Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Sins of earthquake victims

Sins of earthquake victims
Dr Shabir Choudhry 22 December 2005

His logic was strange but he strongly believed in it, but I felt, as if he was rubbing salt in to my wounds. He together with some other people were present in my lounge to say ‘fatea’ of my father - in - law who died some days ago.

After the ‘fatea’, as is the usual practise, they started talking about other things including earthquake. This educated Pakistani friend suddenly asserted that it was their sins, which invited God’s anger and the earthquake destroyed their homes and villages.

In order to support his logic he said one man married another man in Muzaffarabad, and when sins like this take place what do you expect to happen? His argument impressed others in the room, and they all started supporting his views; and I being a host and a person in mourning did not take part in the discussion, although I was bitter about it.

However I could not hide my displeasure, but I still decided to remain quiet; and then someone asked my opinion on this. Politely but firmly I said that I totally disagree with this logic that God has punished these people because of their sins. If earthquake come because of peoples sins then there were many cities in the world that are better candidates for this disaster to show God’s anger.

Gay marriages are taking place in the West with full flair of media hype and no earthquake is hitting these places. And if we accept this logic of some Mullahs that God only wanted to punish Muslims, because He has given free hand to followers of other faiths in this world, then why only target Muslims of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Are they more sinful then Muslims of other countries like Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt etc?

Even if we accept this logic in its entirety that God wanted to punish Muslims of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir for their sins, then in my opinion and in opinion of many other people, some cities of Pakistan were far better candidates for God’s anger as more sins of all sorts take place there.

Also I explained to them why earthquake come and how civilised and developed nations deal with them. It is often said that earthquakes don’t kill people it is the building which do. Most earthquakes take place in Japan and yet they have less causality because of strength of their buildings and because of appropriate safety measure in place. So the problem of earthquake and consequent suffering is not related to sins, but nations ability to deal with them.

They did not expect this from me, and this visitor interrupted me by giving some quote, what he thought was God’s message in this regard. But I told him to hold on a minute, as I have listened to him patiently for the past twenty minutes, and that now it was his turn to listen.

I said people who live in villages are, by and large, simple and honest people. Their belief in religion is strong. They are more God fearing and practising Muslims. Majority of them are poor and hard working people; and they have little money and time to commit sins compared to many people in big cities.

Apart from that let me tell you that gay marriage did not take place in Muzaffarabad or any other Azad Kashmiri town, rather it took place in a city of Pakistan; and that town was not hit by the earthquake. If gay activity has brought earthquake in Azad Kashmir then what about Pakistani towns notorious for this activity. One wonders why God has not brought earthquake in those places where gay activity is rampant?

I don’t know whether I should have said all this or not on this occasion, but I could not resist the temptation to clarify this misconception. Also I wanted to defend my fellow countrymen who were desperately in need of help, and did not want this salt- rubbing in to their wounds as they were accused of being ‘guilty’ and not victims.

But in doing the above I had no intention of insulting any one or having a bash at Pakistan, but it was unfortunate that this ‘mullah’ type man gave it a spin and discarded everything I said, and accused me for being anti Pakistan. He said, ‘Choudhry Sahib you don’t miss any opportunity to bash Pakistan; and I am not prepared to listen to your garbage’.

He and few others left the room and I felt bit embarrassed, as I was host and the occasion was not appropriate for this kind of discussion, but it was not me who started it, and at no time I was disrespectful or anti Pakistan. It is unfortunate that Pakistani writers and commentators can strongly criticise acts of Pakistani government or issues related to the Pakistani society, but as soon as a non Pakistani touches a controversial subject a banner of anti Pakistan is raised.

After they left one man from Azad Kashmir said that he has heard this point of view from that gentleman more than once, and no one challenged his views like this before. In his opinion my response was appropriate and logical; but he added that if we compare sins, then sins of Islamabad alone are more than sins of entire Azad Kashmir.

That apart, if we believe that gentleman’s logic, then one wonders what was the sin of thousands of innocent school children who died under the rubble of school buildings which collapsed mainly because corrupt officials used low quality materials while constructing these buildings. And what sin those innocent children have committed who have lost their parents and are in a desperate need of help without love and care of their love ones.

I don’t go out of way to criticise Pakistan but I do everything in my power to defend rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir; and while doing this I do challenge stereotype views held against people of Jammu and Kashmir and wrong policies of Pakistani officials. I always try to be pro Kashmir and pro people and if that makes me anti this or anti that, then it cannot be helped.

Western liberal democracies, after 9/11, are not prepared to differentiate between a ‘freedom fighter’ and a ‘terrorist’. Similarly most Pakistani officials and some Pakistani media people and intellectuals are not prepared to distinguish between being anti government policy and anti Pakistan. It is expected of us to support the government of the day without any reservations, no matter what blunders it makes; and if one opposes that policy for obvious mistakes, and especially if that person is a non - Pakistani, he will be labelled for being anti Pakistan and part of a conspiracy against Pakistan.

Surely there were some sane voices who protested against treatment of people of East Pakistan in 1960s and especially in 1970, but their criticism and advice was put aside, and they were labelled as unpatriotic and ‘traitors’. Despite the tragedy of fall of Dhaka and many other blunders no lessons are learnt, in fact, those in power wrongly assume that they are infallible and don’t need any advice or lessons.

Whether the issue is related to Pakistan’s wrong policy on Afghanistan, Kashmir, Mangla Dam or Kala Bagh Dam, those who oppose the government of the day will be labelled as ‘traitors’ and ‘anti Pakistan’. It is unfortunate that if a person makes a criticism from Lahore it is taken in different light, but if the critic is a Kashmiri or he is from Charsada or Quetta, a label will be attached with his name without reading and analysing the merits of that criticism.

If Pakistan has to find a political and economic stability and flourish to face challenges of the 21st century, then this mind - set has to change; and if Pakistani officials and policy makers want to close their eyes or bury their heads in sand, then writing on the wall is not going to change just because they had their eyes closed and didn’t see the dangers ahead.

Writer is a Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@hotmail.com

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