August 28, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 3:23 am


Attacks, atrocities and discriminations of Christians have been on the increase since 1980. There have been hundreds of attacks against the Christian community; including attacks on Churches and Mission Schools. Some are reported and some do not get to the press. In most cases the police avoid. On December 19, 2006, a drunken mob high on drugs attacked a Christian congregation at the Church of Nazerene in Lahore. This attack and earlier and later attacks revealed prejudice and intolerance of the majority and the woefully inadequate security of Churches during religious congregations. Since July 2009, three major anti-Christian atrocities occurred. • On July 04, 2009 a mob attacked one hundred Christian houses in Bhamani village near Lahore with petrol bombs. The mob assaulted women, throwing acid on some. A young girl who escaped naked from an inferno became the target of acid attack. She tried to commit suicide. Police visited the village but did not register any FIR (report) against the criminals identified by the villagers. • During the first week of August 2009, in two gruesome assaults on Christian villages, large numbers of Christian men, women and children were killed, and their houses and shops were set on fire and destroyed. A village near Gojra was attacked by a frenzied mob, seven Christians were killed, several injured, one hundred houses and shops were torched. • In a similar mob attack on a Christian village near Kasur, several people were hacked to death, and dozens were beaten mercilessly. Christian properties were torched. Christian leaders in UK requested the authorities to investigate, and repeal the draconian blasphemy laws, which are the pretext for most of the mob carnage against the Christian community. Instituted into law by President Zia-ul-Haq, the Blasphemy Ordnance has been grossly misused to settle scores with the peaceful Christian minority, which constitutes only two percent of the population. There is an urgent need to protect Christian men, women and children form violence and atrocities, and propaganda and prejudice being fuelled by fanatic clerics, and anti-Christian groups. There is an urgent need to control and educate the brain washed bigots, who take the law into their own hands, and make us feel that we are living in a lawless jungle. On Tuesday 04 August 2009 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, made the following statement regarding the violence against Christians in Pakistan: “The recent atrocities against Christians in Pakistan will sear the imaginations of countless people of all faiths throughout the world. As the minister of law in the Punjab has already said, such actions are not the work of true Muslims: they are an abuse of real faith and an injury to its reputation as well as an outrage against common humanity, and deserve forthright condemnation. Christians in Pakistan are a small and vulnerable minority, generally with little political or economic power. They are disproportionately affected by the draconian laws against blasphemy, which in recent years have frequently been abused in order to settle local and personal grievances. They need to be assured of their dignity and liberty as citizens of a just and peaceful society. Their good, their security, is part of the good of the whole Pakistani nation. Those of us who love Pakistan and its people,, whatever their faith, feel that the whole country is injured and diminished by the violence that has occurred. I appeal to the Government of Pakistan to spare no efforts, not only in seeing that justice is done in the wake of these terrible events, but also in continuing to build a society in which all faiths are honoured and in which the most vulnerable can be assured of the protection of the law and the respect of their fellow-citizens.” This statement is an appeal to the conscience of Pakistani men and women, to do whatever they can to protect our Christian brothers and sisters. The Pakistani media is requested to play its role in assuring he safety and security of the peaceful Christian community, whose loyalty in peace and war has been above board. Millions of Pakistani’s feel deeply grieved at the recurring violence and atrocities against our Christian brothers and sisters, who are a deprived minority, and are living in fear in their own country. They constitute a small peaceful minority, only two percent of the population, and have tried to serve Pakistan as best as they can. Violence and atrocities against the small Christian community on the pretext of blasphemy by mobs led by fanatics has occurred too often, and has to be stopped. Pakistan witnessed a gruesome bloodbath of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs on its birth, i.e. during the partition of the sub-continent. A major lesson to be learnt from the Hindu-Muslim-Sikh slaughter was religious tolerance, mercy and forgiveness. Unfortunately many amongst us remain prejudiced and intolerant towards other faiths and beliefs and take law into our hands, without due investigation. We refuse to listen to others point of view, and our eyes become blood shot by rumours. The Pakistani Christian’s contributions to the educational and social progress of the Pakistani nation are un-matched. Christian Missionary schools and colleges have imparted quality education, which has immensely benefited the country. Millions of Pakistani boys and girls are proud students of Pakistan’s finest schools and colleges, run by dedicated Fathers and Mothers i.e. missionary teachers across the country, in villages, towns and big cities. Hadow Memorial High School in Srinagar Kashmir, later named Tyndal Biscoe College taught its students to show mercy and goodness to fellowmen, as well as to animals and birds. As a little boy I brought an injured crow, a baby sparrow and an injured pup to the school, and was rewarded with a hug by the teacher, which I have never forgotten. Such examples should be emulated by all schools and Madaris to create compassion, mercy and love for the weak. In hundreds of Christian hospitals across Pakistan, including Eye Hospitals in far flung towns, millions of Pakistani, men, women and children have been treated for free since over sixty years. Instead of being obliged and grateful to the Christians of Pakistan, the criminal minded fanatics among us have been attacking Christian villages, killing and injuring innocent Christian men, women and children, and bombing and burning their houses, schools and places of worship. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not stopping the frequent carnage against the unarmed and peaceful Christians of Pakistan. It is the collective responsibility of the Pakistani people and government not only to protect the Pakistani Christians, who are a national asset, but to provide them with guaranteed safety and security to live and prosper in Pakistan, that they have chosen as their home.


