WASHINGTON DIARY: Turning villains into heroes —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Source : www.dailytimes.com

The JI is the mother of religious terrorism in Pakistan. It is the only party that has ideologues, strategists and operators. The JI knows how to, directly or indirectly, use the religious parties to its advantage

When killer Mumtaz Malik Qadri was shooting at Governor Salmaan Taseer (shaheed) his security colleagues remained mere spectators. After committing this act he was safely handed over to the police. After a few minutes, his confession statement was leaked to the media. Up until then the media was using the word “martyred” for Governor Taseer but after his confession statement was whipped up by everyone, suddenly the words “assassinated” and “killed” replaced martyred, and the killer was declared a “ghazi”. In no time the killer was being compared with Ilm Din who had been praised by Allama Mohammad Iqbal and defended by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in court. In short, the martyred was turned into a villain, and a killer into a ghazi.

You must be thinking how all this happened so quickly, as if the angels themselves were directing the TV channels. Divine inspiration cannot explain the turn of the media. However, this rhetoric can be attributed to organised groups — agencies or operators of political parties and terrorist groups — deputed to take care of the media. Such elements use all kinds of methods like threats and enticements to force the media to use their language. The Salmaan Taseer case shows very well how the planners quickly got hold of Qadri’s confession and put it all over the media.

Salmaan Taseer’s martyrdom reminds me of the early 1970 period of Punjab University (PU). Then the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) was testing its initial model of Islamisation in PU, which was later implemented in the rest of the country by various religious and political parties. Incidentally, members of the IJT have penetrated many political parties, particularly the PML-N, MQM and some others. The etymology of religious terrorism is very different in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Punjab where the IJT’s PU model is self-evident. This is one of the reasons why 90 percent of blasphemy cases have been registered in Punjab where the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and IJT are most powerful.

I vividly remember how the IJT used to plan before terrorising a student or a teacher. For example, a night before action they would prepare posters condemning the ‘surkha ghunda gardi’ (terrorism of the Left). They would then assign people to go to the police station to file a report against the Left. It was rumoured in those days that the JI managed to have their chosen police officers employed in the Wahdat Colony police station, which covered the university’s jurisdiction. The next day, within minutes, after breaking the bones of some of its opposing students or insulting a teacher, they would put up these posters on every wall of the university. In no time, a police report would be filed and the police would be moved to arrest the victims. Sometimes press statements about the incidents were sent to the media even before the action. This is how methodically the JI, through the IJT, terrorised the left-liberal students and teachers.

Now review the chronology of events on the day Salmaan Taseer was martyred in this backdrop. You will see that it was all pre-planned. The planners knew how the governor was going to be gunned down, how the killer would be handed over to the police and how his confession statement was to reach the media. It seems that the planners had prepared teams to manipulate the media through threats or enticement. Without planning, media portrayal does not get reversed so quickly.

The JI is the mother of religious terrorism in Pakistan. It is the only party that has ideologues, strategists and operators. The JI knows how to, directly or indirectly, use the religious parties to its advantage. The JI has done most of its experimentation in PU and other educational institutions.

When the JI was convinced that the agenda of Islamisation was getting weaker because of Taliban suicide bombings killing thousands of innocent people, it started the campaign against drone attacks and in favour of Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia was chosen because she was a soft image — a mother of little children who had been maliciously kidnapped. The JI did not undertake a similar campaign for Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad because he would not have been a proper image to provoke Pakistanis. He was a healthy young male for whom winning mass sympathies was not easy.

Now look at the cases of Aafia Siddiqui and Faisal Shahzad. Both were American citizens and prosecuted in the US like all other citizens who commit crimes. Aafia Siddiqui damaged her case through her statements in court, showing that she was a member of al Qaeda. However, her case was presented in Pakistan as if she was a Pakistani citizen who had been kidnapped and brought to the US for prosecution. The people running the ‘Free Aafia Campaign’ were shrewd and knew that there was no way that the US government could pressurise the judiciary to get her out. Only President Obama could have pardoned her but that would have been political suicide for the Democrats.

Our prime minister did not prove to be very sharp-witted when he appealed to the US to free Aafia Siddiqui. He did not know that, by appealing for Ms Siddiqui, he was justifying a future Aafia named Mumtaz Malik Qadri. If Aafia Siddiqui was turned into a heroine, then Qadri could have wished to become a ghazi without much trouble.

The ‘Free Aafia Siddiqui Campaign’ was meant to provide political cover for the Taliban and create an atmosphere in which crimes can be committed in the name of religion without any repercussions. For Mumtaz Malik Qadri, breaking the law was not a serious matter in such an atmosphere.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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