Napoleon Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

In quest of jinnah

I would like to share something about his life which is not known to many, perhaps known to many.

Sir Dinshaw Petit father of Ruttie Petit belonged to a family of Parsi merchants well known for their business discernmentand philanthropy. His grandfather was a self-made millionaire, pioneer of Bombay’s cotton industry. Sir Dinshawentertained lavishly, keeping one of the best tables in Bombay. His annual Polo Ball was the highlight of the Bombay season. His grandfather famously hosted a fancy dress ball for theDuke of Edinburgh. 

Jinnah had come to Bombay penniless from Karachi, but became one of Bombay’s best known and wealthiest lawyers within the span of two decades. A star politician, known for his luxury cars and fashionable clothes. Sir Dinshaw admired Jinnah, who was very popular among his compeers because of his personality and nationalism. The friendship between Sir Dinshaw and Jinnah was unequal from the start. But the famous 1916 session when the League and Congress held a joint session in Lucknow where he emerged as the unchallenged leader of Muslims. His name was in the newspapers almost every day, either on behalf of the Congress or League, having overcome conservative forces within both parties. 

It was during one of the holidays that Ruttie and Jinnah fell in love. She was only sixteen at that time. A fashionable Parsi girl, known for her wide reading, her poetic temperament and passionate interest in politics. Jinnah approached Sir Dinshaw, and began straightforwardly, with his marriage proposals. To break the news to the unsuspecting father was not easy. The baronet did not see it coming. It was not an enviable situation for any suitor to be in. Jinnah was not twenty four years older than Ruttie but had known her since she was born. Sir Dinshaw had a reputation of a staunch supporter of intercommunity marriages, but no one, in Bombay’s mixed society, had dared to cross the matrimonial divide among the Hindus, Parsis and Muslims. It was not Ruttie’s youth only but marrying out of community. It was the unspoken rule in the older generation. 

Sir Dinshaw not only refused but took out a restraining order against Jinnah. According to Kanji Dwarkadas, Sir Dinshaw claimed in his plea for the court injunction, that Jinnah was planning to marry his daughter against her father’s wishes with an eye on her fortune, he should be kept away from meeting with her.

Some friends and relatives did advise her to forget a man who was unsuitable because of his age and religion, but also because of mismatched temperaments, politics was his only passion. But she would not hear a word against him. In 1918 Ruttie turned eighteen when they decided to get married. Jinnah chose renowned Sunni Imam of Bombay’s Jamia Masjid and a member of Muslim League Maulana Nazir Ahmed to convert Ruttie to Islam on Thursday, April 18.After keeping the world guessing Jinnah married with Ruttie on Friday 19 April. The marriage was performed according to Shia rites, well known Shia cleric Maulana Muhammad Hassan Najafi was deputed as Ruttie Dinshaw’s representative and Shariat Madar Aqai Abdul Hashim Najafi signed on behalf of Jinnah. Shareef Dewji Kanji, Umar Sobhani and Raja Sahib Mehmoodabad were the witnesses of Nikah. The only women he had invited were his two sisters, Shirin Peerbhoy and Fatima Jinnah. Jinnah forgot to buy a ring for the ceremony, but Raja Sahib came to rescue him here too, when he offered a diamond ring from his finger. The wedding document serial number was 118.37. According to Nikahnama the Mehar was Rs 1001, but Jinnah presented Rs 125,000 to Ruttie as a gift.

The news of wedding broke out to Sir Dinshaw through a newspaper. Ruttie Dinshaw the only daughter of the distinguished Parsi baronet, Sir Dinshaw Petit, yesterday underwent conversion to Islam and it today being married to the Hon. Mr. M.A. Jinnah.

The Jinnah resided mainly at South Court Mansion in Malabar Hill, very close to Sir Dinshaw’s Petit Hall. However, there was no contact between them and the Petit family, and the estrangement continued even after the birth of Ruttie’s only child, Dina Wadia, the following year. Ruttie was also ex-communicated from the Parsi Community with extraordinary measures.

By mid-1922, Jinnah was facing political isolation, as he devoted every spare moment to be the voice of separatist incitement in a nation torn by Hindu-Muslim antipathy. His increasingly late hours and the increasing distance between them left Ruttie feeling neglected. The marriage deteriorated rapidly after the birth of their child.

Ruttie Jinnah developed intestinal ailments with cancer speculated to be the cause. In early 1928, she moved into a suite at Bombay’s Taj Mahal Hotel, leaving Jinnah home with eight-year-old Dina. On 19 February 1929, Ruttie fell unconscious in her room at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Jinnah was in Delhi, when he received the call from Bombay, it was his father in law, telling him that Ruttie is not well, that was the first time Jinnah spoke to his father in-law. Jinnah reached Bombay next evening, but Ruttie was already dead. Her body was taken to Arambagh, Khoja cemetery belonging to the Khoja Shia Isna Ashri Muslims. When Ruttie’s body was lowered into the grave and Jinnah was called to throw the soil on her grave, he broke down suddenly and wept like a child.She died on her 29th birthday. 

Couple of lines from her last letter to Jinnah: 

Try and remember me, beloved, as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon…

Darling I love you – I love you – and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you..

