Murder is commonplace and so is mass murder. It is a news item, and news items change too quickly to keep count, to mourn properly, to be disturbed over for very long. Yet, even now, occasionally the soul is bruised. It will not last, however, it does linger. Death of children is unspeakable. Death of children by murder is unthinkable, at least up to the point that it is not. Murder of children being cheered on by ordinary folks, not only making excuses and condoning it, but celebrating it, dancing and displaying triumph is where one runs the risk of running out of not only words, but thoughts. However, keep some of the powder of your outrage dry, Gaza continues and Gujranwala will happen again.
Perhaps, because the thoughts are so forbidding and forbidden that every day honest words are no longer possible. How else can one explain the bombing of hospitals and schoolchildren in Gaza as being termed “justified retaliation”? How else does it make sense to term an attack by a mob burning down houses of Ahmadi residents, killing young children a “clash”? Who was the mob “clashing” with? Humanity, perhaps.
At least, some of us, and our leaders, can find it in themselves to condemn the murder in Gaza, even if feebly. What about the Ahmadi children murdered? The Urdu press could not even identify the religion of the children killed, some omission, given that they were only killed because of belonging to that religion. The chief minister of Punjab, Mian Sahib the younger, has no words of condemnation.
The chief minister will not be going to the house of the Ahmadi children killed because it is not good marketing. The Younger Mian will choose his words, if there are any, very carefully since the elder Mian, the now absentee prime minister once did not. After the mass slaughter of Ahmadis in their “places of worship” (so much for honest speak), Mian Nawaz Sharif made the horrible mistake of calling the murdered and their families as “fellow Pakistani brothers” and sure enough had to mumble excuses and clarify what he meant the next day. Reflect on this, for nothing else but for calling them “Pakistanis” and “brothers”.
A nation, state and society can begin to consider an entire people, a community as evil, even their kids, and being remorselessly complicit in killing. The Ahmadi debate is nonexistent. The vernacular media cannot even say the word, ‘Ahmadi’, not even when children are burnt alive, burnt to death. The State has not only declared them ‘non-Muslims’, it has also prohibited them from using ‘religious symbols’, and the court has held that these religious symbols are like ‘trademarks’. Worse, society does not care. We, the people, are not disturbed when Ahmadis are killed. No, we are not. “All death is condemnable”, “nobody should take law in their own hands” and “the rule of law should be established” is meaningless and often cowardly gibberish in this particular context. If the chief minister/s and the prime minister cannot say that the persecution of the Ahmadis has to stop and the perpetrators held accountable, then that’s that, Sirs, by all means go on and build your flyover to hell.
Ordinary, (formally) educated people respond to the murderers by saying ‘it is unfortunate, however, they also need to be careful, etc.’. Really now? Careful of or from doing what? From existing? That is correct. The existence of the Ahmadis is the real problem. The Ahmadis are ‘heretics’ and heretics can be killed, burnt alive along with their children, and of course, it will be ‘regretful’ and the rest of it. However, it is no great tragedy.
The Shias are one step removed from that position right now. Not for long though, and then the next group, and the next, you know the script and the oft-quoted, now cliched sayings.
It is not only the government. What is the position of the opposition on this? Will the revolution come for the Ahmadis and the Shias as well? Where is the sustained, unmitigated media outrage? There is no outage on media because nobody is outraged.
Why do most people not speak on the issue is a simple question. Speaking on the issue gets you killed. And since not many want to be killed, the murder and persecution of the Ahmadis has become a news item and that too in the language of a ‘clash’ between ‘two groups’ on a ‘religious issue’.
The language of Pakistani nationalism is religious and ostensibly ‘non-sectarian’. Except, it is not. To deliberately not mention sects is to make a statement, a statement for the dominant sect to the exclusion of others. To not acknowledge diversity is not a sign of unity; it is more often than not ‘fascism’.
The bureaucratic and distant language when describing persecution and witch-hunt is hypocritical and cowardly when used for Gaza or Gujranwala. Silence is even worse.
The Ahmadi persecution needs to stop but all of this seems moot, at this point. And perhaps, it is. However, the demand has to be made. One is aware of the hopelessness of the situation and the real fears associated with it. I perhaps, cannot write all of this in an Urdu daily. An Urdu daily, which is looking to continue in business, will not publish it. Perhaps, I will not write it in Urdu so as to not attract too much risk and delay the inevitable.
All of this does not obscure the fact, that the inevitable is being expedited for the Ahmadis, the Hazara and other Shias and it will only get worse, unless, the majority decides to stick its neck out, and by the sheer number of potential victims, make the job harder for the killers and the State, which fosters these killers.
Not speaking on the Ahmadi killings does not dis-entitle one from speaking on Gaza. There is no binary here. The practice of equating and comparing atrocities is just silly. Deliberately ignoring looking Ahmadi persecution in the face might not even make one a hypocrite, just a bigot and/or worse, a coward.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.
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