“I relayed the news on to colleagues and students at the cafeteria table. Some looked glumly at their plates but, a minute or two later, normal cheerful chatter resumed.” So wrote friend Pervez Hoodbhoy in this newspaper on March 5, in an op-ed titled “Run for your life”.
What was the news? That those men, who claim to be good Muslims, of the terrorist outfit Jundullah, had on February 28 executed 18 men, who had been cruelly dragged off a bus in Kohistan after being singled out because of their sect.
That such incidents rouse no ire, nor disgust, nor even interest, in the supposedly-educated youth of this country, should make us pause and think. So embedded is violence in the national psyche, including that of whatever leadership it is the country’s fate to bear. The leadership itself is so disinterested in mass or individual killings, by Muslims of Muslims, that it barely comments on Kohistan-type happenings. It takes all in its stride, whilst happily marching to its own brass band, blatantly consolidating its power base and cramming its well-lined pockets with lavish pickings from the national exchequer and what is left of the nation’s assets. It is not concerned with the slaying of its citizens by its citizens, so why should the rest react any differently?
Well they should, but by many a strange, unhealthy quirk it has become fully acceptable for Muslim to slay Muslim — all in the name of a misguided interpretation of faith — as acceptable as it apparently is in this odd, hard country for Muslims to take the lives of those they consider to be non-Muslims, rendered so by law or by actual fact.
Kohistan-type murders — as with past sectarian murders — trigger no official or public outcry, or public demonstrations of anger. Burning tyres, flags and effigies is fine, as is official indignation when it comes to Salala or the drone attacks. Something is very wrong and is growing worse by the day, as neither our leadership, nor those who apply the education system consider it to be a national trait in need of urgent attention. As long as religion intrudes into matters of state, Pakistan is doomed. It has closed the door firmly on its Founder’s dictum : “Religion has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
A day prior to the Kohistan murders, Pakistan came up trumps on the other side of the world. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy walked off with an Oscar for her documentary film “Saving Face”. What was the subject of this award-winning film? Why, violence of course, as perpetrated in the Islamic Republic. The custom of disfiguring women in revenge for some perceived slight by throwing acid in their faces. Thousands worldwide, who would otherwise have been unaware of this national practice, will have seen the film. What would have been their reaction? So, now we have even more black marks against habits prevalent in this violence-prone land.
And such happenings are far from isolated. Many more acid-throwing incidents surely take place than are actually reported. The latest reported incident came from Sahiwal. On March 6 — less than 10 days after the Oscar ceremony — a man attacked a 20-year-old girl, chucking acid on her face, merely because she had ‘resisted his advances’.
This government to its credit has come up with legislation meant to protect women, but legislation alone can do nothing unless the national mindset is radically adjusted. Legislation is good and laudable, but rather like court orders. Courts can order away, but cannot enforce their orders. And parliament may legislate, but it is helpless when it comes to applying the law.
On March 3, we had another incident involving the attitude to women when in Muzaffargarh district, following an inter-family feud, a mob stripped naked one woman and proudly marched her around the village. Such are the mores and morals of the average Pakistani male of this nation of 180 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.