Ringside View and Introspection of Horror in Pakistan By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

A Sri Lankan was beaten to death and his body was burnt by an enraged mob in Sialkot over allegations of blasphemy. My first reaction was…ah Pakistan at it again! There is no doubt that Pakistan is now being eaten bone dry  from the insides by two piranas – sectarian divisions and ideological radicalism. They are well and truly devouring the nation. In this context I have chosen four articles which express undiluted opinion on the different facets of the problem confronting Pakistan. If I put it across blithely, in Pakistan , ‘the problem is the solution and the solution is the problem’. Pervez Hoodbhoy  opines that the nation is being Talibanised. Abbas Nasir opines that Pakistan is a blighted land which is poised at the edge of a precipe.   Fahid Hussain opines that while everyone is responsible for what Pakistan is, no one is really responsible. The DAWN editorial speaks of the descent of the nation into an abyss. There is no doubt in my mind that Pakistan is the sum of all these fears and is going to remain a major challenge for India in many respects. The challenge is more societal and cultural and greater in proportion than being merely security related. We need to think differently. The standard military thinking through the Kashmiri lens will get us nowhere. Ideologies cannot be defeated kinetically. We need to think politically….


However these articles also made me introspect. Many issues raised by the authors of the articles are equally applicable in India if not more. Let us be honest…we have had lynchings, murders and riots in the name of religion aplenty…some of them are our national shame…they have elicited similar outpourings with similar end results…it is time to look at our own mirror on the wall     and ask the question… ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all”. We might lie to ourselves. The mirror will not. As a nation, society and a democracy seeking to be a great power on earth and go where our destiny has preordained us to go based on our ancient  culture and civilisation, we need to have the guts to look in the mirror and accept the ugly image staring back at us. From many angles this image is getting uglier by the day. If this image is to be made tolerable we need some honesty within ourselves to recognise and accept the prevalent ugliness. We also need to have the vision and large-heartedness to take everyone along irrespective of his caste, creed or religion…unfortunately the start point of our politics are these three factors which get magnified and brought home at every election. In this respect, I admire the Pakistani authors…they have had the integrity of calling a spade a spade. Will we be able to do that….?

Headline :   Horror in   Sialkot  


Extract: Once again, we are reminded how far this nation has descended into the abyss. This time the sickeningly familiar ritual of savage violence was enacted in Sialkot where Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan national, was beaten to death on Friday over blasphemy allegations at the factory where he worked as a manager….The mob then dragged his mangled body out on the road and set it on fire, where individuals on the scene — as if to underscore their utter lack of humanity — took selfies with the burning corpse…What followed the grisly murder was predictable: condemnation by the political leadership, with the government vowing to punish the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. The army chief too, almost certainly because the victim was a foreign national, denounced “such extrajudicial vigilantism”… It is indeed a day of shame for Pakistan. Having repeatedly vented our bloodlust on our own, this time the extremists amongst us turned on an individual who was a guest in this country. 


Headline : The mutawwa are coming @


Excerpt :  ‘MUTAWWA’ is Arabic for the once-feared Saudi religious police. Tasked to implement behavioural standards set by oil-fuelled Wahabism, its wings have been clipped by the ongoing liberalisation sweeping the Middle East. But, under Imran Khan, Pakistan is flying elsewhere. To implement the government’s new Single National Curriculum (SNC), strict religious policing of public and private schools has begun. A Pakistani version of the mutawwa is emerging….. Reading the Quran under a maulvi’s supervision has been a normal, age-old practice in every Muslim household — including that of the writer. But dispatching law-enforcers to enforce a tradition is new and bizarre. Preliminary reports suggest province-wide confusion and chaos, and a state of fear among children, teachers, and school principals…. Grim-faced magistrates swooping down upon schools, destroying the authority of teachers and school principals, and putting terror into the hearts of all is a disgrace to the notion of education. It may not end here. How we dress, speak, and think is going to be increasingly policed. Imran Khan’s Pakistan is racing down the path to Talibanisation. Abbas Nasir feels that Pakistan is a slighted land. 


Headline Fiddling while Rome burns @


Extract : If you are filled with desolate despair and feel totally stripped of hope, rest assured you are not alone. Even the most optimistic among us are now being forced to acknowledge the utterly bleak reality because it has slapped them across the face….Sialkot was just another reminder, albeit a brutally harsh one, that sanity and our blighted land have parted ways. The fuse lit decades back when religion was deployed to fight foreign powers’ wars, and later manipulate public opinion to thwart the democratic process, has now raced to its explosive-laden home…. The man who called those opposing religious militancy and murderous extremism ‘liberal scum’ wants to talk to mass murderers and is trying to introduce religious studies in schools by force across the country… The result is that Pakistan is poised at the edge of the precipice. When I say so, many friends argue it has already gone over the edge. Despite my undiluted optimism, I too am losing hope, simply because there is no evidence of any organised attempt to stop the descent into self-harm of gargantuan proportions…. I can’t believe that those at the helm of the security state are unaware of this…their own institutional/ personal extended interests and their rather uninformed worldview of what is good for the country and what’s not holds supreme…Many may disagree but I also believe that the power of the security state is grossly exaggerated. Undeniably, it works wonders with compromised politicians…But come their own creation, ie the faith-driven monster, their helplessness reminds one of Dr Frankenstein’s. Their ‘roll them out, reel them in’ policy seems to have run its course and ‘reeling them in’ is proving difficult.


Headline Mirror, mirror on the wall…


Extract : No one is responsible for lynching a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot on Friday. Absolutely no one. That is the lesson we may as well internalise once we are done being shocked and outraged….Prime minister’s tweet of shock. Check. Chief mi­­nister’s expression of sadness and ordering of in­­q­ui­­ry. Check. Inspector general police’s vow to arrest the culprits. Check. DC/DPO’s arrival on the scene re­gistered in a ‘timely’ fashion. Check. Cabinet ministers’ random vows/ outrages/ condolences. Check. Official maulana/ ulema/ cleric reminder this is not what our religion teaches us. Check. Usual suspects’ denial of involvement. Check. And check, check, check… Then, just like that, it’s over. And done. And dus­t­­ed. Because, you see, no one is really responsible. Or everyone is. And when everyone is, no one really is… And so shall end the story that begins with us asking ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all. We lie. The mirror does not.

I am reminded of President Obama’s talk at Siri Fort in 2015 when he said that India would only succeed if it is not “splintered” on religious lines. To quote him  further “In all countries, upholding this [religious] freedom is the responsibility of the government and each person. Religion has been used to tap into the dark side of man,” On this count, Pakistan is miserably failing since it has exploited the dark side of man. Where are we? Introspect… 



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