I am amazed at the strange and frankly disturbing debate circulating on the net amongst members of the Socialist Pakistan listserv, about “which terrorism” is more worthy of condemnation: the “sectarian” terrorism exhibited most recently against the Ahmadi minority in Lahore, or the “state” terrorism unleashed by Israel against the civilians bringing food and medicines to the Gazans on the Turkish flotilla. Admittedly, there are sensible voices on the list who suggest that it is important not to separate different terrorisms and acts of violence, but rather, to see how all forms of cruelty and injustice are interconnected, and as such, need to be condemned wholeheartedly and conjointly. However, even this analysis within the context of Pakistan today is flawed, because it does not take into account the ugly reality that many more protesting voices were raised, even amongst the so-called Left, against Israel’s barbaric and unjustified raid on the flotilla resulting in nine civilian deaths aboard the ship, than against the mass slaughter by Pakistanis of their own citizens: the 90 Ahmadis killed in the shootings followed by suicide bombings at two different Ahmadi places of worship in Lahore recently. Thus, anyone who dared raise the question of hypocrisy, or at the very least, suggested that Pakistani citizens need to look inwards at their own house and its awful state of human rights abuses first before raising a hue and cry about injustice elsewhere as in the case of Israel, became the object of some seriously angry – and in my opinion misplaced – vitriol.
This scapegoat of the Left in Pakistan today happens to be Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, who is no stranger to controversy. One can understand why the right-wing forces hate him, but to see people who profess to represent progressive socialist views beat up on perhaps the most pre-eminent socially progressive activist of the country, is mind-boggling. Thus opines Mr Saqlain Imam on the listserv:
Does Dr Hoodbhoy understand the history and nature of the Gazans, how many have been killed, and how the civilised world has fully endorsed the Israeli aggression against the natives of Palestine? Balochistan’s issue is important but I have failed to understand why does he want to counter-pose Israeli attack on Flotilla with other disputes? Those who are comparing other disputes with the Palestinians’ are not supporters of the Baloch cause or Ahmadis, they are merely trying to confuse the new generation!
Mr Saqlain and others on this list go on to berate Hoodbhoy for his “intellectual dishonesty”– his willingness to “play into the hands of Israel” and “Imperialist US” plot against the Palestinians – and by extension, the rest of the Muslim world including Pakistan and Pakistanis. These people are dangerous because their thinking has now become allied to that of the rightist Taliban rhetoric which has come to confuse most people’s thinking in Pakistan to the point where Islamist extremism is now seen as anti-imperialism; thus the attacks on the Ahmadis, or the federal government and army’s repression (aided and abetted by right-wing forces) of the citizens of poorer provinces like Balochistan, simply do not elicit the mass protests and righteous indignation in the same degree as does the case of Israeli aggression against Gaza. Thus, these vanguardists of the so-called Left miss the real point of Dr Hoodbhoy’s argument: it’s not that one should not protest against the horrors of Israeli intransigence and flagrant disregard of Palestinian lives and human rights, or against injustice and cruelty anywhere else for that matter—but to do so one must have some moral leg to stand on. Mass protests on the ground and in virtual space against the myriad horrors being inflicted on minorities in Pakistan in the name of religion or the state would go a long way toward convincing ourselves and others that we are not merely posturing.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.
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