August 14, 2009

My Boy: Jonaid

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 3:02 pm

Aisha F Sarwari August 7, 2009

Prof. Ayaz Ahmad Khan recounts the horrors of his son’s death
Capt. Jonaid Khan: Special Services Group in the Pakistan army was born in Quetta in 1983, with his primary education in Ankara, where his father Prof. Ayaz Ahmad Khan was stationed on deputation in the Pakistan Mission, Ankara. He was abducted by Taliban on April 19, 2009 and said to be martyred onMay 10th 2009.

I met Prof. Ayaz Ahmad Khan at Saint Mary’s College in Rawalpindi. He was sitting in a modest office, inquiring about costs he had to approve for the college which is run for those students who fall through the cracks. This was 100km from where his son, Capt. Jonaid Khan, died 2 months ago, in Swat.

His kind green eyes seemed like he was accustomed to the often misplaced bravado and valorous praise that visitors greet him with since his son was killed in combat fighting with Taliban. Misplaced, because, Capt. Jonaid died in extraordinary circumstances that require not the commemorative tone of a shaheed cleared for the pearly gates of heaven, but with simple silence, shock and disgust at the barbarity that he faced in his last hours. It is incredibly impossible to maintain confidence when you are meeting a man who lost his son at the hands of the Taliban, whose son was, according to the Pakistan Army, was beheaded.

I could have said something: “I came to pay my condolences. I am sorry for your terrible loss.” But I couldn’t and instead we began chatting about Turkey, where he was posted for years. He talked about how Pakistanis were considered blood relatives of the Turks, and how the major difference between Turkey and Pakistan was that Turkey was never colonized and how people in Ankara with whom he worked with tried to convince him to stay in Turkey. There was a deep sadness in his anecdotes, like there is a dam of emotions held back with concrete and fierce pride. Prof. Ayaz was a proud Pakistani Pashtoon, a Yousef-Zai Pashtoon and it was not hard to imagine the dignity with which he was fighting this battle between pain and sanity.

Eventually he said, “I should have stayed back, maybe then, I could have saved my son.” He smiled sadly as he said that.

Only in times of great trauma does one realize that life is short, and the meaning comes from the relationships we hold, between parent and child, and most importantly between nations and citizens.

Although we can interpret the brutal beheading of an SSG Commando and a number of others by Taliban, as an act of war, and within the rules of war, it was a vengeful strike back by the enemy on an army that once fed it and nurtured it with American aid. A more introspective analysis may perhaps reveal that the nation has failed to protect its most loyal citizen — a commando.

The failure is not abstract – Any country’s armed forced are designed to send their best and bravest in harm’s way – but failure in the sense that on one hand the country is protecting its dynastic political kings at the top in the name of democracy, and on the other hand barbaric thugs equipped with medieval ruthlessness from Arab and Central Asian war techniques hound Pakistan’s northern borders like they own those lands. Under a new cyber law, it is criminal to send any derogatory messages against President, Asif Ali Zardari electronically, leading up to 16 years in prison. The survailance needed to put this law into action is astounding, proving that it is far more imortant for the current adminstration to protect a public figure’s already tainted reputation than it is to locate an abducted Army officer fighting for his country.

If a nation is only as strong as its army and any constitution’s basis is undoubtedly on a strong and equipped army then the question arises: Is the government effectively focusing on winning this war in Swat with minimal loss of men?

