Uncertain majority

Published: September 17, 2011
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

Hazrat Ali (RA) once said that a society/government can survive in the condition of kufr (faithlessness) but not in zulm (oppression). While the precise incidence of kufr or iman in Pakistan is debated every day, the harrowing magnitude of zulm is inescapable. Across the mainstream political and social spectrum there seems to be an easy consensus on the principle that “minorities” should be treated equally and justly. The nobleness of the consensus is overridden only by its haziness. The primary question which is very meticulously avoided is who are the minorities, which of course would also entail answering the embedded question of who is the majority? The lazy answer is that the Muslims are the majority and non-Muslims the minority. The only problem with this answer is that it is really not saying anything. Since whereas Hindus and Christians are easily identifiable minorities, there are others which are not susceptible to such clear demarcations.

The discussion of what constitutes the majority has become a taboo. The question of whether the Shia are part of the majority or the minority is never raised, since it is considered insensitive or even uncouth to bring it up in polite dinner table conversations and hysterical talk shows. Again the answer would be there is no need for that since Shias are universally accepted to be Muslims. Well, one would be surprised. There are organisations in Pakistan which believe, propagate and act upon the belief that not only Shia are non-Muslims but also that they should be eliminated. A natural corollary of the reticence on the matter is that when Shias are killed and often with impunity, nobody is willing to recognise the genesis of this violence. The release of Malik Ishaq, leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, should have mandated at least a fraction of the media attention accorded to the wedding of Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza. Here was a man who has in the past openly exhorted people to kill Shias, and the really disturbing bit is that he has been let loose so that he can continue doing so. When the law minister of Punjab was revealed to be openly hobnobbing with the leaders of a banned sectarian outfit, there were not enough questions asked either by the media or his own party. The violence in Parachinar has become a black hole of our public sphere, especially in the Urdu media. There is a criminal reluctance to admit that there is a possibility that all this is an orchestrated campaign hinged on sectarian prejudice. Whether or not it is really orchestrated, the point remains that why is no one at least asking the question.

There are pamphlets that have been distributed in Faisalabad brazenly inciting people to murder the Ahmadis present there so as to cement a place in heaven for themselves. As a consequence of this, one Ahamdi was very recently murdered in that city. Almost as disgusting as the thuggish pamphlets themselves, is the fact that these are not being distributed by anonymous, secret terrorist organisations. Quite to the contrary, this is being done by very public terrorist organisations. The unchecked viciousness on display is horrifying. The failure of the Punjab administration to act is either because of sinister maliciousness or shameful spinelessness. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has displayed an unprecedented fondness of taking suo motu notices of practically everything under the sun, ranging from Atiqa Odho to the Karachi violence. Yet, my Lords either do not find the time or do not deem the matter worthy so as to mandate their attention and take cognisance of open call for blood in the industrial hub of Punjab. The Punjab government’s capitulation before the threat of homicidal religious fanatics is not a sudden surrender. We may remember that Mian Nawaz Sharif boldly and rather uncharacteristically remarked that he stood with his “Ahmadi brethren” in the aftermath of the barbaric attacks on their places of worship last year. The disgraceful bit was that almost immediately after this rare moment of genuine gallantry Mr Sharif had to swiftly and weakly clarify his position with ambivalent, apologetic and incoherent defense of what he really meant. The Punjab government probably maintains its silence because of the fear of the PML-that it might lose its rightwing religious votes. The problem with Faustian bargains like these is that such weakness becomes regressive.

As I write these lines, there are several posters in the Lahore Civil Courts (several on court room doors) extolling Mumtaz Qadri as a “ghazi” of Islam, who deserves to be released and glorified. While people should be free to be peacefully idiotic and follow ideological brutes of their choice, however firstly eulogising Mumtaz Qadri is an endorsement of his medieval barbarism and hence direct provocation to violence. And secondly, the court premises should not be allowed to be used to propagate violent religious bigotry. I would have demanded a suo motu as is customary, had I not known better. This after all is now a people’s court, although one sometimes wonders seeing the bullet-proof vehicles and regal entourages.

