April issue 2014

By | Editorial | News & Politics | Opinion | Published 10 years ago

Some ‘friends’ of Newsline continue to obsess over the Quaid’s beard on the magazine’s cover, two issues back.

Unscrupulous … shut down … apologise … they rant on. A classic example of shoot the messenger! Have these persistent ranters not read some of the shocking stories that have made the headlines in Quaid’s Pakistan last month?

The brutal murder of two Sikh hakims in Charsadda district in January and March this year?

The award of the death penalty to a poor Christian sweeper on charges of blasphemy, leveled by a former friend, allegedly to “settle” a property dispute.

The burning down of the houses of 200 Christian families in Joseph Colony by a 3000-strong mob to avenge the Christian ‘blasphemer.’

The vandalising and torching of two Hindu temples and a dharamshala in Hyderabad and Larkana, within a span of two weeks.

The unabated killings of Shia doctors and the desecration of Ahmadi graves.

Stories that would put any thinking, feeling individual to shame.

For the two murdered Sikhs, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) had been their home, and that of their ancestors for many, many centuries. They had served in the area selflessly, as residents will testify. But in recent years, religious militants had been extorting money from the community — they called it jiziya — forcing several Sikh families to leave KP.

The Christian, who was accused of blasphemy, has been sentenced to death despite insufficient evidence, but the 3000 marauders, who rendered 200 Christian families homeless, are roaming around free.

The Hindus, whose temples and properties in Sindh have been vandalised by religious bigots, live in abject fear as the province of the Sufis is gradually being encircled by madrassas and rabid mullahs, who are also on a convert-and-marry Hindu girls mission.

The massive wave of obscurantism and intolerance that is sweeping across the country is emboldening the so-called ‘vicegerents’ of Islam to push forward their own medieval agenda.

The Council of Islamic Ideology, for instance, is now seeking to overturn one section of the Family Laws Ordinance, which provides some relief to women, and additionally, legitimise child marriages. A Jamaat-i-Islami MNA, one of four, has taken strong exception to the airing of a music programme, Pakistan Idol, on grounds of “obscenity” (it shows girls and boys singing together), and called it to the notice of the National Assembly.

Where is all this headed?

Of late, the media has been in the line of Taliban fire. The Express Group has been targeted five times.

The latest attack on Express TV’s anchor person Raza Rumi, a strident critic of the Taliban, post the talks is ample proof of the fact that the Taliban have not ceased fire. They continue to call the shots — and the terms of the talks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif, and his esteemed brother, continue to “take note,” of all incidents of terrorism, but to no avail.

The IMF, in its latest report on Pakistan’s performance under the US$ 6.7 billion bailout package, has warned that militancy could threaten growth and investment. Will this spur the ‘businessman’ prime minister on to move beyond the ‘take-note’ stage to the ‘take-action’ stage, or will he allow the country to proceed on its downward trajectory?

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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