In October, 2001, a church in Bahawalpur, Punjab was attacked and worshipers killed, including women and children. The date bears relevance; it came days after the United States started the operation in Afghanistan. Before that, when the Babri Mosque episode took place, historic Hindu temples in Lahore were ransacked. There are various other examples; however, the seminal point is that the Hindus living in Pakistan represent India, the Christians are agents of the West. Going to Joseph Colony almost immediately after the attack and talking to those who used to live there, one could observe not only the smell of evil, the sound of death but also unspeakable hopelessness. Try imagining a sewerage worker, whose father was also a sewerage worker and who now knows to a moral certainty that his newly born grandson will also be a sewerage worker. Yet, after every attack for a day or two we pretend that they are Pakistanis too (Ahmadis are denied this small consolation even). They are not.
The murder in the Peshawar Church is what mass murders are, horrific and barbaric, however, was it unexpected? The K-P chief minister does not know of the Taliban. He also believes that Muslims should not be allowed to be sanitary workers; his later clarification was that he wanted Christians to retain their ‘traditional’ jobs. So, they are weak enough to only be sanitary workers, yet, formidable enough to be held accountable for Western imperialism and drones?
To call Mr Imran Khan a Taliban and a murder apologist offends his enthusiastic supporters. Perhaps, they are right. Hearing him talk after the Church attack, it is clear that Mr Khan is no ‘apologist’. An apologist makes excuses, often in an oblique manner for the acts of another, after the commission of the act. Mr Khan does no such thing. He is crystal clear in his absolute defense of the terrorists. And more importantly, he pre-approves of all future murderers. Mr Khan is no ‘apologist’, he is an ‘advocate’, an ‘ally’. Whether he does it out of fear or a single digit IQ no longer matters, he is for murder in the name of faith. His vision of ‘Naya Pakistan’ has the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as a political wing of the non-corrupt Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mr Khan, if there is a conspiracy against peace in this country, you sir are the public face of it.
The Punjab government has taken up the ‘heroic’ task of fighting the teaching of ‘comparative religion’ in the curriculum. Our estranged brothers TTP, and the not so estranged Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are hard at work to make sure that there is no other religion (at least followers) left in Pakistan to compare to. The Punjab police recently demolished minarets of an Ahmadi mosque, how dare they pretend to be Pakistanis? Mian Sahib apparently seems to be reconsidering his position on talks. If possible, Mian Sahib should avoid trips to Saudia Arabia while he takes his sweet time on the question.
All parties have shown weakness in tackling terrorism, however, some significantly more than others. The ANP has Shaheed Bashir Bilour, the only son of Mian Iftikhar’s and many others, the PPP has the ultimate sacrifice of Shaheed BB, and Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer. The Christians killed while worshiping the Lord are not ‘Shaheed’ in the land of the pure. They died the mundane death, not part of any greater fight.
The arguments for talks and for terrorists are fit for children below the age of 10, with learning difficulties. The ‘force should not be used to counter force’ argument would make the prison system, the courts and the police redundant. The entire justice system would be shrinks sitting down with murderers and rapists, talking.
The worst offender is Mr Khan and his worst offense is that he is creating the space for a pro-terrorist narrative in the mainstream. Perhaps, more accurately, he is destroying the limited space that existed for the counter narrative.
The only APCs that we need now are better Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) to help us get on with the job. In the presence of a democratically elected Parliament any other APC is a joke, so is consensus. A majority resolution of the Parliament if and when, is all that is needed.
Our words of condolences and outrage are hollow, up to the point we can create enough pressure to act. One would have urged the Christians and Hindus to leave this country in the interim. However, you know what hopelessness is? Pervez Khattak’s ‘sanitary workers’ do not have the resources to get a passport, let alone afford travel. We run an inescapable prison and kill inmates for pleasure and piety. Mr Khan wants to be the warden.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2013.