EDITORIAL: Barbaric attack on Sufism - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\10\27\story_27-10-2010_pg3_1

A bomb blast at the shrine of Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan has left seven people dead and 14 injured. Two unidentified men left a motorcycle carrying milk canisters outside the gate of the shrine while devotees were offering Fajr prayers, which then exploded. Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, more commonly referred to as Baba Farid by his devotees, was a Sufi saint from the subcontinent. He is recognised as one of the first major poets of the Punjabi language. One of Baba Farid’s greatest contributions to Punjabi literature was the development of the language for literary purposes.
The attack on the shrine of Baba Farid once again speaks volumes about the shortcomings of our security apparatus. As Daily Times reported on October 25, there were intelligence reports that shrines across Punjab were at risk of terrorist attacks and lacked adequate security arrangements. There are two police pickets along the market on either side of the road leading up to Baba Farid’s shrine. How two men on a motorcycle carrying canisters made it to the main gate of the shrine and then left the motorcycle primed to explode is beyond comprehension. The declaration by district police officer (DPO) Pakpattan Muhammad Kashif that 30 policemen had been deputed at the shrine only makes matters worse. The icing on the cake is the 14 newly installed CCTV cameras at the shrine, which according to media reports are non-operational. Police officials across Pakistan tend to ‘beef up’ security arrangements at all shrines after a terrorist attack but fail to take pre-emptive action on intelligence reports.
Although no group has taken responsibility, judging by the recent pattern of bomb blasts at Sufi shrines, the responsibility for the attack on Baba Farid’s shrine will not land too far away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) door. Previously, the TTP has attacked shrines all across Pakistan. Before this attack the TTP targeted a mosque and shrine in Landi Kotal tehsil, a Sufi saint’s shrine in Jhal Magsi district, and Rehman Baba and Mian Umar Baba’s shrines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The TTP also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Data Darbar in Lahore, but retracted this claim later. Just 20 days ago the TTP, in a twin suicide attack, killed 10 and injured 70 people at the shrine of Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi. This begs the question: why attack Sufi shrines? Sufism is the single greatest threat to the Taliban and their hardline ideology of jihad. It teaches love and tolerance. It is inclusive by nature and welcomes all, irrespective of religion, caste or creed. In the subcontinent, Sufism is credited with spreading the message of Islam, i.e. love and interfaith tolerance. Baba Farid was a pillar of Sufism in the subcontinent. He is revered by not just Muslims and Hindus but also by Sikhs. He is considered to be one of the 15 Sikh Bhagats within Sikhism and parts of his work can be found in the sacred Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. In contrast, the Taliban use violence to impose their strict jihadist views on everyone.
Given that the vast majority of people in the region adhere to Sufism and not the hardline views espoused by the Taliban, these attempts by terrorists to create a sectarian divide by attacking Sufi shrines will only unite the sects and masses further. In the words of Baba Farid, “Farîdâ bhumi rangâvalî manjhi visûlâ bâg” (Farid, this world is beautiful, but there is a thorny garden within it). The love of Sufism will eventually overcome the hate of terrorism. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Sleeping with the enemy

Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in Pakistan. Federal Law Minister Babar Awan and PML-Q’s leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met on Monday and agreed to strengthen democracy. It was interesting to see the PPP extending a hand of friendship to the PML-Q, considering that this is the same party the PPP leadership labelled as the ‘Qatil’ (murderer) League after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Babar Awan said, “There is no place for arrogance in politics,” thereby attempting to justify the move. Perhaps the word ‘arrogance’ should be replaced with ‘principles’.
The political landscape in Pakistan is so complex that it is not unusual to see radical political shifts. The PPP’s olive branch to the PML-Q could be for a number of objectives. There could be apprehensions in PPP circles that the MQM may prove an unreliable ally again, which could arguably lead to an in-house change. As an insurance policy, the PPP now seems to be warming up to the PML-Q. Talk of an in-house change has been rife since the initiation of moves to unify the Muslim League by veteran politician Pir Pagara. Whether these moves will be successful remains to be seen, considering that the most powerful Muslim League faction, the Nawaz League, is averse to the idea. The PPP wants to nip this move in the bud and is thus making its own strategy to thwart this plan. In the National Assembly, in a house that should be 342, but is at present at a strength of 339, the PPP has 126 seats, the PML-N 90, PML-Q 53, MQM 25, ANP 13, while there are 17 independents and a handful of seats belong to the MMA, PML-F, BNP-A, PPP-S and NPP. If the MQM leaves the coalition at the Centre, the PML-Q could conceivably replace it and help keep the coalition government intact. The real test though, would come in the Punjab Assembly where the PPP is in coalition with the PML-N. In a house of 371, the PPP has 107 seats while the PML-Q has 85 seats. The PML-N has 170 seats. We have already seen what happened when the PPP imposed Governor’s rule in Punjab, which turned out to be a great misadventure and an eventual embarrassment for the PPP. If the PPP withdraws from its coalition with the Sharifs in Punjab and opts for the Chaudhries instead, it would be possible to oust the PML-N provincial government. But the PPP must keep a few things in mind before going on another (mis)adventure.
Within the parameters of the constitution and democracy, an in-house change is permitted, provided no horse-trading takes place. The political fallout of trying to form an alliance with the PML-Q can be negative if it fails to materialise or is short-lived. Any move for an in-house change in Punjab would invite the inevitable PML-N retaliation. It would likely redouble its efforts to bring down the federal government in turn. As for the MQM, the argument still holds that keeping them close to your chest is better than alienating them, in the interests of preventing the situation in Sindh going from bad to worse. Thus, it would be wise for the PPP to exercise some caution. Destabilisation in Punjab may set off ripples of destabilisation in Sindh and the Centre, arguably threatening the whole democratic edifice. *

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