We all need to stand up and be counted

Published: May 31, 2010
The writer is a fellow with the Centre for the Study of Global Power and Politics at Trent University, Canada (shibil.siddiqi@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is a fellow with the Centre for the Study of Global Power and Politics at Trent University, Canada (shibil.siddiqi@tribune.com.pk)

The horrific attacks on the Ahmadi community on May 28 exacted nearly 100 lives. These are not random terrorist attacks. They are the outcroppings of Pakistan’s intolerant political structures and they morally implicate all of us. The attacks go back to so-called ‘disturbances’ in 1953 when violent mobs organised by a number of Islamic political groups went on a pillaging spree. The riots resulted in a Court of Inquiry under Justices Muhammad Munir and Muhammad Rustam Kayani. Their report provided a detailed analysis of the predicament of turning a pluralistic and multi-denominational country like Pakistan into a confessional state. It noted that no two alims could agree upon the exact definition of a Muslim, rendering impossible the task of deciding who falls within, much less outside, the definition. The implication was that the government must remain aloof in matters of freedom of conscience. These belong to the realm of theological debate, not of law and the state.

But the report’s wisdom has been set aside to leverage reactionary elements for political advantage. Pakistan’s constitutional direction papered over the country’s vast religious diversity to privilege one reading of Islam over others. It declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. To Pakistan’s shame, few voices opposed this trend. Each Pakistani is made complicit in this legalised bigotry; an application for an identity card requires an oath that the applicant is not an Ahmadi. Such measures have ostracised them from the mainstream of public life.

It is against this backdrop of systematic disenfranchisement that we find the present massacre in Lahore. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Punjab and a previously unknown organisation, al Qaeda al Jihad, Punjab Wing, have claimed responsibility. As fanatical as they are, the Taliban are rational political actors, sophisticated both militarily and politically. There is a method to their madness, with elements of a broader political strategy often encoded into acts of immense violence. An appropriate political response makes it vital to decipher such acts rationally rather than writing them off as the products of miscreant minds.

As the Taliban take a drubbing militarily, expending scarce resources on a attack on the Ahmadi community is designed to retake the political initiative. If the government responds with the provision of extra security for the Ahmadi community the Taliban will take advantage of the backlash by anti-Ahmadi sections of the religious establishment and the population and there could be a return of violence against the Ahmadis. The government may gamble that it can simply weather the political storm without making any concessions to the community. This would be a mistake. It will not only highlight the government’s disinterest in protecting its citizens, handing the Taliban a propaganda victory, and paving the road to further violence against Ahmadis and other vulnerable minorities. Both government action and inaction contains seeds of a political crisis, with resultant turmoil benefiting the Taliban. The Taliban are on the cusp of engineering a win-win situation. To change the Taliban’s political calculus all decent Pakistanis must strongly condemn the attacks on Ahmadis and insist whatever protections are necessary be provided to the community and other minorities. Anything else concedes this battle to the Taliban.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 1st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 3:16AM

    The attack on Lahore seems to be an attempt by the Taliban to change the current narrative. As militant groups evolve and spread, they are increasingly influenced by sectarian biases. They seem to be shifting the narrative of anti-American, anti-NATO justified violence to violence against those groups they consider heretics. This is a dangerous escalation by a rational and calculating force which is turning a previously black and white conflict, i.e. pro-America versus anti-America, and colouring it with sectarian and religious stripes.

    With overlapping priorities and loyalties they seem to hope to make it more and more difficult for individuals to unconditionally condemn their actions counting on societal biases to offer some moral justification for their attacks. Recommend

  • L Ahmad
    Jun 1, 2010 - 7:09AM

    Religious intolerence and killing of innocent worshippers is not Islam. In this case the state has abdicated its duty to protect its citizens. A barbaric and shameful act.Recommend

  • M. Salim
    Jun 1, 2010 - 9:43AM

    100% endorsed. We all need to wake up now before we disintegrate and degenerate further into a failed stateRecommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 10:35AM

    Stood up and be counted.

    An Ahmadi man was stabbed to death by
    an enraged Muslim in the town of
    Narowal on Monday.The incident came
    just three days after gun, grenade and
    suicide attacks on the minority group
    killed more than 80 people, police


  • Jun 1, 2010 - 11:21AM

    You, me, we all can think, write and post comments after comments like this merely to flex our desires to let the world know that we can also think and write. Nothing wrong with it either. As a free thinker and a mature person, I respect your point of view.

    But, I would like you all (thinking) readers to please write something about how we can find, select (not elect at the moment) and groom, later to follow, a true leader who could honestly, sincerely and devoutedly steer the flotilla of the deprived masses to their destination.

    We need a leader like great Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Rahmat-Allah alaih). That is the only resolve a Utopian mind could think of.

    Would like to have Mr. Siddiqui’s email address.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jun 1, 2010 - 4:36PM

    We need to look at the enlarged picture. At the moment life and dignity of a citizen is not guaranteed by the state.

    It does not matter if the player is an Afghan Taliban, a Punjabi Taliban, a relegious fanatic, a mugger, a car snatcher, a gang forcing its way into your house and leaving you penniless and traumatized; state has no remedy. Add to the list ordinary citizens picked up by police for trivial reasons and subjected to extortion and torture.

    So long as the concept of, **”Equality Before Law”** does not become the corner stone of our so called civil society, things are going to continue from going bad to worse.Recommend

  • Samir Awan
    Jun 1, 2010 - 11:46PM

    Very good analysis of situation. I wholeheartedly agree and add my voice to those condemning violence. I was also enlightened to read about Jusitce Munir and Kayani report. I found it on the net http://www.thepersecution.org/dl/report_1953.pdf. Everyone should read, it is very enlightening. Amazing to see a rational dialouge about Ahmadis – how far we have come. Thank you Mr. Siddiqui for bringing attention. Also, will be good to have Mr. Siddiquis email.Recommend

  • Rudaina
    Jun 4, 2010 - 4:29PM

    Great article and interesting to read the reasoning behind the Taliban’s motivations. I absolutely agree; it’s shameful what we do to our own people.Recommend

  • Jun 8, 2010 - 6:22AM

    Until the Pakistani led OIC meets out reform, religious sanctioned violence as found and interpreted the abrogation in the post Meccan suras and the Hadiths, the Ahmadi will forever be persecuted for simplistic application of apostasy. You may claim pseudo political intrigue for this slaughter, but in the end it is about an ideology which sanctions violence and oppression as an expression of faith. Until you come to terms with that, violence and murder committed in the name of Islam will continue to outstrip crimes against humanity in the name of any other faith today.Recommend

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