Posts Tagged ‘Salman Taseer’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on December 17, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Any government can remain in check if the opposition played its role vigilantly and the ruling party’s lapses are reported by the media. However, when media fails to report on sensitive but rampant cases, and the opposition is no better when they come in power but do only lip service to make their position look intact to voters and justified to their critics, it is the responsibility of society to make a note of the ongoing political, social and economic atrocities. For instance, more than 475 Shias have been killed this year in Pakistan to date, with this number increasing every day. The opposition is nowhere to be seen and the indifference of mainstream media to the gravity of the issue is making matters worse. Whilst I hold the federal government responsible for the law and order situation in Pakistan, I cannot give a clean chit to the provincial governments, which ought to provide security to their citizens.

A few days ago, my friend Raza Rumi wrote an op-ed titled, ‘Shahbaz Sharif and his admirable running of Punjab’ that was printed in a national daily. Apart from admiring Mr Sharif for the good things done by his government, he expressed his concern about the rise of extremism and militancy owing to the fragile implementation of law in the province in the following words: “There is a perception that the PML-N is soft on extremist and sectarian groups, due to reasons of electoral adjustment and perhaps, ideology as well. This is a serious omission, which might haunt the party if it comes to power in the next election, as there will be no excuse of a ‘hostile’ federal government and its failures to curb terrorism.” I, strongly but respectfully, disagree with the notion that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) leniency towards groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (now working under the label of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat [ASWJ]) is a mere perception.

The ‘lovey-dovey’ liaison of the PML-N and ASWJ/SSP is nothing new. The PML-N has time and again sought the SSP’s support to contest elections and the latter has rarely disappointed the former. In the recently concluded by-elections in which Punjab saw a thumping win for the PML-N, the ASWJ announced to support the PML-N’s candidate, Haji Nawaz Chohan, in Gujranwala’s constituency PP-129. The announcement came from the ASWJ’s district president Arshad Hameedi at a religious seminary as the latest display of public affection between the two parties. Electoral alliances are not aimed at charity; these alliances are established as a trade-off between two parties and they are motivated by a shared ideology. In February 2010, the provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, visited Jhang on a by-election campaign for a provincial assembly seat. He was seen interacting with Ahmad Ludhianvi of the ASWJ as he took the hardliner cleric to a drive in his open top jeep with official patronage. Is it appropriate for a provincial law minister to take a radical cleric with him on an election campaign? Did Mr Sharif take any action against his law minister for giving an unprecedented protocol to the head of an organisation that considers Shias as infidels?

In an interview expressing his biggest concern, the slain former Punjab governor, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer said, “I worry about terrorism. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)‚ which is in government in the Punjab‚ has old linkages with and a natural affinity for extremist organisations like Sipah-e-Sahaba‚ Lashkar-e-Jhangvi… Let’s face it: terrorists need logistical support from within — somebody funds them‚ somebody guides them‚ and somebody looks after them — and that support is coming from the Punjab… You can’t have your law minister [Rana Sanaullah] going around in police jeeps with [outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba’s] Ahmed Ludhianvi‚ whose agenda is to declare Shias infidels and close down their places of worship‚ and then say you want harmony in this province. You can’t have the chief minister [Shahbaz Sharif] who is also the home minister‚ standing at Jamia Naeemia pleading with the Taliban to please not launch attacks in the Punjab because he shares the same thinking against the US as they do. What message does this send out to the local magistrate and police officer?”

As per the report, ‘Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge’ by the International Crisis Group published in 2009, “The recent upsurge of jihadi violence in Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, demonstrates the threat extremist Sunni-Deobandi groups pose to the Pakistani citizen and state. These radical Sunni groups are simultaneously fighting internal sectarian jihads, regional jihads in Afghanistan and India and a global jihad against the West… The Pakistani Taliban, which increasingly controls large swathes of FATA and parts of the NWFP, comprises a number of militant groups loosely united under the Deobandi Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that have attacked not just state and western targets, but Shias as well. Their expanding influence is due to support from long-established Sunni extremist networks, based primarily in Punjab, which have served as the army’s jihadi proxies in Afghanistan and India since the 1980s. Punjab-based radical Deobandi groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and its offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) provide weapons, recruits, finances and other resources to Pakistani Taliban groups…The SSP and LJ are also al Qaeda’s principal allies in the region.”

