THE CULTURE OF TERROR IN PAKISTAN.
|Dr. Stephen Gill
Terror is an extreme form of fear. And fear is one of the primitive, violent and usually crippling emotions. Fear leads to insane actions and/or reactions which can prove fatal. Take the case of an ordinary animal like a cat. The
|Pakistan was built on the foundation of fear, including the fear of the exploitation of the minorities by the majority. Fear did not disappear within the territory of the new Muslim country. Quite the contrary, it kept emerging rather more violently.
The rulers of Pakistan kept broadening the list to spread more fears. The list culminated in the rule of Zia-ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988. "Since the days of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s and the military regime of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq that followed, Pakistani leaders have often sought to do deals with religious parties for short-term political gains. Pakistani critics say this political cover has allowed the extremists to flourish.
In order to tighten the grip of rein, Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan, divided the citizens with a sword of fear and other means. He was successful in his purpose because the atmosphere of religious bigotry was already there from the day one in the life of Pakistan. When
the rest of the world was thinking of removing the death penalty, because this penalty has not lessened crimes, Zia was in favour of it. Though petitions came to him for compassion, he never converted any death penalty into life imprisonment. He proved his stand by approving the death penalty of his friend prime minister Zulfikar Bhutto by hanging.
It would be incorrect to say that Zia did that for justice. If that were so, he would not have ever gotten himself declared above the law. There was a sharp increase in the number of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments handed down by the military courts. He formulated religious
laws on drinking, adultery and theft that did not reduced crimes. On contrary, the laws opened the doors to opportunities for additional corruption. Smuggling, gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging flourished under the protection of the administrators of his government.
During the reign of Zia, religion dominated politics. Prayers became obligatory in all government offices. At the campuses, members of Jamaat-e-Islami were encouraged to beat any student who demonstrated against the government. The crop of fear developed further. There were killings between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as between the refugees (Mohajors) and the local Muslims. Zia divided refugees and fomented the killings of one another. Zia's black laws of blasphemy and the long history of martial laws have created nothing but fear in the land where the worst genocide of the twentieth century has taken place when the subcontinent was divided. The black laws of the twentieth century have created fear not only in the minorities, but also among other citizens who belong to the main stream. The Muslims themselves are killing one another even in mosques, where life is supposed to dwell. There are movements to declare even Shias a minority. One can go one step further to say the whole nation is being crushed under the weight of fear.
This is the land where one can buy any number of witnesses for the court with only a few cents each. This is the land where illiteracy is one of the highest. This is the land where churches of different denominations were united for the first time in the history of two thousand years. This is the land where churches for the first time have participated directly in politics due to fear. This is the land where the worst type of laws, the black laws of the century, have been imposed to defend the majority, instead of defending minorities as it should be.
Zia-ul-Haq ruled Pakistan by dividing the nation chiefly through the blasphemy laws which were the time bombs tied to the bodies of the tiny minorities and whose remote control were in the hands of fanatic Muslims. He died in an air crash with one or two Americans of high diplomatic ladder. At the death of Bishop John Joseph, the son of Zia said that even if a hundred thousand Christians commit suicide, including the Pope, Pakistan would not change blasphemy laws. In other
words, the laws which have spread terror can be changed only by a much stronger hand of terror or by a large number of sacrifices of innocent citizens like Bishop John Joseph to make people aware to these time bombs.
Amnesty International in July 1994 reported about the persons who were tried under the blasphemy laws:
"The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities or non-conforming members of the majority community; hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage."
"The law quickly became a nightmare for Christians. Religious extremists began to apply the measure against their opponents or in order to settle personal disputes, including those relating to property and jobs.
"In addition, the legal procedures involved in enforcing the law were, in themselves, prejudicial to Christians. Anyone charged under Section 295-C may be arrested without a warrant. The offence is non-bailable and the trial is presided over by a Moslem judge. The victim of 295-C is stigmatized even before the case is brought to court. Often, he loses honor, property and, in some cases, his life as well"
The same publication quotes Asama Jehangir who was the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She "argued that the blasphemy law is being misused to create anarchy in the already complex society of Pakistan. She gave the example of several extra-judicial murders as manifestations of the general atmosphere of intolerance which is being fomented by the law.
