By Amulya Ganguli
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism made almost all Muslims a suspect in the eyes of officials and even ordinary people. In airports across the world, especially in the West, someone with a name like Khan or Ahmed or Mohammed would be scanned far more closely than other immigrants. Hence, Shah Rukh Khan’s line in his film, My Name is Khan, that although he carries the name, Khan, he is not a terrorist.
But, the suspicion persisted and must have been strengthened by the latest horrifying Peshawar tragedy. It is yet to be seen, however, whether the massacre will make Pakistan blur the distinction it has made so far between “good” terrorists, who are supposed to be its strategic assets against India, or the “bad” terrorists who do not differentiate between a democracy and an Islamic republic until the latter is turned (along with the former) into a part of a worldwide Caliphate where the Shariah will be the law of the land.
Till now, the malevolence of the terrorists manifested itself in the random killing of civilians and security forces by setting off bombs in crowded places or attacking fortified camps. Attacks of this nature fitted in with the general perception of how ideologically-driven criminals might operate. But, few in their wildest dreams would have imagined a deliberate carnage of school children.
It goes without saying that conceiving such a horrendous plan requires a satanic mindset which is beyond the comprehension of normal people. The Peshawar tragedy, therefore, has deepened the blackness with which the terrorists are associated and, consequently, raised questions about the guiding principles of their faith. The perception of ingrained flaws in the creed will be strengthened by the refusal of clerics like Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad to condemn the unspeakable barbarity. As a result, it may become increasingly difficult to argue that the terrorists represent only a warped version of the dogma.
While the Maulana is at least honest about his vile prejudice, there are others like Pervez Musharraf and Hafiz Saeed’s brother-in-law, Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, who have sought to deflect attention from the psychopathic fundamentalists by blaming India, and specifically the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), for the butchery. Given these despicable attitudes , Pakistan itself will come to be regarded as a country which willfully harbours a particularly perverted brand of villains for serving its anti-India objectives even if its sinister game plan has occasionally backfired on it, as at present.
In this respect, Pakistan is different from all other Islamic countries, none of which can be said to have bred snakes in the backyard, to quote Hillary Clinton, for the purpose of biting the neighbour. Even if it is really the military and a creepy intelligence agency which hatched the malignant plot to avenge Pakistan’s 1971 dismemberment by India and the Bangladeshi freedom fighters by nurturing snakes, Pakistan’s political establishment and civil society cannot be totally absolved of their guilt.
There is little doubt that they acquiesced in the creation of a medieval atmosphere of hate and vindictiveness aimed at infidels, including non-Sunni Islamic sects in their own country. Nothing exemplified this poisonous attitude more than the fact that the killer of a governor for alleged apostasy was showered with rose petals by lawyers when he came into the court to face the trial of murder.
Not only that, one of the lawyers has now become a judge and the judge who convicted the killer has had to flee the country. It is worth recalling that a Pakistani commentator told a programme on an Indian television channel that judge who gave bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was behind the Mumbai massacre of November 26, 1908, must have been scared, not least because one of the prosecutors in the cast has been shot dead.
Clearly, the Pakistan army and the ISI alone cannot be blamed for making the country fall of the map of the civilized world. It has been customary for Pakistani interlocutors to blame America for the rise of terrorism. There is some truth in the charge. After all, Osama bin Laden was one of the snakes who was reared by the US to fight the Soviet Union.
But, it was Pakistan which welcomed the Americans to the region to bolster Islamabad militarily and diplomatically against India. It was only after the demise of the Soviet Union that Washington felt that it no longer had any reason to stand by Pakistan. Deprived of American aid, the Pakistan army turned to foster the terrorist as its “strategic assets” to take on India. But, with the typical tunnel vision of army men, the Generals probably did not foresee that the
The scene has been made even worse for Pakistan by the absence of democracy, which prevented the growth of an enlightened middle class, capable of exercising a restraining influence on the army and acting as a check on the radicalization of young men and women. Now that Islamic militancy has become a Frankenstein’s monster, the liberal elements in Pakistani society, never a major group, have not only become more marginalized than ever before, but are also scared of speaking out lest they be killed by the degenerate extremists.