The recent attacks in Lahore has triggered many articles, blogs, rigged by emotions. Attack on the Ahmedi mosques and attack on the Data Darbar. Yes both as many that went before should be condemned, but these two triggered more emotions than any. First one, because it was attack on the community that has been declared non-muslim and faces the hateful emotions every day. Second one because Data Darbar is considered to be centerpiece of Lahore, it’s place where hungry can get food, people come to pray and get peace., that’s the place where no one is stopped and everyone is welcomed, they say no one can die of hunger in Lahore, because there is Data Darbar. It is part of culture and to many part of their faith.
In these emotions, lots of people wrote a lot, unfortunately some of them in these emotions connected the things wrongly, they want to change the law, they throw blanket racist label for whole Pakistan, they say Pakistan is riddled with sectarianism. Yes it is, law needs to be changed, people do become racist. Sectarianism do exist. But during all this discussion many of them become too critical and less rational. Well, it irked me (because when there is too much emotion and less rational then these are just words not solutions) but not so much because atleast they were saying correct things.
What forced me to write this blog was this piece Sectarianism has poisoned Pakistan by Basim Usmani. He starts good and makes good point about remembering violence in which Shia community was targeted during 1990. Then he makes one big mistake, he says
To have a Pakistani passport requires citizens to assert that they are not part of the Ahmadiyya community.
Well that’s not true. Have a look at the PDF. I don’t want to discuss whatever a Govt. should have a say in declaring someone Muslim or non-Muslim, but what Basim is saying is factually incorrect and leads the readers to believe that Ahmadis are not given Pakistani Passport. One feels that he might just want to point out absurdity of such clause on the Passport, but later down he states that
Pakistanis must stress how being born or raised in their country is enough to be Pakistani; laws preventing Ahmadis from referring to themselves as Muslims were amended to the constitution by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s.
Again mixing two things, They are Pakistani. I have friends from many faiths, Suni, shia, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadi, etc… from Pakistan and I know few who did have their Passports.
I don’t doubt the poster’s sincerity, however I doubt his effort and effort by the Guardian to publish such essay without checking the facts. From here he starts looking like a person having very few first hand experience of actual life in Pakistan. For example he says
When you are pulled over by street police in any major Pakistani city, the first bit of information the police ask for is your family name. From one name your caste, religious beliefs and affluence is determined.
When police stops you they ask you for you licence and ,as they say, qaghzat (papers). The affluence is determined by the ride (car/bike) you are on not your name. I have been stopped many times in Lahore, sometime when I was driver and other times when I was passenger I don’t remember they asking your family name. They might ask your name but explicitly going for the family w.r.t knowing your influence name is quite a stretch. There are so many Chaudry’s in Lahore, there are Chistis, there are Gujjars, and these are the names used as last names I don’t think Police let’s you go just because you are Chaudry, yes dropping of few other names might play the game, but it is not dependent on your cast or religion. I have seen in US, sometime cops letting guys go (stopped for over speeding) because they were from the city where cop used to live or study, does that make them racist?
As for the name, my name, plus my father’s name plus my family name all indicate I am Shia (which I am not). Never in my life I have experienced discrimination from people who just knew my name . I did had little love affair with black pents and shirt, which is taken as signature of Shia in Lahore, and I never carry label on my head indicating I am Sunni. As I explained before I do have many Shia friends, in school and college years we do make fun of each other but never on each other’s beliefs. One of my best friends that I made during the college years is Ahmadi. He used to study with us, I don’t know if anytime he was stopped in college because he was Ahmadi.
I am not saying the sectarianism is not in Pakistan, it is there. I have heard so many times these sentences, like what face you will show to Hazrat Muhammad (S.W) if you have an Ahmadi friend, but when an Ahmadi is standing in your shop do people don’t sell them their things? Do people ask to see their ID cards when they meet you (I know it happens in Japan, they ask for your Name Card not ID card though) Are you not offered a job in Lahore if you are not from Lahore? Or you are not allowed admission in the college because you are Shia or Sunni? Does police asks you extra Chai/Pani if you are christian? Just blindly throwing Racist label will not solve the problem.
Problem is invisibility of mutual tolerance and abiding law. We don’t have Sectarianism we have Groupism.
Punjabis are beaten in Queeta, Sindhis beat Muhajirs, Muhajirs block Pathans, Pathans don’t like Punjabis, these are also some stories you will hear. Are they beaten because Punjabis are Sunni and Sindhis are Shia?.
More importantly do you see a Pathan getting beat in Mazang Lahore? We don’t hate others as much as we like OURS. Might be because we are still in the earlier stages of Globalization. We live in isolation from each other. Our children are born, raised and get job in same city. There are streets where no new person has come to live for previous two generations. We are more local and less global. But no we are people living in segregating society and no we are not living in Jungle, please don’t make one out of it.
Solution is more openness, openness for each other and openness in discussion, questions like Why religion should be on Passport is valid question and could only be answered by national debate. Throwing people in the Jail because they question other’s Faith will not solve the problem. We are fighting against terrorists who plan to throw anyone in Jail that has opinion other than ours. We can’t fight them by making our version of it.