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Religious tolerance in Pakistan

Published Aug 15, 2011 07:46am


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Muhammad Osman, originally from Mali, is seen praying in Manhattan on August 13, 2011. –Photo by author.

Imagine first the bustling streets of Anarkali in Lahore or Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar. Now imagine a Hindu or a Jewish person praying on the roadside. If religious tolerance had prevailed in Pakistan, this would be a non-issue as people would simply walk by the praying person.

While I can only speculate how Pakistanis would behave around a non-Muslim praying along the street, I need not wonder how Americans would react to a Muslim praying along the street side.

Just outside the store window in uptown Manhattan (New York), I see a Muslim hawker performing his Afternoon (Asr) prayer on the street side at the intersection of 7th-avenue and West 35th street. He sells DVDs and children’s books in the heart of Manhattan. As he prays, women in shorts and men wearing T-shirts walk by his kiosk.  No spectacle is created, or worse no insults or taunts are hurled.

This display of tolerance is a rather strange concept for Muslims to comprehend. How could the US while being involved in armed conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and being instrumental in covert operations in several other Muslim majority countries be so tolerant of Muslims, allowing them to have mosques and the ability to pray wherever they want.

Just a block away on 7th Avenue, members of a religious cult, comprising mostly of African Americans, were busy ridiculing the most revered figure in Christianity. They had caricatured Jesus’ image as a demon on a poster lying on the ground.  While wearing strange-looking garbs they were trying to provoke others in a shouting march about faith.

Almost all Americans and tourists chose not to entertain the blasphemous stupidity of these very misguided youth. There were no shouting matches or attacks on these men who have been performing their provocative act for years near the busiest intersections in New York.

On this trip to New York, I am staying at Condor Hotel, located in the most Jewish part of Brooklyn, which is a borough of New York. The hotel is owned by orthodox Jews and hence it adheres to the strict Jewish religious code of serving only Kosher meals.

Each room in the hotel is equipped with extra amenities to comply with the special needs of the hotel’s Jewish guests. For instance, there is a wig stand in each room for women to hang their wigs while they sleep. The orthodox Jewish women are forbidden from revealing their hair to strangers. Hence they wear wigs to hide their own hair; a practice similar to some Muslim women who wear hijaab to cover their hair.

The streets around the hotel are filled with orthodox Jewish men wearing their traditional black and white clothes and Jewish women pushing kids in strollers. On the Jewish Sabbath however, i.e. Friday afternoons, the entire neighbourhood is deserted as the Jewish households confine to their homes during the Sabbath that lasts until Saturday evening. Thus all shops are closed; all business is suspended in the Jewish part of Brooklyn.

But that is not the case everywhere in New York. A short train ride away is Manhattan, where streets were bustling with people on Friday night. Way past midnight I walked into a shoe store near the Time Square. Businesses were open, restaurants were serving food, and electronic billboards were flashing larger than life images of models showcasing apparel, while thousands were celebrating in the streets, theatres and restaurants.

Earlier in the afternoon on Friday I visited New York University’s Stern School of Business, which is located in downtown Manhattan. I walked by a Church located right next to NYU’s campus. The Church’s notice board commemorated American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. The notice board listed the 4,466 American soldiers who died in Iraq and another 1,643 who died in Afghanistan. Also listed on the Church’s notice board were the 110,811 Iraqi civilians who had died since the US invasion of Iraq.

In no ambiguous terms the Church was highlighting the extent of misery and grief that beset the Iraqis. The notice board could have only listed the number of Americans dead and wounded in Iraq. Instead, the Church ensured that those who looked at these statistics also took note of the human toll exacted on the Iraqis resulting from the US invasion.

Could it be that Americans, or at least New Yorkers, don’t care about religion and hence, they choose to ignore the blaspheming black youth, very religiously observant Jews, or Muslim men praying on the street side. Of course, not everyone is that tolerant in the US, or in New York, for that matter. A few months earlier, some in New York opposed the construction of a new mosque near the former World Trade Center site. However, the local administration, headed by the Jewish mayor, Michael Bloomberg, strongly resisted the opposition to the mosque.

Perhaps most Americans understand the virtues of religious tolerance, which is evident when minorities are encouraged to practice their religious beliefs. The same tolerance helps maintain order in the society even when some try to act as irritants; remember the black youth trying to offend and incite Christians in Manhattan? Tolerance is also evident from the presence of thousands of mosques, temples, gurdawaras, and synagogues that punctuate the landscape in urban America.

Exactly 64 years since its independence, Pakistan on the other hand continues to struggle with shaping its identity. It is up to Pakistanis to decide how much or how little religious tolerance may prevail in the society.

Will Pakistan continue to be a country where Sikhs are prevented from praying, Ahmadis and Shias are slaughtered in and en-route to places of worship, where shrines of patron saints are destroyed by suicide bombers, or where foreign aid workers are abducted for ransom. Or will it be a country where religious pluralism, as was envisioned by Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, would flourish?

Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.  He can be reached by email at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (122) Closed

