The gunning down of Sufi singer, Amjad Sabri is indicative of an insidious Wahabi project which Pakistan Army has been spearheading since Zia days. It is the transformation of Pakistan into a rabidly Sunni state which has no space for minorities….writes Syed Shihabudeen
The killing of a famous Sufi singer in Karachi in June this year strengthens the growing belief that Pakistan has no place for singers, writers, thinkers and artists. It has become a theocratic state with no concessions to free expression and creativity. In this quest for transforming what was once home to creative expressions in words and thoughts, and beliefs, the state, led by Pakistan Army, has been systematically destroying all surviving symbols of culture and history of its people.
The gunning down of Sufi singer, AmjadSabri, from the famed Sabri family of Qawwals, whose fame straddles the continent and beyond, is indicative of an even more insidious project which Pakistan Army has been spearheading since Zia days. It is the transformation of Pakistan into a rabidly Sunni state which has no space for minorities, including the Shias. This is part of Pakistan Army’s long cherished dream of leading the Muslim Ummah, or the Caliphate, which in its megalomaniac vision transcends political boundaries.
Sabri, like all right thinking people in Pakistan, have been under threat from various extremist and terrorist groups which often work as the SWAT team of Pakistan Army. These groups have been carrying out targeted killings of Shias, Hazaras and Christians with such impunity that it is difficult to believe that they do not have state protection.
Intriguingly the army, which otherwise cries hoarse about being the protector of people and property in Pakistan, has never carried out any planned operation against these killers. These killers also remain out of the reach of the law enforcement. Rarely has one heard of any one of them being arrested and tried, leave alone hanged or sentenced for long prison term. Otherwise garrulous Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, is particularly reticent about these killer gangs.
He has not spoken about them and is yet to make a declaration, which is his wont, to root out such killer gangs from the heart of Pakistan. He has all the time to chase the Chhotu gang of Punjab, with all his arsenal, but his army has not found either intent or time to put an end to such wanton killings as that of Sabri.
In the last few years, especially during and after the Musharraf days, liberal space has not only shrunk drastically in Pakistan but also has become bloodied. Musharraf, the General and President, decided to carry forward his mentor, Zia’s diabolical plan of making Pakistan a Sunni runt state. In fact even this outwardly extremist agenda had another hidden agenda—to make Pakistan a Wahhabi state.
Musharraf therefore overlooked the killing of Shias and minorities. In fact, it was during his regime that killer gangs ran their operations openly and without any fear of law and targeted killings of Shia, Ahmadi and Christian professionals became a norm. Karachi became a killing field with targeted killings becoming such a normal event that it lost any gravity and soon became a routine event in the life of people traumatised by the high handed rule of a military dictator.
Musharraf also targeted other minorities and rebels like Baloch. He launched a major military offensive against Baloch leader, Akbar Khan Bugti and his tribesmen, cornering them with combat jets and artillery guns and picking them out as target practice for his soldiers. Since no spoke against him, no one dared to come out in protest and the silence of the international community was deafening, Musharraf and his successors took it as a licence to kill all those who stood in the line of Project Sunni Pakistan.
It continues till date with equal silence on the part of the international community. As for the people of Pakistan, they are a frightened lot. A handful of journalists who used to raise voice against such atrocities have since long been silenced with threats and targeted shootings. Hamid Mir, one of the most well known journalist and occasional critic of Pakistan Army, was forced into silence with two shots to his groin. Other lesser known journalists have been less lucky and the bullets found their mark quite efficiently. Several others, under threat and intimidation, fled for safer pastures. So it is not difficult to realise that when innocent singers like Sabri are killed in open day light, there will hardly be a murmur. Those who do face similar death.
For Sufis and those who follow more liberal interpretation and life of Islamic teachings, it is even more traumatic to live in a country which they believe is a nation created for Muslims. Sufi singers have been especially targeted by all kinds of extremist outfits and self-styled religious leaders, many of whom operate and survive purely because of the patronage they enjoy from the state, especially from Pakistan Army. Sufi shrines have been destroyed in the past and the devout have been gunned down while kneeling down for prayer, all in the name of religion and the state-sponsored project of Wahhabi Pakistan.