I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy which commenced in love should also end with it.

Darling I love you – I love you….

(Credit to Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi and Sheela Ready’s Mr and Mrs Jinnah)

After Jinnah died, his sister Fatima asked the court to execute Jinnah’s will under Shia Islamic law. This subsequently became part of the argument in Pakistan about Jinnah’s religious affiliation. In a 1970 legal challenge, Hussain Ali Walji claimed Jinnah had converted to Sunni Islam. Witness Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901.Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah’s joint affidavit that Jinnah was Shia was rejected. But in 1976 the court rejected Walji’s claim that Jinnah was Sunni; effectively accepting him as a Shia. In 1984 a high court bench reversed the 1976 verdict and maintained that “the Jinnah was definitely not a Shia”, which suggested that Jinnah was Sunni.

I have been wondering for year, that how honest was Sharifuddin Pirzada? He was born in 1923, and Jinnah’s wedding took place in 1918, Sharif had stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901. If we go through theNikah ceremony of Jinnah, then where does Shariffudin Pirzada stands?

My gratitude and respect to a non-practising Muslim who was a Muslim by faith and Shia by choice, and an ambassador of all faiths.

Jinnah

On 20 October 1875 a son was born to Mithibai and Jenabhai in Karachi, who was named Mahomedalli Jinnahbhai. His birth certificate and school records show his name as Mahomedalli Jinnahbhai, and his date of birth was recorded as 20th October, 1875. He later on changed it to 25th December, 1876, not sure what was the reason behind it. Jinnah’s family belonged to the Ismaili Khoja branch of Shia Islam, though Jinnah later converted to Twelver Shia Islam. The Khoja, as it is recognised are converts from the Hindu caste Lohana. 

The image of Mohammed Ali Jinnah was painted of a prophet in my younger days, extreme Islamic forces portrayed him as a Muslim who wanted a pure Islamic State, and the opposite don’t even consider him even a Muslim, because of his western lifestyle, who remained committed to his three-piece suits, his King’s English, and no political language that invoked religion. I personally disagree with both.  As I grew older perception kept on evolving about him, but my interest in Jinnah sahab begun after reading Stanley Wolpert’s book Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was always a follower of Jinnah and would often discuss his ideology with his roommates, during his days at Berkley University. He termed Mohammed Ali Jinnah as his ideal.  

Jinnah studied at several schools: he spent three and half years at the Sindh-Madrasa-tul-Islam in Karachi; briefly at the Gokal Das Tej Primary School in Bombay; and finally at the Christian Missionary Society High School in Karachi. In 1892, upon the advice of Fredrick Leigh Croft, Jinnah was sent to London to learn intricacies of shipping; Croft had assured him apprenticeship in London. Before leaving for London he was married to Emibai who died after a year when he was in London. 

While doing his apprenticeship he developed an interest in Law. He sat for admission tests for the Bar and in June 1893 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn. According to one of the account, Jinnah chose Lincoln’s because one of the wall at one end of New Hall, also called the Great Hall, which is where students, Bar, and Bench lunch and dine is a mural depicting the image of PROPHET MOHAMMED and other lawgivers of the world.

It was at Lincoln’s where he changed the spellings of his name, removed bhai from his name and adopted Jinnah, and then on to Mahomed Alli Jinnah, and through this transitional period he dropped second “l” from Alli, and later adopting additional “m” to Mahomed, leading finally to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which remained for the rest of the life.

I have always been a hero worshipper, he said once referring to Dadabhai Naoroji who was elected to the House of Commons in July 1892. Jinnah became a regular visitor of House of Commons where he used to follow the proceedings of the House. Once Jinnah spoke to his sister, when I learnt that Lord Sainsbury had ridiculed Dadabhai in one of his speech as a black man, I was furious. If Dadabhai was black, I was blacker, and if this was the mentality of our political masters, then we could never get a fair deal at their hands. From that day I have been an uncompromising enemy of all forms of colour bar. I worked for Dadabhai for vengeance.

Jinnah’s professional career begun at the Bombay Bar, he enrolled as an Advocate of the Bombay High Court at the age of 24. Soon he was admitted to the chambers of John Molesworth Macpherson, then the acting advocate-general of Bombay, this was the first of its kind ever extended to an Indian. In 1900 Jinnah got the prestigious opportunity to join as presidency magistrate. Jinnah’s political journey began when he joined Anjuman- e-Islami on his return from Britain. Badruddin Tyabji, a judge of the Bombay High Court headed the Anjuman, who became Jinnah’s Muslim mentor.

Jinnah had commenced legal practice when racial prejudice and discrimination against Indians in the bar was widely evident, but only on the strength of his capabilities, he won a handsome practice. He was a self-educated, a self-made man. He had not the assets of birth, linage or social status that most other barristers had. 

When he appeared before the Public Service Commission in March 1913, he was asked by Lord Islington, It has been represented to me that difficulties might arise if you put a Hindu in charge of Muslim population. Do you think that a Hindu who got a few more marks than an educated and Influential Muslim would make a better administrator when he was in charge of a population which was largely Muslims?Jinnah replied that in that case you will be doing the greatest injustice to the Hindu. I don’t see why a Hindu should not be in charge of a district where the majority happens to be Muslim.

