Another tragic day. A mob attacks a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the Holy Quran and then burn their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked. Religion, class, bigotry and exploitation all mixed up. Reminds me of another piece that I wrote in 2012 on the burning of a blasphemy accused and the inability of law/state/police to salvage the situation.
After the brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January 2011, we had given up the hope of even holding a debate on man-made colonial laws on blasphemy. The voices that were asking for a review of the legislation had to retreat as the majority Sunni-Barelvi interpretation captured public discourse. Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri was defended by the same lawyer who viewed ‘rule of law’ as an articulation of a personalised, anti-democracy and Sharia-compliant version of justice. The fact that a former chief justice of Lahore is Qadri’s lawyer reflects the inherent biases and indoctrination that have spread in our society. If a billionaire, liberal politician could be murdered on the streets of Islamabad, what hope does a supposedly deranged man in the deep south of Punjab have?
The rise of vigilantism is also indicative of state failure. Not long ago, we witnessed the inhuman lynching of two young men in the Sialkot district where the state machinery stood by and extended tacit support to ugly scenes of dead bodies being paraded around. A few months later, I was invited to a television talk show where, to my surprise, I was surrounded by a lawyer and a so-called aalim (religious scholar). During the show, the cheerful aalim continued to find obscure and irrelevant references to justify mob-lynching as a kosher form of justice. Continue reading →
As if the ongoing political crisis was not enough, we are in the middle of a natural disaster, once again. As before, the state appears to be woefully unprepared. More than 23 districts in Punjab, 10 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and five in Gilgit-Baltistan have been affected by the September rains killing more than 270 and affecting 2.4 million people. The federal government says that nearly 45,000 houses have been damaged and 1,544,653 acres of irrigated lands have been inundated thereby impacting livelihoods.
Taken by surprise, the federal and provincial governments are running around undertaking rescue work with plenty of photo-op sessions. The Pakistan Army remains the most resourceful arm of the government and has rescued thousands of stranded people. Once again, the detractors of democratic governance — many of whom are assembled on the streets of Islamabad — view this calamity as another sign of failed ‘fake democracy’.
If media reports are true then the current government, despite briefings, did not accord disaster risk reduction the priority it needed. If anything, the disturbing scenes of a submerged Lahore made a mockery of the Metro Bus glory that was achieved only a year ago. Without a local government, proper drainage and early warning systems, Lahore’s development meant nothing for all those who suffered in the rains. Continue reading →
MQM’s legislator Tahira Asif has been killed after being shot 4 times by “unknown” assailants in Lahore two days ago. She raised the issue of cleaning Punjab University from Al-Qaeda elements. My tweets!
“South Punjab, in particular, the districts of Multan and Bahawalpur…, have a vast range of cultural assets. the living culture of the communities carries influences of the inherited ancient civilizations and historical past which flourished in this region and has permeated their present day culture and its expressions. Cultural zones within these two districts are discernable which have infused the living culture of communities influencing their lifestyle, value system and world view; giving the South Punjab region a distinct cultural identity reinforced through their shared language, Saraiki. the earliest, dating back to 3800 BCE, is that of the Cholistan desert, the Rohi made famous by the region’s premier Sufi Saint Khawaja Ghulam Fareed. Although the built assets are contained within the desert yet its intangible expressions of poetry and oral narratives, song and dance is embedded
within the culture of the region, in particular Bahawalpur. The influences of the material culture of the ancient people of the Hakra Valley Civilization can still be found in the pottery making traditions and in the motifs and designs which continue to be used. The other identifiable culture ethos permeating the living culture of the region is that engendered by the advent of the Sufi saints in the 10th century onwards. The Sufi philosophical and material culture emanated from the ancient cities of Multan and Uch Sharif, the central abode of mystical Islam in the region, which had far reaching impact on the whole of South Punjab and further into Sind and Northern India. the erstwhile Bahawalpur State (1802-1955 CE) has also had deep influence on the culture of the district and the built form engendered during the State period has left an indelible mark on the built environment of the
entire area, most prominent in its capital city, Bahawalpur and the twin capital Dera Nawab Sahib….”
Read the full report by UNESCO here: http://unesco.org.pk/culture/documents/publications/Cultural_Expressions.pdf