The Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool on September 21 wreaked destruction and death on Pakistan that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) would not have appreciated. What it manifested was not the wrath of Muslims but the alienation of Muslims of Pakistan from the state they live in. Their mind was, however, full of views spread by the state itself, liberally assisted by the media prescribing international isolation as the only honourable course to adopt. When a halfwit in California made a film not worth watching by any standard, the Pakistani mind was ready to use it to challenge the very idea of a democratic Pakistan.
Twenty-six people were killed in three major cities seen most vulnerable to al Qaeda and its Pakistani affiliates: Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad. Private and public property was destroyed, including banks, shops, cinema houses, cars, motorbikes, churches and foreign food franchises. The government’s decision to vent the rage of blasphemy was proved wrong.
In Karachi, violence hit its high water mark simply because the city has been seeing a lot of it lately, infiltrating the minds of the people not given to violence in the past. In Peshawar, the thinking of al Qaeda was clearly upfront as the city appeared to be in the hands of mobs ruled by extremist ideology, with the provincial government losing control of the situation. In Islamabad, diplomats cowered as they saw a repeat of the past when General Ziaul Haq had literally overseen the destruction of the American embassy. In less violent Lahore, the Jamaat-e-Islami got its student commandos to kick up agitation before attacking the US consulate.
The mobs were made up of cadres from the madrassa network, workers of religious parties, school and college students and urchins from the slums that ring Pakistani cities. Al Qaeda and the Taliban sat back and saw its growing population of allies do its work. The central point in their thinking was the abdication of the state from its Islamic obligation to punish America and its allies for having offended the Muslims. The mobs demanded that Islamabad call in the ambassadors and ask them to apologise and that the US hand over the producer of the offending film or suffer the humiliation of ending diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
Television channels reflected the alienation of Pakistan’s teeming millions from the state. One discussant said that Pakistan will regain its lost honour only after converting to khilafat from the abominated system of democracy, an unholy transplant from the West. Another TV anchor castigated the foreign minister as a “model girl” talking about normalising relations with America, while Pakistanis wanted the head of the blaspheming American film-maker.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world, protests against the blaspheming film were impressive, but not as menacing, partly because al Qaeda had not yet acquired as dominant a position as in Pakistan. The Arab Spring has made it possible for al Qaeda to show its flag in states where it could not have dared to enter before. Failing states such as Iraq, Somalia and Yemen were already becoming comparable with Pakistan and Afghanistan, but now Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and many African states with Muslim communities are also becoming vulnerable.
Pakistan is ground zero for the ‘revolution’ our politicians have been predicting, although with the self-deluding thought that it will favour them after ousting their rival politicians. The attempt of the government to ‘join in’ rather than to resist the muscle of al Qaeda failed and served to highlight the truth about the spreading disorder in the country. The PPP should tell the GHQ that it is not India, the US and Israel planning the destruction of Pakistan through the bribe-taking Taliban, but al Qaeda working through erstwhile jihadi heroes of Pakistan.
The police received a lot of beating on Friday and more is on the cards. As some of the policemen have received bullet wounds from guns fired from the mobs, it is safely assumed that the next round will be more scary.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.
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