Licence to kill?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANNIVERSARIES are a time for reflection. And if they are also marked with celebration, the idea is to reaffirm the spirit of the event that is being commemorated. That is what Pakistan’s independence day anniversary means to most of us.

There would be barely two million people left in Pakistan who would have any memory of the partition of India. Those who were old enough in 1947 to comprehend what was happening would be even fewer. Soon those who were witness to this momentous event will be gone and partition will live only in history books. Given our distorted historiography our progeny may never learn the truth.

I was too young to understand the wider implications of the political events of 1947. But I could feel the excitement of living in a new country in a state of fear generated by the bloodletting. There was, however, no sense of the ‘other’ who had to be hated and destroyed. The massacre that accompanied the events of 1947 had more of a political dimension than a religious one.

The fact is that at the time of its creation, Pakistan had an ethos that was not what it is now. Orthodoxy did not bleaken our horizons as there was more harmony among people of diverse backgrounds. Stories are legion of Hindu families helping a Muslim or of Muslims coming to the rescue of a Hindu in trouble.

Going through Jinnah’s speeches nowhere does one find any reference to the homeland for the Muslims being a theocratic state that excludes non-Muslims. Yes, he did speak of the Muslims being a nation apart from the Hindus. But the basis of the state being created for the Muslims was deemed to be economic, cultural and social. That is why the non-Muslims in Jinnah’s Pakistan were treated as equals with full freedom to practise their faith.

Jinnah, it seems, did not envisage Pakistan as a state exclusively for Muslims — especially those of a particular sect. Had he done so he would have been trapped in a futile debate on semantics.

Admittedly, he spoke of following Islamic principles, though in a broad sense. Jinnah, who spoke of justice and fairness and had a very secular lifestyle, would have found it unbelievable that anyone could arrogate to himself the right to sit in judgment on the religious beliefs of another person irrespective of his sect or faith.

Against this backdrop, when I read Qasim Rashid’s book on the Ahmadi community, An Untold Story of Persecution and Perseverance, I felt a deep sense of anguish. I also felt a sense of profound loss.

Pakistanis have lost the respect and tolerance we were taught as children. For me, it is beyond belief that anyone should want to kill a person just because his beliefs are not what I believe in. Not so today when the state itself is playing a big role in promoting bigotry and religious prejudice.

The Ahmadis are one of the worst sufferers as horrors are being visited on them.

Qasim Rashid, a 31-year old Pakistani-American who migrated to the US when he was five, returned home to explore his roots and learn more about the status of his community, the Ahmadis, in the country of his birth. This remarkable book is the fruit of a labour of love that took him to Mong, Rabwah, Qadian, and other places. He had long conversations with his uncle Bashir and his cousin Danyal and many others who recounted their experiences — not by any chance happy ones.

In the village called Mong, Ahmadis in their place of worship were butchered heartlessly by three gunmen in October 2005 in what the author calls “a perfectly executed massacre”. Rashid heard the painful tales of woe of mothers, sons and others who lost their loved ones. The prayer leader, who escaped miraculously, summed it up: “In the end they killed eight of my brothers, and shot 20 more.”

That was shocking enough for Qasim Rashid as was the sight of blood-stained and bullet-marked walls and floors. He was caught off guard when Yousef, one of the survivors, said, “The culprits were never caught. The police made no effort to find them.”

Rashid discovers a story of persecution, discrimination, torture and torment of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. They have been victims of violence and oppression. The situation has been compounded by unjust laws that have actually disempowered them by denying them their political rights which prevents them from fighting back. Designated non-Muslim, they have been declared a minority and one knows what rights the minorities in Pakistan enjoy.

This is not the martyr’s syndrome. Rashid learns that there are other communities whose fate is no better. The treatment meted out to the Hindus and to the Shia community — the Hazaras have been worst hit — in present-day Pakistan is a blatant violation of the human rights conventions to which Pakistan is a signatory.

The sufferings of the Ahmadis have sensitised people like Rashid to the sufferings of others whose faith and thinking are not identical to those of what many believe are establishment-supported extremists.

The author seeks to raise his voice in a bid to change the world. He wants to join hands with the ‘wrong’ kind of Christians and Hindus and Buddhists — that is those who are inclusive — to bring peace to the world. That is a brave effort and may you succeed Qasim.

Source: Dawn

12 thoughts on “Licence to kill?”

  1. Great article about my young friend Qasim's book. May I add one more "wrong" kind – Jews – who want to join hands for tikkun olam – repairing the world.

  2. The state of affairs of Pakistan has left us ashamed in front of the whole world. Looks like we are living in 15th Century.
    Thanks Zubaida Ji for introducing this new book, it would be helpful if we reader could get some information how to get the book. We can google though……………

  3. Read your article on the recommendation of Qasim Rashid.

    You are one very courageous person, and this American Christian

    Will pray for your continued safety! God bless you.

