After the tragedy: Citizens stand up for Pakistan

December 19, 2014

Terrorists Attack PakistanDeath visited Peshawar on Tuesday, the 16th of December, 2014. It brought one of the gravest tragedies that the city had seen so far. The school massacre may have ended 141 lives, but it put a halt also to a far larger number of dreams. As opposed to the routine and custom condemnations that came out of earlier massacres of relatively only little less proportions, large parts of the Pakistani public seems to have been stunned beyond horror this week. The grief in the country can be felt in the streets, homes, offices, schools, colleges, universities and in public spaces of protest such as vigils held across the length and breadth of the country.

As it looks right now, little positive change might accrue at the state level. Former state functionaries such as Pervez Musharraf and their reaction to the incident, publically championed by some segments of the youth, tells why that might be so. Angrily frothing at the American television channel CNN’s coverage of the massacre, he alleged that the militants who struck the school were trained by RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, and refused to admit that the state’s own past policy might have created an environment through which such a horrific massacre could have been enabled.

This denial is not only limited to former state functionaries but the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s reaction to the incident also went short of naming the perpetrators of the massacre, namely, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the group that has admitted to carrying out the dastardly attack. Similar signs of restraint were shown by Islamists political parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. On the other hand, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has publically vowed to stop differentiating between militants who attack Pakistan and those who threaten neighboring, regional and other states. Although, the military has upped the ante against the Tehrek-e-Taliban, little can be done as far counter-terrorism measures are concerned unless a broad consensus is developed at the societal level. This might prove to be difficult because of the deep divisions within the society and the polity as mentioned above.

Despite the confusion raging within state institutions and political parties, segments of the public and the civil society as a whole, have stepped up efforts at confronting the confused and apathetic state narrative. Karachi-based human rights activist Muhammad Jibran Nasir organized an unbelievably successful and poignant protest on Thursday, the 18th of December, right outside the Red Mosque with a group of 500 Islamabad residents chanting slogans against Maulana Abdul Aziz, the preacher that has publically refused to condemn the massacre. The mosque management is known to have constructed a library in remembrance of Osama Bin Laden and its pupils have welcomed the Islamic State’s efforts in Iraq. Yet, the mosque stands untouched by the Pakistani state in the heart of its capital. This protest led by citizens’ hits unabashedly at the core of the problem, i.e., the lack of state effort at dealing with potential and operative Islamist militants of all hues. Other online campaigns have propped up as well. One such campaign is aimed at asking local Imam’s to condemn the Taliban vociferously and to speak up if they don’t. Rather than state support for civil society groups, what needs to be seen is whether initiatives such as the one in Islamabad and others can inspire the state to think clearly and spiral into action.

