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Pak heartland under attack
This is the first time that radical terrorists in Punjab operating under the command of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi attacked two places of worship of Ahmadis in Lahore killing around 97 innocent people offering their prayers according to their faith. Ahmadia movement headed by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was launched in the last decade of the 19th century in the Indian East Punjab and gradually spread throughout the province. After partition their leadership migrated to Pakistan with their headquarters at Rabwa. The people of Punjab were by and large against the Ahmadi movement which they considered against Islam. Nevertheless, they continued to survive as part of Muslim community as a separate sect with their own places of worship and beliefs.
However, as PNA agitation raged across the country against the rigging of elections in 1977. PNA gave a call for civil disobedience; Mr. Bhutto had no choice but to accept their demand of Islamization of the country’s governance. In a desperate move Mr. Bhutto announced some measures for Islamization of society for which PNA was agitating. These included complete prohibition in the country, ban on all kinds of gambling, shut down all bars and night clubs, Friday was declared the weekly holiday instead of Sunday, and Qadianis were declared non Muslims.
The Qadianis who were considered Muslims for about a century were converted into non Muslims by an Office Order of the government. Ever since then there have been several cases of Ahmadi bashing in the country by rabid fundamentalists who are under the influence of anti-Qadiani elements. Sometime back a rebel rousing anchor of a religious program on a private TV channel declared that Qadianis are “kafirs” and are wajeb-ul-qatl”. Some crackpot like the anchor was so influenced by his “Fatwa” that he killed two Qadiani medical doctors. The carnage in Lahore on a Friday was probably the worst in recent times. As people stood to offer their prayers at their two places of worship in Model Town and Garhi Shahu, gunmen armed with automatic rifles and hand grenades opened random fire killing, according the worshipers, 95 people on the spot. About one hundred were injured. It is not known as to how many of the seriously injured died later. Watching this mass murder, without a cause, live on TV was a horrifying experience. Covering this kind of carnage live, takes quite some time by TV channels as they have to deploy their camera teams in OB vans and cover the distance from TV centers to the point of the shooting which may have taken from half to one hour depending on the distance between the center and the point where the story was unfolding. This means that attackers had enough time to kill helpless people without any retaliation from the police or any security agency.
The bloody drama was unfolding as I switched on my TV set. The scene was horrifying. I saw a lone terrorist on top of the minaret of the worship place at Garhi Shahoo, shooting at random with his automatic rifle any body who passed in front of his sights. This man could have been easily shot by any armed policeman posted at the tower, but amazingly there was none. The point is if a cameraman could reach this point, why not a policeman? Isn’t this a tragic failure of the government for which it must be answerable to the families of the people who lost their lives in the “dark alleys of Lahore”.No Chief Minister or Governor visited the sight of the carnage nor condoled with the families of those killed. There is a practice that in such cases the government announces some monetary compensation for the families of those killed, but this too has not been done so far. True, they were non Muslims, but they were human beings and citizens of this country after all. In fact, Punjab has no government worth the name. How could there be? The Governor and the Chief Minister are daggers drawn at each other. A minister, who is tainted with charges of corruption over the ownership of a plaza in the city, calls the Governor “toilet paper”. The Governor also uses much worse words for the Chief Minister who is the brother of the main opposition leader who is an arch enemy of the President, who in turn doesn’t care a damn for any thing except his own and his cronies’ interests. The federal Interior minister is a convicted person whose bail has been cancelled by the court but the President has pardoned him. This is the position of the government of a country which is suffering from economic chaos, corruption of the top order, but most of all religious fanaticism, which is beyond government control and is the main cause of terrorism. Likewise, the economy too is beyond the government’s control due to its lavish expenditure on itself, despite the State Bank’s repeated warnings.
Nothing is working in the country except the Supreme Court, which is the last hope for the people to take notice of the Lahore carnage as well as the terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan unhindered. It seems that there are many powerful persons and groups in the government of Punjab which are not only ignoring their activities but encouraging them to commit terrorism to destabilize the country. It is worth mentioning that no religious party has condemned the Lahore massacre, nor do they ever deplore such bloodletting incidents anywhere in the country. Some terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba which have been nominally banned are openly organizing terrorist attacks on minorities, be they Christians or Ahmadies, but the government turns its face away. The Supreme Court may kindly take notice of this increasing culture of religious intolerance in the country which Quran has explicitly forbidden in four words “Your deen for you, my deen for me”.
A few days after the attacks on Ahmedi places of worship, 30 assailants burnt down 50 NATO supply vehicles near Tarnol transit camp of NATO supplies. This camp has been closed down now. Police sources say the terrorists were hiding in Fateh Jang. It was the first attack on NATO trucks in the federal capital territory and the second biggest yet. Another strike on NATO trucks had taken place in Peshawar where over 100 vehicles were destroyed.
According to sources, Islamabad police sent its initial reports to the interior minister on Wednesday, confirming that seven drivers and helpers sleeping in the vehicles had been killed. The question is why security arrangements were not made by the Punjab government for the safety of NATO supplies which are a very sensitive issue and have intolerant repercussions. It is quite understandable why US State department has declared Pakistan the world’s fifth most unstable country, better only than Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan in that order. The department’s Global Peace Index (GPI) reports that Pakistan’s overall score deteriorated steadily for the second successive year and it has slid three places into the bottom five. Pakistan’s overall rating now is 145 in the list of 149 countries. All South Asian nations occupy the lower half of the regional table, headed by Nepal, in 82nd place, India, although better than Pakistan, is also in the red zone and is ranked 128th. Embroiled in conflict and instability for much of the past two decades, Afghanistan remained far from peaceful during 2009. A sharp rise in Pakistan’s GPI indicator of the number of people killed in internal conflict and upward shifts in scores for the potential of terrorist acts, the likelihood of violent demonstrations and the homicide rate underline the extent to which the country became embroiled in violence that verged on civil war in 2009. Conflict also increasingly afflicted Baluchistan, parts of Punjab, Sind and Gilgit-Baltistan in 2009.