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The enemy within

Published Apr 19, 2012 12:15am


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THE enemy within has been nibbling away at Pakistan’s vitals with vastly increased ferociousness and there is little evidence to suggest that the monster is being tamed.

The latest wave of sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan has been going on for more than six weeks. On the last day of February, 18 people belonging to the territory were brutally shot dead after being forced out of buses in the Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

After the victims’ identity had been established with the help of their national identity cards they were lined up and gunned down by a firing squad whose members were wearing military uniforms. The grisly operation had obviously been planned well in advance and bore the stamp of professionalism. The authorities made some noise but failed to nab the killers and eventually took refuge under the excuse that the culprits had crossed over the national frontier.

They were proved wrong on April 3 when the monster of intolerance raised its head in Chilas. Again a large band of armed militants stopped several buses on the Karakoram Highway and picked out members of the Shia community for slaughtering. This time the authorities chose to display their armed might. The army was called in and a nine-day long curfew was imposed. Whether this had any effect on the perpetrators of the sectarian strife is not known; what is known is the unbearable hardship caused to the curfew-bound population.

Referring to the “terrible condition of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan”, a student wrote on April 15: “…[T]he two million people of Gilgit-Baltistan are hostages in the name of security for the last 12 days. The transport system was closed down from the first day and that has caused shortage of food. There is no medicine left in hospitals. They blocked the cellular services and that cut the links among relatives. We don’t know what is happening to them.

“The government has failed to maintain law and order. Instead of taking serious action it only makes statements. The trouble is within a five-kilometre area of Gilgit. Four forces were operating in the area — the FC, Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, Rangers and the police. Now they have called in the army. No improvement yet. We are a peace-loving people. We want peace at any cost. For that we are ready to support the government and all law-enforcing agencies. At the same time we are human beings. We need food for our survival. We need medicines. We need your support.”

The young student’s cry of anguish is without art or labour and must carry greater weight than the empty rhetoric of professional politicians.

Now peace is reported to be returning to the trouble spots in Gilgit-Baltistan. But for how long? There is no use pretending that successive eruptions of sectarian violence in that territory are of local origin or are caused by stray incidents. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been the target of discrimination and oppression because their majority subscribes to the Shia faith. For this reason, they were denied elementary legal and political rights for decades.

Now their strategic location has become a source of their misery. The new breed of militant hard-liners is apparently determined to subdue the local population by any means, including a forced change in the territory’s demography. Thus, the sooner the government stops treating the periodic bloodletting in Gilgit-Baltistan as a routine law-and-order matter the better it will be.

But Gilgit-Baltistan is not the only place where Pakistan’s worst enemy is seen in action. At the other end of the country, it is targeting the Hazara community of Quetta in what is looking more and more like a sectarian-motivated pogrom. Two dozen Hazara Shias were cut down within three days.

The victims have done everything possible to remind the government of its duty to protect them. They have curtailed their normal activities and have been disposing of their property at throwaway prices — this is perhaps one of the objectives of their tormentors. Here too the perpetrators of violence are believed to be the extremists from outside Balochistan who have set up regular militias with the purpose of challenging the existing order in Pakistan and the neighbouring countries.

This enemy can be seen elsewhere, too. In Karachi the, same hand is targeting Shia professionals. Recently, it displayed its handiwork in Chenab Nagar where it assumed the form of a few policemen. They tortured an innocent teacher to an extent that he could not survive. Torture to death in custody is quite common, but since the victim in this case was an Ahmedi citizen they lost all sense of human mercy.

Unfortunately, this enemy within has been allowed to grow stronger and stronger over the past many decades. The state tolerated him as an ally in its confrontation with the advocates of a democratic, egalitarian order. The military rulers nourished him and pampered him as a key figure in their strategy to conquer the land and the people of Pakistan over and over again. Now he is openly challenging the constitution and the laws of Pakistan and has established his monopoly as the sole interpreter of the official religion of the state.

At the moment, this enemy is targeting only the communities vulnerable because of their belief or the parties in power. But he will not spare the opposition parties either. The religio-political parties’ turn may come last of all but they too will fall under the axe. It is becoming increasingly clear that Pakistan can somehow scrape through the many crises it faces today but it will not be able to survive the drift towards a capitulation to the demons of religious intolerance.

The ubiquitous enemy we are talking about has certain advantages over the state gendarmes. He can easily melt away in any congregation. He is disarmingly modest, does not appear to be materially corrupt and the corruption of his mind is too subtle to be evident to ordinary citizens.

Also, unlike the mercenaries in state service, he believes in his mission and is keen to die for it. It will not be possible to defeat this enemy unless all parties and people of goodwill come together, sink their differences and establish all Pakistani citizens’ equal right to the freedom of belief. That is the only route of salvation and we do not have much time to cover it.