James Aug 15, 2011 01:11pm
Bigotry is rampant and reinforced by the Pakistani newsmedia too. In a recent episode of the In Session TV program anchored by Asma Choudhry, and broadcast on the 14th of August, a film producer Syed Noor decried that his identity as a Muslim was under threat because Hindu deities were being shown on local TV. It was not only an insult to the minorities of Pakistan but what was more shameful was that the views were totally unchallenged by the anchor or any of the other participants. Unfortunately there is a reason for the Talibanization of Pakistan. The level of intolerance which is bred in Pakistani society by bigoted world views is indeed condemnable.
Nadeem Khan Aug 15, 2011 01:15pm
Ahhhh what to say ... each n every passing day is bringing more n more severe bad news from Pak =( religious tolerance is way to unimportant !
Tahir Aug 15, 2011 01:27pm
A very well written Article. This topic should be highlighted the most as it is the most needed topic today within Pakistan to advance in the 21st century, hence they are only moving backwards.
sana yasin Aug 15, 2011 01:35pm
Good Read.we need to be change.stop blaming leaders.its me and you who have to change to save our homeland
Zahid Anwar Aug 15, 2011 01:53pm
"Will Pakistan continue to be a country where Sikhs are prevented from praying, Ahmadis and Shias are slaughtered in and en-route to places of worship, where shrines of patron saints are destroyed by suicide bombers, or where foreign aid workers are abducted for ransom?" The answer to your question is: Yes. It is because Pakistan is an Islamic country, unlike the godless western countries. In islamic countries, following islam is the most important thing and that includes propagating islam and getting rid of false religions.
babar Aug 15, 2011 02:00pm
Good write, but this also needs to be published in Urdu newspaper....
QADEER KHAN Aug 15, 2011 02:07pm
All non-sense...has any body burned bible in Pakistan ??? you mentioned jews..can you please mention how tolerant they are towards Muslims, whether its Brooklyn in NY or Edgware in London..they live like same and they are more extremist than Muslims in their faith and was good for you that you went during sabbath otherwise you would have felt the heat...FYI there are still church's across Pakistan and Christians free to wear cross, Sikhs doing business in Anarkali and Peshawar wearing their traditional clothes, Pakistan didn't put ban on it. They have their worship place in hassan abdal and nankana no one destroyed it.. Hindus still illuminate their houses on diwali, large population is living in Karachi. Raymond Davis was also Consultant ?? what foreign aid you are talking about USA wants to give aid to shrine in Dera Ismail Khan why because its near to world most purified Uranium Reserves, why that shrine, will US aid workers will do humanitarian work there lolz...why don't they help in Attaabad Lake ??? come one wake my friend...IF YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR IDENTITY THEN MAKE YOUR OWN DON'T FOLLOW OTHERS DON'T MAKE THEM MODEL FOR YOU, AN IDEAL IS THERE FOR YOU.. MOHAMMAD (S.A.W) LOOK AT HIM HOW HE GAVE GENERAL FORGIVENESS WHEN HE CONQUERED MAKKAH.............Ahmadi still have rabwah in Pakistan and they live here, no one asked them to leave Pakistan. church's have not been asked not to ring bells in Pakistan like Azan being banned in west. Every Culture have pros & corns.........
Mohsin Aug 15, 2011 02:21pm
Try praying somewhere in South in US on the road side. Somewhere like Arizona, Texas, Arkansas. Education and multiculturalism make a huge difference. NYC is a unique case and comparing US with Pakistan is like comparing apples and oranges.
Zulfikar Ahmed Aug 15, 2011 02:22pm
A well written article pointing to one of the ills of our society. Yes, we happen to be an intollerant nation. But that intolerance is not confined to religoin. We intollerant to everything that is not at our wavelength. But I see more socio-economic and political reasons that religion behind that. In fact religion is used as a political (and emotional) tool to increase that intollerance. Still major cause is the illiteracy and ignorance and lack of questioning the logic of many things which are imposed on us in the name of religion. Very easily one gets the title of 'infidel' when one questions! Allah may guide us to right path.
UMAIR Aug 15, 2011 02:27pm
Agreed. Most readers of Dawn are pretty tolerant. It is the masses that read urdu newspapers that need this type of article.
asdf Aug 15, 2011 02:27pm
Hmm, the author says "Could it be that Americans, or at least New Yorkers, don’t care about religion and hence, they choose to ignore the blaspheming black youth, very religiously observant Jews, or Muslim men praying on the street side." It will be truly indifferent when it can also accept "blasphemy against islam and prophet" which is still frowned upon by the mainstream as a respect to the muslims. The very concept of blasphemy raises emotional temperatures of "majority" of muslims and in that alone muslims as a community have some catch up to do with the rest of the communities in america.
khan Aug 15, 2011 02:37pm
Islam teaches us to respect other religions, while it teaches us to preach our faith it does not teach us to slaughter others in its name. This is what our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us, and this is what our founding father told everyone right after we got our freedom "you are free to go to your mosques, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your churches" - this is basic elementary education but i guess you missed it.
Udaya Bose Aug 15, 2011 02:47pm
"This display of tolerance is a rather strange concept for Muslims to comprehend." Why is that so? What is it with tolerance that makes Muslims uncomfortable?
Umer Aug 15, 2011 02:48pm
Well writen Murtaza. Pakistan suffers from an identity where people are religious but they have nothing to do with deen. Tolerance is found in a culture,a background and surroundings which is marred in our case. People in Pakistan are writing of history and history eventually writing them of. Jinnah had a vision of religious pluralism in Pakistan as u mentioned but Pakistanis dont have the mentality to sustain it. I find non Muslims more tolerant because with all the sufferings they had from our hands ,they still offer you nationality and make you part of the society. There is not Muslim country which is ready to accept you or any other Muslim as a national of equal rights.
Forbidden Fruit Aug 15, 2011 02:48pm
Agreed! This badly needs to be published in an udru akhbaar to reach out to the masses. Only a handful reads english news compared to the readership of urdu newspapers.
Syed Hyder Aug 15, 2011 02:50pm
A brilliantly written, must-read article. Hats off Syed Hyder
Tahir M Aug 15, 2011 02:52pm
Seems to have touched a raw nerve. What is that amendment in the 1974 constitution doing to help your argument? Wake up.
Syed Hyder Aug 15, 2011 03:08pm
Can you please explain me , how do you know that you are on right muslim sect. Don't you believe in that God is the best to judge, who is Right and who is wrong, who actually give you right to judge ?
Saad Aug 15, 2011 03:27pm
