All fascism begins in the name of legality and general goodness, even in the name of the ‘good’ of the victim. The Punjab government under Shahbaz Sharif has started a process to destroy Shia practices in the name of security, and has given it a legal cover. What the likes of Saudi Arabian-inspired Takfiri Deobandi outfits Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ aka Sipah Sahaba) have been demanding for years will now be done by the elected, democratic government of Punjab.
On Friday 25 Oct 2013, Colonel (retired) Shuja Khanzada, Shahbaz Sharif’s trusted lieutenant and Environment Minister of Punjab, announced that this time the month of Moharram will be regulated by the Punjab government with the following measures:
1. All unregistered Shia meetings (majalis) and processions (jaloos) will be banned.
2. Every Shia speaker will have to obtain a government license, or he/she will not be allowed to address the majalis.
3. Shia speakers will not be allowed to provoke people.
4. Shias will not be allowed to use loudspeakers for the majalis.
Before offering an editorial comment, we would like to understand the four measures one by one.
Unregistered meetings and processions
For centuries, the Shias of the subcontinent have been holding meetings and taking out processions to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions. Shia religious meetings are not, and have never been, of proselytizing or provocative nature. At these meetings and processions, Shias mourn the martyrdom. They recount the tragic incidents at Karbala, cry, and beat their chests, etc. The sole object of their mourning is the suffering of the group of people led by Imam Hussain. Why should they have to get registered in order to mourn? Another point is: What if they government does not allow them to gather in a place and mourn? Here, there is a double whammy for the Shias. If they hold ‘unregistered’ meetings, they will be deemed to have done something illegal. If they protest if/when not given registration, they will be deemed to have acted illegally. And here is a third whammy: If they stop mourning, they will be conceding that the legality of their beliefs is no more than a matter of the government’s regulatory discretion.
Permit for Shia speakers
Again, it is a matter of regulation. All Shia speakers will be required to get a government permit. If a speaker, however good and knowledgeable he/she may be, is not given the permit and yet addresses a meeting, he/she will be deemed to have acted illegally. On what criteria will one be given the permit? Obviously those who ‘bahave’ and do not ‘provoke’. In the past, no Shia speaker has been convicted or even blamed for being provocative. Why now? Are there any Sunni registered speakers?
Not allowed to be provocative
It is true that some Shia speakers in rural areas go overboard, but this does not happen during the month of Moharram, which is the month of mourning. When Shia speakers react emotionally, it is often in response to a provocative speech made by a Takfiri-Deobandi. Shia speakers have never said a word against Sunnis, though they often refute Takfiri propaganda against their faith.
But why single out Shia speakers for this, and that too in the month of Moharram when the only leitmotif is the suffering of Imam Hussain and his companions?
Ban on loudspeakers
Loudspeakers have never been banned during Moharram. Why now? When we all know that Imam Hussain was a grandson of the Prophet (PBUH), and all the mourning is done for him, then who is disturbed when his name and his suffering is recounted on loudspeakers? Does the name of the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH) somehow impinge upon the sensibilities of the Non-Shia Muslims of Pakistan? If yes, who are those Muslims? Brelvis, the majority sect in Pakistan, have as much respect for Imam Hussain as the Shias. Who are the people who do not want to hear the name of Imam Hussain?
If you look closely at the four ‘legal’ measures to be implemented in the province of Punjab—-yes, and nowhere else in Pakistan—-you will draw at least one conclusion: There is a move by the Punjab government to rob the Shias of the legality of their mourning practices, and by implication their faith. Despite having pumped billions of petro-dollars in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has not been able to dent the Shia faith. Despite the ASWJ-LeJ’s incessant murderous campaign against the Shias, the Shia faith continues to flourish. To weaken the Shia faith, the ASWJ-LeJ leaders have been campaigning that the Shia meetings and processions should be curtailed. But they always failed because the past governments would not listen to them. But now the opportunity has arisen. The PML-N and the ASWJ-LeJ are not only the two most powerful Saudi-supported lobbies in Pakistan, the two of them are political allies also. The PML-N has been protecting the ASWJ-LeJ assassins like Malik Ishaq. Here is a video of the Shia-killer Malik Ishaq being given a shooting practice by Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab police:
Read the following to find out facts about how the PML-N has given political legitimacy to the ASWJ-LeJ:
Here are articles about how PML-N has been functioning as a political face of the ASWJ-LeJ:
In the Takfiri-Deobandi ideology, Shias are the perfect Other whose very existence is a danger to their own ‘pure’ Islam. The House of Saud, the most heartless and equally lethal child of this ideology, has been trying to destroy the Shia Other. In the Gulf dictatorial monarchies, the Shias have few human rights. Now the House of Saud has found a perfect opportunity to dehumanize the Shias in Pakistan through its proxies such as the Sharif Brothers and the ASWJ-LeJ. Very few people are aware that in August, the Saudi government through its embassy in Islamabad ‘gifted’ 30 thousand ‘Islamic’ goodie bags to Islamabad’s school kids. These bags include booklets on Islamic rituals and ways of life. Pakistan’s corrupt media did not report it. All those books include is not Islam but Salafism. It happened only because the Sharif government made it possible. Now, the Sharif government has started a Great Shia Experiment in Punjab which will surely be replicated by the PTI government in KP. This is the plan to destroy the Shia faith. It seems to have the following stages:
First, terrify the Shias in the name of security: If you do not do as we say, the terrorists will bomb your meetings and processions!
Second, gain Shia acquiescence and subject Shia practices to a legality/illegality vector. Some Shias will not accept it, and thus there will be some discord between the ‘legally-minded’ Shias and the ‘recalcitrant’ ones. The likes of Ansar Abbas and Irfan Siddiqui will side with the ‘good’ Shias.
Third, under the cover of legality based upon the need of ‘security’, the Shias of Pakistan will be forced into enclosures. Their freedom to hold mourning meetings and processions will be curtailed.
Fourth, once the Shia Other has been located and localized in the new (created) ecology, it will be easy to confine his freedom and constrain his movements. Thus, ultimately the Shias of Pakistan will be caged and the Takfiri-Deobandi dream to destroy their faith realized.
Shias are routinely killed whether it is the month of Moharram or not. Thousands of them have so far been killed in Pakistan, and yet they have never said that they want to have their religion freedom restricted. It is the duty of the government to provide them security, and not take their freedom away in the name of security. But then the PML-N government itself is a Takfiri participant in league with Saudi Arabia and ASWJ-LeJ terrorist-assassins.
So, what is to be done? The Shias of Pakistan must not let it happen. Historically, the Shias have been killed in the millions and yet have never allowed their religious freedoms to be curtailed. Accepting bans from a Saudi proxy like the PML-N government will be like accepting the rule of Yazid. The Shia leadership and liberal Sunnis should come forward. Communities like Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadis should also support the Shias because in the freedom of one community lies the freedom of every community.