Brelvi Taliban!


A most dangerous place

Ahmadis may be killed with impunity because their persecution by a significant segment of society is ignored by the state and the government of the day. PHOTO: REUTERS

The All-Pakistan Students  Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Federation haskilled another Ahmadi in Faisalabad, the city where the Barelvi school of thought has been allowing itself to become dangerously aggressive. Naseem Ahmad Butt was shot to death by four youths calling himwajibul qatl (worthy of being killed). The wajibul qatl verdict was given in a pamphlet distributed in the city earlier by the authoritative-sounding Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatam-e-Nabuwwat and the All-Pakistan Students Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Federation, Faisalabad. The police were informed but they did nothing, feeling safe behind their routine categorisation of the crime as ‘blind murder’.

The state of Pakistan must look carefully at this pattern of behaviour. Ahmadis may be killed with impunity because their persecution by a significant segment of society is ignored by the state and the government of the day. Then comes the turn of the Shias and other sects who are not considered outside the pale of faith but who are still, nonetheless, target by extremist fellow Muslims who consider their views heretical. Faisalabad has been dominated for a long time by the Ahle Hadith and Deobandi schools of thought but the the Barelvis are also gaining in influence, and they are not to be left behind in their persecution of the Ahmadi community. This is ironic since the Deobandis, for instance, don’t see eye-to-eye at all with the Barelvis on most faith-related matters and both hurl invective, and sometimes much more, at one another.

The Punjab government has to answer for the deaths that have happened under its rule and this includes not just Ahmadis, but also others, including several Christians, all killed by sectarian and jihadi outfits, primarily in Lahore last year. In the public eye, the view that the Punjab government may perhaps have a soft spot for jihadis is reinforced when its law minister meets and campaigns, prior to a by-election, with the leader of a banned sectarian outfit. This could be part of its strategy to gain a foothold in southern Punjab, since long a PPP stronghold, but such a tactic could be lethal for the province’s population of vulnerable people. In the process, Pakistan and its social contract are dying a slow death. The pamphlet mentioned above lists 50 Ahmadis who have to be killed in order to “achieve entry into Paradise”. It says the killers will be given a place under the flag of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the chosen place of luxury in the hereafter. The youths of Faisalabad, blighted by loadshedding and religious hatred, will now betake themselves seriously to the transaction of achieving precisely this, while the state sits by and does nothing. Quite shockingly, the Faisalabad police chief says he has no information about the pamphlets which brazenly name the threatening organisation. The fact of the matter is that the Punjab police is but a reflection of society in general, and is filled with people who have nothing but hatred for those from minority communities, or even for those who stand up in support of them. In Karachi, there is the Sunni Tehreek which is far more aggressive.

In June this year, an Ahmadi place of worship was threatened with assault from a nearby mosque. The threat came from a cleric who knew that his outfit was weaponised and could kill just as easily and with as much impunity as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The Barelvis were never taken to jihad by the Pakistani state but they have made up in virulence by embracing two laws that have brought infamy to Pakistan: the Second Amendment apostatising the Ahmadis; and the Blasphemy laws.

The state of Pakistan, after having declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims, has to protect them the way it is committed, under law and religion, to protecting minority communities. Its failure in Faisalabad to come to the help of the targeted Ahmadis is symptomatic of the terminal phase of its existence. Hatred and extremism are becoming the hallmarks of the sociology of the state.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th,  2011.

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