Let us decide and be done with this confusion
Daily Times, July 8, 2008
The Lal Masjid phenomenon manifests the tension and the confusion of this nation as nothing does; and the confusion is confounded by the lies mouthed by all concerned, including the media.
Let’s begin with the bombing of the police contingent in the closing moments of the congregation commemorating the “shuhada” of Lal Masjid.
If the people who were gathered at the mosque to venerate those who resisted the state and rebelled against it were and are right, then the man who blew himself up and killed the policemen and others should be hailed. He gave his life, just like the Lal Masjid rebels, for a higher cause, one, which, as the argument goes, even transcends the state.
By the same logic, those who attacked the mosque were wrong. They represented a state whose writ is unacceptable and, were one to employ the currently reigning exegesis in some circles, which must be fought because it is a battle of Right against Wrong — the faithful against the infidel. The state is apostate.
If, on the other hand, we think that the policemen met “shahadat” while performing their duty, the bombing was a dastardly act, the state is at war with some elements that want to subvert it from inside, then the Lal Masjid cannot be lionised — neither can those who died there fighting the state be considered heroes.
These are two different narratives; they are in conflict. Both cannot be right. One of the two, most definitely, is wrong and misplaced.
My intention here is not to judge either but simply to point to the absurdity of moving from one to the other as if they are compatible and part of a continuum.
What makes it worse is that all of us are making this mistake, some unwittingly, but most deliberately and wittingly. Those who know what they are doing belong to the media and the political leadership. They are mixing up the categories deliberately.
Let’s consider the probity of allowing the Lal Masjid conference to be held. What was the conference about? It was about those who died fighting the state. The current government’s act of allowing this conference to go ahead meant that it (the government) did not think that the act of commemorating those who fought the security forces and died in the mosque was wrong; corollary: those who died were right.
But if Lal Masjid was right and so are those honouring the memory of its heroes, then the current government is wrong too — as much in the wrong and apostate as the one that ordered the raid on the mosque. In which case, the current government should either not have allowed this conference to be held or if, as it did, it should simply step down to make way for the ideology represented by Lal Masjid. It cannot do both things.
The speeches at the conference, especially after the first session, called for acts and actions that go against the grain of state’s policies — for instance, in the tribal areas or in relation to Afghanistan. This means that the congregants actually believed in attacking the writ of the state and called upon all those sympathetic to their cause to do so. The bombing that happened, as it would have, was in keeping with the ideology propounded by the mosque.
Let it also be noted that the mosque has had links with sectarian organisations, the Taliban and Al Qaeda (the presence of cadres of banned sectarian organisations at the conference has been widely reported). It is no coincidence that within 24 hours of the raid on Lal Masjid, Ayman Al Zawahiri called upon the faithful to avenge the action; neither is it a coincidence that within 24 hours of Mr Zawahiri’s warning, security personnel at different points in the NWFP were hit with a spate of suicide bombings spread over almost a week.
So, what was the government thinking when it allowed the conference to be held and also allowed speakers to make speeches that go against the state’s writ? How will these elements challenge the state’s writ if not by attacking security forces and personnel who represent the state’s coercive arm?
The point is simple but I will reiterate it: either the state, as constituted currently, is wrong or the people challenging it are a menace.
The gem delivered by Rehman Malik, who advises the prime minister on internal security, is especially noteworthy for its idiocy. Bragging about security measures he asked the media what might have happened if the bomber had blown himself up among the congregants. Is Mr Malik for real? Does he really think the bomber would have blown himself up among his ideological kin and killed them?
The bomber attacked those he wanted to kill; he was avenging the raid. And, as always with such attacks, he proved deadly. I won’t be surprised if investigations reveal that he peeled off from the congregants to do his work rather than approaching the policemen from outside.
Now, to the media. Again, either the policemen are martyrs, having been killed in the line of duty or those who died in the mosque last year and also the man who blew himself up to kill the policemen. The media (reporters and anchors) cannot move between the two narratives as if they are mutually inclusive. If it was a “shuhada” conference then the man who killed the policemen was righteous and the policemen were representing the apostate state.
Let us decide, once and for all, what we stand for. If the nation really feels that Lal Masjid was right then damn the political parties, the current social contract and the United Nations. Let us lap up the ideology represented by Lal Masjid, sectarian organisations, the Taliban and Al Qaeda — yes, because they are all part of the same string.
If the nation is prepared to do that, nay spoiling to do so, let us chalk a new social contract, pray for the souls of all the suicide bombers, hail those who are fighting the security forces in FATA and the infidels in Afghanistan and be done with the state as it is configured today. The policemen, of course, had died in the wrong and in vain — just like every single security person who has fallen in this conflict has got killed in the wrong cause, defending an apostate state.
Conversely, if we are not prepared for the literalist exegesis that informs the millenarianism of the Taliban-Al Qaeda cadres, let us, for everyone’s sake including our own, stop glorifying them. Let us focus on the soldiers that have fallen rather than going on about the plight of the innocent “shuhada” of Lal Masjid.
We must also then realise that we are under threat; that these people are as much against our way of life as they are against the infidels west of Durand Line.
In which case, need it be said again that the government should not have allowed the crowd sympathetic to Lal Masjid to congregate in Islamabad, the capital city? Because the congregants’ narrative goes against everything the state and, by extension, this society stands for.
Let us decide and be done with this confusion, deliberate or unwitting.
Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org