Archive for the 'Pakistan Protests' Category

06
Apr
16

The failure of religion in Pakistan

Published here: Express Tribune

Inciting violence in the name of religion has become an all too common theme in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to whip up mobs into a frenzy whenever the divine is concerned. Religious faith provides a route to inner peace for individuals and all of the major religions share the golden rule, to treat others the way you want to be treated. In the case of Pakistan, it has deteriorated into a tool to promote violence and deny women’s rights. Why is religion failing us? Islam was never intended to be Pakistan’s identity. Now we’ve allowed it to be hijacked by fanatics who have subsequently sabotaged our constitution. That was never Quaid-i-Azam’s vision, nonetheless each amendment to the constitution further engrained fanaticism in our society at the expense of minority rights and freedom of speech.

_88966425_35a62f92-b8c5-49df-812e-b3d3db72d6a5The violent mob that descended on Islamabad to demand sharia law while participating in a protest for the hanging of a murderer was appallingly misguided. The attack on Easter in Lahore was disgusting. The government appears to have a bottomless stomach for this ongoing violence.

Pakistan’s government is helpless as long as religion is tolerated as justification for murder, rape, and violence. It has become the victim of its own mutated constitution and cannot differentiate between a sin and a crime. For instance, Christians celebrating Easter, the hanging of a murderer, and a woman’s protection bill could all represent symbols of betterment of our society. In practice, they are construed as secular concepts and a threat to Islamic principles.

In the rest of the world, we’re seeing the implications of this fanaticism that is broadcast nonstop. 20150912_blp502Muslim refugees escaping from ISIS might just get banned all together from Europe following terrorist attacks and ogling of women at public swimming pools. Looking at the US, a once farce of a candidate like Donald Trump has a real shot at the presidency since his statements about banning all Muslims or requiring them to carry an ID card are increasingly popular.

An ideal way to reverse this trend is for religion to be stripped from the constitution and for the rule of law to be supreme. Blasphemy law and the Islamic Council would also be abolished since these primitive laws and institutions have no room in a modern world. This would free everyone to observe their faith as they see fit and also provide personal freedoms to Pakistani men and women that the rest of the world takes for granted. Can any of this happen in our lifetime? The momentum doesn’t favor the optimistic as Pakistan’s government 2992already conceded to the mob in Islamabad and assured the protestors that it won’t amend the country’s blasphemy law or pardon those convicted of blasphemy. Will the government eventually learn from history and realize that each concession to these fanatics, dooms the nation to an even longer period of self inflicted hell? While military operations can destroy the terrorist infrastructure, the government will eventually need to step up and address the obsession with religion that has seeped into our identity. This is unlikely to happen until the voices of reason are loud enough to silence the madness of mobs.

28
Aug
14

Revolution, Inqilab & Azadi

Unfortunately, “democracy” only exists in Pakistan either through the lineage of a Bhutto or Sharif. While the masses are 53fd731036526increasingly fed up with the regurgitated choices offered to them every election year, PTI and PAT’s march was doubtful to bring about the changes they seek. In fact, these protests were an ill-timed distraction. Pakistan is already besieged with an IDP crisis and a military that is enthralled in conducting the Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan. Yes, there was electoral fraud along with discontent about the poor quality of life, but a call for a “Tahrir square” revolution is not the solution. Can any rational person claim that present day Egypt is the ideal model for the future of Pakistan?

22959-imagex-1403774824-884-640x480Nawaz Sharif’s government has failed to curb electricity blackouts which share a large deal of the blame for the crippled economy. Add to that the gross lack of social justice, poverty, extremism and one arrives at a toxic mix with the right ingredients for an uprising. Case in point, the murder of eleven protestors this past June would be unthinkable in any democratic nation. However, enticing the crowd with whimsical promises such as housing and jobs for everyone is cruel and doesn’t achieve anything. Instead, energies should be focused on becoming a formidable opposition in the parliament and coming up with a realistic plan to tackle the root causes of the issue such as the ever growing population, illiteracy and corruption.

It is also important to realize that for a revolution to occur in Pakistan the nation has to be one. Since Sindh, Baluchistan,928627_287858068066215_491543121_a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are ethnic divisions within Pakistan, the very essence of revolution is missing. Rebellions are born amongst the people and not created overnight by foreign clerics in containers. For instance, the current crisis in Iraq is due to the fact that every single aspect of the Iraqi government was dismantled by the US, subsequently leading to a takeover of the country by ISIS. Iraq is now fractured along sectarian and ethnic lines possibly even facing disintegration.

