Feb 21, 2006 2:00 pm


I had an inkling that something is afoot in Pakistan. Apparently, the Islamists are getting ready for Bush's March 3rd visit. But what really broke my heart is this cry of anguish:

Whether consciously or otherwise – this blog generally remains silent on issues of politics; atleast for me, I’ve never felt a need to voice potentially divisive (and more importantly, perhaps pointless) opinion on a place I’ve always thought of as a little cubby hole celebrating the rich, liberal culture of desi lands.

But recent events in back home, resulting from—or so they tell us—the cartoon controversy have driven me into breaking this silence. As usual, whilst the ‘liberals’ stand by motionless, as the engines of government stand hostage to the tyrannies of the religious establishment, another piece of society falls and dissolves into the brimming ocean of intolerance, of violence and cruelty. It just isn’t about religion any more; well perhaps it is – but only as a means to an end. For certainly who stands on the parapet to convince others that religion-any religion-condones torching KFC workers alive, that allows motorcycles belonging to the poor to be lined up and burnt, even while their owners stand by weeping and powerless, that encourages ransacking call offices selling mobile SIMS can be nothing short of pure unadulterated evil.

Banks, even Pakistani ones were apparently especially complicit in the publishing of the cartoons, for what other reason could there be for legions of crazed seminary students to be targeting them? It certainly couldn’t have anything to do with the defiling presence of money, the holy after all, have no need for such worldliness.

But they certainly have shown remarkable foresight – as they felt society slowly turning away from them, the reigns loosening under the welcome shade of accretive liberalism; they realized the importance of this event as the ‘perfect storm’ they could unleash to turn society towards them again – and more importantly, turn against the moderation of Musharraf.

Only a couple of days ago – journalists such as BBC’s Aamer Ahmed Khan ascribed the remarkable lack of protests in Pakistan to a feeling amongst the Mullahs that there was no political capital to be gained. This however was just the calm before the storm – time spent conniving and planning the events, this was no spontaneous combustion, no ad-lib conflagration, but a choreographed and contrived outburst.

Ultimately, there is no love lost between me and these Mullahs of doom, I have never expected any better of them and they certainly have delivered. What angers me is also perhaps not so much the destruction itself – for anybody that has lived through the roaring nineties in Karachi, wonton infliction of anarchy is a fact of life -what truly grieves me, is how in this perverse situation, those who have planned this see no irony in using religion to make miserable the lives of those already stuck in the wretchedness of perpetual penury.

The rich have their armed guards, their friends in high places, and the mobs stay clear. The poor however, have no one to protect them and so must learn to see their valuables, and even their loved ones go up in flames stroked by ‘fire accelerating chemicals’.

I saw a young man cry on Geo as a line of motorcycles burnt in the background – the motorcycle is gone he wailed, but not the loan that he took out for it. Far away, in an upturned monstrosity of marble, a long dead soul may just have wept with him.

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