Our responsibility on minority killings
Pakistanis hanker for a moment of joy, a reason to celebrate and a piece of good news. But, unfortunately, we do not get much. After suffering through a series of bad news, we may bag one piece of good news, if we are lucky. Recognising its scarcity, it therefore is treated like the birth of a boy child, celebrated with music, street dances and, of course, desserts. Besides cricket, do we get good news from any other place? Mostly no. Although the entertainment industry contributes to our good fortune sometimes when Rahat Ali Khan or Fawad Khan get recognised in Bollywood, there too the talent of our female lead actors spoils the party. In no way do I want to sound like a typical Pakistani male chauvinist but the talent our female artists promote as the key to their success in India, has less to do with art or performance and has more to do with carnal pleasures.
On the other hand, bad news, as unpleasant as it is, strikes us from every possible direction: political, constitutional, financial, economic, and related to violence. Leaving the ongoing and never-ending political drama aside, amongst all of them, it is the violent bits of news that grab our attention the most. Violence in itself can strike us in innumerable ways. How about the example of a two-year-old girl kidnapped and raped, her body found in the trash, or a 10-year-old child abducted for ransom, his parents pleading for help, the perpetrators demanding a million dollars from the family? Likewise, there is the case of a young physician shot dead by unknown assassins, the victim’s faith playing a role in his murder. There is the college student gunned down in Karachi, his political affiliation raising suspicion of his being target killed. How about the bomb blast shaking a whole city, its death toll exceeding 50, the number of injuries scoring above the 100 mark? There is the mob lynching of an innocent couple, the ostensible reason for this brutality being blasphemy. In short, for social activists, journalists, opinion makers and self-appointed reformers, there is sufficient material to write and express their frustrations. On the other hand, there exists sufficient material for the ordinary Pakistani to be depressed.
Among the various violent events, not all of them click with Pakistani reformers. In order to be worthy of attention, the event first needs to be picked up by western organisations. However, once they have reported on it, we lunge at the opportunity to pen down our observations as if the credit for this news in fact belongs to us alone. As a matter of faith we then write articles for weeks in every newspaper and every journal on the issue. Our efforts are not limited to just Pakistani media houses. We, in an attempt to be heard across the globe, also jot down our opinions in international publications. Our stories may lack accuracy but they sure run high on emotions. And they may set the bar a tad bit lower on objectivity but they, by all means, seize the top slot on passion and verbosity.
No matter who reported the incident first and no matter how accurately it is written, nothing changes on the ground. Turning a blind eye to the incident as if nothing has happened, the administration literally sleeps on it. No one amongst them musters up any courage to challenge the blasphemy law or stand up for the victims belonging to the minority communities. Yes, they perform some lip service in order to score some political points but nothing more. Consumed by protecting their own interests and to avoid a religious backlash, they never try to tackle extremism. It is too risky. The media too, after its initial outburst, does not question the actions of religious forces, even at the cost of human lives.
As a consequence, two or three weeks down the road life returns to normal. All the reformists who wrote a series of intense articles turn their attention towards the political battlefield. This fight between the two parties never ends just as the quarrel between a mother and her daughter-in-law never concludes in television soaps.
The point is that we the people, carrying the camera or the pen, shouldering a responsibility to impel the government to ensure the security of every citizen, including the minorities, cannot lose focus. Hopping from one incident to another, we have failed to serve the meek, the vulnerable and the poor. With our emotional write-ups we only serve ourselves, promoting our intellect and not theirs. This is why it is time for introspection and we should ask ourselves why we could not pen down as many articles on the cleric than the Christian? You must have come across the pictures of the children or parents of the slain husband and wife. Now tell me how many of you have stumbled upon any pictures of the mosque or the cleric of that scared place? Do you have any knowledge of how it generates its funds? Did someone inform you of the sect of that individual? Where did he get his education? What was he taught in the seminary? I did not think so.
Learning from our own mistakes, we as a community, from now on, must focus on the perpetrators of the crime, investigating the seminaries, exposing their finances and their connections. This can help Pakistan identify the evil that lurks behind a pious face. No, I do not consider it the job of the administration alone. You and I both know very well that any government, present or future, democratic or authoritative, left or right, will not venture onto that road. The backlash can be severe and the government may lose its grip on power. To get the job done we must uncover the dark side of these clerics who incite such violence. They all have one. And we should instil a fear of accountability in them through our public exposé. Let us ask them questions and let us treat them like we treat politicians. Remember, the clergy is not Islam. Differentiate between the two. Let them think twice before they abuse religion for personal gains.
The writer is a US-based freelance columnist. He tweets at @KaamranHashmi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org