try praying in the open in the bible belt in any small city... I would love to see the reaction. Ask any muslim who has actually lived in US to see how comfy they feel praying in airports. Maybe you have had better experiences in Canada and never had a pat down! Yes, the bigotry is there in Pakistan, more than big cities of US, needs to be fixed, madrassas cleaned of hatred etc etc, but the comparison you are making is extremely pathetic. You are comparing a religion-based state to one where there is a separation between church and state. And don't forget that it is the NYC that condemned Aafia to her fate despite all the forensic evidence to the contrary.
BM Aug 15, 2011 03:45pm
I want to reply to Mr. Qadeer khan. Mr. Qadeer thinks that minorities in Pakistan are treated well but as an Ahmadi I don’t agree with him. We do have Rabwah but we can’t name it as Rabwah, we do have our graveyards there but can’t have epitaph of our choice on our graves, even Dr. Abdus Salam can’t have it. We do have ‘places of worship’ but we can’t call it what we want to call it, we can’t give call to pray. We are put into jails for saying Muslim greeting words. Ahmadis are discriminated in admissions to colleges and universities. And in the end Mr. Qadeer says that nobody is asking us to leave Pakistan. I should appreciate author of this column who has praised Western social attitude of religious tolerance, I believe Pakistan could have been very tolerant society, had we implemented Mr. Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947.
BIMAL CHANDRA JHA Aug 15, 2011 03:47pm
Sir, Congratulations to Murtaza Haider for writing an excellent article on religious tolerance as practised in USA.He has also dealt with a small section of religious fanatics. In fact, religious intolerance in Pakistan is the creation of politicians,army and religious fundamentalists.Even in India, 99% of people believe inh tolerance. However, We admit that 1% people donot believe in religious tolerance. Even in our city at Patna people offer Namaz on the street in the Hindu dominated locality, but the worshippers are not offended. We can only hope that the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh-once a part of undivided India will live in peace and prosperity- a hope that young generations of these countries can fulfil. -BIMAL CHANDRA JHA, SAMANPURA ROAD,PATNA, INDIA
Shivkumar Aug 15, 2011 04:01pm
Very True. In Pakistan Minorities are not second class but no class citizens. Very few Pakistanis have the courage to stand up for Minorities.
JNC Aug 15, 2011 04:05pm
You just proved the author's point. Thanks
A. Tandukar Aug 15, 2011 04:06pm
Thank you for writing the Article.
moeed Aug 15, 2011 04:10pm
wow very good article it just shows us the mirror the religious extremism is at it heights in pakistan i have witnessed this thing with my own eyes in england people praying in the street or gardens imagine a person of other faith doing this in our bazaars or streets this is the difference between them and us
Asif Aug 15, 2011 04:14pm
Saad, I am from the bible belt. I have prayed along side of the road. Never have I been stopped, disturbed or questioned. About praying at the US airports, there are prayer rooms or you can almost pray anywhere as long as you arent in the way. Ask a muslim who has lived in the US long enough. We call this place home for a reason.
dv sikka Aug 15, 2011 04:23pm
'Live and let live' is the mantra that Pakistanis will need to understand. So far they have practiced unfortunately a philosophy of hate. A strategy that ultimately divided India in 1947. It worked for those who wanted a seperate muslim state. Now they have got it. It is high time that Pakistan said good bye to hate. Abeautiful Country is being destroyed because of the policies of hate. Pakis are fighting their neighbours, they are fighting each other. I can assure everybody that the people of Pakisan before partition were peaceloving and God fearing people. Go back to your roots and make Pakistan a properous country that it deserves to be.
wondering Aug 15, 2011 04:24pm
I just wonder what happened to the majority Hindus of Lahore since partition. Don't want to incite anything but read on another article in Dawn that Lahore had rich Hindu merchants etc
Shafiq Aug 15, 2011 04:30pm
You mention “doing this in our bazaar or street” but some can’t even do it in their own place of prayer without fear and attacks let alone in the open.
Mazhar Hussain Aug 15, 2011 04:43pm
Just based on one example you ruined real spirit of Pakistanis, there's thousands of examples of love and tolerance with other religions in daily life in Pakistan but sadly news media only expose bad side. I would urge overseas Pakistanis to not to compare west with Pakistan and please do not spread more despair in their own people. People who do sectarian violence are just in a few hundreds among 100 million population so please don't see whole country through one lense. while there are thousands of nice, sincere, loving and brilliant people in same population.
Dilip Aug 15, 2011 04:45pm
Good Expression
Dilip Aug 15, 2011 04:48pm
Rightly Said.
khalid Aug 15, 2011 05:23pm
There is no need to be so disappointed and upset from your mother land. If your mother develops some harmful disease then you don't just keep cursing her rather you take her to a good doctor and treat her. We love our mother land and will treat her from all her ills, InshaAllah
pakistani Aug 15, 2011 05:33pm
So what does Islam say about allowing those from other religion praying in public places in a Muslim country? If it allows them this freedom, then we, Pakistanis, ought to learn and implement that. If it only allows them to do so in their places of worship, then that is where they should do it. As for learning and inculcating religious tolerance; we need not look at USA or any western example. There are plenty in our own history. We just need to learn it and become better practicing Muslims individually; something that our educational system, unfortunately, does not really prepare us for.
P Dewan (India) Aug 16, 2011 03:10am
Kudos to Murtaza Haider for writing this and to Dawn for publishing it. This in itself is a big first step towards tolerance
voltore Aug 16, 2011 03:52am
Great Article!!
Arshad Karim Aug 16, 2011 04:07am
Saad, I am a frequent visiton of US and have prayed openly at quite afew major US airports. You get afew frown but never had I experienced anything more. Men feel free in that country and dont feel threatened or discriminated by colour or appearance.....not at least this long after 9/11!! also I am not sure about women with hijaab!.. Most airports in Europe have prayers room too and some like Brussels have mosque at Int'l terminal.
Kautiliya Aug 16, 2011 04:44am
Self retrospection is important. Good article may be the Pakistanis can learn and thus live in harmony with others.
Abbas Aug 16, 2011 05:15am
Murtaza, with JUST 2 PERCENT non muslims, what kind of religious pluralism do want Pakistan to follow? Religious pluralism exists in nations with significant sections of minorities..not when they are systematically eliminated because they follow something else.
roquefort Aug 16, 2011 05:48am
A great thing to design a new ship when you are sinking but more practical thing to do is to repair your ship so it doesn't go under.
Sohail Ansari Aug 16, 2011 06:46am
Pakistan can really beneift from including the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in high school criculum... last i checked pakistan was a signatory to this declaration which mandates them to safegard and promote these right in every spare of life. ~sa
