April issue 2006

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 18 years ago

We have sunk to the most brutal depths of depravity defying all norms of humanity. A film doing the rounds in Waziristan shows the local Taliban perpetrating the most bestial acts on fellow tribesmen in Miramshah — to cries of Allah-o-Akbar. Severed heads tied to electric poles, bodies tied to a pick-up and dragged through the streets, corpses strung up on poles. The perpetrators: mostly students of local madrassahs carrying out their brand of barbaric justice with impunity, with fearlessness and with total disregard for the writ of the law.

It was coming. The writing on the wall was there for all to see. All except for the government, which chose not to see it.

When the extremists burnt down a girls schools in the Northern Areas, the government ignored it; when they murdered the teacher of another girls school the culprits got away; when they pulled down ad hoardings with female models, smashed TV sets and musical instruments, burnt videos and stopped Nauroz celebrations, the administration merely looked the other way.

With no one to stop them, the extremists were emboldened, not just to commit such blood-curdling acts, but also to document it on film. It was only when the situation started to spin out of control and the army lost some of its own that they swung into action. But the damage had already been done.

The mullahs are now looking to expand their sphere of influence further. Swat, Tank, D.I. Khan are in the grip of mullah fever. In Tank, men have been ordered to grow beards or else they will not be allowed to travel by public transport, will not be attended to by doctors, will not… the list of punishments is endless.

The clerics are fanning the flames of sectarianism and intolerance elsewhere. In Bara, two groups of clerics carried a violent character-assassination campaign on their own illegal FM radios, eventually leading to a bloody battle that killed 28 people. In Kasur the body of a much loved 17-year-old Ahmadi schoolteacher, who taught the Quran in an SOS village school, had to be removed from a Muslim graveyard and transferred to an Ahmadi one because the local clerics objected.

The list of such intolerant acts, all committed in the name of Islam, is endless. And the bloody price of the government’s failure to take the extremists to task is now clearly unacceptable.

Most of these dastardly acts are being committed by students of madrassahs. The General insists that with the exception of a few madrassahs, the rest are providing yeoman service in the field of education. So let him take the exceptions to task, especially since it is no secret which madrassahs are responsible for the barbaric acts committed in Miramshah and elsewhere.

Newsline is reproducing some clips from the Taliban film as testimony to these heinous acts. These are bound to affect people’s sensibilities. Newsline’s editorial team debated long and hard on whether to publish the gruesome images of man’s inhumanity to man. It was a tough decision but, at the end of the day, we felt that our readers should be aware of the gory crimes that are being committed in our own backyard and to shake the government out of its apathy.

The people have paid a heavy price for the government’s nexus with, and the policy of appeasement towards these retrogressive forces. The fires of intolerance and hatred are threatening to engulf the entire nation. It’s time the army realised, once and for all, the futility of joining forces with extremist elements in a bid to sideline mainstream political parties in order to retain its hold on power and subvert the democratic process.

Their erstwhile comrades-in-arms have now turned the guns on them in Waziristan and the situation is fraught with danger.

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