Selective Mourning – by Bahadar Ali Khan

Victims of apathy, can be the only name given to the current situation of circumstances that have plagued current day Pakistani masses.

A highly condemnable and tragic bombing of Data Sb. shrine has jolted the entire Pakistani public. Data Darbar has remained the most revered and the most esteemed Sufi shrine of the country. Generally from across the entire Pakistan and especially for the Lahories of all strata of the society have immense respect for this place. From an ordinary Tanga-wala to the heads of a big political party like PML-N, everybody has personal affiliations with the Data Darbar. It is a place where people go for various reasons, from requesting ‘mannut’ or to feed the poor for around last thousand years.

The Thursday’s suicide bombing of this esteemed shrine has a lot of food for thought for us as Pakistanis. Tragic it is, but hardly surprising. It simply followed a pattern of distributed hatred that we as Pakistanis have amassed over the period of last 60 years following the British exit from the sub-continent and its subsequent division into India and Pakistan. We are so good at crafting fault-lines within the society that, right now, we are not sure why and how many enemies we might have and on what grounds. But all of us have those.

Right after the creation of Pakistan, we created reasons to divide ourselves. These reasons were pitched on various differential grounds. We first tried to alienate Bengalis over linguistic lines, followed by a ferocious campaigns against Qadyanis, Military-Civilian, Shia-Sunni, Jihadi-Non-jihadi, Maqami-Muhajir, Punjabi-Non-punjabi, leaguy-pipliya and this list goes on. We are a very opinionated society and have the tendency to reach to the desired conclusions in just one session of any debate.

Difference of the opinion is a healthy pre-requisite for any vibrant and progressive society, however, our difference of opinion always receives a unique shade. A shade where the lines between difference of opinion and hatred gets blurred very quickly. The follow up is the immense opposition and hatred for the one on the other side of our opinion divide. As with any ill-educated society and mind, this difference never remains confined to the hatred or opposition only, rather our emotionalism, if provided with some essential catalyst, readily tries to annihilate or silence the opposition by any means, not excluding even the extinction.

Around twenty years ago, we have actually graduated in the art of making ourselves our own enemies. However, the fatal blow to the society came when religious indoctrination was applied to all the acts of individual and society. The kind of control over masses the religion provides is second to none. Zia-CIA needed zealots to fight against Soviets in Afghanistan, religion was used to fill in the cadres. The same guy needed to win Referendum, religion was applied. Army needed much talked about ‘strategic’ depth, religion was the handy tool too achieve it. Some individuals wanted to move up on the social ladder of the society, they used religion and got elected to the assemblies, while other made fortune, which they could only dream of previously. On the individual scales, people wanted to settle personal scores they used religious blasphemy law to get their opponent killed by equally religiously charged crowd. Now things have gone to the level, that people are even hiring suicide bombers to kill their political opponents.

We have adopted different yard sticks to gauge the level of pain. In the  case of bombing of minorities like Christians, Ahmedis, Hindus or Sikhs happen, the general society doesn’t really worry about and business goes as usual. Equal apathy is prevalent in Shia-Sunni killings. Only the aggrieved camp mourns their deaths, the other one bothers little. Even the bombing of Peshawar and that of Lahore is treated differently. We shed more tears if something happens in Lahore. The concept of humanity and the pain of it, have become alien factors to our society now. We are charged only when something is projected by media, that is why the Israeli attack on Flotilla and siege of Gaza has more importance then the millions of our own besieged people of Parachanar in Kurram Agency.

We are struck with pain after the bombing of Data Darbar, while completing forgetting the fact that this is part of the domino-effect. It was bound to happen. When we earlier ignored the destruction of various revered shrines of Frontier or the bombing of Bari Imam in Islamabad or target destruction of Imam Bargahs, it shouldn’t be surprising to see the current tragic incident and associated loss of human life. Until we will keep on shedding tears only at the death of ‘our own’ while neglecting the pain of ‘others’, this will continue to happen. It is time to bridge-up the ‘us and them’ gap. Humanity should be the common denominator.

Another discouraging factor is the role of society elders and certain segments of media, where after each carnage episode a hysterical spell of denial is spawned. We start pointing fingers on the imaginary enemies and in a one go, name all the foreign agencies and ‘infidel’ governments while completely bypassing the fact that each of us are infidel in our own particular perspective of the sectarian adherence. We chant slogans against each other’s sects by declaring everyone ‘kafir’ except ourselves. So what do you think, the other (read rival ) sect thinks about us, ‘kafir’. So all of us are our own infidels and that justifies every carnage project. The phrases like ‘A Muslim cannot do it’, ‘It is the work of Inida-US-Israel-UK-Black Water’ are utter nonsense. Why they don’t do it in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Malaysia and other Islamic countries, why it is only us? Answer is, we are a nation of nay-sayers, living in a state of perpetual denial. Totally ignoring the ground realities. We are a body of people, who are denying the cancer by attributing it to gastric or muscular pains. In order to cure the cancer, we have to accept its presence first, only then cure can be started.