Mr Sharif’s government needs to see the writing on the wall. Promoting, appeasing and pandering to such extremist outfits can win the PML-N an extra seat or two in the next elections but in the long run, it will be devastating for the fabric of our society and the law and order situation in the province. According to another media report, the PML-N and ASWJ has struck a deal on electoral adjustments in the provincial and National assemblies in the upcoming general elections. It is just a matter of time before the two parties end up contesting elections together. I agree that the good things being done by the government must be appreciated but at the same time, we must not condone government officials festering extremism this or that way.

On the other hand, in February this year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan expressed its resentment over the performance of the Punjab government when the court was told that several water filtration plants had not yet been completed in the province despite being started many years ago. Non-existent or insufficient infrastructure for clean water and sanitation poses serious health risks. In countries like ours, up to 80 percent of all environmental diseases are because of lack of clean and safe drinking water. Less than 50 percent of Pakistan’s most populous province Punjab has access to piped drinking water. Less than 30 percent of the rural population has access to safe drinking water. Assisting the apex court on polio and hepatitis, Professor Dr Faisal Masood and Professor Dr Javed Raza Gardezi informed the court that the poor and unprivileged class is bound to drink contaminated water because this is all they are being offered. The absence of clean drinking water is resulting in increased infectious diseases like polio and diarrhea.

Punjab government is far from being an admirable one. CM Shahbaz Sharif and his running of Punjab can be best described as the old adage goes “Among the blind, the squinter rules.” Instead of dumping billions of rupees running a parallel education system (Danish Schools) Mr Sharif could have made the existing system more viable. We must appreciate the positive steps being taken by the incumbent government but we should avoid going over the top in praise of a government that has many serious questions to answer.

Source: VIEW : Tintinnabulations of a vandalised future — Ali Salman Alvi

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published as the lead article in Daily Times on August 6, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Minorities in Pakistan have long confronted a nexus of numerous grave issues, the likes of intimidation and seclusion, pushing them against the wall. The situation has turned out to be a can of worms for this unprivileged section of society who now strive for their existence as they face the biggest challenge — of survival in the hostile conditions besieging them. In Pakistan, the ratio of Hindus alone is reduced to 1.6 percent of the total population as compared to 20 percent in 1947. The representation of the other minorities at all ranks has been negligible too.

From the case of Aasia bibi, a mother of five, who has been sentenced to death under the Blasphemy laws by a local court, to the deplorable murder of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, the slain federal minister for minorities’ affairs, the situation seems to spiral out of control. So much so that the prayer leader of the well-known Mohabat Khan Mosque in Peshawar offered Rs 500,000 for killing Asia bibi during one of his sermons at the Friday prayers, adding that the payment would be made from the mosque’s fund. If the unproven case of blasphemy against Aasia bibi and the subsequent murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were not enough to take the bull by the horns, this statement alone should have set alarm bells ringing in society. Unfortunately, though, no action was taken — neither by the concerned authorities nor by the Supreme Court, which has an eye on any chance to take a suo motu action promptly — against those responsible for making the lives of the beleaguered minorities more vulnerable and thus festering the exponentially growing menace of extremism in our insensitive society. The public mindset that condones this kind of extremism was cultured and endorsed under a decade-long military regime of General Ziaul Haq from 1977 to 1988. A whole generation of Pakistanis has grown up with textbooks producing a mindset that conflate Pakistani patriotism with Islamist ‘exclusivism’ whilst another generation is in the making on the same lines of thought.

