Whose side is the Nawaz Sharif government on? One wonders what the agenda of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is. Why would he block the filing of a case against a leading cleric of Islamabad despite the fact that the said cleric has played a role which has led to the death of hundreds, including several army officers and jawans, in the Lal Masjid operation.
Last week, the Nawaz Sharif government banned the public screening of the award-winning documentary Among the Believers on the grounds that it would project a negative image of Pakistan. If there is a negative image of image, that comes from the manner in which the Nawaz Sharif government is supporting extremism or shielding extremists in one way or another. Or, how the whole Panama leaks scandal has played out. We have a prime minister who is more interested in protecting his own image rather than the image of Pakistan.
Who can forget the statement some years back of the first man of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, where he appealed to the TTP not to attack his province. At the end of the day, it seems that we have a prime minister and a chief minister of Punjab. The cold-blooded murder of Khurram Zaki rests at the feet of the Nawaz Sharif government. One by one, voices of reason are being extinguished in our country.
Reason does not necessarily mean only liberal voices, as some would have us believe. There have been many instances where religious scholars, by no means categorised as liberals but only as moderates, have been targeted by extremists. And the Nawaz Sharif government looks the other way.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar, in a recent spat with the upright Aitzaz Ahsan, claimed loudly that he had done nothing wrong and that his conscience was clear. It is easy to make such false proclamations, especially when the government machinery is on your side. The reality is very different. History will hold you responsible for the spread of extremism and intolerance in Pakistan. Products of General Zia, one can expect no less from such characters.
We are seeing how sane voices are being silenced in Pakistan. In the case of Khurram Zaki, his crime was that as a leading human rights campaigner and blogger, he was instrumental in filing cases against Abdul Aziz and others. He paid for this by being shot dead in Karachi on Saturday night. How can the interior minister’s conscience be clear if people continue to be targeted and killed with such brazenness? No one is arrested and in most instances where they are, it is usually the wrong persons.
Not that the authorities cannot arrest those involved. We have seen in the case of the Safoora attack, when the army got involved we were able to not only trace the killers but also nab them. What is stopping our interior minister of doing the same? Hundreds of activists and journalists are killed by unidentified persons. The interior ministry with all the machinery at its disposal has been unable to trace anyone.
In the case of Khurram Zaki, his murder once again puts a question mark on Nawaz’s campaign against religious extremism in the country. Khurram Zaki, who edited the blog Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP) which claimed to “spread liberal religious views and condemned extremism in all forms” was shot dead while his companion was seriously injured as they sat outside a Karachi eatery for dinner.
Zaki was last in the media limelight alongside activist Jibran Nasir in a campaign against Abdul Aziz for inciting hatred against Shia Muslims. The campaigners had managed to get a case registered against Aziz. Khurram Zaki was also detained during the campaign against Lal Masjid and was chided by Interior Minister Nisar Ali for his actions.
In January 2015, capital police registered a case over the video of Jamia Hafsa students, and was given a green light from the prosecution department, a police official told the media. However, the official said that when permission was sought from the political corridor, they were denied.
One should not be surprised. The Nawaz Sharif government is peppered with right-wing characters. Many of them have been affiliated with such organisations that have been historically seen to give protection to extremists, even when these extremists have acted against the state. We can only wonder what the priorities of our government are.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2016.