amir Aug 16, 2011 06:48am
Mr.Haider you fail to mention that thousands of sikhs make their annual pilgrimage to hassan abdal's punja sahib gurdawara. They are treated like guests and they love pakistan after seeing its peoples hospitality once doing the pilgrimage . Pakistan with its problems is still a tolerant society the shia sunni conflict is inflamed by extremist both from sunni and shia factions. Mr. Haider do no throw our beloved country under the bus it is young and stilling maturing but is a great country!
sami Aug 16, 2011 07:48am
Good job Murtaza! Until we recognize what is wrong with us, and stop getting all defensive, stubbornly refusing to correct what is wrong, we will continue to be mired with all the ills that beset us. How can you fix a problem if you are unwilling to even accept it as a problem, and that to me is the first hurdle that Pakistan faces, and unfortunately a large part of the muslim world also owns the same issues.
Swapnil julme Aug 16, 2011 09:56am
I really appreciate the writer and salute his wit to understand the pluralism. In today's world, as we are coming more and more closer, it is necessary for every individual to tolerate the situation whether it may be positive or negative. Let's be tolerant.
Nadeem Aug 16, 2011 10:19am
Dear Pakistani, Yes there are many examples in Islamic history that you can learn from but unfortunately your Mullah Islam does not allow you to do it. Just watch your Tv programs where it is openly allowed for these Mullahs to declare a group as "Wajib-ul Qatl as they do adhere to thepractises and believes of Mullah Islam. How amny Ahmadis and Shias have been murdered. And how about the Christains? And why have the Kalima been erased from Ahmadi mosques? Or should I call it a place of worship? Just come here to any city in North America and understand what religous freedom means. The word tolerance is something that the Jahil Mullahs do not understand. I don't think Pakistan will ever change or improve. It is a country going down hill very fast-religous aninmosity between different Muslim groups, forget about other religons. Ethic violnce and discrimnation. The big gap between rich and poor. Corrupt politicians. A very bad cup of tea!!! Thank Allah, I have got out of that mess!!!
khalid Aug 16, 2011 10:21am
Very good observation. Religious tolerance largely exited in early days of pakistan. But with the passage of time and due to worng policies of some religious leaders, it evapurated from our society. Those who know the worth of religion and pratice it are largely very tolerant. I believe pakistani at large are very tolarent nation.
Naeem Aug 16, 2011 10:29am
I totally agree with you Asif. I ahve lived here for 35 years and am very proud of my adopted country. I also travel extensively and see no other country that can match its level of tolerance for an outsider. Saad doesnt get it!! If pakistan does not separate religon from State, the country is doomed. Only in a countrty like Pakistan the Stet makes a decission of who is a Mulsim and who is not!!
Muhammad Saqib Ilyas Aug 16, 2011 10:35am
@BM: You are differentiating yourself from the muslims yourself by calling yourself a minority. Then, you want to merge with the muslims in other ways. That sounds treacherous. @Qadeer: I would think that there are good jews, too, just as there are some good and bad muslims.
taskeen Aug 16, 2011 10:35am
Good article. these types of article can help us to learn the exact meaning of religious tolerance.
Lt Col DonthaRaju Aug 16, 2011 10:36am
A sane voice which is equally applicable to all the nations of the Sub continent. Well written piece. Why don't we have such writings from eminent Indians domiciled in US adorning the Pages of Indian News Papers? I congratulate DAWN management for being able to elicit such great words of wisdom which we can all follow as Example by imbibing Religious tolerace and a healthy respect for our the Religious leanings of our fellow countrymen.
NR Aug 16, 2011 10:52am
Zahid Anwar, how do you know that you are practising the real Islam? Just becuase you area majority? Your version of Islam is pervereted if you beleive that others should be killed and destroyed. It is people like you who have given Islam a bad name all over the world and it is becuase of you that Muslims are suffereing everywhere. Please open up your eyes a little bit and learn basic Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad(SAW).
Ayan Khan Aug 16, 2011 10:55am
How can you term other religions as false?Learn to respect different school of thoughts.
romi Aug 16, 2011 10:56am
In a nation where muslims are killing their own people and you talk about minorities being safe ?
kasim Aug 16, 2011 11:04am
Ever wonder why even during these holy month of Ramzan there is so much killing - worst muslims killing their own people in Syria Iraq Yemen Libya Afghanistan IN our indepence day itself over 20 people killed - why ? this is all due to non tolerance
kris Aug 16, 2011 11:11am
Intolerrence is embedded in all the religions. More you believe the religion more bigots one will be. History is full of strifes and wars. Other religions and in US people are more moderates so they are tolerent. It is that simple.
Amjad Daniel Aug 16, 2011 11:12am
i think above article makes sense and everybody knows somwhere back of their mind. But lack of tolerance for minorities is around the world somewhere its high and somewhere low its all about how you have experience and in which part of the world. Pakistan is a very beautiful county and people are very generous the thing is good and bad people everywhere all over the world. we all should try to educate people who have negative thoughts about other religions and maintain peace in pakistan. Comparison will not work.
Samir Aug 16, 2011 11:26am
Well said, completely Agree with you.
KHALID ALI Aug 16, 2011 11:28am
Nice efforts from the author. We need to arrange such seminars at public level where we can express our such tolerated scenes or activities where every minority or majority should participate to put across the basic reason of bigotery.
KHALID ALI Aug 16, 2011 11:29am
Nice efforts from the author. We need to arrange such seminars at public level where we can express our such tolerated scenes or activities where every minority or majority should participate to put across the basic reason of bigotry.
Tariq Aug 16, 2011 11:31am
This is totally speculative, biased and not very near to any reality about Pakistan.
Mirza Imran Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 11:43am
Murtaza you are absolutely right and Tariq lives in fools paradise. I was at Washington airport one fine Friday few months back, and there were flags of many countries including Pakistani flying in the terminal, there was a praying room too where Jumaa prayers were held and even it was announced at the airport system for the timings so people can gather. Amazing. Under PPC 298B and C being an Ahmadi I cannot pray anywhere in Pakistan, it doesn't matter that I'll disregard such laws when they trample over my religious rights. But thats the truth my friend Tariq.
Jay Aug 16, 2011 11:44am
