From the ashes of the Peshawar attack, there seems to have arisen a new solidarity among Pakistan citizens. The country had in a common voice condemned this dastardly attack on innocent children. All over the country, unprecedented protests against the Mullahs was seen and condemnation of extremist elements of the society was observed. For the first time, protesters surrounded the infamous Red mosque and held a candle light vigil in front of it. The Red Mosque in Islamabad(capital of Pakistan) openly sympathizes with the Taliban. They justify the gruesome violence of terrorists invoking religion and calls those killed by their own military as martyrs. The Red Mosque teaches its followers the same ideology as that held by the Taliban making it a breeding recruitment center for terror groups. In fact the only difference between the Red mosque Mullahs and the terrorists is an open armed conflict with the state.
You might think the protests are a good thing and an example of a thriving liberal civil society. For me it exposes the hypocrisy and double standards the civil society of Pakistan. Look at the victims of the attack to understand this hypocrisy. The victims are the children of military officers(it is a school in cantonment area). The victims belongs to upper middle class. And majority of the victims does not belong minority sections of the society. These factors have no doubt influenced the actions of the protestors. Because, there is no other explanation for the silence of the majority when people belonging to other sections of the society were victims of the terror attacks. Examples: There are no protests when Shias are being killed by dozens daily, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 850 Shias were killed by Pakistani Sunni militants in 2012 and 2013 alone. State does not arrest the terrorist groups like Lakshar-e-Jhangvi who openly declare their involvement in the Shia and Hazara killings. Rest of Pakistan does not share the anguish suffered by Balochistan when the state intelligence services kidnaps the Baloch youth and exterminates them with out any prosecution. Pakistani Muslims show no solidarity with their fellow country men belonging to other religions when their temples, Churchs and Gurudwaras are attacked. The two most draconian laws in Pakistan are the declaration of Ahmadis as non-muslim and the blasphemy law. These turned the lives of ‘other’ ordinary citizens in to hell. As these laws do not effect the majority they are accepted as something sanctioned by Quran without applying their mind to see if Quran really justifies the laws(Sunnah describes Prophet Muhammad as the most forgiving).
Silence of the wolves
Every one of has an unique paradigm through which we look at the world. This paradigm is influenced by the environment we grow up in. Vast majority of Indians support the idea of ‘unity and diversity’ and believe that people of different faiths, cultures and nations can co-exist peacefully. The message of mutual respect and the ‘concept of many paths to one truth’ has been ingrained in the psyche of every Indian since childhood. I think, this makes every educated Indian by default a liberal who respect the ideals of liberty and equality. This pushes the extremists in our society to the fringes. Though unfortunately the right wing fringe elements are on a rise in recent months.
In Pakistan, the extremists are literally, right at the center of society (Red mosque in Islamabad), they are not in some hilly tribal areas. The extremist view that their religion being superior to all others and seeing the Kafirs(non-believers) as the enemy has spread among all sections of society. Pakistani military is rife with such views. The increasing number of attacks on military installments(airports, naval bases, Wagha border attacks) is not possible without insider help to the terrorists. Cricketer turned politician(head of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party) Imran Khan who would probably become the next PM of Pakistan has been a terrorist apologist ever since he came in to politics striking a Faustian bargain. He justified the acts of terrorists and has always stood in support of a peaceful dialogue on an equal level with terrorists when they were slaughtering innocent citizens(Malala Yousafzai a teenager was shot in the head for attending school in 2012) and the Pakistani Faujis alike.
The reason for this extremist views in the main stream society is mainly due to historical events. The ideology of Pakistan is based on the two nation theory. Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the Pakistani movement by invoking fear among Indian muslims, that in a democracy the majority Hindus would come to control the political power and this would be detrimental to the interests of Muslims of the subcontinent. He stressed that people belonging to different religions form different nations as they have different languages, interests and ideas about how the society should function. These ideas are the first thing Pakistani students read in their social studies text books. From a very young age, children begin to see the world in terms of us(muslims) vs rest of the Kafirs. This is a dangerous frame of reference. It makes it very easy for the state and religious leaders to project the Kafirs as the enemy and blame them for every problem in the country(this helps them capture power). This negates the ideas of liberalism. When your every thought is heavily influenced by dogmatic religious beliefs, there would be no space for liberal ideas.
The other reasons for lack of liberal ideas is the Islamization of the country by General Zia ul-Huq. As a quintessential dictator, he used religion to stay in power. He supported Jihadi elements and developed their links with Pakistani military establishment and intelligence services. His policies were responsible for the creation of Taliban in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet union. This raised the power and influence of religious figures in the society. Blasphemy laws were passed, text books were islamicized and history revised, making religion the pillar of the state. Another reason is growing influence of Arab petro dollars in Pakistan. Pakistan being the neighbour of Iran is caught in the geo-political game between the Sunni Saudis(and Qataris, Behrainis etc) and Shia Iran. The Saudis pour billions of dollars in to seminaries, Madrassas and the political parties to influence the policies of the state and drum up support for the hardline Sunni Wahhabism.
In fact, as this piece in tribune explains, any one espousing liberal values is shamed and termed as anti-Islam and a western stooge. Because of a liberal paradigm imbibed in every Indian, we tend to make assumptions that other people and nations think like us and that they support liberal values. But the reality is something entirely different. Our policy makers need to have an accurate perception of Pakistani society to frame right foreign policies towards Pakistan. We need to understand that there is nothing called a liberal Pakistani and it is a myth. Even if they had existed in the past, they are extinct now or their tribe in present day Pakistan is miniscule.
I sincerely hope that I am wrong and that there is a true liberal Pakistani left in some corner of the country who can bring back Pakistan from its present mode of self destruction.