On April 19, 2009, Capt. Jonaid along with 3 others was on a surveillance mission in Swat, when the Taliban, led by Maulana Fazlullah, abducted them in the cagey mountains, to use as bargaining chip against key Taliban Mujahidin that the Pakistan Army had taken as prisoners.

What is strange is that Prof. Ayaz continued to receive phone calls from his son after his abduction.

“I was concerned about Jonaid when I didn’t hear from him, and contacted his officers who assured me he was safe and in a location in the Swat Mountains that didn’t have communication signals, but when I heard from Jonaid a few days later, I had no reason to be alarmed.”

Partly to protect his mission and partly to be positive with his family, Capt. Jonaid spent hours talking to his mother about his upcoming wedding and the arrangements needed. These calls continued for a few more days until they stopped. Soon after the Pakistan Army contacted Prof. Ayaz and told him that they suspect Capt. Jonaid was abducted by the Taliban, and that they are hopeful that they’ll learn his whereabouts soon.

Upset at being left in the dark for so long after the army knew, Prof. Ayaz probed on his own as well as provided helpful details to the Pakistan Army. When he called back from the various numbers Capt. Jonaid used, and few days later after the abduction, a Taliban called and asked to talk with Jonaid’s father about his son who has been with them.

“What he said after that was so insulting that I broke down. It was terrible; he insulted me, and the Pakistan Army. He cursed at me for sending my son to fight Muslims and finally demanded an explanation from me about why my son doesn’t know how to speak good Pushto…I told him, son, I don’t know, I never really saw the need, we knew the languages we required to communicate,” narrated Prof. Ayaz in a calm, descriptive voice.

The Taliban asked: “What kind of father are you? You don’t even know what your son is doing here?”

“I could answer that, but you won’t like my answer, and you have my son at your mercy, how can you expect me to honestly respond?” Prof. Ayaz said.

At the Taliban’s insistence, Prof. Ayaz asked him a question in response to his: “Do your parents know what you’re doing right now, son, do they know you are kidnapping and beheading and killing fellow Muslims?”

Not hardened to the extent that Prof. Ayaz expected, the Taliban Mujahidin was speechless for a few seconds and then engaged in softened conversation, referring to him as “Uncle,” and at the end asked what can he do for him. Prof. Ayaz asked to release the persons they have abducted. The Taliban said he can’t do that. However, he did promise to protect Capt. Jonaid as long as he lived.

Prof. Ayaz may be a victim of the psychology of all parents who lose their sons without identifying them after death. He may be reacting to the grief by denying that Jonaid is dead, because he has not seen the coffin of his son and is still in a state of illusion.

I thought of this as I observed Prof. Ayaz tell me this tragic series of events. He looked out the window and drew a breath of conviction and said, “I am still looking.”

I thanked him for his time, and his story. What else could I say?

If Capt. Jonaid and his team were bait for Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban faction leader, linked with Al Qaida is still alive and well, according to the national press. Maulana Fazlullah has enjoyed many other privileges too: He is more commonly known as the FM Mullah, for his ability to run and preach anarchy against Pakistan over the country’s own air waves without any restrictions from the government. This went on indefinitely, as long as he recruited enough men to stage this insurgency in Swat. He is also the son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad, the group’s leader. The government officially had a pact with Sufi Muhammad early in the year so he could officially establish an Islamic state in Swat, in return for clumsy peace.

On July 27, 2009, the Urdu Jang reported said that Sufi Muhammad was taken into custody at Sethi Town, Peshawar on Sunday July 26 instant and will be prosecuted for the abduction of 3 (not 4) Pakistan Army officers. NWFP Information Minister Main Iftikhar Hussain confirmed the TNSM chief’s arrest and has said the group, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and its past conduct will be “investigated.” Sufi Muhammad’s arrest is not as relevant and the militant’s high command is still said to be intact.

Despite the much lauded operation in Swat where the Pakistan Army achieved with creativity and nerve what even other armies better equipped could not, there should still be an accountability of how far we are from ending this war which was started in the name of a US-Backed Central Asian oil pipeline. Are we headed towards a war strategy that is sustainable, or one that has unmanageable reactionary elements as its side effects, punishing the very people who are its most idealistic fighters and who believe in Pakistan?

The games go on, and yet many fathers won’t stop waiting for their sons to return home this Eid. Prof. Ayaz reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s, poem, My Boy Jack, after his own son went missing in the Battle of Loos, during World War I.