Now let us also try to briefly cover the grounds which are providing justifications for these gruesome acts.

Since the ascendance of Saud family to rule the Arab in early twentieth century, the terms of ‘Shirk’ (Involving anybody with God’s status ) and ‘Bidaat’ (new thing to Islam), have archived prominence in Saudi Arabia. According to the Puritan ( the one who believes in cleansing of Islam from all perceived aberrations and winding it back to Khilafat-e-Rashida times) interpretation of the Saudi-Islam every shrine or religious individual whom people flock for their homage or respect, is un-Islamic. Following the same rule the House of Saud, razed to the ground the holy and historical graveyard of Jannat-ul-Baqih in early twentieth century because mostly pilgrims from outside Arab would go and pray there. As the news of this desecration of graveyard slowly broke, there were big protests among the Muslims of Hindustan and elsewhere but owing to limited means of communications of those times these protests didn’t get any traction. Later on, the Saudi apologists owe that act to the expansion of the Medina mosque. However, this remained the localized phenomenon, but later with the rising Saudi oil wealth, it attracted un-educated to semi-educated job seekers from outside Arab, who later, got back to their home countries with the new money and strict ideas about Islam. Later on this class was instrumental in the propagation of these ideals and some of them actually established Madaris where these and other strict interpretations of Islam were imbibed to the kids attending their madrassah.

The regime of Zia-ul-Haq and other geopolitical realities of the region also played big part in the imposition of these new ideals of Islam, which before that never existed or had very limited influence on the society. The Madrassah graduates also saw a lot wrong with their local centers of ‘Shrik’ and they launched a verbal tirade against the shrines and shrine-goers. However, the actual dismantling and destructions of these places of ‘Shirk’ would only happen after the Taliban rule was established in Afghanistan. The first most conspicuous episode was the destruction of Buddha’s statues in Bamyan, Afghanistan by Taliban using dynamite. On the local theatre, these acts were first carried out in rural areas of Punjab and Frontier and small and less-known shrines were desecrated. In the later years the scale and target got enhanced and thus we saw a destruction or attempt to the destruction  of Rehman Baba Mazar, Bari Imam, Abdullah Shah Gahazi and a lot more. However, the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine was too sensitive a place even for the zealots to destroy. However, with the rising clout in public and in the presence of all kind their apologist in media and political supporters, nothing remained out of reach. Hence we saw the carnage at Data Darbar too.

As implicitly mentioned above, the vast majority of Pakistani Muslims adhere to Brelvi sect, who are very tolerant but are less-informed. This is the class which is exploited by puritan Jihadis, as both carry the title  of Sunni. Now I can see an immense sense of pain and cry over the national media, because the most sacred shrine of the silent majority got hit. However, the same class remains indifferent to the excesses inflicted on the minority Islamic sects and non-Mulsims. The earlier mentioned puritans are very active in the media and cyber space and the can twist any event to any angle. I was surprised to listen that same puritans who were behind the Ahmedi killings in Lahore, later assured people that it was Ahmedis who attacked themselves to get the foreign immigration and visas. It is the same class which after killing Shias, trivialize the event by framing it with the buzz word ‘Shia-Sunni’ clashes. And again it is the same class which after killing Christians stage a blasphemy charade. Question remained to be asked, as why no one knows about this and they remain un-touched. Answer is very sensitive and only I can say it has a lot to do with the ‘strategic-depth’ project.

We must understand that Islam was spread in Hindustan by Sufis and mystics and trust me I cannot find anywhere in the history where puritans had any role in it. They played a brief role during Aurangzeb Alamgir’s times but that resulted in the alienation of the faithful Hindu Rajputs who were the back bone of Mughal Empire and after that brief period of orthodoxy, Mughal empire lost the ground for ever. Islam is not with or for the coercion, it is about love, peace and harmony. It is important to be strict in Haqooq-Allah but it is way more important to be nice with fellow human beings or in other words ‘Haqquq-ul-Ibad’ which is the supreme obligation. We are always asked to read Quran and seek guidance, so why we don’t get it. La ikraha fid-din. ( No coercion in Islam ). So what is this? Why it is all happening? This means what ever is happening under the banner of Islam has actually nothing to do with the Islam rather some other grand designs are being followed and that can range anywhere from personal-clout to saving some Arab monarchies.



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  1. Imran Bhat