While tolerance of other faiths in Pakistan needs tremendous improvement, Murtaza Haider's thesis seems to be that America and the rest of the West are incredibly tolerant of other faiths. This is far from the truth, as those of us who live in America know very well. Intolerance comes in many forms, some blatant and brazen, some others subtle. Deeply offensive characterizations of Islam, Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and Allah are quite common in the whole of the West. The words, phrases, and comments are often so outrageous that I cannot imagine that anyone laying any claim to civility would engage in such talk. I dare not note those here. And the phenomenon is not new; very few in the West have ever had much good to say about Islam, Muhammad (pbuh), and Allah. It is nice to know that a Muslim can pray on a sidewalk in New York, and pray that in Pakistan too everyone can openly practice his faith. But here is where Muslims win out big time in their civility: they do not, and cannot, say even one trillionth of the offensive stuff about Jesus, Moses, Christianity, Judaism, and the bible that Christians and Jews say about Islam, Muhammad (pbuh), and Allah.
faraz Aug 16, 2011 11:45am
Just on another note, why do I see lots and lots of Pakistnis living outside Pakistan and labelling it different ways? What is your identity? You do nothing for Pakistan (except sending remittances, buying property for retirement and thus supporting already hyper inflation) and yet you complain about issues? How many Pakistanis in US alone and do they have courage to come back and serve the country, to make it a better place to live?
Mirza Imran Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 11:49am
Amir, you forgot to mention that Hindu temples were burnt down in Sindh when Babri mosque was brought down in India. A Christian lady was charged for blasphemy when she was overwhelmed by mean Muslim women using derogatory language against her. Salman Taseer took her side and was murdered. Extremists live in the culture under the protection of majority. Making Sikhs feel at hom is a political policy and was used by Ziaul Haq against India when he covertly supported Khalistan movement in 1980s. Kindly keep your records straight.
uday Aug 16, 2011 11:53am
I wonder why anyone from Pakistan has to go all the way to the US to discover tolerance. I invite Murtaza to come to my state in India or for that matter anywhere else he might wish to go. I ask him to come with his prayer mat and I can assure him he will find the same accommodation here in the sub continent. All the same I admire Murtaza for what he has said.
Mirza Imran Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 11:54am
Abbas, it is a misunderstanding that there are only 2% non-Muslims. Christians are much higher in population that normally considered, some Christian leaders estimate there population up to 10 million, while Hindus are about 3-4 million, if Ahmadis are considered a minority too, they are also about 4 million, making more than 10% religious minorities, then the Shia Sunni divide is about 80-20 in the rest of the population.
Mirza Imran Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 11:58am
Mullahs may kill them, this is what is happening since the days of Ziaul Haq. Christian worship places, Ahmadi worship places and even Shia worship places have been targeted in the past 30 years killings thousands upon thousands. Now the Talibanised people are killing fellow Sunni and other faith groups too. We are far from the culture of tolerance Murtaza has mentioned in this article.
Jay Aug 16, 2011 12:03pm
A further note on religious tolerance in America. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right here. That means there are laws against infringing on this freedom. Put another way, these laws keep the people's behavior in check, vis-a-vis practice of religion. Now that does not necessarily mean that people accept other faiths with open hearts; they don't. It simply means there are legal consequences if you proactively try to restrict religious freedom of anyone. Clearly that's the main reason no one bothered the man praying on a New York sidewalk. Remove the freedom of religion statute from the Constitution, void all relevant laws, and you will see religious intolerance practiced, possibly much worse than in Pakistan. Of course America's approach to religious freedom is precisely the right one; you really have to legislate these things. My only point is that behavior, in this case religious tolerance in America, that is a consequence of legislation, does not necessarily reflect what's in people's hearts.
Mirza Imran Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 12:05pm
Udaya, it is unfortunate that Muslims have developed intolernace over the past 100 years. It was there before but not of this extent. Being a Muslim I consider this attitude un-Islamic. Islam is what Prophet Muhammad practiced, and he allowed Christians to pray in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. He ate food given by Jewish neighbours and had social relations with all religious communities of his city. The intolerance shown by current Muslims is because of lack of education and their pervaisive ignorant cultures taking root all over Pakistan.
Ahsan Aug 16, 2011 12:10pm
Umm a good article ofcourse, indeed tolerance as a whole in Muslim countries is less so lets just not pick alone on Pakistan. Some very good comments also about Sikhs coming and visiting Lahore every year. Haider, I don't know how long you have been out of your country but churches and Hindu temples are their in places where minorities live and they live I guess in the most peacefully in Pakistan. Getting to the point that if Hindu or Sikh will perform their praying just on the street as like the one you are mentioning happened in Manhattan. One thing for sure dear, their is yet to see any act of such sort in Pakistan and the day it will happen, I can guarantee you, Pakistanis deal them selves as Pakistanis first and then religion. Pakistanis immigrated for good to outside have a very thin understanding of our society here. Your media has totally brain washed you guys. Do me a favour why don't you test yourself by being a lets say Hindu, come at the center of Hall road lahore or sadar bazar in Karachi. Put a small dhaba and in the morning ring a bell for the Hindu god. You will know it your self brother. Experience the reality rather than just writing about the one you don't know.
Pradeep Aug 16, 2011 12:21pm
It is the same as US in India. In any cosmopolitan city(Like Bangalore where I live) or most parts of India, a muslim can pray on the road and people do not care. Only in religiously sensitive areas it is not tolerated.
hassan rao Aug 16, 2011 12:22pm
very well written article... we all must show such tolerance level in order to make this earth a peaceful and livable place.
Massih Aug 16, 2011 12:26pm
Be it Saudi Arabia or Iran or Iraq you will never see any non-Islamic person allowed to practice his/her religion in public. So this is not a problem which is specific to Pakistan. The problem is that Islam and religious tolerance are totally incompatible.
Akshay Aug 16, 2011 12:41pm
Because Lt. Col saab, this is a non-issue in india... most of the time we wouldn't even bother to know the religion of a second person we communicate with or pass by. Why is this even important..??
Sohaib Ikram Aug 16, 2011 01:02pm
