The Bold Voice of J&K

Changes only on the surface

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Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

Pakistan after the Peshawar school massacre remains much the same as Pakistan before the school massacre. After a few days of selective, manufactured outrage, things are back to normal – everyone supports the army, no one worth their salt questions the policy of supporting jihadis, the Army is back to its opaque and unexplained eyewash of an operation called Zarb-e-Azb, a few villages like Pashtun will be bombed, a few Pashtun women and children will die and will be paraded as terrorists, which the Pakistan Press will report unquestioningly.
Terrorists involved in the attacks on military installations are being hanged and those who assassinated Punjab Governor Salman Taseer aren’t even being discussed. India for its part, will continue to delude itself into believing that things can change with one major difference: Coming up with dumb hashtags like #IndiaWithPakistan, which are the new versions of the equally senseless and futile border candle-light vigils that Punjabi ‘intellectuals’ used to hold in the 1990s and 2000s.
Pakistan’s reaction to the massacre is understandable – these were after all the kids of serving army personnel who were killed. But this was by no means anything spectacular in terms of scale or devastation. No one within Pakistan batted an eyelid throughout the massive bombings of Christian churches (the biggest of which was in September 2013, that claimed 81 lives), or the slaughter of Shias by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (two attacks in 2013 that claimed 90 and 100 lives respectively). Because, as per the ‘ideology of Pakistan’, there are Muslims and there are the Waajib-ul-Qatl (those worthy of being slaughtered).
Now what we have are competing versions of Islamic jurisprudence of what exactly constitutes Waajib-ul-Qatl. According to all the clowns who appeared on television on December 16, teary-eyed, demanding answers (but never did so when the Shias and Christians were butchered), these Christians, Shias and Ahmadis were Waajib-ul-Qatl.
But evidently, the Tehreek-e-Taliban has a very different interpretation. In their justification of the killing, they cite the massacre of the Bani Quraizah – a Jewish tribe of the peninsula by the prophet – where according to Hadith 138 of the Sahih al-Bukhari 5th volume ‘all those who have reached puberty should be slaughtered’.
For most of us, all of this is utterly repellent – children – puberty or no puberty – should not be killed; neither should anyone else. So the question is: Why did India stay silent when the Shias were being butchered, when the Christians were being bombed and when the Ahmadis were being gunned down? Unless, of course, we also believe that Pakistani interpretations of Islam are somehow more worthy than our own, or that we too have internalised this abhorrent concept of Waajib-ul-Qatl. Why should the Indian State collaborate in this selective grief? Why are we so carried away by  Pakistan’s English Press when the real news lies in the Urdu media?
When Hafiz Saeed went on television to claim that the attack was carried out by the ‘uncircumcised’ (implying India), the Pakistan English Press did not pick it up. But it did make headline news in the Urdu media. The point here is simple – Pakistan has gone so far down the path of fanaticism that every Pakistani – be it the bearded mullah who stones women for fun, or the high-society wine-sipping socialite ‘auntyji’ of Islamabad, believe that some people deserve to be killed in the name of religion.
All of this comes down to the fact that the whole point of Wahhabism and Salafism is to kill and not to rescue. Television fundraisers for Palestinian suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia routinely raise $200 million, but a telethon to raise funds for the Muslim victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, barely managed to scrape five million dollars. Which is why all that the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence can do with this toxic ideology they have imported is to wreak havoc. If Pakistan envisioned the concept of Islam as a nation-builder, the hijack of that Islam by Wahhabi-Salafi means that it is geared only to kill and destroy, and it is ideologically incapable of building unless you live on an oil or gas deposit.
Yet, for those of us who still hold on to the old paradigms of cold hard realpolitik, this murderous ideology can solve some of our problems – though the fear is that our victory may be pyrrhic. Pakistan’s import of Salafism and jihad have resulted in more Pakistani military and civilian deaths than all of its wars with India put together.
The South Asian Terrorism Portal based on public source reporting has added up a total of 55,516 deaths from 2003 to 2014. But as Christine Fair points out massive sectarian massacres were commonplace well before 2003, for most of the 1990s. In Pakistan’s wars with India, it has lost around 20,000 since 1947.  Moreover, the great weakness of Zarb-e-Azb is that it revealed that while some militants in Pakistan were in fact willing to fight in Kashmir and Afghanistan, a significant and hardcore lot want to fight on in Pakistan.

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