Editorials in Pakistan Newspapers
Deadly Ideology: Killing Of Churchgoers
Sept 23 2013
THERE are moments when the full force of the threat that stalks this land hits with a sickening intensity. Yesterday was one of those moments — a depressing, shocking, violent attack that made it apparent, as though a reminder was needed, of just how far this country has drifted from the ideals and principles upon which it was created. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan is not dead, for Christians still congregated in Peshawar yesterday to celebrate the Sunday mass. But the suicide bombers who attacked the All Saint’s Church and killed innocent, ordinary citizens were trying to kill Jinnah’s Pakistan. If this country is to survive and emerge one day as an embodiment of its founding father’s ideals, there can be no room for extremists, terrorists and militants. There is truly an either/or scenario for this country: either the terrorists are defeated or the Pakistan that the majority of the country wants will be lost forever.
The targeting of Christians may seem to some as a new front being opened by the militants, but in fact it is logical progression of the extremist ideology. Be it other sects within Islam or other religions, the violent extremist wants to eliminate all others and produce a homogenous society in which only a particular version of Islamic interpretation rules over the people. The hatred and bigotry embedded in the extremist ideology is not just about foreigners, but also about the majority of Pakistanis themselves. Be it Shias, Ismailis, Barelvis, non-Muslims or anyone else deemed to be outside the pale of radical Islam as practiced by the militants and terrorists, everyone is a target. Until that reality is absorbed by the country’s political leadership — that what confronts the country is a murderous ideology — there can be no real understanding of why Pakistan has been so wracked by violence. And without that understanding, there cannot begin to be a solution.
For a week that began with the killing of an army general and ended with the murder of scores of Christians, the inevitable question is where does that leave the nascent dialogue process with the TTP? If dialogue was at the outset very unlikely to succeed, what chances of success are there now? Perhaps the most discouraging aspect about the dialogue process is the national political leadership’s abject surrender before the Taliban. Even yesterday voices were heard suggesting that the church bombing was an attempt to undermine the dialogue process. When deferring to the enemy trumps honouring your dead, what hope for peace, dialogue or anything of the like?
Baptised In Blood
September 23, 2013
Those who rule us should hang their heads in collective shame, when suicide bombers can enter a church in Peshawar and kill over 70 worshippers. The number is sure to rise as many of the 120 injured are in critical condition. If any of us professes shock that such an attack could take place here, that humanity could sink so low, their surprise will ring hollow. Even though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack as these lines are written, the answer to that question doesn’t really matter. All of us can guess; it is the same forces that have struck before – in many places, and in many ways. We have become a country where identity – be it religion, ethnicity or gender – can be the difference between being allowed to live and having a permanent death sentence hanging over you. Christians are massacred while they pray, Shias are hauled out of buses and killed over belief and women are murdered, raped and humiliated because of traditional notions of ‘honour’. The Christians – as patriotic and as Pakistani as any of us – have hardly ever been involved in controversies and have generally chosen to keep a relatively low profile, speaking out only peacefully about the ceaseless social, economic and religious discrimination in their face. Have they been targeted because of their association with the ‘west’ and the notion that they have links with the Christians in the US and other nations? Who can assume that the madness that drives some to mow down human beings like that is immune to this brand of hatred?