Intolerance of Pakistani people is not indebted to religion. We've developed this attitude over the years spanning all corners of life. You can see it being depicted in our daily lives i.e. while driving our vehicles and tangled on crossings, in markets, offices and everywhere. It is not specifically associated with religion. It is a national disease on psychological level and we can treat it only when we are able to diagnose it with its correct context. Show of this attitude by Muslims of Pakistan is obviously a very bad part but it, in no way, means that religion is responsible for this. Islam is the most balanced religion if observed in true spirit and we should not be ashamed of being Muslims. Also Islam has laid best possible rules for practical issues including tolerance. Taking only 'show of ritiuals on streets' as a primary measure of religious tolerance may not be right. You have taken USA as reference and just referred to internal face of that nation. What they've done to destabilize whole world external to USA is another debate but we need not look towards them to borrow principles of tolerance. If we are ready to cure ourselves, the best part is available with us as well. We should not be ashamed referring to our principles and history. I would like to quote only one Hadith which narrates apparently just an incident but, in my opinion, can be seen as an example of extent to which Islam can be tolerant. "Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Bedouin came and passed urine in one corner of the mosque. The people shouted at him but the Prophet stopped them till he finished urinating. The Prophet ordered them (other people) to spill a bucket of water over that place and they did so (Sahih Bukhari Hadith No. 219)"
Asma Jamil Aug 16, 2011 01:56pm
It is not the issue bcz we are Muslims living in Pakistan. It’s not an issue of compatibility of Islam and tolerance to other religions bcz no religion but Islam secures the rights of all other religions. The core issue is instability, lack of education to general masses and of course foreign funding to create chaos amongst people[here I do strictly agree that it’s us being weak that we let others manipulate us] .. And foremost the complete ignorance of true Islamic teaching and supremacy of Mulla culture in our land. I represent a random average family of Pakistan and I have no issue with ppl who doesn’t belong to my sect / or religion. We have diversified family friends in this regard and are on very amiable terms. Simply bcz I was educated so as to respect the human kind above and all of all differences and let it be just religious. Having said so don’t you think we need to show tolerance in other regards to. Tolerance when it comes to social classes!! In essence intolerance is not an issue its just the repercussion of lack of proper educational system. Regards, Asma
Asma Jamil Aug 16, 2011 02:04pm
Jay .. I so second you on your every mature thought ..
Rizwan Aug 16, 2011 02:07pm
Murtaza, I agree with your comments about issues in Pakistan created by certain elements in the society but I am not sure about the angelic image of America that you have portrayed. While there are many good qualities in the US society, it is naive to ignore the hard facts about the death and destruction caused by US illegal interventions, directly or otherwise in many places of the world during last 50 years. Millions of inocent people have been killed in Iraq because of illegal war and sanctions and thousands are dying in Afghanistan and yet for US, it's just a collateral damage. What about unjust and immoral support for Isreali occupation? Do we know that the biggest export industry of US is selling arms to the world. And the list could go on and on... We should read some of the hair raising facts that a great American intellectual Noam Chmosky has written about what's going on in the US in the name of protecting the National interests, which is damaging the whole world as well as the US society. I wonder if the freedom that you mentioned is due to Religious tolerence or religious apathy since they don't see any real threat to their national interests from someone praying on the side of the road!
Muhammad Tariq Aug 16, 2011 02:23pm
It is the fact that there is no restriction on praying in Pakistan, Iran or else where in the world. In pakistan, the terrorism seen is the result of injustice and ignorance. The objective is divide and rule.
Shafiq Aug 16, 2011 02:28pm
Saddened to note your lack of knowledge or the understanding of your country's practices. Or perhaps it is a part of the righteousness bravado in Pakistan. Right or wrong we are the chosen people sort of thing. How come you do not acknowledge the intolerance in every part of Pakistan. There isn't any part of our country where bigotry does not rule. Ask your elders who were marching in the 1946, as I was, to the tune of Quid-i-Azam, if the mullahs have not succeeded in creating what Haider is talking about. All the prominent Mullah organizations were against the creation of Pakistan, they failed and the Quid-i-Azam's determination took shape. Now the intolerant along with Mullahs are working to destroy it. The moment you realise this the sooner we can put it right. Shafiq Khan
Laeeq Aug 16, 2011 02:38pm
We love to go back to Pakistan. But make it safe for us and for our children. We still help Pakistan by our remittances and by helping our less fortunate relatives.
Tahir M Aug 16, 2011 02:41pm
Just for the records, after last year’s massacre at the two places of worship, there was a unanimous proclamation by the 13 leading religious heads of Pakistan that the incident was a conspiracy by the victims themselves to gain self sympathy. What a piece of absurdity? Sadly the public at large accepted it or didn’t have the nerve to challenge it. So if these are the role models and example setters then, you have the right to believe it is all speculative
Khaleek Zaman, USA Aug 16, 2011 02:43pm
The Rashidun caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab signed a treaty with Monophysite Christian Patriarch Sophronius, assuring him that Jerusalem's Christian holy places and population would be protected under Muslim rule.[77] When led to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site for Christians, the caliph Umar refused to pray in the church so that Muslims would not convert the church to a mosque or force the population to convert. He prayed outside the church. That was 638 AD - fastforward to 2011 AD and see what Pakistani's have done Mohmmad Ali Jinha's Pakistan, places of worship are fire bombed and worshipers lynched. Hope is that this history will witness this "FITNA" to eventually blow over, like all of the doas is the law of Nature (the goodness).
Laeeq Aug 16, 2011 02:44pm
Have you seen the security provided to Sikhs while they are visiting their shrines?
Elyas Ali Aug 16, 2011 03:09pm
Dear Murtaza, This has to be one of the best articles I have read in years. I recall my father telling me that in Punjab before the partition religious tolerance was widely practiced too. He told me of how his Sikh and Hindu classmates at his dorm in a boarding school always used to make sure that he was given his private time to do his prayers and like wise all his Muslims friends were so accommodating to their Sikh and Hindu friends to undertake their prayer time in their packed quarters. My father used to recall how he used to celebrate both Vesakhi and Deepavali with his non-Muslim friends and how his non-Muslim friends would celebrate Eid with such passion. Sad to see how religious intolerance has become such a feature in Pakistan today. Yet we want others to be tolerant of our beliefs.