FOR PAKISTAN


The snooze button

December 19, 2014
By Abdulla Wasti
 
Peshawar-Terrorist-AttackI shall refrain from talking about how devastated or heartbroken I feel after the tragedy that took place in Peshawar on Tuesday. Mainly because it is a futile exercise as I am struggling to find the words to express what I am feeling. I will also refrain from delving into the details and statistics, because our sensationalist media has done a perfectly good job in that regard. Therefore, it is enough to say that this was Taliban’s deadliest attack to date. However, there are a number of questions that continue to badger me and a lot of other people.  Why wasn’t a blowback of this sort expected as a result of the ongoing operation? Should the school have been identified as a potential target? Wasn’t the recent Wagah Border incident a sign of other things to come?
It should come as no surprise that the TTP opted for a soft target, as the recent Wagah Border tragedy was. But perhaps, the incident wasn’t alarming enough for the government to take serious measures and beef up security around potential targets. What followed was the usual lip service, as all the leaders condemned the attack and vowed to remain strong and fight terrorism in the country. As has happened in the past, the incident was consigned to oblivion and things soon returned to how they were.
In the wake of the deadliest ever attack by the TTP, the usual routine is once again starting to unfold. Many of us would like to believe that this is a tragedy that the nation will never forget and will wake us up from our sleep of ignorance; Sadly, I feel this is not going to happen. What we are going to witness – in fact have already started to witness – is party politics being played over the deaths of these children. Soon the blame game shall commence, where the centre points fingers at the provincial government for being complacent. On the other hand, the provincial government shall counter that with claims that the federal government has failed to build sufficient capacity and provide funds. Furthermore, we would be naïve to expect these political parties to come together and bring about a major shift in the government’s approach towards militancy in the aftermath of such an event.  A committee on terror plans is expected to meet today with the hope of formulating a better policy to tackle this issue. However, a number of party members remain skeptical with regards to achieving anything substantial from this meeting. And rightly so, as a number of people in the committee appear to be Taliban apologists. Moreover, judging by how it took the Federal Cabinet almost three years to approve the draft bill of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), swift action would be an unrealistic expectation. Nevertheless, we can expect the government to take desperate actions without thinking them through. And the government has delivered by lifting the moratorium on execution. While many have lauded this step and believe that it will send the Taliban a strong message, they are gravely mistaken. Supporters of this action fail to take into account that allowing capital punishment for terrorists will ignite a chain reaction which could result in the possible abuse of this punishment, especially with regards to those convicted under the blasphemy law. Besides, this will not deter the terrorists, as we will be assisting them on their supposed ‘journey to heaven’.
The only glimmer of hope amidst all that has happened in the past few days is the fact that the enlightened members of our society have actually taken an initiative this time around, and have not limited their efforts to just social media activism. It was heartening to see scores of people coming out all over the country, especially the protest that took place outside the Lal Masjid last night. That was an example of a concrete step taken by individuals of our society to root out hate mongers and Taliban apologists that live among us. We as a society have to make sure that religious clerics do not abuse the platform they have been provided with. Be it a mosque or a madrassah, it is imperative that the narrative is changed in order to prevent further radicalization of our society. It is high time we realize that we are also responsible for the death of those innocent children, and have an integral role to play in this war.
While there is consensus on the fact that the operation is necessary against the TTP, what we need to realize is that this is only a short term solution. We might be able to significantly reduce their operational capacity with the use of force, but for how long? We are at war against an ideology, an ideology that is widespread and has many sympathizers and adherents. This operation alone is not a solution, as this would continue the never-ending cycle of collateral damage, which has now come to a child for a child. We are groveling in the mess we created ourselves, and there is no way out unless we wage an ideological war. That requires a long term strategy to be implemented, and that would be too much to ask of our leaders. We can, however, count on them to do one thing they do best: to condemn whatever comes their way. There is no quick fix to any of this; Prayers, condemnations and vigils might soothe our conscience, but there is actual dirty work to be done here. But the fact of the matter is that, this tragedy too will be buried under the pile of countless others, and no number of ‘wake up calls’ will be enough as our leaders will continue to press the snooze button.

Let us never forget

December 19, 2014

Pakistanis are a strange lot; we have witnessed more than our fair share of violence, extremism, dead bodies and devastation. While some believe we have become a brave and resilient nation in the process, there are others who fear that after being subjected to violence on such a large scale it has desensitized us.  Today, we mourn the death of 132 innocent children and 9 staff members killed ruthlessly by terrorists in Peshawar.

To say the least, this blatant show of barbarity has moved every soul in a strange way- there is grief, there is anger and then there is grief again like never before. There is also disbelief; what animosity could the killers hold against these children?  Did their hands not shiver while shooting these innocent souls one after the other? Why did they not pay heed to their pleading eyes and silent cries of mercy?

There are many who dread that we will move on a bit too soon; replacing the burden of 132 small coffins on our hearts with something less important, less tragic. The families will be left alone in their grief, the mothers forever agonized by the brutal death of their children. Since the past three days, I keep going through the photos of the victims, the stories of the survivors, personal accounts of the nightmare because I want to remember each face, each name and each detail as it is. I never want any of us to get past the grief and anger; I never want us to recover from the horror of what happened because I want it to serve as a reminder, to keep fighting back because we owe it to those children from Army Public School.

Let us never forget that those were not 141 people, those were 141 families that have been forever shattered. The parents who should have received report cards from the school instead got to see a list with their deceased children’s name on it to confirm their worst fears.

Let us never forget that the terrorists showed no mercy no remorse while targeting each child and shooting them point blank or how the lives of survivors are altered forever.

Let us never forget the anguish every mother is going through, every second of the day, knowing she could not protect her child-her life and she will never get to see him again.

Let us never forget the countless stories of bravery and courage; story of a brave teacher named Afsha Ahmed who was burnt alive in front of her students as she tried to shield them from harm’s way.

Let us never forget that it took 131 dead children for the political leadership to come together, to bring the military and civilian government on the same page.

