September Issue 2012

By | Editorial | News & Politics | Opinion | Published 7 years ago

When the media reported the migration of 50 Hindu families from Tharparkar to India via the Wagah Border, following the rising incidents of kidnappings of Hindu businessmen for ransom and the forced conversions and subsequent marriages of Hindu girls to Muslim men, the government went into a state of vehement denial. The interior minister deemed it a conspiracy to defame Pakistan and wanted to institute an enquiry into why the India High Commission was issuing so many visas to the Hindu community.

It’s not just the minorities who are giving up on Pakistan. Is the honourable interior minister keeping track of the number of Pakistanis who have moved base and business to foreign shores to escape extortion, violence and the creeping Talibanisation in the country?

Every shameful act, every shocking incident is branded a “conspiracy” and swept under the carpet.

In the last one year, horrifying incidents of Shias being pulled out of buses in Mastung, Kohistan and Mansehra and gunned down brutally have come to light, as has the identity of the perpetrators who have publicised their vile acts with brazenness. The most recent incident saw 25 Shias being gunned down near Babuser Pass in Mansehra.

What has the government done about it, except blame it on the “foreign hand,” when it is fully aware of who the culprits are? Local militants, all. Not a single one of them has been arrested, prosecuted or convicted.

Is it any surprise then, that extremist groups are operating with impunity. Unfortunately, this brutality and intolerance is seeping into society insidiously. The lynching of an insane malang, in the presence of nearly 2000 witnesses in Bahawalpur last month — reminiscent of the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot — is a grave pointer to the depths of intolerance we have sunk to.

As is the most recent incident of the young Christian girl suffering from Down’s Syndrome, who has been accused of desecrating a religious book. Some locals, led by a religious cleric, are demanding that the police hand over the girl to them.

The role of religious clerics associated with mosques, who are playing a major role in inciting people to violent acts, needs to be thoroughly probed and held in check. Only recently, a concert featuring classical and pop musicians, scheduled at the Bhurban Cricket Stadium, had to be cancelled because religious clerics, using the mosque loudspeakers, threatened to disrupt it. Instead of taking these extremist bullies to task, the authorities caved in, yet again.

And now comes even more disturbing news: extremist groups are entering the education sector in a big way, by setting up English-medium schools. As if the madrassas were not enough to spread the hate word!

What is their intent? To educate more impressionable young men in the art of terrorising, bombing and beheading?

Will the powers-that-be move to stem the tide of intolerance that is engulfing us before it submerges us completely?

This article was originally published in the September issue of Newsline.

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