By Najam Sethi
20 Mar 2015
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah has been turning in his grave for decades. All his life Mr Jinnah fought for the rights and protection of the Muslim minority community in India, eventually succeeding in creating a separate homeland for them called Pakistan. Indeed, in his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly of the new state of Pakistan, he pledged to protect the rights of non-Muslim minorities unequivocally as “equal citizens of the state”.
Unfortunately, however, the history of Pakistan shows that the principles of humanitarian Islam that were expected to guide the new state in safeguarding minorities have been distorted by the practitioners of Islam in Pakistan to erode the writ of the state in general and target the minorities in particular.
The suicide attack on two Christian churches in Youhanabad, a working class suburb of Lahore last week in which fifteen people lost their lives is part of an orchestrated campaign of attacks on sects and minorities like the Shias, Hindus, Christians, Hazaras, Ahmadis, etc, by “Islamists” with avowedly sectarian agendas. During 2012-14, there were 108 attacks on Shias (736 killed), 14 attacks on Hindus (2 killed), 54 attacks on Christians (135 killed), 50 attacks on Ahmadis (27 killed). From 1989 to 2015, there were 2979 sectarian attacks in which 5059 persons were killed and 9713 injured. These attacks have been carried out by various “Islamist” groups of the Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The remarkable thing is the ruling classes and state institutions of Pakistan have turned a blind eye to such acts and remain completely unsympathetic to the plight of the victim communities. It is rare for the state and government to crack down on such Islamists or to successfully capture and prosecute the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity, almost as if there is an unspoken conspiracy between the organs of the state like the police, bureaucracy, judiciary and civil society to “cleanse” the Islamist state of such deviants.
This is quite extraordinary since the definition of a “terrorist” in the Anti-Terrorist Act is focused squarely on “religious” cause and effect: “Terrorism means the use or threat of action where the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic case …involves serious violence against … a public servant”.
A prime example of the unspoken conspiracy in the bowels of the state to condone or dissemble “religious” motives regardless of their criminal nature and content was provided recently by a judgment of the Islamabad High Court that has dumbfounded all. The court has declared that Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of ex-Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, is not a terrorist. The court has completely ignored or denied the definition of a terrorist in the ATA as given above. It is also quite extraordinary how the judges came to the conclusion that the act of mowing down Mr Taseer in broad daylight in a public place did not create a sense of harassment and fear in society at large despite the public statement of the murderer that he meant to send exactly such a message to people like Mr Taseer and those who sympathized with his point of view. Mr Taseer was murdered for arguing that a Christian woman accused of blasphemy had been wrongly judged and sentenced to death by courts fearful of violent mullahs.
Until now, the conservative PMLN governments of Nawaz Sharif have been as lax in defending the rights of minorities as the pseudo-secular governments of the PPP. Indeed, the military establishment is actually guilty of protecting such Islamist groups because of their readiness to fight the military’s jihadist causes in Kashmir and Afghanistan. But the new military leadership under General Raheel Sharif has vowed to confront and undo all manner of terrorists who have laid Pakistan low, whether of the “Islamist” kind in FATA or the ethnic kind in Karachi. In the latter case, we have witnessed a ferocious crackdown on criminal elements in the MQM, raids on that holy of holies Nine Zero and confessional outpourings of MQM terrorists on death row. We’ve seen a new resolve to try and unravel the 2012 barbarous burning of Karachi’s Baldia factory in which 289 people lost their lives, and bring the perpetrators to book.
Why then, it needs to be asked, has General Sharif not used his righteous clout to degrade the sectarian terrorists who have besieged our minorities and are ruthlessly targeting them? When will the clean-up operation start against the killers of Shias, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Hazaras etc? When will the special laws designed to combat terrorism like the ATA, PPA and military courts spring into action and deliver on the promise and dream of the Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah? If the current military leadership’s policies are truly a departure from the dissembling, compromises, conciliations and criminal neglect of its predecessors, surely the time has come to tackle terrorists of all hue.