By Sabahat Ahmad Cheema
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens wrote these striking lines while giving an account of two growing cities – London and Paris – which were set in the best of times for some and the worst of times for the others. The epoch of 21st century brought the world closer in relations and faster in inventions and discoveries; making an ordinary man’s life standard higher, safer and more respectful. While, at the same time, the era turned out to be a curse for some. Terrorism, financial crisis, religious and social fanaticism, and emerging media’s hypocrisy made the life more gloomy for the oppressed communities in this period of enlightenment. The irony doesn’t end here. As the Western world progressed in knowledge and development, with the essential help of harmony and mutual cooperation; the East, and especially Muslim countries, kept their feet pacing backwards by successfully sticking themselves to some of the most irrational, inhuman, fascist and bigot notions of all times.
One does not need to do a deep digging for bringing out examples of such disappointing, saddening and shameful incidents of extremism and cruelty. Few weeks back when the whole world was celebrating Higgs Boson – the discovery-of-the-century – which is also known as “the God Particle” for its unique characteristics and significance, the electronic and print media of Pakistan successfully made sure not to highlight the key role of this country’s sole Noble laureate Professor Dr. Abdus Salam (1926-1996) in this discovery. Whereas, foreign media from across the world applauded and commended generously the part he played in his research in the field of theoretical Physics, and mourned that how the state and independent media of Pakistan shunned this unsung hero of the country. The world is pacing towards advancements in science and technologies, while we are, in the same pace, moving backwards in time. Maybe we need a new term like ‘reverse developing nation’ for my Pakistan.
In the past few months, religious intolerance and bigotry in this Land of Pure has reached new zeniths by accusing a minor girl with blasphemy, destroying the minarets of Ahmadiyya mosques, killing Shias mercilessly, forcing the Hindus to migrate, and the list goes on and on. I, for one, would say that most tragic of all these atrocities against the oppressed, in our near past, was the desecration and sacrilege of graves of Ahmadis in District Hafizabad and Jaranawala. One might disagree with the faith of the departed and argue with them diligently during whole their lives, but, dare I say, what good is the mob or police doing to the holy religion of Islam by destroying tombstones of the dead, or what harm are the deceased causing to the Divine faith? Again I ask, is Islam – the religion of peace, love and harmony – is so vulnerable that the mighty defenders of the faith have to seeks state’s help in destroying concrete tombstones from graves to protect Islam from dead infidels?
The Rimsha Masih case turned out to be a test for the state, as during the litigation of the trial, court came to know that the so-called self-righteous mullah Khalid Jadoon tempered with the evidence in order to strengthen the blasphemy case, being aware that she could be awarded capital punishment for this allegation under the PPC’s 295c. Much has been said and written about poor Rimsha’s case not only by government but the opposition as well. But did anyone talked about repealing such black laws which are totally against humanity, human rights, and freedom? The ignominious and infamous Ordinance XX by former president Zia and the Blasphemy law are a stigma on the Constitution of Pakistan and the state has been facing much opprobrium as its result because every now or then mob or mullah falsely accuses some vulnerable innocent soul and then we see him burnt alive, shot dead, or being served with capital punishment as in Asia Bibi’s case.
The fact of the matter is, that it is the job of our lawmakers and the state to make sure that no discriminatory or bias law should exist or misused. But there cannot be any hope in this issue until and unless political parties show their concern for the security and betterment of Pakistan’s persecuted minority groups. Few days back, leaders of PML-N shared stage with Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Khtam-e-Nabuwwat’s anti-Ahmadiyya Conference at Iwan-e-Iqbal Lahore. Same is the case with PTI who are a proud ally of DPC which has anti-Shia and Ahmadiyya elements in it. Words uttered by the former PM Gillani at Golra last month still echo in my ears, where he, on behalf of PPP, haughtily owned the 2nd amendment in Constitution of Pakistan in 1974 declaring the Ahmadiyya Community as non-Muslims. How can one hope for a light at the end of the tunnel when the torchbearers themselves are diligently spreading gloominess all around.
Dare I say that so far the acme of the current government in relation to such sensitive issues is the rapidly growing Shia genocide, escalation in persecution of Ahmadis, assassination of Salman Taseer and Shehbaz Bhatti, forced conversion of Hindus and their migration to India, and the list goes on. There is no need to remind the state administration, media and judiciary what Qaid said on August 11, 1947, but may I remind the worthy government, the People’s government as it claims to be, that it is the duty of the state to ensure the security and rights of every citizen.
The independent media makes sure not to mention the word ‘Shia’ when passengers in Gilgit or Hazara are lined up and shot dead after being identified as Shiaites. Did our electronic and print media report the desecration of Ahmadiyya graveyards in Hafizabad and Jaranwala? Even the Rimsh Masih case got some airtime only after the Western nations showed their concern over this shameful case. But let me refresh your memories. Not only Urdu but some English newspapers also, make sure to dedicate a large portion of their columns for hate campaign against the already persecuted communities. Electronic media tycoons happily or rather mercilessly hire and promote those televangelists who already have a nefarious record in spreading hate and who provoke their guests to show pride in being a ‘patriot’ from Bhopal! Where is the apex judiciary who takes notice of a slap, but doesn’t bother to look at the targeted atrocities faced by Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus? If the revered Supreme Court can repeal the Contempt of the Court Bill passed by the lawmakers, why can’t it take notice of the black laws like Ordinance XX and the 2nd Amendment? Can I trust ‘My Lords’ for ensuring basic rights of the citizens of this country?
I heartily pray that may we live in the best of times, not the worst of it, and this aeon of gloom ends very soon and we see a developed, prosperous, and safe Pakistan in our lives where life of every citizen is protected and justice prevails over everything.