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

Comments (29) Closed

Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 12:01am
"That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true. When those who are concerned in the government of a country make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between (people), it becomes the more unpardonable." -- Thomas Paine (The Rights of Man, 1792)
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 12:08am
" with malice toward none and charity for all, let us bind up the nation's wounds." Abraham Lincoln (after America lost 830,000 soldiers killed in a civil war)
zubair Apr 19, 2012 09:17am
these groups who kill in the name of Islam should know that Quran explains the muslims that killing of an inocent life is not at all liked by Allah pak. Quran clearly states that killing of an inocent is killing of the whole humanity. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has always preached and practiced tolerance , A pluristic society, HE declared general anmesty for people of Makah , the signing of Sulah e Hudabiya , Signing of a pact with chirstians. All these teachings of Prophet and Quran are a clear indication that neither our Religion nor our Prophet likes violance and being true muslims we should not kill in the name of religon. Rather pray to ALLAH PAK for these people to give up violence. PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH) always preached Islam but did not ever force any one to come on the right track we muslims in the whole world should follow the teachings of our Prophet and preach Islam and potraie the Image of Islam as the Religon of peace.
Monty.. Apr 19, 2012 09:42am
Dawn really has some good journalists.....Nice article..
Nasr Apr 19, 2012 01:10pm
This is the duty of state to stop this blood shed in the name of religion in Pakistan. Excellent article by IA Rehman sb.
SharifL Apr 19, 2012 12:29pm
IA Rehman is an excellent writer. I wish Pakistan had more like him
Sajan-Jaipur Apr 19, 2012 03:57pm
This writer depicts it very simply..Nice to read..
Khan Apr 19, 2012 06:06pm
Excellent article but the establishment is not ready to hear the truth!
A.Bajwa Apr 19, 2012 06:15pm
Pakistan has three options a) society rejecting the extreme versions of Islam b) State rooting out extremist elements c) West massively funding economic and cultural uplift. The prospects are bleak for all the three.
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 12:34am
"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector." -- Plato
M. Abro Apr 19, 2012 07:50pm
Nice Article, Establish never seem take interest in resolving such issues because it always has bleeded the poor,deprived and underpriviliged
pathanoo Apr 19, 2012 07:55pm
The best way to eliminate this religious scourge is to make Paksitan a Secular Nation where every citizen is equal and no one can use religion to hide barabrism, fanaticism, hatred and exclusion. As long as pakistan is a Islamic republic, peace will allude it. The monster of religiosity has been fed over decades and now is too strong to be killed with weak medicine of just talk and hand wringing.
Mike Rauf Apr 19, 2012 08:03pm
The Agencies & the victims know who the killers are... Very obvious.The question ; Is military & government sincere enough to tackle the issue?
Manzoor Ahmed Apr 19, 2012 08:47pm
Do we muslims believe in peacefull co existance? We dont learn from history and keep on repeating same mistakes.
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 12:44am
You are talking about civil war, not about ducking the issue. So far Pakistan's soldiers and police have no desire to get themselves killed. That is why the President of Pakistan wants American drones to hit "his" targets.
AAhmed Apr 20, 2012 05:00am
It is also the duty of citizens to protect each other and show compassion and tolerance. Governments alone cannot do all.
shakrullah Apr 20, 2012 05:39am
The author has rightly pointed out that the country ' will not be able to survive the drift towards a capitulation to the demons of religious intolerance'. The atmosphere of insecurity and fear created by them is eroding the sense of belonging to their motherland of large sections of society .It is tragic to find Pakistani muslims seeking asylum in non-muslim countries because of their persecution in the 'fortress of Islam' .
asghar zaheer Apr 20, 2012 06:32am
The violent militant religious bigots will remain a menace to the society till the silent majority picks up courage to counter their perverse thinking and worldview . Unfortunately , the bigots silence all dissent , ,all sane and rational discourse with threats of violence .
Attaturk Apr 20, 2012 06:54am
Its not a question of who are the killers or why aren't they being caught... The real question is how many millions of Pakistani's actually are already brainwashed into believing that the killers are doing the right thing. If we honsetly try to answer this question, the answer will shock us. But only after we have answered this question can we seek a solution.
ali imran Apr 20, 2012 12:15pm
how come terrorist become so strong that their every plan succeeded while the state defence's failing. Not possible without some hidden support within forces
jan saab Apr 20, 2012 12:25pm
Love for all Hatred for none is the only way forward if Pakistan is to survive as a country
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:22am
Americans believe God protects America. In Pakistan people believe Allah is protecting them personally, if you will. When Muslims get to Europe and America they are not willing to put the country first. That is why they cannot fit in or assimilate. That is why Pakistanis burn the American flag. I don't recall Americans burning the flag of Pakistan. Terrorists do not care about any national flag. Fundamentalists care about the flag because Pakistan was founded as an Islamic Republic. The danger is that The Avengers will attack any enemy who is handy. During the Hungarian Revolt the anti-communists murdered their neighbors. It's always the same. The Bosnian Muslim women said, "We don't understand. The Serbs were our neighbors for 25 years." What they don't get is that the problems are economic - not religious problems. At least the Shia will appreciate that Europe and America took them in. There are two million Palestinians in America. How many live in Pakistan?
Cyrus Howell Apr 20, 2012 11:39pm
"Why is Congress saying one thing, and doing nothing?" "Well, Tradition mostly."
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:29am
In America Palestinians live in Jewish neighborhoods - because they share the same dietary laws ... and they are not killing each other. Only unhappy people are murderers. An observant Jewish family is not going to allow a daughter to marry a Muslim. LIkewise, a Muslim father will not allow a daughter to marry a Jew. Problem solved. "It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood."
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:33am
"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men." -- Voltaire, 1764
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:38am
"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by sword. The other is by debt." -– John Adams "The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else." -- Frederic Bastiat
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:45am
"Unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away, and the control of your dearest interests have been passed into the hands of these corporations." -- President Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837 "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." -- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864,
Cyrus Howell Apr 21, 2012 01:52am
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." -- James Madison "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." -- Nietzsche
daud Apr 23, 2012 04:22pm