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Unchecked fanaticism in NWFP and the criminal silence of Pakistan’s religious parties

Unchecked fanaticism

THAT, at least until the time of writing, there was no loss of life is perhaps the only redeeming feature of the Taliban’s attack on three schools in Peshawar on Monday. There were no casualties because there were no students. Maybe this was just a coincidence. Otherwise, given the Taliban frame of mind, the brutality that has characterised their movement and the cold-bloodedness they have shown while spreading their ‘mission’, they couldn’t have cared less whether the attacks killed any students. On this occasion, apart from targeting a girls’ school, they attacked two boys’ school ostensibly because their medium of instruction was English. As their record shows they had so far targeted girls’ schools where English was not the medium of instruction — like those in Fata, Swat and many ‘settled districts’. On Monday they did so in the NWFP’s capital city, and one can rest assured that this is not going to be the last such attack, for the Taliban continue to wage war not only on the state of Pakistan but also on society — on all sane minds, on all noble concepts and on those values which led to the founding of Pakistan.

Pakistan was not created by and for bigots. The men who dreamed of it and the men who gave practical shape to it were liberal in their philosophy and dedicated to what is one of Islam’s cardinal principles — tolerance. That such a country should be under attack from semi-literate bigots, some of them men without character and fighting as mercenaries for the highest bidder, is one of Pakistan’s tragedies. And that at one point they were dancing to the tune of Pakistan’s security services is clearly a nightmare for the government today.

At the same time one is shocked by the silence some of Pakistan’s religious parties are maintaining on the shedding of innocent blood by the militants. Can mass murder be forgiven because the criminal takes cover behind a religious slogan and claims to fight for the enforcement of the Sharia? The subcontinent has produced some great religious divines and scholars but none of them advocated war on innocent civilians to establish an Islamic order. It is a pity that parties owing allegiance to these intellectual giants should keep mum and thus indirectly abet in the Taliban’s criminality. In fact, by keeping mum these parties are encouraging chaos and making the job of Pakistan’s foreign enemies easier. The Taliban cannot be crushed by force alone. Society and all its liberal sections should stand up to the militants and save Pakistan from becoming what Afghanistan was under the Taliban. (Dawn, 24 Dec 2008)