Ahmadiyya Times

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Pakistan: While the state looks the other way…


The Ahmedis are a distinct group – they say they are distinct – and the norms that they want to follow should be decided by them, not by us. We should not tell them how their places of worship should be like – just the way we should not tell Christians and Hindus, and Buddhists and Jains how their places of worship should be like.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The News Int’l | Pakistan
By Ayesha Haroon | May 23, 2012

In Sultanpura in Lahore, a local cleric has taken the state hostage. He is insisting – and the local police is doing his bidding – that an old Ahmedi place of worship in the area should not have a dome.

Why should it not have a dome? Why should the police confiscate pieces of tiles with names of Allah and Quranic words from the place of worship? And according to the news report, the powerful cleric is sending messages to the local Ahmedi community that if they did not listen to him, he will make it difficult for them to live there. Islam abhors persecution and yet it continues to flourish in Sultanpura of Lahore.

The Ahmedis are a distinct group – they say they are distinct – and the norms that they want to follow should be decided by them, not by us. We should not tell them how their places of worship should be like – just the way we should not tell Christians and Hindus, and Buddhists and Jains how their places of worship should be like. Just the way they shouldn’t be telling us how our places of worship should look like. A lot of residential houses have domes to them, the entire city of St Petersburg is famous for its dome architecture. In this confederacy of dunces do we need to get permission from an individual to build domes now?

I have a pottery plate hanging in my house that says “Ya Allah.” Another has Surah Fatiha inscribed on it. So should I now expect that someone, with the local policeman, can enter the premises of my home and take them away? Many words come to mind here.

A ten-year-old resident of Sultanpura whose life was made up of the streets and the vendors and houses and electricity poles that would be hanging with political banners, is suddenly made to feel like an “alien” in his own house, his own mohallah. He cannot go out to play cricket because everyone will look at him. This is what one hears of Nazi Germany, or pre-Partition villages of Punjab, or Serbia. And now, of course, we are seeing this unfold across Pakistan – like Sultanpura. One day we are part of each other, the second, we are aliens.

A few days before Partition, a house in my grandfather’s neighbourhood was attacked. My mother remembers her aunts and uncles and best friends killed as they sat to dinner. A macabre scene. Many, many decades later she still misses them, thinks of her best friend and the smile of her aunt. Why were they killed? Because they were Sikhs? Because they were different? That cannot be reason to kill anyone, can it? Apparently it was.

One thing that everyone seems to remember about the chaos of Partition was the lack of state. There was no one to turn to, no state to take the side of the oppressed, no institution to take responsibility.

Is this not what is happening in Sultanpura? No state institution is telling the over-enthusiastic cleric that he cannot take the law in his own hands. In fact, why does the state not apprehend the persecutors? Those who are threatening the peaceful lives of its citizens? Why are no political leaders speaking about this? The PML-N? The PTI? The ANP? The MQM? The PPP of Rehman Malik?

More importantly, why is the state ready to be held hostage to any criminal militant group? And these are groups. The majority of the people in Pakistan, or in any country of the world, just want to lead decent, free, productive lives. But the state uses the bullying power of small groups to justify its action or inaction.

Look at the ISI and the missing people of Balochistan. Is it even conceivable in any civilised state that the prime minister or the chief justice asks rendered people to be presented, and they are not? Can we imagine that happening in Britain or India or Sweden?

But it happens in Pakistan. The Hazaras in Balochistan, the Shias in Kohistan, the ordinary workers toiling the lands of the Legharis and the Mazaris – no one is protected by the state.

And now an ordinary young man, with an ordinary dispute over snooker, has been accused of blasphemy. Should not those who chose to use our blasphemy law to win a snooker game be held accountable? It has been the poor and weak behaviour of the state in the past, over such cases, that people feel they can get away with levelling false charges of blasphemy on anyone who is a non-Muslim or weak. Lives of another group of people, mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, sisters have been held hostage by wanton misuse of the blasphemy law. How upset they must be.

This whimsical gandasa-carrying state of ours is quick to show its muscles where it should not and runs away when it should take a stand. Cases in point: imposing needless bans and disappearing when minorities are persecuted. By clicking his fingers some small-wig in officialdom decided to ban Twitter in Pakistan. Is there a magistrate or a judge that gave permission to curtail people’s state of freedom? Was there a trial? Were people represented? Who was authorised to take the decision, and why? The ban was as automatically lifted as it was imposed. But the crime or illegality of its imposition stays. Someone has to be held responsible for it. It was a grave attempt on the sanctity of freedom of information and should be punished.

Like many such blunders, the state and its weak representatives believe that by un-banning the Twitter, they have been nice enough and now we should be beholden to them. The irony of their action and belief, it seems, utterly alludes them.

For long the state has used confusion and lack of transparency to strengthen itself – today the same tools that it used to strengthen itself have weakened it. Even bad ideas have an end – and this idea of controlling people through lack of transparency and ambiguity has run its course. We cannot let fellow-Pakistanis be hunted down and persecuted by zealots while the state looks the other way. The state has a duty to protect its people – otherwise it has no meaning or existence.

The writer is a former editor of The News Lahore

Read original post here: While the state looks the other way…

This content-post is archived for backup and to keep archived records of any news Islam Ahmadiyya. The views expressed by the author and source of this news archive do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Ahmadiyya Times.

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