By Khaled Ahmed
June 9, 2018
On May 22, a prominent Sikh of Peshawar was
shot dead in his shop. Charanjit Singh represented his community as a member of
Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh, and was loyal to Pakistan. He was not the first Sikh
to be killed in Peshawar. A Sikh doctor, minister of minorities of
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was killed in 2016 by the Taliban — it had killed 10 Sikhs
in 2013-14 as well.
The reaction to the killing of Charanjit
Singh has been intense grief. But the tendency to blame someone else, and not
the internal disorder, remains. Readers sending in their reactions to
newspapers mostly blamed “external enemies” while knowing that the “internal”
enemy, the Taliban, had killed Charanjit. The community was also harassed in
Kurram (tribal) Agency where the Taliban was also decimating Shias. All
minorities in Pakistan are at risk. In 2013, suicide bombers blew up the All
Saints Church in Peshawar, killing nearly 100 worshipers.
Pakistan can’t prevent such killings
because it has allowed sovereignty to flee most of its territory. Its ideology
causes certain elements to break loose from the law because they disagree over
the manner in which Pakistan enforces religious law. Al Qaeda didn’t take long
to make it public that Pakistan was not really Islamic. Among several edicts it
avoided enforcing was the abolition of modern banking. The Taliban think
Pakistan is a pagan country because it avoids implementing the Sharia.
The Taliban was born of the idea of keeping
the tribal areas as a kind of “tribal museum” without proper administration,
infrastructure and law. Soon the “wild” but pure warlike people living in the
tribal areas were somehow fighting the first Indo-Pak war in Kashmir. Then, in
1970, the US and Saudi Arabia paid the tribesmen good money to fight the Soviet
army in Afghanistan. In time, they started spilling into the settled areas and
were soon counted the second largest ethnicity in Karachi.
All over Pakistan, madrasas indoctrinated
the lower classes — who couldn’t afford to send their children to school — in
hard Islam that challenged the Islamic state for not being Islamic enough. In
1947, there were only 137 madrasas in Pakistan. Nine years later, a survey
reported that the number of madrasas had increased to 244 in West Pakistan. By
1995, the figure stood at 3,906, increasing to 7,000 in 2000 and 35,000 by
2016. Poor Pashtun households adopted the madrasa as their window to life.
Husain Haqqani, in Re-Imagining Pakistan,
notes that at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan some members actually called
for “arrangements by the state to facilitate ‘the five times’ prayers and
fasting’ and warned that ‘non-Muslims always take advantage of our goodness’”.
Pakistan legislated to make an insult to the Prophet PBUH punishable with death
to target Christians. But Muslims became victims of this law too.
The killers who took the life of Charanjit
Singh in Peshawar were not persuaded by Pakistan’s “foreign enemies” to commit
the evil deed. He was killed by Pakistanis nurtured on the ideology that
subliminally refuses to accept non-Muslims in the “castle of Islam”. The
Christian church in Pakistan, still conscientiously educating Muslims in their
charity-run schools and colleges, has endured massacres of its impoverished
flock who sweep the roads of Pakistan.
On 27 March 2016, 75 were killed and over
340 injured in a suicide bombing that hit the main entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal
Park, one of Lahore’s largest parks. The attack targeted Christians who were
celebrating Easter. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Punjabi group affiliated with the
Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan