A gang of thugs comprising of “60 to 70” men have ‘defended’ Islam in Rawalpindi on October 7, by attacking a girls’ school after warning it that it would ‘face the music’ if the girls didn’t ‘dress modestly and wear hijab’. They thrashed the girl students and their female teachers. The following day, most girls’ schools had zero or thin attendance. An official circular was sent around warning all girls’ schools to avoid such incidents by taking ‘preventive measures’. Will the administration pursue the gang who attacked the school? No, according to ‘inside information’ — which means that the state tacitly accepts the ‘ideological’ thrust of the attack.
This is happening against the backdrop of another tacitly accepted ideological punishment inflicted by a pious policeman called Qadri on late governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer. The lawyers’ community in Pakistan is on the side of the killer and the media has brainwashed the average citizen into thinking that it was the governor who was in the wrong and that the pious policeman should be let off through the legal device of diyat ‘facilitated’ no doubt by the kidnapping of Salmaan Taseer’s son. The challenge is: ask the clerics and the pious lawyers of Rawalpindi whether the gang who attacked the girls’ school were right in doing what they did, and the answer would be yes!
There is perhaps more to come. All girls’ schools may be ordered to make hijab compulsory for their pupils. The real edict behind the attack is what the Taliban have been doing in the tribal areas and what the Taliban did when they were ruling Afghanistan: the place for the girls is at home where after an appropriate period they are to get married and bear children, stereotyped on the model warrior who are now ‘correcting’ the state of Pakistan through suicide bombing. Some years ago when the thugs started attacking the co-educational institutions of Lahore, many pious people thought the ‘golden’ age had arrived and started writing their own threat letters to the institutions. The germ of extremism has grown faster and promises to kill more people than dengue fever ever will.
When the Islamic University of Islamabad was attacked by a suicide-bomber its conservative faculty came out saying there was nothing wrong with the attackers; it was just that the university had been forced to become ‘moderate’ in its stance through the appointment of wrong type of vice-chancellors. The university was founded with Arab dollars and had teachers like Abdullah Azzam and Mullah Krekar, both counted among the founders of al Qaeda in Peshawar. Nextdoor to Rawalpindi, in Islamabad, Lal Masjid became a symbol of piety when in 2007 it started attacking places it thought were responsible for fahashi (indecency) that violated the edicts of Islam. In 2004, it had denounced the Pakistan Army when it confronted the Taliban terrorists in South Waziristan. Today, the Lal Masjid seminary is consensually the best example of Islamic education.
What began in Afghanistan with the destruction of girls’ schools is now happening in Pakistan. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and areas surrounding it most girls’ schools have been blown up by the Taliban. Those who advocate this ‘Islamic reform’ are spread far afield including the capital of the country. Dozens of ‘study circles’ have sprung up where learned ladies, on the model of al Huda’s founder, Ms Farhat Hashmi are inculcating a tough brand of Islam, advocating hijab as the first condition. In the wake of an attack on a mosque in Rawalpindi cantonment — which killed many innocent children — it was found that the killers were the sons of teachers who organised such study circles in Islamabad.
The thugs who attacked the girls’ school in Rawalpindi have an agenda that includes other ‘corrections’. The administration would be wrong not to take action and make them answerable to law. If it is legal in Pakistan to have girls’ schools and if there is no legal provision compelling the girls to wear hijab, then these thugs are criminals trying to impose their own will on the citizens. This incident has exposed the state to the challenge of either taking action to reaffirm the writ of the state or shrink from action and allow the writ of the state to be further squeezed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.
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