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Lahore in free fall?

August 26, 2011

Can someone ask the Punjab government that with such a terrible wave of extremism raging there, how many militants has the police nabbed so far? How many have been brought to justice? – AP (File Photo)

His father died for a value system he held dear, and which negated all bigotry and religious extremism. Shahbaz Taseer is now punished for being his father’s son. Are they going to leverage his release with the Taseers being pressured into accepting blood money and let Salmaan Taseer’s killer walk free? Anything is possible in Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab, with the Sharifs presiding over a cabinet of ministers, some of whom are hand in glove with the banned militant outfits. The Punjab government’s soft-peddling on rising acts of extremist terrorism is little secret. Shahbazpura it is.

The abduction at gunpoint of Shahbaz Taseer from near his Gulberg home in Lahore is a sorry reminder that Pakistan’s second city is no more the safest place to be. This is the second high-profile kidnapping this month after the American development worker, Warren Weinstein, was taken away from his home in Model Town. Now those aren’t the neighbourhoods with a high crime rate, so these are obviously no ordinary crimes. They have all the extremist symbolism attached to them.

And hear this: while Lahore falls apart, the Punjab chief minister tours Sindh to sympathise with the flood victims in Badin and victims of the May 12, 2007 killings in Karachi, offering his sterling advice on how to tackle the law and order situation in this troubled metropolis from the safe environs of a five-star hotel. Why isn’t there a voice in the media saying that this Shahbaz (Sharif) is not up to his job, when there’s a chorus against the failure of the Karachi and Sindh administrations in the same quarters? While Kasur drowns in floodwaters, Mr Sharif feels pain and anguish for the flood-affected of Badin. As Punjab goes under the yoke of Talibanisation, with a series of terrorist attacks and kidnappings rocking the province, the Punjab CM’s heart bleeds for targeted killings in Karachi. Someone please help find the logic.

A terrible wave of extremism grips Punjab, while the police do little besides moral-policing citizens. Can someone ask the Punjab government that with such a terrible wave of extremism raging there, how many militants has the police nabbed so far? How many have been brought to justice? Is there really a figure to be quoted? Nay, the government’s priorities lie elsewhere. The Lahore police chief even thwarted the attempt at nabbing the kidnappers of Warren Weinstein by blowing the whistle at the wrong time. This is precisely why the Americans had to go it alone to kill bin Laden. Our law enforcers are not only inept, they have their strings attached to the fingers of more inept people in the administration.

Because nothing is done in Lahore without the CM being behind it, it is obvious that the cops sniffing people’s breath on the streets of Lahore have such explicit orders. Never mind the firearms that one may be carrying, and which may be used for terrorising the people, staging terrorist attacks on shrines or kidnappings, Lahore law enforcers only ensure that you don’t fly a kite by day or consume alcohol by night. And you are free to kill any number of Ahmadis even as they pray to the same Allah as you do. Can’t always find an Ahmadi? Well, there’s always a Shahbaz Bhatti somewhere in a Christian ghetto or a Salman Taseer who would stand up for him, so you are free to have a go at them instead. Welcome to Lahore, 2011.

The self-righteous cries for saving Karachi from the terror of political parties’ armed wings emanating from Lahore by such eminent people as Imran Khan, Shahbaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan, for instance, are ill-timed, to say the least. Why don’t they do something about fixing Lahore, which for all practical purposes is becoming free-for-all. And all this in the name of Allah, which is a real shame.

The abduction of Warren Weinstein and Shahbaz Taseer are but indications of the severity of the threat posed to Punjab by rising extremism. Will Imran Khan, even if only with his supporters at Lums, stage a dharna at Lahore’s Charing Cross against this evil? Some fat chance, well… in Shahbazpura!

— Murtaza Razvi is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.