New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 August 2015
• Legacies and Loudspeakers
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
• From Scotland to Pakistan, My Journey to Solitude
By Ishrat Ansari
Legacies and Loudspeakers
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
August 20, 2015
There were two high profile deaths over the past week. Former DG-ISI Hamid Gul and the Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada both bade us au revoir in contrasting circumstances, leaving divergent legacies behind. Despite the disparity in the tenures of their last official designations, both had pivotal roles in Pakistan’s war against Jihadism. On opposing sides, as history would testify.
With eulogies – and ignominies – being published since the two deaths, this piece wouldn’t waste anyone’s time with obituaries. However, the two men and the juxtaposition of their roles in state security, does give us all an intriguing opportunity for crystal-gazing.
Shuja Khanzada was killed on Sunday, along with 16 others, following a suicide bombing at his political office near Attock. It was evident that he had made too many enemies – which isn’t particularly different to do if you’re spearheading an anti-terror drive in Punjab; or any other part of the country for that matter. The preliminary report presented by law enforcement agencies even suggests that Khanzada’s killing was ‘retaliation to Malik Ishaq’s killing’.
Khanzada, who had arrested over 3,000 people for chanting ‘Shia kafir, Shia kafir’ since his appointment as the home minister in October 2014, pulled no punches while condemning the mullahs, who he has earmarked on record as being ‘responsible for destroying the country’.
That Information Minister Pervez Rasheed was issued the most public of death threats for merely a factual statement about madrasas being ignorance hubs, around the same time that Khanzada was issuing mullahs ultimatums, should suffice in elaborating the home minister’s bravado – fatal, though it unfortunately turned out to be.
It was the valiant drive to rid mosques of all superfluous loudspeakers that should be considered the magnum opus of Shuja Khanzada’s anti-terrorism work, one that must be pursued with equal vigour by his successors.
General Gul has had a long-lasting impact on mosques as well – one that Khanzada’s anti-terror drive had begun to undo. Following Gul’s ascendancy as Pakistan’s spymaster in 1987, the hate-brewing loudspeakers – both proverbial and actual – witnessed unprecedented hike. This surge in hate speech was necessitated by the state’s – as it turned out – suicidal policy of breeding jihadists to fight proxy wars left, right and centre. Literally.
Making the ever-ready mullah a political influencer was pivotal in numbing the senses of the masses and enabling wholehearted approval for murderous Friday sermons, in order to muster widespread support for Jihadism – as domestic and foreign policy. Jihad, which was already hogging young minds through decades’ worth of bigoted curricula, was then rammed inside their soul via acquiescing eardrums, as the 80s immersed into the 90s and heralded the advent of the Taliban.
As is the norm, high-profile deaths accompany sweeping obituaries that credit – or blame – the deceased for everything under the sun. While General Gul might have been one of the many godfathers of the Taliban, his role wasn’t any less pivotal in the creation of that multi-headed monster than the Benazir government of the time and the then interior minister Naseerullah Babar – the ‘Taliban architect’.
General Gul’s part in proliferating armed jihad, both during his tenure and afterwards, however, was second to none. And as mentioned above, sieging nationwide mosques with a jihadist drive, laid the foundation of Pakistan’s decades-long plunge into the Islamist quagmire.
The fact that anti-Islamist and anti-jihadist movement, that the National Action Plan (NAP) touts itself to be, isn’t labelled as such is also owing to the mullah’s agenda that has reverberated over the past three decades. This agenda propagated an unflinching obsession with Islam, and made jihad synonymous with life. It is those ultra-religious sensibilities that prevent the popular use of terms like ‘Islamists’ and ‘jihadists’ to address religious militants in our neck of the woods.
Khanzada, of course, was perfectly cognisant of the fact that it’s precisely these defensive sensibilities, reserved for anything that self-manifested in an Islamic shroud, which had resulted in Pakistan taking a decade – and 70,000 murders – to decide that the Taliban are actually an existential threat to the state. It is the same immunity that religious thugs have enjoyed for over a quarter of a century, that allows Abdul Aziz and Hafiz Saeed to roam free, and for Mumtaz Quadri to feel perfectly safe, despite committing a murder in broad daylight, as lesser mortals are pushed to the gallows in increasing numbers.
Khanzada’s no-nonsense approach to religious extremism conspicuously identified the fertilizers nourishing jihadist roots: Takfir and the politicising of Islam. He identified mosques as bigotry hubs and hence was en route to cleansing them.
