Allah, Farid, juhdi hamesha Au Shaikh Farid, juhdi Allah Allah. Acquiring Allah’s grace is the aim of my jihad, 0 Farid! Come Shaikh Farid! Allah, Allah’s grace alone is ever the aim of my jihad (Baba Guru Nanak Sahib to Baba Shaikh Farid Sahib)
The recent attack on Baba Fariddudin Ganj Shakkar’s shrine in Pakpattan was yet another brazen strike in the ongoing campaign of willful, malevolent and malicious attack on a section of society that believes in the teachings of pluralism and tolerance. Baba Farid, who is revered by Muslim, Sikhs and Hindus alike, is considered to be one of the founders of the Punjabi language in the thirteenth century. The message was unequivocal, “We will keep attacking if you continue with heretic practices and do not follow the interpretation in which we believe in.”
Neither the nature of the attack was new nor was the response of the authorities any different. It is already an established that militant organisations have been attacking whatever they consider ‘unIslamic’ according to their puritanical version of Islam. They do not just have a global agenda, rather they believe in imposing their own version of Sharia in the country.
The attacks on shrines have been taking place all over the country. In March 2005, 35 people lost their lives in a blast at the shrine of Pir Rakhel Shah in a remote village in Jhal Magsi district, Balochistan. In the same year in May, a suicide attack at Bari Imam Islamabad, a mausoleum that attracts people from above and across sectarian divides, took 20 lives and at least 100 people were injured. At first the attacks were mainly concentrated in areas adjacent to militancy-hit region. In December 2007, militants blew up the shrine of Abdul Shakoor Malang Baba near Peshawar. Next year in March, a 400-year-old shrine of Abu Saeed Baba was attacked by Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-e-Islam with rockets in Shaikhan village of Sarband, which is adjacent to Bara Tehsil of Khyber Agency. In the same year, 2008, militants detonated explosives in the shrine of Ashaab Baba on the outskirts of Peshawar. Surprisingly, some of these incidents have had little or no coverage in the media.
Then on March 5, 2009, what made headlines was the brazen attack on Rehman baba’s shrine in Hazarkhwani near Peshawar, where the famous Pashtun mystical poet is buried. Though no one was hurt in the attack, it was a rude awakening for many on how the militants have started attacking sites that are considered holy by many. The shrine’s watchman had been receiving threats from militants as many female devotees frequently visited the site. In May 2009, it was the shrine of Sheikh Omar Baba, which was hit.
In the current year, these attacks expanded to the other main cities of Pakistan. First in July, a barbaric attack at Data darbar in Lahore, and then in October another devastating attack at Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi led to scores of casualties.
Those who have been perpetrating such attacks are very clear in what they are doing. Sadly, we are not. This is not indiscriminate violence nor are these senseless attacks. The targets selected by the terrorists are symbolic in nature. This is an attack on the culture and practices followed by the majority. Yet our state of denial still exists. Even after all these years, we still hear statements like, ‘Who are these people?’ and, ‘They can not be Pakistanis’ and of course, ‘No Muslim can do it’ not only from common citizens but also from the authorities. There are people among us who very conveniently put the blame on ‘foreign elements.’ As we refuse to realise that we are in a state of war against an ideology of hate and intolerance, which very much threatens to subdue the majority, we will continue to be attacked by them. This ideology is practiced by only a few militant organisations and banned outfits. As long as we allow the few bigots to dictate to us what is right and what is wrong, we will continue to be terrorised.
It is very important to identify the culprits and make an example out of them. It may not be possible to provide fool-proof security to all the holy sites in the country and neither is this the solution. What needs to be done is to go after such terror networks irrespective of where they exist or whatever they are called. The judicial system should be overhauled in order to secure infallible prosecution of such criminals. It will be pertinent if the present wave of judicial activism is directed towards this cause. We have been listening to too many investigation inquiries being conducted but very few have actually produced the desired results. So far, the terrorists are scoring, as far as the reports in media are concerned, and we are just producing knee-jerk reactions.
Voltaire had rightly remarked more than two centuries ago, “So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannise 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.”
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.