Dr. Hasan Askari
In addition to floods and other human tragedies, Pakistan is experiencing different kinds of societal conflicts and violence in different parts of the country. In Karachi, violence has become so endemic that during the last six months three to five people get killed every day. In Balochistan, especially in and around Quetta, sectarian killings have become a routine affair. At times, the people from other provinces are also killed in a pre-panned manner.
Other problems that threaten the fabric of Pakistani state and society are religious extremism, hard line socio-religious attitudes and the use of violence to pursue religious-cum-political agendas. There have been countless incidents of violence, suicide bombings, other types of bombing and ambushes by extremist and hardline groups who justify their violent activities in the name of Islam. The Taliban and other extremist and sectarian groups do not think twice before killing a person for pursuing their agenda.
It is interesting to note that Pakistan’s Islamic parties and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan claim that these Taliban groups are fighting against Pakistan because its government is siding with the United States. If Pakistan quits cooperation with the U.S. for countering terrorism, the Taliban would become friends of Pakistan, they claim. However, the Taliban are talking of imposing an Islamic order of their choice in Pakistan and they declare to continue their fight till they create an Islamic state of their choice. They do not accept Pakistan’s constitution and law. Pakistan’s Islamic parties support the troublesome Taliban who reject the primacy of the Pakistani state and are violent in nature.
The latest incident of use of violence forcing their social choices on others is the attack on a young female student, Salala, from Mingora, Swat. Two of her classmates were also injured in attack. How can such a condemnable attack fit into their so called war against the U.S? However, one can understand this if one takes into account their outdated and inhuman socio-cultural ideology that is anti-women and anti-education and anti-humanity, but how can one justify attacks on girl schools or sufi shrines? Their religio-cultural ideology explains this rather than their enmity of the U.S.
An unfortunate expression of religious extremism was witnessed on September 20 and 21 when the activists of different but recognizable hardline Islamic groups damaged public and private property while protesting against the youtube based film against the Holy Prophet. A church in Mardan and a Hindu temple in Karachi were damaged and the adjoining property of Christians and Hindus respectively was also vandalized. In Islamabad, the Army was called out to help the police to stop the protesters from entering the Diplomatic Enclave where most embassies were located. Had security been weak on September 21, the possibility of an attack on American embassy could not be ruled out like the attack on the American Embassy in Islamabad in November 1979.
There is another reality very different from the ugly scenes in the streets of major cities on September 21. On the next day, the young male and female students from mainstream educational institutions in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad decided to clean up the streets by removing the debris and repair and paint some road signs. They undertook this task voluntarily and brought the required equipment and material needed for this task. It was very encouraging to see the young people working voluntarily in the streets, showing the soft and humane face of Pakistan.
The subsequent protests were peaceful and orderly for two major reasons. First, violence on September 21 was condemned across broad and the media named the Islamic parties whose activists engaged in violence. The police used the footage of close-circuit TV to arrest some the violent protesters. Second, the leadership of Islamic parties decided to be personally present in the protest marches to deflect the criticism for being absent on the day Pakistan witnessed one of the worst violence in the recent past. They wanted to show that their activists were peaceful and orderly and violence was resorted to by criminals and anti-social elements.
The political and societal developments over the last four weeks show that Pakistan’s reality manifests positive as well negative socio-political and cultural trends. The violence on the religious issues is a negative development. The students created a positive example.
If Pakistan cannot sustain and increase positive trends in the society, both the state and society would degenerate. Religious extremism, social-cultural intolerance and violence of all kinds will eat up Pakistan’s state and society. Pakistan cannot afford groups of violent people imposing their religious and cultural ideas on others by force. Therefore the activities of the Taliban and similar hardline groups are not acceptable. Discourage these negative trends and build on positive trends and peace and stability in and around Pakistan.