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City of slaughtered souls – by Maisam Ali

چلو آؤ تم کو دکھائیں ہم جو بچا ہے مقتلِ شہر میں

یہ مزار اہلِ صفا کے ہیں، یہ ہیں اہلِ صدق کی تربتیں

(Let me show you what has left in slaughterhouse of the city
These are tombs of righteous ones, these are graves of truthful ones.) – Faiz

Sixty five years have gone with the wind since ‘laboratory of Islam’ was set up to experiment with lives of millions. Signs were ominous right from the inception when hundreds of thousands had to be slaughtered at altar of this venture. Since then blood has been an integral part of state policies that solicit sanguinary sacrifices every now and then to get the things going. Things seem to be going this way since ever.

Prospects were never too bright. Hopes were never too high. But the slaughterhouse, the land of pure has turned into, was beyond any possible apprehension until the genocidal acts against Bengali population were recorded by independent sources. The stats of atrocities committed against unarmed civilians would have shaken the world if generals in command were not among the ranks of those fighting cold war from capitalist fronts. The archrival had to say, ‘we have sunk two-nation theory in Bay of Bengal today”. Those who know, know that that was not two-nation theory alone that was sunk in ocean but the burthen of Objectives resolution and Doctrine of Necessity that caused the cruise to drown in Bay of Bengal.

Just that a Bengali Pakistani didn’t fit into the construct carefully contrived by nationhood engineers. Just that a Bengali was lesser Pakistani than a Punjabi or Mohajir. “Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone”, states the Objectives Resolution. Whose God was He, by the way? Obviously not of destitute Bengalis who were marginalized to possible extent at the hands of civil and military bureaucracy of West Pakistan, and then massacred for standing up to whom God of Objectives Resolution belonged to. Heaps of Bengali corpses in Dhaka were testimony to sovereignty of gods of guns in lieu of God. “That which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity”, Justice Munir uttered the gems in landmark decision in 1954 whilst citing Bracton’s maxim. Though he couldn’t define ‘necessity’ which till now remains an undefined terminology.

Nationhood constructed on a forced homogeneity had drowned in Bay of Bengal. One Unit had met its fate. History had spoken yet again that oppression is no way to construct a nation. Embarrassed, humiliated – the state embarked upon a venture that in essence was self destructive. The task was to make a particular kind of religion part of national identity of populace. What today we know as unheralded state religion of Pakistan is, per se, a culmination of the project commenced after Fall of Dhaka. Ironically, the phenomenon is antithetical to what commonly may be termed as religion of masses in this part of earth. The history of mass violence in Pakistan perpetrated on religious bases is actually the history of conflict emerged in backdrop of imposing an alien unyielding version of religion on indigenous form of religion.

Ethnic and sectarian conflicts have been inseparable part in defining national identities of countries that got freedom from colonial occupation in twentieth century. While some of the conflicts are inherent in nature – that have come down to this point through historical discords – some are indispensible upshot of what may be termed as farsighted demarcations by colonial powers. In Pakistan’s case the state policies have led these conflicts to most forbidding levels. If the death penalty of Abul Ala Maududi and Abdul Sattar Khan Niazi – who were purported agitators of mass violence against Ahmadis in Lahore 1953 – were not commuted, the persecution of Ahmadis in coming decades wouldn’t have gone in full swing. But again, repercussions of Objectives’ Resolution are never to be looked down which till then wasn’t even substantive part of constitution of Pakistan.

As for Shia Sunni violence in Pakistan, again it is a false binary. Pakistan is predominately a Sunni country where Barelvis form bulk of population. After Barelvis these are Shias who are second largest sect in Pakistan. Significance of theological differences can never be put aside but interestingly many of the tenets of both majority sects coincide on so many different levels. Both sects have coexisted peacefully for centuries and in subcontinent there has never been a people-to-people bloody conflict between the two sects barring some incidents of violence in Lucknow (UP) that started occurring at start of twentieth century. After partition it’s hard to find any major incident of Shia Sunni violence until Zia’s rule. While exception being Therri (Khairpur) massacre of Shias in 1963 that resulted in about 118 deaths.

