Startled, bewildered most of the arrestees in Sialkot jail, trying to figure what have they done wrong? They only did what was taught to them, no blasphemous has a reason to live. They only followed the footsteps of Mumtaz Qadri and Ghazi Ilmmud din. Though courts have sentenced them to death, they were the true Heroes of People. They were decorated, garlanded and immortalized. Their Mazars were created, and religious groups follow them. Pakistan is losing innocent lives every single day to these barbaric acts.
The young boys are mystified they did exactly what was doctored to them by the state. Even the Mosques, Madrsehas has clearly taught them that there is zero-tolerance for minorities and especially for anyone who carries out Blasphemy. They only murdered a blasphemous and made an example out of him. Why then so much hue and cry? why there is so much condemnation even from religious leaders? why the bead-ticking Prime minister apologize to the world and is ashamed? Why so much harsh noise? But then they feel confident even if courts punish, they will become immortal, and their names will be written in history books.
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Why this situation reminds us of Zia’s rule?
There seems to be a clear competition in some quarters of the establishment who want to outshine Zia philosophy and heroics which he created in the 80s in the name of religion. After all, he and his predecessors were successful in throwing two superpowers out of Afghanistan using the same religious sloganeering and how youth willingly fought and embraced death in the name of religion. How different sects were created and how brutally they killed one another. Surely, this has been a successful model. The model also created a cheap gun fodder of young blood which was so flexible that it was used against all the enemies, may it be India, Afghanistan, or Iran. So, what if TTP was created and incidents like APS happened. After all, Sipah Shaba was eliminated and once the need for TLP will be over, it will also be eliminated.
The establishment and politicians have remained beneficiaries of religious extremism throughout the last four decades. Many religious scholars turned politicians have been receiving financial grants from big Islamic countries for the development and enhancement of their respective sects. They were successful in exploiting the regional conflicts to enhance their own personal wealth and brands. While the establishment closed their eyes and used these outfits to their advantage in many ways. May it be splitting the votes to win elections or strangulating the voice of dissent or taking hostage the voice of question or branding the liberal left as non-believers. Their efforts bore fruit and the country had now no voice of the liberal social left. All the political rhetoric is either of the extreme right or at best center-right. Even the Zia legacy now believes that they are being outdone by religious use by the establishment.
The worst thing which has happened to society in general and especially establishments is that no one is willing to learn from past mistakes. All of them become ostrich to learn from Zia monstrous manipulation to the creation of TTP or legislating anti-minority and exploitative blasphemous law. Every now and then steps are taken to further the cause of religious radicalism in a different fashion. Even the single national curriculum has been used to create a bigger gulf between questioning and complete submission. A few who have the worldly view of tolerance and pluralism, are scared to raise their voices rather those voices have been stifled with threats. The media does not want to talk about religious fanaticism as they also feel helpless that state and law will not be on their side once the religious politician impends with its accesses.
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Why have we become hostage to religious radicalism?
On the other hand, religious radicalism is gaining momentum as now they have access to media channels and Social media. There is no control of the state over the Mosque speakers and Madrassah curriculum and teachings. Moreover, the way the state has succumbed to religious groups and absorbed the killings of Police officers, religious gangs feel confident and proud that no law or punishment can stop them from mocking the law. They feel their word is the law and they can do whatever to enhance their cause and power. The understanding of right and wrong has been diminished as the narrative of the state and establishment is standing on extremely ambiguous foundations.
There is a clear vacuum for a left socialism political thought in the country. There is clearly a need of creating a narrative based on nationalism rather than religion. There is a clear need for the leadership to depict modernization and progressive behavior. This Srilankan episode should be an eye-opener for policymakers, Judiciary and law enforcement agencies. It’s about time that country narrative must be built around modern, tolerant and plural nationalism. The sectarian religious violence must be curbed with iron hands. The policymakers need to approach media, education institutes and political parties to uproot religious fanaticism jointly.
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It is high time State establish its writ, may it be Lal masjid or TLP mockery or the violent messages driven from Mosques. The state must demonstrate with its action. The parliamentarians need to legislate and probably should have the courage to undo laws that are not fair and are being battered against minorities or for vested gains. The nation must wither away from the asphyxiation of bigotry and religious prejudice.
Moied Javeed is a senior telecom executive in Pakistan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.