Let us never forget that we have lost too many precious lives in this war-our war to realize that there are no good Taliban.

Let us never forget that while the world mourned with us, condemned the mindless killing of our children, there was a sinister silence from our ‘Muslim brother’ Saudi Arabia.

Let us never forget those who have shamelessly claimed the responsibility of slaughtering humans and those who still refuse to acknowledge their sheer brutality and would rather blame it on “foreign hands”.

Let us never forget that our media seized the opportunity to invite Mullah Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid on TV who failed to condemn TTP for Peshawar attacks. Let us never forget the apologists around us and those who spread intolerance in the name of religion.

Let us never forget that our silence is equally responsible; the death of one civilian, one policeman, one journalist, one Christian, one Ahmedi, one Muslim, one Aitezaz and the struggle of one Malala, one Kainat, one Shazia should have been enough to open our eyes and see what these barbarians are capable of. Yet, we forgot about Aitezaz a bit too soon, failed to acknowledge Shazia and Kainat, hated Malala for being a survivor and for speaking up against the Taliban.

Let us never forget those 69 children in Bajaur who were killed by a CIA strike on a madrassa in 2006, the deaths of children (aged 17 and under) were highly under reported and failed to get much reaction out of the general public. Let us never forget that each life is precious.

I read somewhere that the smallest coffins are the heaviest; it must be true because today, the whole world is burdened by the weight of those 141 coffins.  Let us never forget their names, their stories, their bright faces, their dreams, the vibrant smiles because we have paid far too heavy a price to simply forget and move on.

AREA 14/8


Time for a rethink

December 18, 2014
By Minahil K.
Ajit DovalIn India, Ajit Doval inspires the envy of many—he is dubbed as the one man army, rightist Modi’s right hand man, the man-in-charge of India’s external and internal security. His omnipresence within post-Modi India’s intelligence and policy circles is noticeable. It is rumored that Modi had already made up his mind to appoint Doval, a former intelligence chief instead of a diplomat as the NSA even before election results came out—an issue that sparked a debate when the BJP came into power. Beyond his extremely successful career in police and intelligence, Doval’s role as the founding member of the Vivekananda International Foundation (an RSS affiliated organization) in addition to his anti-Pakistan stance is likely to have made him a more eligible candidate for the position in Modi’s eyes.
Post-retirement, Doval has been quite active as a commentator on national and international strategic issues writing and talking extensively about India’s national security and foreign policy rising to prominence in the last few years in particular at the global level as well. After having been given a post where he has the required resources at his disposal, he is in a position to exert an enormous amount of influence vis-à-vis the country’s internal security and foreign policy objectives. His reputation as an ‘RSS sympathizer’ has been common knowledge for a while and the Trinamool Congress has brought it up again (although for political reasons); the link between the highest security official in the country and a hardline Hindu nationalist organization is causing greater alarm at a time when India’s secular ethos is already weakening.
The former VIF director is still having a hard time establishing the fact that his previous designation will not have an impact on his role as NSA. His opinion that Pakistan harbors what he calls ‘compulsive hostility’ against neighboring India is likely to amplify the paranoia that stands in the way of forming cordial ties between the two countries. It is expected that Ajit Doval will grow into the job much like Narendra Modi is expected to grow into his: more than expectation, it is hope that has led many to believe that an intelligence man will be a successful diplomat. Previously having blamed Pakistan for allegedly using covert action as ‘an instrument of state policy’ in one of his writings, he is currently the primary advisor to the Prime Minister of India on issues of national and international security—it is needless to point out the obvious influence his views will have on India’s attitude towards Pakistan. It can, however, be said with complete confidence that if Doval’s writings from his post-retirement days are a true a depiction of his perception of Pakistan, then indeed we are looking towards a deepening mistrust between the two countries.
One of his deeply held beliefs is that Pakistan is using 4th generation warfare to take advantage of India’s internal security vulnerabilities because it lacks the financial and military muscle to indulge in conventional warfare which India has tolerated for a long time and it is time now to respond to Pakistan. In wake of the current unrest in Balochistan and Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban, that the policy-making process is most unlikely to be free from biases is dangerous for the entire region. Inevitably, terror and chaos will spill-over if mutual goals aren’t realized in time. This is the time for cooperation with a view to creating a secure environment where growth and development (ranking high on Modi’s agenda) should be a shared phenomena.
Fortunately, there seems to be realization on part of the Modi administration and the Indian public that the time has come for combined efforts to curb the menace of terrorism and extend support especially after the Peshawar attack which has caused a lot of grief on both sides of the border. This has given both sides a chance to rethink their long term security objectives and policies and come together to help each other in resolving a security crisis. This is India’s chance as well to prove that this resolve to support Pakistan in such hard times is more than just lip service and that the latter can take its attention away from its eastern border and instead focus all its energies on its military operation against the Taliban.

