In Pakistan, you must be Muslim to have a monument named after you

Published: December 14, 2012
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It seems that that our ruling bodies believe that religion rather than personal achievements dictate how far certain personalities must be promoted in Pakistan. PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD/EXPRESS

How far does religious background, rather than actual character, go towards establishing respect in this country?

The news that the plans to rename the Shadman Chowk roundabout in Lahore after historically instrumental freedom fighter Bhagat Singh have been scrapped isn’t surprising, considering the rising level of intolerance in our nation.

Reports state that after pressure from right-wing religious organisations, the ‘Dilkash Lahore Committee’ opted for poet Habib Jalib’s name instead. I have nothing against the Pakistani poet, who by all accounts was as impressive at his prose- as he was in his stance against oppression.

What is actually regrettable here is the reason for this change of heart from the Dilkash Lahore Committee. Bhagat Singh was a freedom fighter who helped kick start the expulsion of the British rule from the Indian subcontinent. Coming from a family of revolutionaries, Singh exacted revenge for the assassination of a prominent Indian politician named Lala Lajpat Rai, who had been killed for his views against the British Raj.

Later, Singh gained overwhelming support from India after giving himself up to the police and going on a hunger strike to protest against other atrocities by the British Raj. Had it not been for these actions by Singh, perhaps we here in Pakistan would still be speaking in fake British accents, and pretentiously sipping tea during sunset.

OK, so that part of our culture hasn’t changed much actually.

But I digress.

It seems that that our ruling bodies believe that religion rather than personal achievements dictate how far certain personalities must be promoted in Pakistan.

I am now going to give you another example.

It is sad to say that one of our greatest national treasures is named after a cruel tyrant of a man. This was a man who robbed his nation of its wealth while his people suffered. Over the years his government faced countless complaints of torturing and murdering those that opposed them. This was also a man who along with his militia was accused of raping women in the country with frightening regularity, gaining a sick human rights abuse record that would even make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia blush.

The man I speak of ofcourse, is the disgraced former dictator of Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who among other things was also a terrorist.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the former justice minister of Libya has gone on record as admitting that Gaddafi personally ordered the bombing Pan AM flight 103 in 1988, which killed 270 people. And we have named our historic cricket stadium after this man?

Gaddafi was always said to be a vicious snake and his family’s cruelty knew no bounds. At one point his daughter-in-law even burned their Ethiopian maid, Shweyga Mullah, scarring her with scalding hot water because the poor woman didn’t obey like a slave.

Poor Shweyga was tied up by the wife of Gaddafi’s eldest son Hannibal (who fittingly shares the same name as the fictional man eating Dr Hannibal Lecter), and then screamed as boiling water was poured on her.

Her crime?

She refused to beat Hannibal’s children for crying too much.

So, I have a question for the government of Pakistan. Why is it that our historic cricket stadium in Lahore, the embarrassingly named Gaddafi Stadium, is still titled after this tyrant?

Is being a ‘supposed Muslim leader’ qualification enough for such a grand honour?

Instead of renaming innocuous roundabouts, should we not first correct this massive mistake?

How about we rename the Gaddafi Stadium as the Bhagat Singh Stadium?

I would rather that the largest stadium in my country be named after a freedom fighter who helped drive out oppressors, than a man who flourished on excess, and met a fittingly violent end.

Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @Pugnate

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.