The perfunctory words of condemnation that were issued by the politicians after the church attack are no longer enough. Sending a few government officials to the site of the attack – as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did by sending Interior Minister ChaudhryNisar Ali Khan and as the PTI leadership did, taking time out from meetings in the luxurious environs of Islamabad – will not suffice. Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the ANP was forced to leave the spot due to the rage of mourners as he reached the church to condole with families. PTI chief Imran Khan has commented on how such attacks seem to take place just when peace talks are approaching and then lashed out at his political opponents, rather than those who committed this monstrosity. This is egregious behaviour. The absolute last thing we need right now is the usual bout of conspiracy theories – a result of flights of foolish fancy based on notions that ‘outside’ forces did it. It is no time for ignorance and irresponsibility. This country has borne too much pain for business to continue as usual. It is time to level with the citizenry. We can’t simply be told that talks will be the held with the militants and then everything will miraculously resolve itself. It must be explained, in great detail, exactly what is being done to check the triumphant march of hatred and madness. What concessions are on the table? If there is to be any red line, what is it? Right now, what should the victims, their families and people at large expect? That such attacks will continue with impunity without any consequences for those who perpetrate them? Members of the Christian community who blocked roads with the bodies of their loved ones should be joined by the rest of Pakistan. This should be no occasion to wonder just how many non-Christians – the members of Pakistan’s Muslim majority – mourn with them. This was an attack on everyone who doesn’t subscribe to obscurantist agendas. We have remained silent for far too long and silence now will have blood on its hands.
September 22, 2013
It was the softest of targets. A Christian church in Peshawar, which with a dreadful tragic irony had been built to resemble a mosque as a gesture of interfaith harmony. The congregation had just said Mass and was leaving the church, which was packed with men, women, and children, when the two suicide bombers rushed towards the throng and detonated themselves; one inside the church the other outside after having been stopped by police. Body parts of both have been recovered for forensic examination. By 4 pm on the afternoon of September 22, it was being reported that there were 60 dead and 120 injured, with the number of dead set to rise as many are said to be mortally wounded. Protests are being held in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The carnage had not been claimed by any group by late afternoon.
Given the tardiness of politicians to respond to acts of terrorism in the recent past, they moved this time with considerable swiftness. Leaders of all parties deplored the killing and the president and the prime minister were forthright in their condemnation. Assorted dignitaries Tweeted their shock and disgust and there appears to be some unanimity in collective abhorrence at what may be the largest mass-murder of Christians since the massacre at a church in Bahawalpur in 2000. The chief minister of Punjab has convened a meeting to discuss the incident on September 23 and it must be assumed that the chief minister of K-P will be doing the same though it has yet to be announced.
There can be no justification for this, no prevarication, no semi-sincere regrets. Over 200 innocent people worshipping as is their right under the Constitution have had their lives blighted by bigots and murderers. Those who did this are in all likelihood allied to those who last week killed two senior army officers in the Swat valley. And some of our politicians believe we should be talking to these people? We suggest they take a reading of the mood of the general public and if they do, they may find that talking is not uppermost in the minds of most at this time.
A Beastly Act
September 23, 2013
Masked ‘Mujahedeen’ belonging to al-Shabab stormed a busy shopping mall in Nairobi on Saturday. After they besieged it, they made an announcement that those among them who could prove they were Muslims by either reciting a prayer or showing their ID, they could go outside. Others, largely Westerners including Canadians, Britons, Americans, relatives of Kenyan President and sadly among them, a Ghanaian poet Kofi Awooner were ruthlessly massacred. Dozens of injured who escaped related how the gunmen were saying prayers out loud as they fired the bullets on the people. At least 68 were dead, the number could rise owing to dozens badly injured. The gunmen were holed up inside the mall holding an unknown number of hostages at the time of writing.
What we are seeing in Africa we have already seen in Afghanistan and other such places. The Kenyan President Kenyatta stated on Sunday that it was not a Kenyan war but an international war, a fact that is often ignored, mostly by leaders from the Muslim world.
The writing is now too deeply etched on the wall for anyone to overlook. The whole multitude of sins that religious radicalism has unleashed are very far from showing any signs of abating, a reality that does not get accepted in much of Muslim world because of dangerously conservative societies that they have become.
Pakistan should draw its lessons; it is the worst hit country but it looks as though we have no such intention. There is neither any plan nor strategy to isolate those who preach violence in the name of religion even though what happened in Nairobi has been happening here for a long time. Harrowing tales of how passengers travelling from one province to another are shot dead because of their sects, appearances and places they belong to have sadly gone unnoticed. The Kenyan massacre should not merely be seen as its internal security problem; it should serve as a spur to deal with the malaise afflicting many if not most of the Muslims countries.