All is fair —when there is money to be made

Published: December 12, 2012
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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at
http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The lives of the minority groups have been under attack in Pakistan for quite some time. Whether they are ethnic minority groups or sectarian, linguistic minorities or religious ones, everyone lives in the Land of Pure at their own risk, as the state has washed its hands of the responsibility of protecting its citizens. Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias and Hazaras have all been killed in the past and are still being killed. The latest is that now their properties are also under attack.

Last week, two such incidents have been reported. In Karachi, the Military Estate Office assisted a private builder in the demolition of a Hindu temple and adjacent houses in Soldier Bazaar on the pretext that the Hindu community has encroached upon land which does not belong to them. In Lahore, 15 gunmen attacked an Ahmadi graveyard in Model Town and desecrated more than 120 graves in the process. The community has been under attack for quite some time now but the mass desecration of graves with shattered tombstones and dug-up graves was a first. The watchman and caretakers were also tortured when they resisted this barbarity against the dead. According to the Asian Human Rights website, the attackers identified themselves as members of a banned religious organisation.

Let us examine the case of the Hindu temple in Karachi first. The temple predates independence and hence, it cannot be a case of encroachment. Secondly, under what law did the directorate of military land and cantonments act to demolish a property in an area that is not even under its jurisdiction? If anything, that piece of land belongs to the Evacuee Property Trust Board which has nothing to do with the directorate of military lands and cantonments. On top of it all, the Sindh High Court had issued a stay order against the demolition of the temple. The fact that no action has been taken against the directorate of military land and cantonments in the past one week points out that some are indeed more equal than the others.

It should also be noted that these incidents are slightly different from the regular run-of-the-mill attacks on minorities. Apart from the regular dose of hatred against a particular community, greed for land — which is a limited resource — is at the heart of these incidents. A 99-year lease is the longest possible term of a lease of real property under historic common law. In Karachi, a lot of land that was leased for the 99-year period is either up for renewal or will be soon. Those who deal in real estate have been eyeing the highly prized commercial plots in the densely-populated areas of old Karachi with anticipation. There is an insane amount of money to be made off these properties and if a few people, especially those belonging to minority communities are made homeless, they know that it will not amount to much other than a few headlines in the newspapers.

The desecration of the Ahmadi cemetery is a similar story. Had they been in a Muslim graveyard, desecration of those graves on the grounds that non-Muslims were buried there would have made some kind of perverse sense but to go on and attack a place reserved for the dead of a certain community reeks of plans to take over that property for financial gains.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Uqaab
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:24PM

    Despicable acts but strange logic given in this piece.

    Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Ilahi
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:43PM

    Atleast let the dead rest in Peace

    Recommend

  • Falcon
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:50PM

    Tazeen – I think its good that you highlighted these hate crimes, but I feel more homework is required before it can be concluded that these acts were financially motivated.

    Recommend

  • Nadir
    Dec 13, 2012 - 12:05AM

    Landgrabbers are “nation builders” because they build centres of consumption, recreation and gated communities that serve the rich. The poor who till the land are declared undeserving and all the champions of supremacy of the law, justice and ending corruption turn the other way once they feel threatened that their own lives may somehow contribute to the very things that they campaign against. Tackling injustice is fine, as long as I can have dinner in a posh sector of Islamabad made in a house against he law, perhaps drive up to Monal made illegally without consent from the EPA and then return to my gated community made on land grabbed off peasants and the vulnerable and owned and managed by tax dodgers.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Dec 13, 2012 - 1:15AM

    There is no other country in the world where their most powerful army is in real estate business among other money making operations. I don’t see any problem with that, do you?Recommend

  • Zainab
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:58AM

    Had they been in a Muslim graveyard, desecration of those graves on the grounds that non-Muslims were buried there would have made some kind of perverse sense

    Really?
    And you have a right to judge/call Ahmadis as non-Muslims?

    Recommend

  • Dec 13, 2012 - 11:06AM

    @Zainab:

    Haha! Correct..

    I’ve read articles talking about Ahmadis, but no where does anyone actually use the term Ahmadi Muslims.

    In India Ahmadis and Shias are considered Muslims. Hardly any attack happens. In Pakistan, the land created for the Muslims of India, the purest of the land, they are not considered Muslims. Shias have not experienced the wrath of the state, yet.. But, will soon though. They supported Ahmadis being labelled as non-Muslims, now its their turn.

    When you don’t stand up for your fellow Human Beings, this is what you get.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Dec 13, 2012 - 11:36AM

    The country has thousands of armchair moderates who can write tomes on Peace, tolerance and embrace of diversity. They can also wring their hands energetically when they see atrocities being committed. I think the country will need a lot more than that to put the country on the path of Peace, Progress and Prosperity. Are you volunteering to put your neck on the line ?

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  • Shamsuddin
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:48PM

    The author is hundred percent right . More power to your judicious pen Mme.

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  • abu-uzhur
    Dec 13, 2012 - 10:00PM

    @Falcon:

    Your skepticism about financial motivation may have justification . But one

    thing is obvious : some people can commit the vilest crimes with good conscience ,

    because of their religious beliefs .

    Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Dec 14, 2012 - 8:23PM

    @Mirza:
    “…There is no other country in the world where their most powerful army is in real estate business among other money making operations…”
    .
    The incessant Pavlovian reaction and attack by you to promote that Göbelian propaganda, the cell which keeps you employed, should realise by now that your efforts to discredit the military by blaming for every single ill in the world, has long become pretty tiring.
    .
    Will you quickly check what properties along the famous beaches along the Black Sea and Mediterranean are owned by the Turkish Military establishment. One cannot even walk along the beach forget about bathing there. Real estate is not the only business they are in you will find. They are far richer than the Pakistani military but I have no figures that I can quote.
    .
    For your information these were the decision of politicians (not the present bunch) who facilitated the military trust funds, over the years, in the possessing process.
    .
    Sorry to inform you that you are so stuck up that you do not want to wake up to see the fact, the Pakistan nation thinks that your hero was the one squarely responsible for the breakup of the country. The breaker of the country.
    .
    Another thing your Brylcream hero achieved was his assumption of the role of Mufti e Aazam of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh and issuing that infamous Fatwa about the poor Ahmedis.

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  • Mohiuddin
    Dec 15, 2012 - 6:31AM

    Abid P. Khan

    For once stop selling selling your soul to the highest bidder the army the enslaver of Pakistani nation and think of ordinary people. Will you not give up destroying the country even at this difficult hour? When there is no Pakistan there will be no army to fund and finance traitors to nation like you.

    Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Dec 15, 2012 - 3:07PM

    @Mohiuddin:
    “…Will you not give up destroying the country even at this difficult hour? …”

    .
    That’s very interesting. I had no idea that I was destroying the country. Can you kindly elaborate how am I doing it? The “enemies”, RAW, Mossad, CIA and the man who sells faluda at the street corner, may learn a thing or two from my expertise. .

    Recommend

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