Sultan M Hali
THE monster of terrorism raises its head time and again in Pakistan. Coupled with religious intolerance, extremism has become akin to the mythical ten headed Hydra. In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was an ancient nameless serpent like chthonic water beast (as its name evinces) that possessed many heads—and for each head cut off it grew two more—and poisonous breath so virulent even her tracks were deadly. This monster was so poisonous that she killed men with her breath, and if anyone passed by when she was sleeping, he breathed her tracks and died in the greatest torment. According to legend, the Hydra of Lerna was killed by Hercules as the second of his Twelve Labours. Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, though archaeology has borne out the myth that the sacred site was older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos since Lerna was the site of myth of the Danaids. Beneath the waters was an entrance to Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian.
In Pakistan, extremism has taken various forms. Sometimes it strikes in the form of attacks by terror mongers, who are prepared to hit a target of their choice at, will. Schools, hospitals, markets and places of worship have become their favourite objectives. Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have taken the brunt of the terror attacks. The LEAs are always prepared to thwart any nefarious designs of terrorists, but they foil one attack or capture miscreants, only to find that many more have taken their place just like the ten headed Hydra. The terrorists have demonstrated the highest degree of barbarism and brutality by targeting innocent civilians. At other instances, these harbingers of hate and revulsion take the shield of the controversial blasphemy law prevalent in Pakistan to target personalities and misuse the law to seek personal vendetta.
The latest casualty in this never ending feud with the portent of death and destruction is young Mashal Khan of Mardan, who was targeted for standing up to mismanagement by the University. His detractors struck back by laying baseless charges of blasphemy on Mashal Khan. An intolerant and extremist band of students lynched Mashal Khan, beat him up mercilessly and killed him in the name of preserving Islam. The truth soon dawned and the protagonists of the heinous attack were apprehended and tried. One culprit, found guilty of the crime was sentenced to death, while 26 others were released.
It is most unfortunate that the provincial leadership of religious political groups JUI-F, JI and Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) welcomed the 26 individuals released by the court in the Mashal murder case. The religious groups accorded a heroes’ welcome to those acquitted while they showered accolades on the individual found guilty and condemned to death. The religious group vowed to continue their struggle against associates of Mashal and raised slogans in favour of the main killer (Imran). Moreover, affiliates of different political and religious parties, mainly from JUI (F) and Awami National Party (ANP) also organized a rally against Mashal on February 09, 2018 in Mardan. They declared all the accused acquitted by the Anti Terror Court (ATC) to be “Ghazi” or “Fighters of Islam”. The religious and political parties tried to incite general public and heighten their emotions against the decision of the ATC and declared that they would subsequently challenge the verdict in Peshawar High Court.
It may be recalled that Punjab Governor Salman Taseer had been gunned down by his own security guard because he had taken a stand to revisit the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin was tried and sentenced to death yet he was hailed as a hero by the religious groups, who managed to draw huge crowds at his funeral. Religious intolerance and bigotry has permeated in the Pakistani society to such an extent that disagreement of views is construed as a terrible crime and dissent leads to murder and elimination. This heinous practice is in direct contravention to the tenets of Islam, which preaches tolerance. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself forgave his opponents and was kind and magnanimous towards those who chose to differ with him. How can those who bear the torch of love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH), kill and maim their fellow beings for mere difference of opinion. The masses being devoid of in-depth knowledge of Islam; get carried away by the emotional appeal to their so called reverence of Islam and The Holy Prophet (PBUH). It is imperative that the record is set straight in light of teachings of the Holy Quàân, the practice (Sunnah) and Hadith attributed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and research and studies of erudite scholars.
Even a cursory glance of the teachings show Islam to be a religion of mercy to all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no place for religious intolerance in Islam, but unfortunately it has pervaded the Pakistani society to such an extent that bigoted pseudo religious leaders have distorted the tenets of Islam and are preaching violence against perceived offenders against Islam. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was described as being a mercy in the Qur’an due to message he brought for humanity: “We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures.” (Qur’an 21:107) There is a dire need to ensure that intolerance and extremism is weeded out from Pakistani society otherwise it will spell doom for humanity.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.