Homegrown terrorism - 2

Published May 12, 2002 12:00am

First and foremost, our sympathy must now be with the bereaved families of the Frenchmen and our own Pakistani citizens who were blown up last Wednesday by this novel form of terrorism which has now arrived amidst us - the unstoppable suicide bomber.

The original Thunderer, The Times of London, in an editorial on May 9 has correctly opined that governments that care little about losing their own citizens are forced to crack down more heavily if foreigners are murdered.

When foreigners are specifically targeted it provokes confrontation between embarrassed governments and foreign capitals. As for President General Pervez Musharraf, he "must hold his nerve, while foreigners hold their breath. There may be more to come."

Our own thunderer, Dawn in its editorial of May 11 has it that "Pakistan's enemies are both international terrorists and those operating at local levels to settle sectarian and factional scores."

Shortly after Musharraf took over, he tried to lessen the scope of mischief caused by our local level operators by making an administrative amendment in the prevailing blasphemy laws which have evoked much international and national disgust and criticism. But, he was prevailed upon by his so-called advisers not to rock the boat, so he backed down. Now that he is more secure, ostensibly, with a firmer hand at the controls, having been recruited by the powers of the world to join them in their battle against international terrorism, surely he is better equipped to tackle terrorism at home.

As one step towards doing so, he should revert and make an administrative amendment in the blasphemy laws as previously suggested. Before an FIR can be filed against anyone under these dreadful laws and all other laws that lead to religious persecution, the police must have the prior written sanction of the advocate-general of the province.

Dr Younus Sheikh, now in the death cell, Circle 3, Central Jail, Rawalpindi, where he has been since he was sentenced to death in August 2001 having been charged under the iniquitous section 295-C of our blasphemy laws, has again written to me: "I draw your attention to religious terrorism, violations of basic human rights [and] transparent injustice being perpetrated under the notorious lynch law, the Blasphemy Law 295-C PPC, in our beloved Pakistan.

As you are well aware, religious fundamentalism, fanaticism and Taliban-style Nazi organizations exist in Pakistan, and these evil organisations are led by the fanatic and extremist mullahs who have abused this law to the extent and in a style that it may be called 'religious terrorism through the abuse of the blasphemy laws.'

"Like the infamous Indian law, Poto, our Pakistani law, 295-C PPC, is wide open to abuse through and by the miscreant mullahs for political, religious, sectarian, repressive and vindictive purposes on the pretext of undefined wording of this law.

"Its abuse is indeed a sign of the creeping onslaught of malevolent and fascistic mullahism and religious fanaticism at social, political and cultural levels, a rising wave of aggressive ignorance, incivility and intolerance as well as the abysmal mediaeval theocratic darkness."

Dr Sheikh's trial was held in camera inside the Rawalpindi Central Jail after the mullahs of the Aalimi Majlis Tahafuz Khatam-i-Nabuwat Pakistan had issued their usual threats. The petrified judge, in order to preserve his life, pronounced the death sentence, as writes Dr Sheikh "without good evidence. The facts of the case being that there was no tangible proof against me and all the oral or documentary evidence on court record pointed to my innocence."

An appeal has been lodged, which has resulted in a fatwa of apostasy being issued against Dr Sheikh and threats being issued against the lives of his lawyers and their families.

Dr Sheikh quotes one definition of 'terrorism' from an official US document: "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature carried out through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear."

Perhaps the community most prone to the religious persecution form of terrorism is that of the Ahmadis, as can be seen from a summary of cases registered against members of that community from April 1984 to April 1999: 189 for blasphemy, punishment mandatory death sentence plus fine ; 10 for allegedly burning copies of the Quran, punishment life imprisonment; 378 for posing as a Muslim, 93 for praying, 27 for celebrating the Ahmadiya Centenary, 50 for celebrating the Centenary of the Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, 748 for displaying the Kalima, all crimes punishable with three years imprisonment plus fine. Seventeen cases have been registered against the Khalifa-tul-Masih charging him in absentia with blasphemy, punishment mandatory death sentence plus fine.

As many as 1,296 members of the community have been charged with various other crimes.

On December 15 1989 the entire population of Rabwah (some 35,000 persons) was charged under Section 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which reads: "Person of Qadiani group, etc, calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith : Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves Ahmadis or by any other names), who, directly or indirectly poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine." This section was inserted in the PPC 'by the Anti-Islamic Activities of Qadian Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance XX of 1984.'

The FIR was prepared, lodged and filed by Mohammad Ashiq Marath, Station House Officer, Rabwah.

The 35,000-plus were collectively charged with the crime of having inscribed the Kalima Tayyaba and other Quranic verses on their graves, buildings, offices of the community, places of worship and business centres. They were also charged with having said Assalamo Alaikum to Muslims, for having recited the Kalima Tayyaba, and for having repeatedly indulged in similar Islamic activities.

Persecution under these laws is widespread. In Sindh, three years ago, Ayub Khoso, a young poet, writer and teacher at a school in Jhudo, near Mirpurkhas, was sentenced by the Mirpurkhas Anti-Terrorist Court to serve seventeen years in jail for allegedly having written a blasphemous column in the Sindhi newspaper Alakh (now closed down).

He has no means left to him to engage a lawyer to file an appeal. He needs help.

Most amazing of all these cases is perhaps that of another young man of Sindh, 17-year old Nazir Ahmad Khoso, an Ahmadi, charged with injuring the religious feelings of Muslims, and a series of other related charges.

On December 14, 2001 the Anti-Terrorist Court in Hyderbad sentenced him to a total term of 118 years imprisonment sentences to run consecutively.

The matter was referred to the High Court, which remanded the case back to the AT court, and this court very considerately amended its judgment and reduced the sentence to 60 years imprisonment. He is now in Hyderabad jail and his appeal is pending.

Whereas the thunderers thunder and groan, our other newspaper, 'The Nation' of Lahore printed a highly apt quote from Iqbal's 'Baal-i-Jibreel', on its back page on May 8, the day of the Karachi suicide bombing: "I happened to be there - I could not control myself.

When Providence ordered Mullah a place in Paradise. 'Excuse me for being impertinent,' I interrupted the Lord Divine, 'This person is not compatible with Houries, [gardens] and wine. Paradise is not the right place for a quibbler of precepts.

"This man of Allah argued and discussed, did nothing except preach malice to nations and sects - If you ask - In Heaven there is neither Temple, [nor] Church, nor Mosque'."

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