Last week was an eventful one, to say the least.
Much praise has been directed towards the current PML-N led government for hanging convicted murderer, Mumtaz Qadri to death. He was executed five years after he killed then Governor Punjab, Salmaan Taseer in cold blood. Terming his deep love for the Prophet as the reason, Qadri insisted Taseer had committed blasphemy and didn’t deserve to live anymore.
The backlash that government had long feared was lesser than expected. Despite a few rallies in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, his supporters failed to pull a large crowd to protest his execution. However, his funeral was huge and attracted people from all walks of life.
Forced censorship of media helped contain the sentiments as the mainstream media channels giving minimum airtime to the news of his execution and the protests that followed.
On the same day, few hours after Qadri was executed, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won another Oscar for her documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. A brilliant filmmaker with a heart that aches for the oppressed ones in Pakistan, Sharmeen was congratulated by people from all over the world.
In Pakistan, however, the situation was somehow different. Her win was celebrated by many on social media, calling it a ‘proud moment’ for Pakistan. The other, and majority section of online users in Pakistan, called it a conspiracy to defame Pakistan. ‘Why else would West award a Pakistani otherwise?’ was their argument, followed by ‘She would have made a documentary on Edhi or drones but she chose to make one on honor killings’.
This crowd conveniently forgot how thankful they were of Brandon Stanton when he unearthed bonded labor in Pakistan. The same crowd even forgot to notice the Oscar for best movie was given to Spotlight, which is based on a group of journalists who exposed child abuse in Catholic Church.
Ironically, the same crowd hailed Qadri as a hero. Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, in a column for this newspaper brilliantly observed, ‘We’re quick to disown people. Especially anyone outside the ‘Sunni Muslim straight man’ demographic that dominates most affairs in Pakistan. We’ve disowned two Nobel laureates largely because of their deviance from our preferred demographic.’
Despite such negativity, there was a ray of hope for a progressive Pakistan as the sun of 29th February died out. The state has finally decided to deal with extremism of all sorts with an iron hand.
This followed by Sartaj Aziz’s admission of housing Taliban leadership in Pakistan for years in a conversation at a US think tank. Although it is an open secret that Pakistani establishment considers Afghan Taliban as their strategic assets and has refused to give them up, the admission might be a pointer that Pakistan has finally realized that the Taliban are more of a liability and that supporting them would do no good to country’s security.
As I write this, Taliban have refused to take part in fresh talks with Afghan government. It is about time Pakistan forces them on table or threatens them of strict action otherwise.
As the end of the week approached, in a dramatic move, Mustafa Kamal, former mayor of Karachi resurfaced in Karachi. Taking Altaf Hussain to task, he ‘revealed’ a lot of information about the inner working of MQM. He criticized Altaf severely and accused him of destroying the lives of hundreds of his loyal workers.
While I am no fan of Altaf Hussain, the sudden return of Kamal with a ballistic press conference is a crystal clear proof of who is backing him.
Military establishment, for years, has dictated political terms to various parties – having disastrous results most of the time. MQM was endorsed by the country’s premiere spy agency in its initial years. Created to contain Benazir Bhutto’s influence, IJI under Nawaz Sharif was also the outcome of ISI’s political wing. The same MQM was later targeted in Karachi as its activists were killed hundreds in number.
Nawaz too was declared a traitor for allegedly ‘betraying’ the army at the height of Kargil War by negotiating ceasefire with India – a move, which according to many saved lives of hundreds of Pakistani Army soldiers.
Presently Kamal, like many others, has parroted the claim that MQM has been getting funds from Indian spy agency, RAW from the last 20 years.
General Musharraf patronized MQM for years during his rule as the dictator president of Pakistan. One wonders, was he supporting a RAW-funded organization? Mustafa Kamal, too was the member of MQM for years, shouldn’t he present himself before the law for operating as a RAW-funded agent himself?
Also, are our intelligence agencies so incompetent that they failed to realize the streams of money coming from RAW and spot thousands of MQM activists, which many claim went to India for training?
The simple answer is that establishment in Pakistan refuses to do their actual job and instead meddles into political affair. They have the power to create a party overnight, as Kamal announced one in his presser and can go any limit to destroy one too.
Recent events like NAB going out of control, political victimization of MQM and PPP in Karachi, presenting Uzair Baloch out of nowhere and now return of Mustafa Kamal suggests how deeply military is involved in political affairs behind the seemingly apolitical and professional COAS, General Raheel Sharif.
The bottomline is that the establishment must not insult the collective intelligence of Pakistani nation by deciding which party is good for us and which is not. Let the public decide that.
In the meanwhile, the fight to counter extremist elements in the society should continue because that is the area which requires their attention the most and it will be dishonesty on our part not to admit they have countered this menace well so far.