The Wrong Picture: I Will Not Contaminate My Grief With Their Vengeance

Posted on July 3, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Photo of the Day, Society
30 Comments
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Adil Najam

There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

The picture was taken at a protest against the the brutal murder of innocents at Data Darbar in Lahore yesterday. These are protesters at a rally brandishing supposedly ‘toy’ guns to express their anger at the killings and calling for revenge – I say ‘supposedly’ because news reports suggest that actual firing was done by masked gunmen.

What is wrong with this picture is exactly what is wrong not just in Pakistan, but especially in Pakistan: What is wrong with this picture is a validation of violence as a solution.

According to The Express Tribune those present advocated violent revenge, brandished weapons, and instigated sectarian hatred. Here are the details:

Addressing a charged protest demonstration outside the Data Darbar on Friday, with over 3,000 emotional participants, the leaders of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) openly advocated violent revenge. Several SIC members vowed to ‘seek revenge’ for ‘the attack on Sunni honour’ and urged violence against those responsible. Instigating the cheering and vulnerable mass of participants, Allama Abdul Tawab Siddiqi questioned, “Are you a devotee of the saint in name only or do you want to seek revenge and prove your allegiance?” Tempers and emotions ran high as the protestors raised their hands in unison, heeding the call and promising to prove their loyalty. Allama Siddiqi then administered them a collective oath. A masked gunman fired a round from the midst of the crowd to mark the end of Allama Siddiqi’s speech and as a symbolic gesture of the crowd’s respect and agreement. … Despite the public declarations and incitement, the protest was not interrupted and the police superintendant present at the scene made no move to arrest any of the leaders or the participants or to stop them.

I had never heard of SIC before. I do not know who SIC speaks for; but is certainly does not speak for this particular Sunni.

I too have been grieved, and pained, and outraged by the brutality of the murders at Data Durbar, just as I had been at the murders of Ahmadi worshipers a month ago, just as I had been at the murders of Christians last August, just as I have been at murders of all Pakistanis anywhere. But I refuse to contaminate my grief with vengeance. I want justice, not revenge.

I will not stoop to the same tactics and similar rhetoric that has brought upon me the grief that I mourn at Data Sahib, at Garhi Shahu, at Gojra. Those in this picture may claim that they share the depths of my grief, my angst, my pain; but I refuse to share the vitriolic of their proclamations, the display of ammunition (real or fake), the calls for violence, the notes of hatred.

I refuse to do so because it is exactly that same vitriolic that has brought us to the sorry point that we have reached. I refuse to do so because this validation of violent vengeance dishonors the blood of those who have been martyred, it discredits the grief of those who have lost their beloved, and it auguments the arguments of those who have do the killing.

I, for one, refuse to be part of any of the above.

30 responses to “The Wrong Picture: I Will Not Contaminate My Grief With Their Vengeance”

  1. Humaira says:

    Excellent post. This whole sectarian focus really scares me even more that want we have. If we keep drawing these lines along sects then we will only get deeper and deeper into this mess. Yes, I am also fed up with these killing but I distrust anyone who calls for this violence. Have we learnt nothing? They will turn into the monsters of tomorrow.

  2. Some comments from the ATP Facebook page:

    – “o bhai jo kuch ho chuka hai, ab yehi nobat aye gi”
    – “There s nothing wrong with the pic, this is anger to show the helplessness of people, when u feel nobody s here to take u out of this situation,instead ur rulers r just issuing statements and a few lakh rupees to compensate the lose of lives. When helplessness touches this limit then comes the show of anger,violence.”
    – “gen zia has created an islamic tiger on whom all pakistanis have to ride. this is what happens when somebody tries to get off”
    – “The people who posted above saying.. this would happen ..are indirectly justifying these things. These things are extremely dangerous for Pakistan if you didnt know.”
    – “this god damn religious monkey is no different than taliban, encouraging the same violence as they are perpetrating. why is he carrying an armed guard who is firing amidst protests, may all these god damn opportunists go to hell !!!”
    – “All religious parties have ties with the terrorists and when terrorists strike these Bigot Maulvis come out protesting.Why should we trust these assholes who use the terror tactics to negotiate lucrative deals with the government.One example is Maulana Fazal-Ur-Rehman of JUI. He was a big patron of Terrorists in Dera Ismaeel Khan and after getting permits he sided with the government. I must say for every terror attack we should kill one Politico-Maulvi and get rid of the menace once and for all..”
    – “Do you all think that we are in need of a Kamal Ataturk…..”

  3. Fawad says:

    Adil, I am in complete agreement with the anti-violence sentiments of your piece. However, there is a far more complicated political story playing out in the background that your piece does not seem to recognize. Perhaps people are not as aware of it as even the Pakistani media completely avoids this topic for fear of encouraging sectarian divisions.

    The Sunni Ittehad Council, Sunni Tehreek, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) and several other Barelvi Muslim organizations have been becoming more overtly aggressive and uniting against violent terrorist attacks of the TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Ghazi Force, Jamat-ul-Dawa etc. even against mosques, dargahs and sufi shrines that are the power base of Barelvi sunnis (likely the majority in Pakistan). The Barelvi groups now see the Deobandi / Wahabi / Salafi / Takfiri beliefs and ideology as a direct threat to them as they too are being increasingly considered “apostates” by the takfiris in addition to the Shias and Ahmadis. The Wahabi aligned religio-political forces such as Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI and even elements of PMLN are now experiencing blowback from these Barelvi groups who in the absence of state protection are now ready to fight against their sectarian enemies. In your accompanying photograph, those are Barelvi guns you see being brandished after the attack on Data Darbar.

    In Pakistan the state has completely lost its power to protect innocent people and enforce the writ of law. In the midst of a failing state, different militias are taking over as they see their lives being threatened by non-state actors who consider them kafirs and expendable in the global jihadist march toward the caliphate. If this problem of rampant violence is not tackled with urgency and competence by the government, what we may be witnessing is a march toward civil war.

    But how can the problem even be tackled when most Pakistanis refuse to face the facts of the country’s march toward extremism and pin the blame of society’s crumbling on America, India and/or Israel. A society divided against itself, which cannot even admit what truly ails it cannot hope to fight the extremism in its midst. Even today the most common cliche after any terrorist attack in Pakistan is that the attackers cannot be Muslim when the killers themselves (when captured) are constantly telling us that they believe they are the only true Muslims.

  4. Wasif Hussain says:

    Another courageous post. I salute you for speaking up against all secular violence.

    But I also worry for your safety. You are making some very powerful enemies by speaking up against these people and the Taliban and ithers who preach intolerance. I am afraid that their methods are different from your focus on discussion and reason. I fear they will send their goons for you one way or other. These people play dirty. Pls take of yourself, Sir.

  5. pejamistri says:

    @Adil,
    I know that there is really something wrong with this picture, but there is also something wrong with your article. And that something is the same thing which is wrong with all the so-called “media-men” like yourselves in Pakistan. Publicizing the violent expression of a crowd in order to condemn it is in no way less condemnable then the actual act.
    Compare your article with the piece on BBC urdu today
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/2010/07/100703_ data_serene.shtml
    Remember media is a two-edged sword that cut both ways and you are using it to cut from the wrong side.

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