Super Charged Fanatics Remain An Existential Threat For Pakistan

Super Charged Fanatics Remain An Existential Threat For Pakistan
In an earlier tragedy, a religiously charged angry mob of factory workers in Sialkot first tortured their Sri Lankan manager to death and then set his body on fire. After the gruesome act, the employees of Rajco industries staged a violent protest inside and outside the factory gates, accusing the manager Priyantha Kumara of committing blasphemy and claiming that he deserved to die at the hands of the ‘devout’ Muslims of the factory. Mr. Kumara, a Sri Lankan Christian, had been working at Rajco Industries for 10 years. This brutal act of religious fanaticism was witnessed in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and drew widespread condemnation and criticism from all over the world, and all major human rights organisations.

Since the launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan, all Chinese workers in the country have received special attention for their safety and protection. Police guards and especially formed army commando units have been deputed for their protection. All Chinese nationals in Pakistan have been advised by their government to be extra careful, keep a very low profile avoid any social contacts with Pakistani nationals whether they live in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad. Such is the state of affairs, where the workers of our most ardent friend and partner are in grave danger: then who else could be safe in this land of super charged religious fanatics?

What have the people of this country become? Is there no end to such fanaticism and brutal killings in the name of religion? Just last week, the Dasu Hydropower Project ground to a complete halt because here again a Chinese supervisor was accused of blasphemy and was in danger of being lynched by a mob of workers, but he was fortunate to be saved by the security officials and airlifted by helicopter to the safety of a police lockup in Abbottabad. Such barbaric acts and horrors in the name of religion are uncommon even in most other Muslim countries of the world. How can we expect foreign investment or promotion of tourism when the slightest hint of any disrespect to the Islamic religion can result in a fanatic mob getting together to perform an act that belongs perhaps in the medieval era, and is unknown anywhere in this day and age?

Pakistan today is in the vicious grip of a severe economic crisis, but the general perception abroad is that this is a very dangerous country, awash with religious fanatics and bigots. Just this week, Sweden closed its embassy in Islamabad indefinitely. Not very far from the Swedish embassy is the embassy of Denmark, that suffered a deadly suicide bombing attack in 2008. Many other embassies in Islamabad have very quietly restricted their operations in the country, resulting in problems for visitors, students and businessmen. All employees of diplomatic missions stay within the confines of the diplomatic enclave and avoid contact with the rest of the city. After the Coronavirus pandemic, almost all countries are now encouraging and facilitating tourists of various countries to visit and make up for the losses suffered during the lockdown periods. Muslim countries like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Indonesia and Malaysia are now popular tourist destinations and are crowded with visitors from the USA, Europe, Australia and other parts of the world. Pakistan is the only Muslim country that shows no improvement in the number of tourists or business travelers. The streets and bazaars of the country are devoid of any foreigners: European, American Chinese or African. Foreign students seeking admission in our universities are almost zero, almost all international airports in the country are running at a huge loss because of very little traffic and a lack of interest by the major airlines of the world.

Why does Pakistan stand out as a country of fanatics in the world?

The fault lies in our stars and the ridiculous lopsided policies of past rulers of the country. It has been believed by our ruling elite that only religion can keep the various ethnic groups together, but this proved totally wrong at the birth of Bangladesh. The glue of religion proved totally ineffective to keep the Eastern wing with us. And yet, according to the religious fanatic General Zia-ul-Haq, who opined in 1981, “Take the Judaism out of Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take religion out of Pakistan and make it a secular state, it will collapse.” This view does not exist in Muslim countries like Egypt, Morocco, UAE, Jordan, Indonesia or Malaysia: they are all comfortable with the Islamic religion and have no comparable fanaticism in the name of Islam.

Pakistan today has a mushroom growth of religious madrassahs and most of these religious seminaries are the nurseries of religious fanaticism and training grounds of suicide bombers. The theory of strategic depth and the curse of the Kashmiri jihad created a hoard of jihadi militants eager to sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam. Many jihadi groups enjoyed state patronage and received funding and training from our own security agencies. The Mullah Military Alliance or the political grouping of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) encouraged the use of religion in the promotion of their religious-political agenda, and added fuel to the raging fires of religious extremism and fanaticism.

A masjid mafia has been on the rampage, building mosques on encroached land and illegally occupied plots, but nobody has the guts to challenge this illegal activity of the religious fanatics. There has been an over-emphasis on religion in the school syllabus, and now the so-called Single National Curriculum (SNC) introduced by Imran Khan has very effectively converted normal schools into the equivalent of religious madrassahs, churning out more and more fanatics. Even Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt have very strict policies about the construction of mosques – so much that the design and architecture is strictly controlled by the government. All these countries have strict control about the language and content of the Friday sermons and no hate speech or abusive language against other religions is permitted. In Pakistan, we have been bombarded by the philosophy of Nizam-i-Mustafa of General Zia and the utopian dream of Riasat-i-Madinah of Imran Khan.

In order to progress and provide a safe environment to its citizens, Pakistan has to take religion out of its political agenda. Toxic religiosity under the protection of state institutions is destroying the very foundations of the country. This fanaticism has now produced a wild uncontrolled mob of fanatics who, if left to their devices, will destroy this country.