Contorted Islamisation of those who have altered it by degrees ad nauseam of extremism, manifests when it comes to a show of tolerance and reverence to other religions. It is a society that fervently hails unjust and unscrupulous practices, such as condoning the extremist mindset and glorification of the terrorist figureheads like Osama bin Laden, terming such praxes a great service to Islam. Oddly, a whopping majority of Pakistanis believes that Islam is exactly what they think and whosoever thinks otherwise would definitely end up in the deepest parts of hell for being an infidel. But is it truly indispensable that we have to give the world a sneak peek into our depleted society regularly? From the sickening display of hero-worship of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of the governor Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, to the blatant marginalisation of the underclass minorities being broadcast live on television, we never cease to stoop lower and lower. Just when I think it cannot get any worse than the monstrosities I have witnessed, it gets worse, making a mockery of my wishful thinking.

The latest nail in the coffin is driven by none other than the unparalleled queen of sanctimoniousness, Maya Khan, which involved converting a Hindu boy to Islam during a primetime Ramazan special show being broadcast live on national television, taking the issue of intimidation and segregation of religious minorities in Pakistan to another level. In a matter of a few minutes, the 20-year-old Sunil officially converted to Islam under the guidance of a cleric to be followed by a packed studio audience congratulating and yelling suggestions for his new Muslim name prior to being renamed to the consensus choice of the zealous spectators — Mohammad Abdullah. Distressingly, the channel did not realise the message that whole escapade disseminates to the minorities living in a country where they already face a number of grievous issues. To any sane person the message was loud and clear — that no other religion in Pakistan enjoys the same reverence as Islam does — and thus the only way of survival for the minorities living in the ‘Land of the Pure’ is to embrace Islam. The ecstasy with which Sunil’s conversion was hailed and the congratulatory messages that followed clearly depicts that the fever of extremism is growing more and more.

Matters of faith, belief and religion are highly personal and they should not be commercialised. Religion should not be bought or sold through a channel’s TRP ratings. Televising the conversion must have been profitable for the channel but inevitably, it has further strengthened the trend of commercialisation of Islam. Religious beliefs are polymorphous in nature and they do not happen or change overnight. This was exactly the reason why Sunil replied incoherently about his intentions when asked what motivated him to accept Islam, as most of his responses gyrated around praising Sarim Burney Trust where he worked. What his work environment had to do with his conversion remained an elephant in the room. To me Sunil has just landed in hot water, as he has to make some other decisions quite soon. One of them being which school of Islam he would follow as there is a variety of options available, each calling the other inferior and in some cases, ‘infidel’.

I believe it is not just Maya Khan and her escapades of chasing couples in parks or converting Hindus to Muslims; the crisis is definitely more serious. The quandary lies in the mindset that makes many feel that it is in line with the ethical parameters of any civilised society and to get that distorted school of thought on track, a biased and controversial media is barely a solution. A much needed code of conduct, which has been vehemently opposed from the ranks of the electronic media, is found missing. Thus, its absence is one of the major reasons why such bizarre shows are aired without any system of checks and balances. Article 25 of the Constitution states, “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law”, whilst Article 36 maintains, “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.” It is high time we as a society recognised the need of living in a culture of respect and tolerance for those who differ ideologically from a particular set of beliefs. Media needs to mend its ways and come up with a code of ethics to be followed by all channels operating under PEMRA. In the holy month of Ramazan, media should be spreading the message of peace and inter-faith harmony instead of airing such codswallop that propagates negative propaganda about Islam, making a mockery of religions followed by scores of people out there. With the psyche represented by the likes of Khan, there is an identity crisis among the minorities, alluring the fanatics rather than admonishing their practices and their diktats. Those who have been trying to gag the voices and slaying minorities — be it Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis (religious minorities) or Shias (populace minority) — in the name of religion, are achieving pyrotechnical Pyrrhic victories against humanity. Religious intolerance will only aggrandize fanaticism because intolerance will eventually make reasoning dead and people parochial in their way of thought.

