ONE of the lasting images of Count Dracula played in the 1958 version of the horror film Dracula by Christopher Lee was blood dripping from his teeth and down his chin after he claims his victim as his glazed, bloodshot, wide-open eyes stare into the distance.
Of course, you’d be well within your rights to ask about the relevance of that image today particularly as these lines are usually dedicated to an analysis of the contemporary political scene with all its daily twists and turns.
That image jumped into my mind as I first read allegations of how ‘liberals’ were disappointed by the agreement between the authorities and the rampaging Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Punjab as the liberals would have preferred bloodletting.
Yes, those making these allegations included the usual suspects in the media whose disdain for the ‘live and let live liberals’ is bordering on the insane. But joining them and then becoming the leading voice in this chorus was one of the most eminent ulema in the country.
Known as ‘Mufti-i-Azam Pakistan’ in Barelvi circles, you’d immediately recognise him from the immense anxiety he caused over two decades while people waited for him to confirm whether or not the Ramazan or Eid moon had been sighted anywhere in the country and whether the following day you needed to fast or celebrate Eid.
The pliant tools of the past are becoming increasingly aware of their own power.
So, when Mufti Munibur Rehman formerly the chairman of the moon-sighting Ruet-i-Hilal Committee was reportedly drafted in by the army chief to defuse the crisis caused by the TLP-PTI stand-off and he apparently delivered, his wrath was directed at a couple of ministers in particular and the liberals in general.
Read: Red Zone Files: Does Mufti Muneeb see a future for himself in the TLP?
I bet when he used the term bloodthirsty liberals, he saw an army of Count Draculas with the blood of TLP demonstrators running down their chins. Why else would he deride liberals thus? All that the liberals and all peace-loving of Pakistanis wanted was to see the law upheld and peace restored.
Just as Mufti Munibur Rehman wanted when he endorsed military action against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan which was shredding the country’s law and shedding innocent blood in the same name and for a cause not dissimilar to the TLP’s.
As for me, I hate labels and am not even sure whether I am a liberal, or leftist or some other denomination. But what I do know is that spreading chaos invoking the name of the Divine and His beloved final Prophet (PBUH) is repugnant to me.
I wish to assure Mufti Munibur Rehman and some of my revered journalist friends, with whom I have stood shoulder to shoulder for the cause of truth and the right to articulate it freely, that bloodlust is not among my long and abundant list of failings.
To remove any ambiguity allow me the liberty of listing some of my failings. I do feel pain like many Pakistanis I know that Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa was castigated and made to swim through an ocean of fire for merely pointing out the most obvious reasons for conflict and chaos in society in his Faizabad TLP dharna (November 2017) detailed verdict released in February 2019.
Need I recall at any great length what he said? Should you need to refresh your memory, dawn.com not only has the detailed judgement but also a succinct piece carrying the main ‘takeaways’ from the detailed judgement of the two-man bench, authored by Justice Isa. Justice Mushir Alam was the other member.
One could argue that February 2019 was less than three years ago and the verdict’s implementation could not have happened in such a short period of time. The argument would carry weight if the state hadn’t wasted so much energy and time hounding the judge for calling a spade a spade, instead of making a serious effort to learn lessons from his judgement.
What is even more ludicrous is the state’s wilting will in tackling extremism in society and not waking up to the perils till the nose starts to slip under the water. Then, the state springs into action, and not just those on the front lines but all citizens pay a heavy price for the delayed action.
Look at the progress in rolling out the so-called National Action Plan devised and agreed on after the APS Peshawar massacre of 2014, a tragedy where terrorists slaughtered scores of innocent schoolchildren with bone-chilling, ruthless brutality.
The 20-point NAP, inter alia, called for countering hate speech and extremist material, a ban on glorification of terrorists in the media, dismantling the communication networks of terrorists and reversing the trend of militancy.
You need only watch Nadeem Malik’s TV interview of current Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid when he was an opposition leader where he glorified former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s murderer ahead of the 2018 elections to realise what happened to NAP.
The bitter, the very bitter, truth is that militant groups and extremism have been used as tools of foreign, national security policy and domestic politics, political engineering. This ‘roll them out, reel them in’ strategy has run its course as what were malleable, pliant tools of the past are becoming increasingly aware of their own power.
With tensions running high between the erstwhile same-page power centres-turned-adversaries, who knows if the latest round of TLP unrest was again meant to be used as a lever for prying open closed doors and options. If that was the case, it was myopic to say the least.
Experience tells us that Dr Frankenstein can create a monster but inevitably loses control over it. What was once a low-cost option of inflicting maximum damage on adversarial forces has become way too unpredictable, volatile and hence dangerous to deploy.
The only way going forward is not backroom deals that can’t be disclosed for fear of judicial scrutiny or shame or whatever reason. Let’s concede in the national interest that the hybrid system has been a miserable failure and the only way forward is via a duly representative parliament and transparent decision-making.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021