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ROVER’S DIARY: Killing fields — Babar Ayaz
Many of my writer and journalist friends are sad, angry and frustrated. Yes, sad because we are a sensitive and humane bunch and have equal love for all, without distinction of religion, sect, nationality and race
Once again I have fallen on the thorns of the killing fields of Pakistan. I am bleeding. This time over 80 Ahmedis were killed in two attacks on their places of worship in Lahore. Sorry, the law forbids me to call their worship places ‘mosques’ and the killed namazis. Such are the laws of the land of the pure, although they are in violation of the basic principle of the constitution that grants equal rights to the people and freedom of expression. And these laws conflict with the UN Charter of Human Rights.
Target killings on ethnic, political and sectarian basis in Karachi; killing of teachers in Balochistan; killing of the Baloch; missing Baloch nationalists; killing of people by the Taliban in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; all those killed are my own people. Even the misled intolerant suicide bombers are of us. And each time a person is killed, something in me snaps.
My cardiologist who I visited for a checkup last Friday says that in Pakistan we live in depressing times. My psychiatrist friend Dr Haroon Ahmed endorses this statement. He says the number of patients who suffer from depression have almost doubled in the last few years. He is conducting a study on the rise in post-trauma mental disorders and the rise in psychosomatic physical disorder cases. Most such cases are not reported. But Dr Ahmed feels that many people in the urban society are taking tranquillisers. All lessons into positive thinking and optimism are dampened by the reigning grief on such days, which are brought live into our households.
Every time intolerance and violence wins over life, my soul is tormented and reminds me of Ghalib: Mujeh kya bura tha marna jo yeh aik bar hota. But then, perhaps, it is not only I; such killings quietly shatter the nerves of most people. It is only that different people pay different tolls. Many of my writer and journalist friends are sad, angry and frustrated. Yes, sad because we are a sensitive and humane bunch and have equal love for all, without distinction of religion, sect, nationality and race. Angry, because we have seen how the shortsighted policies of our successive rulers have sowed the seeds of intolerance and violence in this society. Frustrated, because the obscurantists who preach intolerance have access to the pulpit, madaris and air-time more than the voices of rationality in this country.
No doubt it is important to find out who did it; it is also equally essential to dig out and punish the forces behind terrorism. After every such sectarian killing, our leaders usually say that no Muslim could have done such a thing. Are we not being ostrich-headed? Or, are our leaders trying to tell people that non-Muslims are senseless killers?
In Friday’s killings, the targets were the Ahmedis. Many religious groups live on spitting fire and brimstone against them every day, and the state quietly watches them condescendingly. A large section of the media reports the statements of the hate-mongers with impunity. Of late, some blogs have been targeting them for conspiracies against Pakistan. Even some TV anchors of religious programmes declare Ahmedis as non-Muslims and condemn them for blasphemy. After one such programme, two Ahmedis were killed in Sindh. Each month there are target killings of Ahmedi and Shia doctors in Sindh and Punjab. Neither the popular news channel banned the aalim, nor the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), which is supposed to take notice of such things, took any action.
I think that brings us to the most crucial question: why? Yes, why one Muslim sect considers other Muslim sects apostate and thus liable to death? Why have they the right to decide who is Muslim and who is not? Why human life has lost its value? Why so many people tend to believe that it is the work of a foreign hand or the agencies? Why are we shy to face the reality that even many people sitting in our parliament and the judiciary are bigots? Why so many people are willing to blow themselves up?
Briefly, I can say that there is a broad consensus among the intelligentsia that, for years, the establishment has supported and nourished the extremists. Saudiaisation of our otherwise tolerant Islam in Pakistan has nourished intolerance in the country. All sects and religious minorities have the right to believe in their own interpretation of Islam, but nobody should have the right to preach hatred against another sect. It is easy to say but hard to implement unless there is broad consensus among all the institutions of the state.
Quickly, on what is to be done. First and foremost, nationalise all madaris and convert them to normal schools. Purge them of the extremist teachers who preach jihad against the state and other sects. Second, all school syllabi should be cleansed of any material that inculcates religious hatred against other religions. Third, no political or religious party should be allowed to spread hatred through the media and the mosques. Last, and most important, Pakistan should be declared a secular state. All sectarian amendments inserted by Mr Bhutto and General Ziaul Haq, which discriminate against a section of society, should be struck off.
The terrorists psyche is built on hatred. To fight it, let us take solace in Rumi’s poetry:
Let us fall in love again
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org