IF I were
mad enough to occupy a federal government building in Islamabad with a group of
like-minded men and women, you can easily imagine the consequences: we would be
thrashed, dragged to jail and probably charged with sedition.
very much that I would be offered 20 kanals of land. But this is exactly what
happened to Maulana Abdul Aziz when he recently occupied the contentious Lal
Masjid in the heart of the capital, along with a group of female students. From
press reports, I gather that he has demanded reinstatement as the mosque’s
khateeb or prayer leader, 20 kanals of land, Rs250 million and the children’s
library located next to the mosque.
way successive governments have caved in to the demands of our clerics time and
again, I have little doubt that the PTI, too, will give the maulana much of
what he has demanded. We don’t have to go back very far to prove my point: when
the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan staged a weeks-long sit-in at the Faizabad
interchange, cutting off traffic between Islamabad and Rawalpindi, causing the
deaths of patients being rushed to hospitals, and preventing students from
taking their exams, one thought surely this time the government would crack
of prison sentences, these protesters were handed cash in envelopes by a senior
military officer. I could give more examples of the lack of official spine, but
I think I have made my point: while the state deals with secular and
progressive protests with an iron hand, it puts on kid gloves when faced with
opposition from religious parties.
for these double standards is not difficult to fathom: there are thousands of
clerics and their supporters across the country, and for many of them, a street
protest is a bit like a picnic. So they willingly take to the streets and
confront cops, bringing large parts of cities to a grinding halt. The police,
for their part, know that even if they make any arrests, the violent protesters
they put in jail will soon be released as part of a deal with the government.
this is not what civil society protesters experience when they are agitating
against human rights violations so widespread in Pakistan. They are usually
beaten up and taken to jail. Our cops know they have no lobby or party to back
them, so they are free to wield their sticks with great gusto.
aspect of this equation is the fact that while secular, free-thinking
protesters are viewed as godless people deserving of no sympathy, other
agitators are regarded as doing their religious duty. They are thus exempt from
manmade laws. This view is widely shared by law-enforcement agencies, much of
the judiciary and the bureaucracy.
course, there is the recurring need of the establishment for allies: time after
time, religious parties have given military dictators political cover and
legitimacy. They have also provided foot soldiers for the ‘jihad’. Few figures
in uniform would wish to alienate potential supporters.
there are Saudi finances for seminaries that promote a rigid brand of religion.
True, some of this money comes via the private sector, but we still suffer the
To be fair,
Pakistan is not the only state where extremists are treated differently from
liberals. Just look at what’s happening in Modi’s India where Hindutva
nationalists are aided by the police as they thrash and murder those protesting
the new anti-Muslim law. University students and professors have been targeted.
Instead of protecting them, cops have joined the hooligans in beating up
liberals. Needless to say, Hindu nationalists form the core of Modi’s support.
America has seen a similar swing in attitude. Today, white supremacists — once
on the fringes of society — have been empowered by Trump’s rhetoric, and are
now spearheading his re-election campaign.
right-wing politicians have spotted an opportunity in the shape of a
nationalistic resurgence. This resembles the Fascist rise to power in Italy and
Germany in the 1930s, and one can only hope it will not be as destructive.
It is clear
that the right wing is on the march. In part, it draws its energy from the mass
movement of migrants, and the local resentment it generates. But equally importantly,
a dislike of the globalised elite, and the condescending attitude of the
college-educated drive much of the resentment we see today.
problem for progressive elements is their inability to take to the streets with
the kind of fervour and righteousness shown by Pakistan’s religious right.
While we are perfectly happy to sign online petitions, the reality is that
these don’t bother the establishment at all. Until we are willing and able to
put our skin on the line, we shouldn’t expect things to change.
Headline: Skin on the line
Source: The Dawn, Pakistan
off has coined a good word ‘libtards’. Liberals vs. libtards