By Syed Kaswar Gardezi
18 September 2017
Fanaticism and fundamentalism are two co-related personas which, unfortunately, govern the rudimentary ethics of Pakistan. Ever since General Zia graced us with his presence, our beloved nation has lost itself in a battle of its own. Not a physical fight with an actual opponent, but rather a self-contained battle within one’s mind. The society at large stands confused between liberalism and religious extremism. It’s either this or that with no balance or common ground in sight.
It is one thing if fully grown adults act in a certain manner, but it is a cause for greater concern if children, especially during their vulnerable teenage, display intolerance and their minds are polluted with the idea of fanaticism. A few days back Pakistan witnessed another display of bigotry. Sharoon Masih, a 17 year old school going boy was beaten to death by his classmates in Vehari, South Punjab. The victim’s crime; drinking water from the same glass as a Muslim. It is a common feat to witness such incidents in Pakistan, especially nowadays.
Due to the, persistent, cultural norms which reflect no essence of humanity, our generations continue to bury bright shining souls such as Sharoon. The children of today are taught to use derogatory terms for religious minorities, be it Kafir or Chura. Despite proud proclamation of being part of the Prophet PBUH’s Ummat, this is the lesson we teach our children. Instead of tutoring them with the virtue of humanity and how to be tolerant towards the world, we drill societal phenomena’s effectively generating an intolerant cadre. The plight of Sharoon and others before him only generate a few condolences and condemnations and nothing else. At the most, an enquiry is ordered whose results remain awaited. The model town victims are one example of those still awaiting justice.
“You’re a Christian; don’t dare sit with us if you want to live”. Poor Sharoon had to endure these words, a few days, before the, promising, light in his eyes was extinguished forever. What do these words reflect? My answer would be a list of things that our society lacks; education, to begin with, clarity about religion, patience, tolerance and acceptance towards religious freedom. Even the Constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan by virtue of Article 20 states: Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions. The basic structure of the Constitution protects this fundamental right of the citizens and, yet, we remain pre-occupied debating on Articles 62 and 63.
Sharoon’s brutal murder isn’t the murder of an individual, rather it is the annihilation of humanity. From time to time the beloved citizens of Pakistan eliminate individuals based on their differing religious views. Only a few months back Mashal Khan was inhumanely beaten to death amidst allegations of blasphemy. Ironically, the subsequent investigations revealed no evidence to suggest blasphemy on part of Mashal. The pitiful fact which however remains is that these investigations could only reach a logical conclusion as they had been orchestrated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan through a Suo motu notice taken by the Chief Justice. Had this not been the case, the country would continue to have believed that a blasphemer got what he deserved.
The point is, how many of these Suo motus are required in order to bring about a lasting change. Any deplorable incident which misses the eyes of the Hon’ble lordships remains uninvestigated and is buried deep never to see light of the day again. Unfortunately, the Apex Court has its limits and it isn’t humanely possible for the Supreme Court to maintain law and order throughout the country. It is the prerogative of the state to ensure that, the very state currently busy chanting ‘Mujhe Kyun Nikala’ and ‘Mian Tere Janisar’.
An actual blasphemer is one thing but raising false allegations of blasphemy is an entirely different ball game. As the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui stated, there is a drastic need to legislate upon the aforementioned issue. Any person using the strict blasphemy laws of Pakistan in order to settle personal scores should be dealt with accordingly. After all it is a matter of life and death.
The rule of law which protects the fundamental rights of every citizen should prevail and in my opinion, John Austin’s command sanction theory should be adopted. Since only the threat of a sanction might work for the Pakistanis. How many more of the Christian couples burnt to death are needed to wake up the sleeping nation? How many Mashal Khan’s should be buried before the Pakistanis will blink? How many more mothers are required to see their Sharoons beaten to death before the Pakistanis will finally open their eyes?
Wake up! O beloved people of the country. Wake up and fight the wrong perceptions of the society. Wake up and rid your country of the intolerance within. Wake up and cleanse the souls of fanatics and fundamentalists present. Wake up and clarify the wrong perceptions about religion. Above all, wake up to save the minds of the people from decaying.
Until and unless we do not stop our reliance on others to take the lead, our country will never progress. The construction of a deep sea port at Gwadar isn’t the desired progress. The actual progress would be peace, prosperity and a tolerant society. In spite of dual carriageways being built, the construction of colleges and schools would be an actual contribution towards a progressive society. Though, a need to re-assess the current curriculum being taught also persists.
The mothers of today are duty bound to teach their children the basics of humanity and build harmony between them. Rather than focusing on the latest lawn prints in the market, if the women of our society took some time out and even taught the basics to the illiterate people working for them as helpers, then only we might be able to release ourselves from Zia ul Haq’s legacy.
Before embarking on an expedition to punish others, we forget the tolerance our religion teaches us.