A 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 ago.

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 revoked.

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.

9 responses to “A Deadly Silence

  1. Via email:
    Probably your best column so far. Well done.

  2. Via emai:
    Lovely article. So very well written. And so well reasoned.

  3. Via email:
    Aghaji — good blog by Haider — thanks for posting

  4. Brilliant work– it’s a very well-written article. Particularly like your references to the historic events and quotes to highlight the problems faced by Pakistan today.

  5. Raza: I must compliment you about your medieval scholarly views on Pakistan Presidency and its Powers. Pakistan is controlled by bloody Army ISI, and uneducated Punjabi’s who have lived on socialist welfare states, bu not paying taxes, electric bills, bank loans and several other factors, why Pakistan is in Problems, NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General David McKiernan, said this week he is certain there is “a level of ISI complicity” in the militant areas of Pakistan and within organizations like the Taliban.McKiernan’s remarks echo allegations made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Indian government, and Pentagon insiders who are frustrated about the rising cross-border militancy that is based in Pakistan.But McKiernan said he is unable to speak about the level of leadership within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency that is involved with the Taliban and other militants.His Excellency Mr. Asif Ali Zardari run fractured Democracy which is good, at present stage he cannot be over thrown by Barbarian Army leaders. I would suggest you to read International foreign Policy.Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, author of the book “Taliban,” has maintained for years that the ISI has played a double game with Washington and the Taliban.World will trust only Fragile Democracy of Pakistan and trust President Asif Ali Zardari explicitly.

    On the one hand, Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. At the same time, the ISI is alleged to covertly support cross-border militant attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, India, and the Indian-administered parts of Kashmir.In his latest book, “Descent Into Chaos,” Rashid maintains that the ISI has set up private organizations in order to distance the relationship between its military leadership and extremist fighters. He says the private organizations are staffed by retired ISI officers and funded through the budget of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps.The scenario described by Rashid highlights the lack of oversight that the civilian government in Islamabad has over the ISI.There are still huge differences between the military and the politicians as to how to combat terrorism — what to do about it. The military is really controlling the policy. The civilians don’t have much of a say.George Bernard Shaw said: “I do not expect solider to think” and The Shakespeare, wrote: “Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.” this was true of General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi. The disgraced Pakistani army General died at the age of 89 to wash off his sin, Gen.A.A.K. Niazi wrote a memoir entitled “Betrayal of East Pakistan” Pakistani military while remembering Gen. Abdullah “Tiger” Niazi’s misdeeds is the following: Niazi’s men were able to kill quite a few Bangalee intellectuals in the fag end of the war for independence in December 1971 because of the involvement of the likes of Ashrafuzzaman Khan, Delwar Hossain Saidee, Prof. Golam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Maulana Ali H.M. Mujahid, Maulana Mannan of daily Inquilab, and few more. Some of these men have now become legislators in Bangladesh and are now serving as cabinet ministers under Khaleda Zia. Gen. Tikka Khan, Gen. Yahya Khan, Gen. Abdullah Niazi, and Mr. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto must be rolling in their graves. Such is the irony of life.General Niazi will live forever in infamy for the picture in which he was shown signing a document of surrender on December 16, 1971 in Ramna Green while seating next to a turban-clad Indian General by the name Jagjit Singh Aurora.

  6. This excellent thought is necessary just by the way

  7. Zardari is scum. He needs to be ousted!!! Pakistan is going nowhere because of a corrupt government that doesn’t care about its people. I don’t see any bright future for Pakistan anytime soon

  8. I am still unable to understand to which part of tragedy you are mourning.
    Killing of Taseer on some planned agenda or wickedness of Zardari group?

    Both are part of team “birds of feather flock together”
    Taseer was not desperate for that poor lady Asia he had some other agendas of political moves might be toward qadiynis or any plot given to him by agencies who full backed him for making governor of Punjab during Musharraf time.
    His real life was full of unIslamic patterns, like adultery, drinking, having illegitimate child,got money through all legal and illegal ways sticking to power mafias of Lahore etc.His 25 storey plaza in H block gulberg clearly showing his inclination toward land mafia as this land was taken from Govt .
    If you are Pakistani then you must know all back odds of taseer who throughout worked as one and only motuh piece of Zardari group while sitting in state guest houses of Punjab.
    You know how much money he shifted to Srilanka share market in last month when he was gone there under secret trip.
    Now under facts read your statements.
    “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?”

    Same thing for bahtti
    go and find how much he was linked with land mafias and human smugglers via govt passports.
    you would get the facts.They all are killed no because of their any stand on religious conflict but some other hidden story of serious deals with dons of Pakistan.

  9. Simply, we are wasting time with these leaders, this has happened with Amal Kansi, he was picked up from Quetta, happened with Raymond Davies, he had to be released, and now with allegedly so call Osama bin Ladan, the fact that the USA can do any thing inside Pakistan, is sufficiently shameful for every Pakistani, and every person who still lives under this delusion that we are a sovereign nation. We have an army who is very good in killing own people, like baloch in Balochistan or other in Waziristan. They can not protect us from the Drone attacks, or any aggression of american army, 79 fully armed people against three men, two women and two children, which law allow any army to arrest children and women.

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