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Torments without end

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The state patronage for intolerant ‘jihadist brigades’ has slowly but gradually undermined the very foundations on which they thought they would build the edifice of the ‘Fortress of Islam’. It couldn’t have been otherwise because once intolerance and bigotry is accepted and promoted, it turns on society itself and destroys it from within and this is exactly what is happening here

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience” — C S Lewis.

When the state assumes the role of omnipotent moral busybody, its cruelty is relentless and it torments people without end, for its rapacity, unlike a robber baron’s, remains insatiable. Whenever a state in its arrogant self-righteousness decides to impose its religious and political beliefs on the citizenry, it spells disaster for people in general and for dissenters and minorities in particular.

The Pakistani state like Israel is the prime example of such a state and has certainly succeeded in creating a stronghold of a regressive mindset, a bastion of terror and a redoubt for terrorists. The brutal and reprehensible murder of 18 Shias forcefully disembarked from buses on the way to Gilgit is the outcome of the agenda that this state adopted and has prided itself upon.

An inauspicious start was made in 1948 with the imposition of Urdu as the national language, because the ruling elite considered all cultures, histories, beliefs and languages inferior to their accepted ones. The Bengalis resisted and bestowed the world with ‘Mother Language Day”, albeit at the cost of their blood. That was just the beginning.

The next gift and manifestation of the bigoted mind-set that reigned supreme was the Objectives Resolution in March 1949, which sealed the fate of the rights of minorities, forever relegating them to second-class citizenry, and ensuring that the Islam-mongering politicians, bureaucrats, army and clergy would have unchallenged ascendancy in the country. Initially, the politicians and the bureaucracy laid the foundations of a bigoted state, but, mind you, it was only after the army assumed the mantle of guardians of the grand legacy of Islam that the bigoted elements’ ascendancy in society and the state was guaranteed. Mao Zedong’s adage, “All political power grows from the barrel of a gun”, is equally true for revolutionaries and reactionaries.

The army has always believed in and advocated ‘jihadist philosophy’, and those who, like the Baloch, do not subscribe to this are considered enemies. Naturally, the minorities like Shias, Christians, Hindus, Ahmedis all fall in the enemies category. Those who subscribed to the ‘jihadist’ philosophy became ‘strategic assets’ and were nurtured and given a free hand to aggressively market their brand of intolerance, allowing them to impose their narrow interpretation of faith on society. Naturally, anyone who considers his faith as superior to others hates those whose beliefs differ.

Since 2008, some 275 Hazara community Shias have been killed in Balochistan simply because their belief differs from the perpetrators. So far, 2012 has seen more than 100 Shias killed in different parts of the country; among them 34 in Khanpur, Punjab, 49 in Parachinar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 18 in Gilgit.

The 2009 arson and looting of a mainly Christian town Gojra on rumours of Holy Quran burning left eight killed, including four women and a child, and 18 persons injured. Ninety Ahmedis were killed in an attack in Garhi Shahu, Lahore, in May 2010 by those professing belief in ‘jihadist philosophy’, which they think gives them the right to kill and maim all those who profess different beliefs.

Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered, and instead of regret and remorse there were jubilations among the moral busybody supporters, highlighting the extent to which society has been contaminated by intolerance and bigotry. But this should not come as a surprise in a country that names its deadliest weapons after invaders like Ghauri and Abdali. The state’s guilt is compounded because it turns a blind eye to the murders and carnage against Shias, Christians and Ahmedis. These carnages and atrocities go unpunished, hence encouraging others to do the same.

This impunity comes from state sponsorship and indulgence for the ‘strategic assets’. They are supposedly banned, but are given a free hand, and of late have been reincarnated as the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC), whose agenda replicates the state-pursued agenda: confrontation with India, dream of strategic depth in Afghanistan, and lately, the desire of putting the US in its place.

It is to the credit of the Baloch who refused to attend the APC convened by the DPC, even though it made a lot of fuss about Balochistan. The Baloch rejected their overtures because they do not want to be identified with regressive ideologies. They understand the threat these outfits pose for their and others’ rights and the damage that they are inflicting to the Baloch cause by promoting bigotry and intolerance. They also do not rule out the danger that they may be used to fight the Baloch.

Wherever the ‘omnipotent moral busybodies’ consider it a divine right to impose their beliefs ‘with the approval of their own conscience’, the nationalities and minorities are always at the receiving end of the resulting intolerance and bigotry. The religious and political intolerance here is a re-enactment of the Spanish ‘Inquisition’ on a larger scale, the only difference being the instruments of torture. Then there were stakes, wheels, etc, now there are AK47s, and, moreover, as the state today is more powerful and pervasive, the busybodies are more brutal and insensitive.

Bigotry waned in Europe when the people, realising that without separating the state from religion they would always be wallowing in the stinking murky waters of ignorance and bigotry, eventually forced their states to give up bigotry. Here the state repels all forces of sanity with brute force and is doomed to sink deeper into the morass of ignorance, bigotry and brutality.

The state patronage for intolerant ‘jihadist brigades’ has slowly but gradually undermined the very foundations on which they thought they would build the edifice of the ‘Fortress of Islam’. It couldn’t have been otherwise because once intolerance and bigotry is accepted and promoted, it turns on society itself and destroys it from within and this is exactly what is happening here. The situation is irredeemable now, and will only end when the entire edifice is consumed by the conflagration that the state kindled and stoked to achieve its aim of imposing its ideology on all.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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