THE WAY IT WAS: Better safe than sorry? —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan
Most citizens in our country while condemning terrorism also resent being
kicked about in the name of combating terrorism. Some flaccid liberals have
welcomed the “kick in the right direction”. I find the idea of being kicked
revolting. The solution to our problems lies in reviving legitimate politics —
a course that we are not prepared to undertake — not a kick to our khaki butt
In Abu Gharaib prison the Iraqi prisoners were tortured and humiliated, “resulting from failure of leadership at the highest levels” (Reuter, Washington). Here in my country Qari Noor Muhammad was detained and tortured to death in police custody and ‘not a lice moved’. Let alone acceptance of responsibility at a higher level, even the assistant superintendent of police, a certain Sheikh Naeem, feigned ignorance of Qari’s death.
The Faisalabad police had detained Qari Noor for alleged connection with Al Qaeda. Later, he was shifted to a place near Lahore for questioning. In newspaper photographs of the corpse precisely inflicted wounds were clearly visible on his feet and in his face. It has been reported that there were other injuries on his body. However Kotwali police claimed that Qari Noor had died of a heart attack. According to one report his body was brought to the hospital 12 hours after his death.
It frightens me to think that almost anyone can be picked and detained on suspicion of having a link with Al Qaeda and put to police persuasion. To survive police hospitality for an evening, a person needs to have a strong heart. If an unfriendly heart unexpectedly ceases to function there is little the police can do. Bad luck. Many old cars have carburettors that can conk-off without warning, leaving the passengers stranded in the wilderness. Apparently that is what the devious imam of a local mosque did — died, leaving the innocent police stranded. What could the police have done under the circumstances? The two MMA leaders detained along with Qari Muhammad Noor were honourably released and the Qari himself was nimbly buried under the cover of darkness?
It is held that the people of Faisalabad have expressed their satisfaction with the police for its vigilance against terrorists. Apparently they were extremely pleased at Qazi Noor’s death and did not respond to MMA’s appeal to observe a strike to protest over Qari Noor’s ‘murder’. The police are once again back to work, tracking down terrorists and intimidating citizens while criminals walk the streets — in short, business as usual.
Before 9/11 no one knew that Al Qaeda even existed. Today they can be found almost anywhere in many forms. If the Chinese archaeologists could discover an army of terracotta soldiers under a pomegranate grove, is it unrealistic to assume that there can be bearded terrorists in the flesh hiding under domes of mosques. At one time our secret service could produce a communist from under every leaf. It is always better to be vigilant than to be sorry. The reader may recall how in a matter of a year, in the second decade of the 14th century, the bubonic plague spread from Crimea to Ottoman Turkey and then to Sicily, Sardinia and Provence. In the following few years with the exception of Poland it spread throughout Europe. In a space of three years, the Black Death, as it was called, claimed a quarter to one third of Europe’s population — frightening!
In the 21st century it is the scourge of terrorism that threatens the ‘free world’. Should that also make it a matter of concern for the ‘captive world’? Any person, who is even remotely suspicious of having come in contact with Al Qaeda or any one of its auxiliary bodies, even if it were a prayer mat, must be dealt with like a rat — without mercy. If such precautions are not undertaken the plague, we must all know, can rampantly spread and destroy the entire human civilisation. Some liberal elements as well as a visible sprinkling of ‘progressives’ have readily enlisted their support for the cause. They will not tire of denigrating politicians, highlighting human rights issues and the need for individual freedom but will not raise their small finger in support of a person who holds different views. Actually their vision of individual freedom does not stretch beyond their skin. A desi with a local beard is a totally different animal, the less of them the better. In fact all the loosewala who wear their shalwar above the ankles should be considered suspect. But, really, if some of us like wearing shorts why not let others wear slightly longer long shorts if they want to? It’s a shame that when it comes to others some of us liberals become so thrifty with our professed values?
Most citizens in our country while condemning terrorism also resent being kicked about in the name of combating terrorism. Some flaccid liberals have welcomed this intervention as a “kick in the right direction”. I find the idea of being kicked revolting. Hoping that somebody would benefit from being kicked in the right direction reminds me of an idiot who day after day lay under a tree hoping that the bair would fall into his mouth. The solution to our problems lies in reviving legitimate politics — a course that we are not prepared to undertake — not a kick to our khaki butt. When somebody falls ill he is still taken (fortunately) to a hospital, not parade ground. The problems of any society lie within itself and not somewhere else.
It is history now but there is no harm in reminding people that if Zia ul Haq had not enforced Marshal Law and executed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the (elected) government would not have caved under US pressure to wage the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. There would then have been no need to establish thousands of religious seminaries and scores of training camps to recruit and train jihadis. Those who mistakenly believe the President is pursuing a liberal agenda forget that it was the General in the first place who was instrumental in promoting the MMA in order to marginalise the mainstream political parties.
Even today the Musharraf Government would rather work with the MMA than forge an alliance with Benazir Bhutto. It is a matter of record that what the PPP advocated 10 years ago is being partially pursued now under duress. Unfortunately for Musharraf, politics is like the 14th century plague. He would rather despatch warplanes and tanks to repair the widening rifts in the Federation. He would rather encourage the interrogators to emulate the American experts of the Abu Gharaib fame and apply the skills to their fellow countrymen. He would rather be with bigots and pat poodles than work with the PPP, the biggest political party in the country; the party that instead of dividing the country into religious, linguistic and sectarian fragments unites the nation in its rich cultural diversity. PPP is the only truly liberal and federal party in the country. It is a national asset being wasted because of Mighty Musharraf’s whim.
Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and political activist