March Issue 2014

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

The Newsline cover last month drew the ire of a certain section of the public. They roundly abused Newsline on the social media, with the choicest of expletives (“Tum ko sharam nahi aati; Dollar-khor media; I want to kill the publisher/editor;” etcetera, etcetera). And accused us of blaspheming the Quaid by doctoring his image. What the objectors didn’t seem to realise was that by taking umbrage they were, in effect, substantiating the point of our story: that the Quaid’s vision of Pakistan was being distorted by religious bigots, who want to rework it in their own image. And that image is an ugly one.

Those who have seen video clips of the recent beheadings of 23 FC soldiers by the Taliban, who later played football with their heads, will vouch for the bestiality of the Taliban. Around 55,000 killings later, the violence continues unabated; even polio vaccination teams have not been spared. There have been multiple terrorist attacks after the All-Parties Conference endorsed peace talks with the Taliban, the last one being the dastardly strike on the Islamabad district courts to get one judge who had thrown out a petition of the Lal Masjid clerics against General Musharraf. Ten others lost their lives in the attack. It was carried out by a splinter group of the TTP — and the TTP, very conveniently, distanced itself from the incident. However, it continues to issue murder threats, the latest being its letters to the Kalash tribe (to convert to Islam) and the Ismaili community (to stop their educational projects in Gilgit), or face death. Can the law enforcers nab these thugs and provide security to the minorities and the disadvantaged in the community?

Newsline received a copy of a telling letter from Amnesty International to the President of Pakistan, pleading the case of two British Pakistanis. One of them is a 72-year-old Ahmadi, who was arrested for reciting a passage from the Quran — a prohibited act for Ahmadis under the blasphemy laws, punishable by death. He has been granted bail, but he has been facing death threats ever since.

The other is a 69-year-old, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, who has been sentenced to death under the same laws, after he allegedly wrote letters claiming he was a prophet. Not so long ago, a young Christian girl, who suffered from Down’s Syndrome, had to leave the country when she was similarly framed under the country’s blasphemy laws.

Should all Christians, Ismailis and Ahmadis follow suit and leave the Quaid’s Pakistan? Why are we so outraged by the doctored image of the father of the nation — if only to make a point?

Why aren’t we outraged by those who have actually disfigured this country?

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