Pakistani cleric accused of framing disabled Christian girl
The latest bizarre news story to come out of Pakistan proves that nothing short of a comprehensive cultural revolution is required before one can even begin to dream of a brighter future for Pakistan
A bizarre and unexpected twist has taken place in the case of Rimsha Masih, the 14 year old Christian and mentally disabled girl in Pakistan who was detained on suspicion of desecrating the Quran. A local cleric, called Khalid Jadoon, has now been arrested and is suspected of tearing pages out of the Quran and planting them in charred rubbish that was being collected by Rimsha.
It is reported that Jadoon is known locally as being volatile and that he has expressed anti-Christian sentiments in the past. In fact, he has even been hosted by a local TV station to complain about the perils of living alongside Christians (yes that happens in Pakistan).
Early indications are that the cleric was seeking to rid his local area, Mehrabadi near Islamabad, of Christians by manipulating the country’s bizarre, out-dated, and much abused blasphemy laws. Indeed, many Christians have already fled the area fearing reprisals from the easily excitable local Muslim population.
The cleric could now be persecuted himself under the anti-blasphemy laws and possibly face the death sentence.
Under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, one can face the death penalty if found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad or speaking badly about Islam. Critics have long demanded reform of the laws which are frequently used by religious bigots to persecute minorities. However, speaking out against the laws carries its own dangers since a number of senior politicians have been assassinated for doing just that, most notably Salman Taseer and Shehbaz Bhatti.
From a political commentator’s perspective, Pakistan poses a dilemma. On one hand there are always interesting and often disturbing developments taking place so there is much to write about. On the other hand, the frequency of bizarre and disturbing developments is so high that one simply cannot find the vernacular to express the appropriate level of outrage, let alone produce a coherent narrative within which all the developments can be framed.
Suicide bombings, lynchings, assassinations, sectarian violence, racism, persecution of minorities, political corruption, sporting scandals and blasphemy-related controversies are all ubiquitous in equal measure. In August 2012 alone, 28 Shia Muslims were murdered across the country by Sunni extremists.
Other Muslim and non-Muslim minority groups also live in fear of their lives as they are hunted down by Sunni extremists that the myopic politicians are too cowardly to challenge.
Pakistan is an imploding basket case. It is a dysfunctional society in which self-pity and self-righteousness compete with one another whilst corrupt secular leaders half-heartedly battle zealous religious conservative bigots for control of a nuclear armed nation of 180 million.
Like a naughty child caught in the act, it is a country that somehow manages to blame all of its ills on outside powers whilst taking no action against the real culprits.
It is a country that expects a great deal from the international community yet offers very little in return. In the words of the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, speaking in Washington DC, “Pakistan ends up behaving like Syria yet wants to be treated like Israel”.
It’s always good to end an article on a point of optimism or to articulate possible solutions, but I really don’t see any for Pakistan right now. Nothing short of a comprehensive cultural revolution that dramatically transforms the country’s education system, political system, religious institutions, military, media, and economy is required before one can even begin to dream of a brighter future.
Since such a revolution must come from within and simply cannot be imposed from the outside, foreign aid and expertise is of very limited utility. Pakistanis simply have to start appreciating the root causes of their malaise and taking responsibility for their own failures.
Ghaffar Hussain is a counter terrorism expert and Contributing Editor to The Commentator
We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.