Gilliana Aug 16, 2011 03:09pm
Inspite of what people say about the US I feel that the US is the embodiment and beacon of freedom. I also experienced this great freedom of prayer worship on my many trips to India during the past 60 years.
Ahmed Aug 16, 2011 03:11pm
Religious tolerance is the main tenent of Islam. The same is true for Pakistan. Why would 1/3rd of the flag be white then. It's something we have developed as a culture [some current circumstances have imposed on us] that we don't tolerate other religions. It has nothing to do with Islam.
kuldeep Aug 16, 2011 03:22pm
please do visit my city Bangalore, karnataka, India. People can pray&preach freely evrywhere including roadsides and they do nobody notices or gawk.
Ali Aug 16, 2011 03:28pm
I think rule of law, education and economic prosperity have made her a tolerant country. If these trio are sincerely practiced in Pakistan then it will be also a tolerant country. Due to rampant corruption economical performance is poor which leads the country towards poverty and ignorance. As a result hardliner Mullahs and other stakeholders come and very easily betray the innocent people of Pakistan towards intolerance, extremism and hypocrisy.
Elyas Ali Aug 16, 2011 03:31pm
Most of the Punjabi Hindus of Lahore left Lahore penniless and became refugees in Eastern Punjab. But their hardwork work and resolve is now paying off. Punjabi Hindus from the old West Punjab are the leaders of India today. Whether you are talking about the Bollywood, the Indian economy or the Indian armed forces all the industry leaders are Punjabis and almost all are from the old Lahore area and Faisalabad. Infact very few Indians if any can get into their exclusive social society. Such is their control on Delhi. The Hindus of old Lahore are the new elite in Delhi.
Abdullah Ansari Aug 16, 2011 03:47pm
Some questions to the writer. Which country banned minarets of Mosques? Which country printed cartoons of Muhammad SAW? Who burnt the Holy Quran? Who banned Hijab?
Shama Qureshi, USA Aug 16, 2011 04:04pm
A very well written article. However, I would like to mention that this is not the problem of Pakistan only. In most of the Islamic nations you will never see any non-Muslim person allowed to practice his/her religion in public. So this is not a problem which is specific to Pakistan. The problem is that Islam and religious tolerance are totally incompatible.
Masud Aug 16, 2011 04:23pm
A nice article. If you are mentioning religious tolerance in America, you should also present the other side of the picture. In addition to Park 51 masjid that you briefly mentioned, there were masjid issues in Murfreesboro, TN; Sheboygan County, WI; the liberal bastion of California and in fact, all over America. Also pertinent to mention the humiliating extra screenings at the airports as well as the fact that this election cycle, part of a major party's election manifesto is open religious bigotry against Muslims. Yes there are problems in Pakistan, but we shouldn't pretend that in America, it's all lovey-dovey when it comes to Islam and the treatment of Muslims.
Javed Aug 16, 2011 04:39pm
I am surprised to see that why our own Pakistanis when they go abroad become most critic of own Pakistani people. I feel Pakistanis are also tolerant like the people of the rest world. The current bad bad days are due to the wrong policies of the governments whether local or foreign.
Aneesh Aug 16, 2011 04:49pm
My friend, Eye for an eye is not a solution for any thing. Pls have tolarence and respect each other.
n.qureshi Aug 16, 2011 05:15pm
good article.people including the so called educated elite are quick to critisize the usa but given an oppurtunity would move here in a heart beat.i have lived and worked here and never experienced any extra harrasment at any place.
Khan Aug 16, 2011 05:21pm
The writer seems very bias against Pakistan and its people by portraying fake picture of religious intolerance his article. There are Churches and temples everywhere in Pakistan and minorities have no problem practicing their religion.
Kalyan Aug 16, 2011 05:29pm
While you are true to an extent, I have seen Temple and Churches in Muscat,Oman which is a very nice country...although eating in public during Ramadan is a big NO..NO..
Kalyan Aug 16, 2011 05:31pm
It is due to the fact that Majority Hindus are most secular, hence you found no problem...
Neeta Aug 17, 2011 01:08am
INDIA is a true example of tolerance. You get up early in the morning in India with chanting, Azan, prayers and bells coming out from temple, Masjid and Church. It's so beautiful to feel that experience!!
Rabbia, Pakistan Aug 17, 2011 02:44am
Dear Brother Asalam o Alaikum, While I was reading this article I got a feeling that it is based on religious tolerance in US until the very last two paragraphs when it talked about Pakistan. I think you should either change the title of this article or write another one TRULY on religious tolerance in Pakistan. All the points you mentioned about intolerance in Pakistan are true. However, they need to be explained in detail as you did in the first part of your article about US. And also along with that please keep your mind and heart open to see the religious tolerance in Pakistan. If I am there to criticize only I can give a way long list of religious intolerance in US, but I know twisting or hiding the truth is not allowed in Islam.
Kamran Aug 17, 2011 05:44am
I have been in UK from many years. Never seen any Christian performing prayers in Public in UK. And i am sure even Hindus do not do it. This article is baseless. Similarly they do not pray in streets in Pakistan. Because they dont need it.
S. Zafar Iqbal Aug 17, 2011 05:53am
Enough of this self-flagellation! Do you have any constructive ideas how to bring about the desired change ? Talk is cheap , and it is easy to criticize. Anyone can criticize. All we hear is criticism of this and criticism of that in Pakistan. It is about time those who are quick to criticize, put their money where their mouth is, and do something practically about improving the situation?
Factcheck Aug 17, 2011 07:50am
I can’t say about Asif but two rather infamous incidents say it a aloud. Few muslims praying in Giants stadium during football match were approached and escorted out of game when someone in the crowd alerted the police about some “suspicious activity”. Second incident happend at Mineoapolis airport when 6 muslim chaplins(iman) performed prayer at the airport when they were flying together to attend Imam conference in Denver. As soon as they boarded the aircraft people in the plane felt uneasy and called the cops. They were humiliated and booted out of the flight.
numbersnumbers Aug 17, 2011 07:58am
I recall that in 2010 more than 80 Ahmadis were killed in their "place of worship" in Lahore, just because they were Ahmadis. Do you call this (and many other incidents) examples of "minorities having no problem practicing their religion"?
Rashid Khan Aug 17, 2011 09:10am
