Rawalpindi violence: Where is our humanity?

Published: November 18, 2013

Sectarian clashes in Pakistan's garrison city Rawalpindi left two people dead and over 50 injured. PHOTO: AFP

It has become a recurring story now.

The same news stories reappear on our television screens every Muharram, be it the Ashura procession in Karachi a few years ago, to the one in Rawalpindi this year.

Every year when Muharram comes about, there is a little voice inside all of us which warns us to expect that religious fundamentalists, in some parts of Pakistan, will try their utter best to ruin a peaceful Ashura procession. And sadly, this voice usually turns out to be correct.

I have been fortunate enough to spend some part of my life in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. To me, these joint cities always portrayed a sense of serenity and calmness, as compared to the rest of Pakistan. While the rest of the country was moving at the speed of light, you always felt that these two cities were somewhat more relaxed and offered a lot more peace of mind.

It is tragic that Rawalpindi too has succumbed to sectarian violence.

The story seems to be the same wherever you go, the only difference being that sectarian violence has taken an upward turn in the last 20 odd years.

Whether you look at the Rawalpindi incident in isolation, or you observe it alongside the plethora of other such incidents, the outcome is always the same and it always begs the same question – are we devoid of any tolerant bones in our body?

When looking at the Rawalpindi incident, some people point out that the Ashura procession should not have been allowed to pass by a sectarian mosque as it added fuel to an already explosive situation. While not allowing the procession to pass by the sectarian mosque might have helped, it is only a temporary solution, not a permanent one.

A permanent solution revolves around something at a much larger scale.

I could give you the used and abused old solution of changing the mindset of people before we change anything else, but it seems like that is now completely futile.

We are going through the lowest ebb of our existence as a nation today. This is something that has been documented before and it is something that will be documented countless times again, primarily because it’s true and the sooner we accept and realise this, the better.

We have spent our lives believing in conspiracy theories. From the CIA, to RAW, from the Jewish Lobby to MI5 – our lives are shrouded in conspiracy theories that have given us a false sense of our own non-existent potency and have made us believe that the world is out to plot our downfall.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We, as Pakistanis, are the ones who are out to plot our downfall. It is us and us alone. There is a reason why the western world points fingers at us and the reason is built into our own shortcomings — nothing more, nothing less.

Ashura processions take place in other parts of the world too. But why does Pakistan end up as the hub of all sectarian violence?

Bear in mind, it’s not like we are a peaceful lot outside of Muharram. We make it point to outdo our own heinous acts every time and then on top of it all, we inflate our chests and fly the flag of religion high.

We murder Ahmadis but call ourselves perfect Muslims.

We burn down Christian homes but claim we are following Islam in its purest sense.

We are not perfect Muslims. As harsh as it sounds, we are not even perfect humans – we are far from it.

One of the basic traits of humanity is being tolerant. Take a look at yourself and then take a look at what’s happening around you. Being a good human is a discussion for another day. Right now this country just needs to focus on being human.

Who is to blame for the clash in Rawalpindi?

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salman Zafar

Salman Zafar

The writer works in the Education Sector and tweets as @salmanzafar1985 (twitter.com/salmanzafar1985)

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

  • Naimat

    Will the government stop this type of hate speech by Salman Zafar? This is loaded hate speech against the majority sect which became victim of violence at the hand of “peaceful” mourners of peaceful procession. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Being bias will never help us cure the society, ailing of various diseases including sectarianismRecommend

  • Majid

    typical trash tabloid journalism from someone sitting thousands of miles away always ready to generalise blame when acts of atrocity are committed by a violent minority.Recommend

  • Seeking Justice

    You mean that the “Sectarian” mosque was “burned” but “Non Sectarian” unbiased people? What a biased piece of writing. Shame on you.Recommend

  • Muhammad Idrees

    I am agree with your opinion, but i have to add the main reason behind all these causes. The main reason is that we forgot the message of our ALLAH which had been clearly sent to us via our beloved “Prophet Hazrat Muhammad S.A.W”.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    Those who fired on the procession from the mosque are to blame. The admistration of that mosque / madressa should be tried on charges of terrorism. If the people in the procession had stayed passive in response to the attack and had not acted in legitimate self-defence the story the would have been the same as every year,a terrorist attack on an ashura procession with many Shia killed and response of the pious majority of Pakistanis to that would have been to merely shrug their shoulders and go about their bussiness. Allow this comment this tribune, you know it’s true.Recommend

  • 123xyz

    there is no humanity left in pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Please let the whole truth come before jumping to conclusions.Recommend

  • Tara

    Humanity disappeared when fatwas abounded and people were labeled Kafir even when they believed and practiced Kalima Tayyaba and the kalima was erased by force from the front of their mosques which were ordered to change their names from mosque to Ibadat Gah. Allah kay haan daer hay, andhaer naheen. Now Pakistanis have to eat the dirt they created with their abusive and arrogant fatwa baazi.Recommend

  • Pappu

    One step can eliminate such incidents in future. Ashoora processions to be conducted outside the boundaries of cities.Recommend

  • Parvez

    We dont have humanity……….we have religion.Recommend

  • Kappa

    Ashura processions should be carried out outside the cities. Loud speakers to be banned from 1st to 10 Moharram.Recommend

  • fze

    Humanity in Pak has been kidnaped and nowadays it is the hostage of religion,sectarianism and off course taliban.Recommend

  • charanjeet maan

    What possible motive could the peaceful mourners have in ruining their own procession?Don’t try to make a wrong by the religious bigots into a right.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    Why? All over the world they’re held in cities, in India, in America, in Beirut and everywhere else. A couple of decades ago there was no concept of violence during ashura in this country. Why is their violence now? Why are there so many threats to the participants now? Its your prejudiced mindset is is the root cause of all this violence and it is the thing that has to change.Recommend

  • ok

    I think quiet a few of the people in the comment section did a good job justifying the article. this recent incident aside the article’s main point of view is that Pakistan as a whole is gearing towards becoming more intolerant. and honestly thats not a false statement you had the same christian’s, the same shia’s living in pakistan 10 years ago as well why werent such blatant attacks done then. and why is it that every time someone says to really think about the negatives in our society instead of saying yes we have flaws and here how we can fix it. most people make it an issue of ego and start attacking the person speaking. We are all to blame for how pakistan is now adays. and there shouldn’t be any shame or anger in admitting that there are problems in our society intolerance being one of them. so please as the article says just focus on being human your selves and at least really think about what is wrong with Pakistan without bringing in personal ego, biases or religious preferences in it..Recommend

  • Sana

    Sadly that’s not the truth and the real story, didn’t happen like that. I live there, i have seen it, and i know for sure it wasn’t started from the mosque.

    However, i neither support Shias nor support Sunnis here. We need religious tolerance, period!! We cannot afford to have so many humans killed every year only because of sectarian violence. This is sad, plain sad. Who started is not the question here, its no more a blame game. This should end, and end ASAP! But then again, if only wishes were horses……Recommend

  • Ali Baba

    Theoretically, every religion preaches humanity.
    Practically, religions and humanity can’t go together.Recommend