The War on Minorities

July 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

APP has written repeatedly about the shameful, persistent persecution of Pakistan’s minorities. A society so mangled by the trafficking of reactionary ideology in a climate of perpetual insecurity is, it goes without saying, a truly sad and frightening spectacle. In the past few days, four ongoing cases were brought to our attention.

In Karachi, 60 Hindus were forced from their homes after a boy sought relief from the unrelenting heat by drinking from a water cooler outside a mosque. Monday’s story in The Hindu notes the leading role of “influential tribesmen of the area” in organizing the mob of 150 that launched the initial attack. As many as 400 families, the story notes, are currently fearing eviction.

In Mansehra, a local jirga has sentenced a woman to death by stoning, for the alleged crime of being seen walking in a field with another man. WAF reports that “the accused woman was captured by the Jirga members and reportedly is being held at a secret place in Manjakot, pending the Rajm punishment. As usual, it is the woman who is made to bear the brunt of such atrocious barbarism, injustice, and inhuman, unIslamic sentences.”

In Faisalabad, two brothers–Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel–are being held in the Civil Lines Police Station on blasphemy charges, after it was alleged that they authored a pamphlet that made untoward remarks about Muhammad. On Saturday, some 400 protesters stoned the Catholic Church in Waris Pura, demanding that they be sentenced to death.

And finally in Jhelum, the establishment refuses to press charges in the horrific murder of a Christian family. The incident itself took place on June 21, and makes for chilling reading:

Khan became furious and said, “Are we lying to you? You call us liars, how dare you insult us,” Murtaza said. “Someone from the crowd hit something hard on her head, and she started bleeding. The children started crying and shouted for help. Razia kept shouting for help, ‘Please have mercy on us, please let my husband come, then we can talk.’” Jamshed Masih said his daughter telephoned police as the mob attacked his wife and children. He said he later learned that “the people kept shouting, ‘This family has committed blasphemy, they should be killed.” Before police arrived, his family was murdered, he said.

Asked to file a murder case against Maulana Mafooz Khan, the man behind the mob, the SHO pleaded helplessness, saying “I am a poor man… and I was pressured by higher authorities not to file the FIR.”

It is truly disheartening to think how little can be done about all this–beyond the obligatory petitions, faxes and well-intentioned e-chatter, of course–until we succeed in the long-term task of cultivating a meaningful means of propagating an alternative common-sense.

It is no less sobering to ask after our shrill liberals, for whom this frightening pattern of minority persecution invariably finds itself contorted into a manic call for strong-fisted (military) action. On even cursory inspection, of course, this line of reasoning dissolves into farce–elite and establishment complicity in these and countless other cases is clear. The myopia and short-termism of the ongoing War for Civilization, for example, is illuminated by this Mansehra jirga’s stoning verdict. While the problem of Taliban barbarity is all-too-real, this episode shows the problem to be rooted in a set of factors (the mores of a underdeveloped rural society, decades of aggressively touted fundamentalist morality) that means such madness is (a) scarcely confined to the TTP groups on whom our State is ready to declare war, and (b) never amenable to resolution by F-16 (apologies due to Lord Curzon).

All told, it is a long road that lies ahead of us.

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