By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
This week, I could not agree more with columnist Munir Ataullah when he confessed to being “stumped” as he sat down to compose his column. I share his predicament although the reasons are different. Week in and week out, as I struggle to present my erratic thoughts in some kind of a structured piece, I am more frustrated than stumped. Not to sound clichéd, but it truly feels that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Figures change day in and day out, locations change and victims change. However, the injustice, crime and leaders paying lip service and doling out empty, hollow assurances of the ‘perpetrators’ being brought to justice remain tragically the same.
The Hazara community of Balochistan, admittedly a relatively more educated and socially mobile community, is being targeted again because of its religious beliefs. I am reminded of a picture depicting two aliens witnessing the commotion and violence on earth and saying to each other, “They are fighting over whose religion is the most peaceful.” The Hazaras are apparently being targeted because of their Shia faith although I would not be surprised if certain economic and power related jealousies are also contributing factors. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed ‘responsibility’, a concept that they are not familiar with let alone being qualified enough to claim. As I have written previously, responsibility comes with freedom and if one is a slave to the bigotry sponsored by Saudi riyals, one cannot claim understanding let alone having any sort of responsibility.
It is not the first time that the Hazara community has been targeted. Tragically, it will also not be the last. We also have the Ahmedis who are persecuted. This persecution is so rampant that the so-called ‘progressive’ media anchors who claim to be saving Pakistan from itself could not even bring themselves to say that an Ahmedi ‘mosque’ had been targeted by a bomb attack in Lahore. Instead, we heard of an attack on the “place of worship of Ahmedis”. I wrote last week about a young Christian girl who was charged with blasphemy for misspelling the word ‘naat’ (hymn). It makes me wonder about the kind of people who defend and in fact insist upon “negotiating” with those who distort the very spirit of Islam, which, in my opinion, is the height of blasphemy, yet punish young children for spelling mistakes. Taliban apologist Imran Khan insisted on inserting the need to negotiate with militants into the All Parties Conference Resolution.
I could go on but the bottom line is simple: the Frankenstein that has been indigenously created now needs to be cut down to size. The militant genie, which we thought we could prune like a harmless Japanese bonsai tree, is out of the bottle and challenging its own creators. In other words, the bonsai has now become the beanstalk and there is nothing magical about it. The Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba are all products of the policies of successive regimes (present regime included) that started outsourcing governance, security and foreign policy before outsourcing was even a recognised concept. These outfits have now acquired set ups and an authority all their own, with international and inter-agency linkages. Their success is a direct result of the state’s failure to take responsibility. This misplaced policy unfortunately still continues. There is still a strong belief that creating and arming local groups, whether in the name of Kashmir, Palestine, Shia-ism, Sunni-ism or anti-Indian-ism, is beneficial for Pakistan. The whole debate over the role, involvement and protection of the Haqqani network, turning a partially blind eye towards banned militant organisations by selectively putting their members under house arrest and picking up lower cadre members but allowing the organisations to work with impunity is the reflection of a degree of state patronage.
So successful has the militancy experiment been in Pakistan that even private groups and businesses are infected with this virus. The media has become a strong ally for economic reasons but, in some cases, for ideological reasons too. How else can one explain an Urdu daily giving coverage to banned militant organisations and even printing their advertisements such as that of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa? It is encouraging that the Balochistan High Court this week urged the media to “show courage” and issued an interim order under Article 19 of the Pakistani constitution restricting newspapers from publishing propaganda statements of banned outfits.
However, can we expect such strong ‘urging’ of government officials and leaders when the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) has permission to put up posters all over the capital urging military action against the US, inviting serving military officials to defect and revolt in the “interest of Khilafat”? This banned group openly states in its poster, “Oh! Sincere officers of the armed forces! Hizb ut-Tahrir and Muslims of Pakistan demand from you that in order to establish Khilafat and make the HT victorious, rise to free Pakistan from the US and their agents.”
Whether it is the plight of the Hazaras in Quetta, the Ahmedis in Lahore or the peace lashkar members of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa currently serving as fodder for either the government or the Haqqani network, the story is the same. The dangerous fallacy of playing with fire and not expecting to be burnt is nothing but foolish. The tragedy is that it continues. The death toll rises. Another killing, another empty and impotent political statement and another column of more of the same.
The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org