RIP National Action Plan

Just in the past couple of weeks I have come across a slew of Punjabi clerics of various sects committing hate speech and incitement to violence in full public view. I was staggered by the sheer number of such incidences, but did not see any reports of these gents being apprehended to face the law. Most of these incidents happened in Punjab. What is even more shocking than their freedom to openly carry on thus when government and military establishment do not tire of telling us how effectively they are fighting the war on terror in this country through the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), is that they are either receiving peace awards from obscure and mysterious but government run bodies, or actually threatening and persecuting peaceful citizens with help of government machinery.

These occurrences have come thick and fast on the heels of the damning Quetta Commission Report of last month investigating the attack in August 2016 on Quetta’s Civil Hospital wiping out almost the entire senior cadre of lawyers belonging to the Quetta bar and injuring scores of others. The Punjab incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence more than validate those areas of the Quetta Commission Report that hold the government criminally derelict in its duty to implement the NAP plan to target the nurturing and propagation of violent ideologies.

In one recent clip, one Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a Punjabi Barelvi cleric who travels all over Punjab addressing gatherings, is opening glorifying Mumtaz Qadri, killer of governor Salman Taseer and inciting violence against all those who still speak against the killing, or salute the slain governor, and or call for the release of the alleged blasphemer (Christian woman, Asia Bibi) the governor tried to rescue from the predatory and unfair blasphemy laws of the country. The governor’s fifth death anniversary is merely two days away. Obviously, at such a time not only is he remembered, but calls to free Asia Bibi are renewed together with calls on putting fetters on these hate mongers.

In another clip Rizvi is seen openly violating the government ban on the use of loud speakers to arouse religiously motivated hate. The icing is that he is using the loudspeaker to curse government in the most violent terms for the very restriction on loudspeakers, portraying the ban as against loud praise of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). He adds ‘Pakistan belongs to the Prophet’ (PBUH) to bolster his defiant use of the loudspeaker. However, there is no word on him being apprehended.

Another video to have surfaced is that of one Maulvi Sabir addressing a crowd in a mosque, abusing both slain Governor Salman Taseer and his son Shaan who had issued a video statement on Facebook wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and bidding everyone to keep in their thoughts at this time ‘especially those unfortunate people who had become victim of religious extremism and Pakistan’s inhuman blasphemy laws’. The vitriol of Sabir flays Shaan in the most violent and abusive terms.

Shortly thereafter, video evidence emerged of a large crowd of clerics from the Sunni Tehreek (ST) led by Maulana Mujahid Abdul Rasool Khan, President ST Lahore Division, having surrounded the Station House Officer (SHO) of a local police station in Mughalpura, Lahore to have a case registered against Shaan Taseer for his Christmas video message. The video of this occurrence is eye opening. Punjab Police known for its arrogance and rudeness towards ordinary citizens, has its SHO standing respectfully and listening meekly to this large crowd of clerics, murmuring his agreement with all they say and promising to revert soon to meet their demands.

The application the Sunni Tehreek submitted for registering a case against Shaan Taseer is instructive: it ‘accuses’ Taseer of calling Section 295(c) (of the blasphemy law) inhuman; of praying for Asia Bibi and other ‘gustakhan-e-rasool’ (blasphemers, but literally means those who disrespect the Prophet); of Shaan being a ‘gustakh’ (blasphemer) for having prayed for a blasphemer and having sympathy for a blasphemer; of having hurt Muslims’ religious sentiments by calling 295 (c) inhuman.

Before I move forward, it is important to understand the cunning of the Sunni Tehreek. The Blasphemy Law consists of four sections. Section 295, deals with defiling places of worship with a two year sentence, Section 295 (a) deals with malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings with 10 year imprisonment, Section 295 (b) deals with defiling etc. of the Quran with life imprisonment, and Section 295 (c) deals with disrespect of the Prophet Mohammed and a mandatory death sentence. Shaan had only referred to ‘the inhuman law’, not to any specific section of the law. But Sunni Tehreek’s complaint deliberately and falsely focused on 295 (c) so as to have a case registered against Shaan Taseer under Section 295 (c) that mandates death, not just by the state but also by the lynch crowds.

Barely twenty four hours had passed during which this video of Sunni Tehreek clerics pressuring the police was making the rounds of social media, invoking outrage at the audacity of the terror tactics of the Sunni Tehreek, that the bombshell came of a case actually having been registered against Shaan for hate speech under Section 295 (a). The fact that the police managed section (a) instead of section (c) is a small mercy in these dark times. But in the mind of the ordinary man on the street who does not know the technicalities, this would hardly matter. For the multitudes, Shaan is now a blasphemer, a ‘gustakh-e-Rasool’.

Human rights activists are reeling in disbelief. Far from arresting and prosecuting the violent extremists, the state has registered a case against a peace monger. This is the not the only reason the civil society says the National Action Plan (NAP) is napping. However, the best is yet to come.

Only a few days ago a photo emerged on Social Media of the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs presenting a ‘peace award’ to Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi at a gathering of the National Peace Council. Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi is son of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the anti-Shia cleric who founded the Sipah-e-Sahaba, and Masroor is himself a virulent anti-Shia hate spewing cleric who happens to be on the fourth schedule of the Anti Terrorism Act. The dysfunctionality of the NAP is further demonstrated by the fact that he was cleared by the Election Commission of Pakistan to contest elections for the Punjab Assembly from Jhang. He went on to contest and won the seat on 1st December 2016, backed by the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ), another sectarian terror organization. In just one of the ASWJ rallies at Rahim Yaar Khan, Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi is on record as having said that Sunnis were allowed to declare Shias as non Muslim, before glorifying Malik Ishaq and Ghulam Rasool Shah of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and vowing to continue their mission of killing Shia Muslims and threatening the DPO of Rahim Yaar Khan and the entire Police Department to never oppose ASWJ and never support the local Shia population.

When I checked to see what the National Peace Council was (the organisation that awarded Jhangvi the peace award), what were its mission and activities and for what exactly it had given the award to Masroor Jhangvi, I found its full name to include in smaller script ‘for interfaith harmony of Pakistan’. Its website is i.e., having a government domain name, with absolutely no information on its activities or how it promotes interfaith harmony. The ‘news’, ‘events’ and ‘gallery’ tabs contain nothing. One of the two tabs that contain anything is the ‘our team’ tab which provides pictures and names of large central and provincial teams. The other ‘Broshar’ (brochure) tab also contains several names and pictures. But the first page of the brochure has only two pictures, with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on top, and ex-COAS General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kyani beneath. I have yet to discover the services Mr. Jhangvi was awarded for.

Rest in pieces National Action Plan.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter 

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