Pakistan has gone through fearful periods of martial law administration for more than 25 years since 1947, when it came into existence. To combat the terror of the martial law administration, several organizations came up with the aim of terror to intimidate the administration and supporters of the administration. To match it, the administrations used more terror and more promises. Pakistan was declared an Islamic republic. To strengthen his grip, Nowaz Sharif, the
latest prime minister, come up with more ideas to implement even more fearful punishments for the citizens, such as flogging, stoning and amputation of parts of the body in public places. Zamir Niazi condemns him for his destruction of the national institutions in Pakistan.
Mujahid Hussain details the killings committed by religious groups like Sipa Sahaba, Sipa Mohammad, Sipa Abbas, Mukhtar Force, Tahrik Jafaria and others in Sawan. These religious extremist organizations recruited notorious killers and other law-breakers, providing them with refuge and weapons. The article names some brains behind these groups. The article says that the head of the Sipa Sahaba, Maulana Zia-ulrehman Farooki, had organized his extremist force because of the mild policies of Sipa Sahaba, a fundamentalist religious outfit. Every member of these
organizations was taught how to use weapons and to believe in killing for revenge, for peace and to compel the government and opposition to accept their policies. It has been found that the anarchy in the country was largely due to these extremist groups because of their belief in terror. They had their offices in different parts of Panjab and Karachi to employ people for killing.6 Pakistan has become a most fertile land for the development of terrorists. Bishop John Joseph tried to bring this fact several times to the attention of the peace-loving world
Bishop John Joseph once said in Christian Voice :
"The extremists have set up training centres in different parts of Pakistan to train young boys in religious bigotry and handling all sorts of weapons. There was no dearth of the latest weaponry because part of the big amounts of armament coming from all over the world, meant to be
used in Afghanistan against the Russian Communists, went to these centres. It was said that one could buy a military tank of the latest model in Peshawar or Karachi at a bargain price.
"These young, extremely well trained terrorists became religious robots programmed to kill in the name of religion. Religious killings are, very sad to say, going on even these days, all over Pakistan. These fanatics are killing Christians, Ahmaddiys, Sunnis and Shias. They do not hesitate to enter a mosque in order to kill the praying congregation, even court premises are not sacred to them. They are ready to kill any number of innocent by-standers in order to get their victim.
"All over Pakistan we find people who are motivated on religious grounds to accuse non-Muslims or even Muslims of a different sect, of having said, written or behaved against Islam or the Quran. There have been cases where a server (Khadim) in a Mosque is caught red-handed burning copies of the Quran. When asked why he did it, his answer: I was told to do it for the greater glory of Islam because some Kafir(infidel, blasphemer) will be accused, punished and eliminated through this act.
David Paul, president of Pakistan Christian Community Council from Lahore brings up the same issue of terrorism when he says:
"According to the liberal press media in Pakistan, hundreds of Islamic religious schools, called madrassas, are run by different Islamic religious political parties and groups that were allowed and funded by General Zia-ul-Haq, military ruler, are the camps where terrorism is taught, promoted and reported in very scientific lines. Many Muslim and other countries have complained that the ground of Pakistan is being used for international terrorism. Even the former Prime Minister of Pakistan had admitted this fact as she demanded help from the USA to curb religious terrorism in Pakistan. Heaps of the latest sophisticated automatic weapons have been hoarded, used for training and active operations in these Islamic centres. This is not only a threat to the non-Muslim of Pakistan but this is alarming threat to the global peace, particularly to the western world. These words have been voiced by the Clon Communication Center in Germany.
Mr. David Paul writes about what he saw, read, heard and experienced personally. He holds a responsible position in the community and is active for the restoration of dignity and rights to Christians. He confesses that every Muslim is not a terrorist in Pakistan. Most Muslims want to live in peace in a tolerant atmosphere. He further states from his experience and study that 20 religious parties of Islam are instigating illiterate Muslims against the Non-Muslims. They convince those illiterates to patronize holy wars to bring the glory of the past to Muslims; moreover to enter heaven.
This hatred is being preached openly. That is what India Today reports in the September 14, 1998 issue. The students of these institutions do not want geographical borders for Muslims. They want unity for their fight and culture of gun or terrorism or whatever one may call it. When the world is clamouring for unity in love, peace, and survival, these students want religious unity by silencing others with guns. That is what Zia wanted to achieve.