As for Mumtaz Qadri, he has not been sentenced yet, which is rather peculiar given a confession at the outset. The delay is a direct violation of the National Judicial Policy enacted by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan himself. The standard rebuttal would be that the Supreme Court does not have the time to take personal interest in every murder case, especially when it has less controversial and more publicity hoarding cases available.

The real danger of masochistic cowardice and abdication of responsibility lies in the fact it is almost always the easiest choice available and hence infinitely addictive. False pretence of protecting sensibilities and ambiguous rhetoric fools no one. Under the thin, feeble guise is the perennial fearfulness which plagues us. The argument that people of every sect are murdered everyday in Pakistan and hence why the inordinate focus on particular ones ignores a basic principle, i.e. if one person is allowed to be murdered because of sectarian affiliation, then the excuse will inevitably extend to everyone.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • faraz
    Sep 17, 2011 - 11:24PM

    And there is another conflict between Qadri and Jhangvi lovers. Jhangvis blowing up mazaars. In karachi, gangs of ST and SSP are fighting for control of mosques. In khyber agency, LI and AI are killing each other. The battle for ‘true islam’ is on.


  • Parvez
    Sep 17, 2011 - 11:28PM

    In a very short span of time you have become one of my favourite opinion writers.
    A question I can not answer is that, why have our leaders failed us, be they politicians, bureaucrats, armed forces personnel, civil society leaders, senior judiciary. The simple answer that it is the fault of the people, is without merit. The malaise lies much deeper.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Sep 18, 2011 - 1:07AM

    Extremists shouldnt be patronized, whether liberal or religious.

    And SC shouldnt be dragged into every matter as well.


  • Humanity
    Sep 18, 2011 - 3:09AM

    What is happening in Pakistan today is the direct result of what was legalized, allowed and celebrated in Pakistan in 1974. When, as a starter, Ahmadis were declared as Non-Muslims despite the fact that they recite Kalima. All Principals of Islam were demolished in 1974 when Kalima was replaced with, throwing filth at Imam Mahdi & Messiah, as new identity of Muslims. In effect, legal Muslims made Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as their undeclared new prophet.
    Crying now that no minorities, politicians, judges, public, etc, are protected is little too late to cry. If the ACT of 1974 was Islamic then Allah would have rewarded Pakistan and Muslims’ with dignity and prosperity all across the globe. But if the ACTs of 1974 & 1984 are un-Islamic then Allah has to punish the transgressors and make their life a living hell both now and later. Allah is paying “Legal Muslims” back with floods, earthquakes and disasters every year for their deeds. Recommend

  • N
    Sep 18, 2011 - 3:43AM

    A very clear expose’.

    The march of exclusion continues since 1947 – hindus, ahmadis, christians, shias, mohajirs, balooch, pakhtuns. We have arrived here with the help of written laws championed by elected leaders and by intimidation by the likes of Lashkar this and Lashkar that. Either way, the majority approved these actions – it remained silent; showed up in numbers at the mosques and donated its hard earned money to the “cause”.


  • Ahsan Jahangir
    Sep 18, 2011 - 10:09AM

    I think the problem lies in us, the people of this country, we don’t have any opinion on religious issues. With almost near zero religious knowledge, we take opinions, beliefs directly from either religious parties or from radical minded molvis. It is time that we think and decide about our religious matters our selves for which we have to get some basic knowledge about Islam. Religion is a personal matter of every personal and no one has the right to declare ‘fatwas’ against any other sect of muslim or non-muslims.


  • Feroz
    Sep 18, 2011 - 11:42AM

    A human pandering to his basest instincts unchecked will face Divine intervention, in South Asian context often called Karma. When a Nation indulges in such a folly with its citizens, it imperils itself and invited darker retribution. Please wake up and accept the fact that Humanity and human values must transcend all Religious barriers. Therein will lie Salvation.


