Skip to main content

VIEW: Gojra: Filed Under 'C' - as in Conspiracy?

Published in Muslim World Today 14 Aug 09


On 1st August 2009, the illusion of inter-faith harmony was shattered in Gojra, Pakistan when a Muslim mob wreaked havoc on a Christian neighborhood. Lives were lost; property damaged, churches torched. The pretext, as always, was (unproven charges of) blasphemy. The magnitude of this attack and the subsequent notoriety forced the State, preoccupied with fending off a different, more sophisticated version of fanaticism, to finally confront an age old phenomenon - terrorism against minorities.

If the timing of this incident is bad, the implication is far worse for a nation anxious to distance itself from the extreme brand of Taliban/Al-Qaeda philosophy, deeply engaged in a bloody battle to rid itself of this malaise. While the wave of violence sweeping through Pakistan indiscriminately claims lives, radicalism and sectarian violence have tainted the land for decades, which is why statements that claim otherwise must be challenged.

Consider one that alleges that this incident is, "….part of a conspiracy designed to convince the international community that minorities in Pakistan are in danger". A classic utterance - that came from Interior Minister, Rehman Malik whose "Conspiracy against State" defense is weighed down by loopholes, an obvious one being the recurring nature of such 'conspiracies'. Another would be a sympathetic population standing by to lend a hand in the carnage and the role played by clerics in organizing lynch mobs at a moment's notice. Governor Punjab echoed these sentiments, calling it a 'conspiracy against the President', no less.

In his haste to disassociate Gojra from past tragedies of a similar nature, the Interior Minister fails to see the resemblance between a 'conspiracy' and routine (minority) killing sprees of yore - albeit on a smaller scale. In fact, one took place mere days after the Gojra riots subsided while another served as a precursor to it.

The only conspiracy here seems to be a 'conspiracy of silence' about the past and the subsequent criminal negligence that allowed hostilities to brew, in the present. But those who attribute this wave of intolerance to the scourge of Taliban must know that while sabotage, conspiracy, terrorism can be useful pretexts, none of them are relevant when fanaticism rears its ugly head and finds a willing warrior in any provincial neighborhood - a rabble rouser in the mosque.

A Provincial Minister's statement that this was "triggered by banned Islamist militant groups with links to al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters," even if true, ignores the fact that terrorism against minorities predates 9/11. Bundling this incident with the rest of terrorist activities is a clever way of deflecting justified criticism for lack of foresight and failure to intervene in time. Christians, misrepresented here as collateral damage of GWOT, have always been intended victims of discriminatory laws, left at the mercy of a majority that has perfected (and pioneered) the art of flaunting the writ of this State.

Whether this was a "pre-planned terrorist attack" linked with "banned outfits /foreign hands", "Swat based militants" or a spur of the moment decision led by bigoted locals acting independently, aided and abetted by their mosques; the administration has done little if anything to curb the lethal trends started by hate groups waging proxy battles on our soil, abolish laws that give them sustenance or restrain religious leaders whose sole job, it appears, is to keep the flames of hatred burning.

Religion has been (mis)used to silently chip away at inhibitions and, if yesterday, butchering minorities was sport, today, killing Muslims is also fair game. Regional disturbances at a time when minorities and majority alike face extinction at the hands of extremists makes it difficult, if not impossible to guarantee a real end to the wider conflict. Disbanding banned organizations, taking up arms against Taliban, killing Osama - none of this can keep extremism at bay from pliant minds firmly under the clergy's manipulative hold, governed by primitive urges, acting as self proclaimed emissaries of death and destruction and a system that guarantees unconditional immunity to anyone who wields the blasphemy card.

Once again, fanaticism has taken advantage of a flawed system. Once again, inner fault lines stand exposed. And once again, attacking symbols of the Christian faith rebounds on Islam. Pakistan has paid a heavy price for standing up to terrorism. But if only the green part of our flag can appreciate these sacrifices, then any victory will be bittersweet.

Images Courtesy of: http://0.tqn.com/d/graphicssoft/1/0/f/s/4/ChristianShapes-Crosses.gif

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

Na Maloom Afraad Press Show

Published in Daily Times / 6 Oct 2014




There are two Pakistani films geared to open on Eid, both with female producers at the helm - one of them recently held a premier show for the media. ‘Na Maloom Afraad’ is a term synonymous with Karachi – a sly reference to the ‘persons unknown’ who terrorize the city already on knife’s edge, and vanish without a trace. It takes skill to conjure comedy from such a bleak premise. ‘Na Maloom Afraad’ finds a way.



The three leads – film veteran Javed Sheikh, Fahad Mustafa, and up and coming stars like Mohsin Abbas Haider, are in perfect sync as the upright small business man, eager beaver / insurance sales agent, and down on his luck Moon making his debut as their rent buddy in Karachi while dreaming of living large in Dubai.

Their transformation takes place in the backdrop of Karachi’s gritty streets, and as their lives unravel, the wreckage provides plenty of merriment, and some surprisingly insightful commentary about the state of the world we inh…

BOOK REVIEW: The Style Diary of a Bollywood Diva

Reviewed forSHE Magazine / Feb 2013
Reviewed by Afrah Jamal
Author: Kareena Kapoor with Rochelle Pinto

A diva and a critic take the stage to tell a story about style.

Retrofitted with a pink and white colour scheme, a confidential tone and helpful sign posts at every turn, this handy looking manual deploys its personal style philosophy to survive fashion-ville. At the helm of this split-screen guide to style haven is fashion columnistRochelle Pinto and film actressKareena Kapoor.

This a movie icon’s journey to ‘Size Zero’ land and beyond, where her public and private personas converge to host a confessional and a fashion manifest under a single stylish roof. Here she can present reminiscences about friends, family and beloved stylists, play the shaman, draw up plans to prevent (wo)mankind from committing any more faux pas; and show off her collection of pet designers.

Kapoor’s trendy ‘fixit’ arrives on cue to bring devout fans into the fashion loop and dazzle them with star power as …

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…