January issue 2017

By | Newsbeat National | Published 6 months ago

Must a night of celebration turn into a night of mourning for some New Year revellers?

As a burst of fireworks lit Pakistan’s skyline, heralding the arrival of 2017, the screech of gunfire alongside sounded the death knell for a six-year-old in Karachi. At least a dozen others were injured in cities across the country.

Five thousand plus deaths later, at the hands of terrorists, we still remain a trigger-happy nation. Pakistan’s night of terror has not quite ended. 2016 saw some more incidents of violence, the most tragic being the Quetta carnage on August 8, in which the cream of the legal fraternity was wiped out, followed by a militant attack on the police training college, also in Quetta, in which 60 young recruits lost their lives

If numbers be the gauge, 2016 was as violent as 2015. But 2016 will go down in memory as the year of the corrupt politician. Properties owned in swanky neighbourhoods of London and Dubai were unearthed. Panama Leaks and dharnas dominated the headlines for most of the year. Other major irritants, like power breakdowns and water and gas shortages, were relegated to the inside pages.

However, if one gentleman managed to stay in the news, despite all the corruption hoopla, it was the man “who many wished to see as king” – but, fortunately, he wasn’t so inclined. So the ‘dreaded coup’ didn’t materialise, and Sharif got a new lifeline in the shape of a brand new army chief.

2016 had its share of also-rans, or rather, the runaways: General Musharraf, Asif Zardari and his two moneybags, Owais Muzaffar Tappi and Sharjeel Memon. Musharraf was content to play politics on assorted TV screens, but Zardari yearned the limelight. So, in true AZ tradition, he returned home after a ‘purported’ deal with the Sharifs.

That put paid to any plans Zardari junior may have had of undertaking his promised solo flight on Panama. Meanwhile, the original agitator on the Leaks, Kaptan Khan, is taking a well-deserved breather from his sit-ins and push-ups.

As for the ‘past masters of agitation’– the religious brigade– they are up and about, despite their miserable showing at the ballot box. They are determined to knock down any pro-woman or pro-minority bill. The JUI-F, for instance, opposed the Hindu Marriage Bill on the ground that it would prove troublesome for the Hindus, and that other minorities too would demand separate marriage laws. And as if that weren’t enough, leaders of religio-political parties, led by the Jamaat-e-Islami, threatened to storm the Sindh Assembly if it did not revoke the Anti-Conversion Bill, which disallows conversion and marriage before the age of 18, to stop the kidnap and conversion of young girls from minority communities. Allegedly 254 girls, mostly Hindus, were converted and married off to Muslims in 2015.

And now comes even more disturbing news: death threats are being issued to Shaan, son of the slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, by his father’s killer Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters. For a video message on Facebook on Christmas Eve, seeking people’s prayers for all the accused in blasphemy cases. Incidentally, a shrine has been set up in Qadri’s memory.

So, are we destined to see the rise and rise of the religious bigot in 2017?

 

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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