Taking into consideration cultural values, Shia and Sunni share common customs, rituals and traditions that predominately are antithesis of violence. There are shrines across the country, which are not only equally revered by Shias and Sunnis but also attract adherents to other religions. There’s a culture of mutual respect and coexistence. There are widely prevailed proverbs with religious references used by both of sects. There’s a sense of deep veneration for religious personalities that binds both sects together. There are Ta’wiz and amulets commonly used by both Shias and Sunnis. The cognomen ‘Shah’ is still considered as tantamount to respect not only in rural and semi-urban areas but also in urban centers.

A case in point, which may throw some light on cultural binding of both sects, is historic occasion when Benazir Bhutto came back to Pakistan in 2007. For being the most popular leader of masses in Pakistan her arrival was much hyped and each and every moment surrounding her arrival had its significance. She came out of plane at Karachi airport with ‘Imam Zamin’ tied around her arm. Millions greeted. She exactly knew what message she was going to convey by displaying a spectacle deeply rooted in cultural traditions of this part of earth. She knew where the illusionary fault lines were. The message got across to where it was intended.

Some tragedies are celebrated while some are not. This is the real tragedy. Of Hazara Shias being the latter one. Anti-Semitism is a historical reality. Savagery perpetrated in Auschwitz and Chelmno concentration camps was apogee of this historical hatred towards a particular community. Quetta was no ghetto but it has been made to be one for Hazara Shias. The multitude of repugnance with which they are being killed is nowhere to be seen in societal values of Pakistan. Then again, Anti-Shi’ism too is a historical reality. Shias have been mass murdered throughout history of last fifteen centuries. But for people of this part of earth this is an alien concept. Shia Hazaras have been living peacefully in Quetta for a century. Where the wrath has come from then? Does anyone remember Mullah Niazi – butcher of thousands of Hazara Shias in Mazar e Sharif, Afghanistan – who is on record saying:

“Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi’a. They are kafir [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras… If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses, and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan… wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair.”

The notion of ‘silent majority’ in Pakistan has been overemphasized in recent years. A true expression notwithstanding the blind pursuit of a security state is undermining this so-called majority with each passing day. Silence of this silent majority seems to be foremost symptom of how the moderates are descending into abyss of fundamentalism. The writing is on the wall. Omens are pointing to what may be termed as initial conditions of a fascist state where only chosen people have a right to live.

Pakistan has come a long way since partition riots took place. Blood was spilled relentlessly. Massacres were carried out. Still there was a silver lining of peace in dark clouds. There was a rainbow of a dream that generations to come will wash away patches of blood. There still was a hope against hope. Now when we have come this far, ghost of Hamlet’s father feels to be come back saying:

“The serpent that did sting thy father’s life

Now wear his crown….

O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!”

At this juncture of history, one is compelled to quote Allama Mashraqi’s observation recorded in a public gathering in Patna on May 14, 1947.

“This Raj will be ten times more tyrannical, more deformed, more ghastly, more imperialistic and non-Indian than even the worst form of British Raj… It will be, in fact, anarchy in order, a stereo-typed tyranny, and a confusion worst confounded. It will be a perpetual reign of Atom Bomb and Rule of Terror. It will be legalized genocide and state killings. It will justify murder of children in mothers’ wombs, wholesale destruction of all cultures, suppression of all true History, murder of Philosophy, total wiping out of honourable traditions, and wholesale slaughter of ideas…It will decimate the beautiful culture of Asia, the beautiful code of Asiatic Moral Laws, the beautiful philosophy of Peace and Tolerance, in fact the beautiful Fundamental Truths that Asia has ever given to Mankind during the last 5000 years.”

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Maisam

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