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Analysis Human Rights Religion

A year since Mashal Khan’s murder, Pakistan is still reeling from the mob’s throttlehold

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Mashal Khan’s murder and Nawaz’s Holi speech

A month before Mashal Khan’s murder last year, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed a Holi ceremony in Karachi, where he vowed to ‘make religious diversity Pakistan’s strength’.

Nawaz’s historic Holi address was not only a follow up to his 2015 Diwali speech, when he became the first incumbent Pakistani prime minister to attend a Hindu festival, but also exhibited a much needed revisionist approach to the history of the state’s creation, which continues to be seen through the Islamist lens.

13 months since that Holi address, which now appears to have echoed in a parallel space dimension, not only has Nawaz Sharif been ousted as the Prime Minister over failure to declare some assets in his nomination papers, he has since been disqualified for life as well.

Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification verdict was announced by the Supreme Court on the first anniversary of Mashal Khan’s lynching. And while there’s no tangible correlation, there is sufficient symbolism and irrefutable affirmation of the gory reality that Islamist autocracy has formally (re)usurped the state in the 12 months since Mashal

This disqualification comes through the Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution an Islamo-militarist remnant of the state’s legal superstructure, which of course Nawaz Sharif himself has upheld in the past.

Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification verdict was announced by the Supreme Court on the first anniversary of Mashal Khan’s lynching. And while there’s no tangible correlation, there is sufficient symbolism and irrefutable affirmation of the gory reality that Islamist autocracy has formally (re)usurped the state in the 12 months since Mashal, a free thinker, was brutalized at the hands of the radical Islamist vigilantes who were his fellow students from Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan.

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Mashal’s murderers sentenced, but ideologues go scot-free

While a verdict has been announced against the perpetrators of the murder, the ideologues that uphold the mob justice that was meted out to Mashal have been actively ‘mainstreamed’ into Pakistani politics. Not only do these include the orchestrators of actual mobs like the Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), which held the capital hostage and perpetuated genocide for the Ahmadiyya community in November, but also globally-designated terrorists like the Kashmir-bound Hafiz Saeed – and his groups – protecting whom has put Pakistan on the brink of FATF blacklisting.

Dodging FATF on Hafiz Saeed with TLY?

Even though Hafiz Saeed affiliated groups were designated as terrorists – in a bid to dodge the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) bullet – with the Milli Muslim League (MML) yet to be registered by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the TLY, led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has contested all major by-elections over the past 12 months, with the party banners promoting Mumtaz Qadri – the killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who was declared as a terrorist by the Supreme Court and hanged by the state accordingly for that murder.

The TLY’s personification of the mob that killed Mashal was visible in its weaponising of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat after the National Assembly had passed the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 into law in October, without the discriminatory clauses in the nomination papers targeting the Ahmadiyya community.

Strangling the capital over a corrected mistake

While the ‘mistake’ was undone immediately, Rizvi, who strangled the capital a few kilometres away from the Parliament and the GHQ in November, managed to do the same last week in Lahore, despite there being an arrest warrant against him.

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In addition to this token arrest warrant, the only other action against Rizvi was the 46-page “exposé” by the ISI, which revealed that the TLY chief is ‘arrogant’ and uses ‘harsh’ language – obvious to anyone who logged on to Facebook or YouTube at any period between October and December 2017.

Then there was this video showcasing Director General of the Punjab Rangers Maj-Gen Azhar Navid Hayat distributing money among the mob that had strangulated Islamabad under the security forces’ nose.

Military-Milord-Mullah-Mob

Once the Rizvi show was put on the backburner, it was another cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri’s turn to take up the military-milord-mullah-mob narrative and demand the overthrowing of the Punjab government in January.

Despite his demand for justice over the 2014 Model Town massacre being completely justified, that he brought together the two major opposition parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – who would unite again in March, with the military establishment’s tacit support, to deny the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) the Senate leadership – and the fact the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause was listed atop his list of demands, reaffirmed his Islamo-militarist backing.

The freethinker from Mardan then spent his entire lifetime under the shadows of these state manoeuvres and grew up challenging the Islamist hegemony which, eventually, so mercilessly, took his life.

Almost on cue, the Mutahhida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) also decided to announce its reincarnation in March, as the Islamist coalition, led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) that was backed by Gen Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorial regime for the 2002 elections, deciding to make itself relevant again before the upcoming general elections.

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Failing Mashal

The military’s use of jihadist strategic assets for both intra-and-inter-state conquests had been going on since before Mashal Khan’s birth. The freethinker from Mardan then spent his entire lifetime under the shadows of these state manoeuvres and grew up challenging the Islamist hegemony which, eventually, so mercilessly, took his life. And now a year after his defenceless body was lynched, the mob and its ideology have taken over the state backed by two of its most powerful institutions.

A year after Mashal Khan’s death, Pakistan is failing everything that he was, and espousing everything his killers stood for.

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