- Unmasking a cesspool of bigotry and hatred
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This makes the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
– Thomas Jefferson
What people have been witnessing in Islamabad over the last week-plus is nothing but a horrid manifestation of the very worst of bigotry and hatred. The rabid language used, the preposterous demands made, the insults and abuse hurled at political opponents, the extent of hate oozing out of every statement made in public view, the attempts at creating sectarian and ethnic divides, the incitement targeting religious minorities particularly the Ahmadis, dubbing the Prime Minister a Jew and a blasphemer who is not worthy of the position that he holds, this and so much else is symptomatic of a sick and degenerate mindset that refuses to consider the existence of another point of view. It is as if only they are the learned ones, and only they have the right to dictate what needs to be done.
Exaggerating, distorting, fabricating and lying are their favourite tools to advance their myopic agenda. Nothing could be more ridiculous than watching a cleric of the JUI(F), one Kifayat Ullah, claiming on prime-time television that ‘Wiki’ (ostensibly of the WikiLeaks fame) is actually a person and a cousin of Prime Minister Khan’s ex Jemima Goldsmith, and that the release of ‘WikiLeaks’ was one big conspiracy hatched by them against his party and its followers. When the anchor tried to convince him that ‘Wiki’ was no person and it was just a term referring to some papers which had been made public, he remained adamant that he knew better and ‘Wiki’ was actually a person, and a cousin of Jemima.
Instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed of his patent ignorance, he continued reiterating his ‘discovery’ about ‘Wiki’, the person, on other programmes that he appeared in. In one such encounter, he said that the anchor should wait to learn that he had been right all along.
Such are the people who have arrived in Islamabad with their bands of illiterate, unenlightened, baton-wielding followers, dripping with juices of obscurantism and regression, to intimidate an elected Prime Minister to resign, thus paving the way for anarchy and mayhem.
In order to delineate the dynamics further, let’s first try to decipher what this bigot and his followers stand for. Historically, they are the people who have systematically spread the culture of fear, violence and lawlessness in the country. Among other heinous acts they are guilty of, they have led the charge against the appointment of women as heads of state and government and as judges, opposed efforts to curb honour killings and domestic violence, fought against abrogating or amending the blasphemy law, led violent protests against Asia Bibi’s acquittal, opposed amending a law which declares female victims of rape criminals on grounds of confessing to extramarital sex, unleashing venomous and, at times, fatal propaganda against Ahmadis and other religious minorities, having been complicit in forced conversions, claiming that assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer had invited his righteous murder for his efforts to annul the blasphemy law, impregnating impressionable minds with germs of radicalisation, calling Osama Bin Laden a true freedom fighter and funding terrorist bodies and infesting them with people who were tutored in seminaries controlled by their party.
Now, my issue is whether they are the kind of people a democratically-elected government should be talking to in an effort to strike a rapprochement? That would not only be a perversion of justice, it would also be tantamount to further cultivating a scourge that actually should be scuttled. We have seen this drama getting more gruesome over the past week and there is no indication that we are nearing the end. With every meeting that takes place between the delegations of the government and the opposition, there is an inflexible reiteration by the latter of the decision to continue the sit-in till all their demands are met. As a matter of fact, there are unmitigated threats hurled that they would expand the protest to other cities and bring the country to a standstill.
In the process of conducting negotiations with this fanatical fabrication, the government is not only compromising its democratic credentials, it is also lending legitimacy to the JUI((F) and its position. The rationale forwarded by the government side is that they don’t want any violence and are trying to have the matter sorted out peacefully. Agreed that every effort should be made to avert the prospect of violence, but that should not be at the cost of the writ of the state as also subjecting the residents of the city to prolonged mental and physical torture.
Let’s not forget that there is no stricture in Islam that sanctions a clergy. In fact, anyone coming between the creator and His creation is guilty of committing ‘shirk’.
Now is the time to be firm about what kind of Pakistan we want to make. Now is the time to act. The bigot and his cronies should not be provided an escape route. Such a decision will come back to haunt the state. He is a serpent. He must be culled as also others of his ilk. Simultaneously, work should be expedited on the regulation and ultimate takeover of the seminaries by the government. They should be transformed into becoming places of learning rather than indoctrination and destruction of the youth of the country
In this power game, at stake for the bigot-in-chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is the demise of his political, religious and economic power base and relevance. It is for the first time during his long career that he was defeated not in one, but both the constituencies that he contested from to get elected to the National Assembly. He has not been able to stomach the shame, more so when confronting his religious progeny from the seminaries that he controls, and which the government is now trying to regulate.
This sit-in has no ideological motives. If at all, it is rooted in extremist political, religious and economic objectives. Such exploitation has brought the country to the brink of disaster. At the least, the wings of these vile perpetrators must be clipped. But, more importantly, the government should expound and implement the principles of an enlightened and egalitarian Pakistan that would banish all acts and articles of discrimination and eliminate the space for such charlatans to exploit the people.
For that, there is more, much more to be done. We have to go back to the beginning and start implementing the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision that he spelt out on 11 August 1947 for the new-born state in his address to the Constituent Assembly. He wanted all people to be equal citizens of Pakistan who would be free to follow a faith of their choosing: “You are free. You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed– that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.
Now is the time to be firm about what kind of Pakistan we want to make. Now is the time to act. The bigot and his cronies should not be provided an escape route. Such a decision will come back to haunt the state. He is a serpent. He must be culled as also others of his ilk.
Simultaneously, work should be expedited on the regulation and ultimate takeover of the seminaries by the government. They should be transformed into becoming places of learning rather than indoctrination and destruction of the youth of the country.
As long as ‘Wiki’ remains a person, who is Jemima’s cousin, we’ll continue to be frozen in a cesspool of bigotry and hatred, leaving little hope for Pakistan.