  • nafisa mubarak
    Sep 18, 2011 - 11:44AM

    One is as weak as one’s weakest link.


  • Ayesha
    Sep 18, 2011 - 3:47PM

    Brilliant and very brave piece as usual by Mr. Saroop Ijaz and kudos to ET for publishing this.


  • jajju
    Sep 18, 2011 - 7:34PM

    I am confused. People say courts set someone free. Courts say prosecution did not have enough evidence. Who is to be believed?
    Not just the anti-blasphemy law, but ALL laws in Pakistan need a reform. I dont hear anyone speaking about that :)


  • True Believer
    Sep 18, 2011 - 11:08PM

    Our nation has 99% Muslims and 1% Islaam.


  • Abbas
    Sep 19, 2011 - 1:42PM

    i am sad and hopeless, what can people of pakistan really do ? there is no hope in coming elections, no political party has taken a real stand against terrorism, and even if they do take a stand or issue a statement, they do it for a particular area (such as target killings in karachi), why doesnt Imran Khan give dharnas against TTP or killing of Hazaras ? The simple reason is that they will lose votes and will become automatic target of suicide attacks… Is there a single politician, who stands for the right regardless of the votes he will get ? Sadly the answer is NO…

    There is no immegiate hope, the thing we can do is to create awareness, change our school courses so that our children can think more independently and ban hatred being spread from mosques… and of course the state sponsered terrorism, that is being continued to create divisons, has to be stopped…


  • Cynical
    Sep 19, 2011 - 1:48PM

    @nafisa mubarak

    “One is as weak as one’s weakest link.”

    What’s that weakest link you refer to (in the context of this post.)


  • Dee Cee
    Sep 19, 2011 - 9:37PM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani: So liberal extremists gun down people in mosques, blow up women and children in markets, attack army and navy camps, attacks busload of children, flog and beat up women, attack neighbouring countries, and help Pakistan disown its own Nobel Laureate, right? so insane of you equating liberal and religious extremists! Wine, western fashion, and different sexual mores can be considered bad by many, but they do not require Pakistan’s armed forces to launch operations. Liberal extremists do not force you to drink wine; if you are pious, no power in the world can corrupt you. But even if you are pious, a silly terrorist (homegrown or planted from outside) can kill you very easily.

    @ Author: I think Pakistan is in the perfect direction. It already has started talking and thinking about it. The oppressive night is the perfect motivator for a bright dawn. Terrorists will be finished, inshallah, and Pakistanis will emerge victorious. Meanwhile, please keep writing and keep asking these questions. This will create a culture of critical thinking and argumentation, which will loosen the grip of fear and indoctrination! Recommend

  • Humanity
    Sep 20, 2011 - 12:05AM

    @Dee Cee:
    Indeed Pakistan is heading towards the direction of self destruction, as evidenced by the daily killings. Nothing is going to change there with these few opinions unless mullah’s who preach killings in Mosques are replaced (put into jails for preaching hatred). Currently, administration has ‘no guts’ to do that as we noticed when Nawaz Sharif out of human courtesy announced sympathy for the attacks on two Ahmadi Mosques last year but had to withdraw his statement immediately due fear of extremist mullahs. Another sad example, when President and Chief of Army staff did not attend the funeral of Punjab Governor due to the same fear.
    As long as our politicians are going to stay coward and do not take a firm stand on stopping these extremist mullah’s, mosques will continue to produce mass murderers…


  • adl
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:47AM

    Dee Cee i see liberal extremist the biggest problem as they are in authority and they are controlling the media and causing severe destruction. they are changing youths mind. They are openly creating destruction. in the name of democracy they are wroking on the wrong agenda. They even have start interpretting the wrong version of islam. last 20 years i have seen in pakistan these people leading. They are responsible for every thing as they govern and are in authority. Again this Freedom of speech is again problem which is causing only destruction.


  • adl
    Oct 1, 2011 - 12:09PM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:

    Good one . The liberals are creating greater problems in the name of freedom and decmocracy.


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