Monday, 7 March 2011

Deadly Silence, by Agha Haider Raza

Deadly Silence, by Agha Haider Raza

When Salmaan Taseer was assassinated eight weeks ago, I quoted Max Weber in my article: “If the power of violence shifts from the state
to the people, we also see a shift from a state to anarchy”. Weber’s
paradigm of anarchy is becoming more evident in Pakistan as time
progresses. The brutal murder of Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad has
solidified the notion that the PPP led government is ignoring
extremism. This perturbed ideology is challenging the writ of the
State and if not handled with the delicacy and precision required, we
will surely dissolve into a state of oblivion.

During the past year, President Zardari has sent over 70 press
releases to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP – GoP’s official
wire agency) “condemning” deaths, murder and terrorist actions. Yet
Mr. Zardari seems ignorant of the very extremists who killed Benazir
Bhutto, assassinated Salmaan Taseer, murdered Shahbaz Bhatti and
thousands of civilians. Zardari changed his children’s surname so
they would carry the name of their maternal grandfather and even went to the extent of renaming his own hometown of Nawabshah to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto district. Why invoke Benazir Bhutto if the extremists who murdered her are still wreaking havoc in Pakistan?

I am not undermining the sacrifice Ms. Bhutto gave this country. But
what use is it to Pakistan if Mr. Zardari refuses to acknowledge the
very threat of violence that has forced him to name cities after his
slain wife? Where is the speech of a President uniting a fractured
country? Where is the public condemnation of murder? Sitting within
the Presidency’s bubble and sending 250 words to the APP will surely
not break the shackles dragging us towards anarchy.

Having recently travelled through southern Punjab, it was highly
disturbing to see the number of madrassahs being constructed. These
institutions are being set-up every 20 kilometers along Multan Road
through Sadiqabad. The graduating batch is more fodder for the
“extremist Frankenstein monster” Benazir Bhutto spoke of two decades

It is arguably difficult to tame the monster. However, a thoughtful
analysis of threats and opportunities is required in order to break
free from extremism. The Islam being preached at such institutions
needs to be modified and reexamined. This concept of invoking fear
into the hearts of “infidels” and “blasphemers” through violence is
not an Islam that was practiced by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) nor
advocated by his followers.

Islam can survive without violence, as it has for 1400 years. It is
truly mesmerizing where a religion that was not spread by the sword is
now synonymous with suicide bomb and cold-blooded murder.

Those who are inspired by carnage and terrorism through religion need
to be shown that Islam at the core does not follow such principles nor
evokes such behavior. Education is one method of response, but that
is a long-term goal. Pakistan requires a proactive responsibility
from the government, opposition parties and civil society in order to
marginalize the thought-process of extremist elements threatening our
social fabric.

The government needs to take a lead role in countering religious
violence. First and foremost the writ of the state is being
challenged as civilians are utilizing the power of violence. Despite
all odds, Mumtaz Qadri (a self-proclaimed assassin) needs to be dealt
with according to the law. If religious parties, the government and
political parties constantly rally for Raymond Davis to be dealt in
accordance to the laws in Pakistan, I don’t see why we should be
discriminating. Providing military training for mujahid’s in covert
operations needs to cease. Investments for NGOs providing roti, kapra
aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter) should be increased
exponentially, while the public-private sector partnership needs to
assist the government in dealing with the monster of terrorism. The
Zia-ul-Haq era of textbooks containing religious violence should to be

Islamic History is absent from books utilized in schools across the
country. From the very basic public schools in rural Pakistan to
elite institutions like Aitchison College, 1200 years of Islam is
absent. Islamiyat is taught from the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
to the death of Imam Hussain (AS). Pakistan Studies picks up from the
reign of the Mughal Emperor Babar to the inception of Pakistan in
1947. The Umayyads, Abbasids, Ottoman Empire, Safavid dynasty are
crucial to Muslim history but is overlooked. These dynasties brought
about a social cultural change through religion and would be an
important aspect to countering religious violence in Pakistan.

There are some who may argue that if the government is absent, the
people of Pakistan need to voice their opinions. While this may be
true, I still feel that an elected, representative democratic
government is required to take the lead on such a sensitive issue.
Harping on the Shaheeds of a party will not rid us of the Frankenstein
monster that has taken the life of thousands across Pakistan.
Pakistan’s very identity and survival is at stake. Actions truly
speak louder than empty rhetoric.

In his inaugural speech Pakistan’s founder stated, “You are free; you
are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or
to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may
belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with
the business of the State”. It is only fair we live up to his
expectations; it’s the least we as a nation can do to the very man who
gave us Pakistan. If the government refuses to provide this safety
net to those who practice other religions, we most definitely are
sliding towards anarchy.

Agha Haider Raza blogs at

No comments: