Once again I have fallen on the thorns of the killing fields of Pakistan. I am bleeding. This time over 80 Ahmadis were killed in two attacks on their places of worship in Lahore. Sorry, law forbids me to call their worship places a mosque and the killed ‘namazis.’ Such are laws of the land of the pure although they are in violation of the basic principle of the constitution that grants equal rights to the people and freedom of expression. And these laws conflict with the UN Charter of Human Rights.
Target killings on ethnic, political and sectarian basis in Karachi. Killing of teachers in Balochistan. Killing of Baloch, missing Baloch nationalists. Killing of people by Taliban in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. All those killed are my own people. Even the misled intolerant suicide bombers are one of us. And each time a person is killed something in me snaps.
My cardiologist who I visited for a check up last Friday says in Pakistan we live in depressing times. My psychiatrist friend Dr. Haroon Ahmed endorses this statement. He says the number of patients who suffer from depression have almost doubled in the last few years. He is conducting a study on the rise in post trauma mental disorders and the rise in psycho-somatic physical disorder cases. Most such cases are not reported. But Dr. Ahmed feels that many people in the urban society are taking tranquilisers. All lessons into positive thinking and optimism are dampened by the raining grief on such days, which are brought live into our households.
Every time intolerance and violence wins over life; my soul is tormented and reminds me of Ghalib:
“Mujeh kya bura tha marna jo yeh aik bar hota”
But then perhaps it’s not only me, such killings quietly shatter the nerves of the people. It’s only that different people pay different tolls. Many of my writer and journalist friends are sad, angry and frustrated. Yes, sad because we are a sensitive and humane bunch and have equal love for all without distinction of religion, sect, nationality and race. Angry, because we have seen how short-sighted policies of our successive rulers have sowed the seeds of intolerance and violence in this society. Frustrated, because the obscurantist, who preach intolerance, have access to the pulpit, madaris and the air-time more than the voices of rationality in this country.
No doubt it is important to find out who did it, it is also equally essential to dig out and punish the forces behind terrorism. After every such sectarian killing our leaders usually say that no Muslim could have done such a thing. Aren’t we being ostrich headed? Or, are our leaders trying to tell people that non-Muslims are senseless killers?
In Friday’s killings the targets were the Ahmadi sect. Many religious groups live on spitting fire against them everyday and the state quietly watches them condescendingly. A large section of media reports the statements of the hate-mongers with impunity. Of late some blogs have been targeting them for conspiracies against Pakistan. Even some TV anchors of religious programmes declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims and condemn them for blasphemy. After one such programme two Ahmadis were killed in Sindh. Each month there are target killings of Ahmadi and Shia doctors in Sindh and Punjab. Neither the popular news channel banned the aalim, nor PEMRA which is supposed to take notice of such things took any action.
I think that brings us to the most crucial question: Why? Yes, why one Muslim sect considers other Muslim sects apostate and thus liable to death? Why have they the right to decide who is Muslim and who isn’t? Why human life has lost its value? Why so many people tend to believe that it is a foreign hand or it’s the agencies? Why are we shy to face the reality that even many people sitting in our parliament and judiciary are bigots? Why so many people are willing to blow themselves up?
Briefly, I can say that there is a broad consensus among the intelligentsia that for years the establishment has supported and nourished the extremists. Saudiaisation of our otherwise tolerant Islam in Pakistan has nourished intolerance in the country. All sects have a right to believe in their own interpretation of Islam, but nobody should have the right to preach hatred against another sect. It is easy to say but hard to implement unless there is broad consensus among all the institutions of the state.
Quickly on what is to be done? First and foremost nationalize all madaris and convert them to normal schools. Purge them from the extremist teachers who preach Jihad against the state and other sects. Secondly, all school’s syllabus should be cleansed from any material which inculcates religious hatred against other religions. Thirdly no political or religious party should be allowed to spread hatred through the media and the mosques. Lastly and most importantly Pakistan should be declared a secular state. All sectarian amendments inserted by Mr. Bhutto and General Zia which discriminate against a section of the society should be struck off.
The terrorists psyche is built on hatred. To fight it, let’s take solace in Rumi’s poetry:
Let us fall in love again
and scatter gold dust all over the world
Let us become a new spring
and feel the breeze drift in the heavens’ scent.
Let us dress the earth in green
and like the sap of a young tree
let the grace from within us sustain us.
Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts
and let them light our path to love.
The glance of love is crystal clear
and we are blessed with light. (Are we?).