SourceDaily Times – VIEW : Coup d’état and pandemonium of extremism — Ali Salman Alvi

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on May 5, 2012.  It was my first ever write-up to have been featured in any newspaper. I’m pleased to cross-post that article from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

The syndrome of religious fanaticism, intolerance and so-called moral evangelism is eroding the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst we have been hijacked by the might of radicalism, as a nation we have refused to budge over the gravity of the situation using different covers to hide under, therefore turning a blind eye to the severity of the repercussions of such plausible deniability. It is a lack of veracity most of us suffer from; it is an incurable version of dementia and selective amnesia, and on top of that, we are consistently smothering our willpower to recover from such a horrible state of affairs. Without offering significant resistance, we are fast sliding into the depths of chauvinism, hatred and intolerance.

The seeds of militancy that were planted in the land of the pure in the name of jihad back in the 1980s are bearing their own ‘fruits’ on a full fledged scale now. It is indispensable to learn that terrorism in Pakistan did not emerge after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 attacks invigorated the terrorist groups in Pakistan, which at that time were exclusively engaged in persecuting Shias and other minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, apart from launching a hate campaign against the aforementioned communities as a germane mission. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the cancer of extremism and sympathy with the Taliban has penetrated so deep in our people that it requires a major surgery to stand any chance of recovering from the deteriorating condition that, if not controlled, may cause anarchy in the restive land. On top of all this, the undeniable presence of the militant mindset in the midst of the very security agencies intended to eradicate it is indeed terrifying.

One cannot repudiate sharing of inside intelligence information and some tactical assistance in the suicide attack on a Special Services Group mess in September 2007 to the unprecedented attack by militants on the Central Jail, Bannu to free their comrades a few days back. At least 20 commandos were killed and another 25 injured in a suicide blast at an army officers’ mess almost five years ago, whereas in what is being described as the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central jail in Bannu and freed 384 inmates. Heavily armed insurgents appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside. A militant commander who helped plan the assault on the Bannu jail said his group had inside information. “We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” said the commander, a senior member of the Taliban. Needless to say, the police arrived at the scene when the militants had escaped after completing their mission successfully.

The astonishing developments in the aforementioned brazen attacks signify to what extent the Taliban and their sympathisers have penetrated into our security agencies and the imminent threat that it poses for us. The murder of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer by one of his security guards, an elite force personnel, last year in January is yet another warning of the potential repercussions when those intended to extirpate terrorism or protect others from the wrath of the terrorists instead join hands with them.

It is acknowledged that since the 1980s, the extremist groups, conspicuously the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat (a Salafi/Wahabi militant group), backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, made a conscious effort to induce radical elements in the law enforcing agencies and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a significant degree. It is evident that the penetration by terrorists into our security and administrative infrastructure goes quite deep. The state of Pakistan needs to devise a plan to conduct a purge, single out these abominable elements and oust them from the heart of our law enforcing agencies and other institutions before they strike again sitting from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage. Such elements should be served with exemplary punishments so that the trend to help these militants in the name of Islam/Shariah can be prevented to good effect.

War against the enemy within is not going to be easy. It requires a strong intent and a firm belief that despite the horrendous state of affairs, we can still win this war. Unless we do not internalise that the major threat to the stability of Pakistan is from within, we would be helping the cause of anti-state elements inevitably. Forget about the rhetoric of blaming the RA&W, the CIA and other foreign agencies for the time being, and try to ponder where those with sympathies for the Taliban, and an eagerness to act on their behest, lurk. That said, I am not ruling out the involvement of some foreign forces to destabilise Pakistan. However, we have to realise that at the end of the day, it is a bunch of hardcore militants, belonging to different sects, inside Pakistan, combined for one common agenda, who are carrying out all these terrorist activities not only internally, but are involved in cross-border terrorism as well. Vehement finger pointing at others is always easy, but battling the enemy within is definitely not a walk in the park.

Source: Daily Times