Despite Khanzada’s wholehearted Facebook eulogy for Hamid Gul, or Army Chief Raheel Sharif attending his funeral – we seem to forget that he was after all a general and a former head of the ISI – it is evident that the narrative being created by the state limits mullah’s political role. It will take time to create a counter-narrative to an ideology that spread its tentacles over a quarter of a century.
While General Gul transformed mosques into factories of jihad, the counter-narrative will hopefully return them to worship places, where individual faith is manifested, leaving politics, foreign policy, and, most of all, organised violence outside its realm. The mullah needs to be returned to the stature of a faith guide – should the faithful decide to consider him as such – not a militant or an adjudicator giving verdicts on other people’s right to life.
Any anti-terror drive that ignores the hatred and bigotry proliferated by mosque loudspeakers would keep General Gul’s jihadist legacy very much alive, making the National Action Plan a pompous show dedicated to repeatedly hitting on the tip of the Islamist iceberg.
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a member of staff.
From Scotland to Pakistan, My Journey to Solitude
By Ishrat Ansari
August 19, 2015
An epiphany results in one deciding their goals in life. It dictates your thought-process in a way that it becomes your aim in life to achieve it. Hence, I had my epiphany while I watching a drama being shot in Scotland.
We all go through the phase where we believe certain actions might be the solutions to our problems. My aim in life was to live in the beautiful territory known as Scotland. The country brings with it allure and beauty in terms of nature, the magic of the landscape weaves into the minds of all the people who’ve visited this majestic piece of land on earth.
After working for a couple of years for an English newspaper, I had started applying for post-graduate programs. Finally, I received my acceptance from a university in Edinburgh, Scotland. I felt like all my prayers had been answered, as I was eagerly waiting for this. I believed Scotland would satisfy the craving for independence in me. However, I had forgotten that with every action comes a reaction. Scotland too had a price for me to pay.
While I was busy packing and preparing to bid adieu to Pakistan and set on this self-actualising journey, I bragged about the bigger picture that came with this opportunity, and that was travelling across Europe. But, I overlooked one vital fact, how long can I live away from my family?
I entered the University of my Dreams and embraced the architectural beauty, in addition to the stunning scenic beauty this land has to offer. I had it all going for me. I mingled with people from different ethnicities and backgrounds, each presenting a flavour of their region, be it Estonia, America, China, Spain, Netherlands and Northern Ireland.
On the other hand, as a Pakistani woman, I thought it was my duty to portray my land as a liberal progressive country, unlike the strong misconceived notion in regards to women oppression.
During the day time, university life was surely exciting due to the variety of its classes and lectures; however, the evenings were torturous. Little did I know that the same burgers, pastas and pizzas that were once the permanent fixtures in my cravings would be replaced by homemade Daal Chawal, which I used to detest, back home. I was homesick.
I was living in this beautiful place called Currie Vale in Edinburgh for three weeks. The commute from the bus stop to my place was quiet a long walk. It was awfully dark when I left, and equally dark when I arrived. The stress of adjusting to a land where you’re a complete stranger ends up taking a toll. I despised the long walks. I hated the darkness. I felt as if I live in a haunted house and the howling winds further strengthened my fear.
The leaves I imagined walking barefoot on were merely a figment of my imagination. I was drowned in my books and studies. All the beauty I was surrounded with did not move me, specifically not the way I had thought they would. None of this majestic beauty touched me. I was alone.
After graduation, I moved to London in sight of better opportunities. I worked in London for two years; I did have my share of fun there, but only on the weekdays. The loneliness and boredom did bounce back again on the weekends.
The feeling of loneliness was not only unbearable, but even highly daunting. It was high time for me to pack my bags and return to my homeland, Pakistan. I believed I would achieve my solace by returning to my family, or for that matter, starting my own family.
I decided t0 get married, as I felt this would put an end to my loneliness. I was wrong. Marriage was not the solution. In fact, this journey also has its share of ups and downs. I was suicidal and this agony is what brought me face to face with the harsh reality – depression. I was depressed.
I replaced this realisation with walking and exercising, which turned out to be a good decision. I made some really good friends in these morning walks. Writing became my medium to vent my inner feelings. Time heals the deepest wounds; it even cured my depression.
My two cents to the readers of this blog is that if any of you do feel the same emotion, do not think anti-depressants are the cure. Search for options that provide long-term solutions to your problems. Get busy, do something entertaining, anything that you enjoy, cut ties with toxic relations that brings negativity in your life, work towards achieving beauty inside-out, make your soul strong in order to face all the hardships that would come your way.
My journey of self-discovery has not been easy. It has been a bumpy ride of solitude, but the destination is what matters, and I achieved that. I found peace.
I hope that all of you reach your destinations too.