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Religiously-Motivated Violence Should Have No Place In Naya Pakistan

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It was partially a rainy November of Gayana’s rain-forest in 1978 when the whole world was shook. The first photographs of swollen bodies of nearly a thousand Americans laying around the main court hall of the newly built jungle city called Jonestown had surfaced. The city was named after a murderer who killed all of his followers and then took his own life by drinking Cyanide squash through psychological provocation. He had used religious sentiments to provoke his followers.

Jim Jones was a religious leader or more of a cult-chief of Christianity in America. He often performed fake healing stunts in front of massive crowds gathered to see him. He was considered one remarkable speaker who raised his voice against racial inequality at a time when a civil rights movement was gaining momentum in the US.

He also ran religious schools and orphanages to grab a philanthropist image in the society.

Jones slowly started grabbing the political influence as his presence in the political processions meant that his followers will turn up for him. This political influence fetched him key political positions twice. Rapid progression of Jones caught the journalistic investigation which resulted in Jones getting exposed on drug usage as well as sexual crimes.

Sensing downfall Jones fled the United States along with his followers and students to the newly-built Jonestown in remote Gayana of Latin America. Protests started erupting against Jim Jones by the families and loved ones of his followers and students which forced the congressman Ryan to visit Jonestown to investigate the matter himself.

He did try to negotiate Jones into giving up the cult and return home, but he got killed by the cult’s armed followers at an airstrip as he was about to fly back to home. Furthermore, Jones ordered to make a poisonous drink and all present shall drink it. They all died instantly.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, United States keenly scrutinised the religious groups and introduced new laws and practices to have full control over them. The idea was to declare that no group or individual shall be considered above the law and the state. A state within a state shall never be tolerated.

Similarly, Fethullah Gullen, a Turkish religious leader and accused planner of bloody Turkish coup attempt of July 2016, is another example of such a philanthropist-cum-leadership that puts its followers through tests. He was famous for his social work. He ran schools and orphanages. Moreover he once had very close ties with the ruling party.

Gullen, like Jones, created his own desired group for his hidden agenda. The group worked for education, health and welfare apparently but discreetly had a mission which got exposed during the event of failed coup in July 2016. His followers held offices in every government department which shows that for years Turkey had a hidden state within itself. This hidden state led by Gullen, sensing the opportunity, tried to overpower the Turkey under Erdogan but was in vain.

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Violence In The Name Of Religion In Pakistan

Pakistan is no stranger to such kind of religious movements that are shadowed under the umbrella of education, health and welfare. One such “state within a state” was quashed by Islamabad in The Seige of Red-Mosque. Red-Mosque leader had strong ties with the previous governments and the militants.

Movement of Minhaj Ul Quran headed by Professor Tahir Ul Qadri is another such example in which the group apparently holds a social stature of welfare and it had support of governments.

Qadri runs schools and universities where orphans are looked after. In a security state like ours where social welfare is not a priority, Qadri’s cult helps poor for the purpose of grabbing political power. He used his followers for staging protests against the governments.

In 2017/18, the adventures of Tehreek-e-Labayk Pakistan (TLP) were an alarm to Pakistan. It was a reminder that Pakistan still is faced by a constant threat to its stability. Once again, religious sentiments were being used to grab support on ground. Their confrontation has proved that TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi has unprecedented religious support in the country especially in the largest province of Punjab.

Rizvi had rapidly gained presence in the political arena of Pakistan on the behest of public reaction to the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. Moreover, in his speeches, Rizvi also claimed to have superstitious powers through which he cures people with kidney diseases. Furthermore , he boasts about having conversations with dogs, demons and Jinns.

In the Elections 2018, inclusion of Tehreek-e-Labayk Pakistan (TLP) had lead to controversies. Party’s candidates used hate-filled slogans and slurs in the election campaign to religiously motivate the masses. Religious and political victimisation was at its peak. Politics was being used to issue religious decrees against opponents.

It seemed very evident that the party that echoed the purposeful slogans, might start determining the faith of an individual. After all the fuss TLP did shock and worry Pakistan by, though not winning any National Assembly seats but bagging more than 2 million votes.

The Election Day was more interesting for me. It was Friday and voting was supposed to be held after congregational prayer. In an Islamic Republic, indeed it is a very good omen for democracy as well as for people of Pakistan. After my prayers, I started driving towards the constitution avenue, the very avenue that protects our basic rights and liberties. But it seemed heck of a task to find an open road to my symbol of freedom. Khayaban-e-Suhrwardy was all shut.

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As usual, petrol pumps were curtained and roads were barricaded. Why? Well, just few days before that, I witnessed large pickups full of Madrissa students, gearing towards the constitution avenue. Though they were blocked well before by law enforcers, but the roads had to be barricaded to ensure security for the big day. It was none others but followers of Jamiat-e-Ullama-e-Islam (JUI-F). Maulana Fazl ur Rehman who had failed to win any seat for himself, used the students of his Madrassas to shout foul.

I am not surprised at all on current build up to ‘Million March’ of JUI-F against the state. Once again, religious sentiments are being exploited. Once again hate against Israel is being cashed in. Government and state institutions are being branded ‘representatives of infidels’.

Once again clouds of uncertainty are dulling the already fragile shine of the federal capital of Pakistan. I can sense that JUI-F would put up a good show as it is absolutely easy for religious cults to bring their psychologically motivated mobs to stage anything the cult-chief wants. Fazal ur Rehman would do nothing different but bring his students and cult followers. He too runs a wide range of Madrissas where thousands of underprivileged youths live and study. He certainly is a ‘Jim Jones’ to his followers.

Far is not the time when one of the religiously motivated groups attempt to do something of such kind discussed above. As we have witnessed in the previous encounters of such groups, they are prepared to give or take a life to achieve their political goals.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) won the elections with popular slogans of equal opportunities for all to study, work and live their lives. It promised one Pakistan, not two. It must insure equality in the syllabus too. Be it a government run school, elite boarding school or a religious seminaries, PTI must insure that the students are being taught the same kind of curriculum. Government must take care of its orphans and underprivileged children so that they do not get preyed upon by the religious cults.

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