Who gives India’s RAW sleepless nights

November 11, 2014

ISI in IndiaOne has got to admire Pakistan. Is there any other example in history where a small nation has simultaneously taken on two much bigger countries, one a super power and the other deluding itself into believing that it is going to become one along its present trajectory, for such a painful ride, for so long, with barely concealed disdain and deceit?

Pakistan’s audacity backed by sheer brilliance in execution is the stuff history is made of. That it has been able to pull off a seemingly impossible double is as much a tribute to its leaders, both military and civil, as to the one instrument without peer that they have created: the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

This covert arm of the military has been developed and honed, with some help from the CIA in 1980s, to become a huge force multiplier that has almost re-written the rules of war. It is this institution alone that has given Pakistan the luxury of playing the Jekyll and Hyde game on battlefields of its choosing in a manner that it wants, without exposing its troops to danger and its culpability to the enemy.

Pakistan sees ISI as its first line of defence. What is often overlooked is that for its leaders, Pakistan includes Afghanistan and Kashmir too. So for the Pakistani establishment—both military and civil— the ISI is not engaged in any hostile or offensive actions there, like the Americans and the Indians believe. It is only legitimately defending Pakistan against their aggression and is fulfilling its patriotic duty to defeat and throw them out.

When the US invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, it probably thought it was going for a stroll in a park bombed flat by it.

Actually it would have. But it failed to factor in Pakistan’s tenacity and duplicity, or may be it chose to look the other way because expanding the war was not an option. Either way, the Pakistanis assessed the situation far more accurately than the Americans thought they were capable of. Thanks primarily to the manner in which their battle-proven weapon, the ISI, sheltered, trained, equipped, deployed and controlled the Talibanis, the Americans have been defeated on the ground.

That is why they are now open to once unimaginable compromises, so they can get out of the quagmire with minimum loss of face.

Let us be clear that the US is not losing its Afghan war to the Pathans who, as per the lore, have never lost to an aggressor. This is a myth being propagated and lapped up to obfuscate reality.

The US is being defeated by a very clever and determined Pakistan. The divided Pashtuns were trounced by the ISI after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, without a bullet being fired.

From wanting to wrest from Pakistan Pashtun areas on its side of the Durand Line, Afghan Pashtuns became Pakistan’s pathetic pawns, thanks primarily to the violent extremist Islamic ideology that the ISI sowed in them when the Soviets invaded their country and the manner in which the ISI deeply infiltrated into and controlled them. That strategy not only helped defeat the Soviets but, more significantly, it placed Afghanistan firmly in the Pakistani lap, giving the latter  the strategic depth that it was looking for then and is well on the way to recreating now.

Despite the serious challenge posed by the presence and pressure of the Americans in Afghanistan, the ISI has not significantly let up it support  for the oppressed Muslims in Kashmir.

The tactical reduction in terror attacks there to con the Americans does not mean that there has been any let up in the strengthening of the terror network in India, or in augmenting its ability to launch even more devastating attacks when ISI’s razor sharp top brass gives the green signal. Unfortunately, our candle-loving peace-nicks and faux intellectuals fighting a vicious domestic political battle against the BJP have deluded themselves/been deluded by the government into believing that the ISI is a lesser evil which, by making concessions to Pakistan, can be won over.

