Pakistan seems to be on the brink of religious anarchy. Talbanization of the country has turned Punjab province into a hell for the Christian and Ahmadiya religious minorities. Does country intend to adopt the path of harmony? Silence is the only answer, for now!
On the pretext of blasphemy, around two hundred houses of innocent Christians were set on fire a couple of weeks ago by a fanatic mob led by extremist organizations in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province of Pakistan. This has recently been followed by insurrecting Ahmadiya Muslim minority’s houses in the province. Violence against religious minorities has been on the increase in the most populous province of the country.
The shadow of continuous Hindu exodus has already created fury in Sindh province. Blazing a couple hundred houses of Christians has not only jolted the country, emotionally, but has also pointed towards insensitivity of liberal middle class towards minorities. In fact, the eastern-Indus Pakistan has lurched in the psychological chaos. Needless to mention, the western-Indus is already undergoing Taliban and Baloch insurgencies.
The harassment of minorities in Punjab province has a weird history and sociopolitical context. Punjab, today, has three out of five living rivers from which it gained its name, but the statecraft after the partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947 has created five Punjabs within the Punjabi people — the Punjab of Taliban; Christians and Ahmadiya minorities; liberal middle and urban elites; the maneuvered for non-toleration poor masses and the omnipresent military. Each one is exclusively different from the others, has conflicts of class, culture, cast and ideology but at the same time they share common socio-economic interests.
Wars always have an ugly fall. Their backlash is a plague. Punjab and rest of Pakistan is suffering from the backlash of wars – the cold and hot wars, the proxy and cozy wars – launched by the establishment consisting of migrated Punjabis and Urdu speaking majority. Today, the common Punjabi along with the others in Pakistan is harvesting the crime, which they never sowed. Their only sin was the sycophancy for the criminals, who preferred to be mercenaries of Jihad than that of becoming kings of cultural ethos of Indus civilization.
The divided Punjabi society is at odds with each other. Exporting Taliban to Pashtun, Baloch and Sindhi societies has infected Punjab so much that the term ‘Punjabi Taliban’ was tossed a couple of years ago by Pakistani politicians and media. This has increased the intolerance in whole Pakistan and flooded hatred in Punjab, not only in the form of victimizing minorities, but also harassing women and children. The number of honor killings, rape cases, and acid attacks taking place there in a year is higher than that of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
There is another factor too, which needs to be focused. The Jihadi missionary, thousands of Madrasas and religio-cultural influence of conservatives have changed the cultural fabric of Punjab to a greater extent and of the other provinces to some extent. The missionaries in Pakistan are converting those who are already Muslims since centuries from Sunni Hanafia or Shia Jafferi sects of Islam to the Salafism or Deoband – both in Pakistan have radical background. Why should anyone be allowed to use Pakistani or Afghanistan soil for the Arab nationalist war under the cover of radical Islam against the West in the name of Jihad?
When it comes to Punjab the liberal urban elite keep silent. Salman Taseer, the slain Governor of Punjab, was the only one who spoke boldly and was killed; but this politically less-entity Punjabi middle class remained practically unmoved. A handful of civil society alone protested in the province. It was not due to fear of life alone; it was due to fear of revolting against the Punjabi dominated civil and security establishment, the intolerant and fanatic large number of the population in the province and against those who were not only created from their land, but also fought everywhere in their ‘broader interests’.
In this situation, minorities in Pakistan especially Christians in Punjab province are hopeless. Hindus in Sindh are lucky that Sindh is defending its secular credentials, but for how long the marginalized and oppressed Sindhi people will keep on being Don Quixote.
Talbanization in Pakistan should not be taken for the engagement of Taliban on the western fronts. It has new meanings, which wear many social connotations. It is the Talbanization of Pakistani society and the state apparatus, especially of Punjab, which has culminated into the militancy at Afghan borders.
The plate of Pakistan is not empty yet. In Udero Lal town near Hyderabad of Sindh, Hindu Temple and a Mosque are under one roof near the saint Jhooley Lal, where common Sindhis from both of the beliefs mostly visit, pay homage and perform their religious prayers. Let the sanity come out of an exceptional village of Sahiwal district in Punjab where Muslims and Christians share same graveyard, and when Milad and Christmas coincided in 2009, the joint celebrations were carried out.
It is Punjab and its middle class essentially who needs to emerge against this in association with the other ethnicities. They need to re-federate Pakistan on the new lines of equality, liberalizing state and materialize judicious share of power and resources between federating provinces besides securing and developing minorities.
It is highly important to legislate for the protection of minorities, and repealing laws that can victimize them; however, it is more important to undergo the process of liberalizing, if not secularizing Pakistan society. This is the only way out. All other roads lead to the worst forms of anarchy.
About The Author – Zulfiqar is a political analyst, researcher and rights activist, having academic background of Philosophy and Development Studies. Organized and led massive movements of minorities and land rights in Sindh, Pakistan. Contributed with many dailies and weeklies in Pakistan and now contributing with some English dailies in Nepal and Afghanistan. Associated with The Institute for Social Movements, Pakistan; and currently based at Kathmandu, Nepal.