While it was clear from the start that the Azaadi march and Inqilab were not going to bring about a revolution or the 10384676_10152311034194527_5735778053886220120_nresignation of Nawaz Sharif, the last few days have still been a wakeup call for the current government which has been left weak. While the government has agreed to form a committee for electoral reform it has clearly stated that resignation of the prime minister and fresh elections are off the table. Even though Imran Khan’s cause is commendable, his methods have been irresponsible and his demands inconsistent. He should use his influence to focus on electoral reforms rather than the misconceived call for an Arab spring style uprising, civil disobedience and resignations. Sending this farce of a democracy packing is not going to bring about a revolution in Pakistan. Instead, as many citizens have mentioned, Imran Khan should impose his revolutionary ideas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and make that into a shining example for the rest of Pakistan to strive for. Without a proven path to pursue, rhetoric rings hollow. Pakistan can ill afford more empty promises and chaos at the moment.

24
Sep
12

Freedom & responsibility

Freedom of expression should be a right of every man and woman, but in order to prevent abuses, people need to be accountable for their opinions. Anonymous speech in the form of monetary political campaign expenditures was already causing havoc in the US before “The Innocence of Muslims” ever went viral. The only purpose of the crudely made movie was to provoke the sort of madness and destruction we’ve witnessed.

The onus of this latest round of violence also lies with Sheikh Khaled Abdullah for airing an Arabic dubbed version of the film on Egyptian television. Few had heard of this movie previous to it being broadcasted on his show. Following the airing, riots erupted throughout the Middle East and other Muslim countries. One of the riots resulted in the death of 4 US diplomats in Libya. Would it be fair to say that he could have easily predicted the violence that followed? If so, the audience needs to hold him accountable and perhaps Egypt needs to consider revoking broadcast rights. In fact, the Al-Nas channel that aired the film had previously been suspended by the pre revolution Egyptian government for promoting religious and sectarian hatred.

Freedom of speech in the United States allows anyone to make as many moronic movies as they want. Ex prisoner and a bank fraud artist, Nakula Basseley Nakula took full advantage of this and paid $75 a day to several actors who thought they were working on a movie about ancient warriors in the desert. Their lines were later dubbed over without their permission. The movie was shown once in Hollywood to a nearly empty theatre after which it was dubbed into Arabic and posted on you tube.

Nakula needs to take responsibility for his work since it is not the role of the government and the Los Angeles police to keep him and his family in hiding. By doing so they are only enabling others to anonymously ignite violence around the world without being responsible for the consequences. Holding the angry mob that stormed the US embassy in Libya accountable is, of course, without question. Their actions were without excuse, but what is more important is working to reduce the risk of a similar event happening in the future.

Mullahs in Pakistan are already taking advantage of lingering frustration and have whipped up mobs into committing even more violence. Blocking you tube is not the solution and neither is denying visas to Google employees. The internet is full of blasphemous content regarding all religions but that does not give anyone the right to censor or kill and terrorize in the name of religion. The government should not fall prey to the extremists instead it should do everything in its power to curb the lunacy that is spewed by them.

Ultimately, the movie was intended to infuriate and that’s exactly the result it achieved. Now the producers of the movie and its supporters are pointing to the riots as evidence of Islam being a violent religion. Hence, the rioters played right into the hands of the Islamophobes who will use this as an opportunity to tout their views about Muslims being fanatics. The result could give support to candidates who are pro war and anti-Islam in a critical election year for the US. Mobs aren’t known for thinking clearly and these angry people are probably going to cause themselves harm if they continue. The anti-Islam protests have been the headlines for days now not to mention the Newsweek cover which has depicted 1.5 billion Muslims around the world as a single ferocious and angry entity. This crisis also brings attention to political parties which use religion to spur violence for political gain. Fox news is busy criticizing Obama’s policies in the Middle East. Mitt Romney called the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the US embassy in Libya “disgraceful,” and that he chose to “sympathize with those who waged the attacks”. The media needs to be careful because the last thing this world needs is another warmongering US President.

Day of love of the Prophet: 20 killed, over 200 injured in Pakistan

Aftermath: Students take to streets to cleanup