Every day one wakes up to a beautiful winter morning. The air is crisp, with a nip, which is so conducive for invigorating early morning walks. It really is one of the loveliest times of the year. It is quite another fact that life is anything but beautiful for the common citizen, who is hounded and killed even as he mourns the tragedy of Karbala in Muharram - something he has done for centuries undisturbed in the subcontinent.

The majalis to recall and remember the supreme sacrifice made by Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) and all the members of his family for the sake of the religion introduced to the world by his grandfather Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) is a standing tradition among Shiite Muslims in India and Pakistan. A lot of non-Shiite Muslims attend these gatherings too.

For whatever sect one belongs to, the fact remains that the religion of Islam would have been wiped out, or at the very least, taken on an unrecognisable hue if Imam Hussain (RA) had not faced the forces of Yazid head on in Karbala.

One has to travel some distance in time to be able to correctly assess the impact of any incident. What must have appeared as victory to Yazid at that time was actually a massive defeat for all that he stood for - and what must have seemed like  defeat for Imam Hussain (RA) was a victory for all times for him and Islam both.

“I have learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory whilst being oppressed,” is a quote by Mahatama Gandhi. Leadership is always by example. A fact which does not hold true for those who are behind the ugly attacks on mourner processions and gatherings during the month of Muharram!

None of these cowardly leaders will fit their own sons and daughters with suicide jackets and tell them to blow themselves up to smithereens, in a bid for a front row seat in Paradise. The poor little 13-year old boy, who was luckily intercepted while on his way to blow himself up, along with his 21-year old handler, is a horrific reality. 

Look at the level of efforts being made to destabilise our country and of trying to change our way of life and the way we practice our faith. This, in a country that was conceived as a place where everyone would be free and safe to practice their religion - not just the Muslims, is the unkindest cut.

The Shia-Sunni divide is being artificially created by people, who want to wipe out all the indigenous traditions and culture of this mystic land and replace it with a fear-based version of a cruel system that has nothing to do with the essence of our beliefs. As in the divide between Yazid and Hussain, we cannot let this happen!

Allama Iqbal has summed up for us what an all encompassing leader of a nation is, as symbolised by Imam Hussain (RA):

“Kaum kya cheez hai,

Kaumon ki imamat kya hai,

Iss ko kya samjhain gai,

Ye baicharey do raqt kai imam.”

(What clue does the ordinary leader of prayer have about leading a nation.)

And talking about leaders and the recent D-8 Summit held in Islamabad - it can be a case study for how not to do an event. Why did somebody with authority not rule out having this event during the first 10 days of Muharram?

Even at the best of times it is unadvisable to plan something on this scale during these days. And so much more so in the times we unfortunately live in when attempts at disrupting processions and threats to life and limb are the rule, not an exception. It is to the safety of the citizens that all attention should have been focused, instead of the heads of states of the D-8 countries.

The visiting heads could not have taken home a good image of the country either with news of so many killed in Rawalpindi the same day and others in Karachi and Quetta the previous day.

Summits like the D-8 are primarily meant to foster a better understanding between countries and to boost trade and commerce between them. Beginning of Muharram was absolutely the wrong time for this activity as no cultural showcasing, which is always the fun part, could be done either. It is an opportunity wasted, despite millions being spent.

The festivity and the all-inclusiveness, which such a large activity must necessarily entail, to give citizens the feel that something so big and important was happening in their city, was altogether missing. In fact, the announced holiday made it seem like a foreboding instead, and signalled that it was better to stay indoors with most roads and traffic being blocked for the ordinary public.

Postscript: It is with quite some sense of ‘whatever goes around comes around’ that one hears the news of so many states in the USA wanting to secede! For so many years now one has seen truncated version of Pakistan’s map on the net leading people to think that the country as it stands today will disappear from the world. All of it came from American think tanks and their projections and predictions. Who could ever have imagined that 39 out of 50 American states will launch petition drives for secession so earnestly, as an official response from the White House becomes mandatory after it is signed by 25,000 people. As a folk song goes: “Ya Allah zaalimaan nu apni paa dai!”

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com