Conflicted from within | Pakistan Today

Conflicted from within

And no, Ababeel don’t show up anymore

The Holy Book narrates the story of Ababeel – the mystic birds that showed up with tiny stones in their claws and beaks, three each, to help the righteous in the battle between good and evil. I think of that story, and wonder who the righteous and the wicked might have been. And how appropriate it seems that the hand of Divinity should reach down from the Heavens, and rain stones to decide the primordial (and still continuing) fight between ‘haq’ and ‘batil’.

I think of it, and wonder, why the Ababeel don’t show up anymore?

On Thursday, just as the day was breaking in the capital of Punjab, armed gunmen stormed a building in the bustling heart of Ichhra, killing nine police officials, who were visiting from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for a training session in Lahore. These trainees – all between the age of 21 and 25 – were training to man the jails in KP, where several militants have been detained for heinous crimes (against humanity). The gunmen, on three motorcycles and in a car, were not hiding their faces with a piece of cloth, nor were they hiding their guilt with any expression of remorse. With unclad faces, they were eager to accept responsibility for their actions (evident from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan publicly accepting ‘responsibility’ for the barbarianism).

And I wonder why the Ababeel don’t show up anymore?

The crime of these police trainees? They were condemned for wearing the insignia of the state of Pakistan on their uniform. The price for this crime? Bullet-ridden bodies, all in the early twenties. Their faith? Muslims, but loyal to the state of Pakistan, and not to some fanatic mullah. Their redemption? The Chief Minister Punjab has vowed a thorough investigation; the KP government has blamed Punjab police; and the Interior Minister has ‘condemned’ this attacks.

And I wonder why the Ababeel don’t show up anymore?

This attack comes at the heels of an overall ramping up of militant campaigns across Punjab. Three days earlier, the same outlawed group, gunned down seven army jawans and a police official in Gujrat. And later, in a message that began with a proclamation of the ‘mercy’ of Allah, they declared (nay, threatened) that these attacks proved that there is “no place that is out of our reach.” There isn’t a soul alive in this nation who can dispute that claim. And no law enforcement agencies that can claim to bring all the members of this group into the fold of law.

And I wonder why the Ababeel don’t show up anymore?

Is this a failure of the state? Or also an equal failure of the people who reside in such a state? Is the police simply incompetent? Or are we all impotent for allowing such an attack to be carried out in the heart of a major city, and then allowing the perpetrators to escape scot-free?

We can all make excuses while sipping on imported coffee and sitting in air-conditioned living rooms. All of us (myself included) can spin stories to ourselves of liberal views and a secular approach to statehood. That some of us pray five times a day, while some drink every night, is no business of any other. And that regardless of what any individual does in their private life, our only collective goal should be to work towards a progressive, peaceful and democratic Pakistan. But we will only be fooling ourselves. And, as Wittgenstein once said, “The hardest thing to do in life is to not fool yourself.”

The truth is: we, each of us individually as well as collectively as a nation, are conflicted inside as to what our identity is. All of us (generalising a bit here) are Muslims in part, secular in part, and nationalistic in part. We don’t view violence through a singular, humanistic prism but instead view it through a multitude of all these facets that define our personality. For example, the blowing up a bus of Muslim pilgrims by a certain fanatic group is viewed differently than the blowing up of a bus carrying Hindu fishermen by the same group. Even if both buses contained Pakistani citizens. Somewhere deep inside, there exists a continuing tussle between our religious affinity and our national identity. And this spills over into consequences such as a fraction of ISI, army or police officials sympathising with the militants, or the lawyers showering rose-petals on Mumtaz Qadri.

This internal conflict, of defining who we are, is at the heart of how we as a nation react to the extremist threat. Our collective national identity, in many ways, is simply a sum of our individual personalities (as Iqbal once wrote, “Afrad ke haatho’n mein hai aqwaam ki taqdeer, har fard hai millat ke muqadar ka sitara”). And, consequently, each of us have to make our individual choices in tilting the balance of our national scales. The buck doesn’t just stop with the law enforcement agencies. Deep inside, we are all guilty for allowing to fester a society where extremist elements have sympathetic appeal. And in this ongoing war, it is important to define oneself, in the hope that doing so will bring clarity to our national character.

For now, the gunmen who came on their motorcycles and cars had said their morning prayers right before the event, whereas the young police trainees had just done their wuzu before having been martyred. He who pulled the trigger did so with a scream of ‘Ya Allah Madad’, and the bullet pierced the heart of one who said ‘La Ilaha Il Allah’. The culprits, returning back to their underground hiding, were welcomed with slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’, whereas the janaza of the martyred was lifted with the same cries.

If the Ababbeel had shown up, I am not sure if they would have known who to throw stones at.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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  1. Khurram said:

    Can't agree with you more. The media has already taken its sides because that is what sells. There are some muted opinions from a small section of lawyers but that always includes fillers like since the executive has failed so judiciary is coming in to fill the gap. Personally it is like article 58-2B, once a few prime ministers have been kicked out in quick succession as Ghulam ishaque khan then everyone will get together and change the law. Present set up carries the halo of the past movement but the future set up will not. When Gen Zia introduced the above mentioned article a section was full of praise it was only after years of uncertainty and kicking out of elected governments that the law changed. It still holds true " Aik niaam main do talwarain nahin reh sakteen"

  2. Asim. said:

    AOA. Redeem bad democracy with more democracy and when it comes to religion … run for secularism !

    Dear Sir … religion cannot be taken out of equation from the lives of people that dwell this country, for whatever reason. So .. best way is to invest more in the knowledge of religion … make more than one Al-Azhar let people like ur self (with extra ordinary intellect) spend their time in research and history of religion, plan PHDs on Quran and its subjects and get ur people to understand that a representative of God (which we muslims believe we are) must reflect the attributes of one whom he represents. Compassion, universal appeal, honesty, integrity, operating with concerns of humanity at heart and avoid confining our selves as a mere community pitted against rest of the world.

    And … Ababeels only happen once in a while, when Alalh SWT wants u to know that for Him it takes only that much effort and time to do what He wants. But He wud not do it as a routine because He has entrusted Man with the affairs of this planet and expects him to correct the things by himself. He does not want to supercede ur skills ( or lack of them) every other day lest u start complaining of lack of freedom to act.

  3. Ahmed Ali said:

    That is why we pray for "the hand of Divinity" to "reach down from the Heavens, and rain stones to decide the primordial (and still continuing) fight between ‘haq’ and ‘batil’." It'll come…. I have faith! Brilliant writing though!

  4. Waziristani said:

    If the Ababbeel had shown up, I am not sure if they would have known who to throw stones at.
    The Ababeels (US Drones) are sorting out these barbarians from the surface of earth but Taliban apologists are labeling/propagating false image of it.

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