26/11 was the turning point that should have compelled India’s leaders to open their eyes and look inwards. If that attack was not bad enough, the failure of Intelligence RAW to detect suspicious activities and preempt shows total lack of professionalism. It is more than obvious that the planning and execution in the attack was all home grown. India has been in denial about the Indian Mujaheddin and their links with Al Qaeda. RAW has developed a habit to blame all successful terror attacks on ISI and Pakistan, not realizing that this not only makes the Indian intelligence and security agencies look stupid and incapable but makes Pakistan look much more dangerous and capable. India needs to own up to their own internal security failures and try to learn from how Pakistan is successfully managing to fight the largest terror operation in the history of the mankind and that too without any foreign help. Kashmir issue is another area where India keeps crying about Pakistan’s interference and ISI’s role in helping the “militants”. When will we realize that Kashmir may not be Pakistan’s part, but it is definitely not an Indian property. India has occupied a clearly Muslim majority state by force. What the Indian intelligence and Indian army has done to the local population is beyond words. Even we Indians are ashamed of these atrocities committed by RAW and Indian Army. If ISI is helping the Kashmiris in the occupied territory, it almost seems legal. Surely Pakistan cannot let Kashmiri Muslims be killed, kidnapped and raped by our military with unlimited powers.

More tan once has our RAW been a major source of monumental embarrassment. Like the photographs sourced by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the five terrorists out on a suicide mission in India were found to be those of people leading honourable lives in Pakistani cities. Both Indian and Pakistani media left no opportunity to make a mockery of the RAW and rightly so.

ISI has been trained by the American CIA, It was armed by the CIA and today ISI is in many ways better than CIA. Despite its limited funding it has managed to outperform all rival intelligence agencies. ISI has managed to establish ties in Afghanistan. Where India spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan to achieve our strategic objectives and even then we managed to achieve nothing, ISI has managed to make strong allies and helped their leadership prepare for Afghanistan after the US exits.

How our RAW Intelligence concocted the Headley’s startling exposure that the 26/11 attack was controlled and coordinated by the ISI from start to finish, and that the attackers were trained by Pakistan’s Navy, was the sort of information that Indians and many other countries wanted to hear. But Paksitan’s ISI managed to not only repulse this propaganda using their online media wing but actually made India look foolish.

It not only did not concede an inch to India, but actually demanded that any progress on 26/11 investigations be linked to progress on Siachen, Sir Creek etc. It seems to have escaped notice of the Indians that Pakistan’s Army Chief Kiyani was the head of the ISI till October 2008, a month before the Mumbai attack. So, in effect, the blame for 26/11–and by deduction other terror attacks too–lies right on the doorstep of the de facto ruler of Pakistan.

Yet, leading establishment intellectuals like Ram Guha want to mislead India into believing that the ISI is a non-state actor and is no worse than VHP or Bajrang Dal. It is such patently false assertions that enable powerful voices in the Congress party and the government, including Sonia-loyalist Mani Shankar Aiyar and India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, to peddle the line that India has not choice, but to helplessly persist with an aimless, “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue” with Pakistan, because the only alternative visible to them, a full-fledged war, is unthinkable.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, one cannot but infer that for it the primary purpose of talks is to keep progressively legitimising on paper the gains that ISI’s well disguised military successes make on the ground and in Indian minds, in consonance with its strategic objective of weakening and eventually defeating India.

India’s own covert operations outfit, rightly named RAW in a rare moment of enlightenment, has singularly failed to nail the ISI, despite being on this very job for decades, with a huge budget to boot. It has taken Abdul Karim Tunda, for example, to reveal that India’s Most Wanted Dawood Ibrahim not only lives in Karachi (or so we Indians are told by our RAW intelligence).  ISI, whose Director General reports to the Army Chief, conducts its many dangerous businesses with clinical professionalism, and knows how to keep them under wraps from amateur Indian eyes.

Worse is the fact that it exposes another huge and unacceptable chink in India’s armour against Pakistan: RAW is a poorly-led-by-police-officers and driven-by-babu-culture set up that lacks the political direction, professionalism, commitment and motivation required to face, tackle and defeat a professional agency like the ISI that is led and controlled by the real rulers of Pakistan.

All this bodes ill for India.

Once Pakistan achieves the primacy it is on its way to in Afghanistan, all but drives India out from there, and makes full use of the infrastructure that India’s much touted ‘soft power’ has created in that country, the ISI’s energies, spurred by its spectacular success in Afghanistan, will focus almost wholly on building a strong alliance with its neighbour on the west thus securing its western borders and bringing an end to terrorism (much of which has been sponsored by our RAW). India must realize that use of terrorism is not in anyone’s interest. India should focus on building ties with Paksitan, stop sponsoring terrorist outfits in and around Pakistan.