  4. Read your article on the recommendation of Qasim Rashid, and glad.
    I did. You are a very courageous person! Keep spreading the truth.
    It will set us free. This Christian will be praying for your safety.

  5. Very nice write-up. It seems that, there are pockets where Pakistan still has few vocal intelligentsia speaking. Otherwise, the general impression is that the civil society and the intelligentsia plays the role of mute spectators. Thank you for trying to break the silence.

  6. Thank you for the piece. I am one of that minority that is going down in numbers who note the unwelcome traits and regret the blamishes put on the fair name of Pakistan.
    I was a student of secondary school age in a Hindu school (DAV School) in the then Montgomery, in the Punjab.It is true that I did not quite comprehend all the far reaching implications of the patrician . In fact not many grown ups did at the time.All the same I was very aware of the case for Pakistan, because I lived in a rural area and most of the farmers (dirt digers of 25 acre of land) used to live in abominable inhuman environment and all but few used to sell their cash crops long before the crop came to be harvested.Most of there farmers never got out of debt.
    The most blatant dishonesty of the Mullah of pakistan is re-writing of history. The dictators took unbelievabl liberties with Islam, morality and right and wrong. The distortion is of a nature which is quite unprecedented.
    Islam has suffered unbelievable twists that it has become virtually meaningless concept. Islam of oil rich lands is very different than the Islam of the most enlightened so called new West. In the early days of Islam the west was , the Egypt and other north African countries.
    I came from an Ahmadyyia family, my grandfather when he changed his aligeance to Ahmadyyia was disowned by all his brithers and sisters, although he being the eldest of the family had a part in the education of his younger brothers, at the cost of his own education. All his younger brothers were sent to the Alighar college which became a university . So Islamic practice is not a new phenomena for us.
    I left Pakistan at the age of 23 came to Britain over fifty years ago and found the ability to find my own persuasion after the benefit of meeting many world renowned personalities, among them Faiz, and an other poet from Lahore, who often stayed with us before his death some years ago.
    My grand children are at universities and meet with Hindus, Sikhs and many other enlightened people of different religious and none, conscience alignments. No one is considered less than an equal human being. Most of these do not tell lies and do not feel any better or less than others because of the religion. In many cases the religion is considered a route to become a better human being. If it does not make you a better human being then it is considered an abomination and a hinderance to betterment.
    I have not read the book but I am sure it would tell the most horrific things that are happening to my kith and kin. My elder brother a very well known lawyer in the south of punjab, in his eighties lives under a threat of being killed by the S-I-S the outfit that has killed many friends and relation in recent years.
    I have lived without religion for most of my life and hope not to end up in heaven with those who are seeking a quick way to get there. That is if that place exist s somewhere at all. The knowledge today is quite instant that the Universe is free of such place
    I believe in science and all the artifacts it offers to the humanity. I am thankful for the bridges, the railways and the internet which helps me to communicate with others at long h distance.

    Islam in the Spain produced more enlightenment than in the rest of the period. There were people from all religions to contrigute.
    I could go on but emough.
    Shafiq

  7. I was 10 years old when the ‘Partition’ took place and Father also decided to migrate to Pakistan with all of us, simply because his elder brother, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was one of the main founders of the Country – which was deemed to be the land of the “Pak and Pure”. But there is nothing ‘pure’ in Pakistan any more and we probably have some of the most sinful and ‘napaak’ people living here now !

    Similarly Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had given three words, on which Pakistan was founded : “FAITH, UNITY and DISCIPLINE”.
    Nowadays, there is no more Faith left in Pakistan – in anyone or anything. There is absolutely no Unity among people, whether it is socially or religiously – and Discipline just does not exist here any more.
    Need I say more ?

    With my Best Regards

  8. Great article about my young friend Qasim's book. May I add one more "wrong" kind – Jews – who want to join hands for tikkun olam – repairing the world.

  9. This book touched me as well. I too do not understand the killing of people of other faith that has been a part of almost every organized religion.Thank you for writing this review. It is a message we all need.

  10. The lament is understandable and affecting.But what action is to be taken to stem the rot?I humbly suggest that a painstaking,objective and convincing account of the decline into ultra-orthodoxy,intolerance,intimidation and authoritarianism by two or three scholars be prepared and the reasons for the decline examined.The language must be—both Urdu and English—sober and non-provocative,but utterly honest.It might include assassinations of moderate leaders like Liaquat Ali Khan,incarceration of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan,and use of Kashmir to foment feverish hostility,as well as the growing clout of the military to maintain minimal order.The political class's manipulative outlook and the intellectuals' submission to the state over the decades might be mentioned.Such a book could do wonders.for Pakistan.Of course things are not much better in India and are threatening to get worse.Hiren Gohain.

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