the mandates of popularly elected governments if the don’t want to.

This is where the media and people of Pakistan must assert themselves: we must insist that our army shall not become a mercenary force deployed to support the petty dictators in the Middle East. No honorable military force will accept such a mission, nor would a democratically elected government, no matter what the size of the proverbial carrot offered by the Saudis, become a party to supporting dictatorship against the will of the people.

So, let us hope our leaders–military and civilian–will pause a little before committing Pakistan to the wrong and shameful side of history.