Some of us comfort ourselves by fantasizing that Pakistan will be soon be swallowed by the very jihadi elements its has spawned. Our Intelligence agencies have tried to fool us common Indians with propaganda about how all of Pakistanis are extremists. Nothing could be further from the truth as any Indian who visits Pakistan is pleasantly surprised by the liberal and modern Pakistani society who always welcome us Indians with open arms.

RAW and Indian Army’s brutality has completely radicalised the Kashmiris on the Indian side, and this mistreatment of Indian Kashmiris by the Indian forces creates anger and frustration on the Pakistani side of Kashmir too. With growing resentment in Indian among the oppressed Muslims and other minorities, India is creating a time bomb that will explode with such force that India will not be able to recover from its impact.

Is India even thinking of preparing to meet these challenges, or do our leaders still fantasize about incredible India that exists only in their minds… while rest of the world sees a Hindu dominated rape capital of the world.

Does India have a plan to defeat the challenges that it is almost certain to face? The way some of our leaders brainlessly dismiss any other option by invoking the fear that Pakistan is a nuclear powered state, tells us that the Pakistanis have read Indian minds well and know that they can get away with everything short of a declared war, and that India will do little more than make meaningless noises to assuage public opinion. Well Pakistan is definitely not interested in starting any war with India. Pakistan has on multiple occasions asked for a peaceful dialogue to resolve issues but it seems that our intelligence agencies and military always manages to disrupt these opportunities and it is obvious why!

Much of the credit for the fact that Pakistan has fearlessly and aggressively repulsed attacks from India for over three decades, needs to be given to the one outstanding creation of Pakistan’s military, the ISI. This covert military outfit is an innovative and powerful instrument of war, an invisible and formidable force multiplier.

To counter it, not only has India has not been able to find an answer but, given the predilections of its political leadership,  is unlikely to do so in future too.

Much as India’s ineptitude and worse hurt me as an Indian, I have to admire what Pakistan–a nation that is 1/6th India’s size and with 10th India’s GDP–has achieved through the ISI, whose successes have been nothing short of spectacular. Wish we could learn what it has been trying to teach us.

By Vinod Sharma
ZONEASIA-PK


Politics after the world wide web

November 7, 2014

The author has often wondered like most Pakistanis if our leadership is in fact that or the mockery of one. This of course, is not without reason and comes days after the price of petroleum has been slashed by Rs 9.43. While it is amusing to watch the government and the PTI to engage in a tussle to take credit for this drop in prices, it is only normal to feel that as the 180 million who have everything at stake, our intelligence has been insulted in the most casual manner. Thanks to the worldwide web and our ability to use it, we are only a click away from the outside world—only a click away from knowing that international oil prices are down too, by more than 25%. If the government is taking initiative to bring the price of petroleum products in line with global trends, while it may be a welcome change it is the only logical consequence of growing supply and decreasing demand.

Mr. Khan insists this change has taken place because of his sit-ins, because ‘perseverance commands success’—perhaps he is right, this decrease in prices is the result of mounting pressure on the ‘corrupt’ government. Mr. Sharif insists that this change has taken place because he feels it is necessary to provide some relief to the common man and that in spite of the huge losses cause to the national economy because of the dharna business, the government is taking steps on the international front too to engage other countries in economic activities with Pakistan so as to accelerate economic growth and while it is doing so—perhaps his version of the truth also deserves to be humored, maybe a little less than Khan’s self-righteous, holier-than-thou narrative though.

The point is that it hardly matters what version of the truth appeals more to us, the fact remains that there are few things worse than half-truths and it seems that of late, they are being fed to the gullible, unsuspecting masses in enormous quantities. It can be argued that politics is a dirty game and such behavior should not take us by surprise but the fact remains that it will become increasingly difficult for politicians to keep up appearances—either they will have to step up their game or they will have to come clean with facts.

On another note, a similar wrestling match to take credit for the Wagha Border blast ensued between different factions of the TTP. The horrific incident claimed the lives of more than 50 of our people and while attention-starved politicians want to piggyback their way to popularity and are obliged time and again by the media and audiences, it may be of greater use to bring the focus instead to issues that deserve to be given more importance and air-time and that when sit-ins are organized and  carried out, they are goal-oriented in the sense that they reflect national priorities and when the government prides itself in providing ‘relief’ to the little man, its rhetoric does not reek of hypocrisy. The author is following the news of the proposed ‘500pc increase’ in gas prices most religiously—the material on the world wide web suggests that this is bound to happen sooner or later. Oh, well.

