Tuesday, March 4, 2008


By: Muhammad Mahtab Bashir

Ours is certainly a confused society, we are neither an Islamic State nor enlightened moderate. This regime of General Musharraf failed miserably to cop fundamentalist as it fails to define who is extremist and who is not. On one day we doubt, whether action against brothel-house and its owner is legal or not in Islam, hugging publicly to a man (not husband) is lawful or not, players with long beard is the actual cause of our defeat in World-Cup Cricket 2007, burning the porn videos is an act of cruelty by the fanatics. On the very next day we considered our self as a staunch Muslim, shunning the very basics of Islam. To me this is the recipe for disaster; our rulers are engaged in making. We being a moderate state (as proclaimed by state) can exhibit our wrath if an extremist damages a holy place of worship from other religions but we shut our eyes when mosques and madaris are being razed by the hands of Muslim with the voice of our masters.

The two clerics and brothers. Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, the deputy khateeb of Lal Masjid and Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, the director of Jamia Hafsa and Faridiya and the imam of Lal Masjid with students of seminary resolutely believes that loose ethics, brothels and waywardness in this society must be destroyed by vigor and a sin-free society must be established. The action and grit by these two backed up by hundred of students created ripples in the establishment in general and in the ranks of enlightened moderates in particular.

Islamabad, is morally and relatively a clean city with decent educated people everywhere, yet there is no doubt that there are hundred of prostitution houses smoothly running in the city, with call girls using cell-phones and pimps and mafia are actively engaged in ‘flesh business’. Establishment and law-enforcement agencies and institutions are blindfolded because they are patronizing this massive business. Many feels this is an act of sheer exaggeration but it is an aggregation within a limit.

Just take up the example of Madam Shamim Akhtar Naqvi, supposedly she was a destitute (when started) with no earning to survive hence stepped in this profession. Just asking a single question to her, is she still living hand to mouth that she can never imagine the idea of quitting this profession? Islam is a religion of clemency, it shows mercy to all sinners but THE WILL must be there. I don’t dare to blame only professional women in such degradation but men are equally responsible who force women in this filthy trade.

Many opine, the Jamia Hafsa have been constructed on illegal occupied land and requests made by concerned government departments to the interior ministry and local police to stop this construction were ignored. With confidence by the involvement of official institutions, the seminary students subsequently occupied the adjacent Children’s library in January this year. Again the government showed its (intentional) carelessness.

Subsequently, no action was taken against Ghazi Abdul Rasheed who was all behind the move to occupy government land illegitimately. It is heard that a police official who tried to arrest him was transferred. Religious Affairs minister, Ijaz-ul-Haq visited Lal Masjid and apologize for nuisance caused to the clerics.

A common perception indicates that the government and those running the seminary were enjoying close and cordial links between them. According to a report in a Sunday paper, “Government and its affiliated departments have tacitly been supporting this construction of Jamia Hafsa, illegal occupation of Children’s library and strengthening of Ghazi Adbur Rasheed and his self-militia”.

This report raised many a questions and a lot many understandings what is cooking. Firstly, it is supposed my many that this incident is too old but has been elevated though agencies themselves to divert the focus from Justice Iftikhar’s case. Secondly, from General’s point is to let Bush administration know, that the genie of extremism and fundamentalism is still not bottled and only he is the man who can do it, as he did after 9/11. Can this strategy work? Only time knows or the US then administration. Lastly, the government’s long standing links with religious parties who are still a part of the ruling party in one province indicate that behind this move, stands a mutual understanding.

Whatever the objectives behind this entire move, it appears to me that extremism has been nurtured by state agencies in Islamabad for hidden motives.

It is positive to note that the government has opted to pursue talks with Lal Masjid clerics. Though there are talks of a crackdown in the hub of Capital city, the government seems to be interested in resolving this issue through dialogues. Negotiation is the best way one can avoid the bloodshed. The whole tussle has an alarming trajectory in a couple of month. However, the administration of the Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid must show some flexibility. If they have a set of views on certain grounds, they should participate in positive political framework that the constitution stipulates. Arms vigilantism and using the other means of force is definitely not the way out to go about it. This issue must be resolved just in the same manner of mutual understanding as it was initiated.

The writer is a freelance columnist from Islamabad.
Published in The Frontier Post, 15 April, 2007 & in daily The Post, 15 April 2007.

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