Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
After the brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January 2011, we had given up the hope of even holding a debate on man-made colonial laws on blasphemy. The voices that were asking for a review of the legislation had to retreat as the majority Sunni-Barelvi interpretation captured public discourse. Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri was defended by the same lawyer who viewed ‘rule of law’ as an articulation of a personalised, anti-democracy and Sharia-compliant version of justice. The fact that a former chief justice of Lahore is Qadri’s lawyer reflects the inherent biases and indoctrination that have spread in our society. If a billionaire, liberal politician could be murdered on the streets of Islamabad, what hope does a supposedly deranged man in the deep south of Punjab have?
The rise of vigilantism is also indicative of state failure. Not long ago, we witnessed the inhuman lynching of two young men in the Sialkotdistrict where the state machinery stood by and extended tacit support to ugly scenes of dead bodies being paraded around. A few months later, I was invited to a television talk show where, to my surprise, I was surrounded by a lawyer and a so-called aalim(religious scholar). During the show, the cheerful aalim continued to find obscure and irrelevant references to justify mob-lynching as a kosher form of justice.
As children, we grew up with an occasional visitor, who would show up at our doorstep and make strong incoherent statements about religion, society and political leaders. We were told that he was amajzoob (someone self-involved with his own spirituality). As I grew up, I discovered more of these characters at Sufi shrines, on pavements and even camped around rivers and canals. The world considers these characters insane, while their insanity has its own method and rules.
Media reports suggest that the victim of the mob attack in Bahawalpur was a similar character. A friend in Bahawalpur told me that the victim was a saeen (a peculiar kind of a mystic). Chanighot is not too far away from Uchh Sharif — the ancient seat of Sufism in south Asia. Another field informant says that the man killed was a devotee of Mansur al-Hallaj (858-922 AD, a Persian mystic, who was executed in Iraq on charges of blasphemy). Hallaj’s famous utterance “An’al haq” (I am the truth) became an inspiration for several poets and mystics in the succeeding centuries. The regions that comprise Pakistan have had a rich tradition of Sufi thought and practices. But south Punjab, the land of Sufis, is now occupied by armed militant groups and their foot soldiers who have established their own ideological and quasi-legal writ.
Punjabi poets such as Bulleh Shah have also challenged orthodoxy and I wonder what would have happened had Bulleh Shah been alive today? Would mobs attack him also? The unnamed victim of Chanighot was reportedly on his way to Sehwan and some people allegedly saw him burning the Holy book. The police arrested him but this was not enough. A blasphemer had to be killed there and then. The police station was raided and the man was taken to a public chowk and burnt to ashes.
Dawn, May 15, 2005 Political feudalism in Sindh By Ameer Bhutto
A FEW months ago, the Baloch tribal sardars stood accused of acting like warlords and toying with the destinies of the poor and suppressed people by depriving them of development and other opportunities. The traditional tribal system of Sindh, maliciously portrayed in the press and media by cliched caricatures of waderas, has long been under siege from vested interests in the establishment who seek to discredit Sindh’s stand against Kalabagh Dam, Thal Canal and the unfair distribution of national wealth under the present NFC Award, among other issues.
Not only this, but Sindhi waderas have become easy targets on a plethora of issues for NGOs and organizations related to human rights, women’s rights, social welfare, etc. But all the evils associated with so-called tribal feudalism, whether real or concocted, pale into insignificance before the looming sceptre of a new brand of state-sponsored political feudalism that is being …
Inside Story about Musharraf-Mahmood Tussle Hassan Abbas: September 24, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf’s memoir In the Line of Fire is expected to generate a lot of debate and discussion in the days to come. Except some western journalists and Musharraf’s close friends (three ghost writers) hardly anyone has had a chance yet to read the book from cover to cover. The excerpts of the book leaked through Indian media and General Musharraf’s statements to some American media outlets however have already created some controversies. In the United States, controversy is considered a positive thing, so the book is bound to become a bestseller here, but in Pakistan probably the opposite is true.
This article is not a review of the book (as I haven’t got hold of a copy yet), but it endeavors to throw some light on the widely reported Musharraf comment about the Armitage threat conveyed through Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director General of the ISI. I had done research on this speci…
BOOK REVIEW: What was the Moplah Revolt? by Khaled Ahmed Daily Times, January 27, 2008
Subaltern Studies: Muslims, Dalits, and the Fabrications of History Edited by Shail Mayaram, MSS Pandian & Ajay Skaria Permanent Black, Delhi 2005 Pp322; Price Rs 1390
If you vaguely remember having read a potted account of the Moplah Revolt in the 1920s in your Pakistan Movement textbook, you should read this latest research into what really happened in Malabar in Kerala that made the Muslims there rise in bloody revolt. First let us get the word Moplah right, which no one explained because the textbook had to pass over quickly to more urgent sections of the communal conflict in India. Like ‘Moses’ in Biblical Egypt, ‘Pillah’ means child in Malayalam. It is treated as an honorific in Kerala.
Moplah is written in many different ways (Mappilla, Maplah, Moplah, Mopla, Moplar, Moplaymar) and means differently with every version. Many think that it is a contraction of maha-pilla, the big child, a title of …