Please try and appreciate the message the writer is trying send out. Its a message of tolerence and peace to all. It is not bigotry, discrimination and intolerence something that is fast spreading across the country. You mention churches and temples everywhere in Pakistan, can you count the number that were constructed in the past 64 years, compare this figure with the numbers of mosques that have mushroomed in the western world. So kindly remove the blinkers and come down to real thinking.
Tariq Aug 17, 2011 09:27am
Pakistan is more tolerant than USA. If not then can be judge that after 9-11 USA wage WAR and attacks different nation on different pretext. Where as Pakistan, we have been attacked on daily basis by USA and others, yet we so tolerant that even we don't bother to protest. Pakistan don't banned any scarf, nor we publish and cartoons, and forces minorities to carry Pakistani flags. Every Years Hindus and Sikhs even across the border came to Pakistan and celebrate their rituals. I always said, these copy paste type propaganda should be discouraged. We have seen USA give warnings to their citizens to remain or not to travel in Pakistan, yet more Americans are in Pakistan. Similarly, any foreigners came to Pakistan find reality different as being projected abroad.
Rashid Khan Aug 17, 2011 09:34am
Its all very well to claim the high level of tolerance in Islam but the point is why is is not practiced? Why are the people who are intolerant towards other religions and sects allowed to get away with their acts on the basis of religious props? Is it the spinelessness of our society?
sharma Aug 17, 2011 09:59am
Many bloggers did not understand what Murtaza is saying. He says Muslims can worship with a prayer mat any where in USA. Also in Israel , India and Sri Lanka they can do their prayers at airport terminals, in trains , bus stops if they wish. No body will worry about it. Will Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia , and Pakistan allow Jews , christians ,Hindus and Budhists do their respective prayers in their countries?
Rev. Eldrick Aug 17, 2011 10:19am
well said! Qureshi! That The problem is that Islam and religious tolerance are totally incompatible.
Rev. Eldrick Aug 17, 2011 10:20am
Let the author answer your valid questions>
Hussain Aug 17, 2011 10:34am
It's not that Pakistani as a nation is not tolerant to other religions. Americans are not religious tolerant themselves. Maybe you should have seen the protest at the Ground zero Mosque. The fact that most Americans are educated, open-minded, and have respect for fellow humans and the fact that it is also a secular society is what is great about the Nation like the US or in particular to some extent now India. In Pakistan, despite calling ourselves Muslims, we would kill a Muslim brother for a Rs 3000 cellphone. Shows you how tolerant we are or how we define tolerance.
Momin Aetizaz Aug 17, 2011 10:37am
I do not agree with your statement "Islam and religious tolerance are totally incompatible". Islam is all about teachings of tolerance and giving space for the others' beliefs! It's a different story if the current so called "scholarly maulvis" amongst us spur up ridiculous intolerance etc. There are numerous examples from the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad which show a high degree of religious tolerance in Islam.
zulfiqar ahmed Aug 17, 2011 10:50am
The authour is portraying the perception created by the media & is far behind from reality. He is probably igniting the difficulties created by Afghan Jehad created in 1979 by the world against former USSR and consequent of war could not be controlled due to many reasons which is now damaging her image and even stability.The fact is that majority is quite tolerant and a little minority does not reflect the true picture.It's very easy to write such thesis without knowing.They should help the country at least by portraying it,s soft image in these difficult hours.
yasir tahir Aug 17, 2011 01:05pm
You have assumed on your own how pakistani would behave. I have spent 5 years in hasanabdal where sikhs come every year in large numbers. no one gets taunted at or ridiculed upon. Similarly in interior sindh there are lots of hindus who celebrate their occasions and offer their prayers as Muslims do. Actually our religious intolerance is focused on sunni and shias. That is the weak link in the chain that causes whole chain to break.
Tahir M Aug 17, 2011 01:12pm
BM is saying that because according to the wretched rules of the country he is not allowed to call himself a muslim. He will be persecuted. Show us the way, since now even the Shia's are slowly being targeted and do you think they will "merge with the muslims"?
Harrod Aug 17, 2011 02:15pm
In Iran no follower of Bahai faith is allowed to pray in public. In whole of Saudi Arabia there are no Church where public can go and pray. Will Pakistan allow followers of Jewish religion to pray on streets blocking vehicular traffic say in the streets of Lahore ? Get real man. Non-Islamic citizens are treated as second class citizens in every Islamic country in the world.
S. Qureshi Aug 17, 2011 05:27pm
I do agree with some of you but somehow we need to tackle the religious extremism. I think we need to provide secular and multicultural teaching to our children at the school level. We have to clearly accept the fact that our ancestors were not the Arabs but the Hindus in this sub-continent. Our children must learn about Ashok, Chandragupta, etc. This is the way how we will be able to create a secular and multi-cultural society.
Mudassar Aug 17, 2011 06:01pm
Why just Ahmadis, what about other mosques that had been attacked in past. And you can understand easily what benefit they(ahmedis) got out of it, now they have road blocks in front of those worship places. No other mosque has such road blocks in place. Dont just see with one eye, open up your both eyes. And when you country is under attack everyone is affected you cannot say that this is religious intolerance, those are not normal people who are doing this, if that would be the case not a single ahmedi or shia or sunni would ever live in peace in Pakistan.
Mudassar Aug 17, 2011 06:06pm
Read about Islam and then criticize it. Be Muslim by being a "Muslim" not just by keeping a muslim name
Shafeeq AM Aug 21, 2011 05:12am
Tolerance is a balanced act, just like your bank balance, you add to it, it grows, you try to create a deficit, then with time humanity will be bankrupt Secondly, As some one else pointed out, jsut 3 lines related to pakistan and rest 300 related to US [yes am exaggerating numbers, not saying truth about content of article. The article has bias no doubt. Tolerance cannot be developed with this approach.....!] Firstly, tolerance, the world needs it. Not just religious , but tolerance , patience in general.... Zeroth, we are worldwide getting intolerant, blame not. I will blame myself every time i miss a chance to be tolerant and will try and better my act the next time. And I pray to give me the strength, to be tolerant to the intolerant. ...... If the rest here can do same, and help me in getting my act right, I will be grateful to each of you! (And yes Khalid Zaman, to me Caliph Umar's incident, is quite a guiding principle. And am sure, human history has enough examples for each of us to feel inspired and be tolerant. )
Shafeeq AM Aug 21, 2011 05:19am
Second your thought, cloaked with propaganda and counter propaganda's humans no longer are able to see the true picture. Bring out what you see happening in the country pakistan...