By Ayaz Amir
March 17, 2015
When their homes were ransacked in Gojra, where was the provincial sarkar? When Joseph Colony in Lahore was ransacked on patently trumped-up pretences – the usual blasphemy tool employed to whip up the passions of the mob – where was the government? When the Christian man and wife, labourers at a brick kiln, were thrown into a burning oven, where was the police?
So who is to blame the Christian community if after the two church suicide attacks in Lahore – 15 dead, scores injured – they take to the roads, damage public property and put two ‘suspects’ – of whom we know nothing and whose guilt cannot be established on the basis of mob hearsay – on fire? Horrifying of course but not too hard to understand…when governments act dumb and shirk responsibility, mob rule takes over.
When the general state of law and order is not what it should be but authority figures whizz past in long motorcades, guards to their left and right, public patience is tested. And when the slightest thing occurs, and this was no slight thing, anger comes spilling over.
Every time a Shia Imambargah is attacked, dark images of revenge flit through the minds of Shia youths. This is the soil we tilled, and this the harvest we are lifting. The great theorists of strategic depth, the bright-eyed promoters of ‘jihad’ as an instrument of state policy, have much to answer for. If there was any justice in Pakistan they would be stood up in a public square and made to answer for their theories…whose exposition has brought this country to this pass.
Let us never forget that it was the army and the security institutions that pushed Pakistan to the right, stoking the fires of religious extremism, and promoting a particular brand of Islam, as it was only that brand – the Salafist mindset – and no other which responded to the siren calls of Afghan and then Kashmir ‘jihad’.
Some comfort, however, is to be drawn from the fact that it is the army, under a different leadership, which is now leading the fight back, the return from ‘jihad’. Civilians and the political class add up to little in the Islamic Republic, except when it comes to promoting their financial and commercial interests. As the sponsor and begetter of extremism, it was only the army which could take on religious extremism along the north-western marches and the ‘secular’ brand of terrorism down south in Karachi.
For long the army dithered and public frustration, nay despair, mounted because even as the forces of extremism were on the march, striking at will where they wanted, the state seemed to have lost all direction and set purpose. Hopefully, this is now changing, the army finally taking the bit in its teeth.
We know all too well that the elected government would not have ordered the march on North Waziristan. No elected government would have ordered the raid on that peaceful centre of international renown, Nine Zero. It was only the army and agencies acting on its orders like the Rangers which could have done so.
Even the provincial governments are being kept in a straight line through the apex committees. Call it ‘soft coup’ or whatever. What is happening was the minimum necessary because for all its panoply of nuclear deterrence, missile capability and now drone technology, Pakistan was being undone from within. If the army had not moved when it did we stood in danger of going over the edge.
The reservations or the half-hearted support of the political class should be the least of the army’s worries. The important thing is that public opinion overwhelmingly is with it – maybe not in Balochistan but in the other provinces certainly. The sheepish, long-faced attitude of the political leadership therefore does not matter.
The one cause of concern is the depth of the army’s conversion. Farewell to ‘jihad’ should, logically, also apply to the eastern front and to such outfits as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah. The JuD may be doing wonderful relief and philanthropic work. No one should stop it from that. Verbal fireworks in support of the Kashmir cause fall under the ambit of free speech. Who has the right to curtail that?
But anything in the nature of militancy would be out of step with the times. Hafiz Saeed is a patriot and an ultra-nationalist. All the more reason for him and his outfit to recognise that the era of ‘jihad’ as hitherto practiced is over…that is, if Pakistan is to get out of the woods and set a new course for itself.
The other cause of concern is Afghanistan. We should strive for peace there and do what we can to strengthen the legitimate government. But seeking influence there is a mug’s game. Guided by God knows what nostrums or guidebooks on strategy we have sought influence there for the last 30-35 years and got not just our fingers but our face burned in the process. If we conduct ourselves rationally we will get all the influence that we want, or can safely manage.
Let us also remember history. Afghanistan has always cast a shadow on the Subcontinent; it has not been the other way round. True, Afghanistan was a part of the Mughal Empire and Maharaja Ranjit Singh wrested Peshawar from the Afghans (Afghanistan passing out of the orbit of Delhi after Nadir Shah’s devastating invasion). We are neither Mughals nor in our ranks is there anyone like the one-eyed Maharaja of Lahore.
We have piled up too much muck in the name of ideology. Whatever the heavy-duty rhetoric employed in the Pakistan movement, Jinnah at least wanted this to be a land where caste and creed would not matter. How the dykes of bigotry nonetheless were raised is a long story. But we are paying the price of our folly. Every attack on a church, every assault on an Imambargah, stands as an indictment of the course we have followed.
Now led by the army the return journey begins, back to what this country could have been…if only we could have thought things through for ourselves and not been the coollies and bag-carriers, the readiest of satellites, of outside powers. Here’s to trusting that we make it.
I almost forgot...Bashar al-Assad has stood his ground in Damascus and the Syrian army through its travails has become a battle-hardened force. So much so that our American friends are slowly beginning to realise that eventually they will have to deal with Assad. This is what comes from fortitude and resolve. There is a lesson in this for us and our army.
Tailpiece One: Isn’t it time the media cast off some of its fear when it comes to Karachi? In which other country would the media be giving such endless airtime to speeches and to entities whose hands have been steeped in blood, torture and violence? The raid on Nine Zero was a big thing. It should herald the dawn of a new era.
Tailpiece Two: The mystery surrounding the Model Town carnage stands resolved. The chief minister knew nothing about it. Rana Sanaullah of course had nothing to do with it. Tauqir Shah, sent post-haste as WTO ambassador, was clueless. No police officer received instructions or gave the order to fire. On sound authority it is now learnt that angels descended on Lahore that day, putting blinders on the eyes of the police and through occult powers of suggestion making the police open fire on the protesters. As Attaullah Esakhelvi would say ‘Sab Maya Hai…’