My Boy Jack (1915)
by Rudyard Kipling

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

August 10, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 1:39 pm


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August 3, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:09 pm

The recent incidents in Gojra are a grim reminder of how existing half laws can be manipulated for personal and political ends. Besides loss of life, property or the reputation of the country, it also reflects an opportunist political system in which strange bedfellows can be espoused for political expediency and where rule of law can be applied selectively. Worse, it exposes false claims of the provincial and federal governments over constant surveillance of banned militant outfits in Punjab.

The entire trail from Jhang to Gojra, Mian Channu and Shantinagar is littered with similar incidents of religiously fanned hatred spearheaded by banned militant outfits. Time and again such incidents take place with impunity and remarkable alacrity. It is to question why the local administration is caught sleeping and why no preventive measures manifest themselves in pre emptive actions.

There is no doubt that the working relationship between the Federal Government and PMLN Government is dysfunctional. It took the Government of Punjab three days to move into a belated action despite warnings given by Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs. The provincial government dismissed the factual reporting of the federal minister for over two days and moved reluctantly after all the damage had been done and Faisalabad-Karachi Railway traffic blocked for two days. The Chief Minister has repeatedly postponed his visit to the city citing security reasons. Meanwhile the frustrations continue to grow resulting in resignations of one federal and one provincial minister.

Reportedly, around 18th of July, intelligence agencies had issued a warning to the Government of Punjab of likely incidents of terrorism in which some enclaves of minority Pakistanis could be targeted. Rather than take this information seriously, the provincial government deemed it fit to act as it did, allowing free access to militant outfits for arson and murder. Perhaps they were too engrossed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling sparing no moments for the welfare of its citizens.

The entire incident belying the fragility of our system began at a wedding party in Korrian, a Christian village 6 Kms from Gojra on 29 July. A local guest was escorted out of the celebrations for being drunk. He took revenge by leveraging the Blasphemy slogan in cahoots with some local clerics and sleepers of the banned outfits. The Federal Minister Mr. Bhatti moved into action but all his cautions fell on deaf and defiant ears in Lahore.

The Christian enclave in Gojra is located close to Awan Town named after a local property tycoon Mr. Qadeer Awan. Qadeer also runs and controls many local businesses like CNG and Petrol Pumps. He is reputed to be a very influential PMLN member and financier of the party and sleeper militants. He is known to hold the neighbouring Christian enclave in contempt with a long record of confrontation. He saw the incident at Korrian as an opportunity to settle issues and extract advantage. He is the prime suspect in the FIR, registered after 48 hours of delay. Christians allege that he with his team of sons and relatives master minded the entire operation including movement of militants from Jhang and surrounding areas.

These militants moved on public transport with automatic weapons, explosives and incendiaries with complete impunity despite many Police Check Posts en route. Rather than risk confronting heavily armed militants, the baton wielding local police chose to by stand. A nearby sizable Christian Village Chak 424 was put on hold through an expected militant attack. This was done through messages by militants, clerics and local administration. The village was never attacked but the warnings served to block reinforcements to the besieged people of Gojra. The militants were seen taking orders on cell phones as also pass on information. If all calls on cell phones from the area were to be checked during the arson, it would reveal a long trail of connections leading to militant leaders, politicians and handlers residing outside Pakistan.

But there is a positive side too. Neighbouring Muslim communities gave shelter to men, women and children, escorted them out of the area on their own transport and provided food. Some Pakistani NGOs have also established camps and MQM relief has arrived in trucks from as far away as Sindh. Pathetically, the only missing group is the Government of Punjab.

Standing next to seven caskets on the railway crossing at Gojra, I was questioning myself why seven females were burnt alive with incendiaries and why innocent people shot in the head at point blank. As I write this, two more men have succumbed to burn injuries in the local hospital. The Punjab Government made no efforts to evacuate them to a Burn Hospital in Lahore. I ask myself, did they deserve this treatment. Do Pakistani Christians who put the opportunist Unionist of Punjab to shame by aligning with Jinnah deserve this?

Local Christians allege that PMLN Government is reluctant to act because it fears losing its vote bank in the area. The incident has become a political battle ground between PMLN and PPP in which justice, rule of law and criminal accountability would ultimately be eclipsed. I remain in awe of the political system to move beyond its petty politics.

In an environment where the legal community is charged and Supreme Court taking landmark decisions, it is incumbent to take a look at half laws that provide a pretext for mob justice. The Supreme Court needs to re evaluate Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code and direct the Parliament to frame it in a manner, wherein it cannot be exploited or manipulated.

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