AREA 14/8


The alleged blasphemer

November 7, 2014

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I could sense sheer terror for the first time: hiding in a small room inside the kiln factory, with their eyes closed, my parents tried to drown the angry voices and loud thuds coming from outside the locked door.  A frantic mob was looking for vengeance: its thirst would not be quenched until it had blood on its hands.  My mother trembling with fear offered a silent prayer for my safety, the safety of her family most dear to her and then as an afterthought prayed for her own safety.  For a while, it appeared that her prayers had been answered: the mob had distanced itself from the door and the voices seemed to be dying down.

Christians
In the safe embrace of my mother, the world despite its hardships had always appeared to be as affectionate as my father’s smile and as tender as my mother’s hands. My parents were bonded laborers who worked in a brick kiln factory in Kot Radha Kishan. While every day was a struggle for them especially during summers as it would get hard to bear the heat, they still worked rigorously despite heat strokes and burnt hands for my sake if nothing else. When my mother lay down at night I could sense that she yearned for freedom and a secure future as she fell asleep to the thought of my smile.

However, an unfamiliar voice on a loudspeaker changed everything. One night, the local Maulvi called out to all the faithful to save Islam from the infidels. I had heard somewhere that Islam preaches peace and tolerance and as I strained to hear kindness in the voice of local cleric; all I was able to identify was hatred and ignorance.  I could tell that my mother’s thoughts were also clouded by confusion and anxiety. Next morning, we were told that people had started gathering to look for my mother to seek revenge. She had little time to comprehend whether this commotion was linked to the money she owed to the factory owner or if she had actually offended religious sentiments unintentionally, there was no time to speak up in her defense.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

My mother’s heart started sinking even more now and I knew why- the voices were back to haunt us and they were growing louder by the minute. The roof would come down upon us any second. Any second now the angry voices would barge in and ‘justice’ would be served. Armed with bricks and sticks, they started beating my parents claiming they had desecrated the Holy Book. My mother was now an alleged blasphemer.  She screamed out of agony as she struggled to protect me from the blows that were being struck on her body, my father begged for mercy. My parents were both powerless and on their knees, crying and pleading repeatedly saying that they were innocent. But the voices had come there to serve justice: there was little room for empathy. The mob was doing all of this for God, in the name of God.  There was no compassion in their eyes; they showed no weakness or remorse. I clung to the futile hope that either somebody would come and reason with these people or they would go away having wounded us enough, but more and more people started joining them from nearby villages. Succumbing to his injuries, my father had lost consciousness by then; my mother’s shrill screams were also drowned by the now- jubilant mob as my parents were dragged and thrown inside the brick kiln oven. The mob’s rage seemed to be dying down with my mother’s tormenting shrieks. I was burned alive with my parents while thousands of people watched this show with smirks on their faces. The agony of fire was too much to take but despite the obvious pain I felt a sense of relief.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me. 

I am comforted by the fact that I will neither become one of these barbarians nor one of the silent spectators. I will not be a part of the herd controlled by self proclaimed clerics who have little knowledge of the religion. I am happy that I will never be born into a society where humanity and religion are considered to be two separate paths, a society that kills in the name of religion- the same religion which advocates peace and tolerance.

I hear that five policemen came to save us from the mob but they were held back. I also hear that a heavy contingent of police followed after we were burned to death. I doubt that things would have unfolded in a different manner if they have arrived earlier. The next day, a Shia Muslim was killed by an axe-wielding officer over blasphemy charges in police custody. The fact remains that if you are accused of blasphemy, you are considered guilty until proven guilty or killed.  I hear that 50 villagers have been arrested but I wonder if they will be met with the same treatment reserved for alleged blasphemers. Most of all, I am apprehensive about the wellbeing of my siblings who are left behind, will the silent majority make sure that they are not stigmatized?

I wonder if my killers will celebrate my death with zeal and sleep with a content smile on their faces, if people will shower them with rose petals for burning me alive. I wonder for how long people will remember us, agonized by the heat of the kiln oven that burned us, possibly until the heat dies down and they find another cause to take up.
I am the unborn child of Shama and Shehzad  Masih and I am already dead, but so is humanity.

AREA 14/8


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