Percival Spear writes in, Jinnah the creator of Pakistan: To personal integrity, devotion to principles must be added courage, an absence of petty thought or motives.

Hector Bolitho in Quest if Jinnah writes; Jinnah was a source of power, a cold rationalist in politics, he had one track mind, with great force behind it; Jinnah was potentially kind, but in behaviour extremely cold and distant. For Jinnah, a secondary status was galling, what he has always sought and mostly attained was the centre stage.

Jinnah’s contribution towards united stand for Congress-Muslim League was significant. He endeavoured and succeeded in creating an ideological unity between the Muslim League and Congress. Amongst the other contributory causes, it was also the unstated pressure exerted by the united Congress-League stand.

Why Jinnah is my hero? There are hundreds of reasons, but his 14 points, and his principled stand like one at the first Round Table conference at House of Lords, Deepak Natarajan quoted The Manchester Guardian in his book, Jinnah’s fatal handicap; Mr Jinnah’s position at the Round Table Conference was unique.

The Hindus thought he was a Muslim communalist, the Muslims took him to be a pro-Hindu, the Prince deemed him to be too DEMOCRATIC. The British considered him a rabid extremist with the result that he was everywhere but nowhere.None wanted him.

Jinnah reflected himself on his role at the conference in a later public speech at Lahore on 2 March, 1936:

I displeased the Muslims. I displeased my Hindu friends because of the famous 14 points. I displeased the Prince because I was deadly against their underhand activities, and I displeased the British Parliament because I felt RIGHT from the beginning and I rebelled against it, and said it was all a fraud. Within a few weeks I did not have a friend left there.

And the concluding quote from Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah confirmed the above statement and my faith in his unbiased principle throughout his struggle of independence, whether it was for United India or Independent Pakistan:

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.

Because of his Khoja background, Sarojni Naidu said in 1917, that Jinnah was a Hindu by race and Muslim by religion.

Aurangzeb: The Vanquisher

There are two opposite sides of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir;I would like to present both sides briefly before coming to a conclusion.

A Ferocious villain:

In 1660 Aurangzeb emerged as the undisputed Emperor of Hindustan. He outmanoeuvred his three brothers, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, and Murad. He executed two of his brothers, driven the third out of Hindustan, and locked away his ill father Shah Jahan in Agra’s Red Fort. He had Sarmad Kashani arrested and beheaded, who was accused and convicted of atheism and unorthodox religious practice. He also punished those he believed had helped Shivaji escape. He had the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur executed for taking up arms against the Mughal state. During his princely years he targeted the Ismaili Bohras, harassed them throughout his reign as king, and executed the 32nd Absolute Missionary of theDawoodi Bohra sect of Islam Syedna Qutubkhan Qutubuddin.Throughout his reign Aurangzeb crushed rebellions, waged wars of expansion.

Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, the last ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty refused to surrender. He and his servicemen fortified themselves at Golconda and fiercely protected the Kollur Mine, which was then probably the world’s most productive diamond mine, and an important economic asset. Aurangzeb and his army managed to penetrate the walls by capturing a gate prompting the army and the ruler to surrender peacefully and hand over the Nur ul Ain Diamond, Great Stone Diamond, Kara Diamond, Darya-e-Nur, making the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb the richest monarch in the world.

Aurangzeb changed the name of one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, Banaras, to Muhammadabad. After the Jaat rebellion in Mathura, Aurangzeb ordered the city’s Kesava Deo temple demolished. In 1679, he ordered destruction of several prominent temples that had become associated with his enemies, including those of Khandela, Udaipur, Chittor and Jodhpur. He ordered the destruction of Vishvanath Temple at Varanasi for being a centre of conspiracy against the state, and he ordered the destruction of the Jama Masjid at Golkonda after finding out that its ruler had built the mosque in order to hide revenues from the state. Aurangzeb robust festivities on Nauruz, cancellation of Eid celebrations on a grand scale, curbed the boisterous festivity associated with Holi, Diwali and Muharram. He once chastised his son Muazzam for participating in Nauruz festival. At times Aurangzeb persecuted specific Muslim groups whose doctrines ran afoul of his vision of Islam. He ordered Bohra mosques to hold five prayers. Nobody knows the exact numbers of temples demolished on Aurangzeb’s order. He introduced jizya in 1679 in response to several events shortly before its introduction: the great Rajput rebellion, the Maratha alliance with the Shia Golconda.

A Pious King:

Initially, Aurangzeb’s cultural and courtly activities followed earlier Mughal kings. He upheld many Mughal practices derived from Hindu customs. He appeared daily to his subjects in the palace window to give auspicious glimpse. On his birthdays he was publicly weighed in gold and silver, which was reportedly cancelled after few years. He erected a monumental tomb Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad for his first wife, Dilras Bano Begum.

Aurangzeb built more temples than he destroyed. He allowed the repair and maintenance of existing temples, and even made generous donations of jagirs to many temples to gain the goodwill of his Hindu subjects. There are several orders in his name, supporting temples and gurudwaras, including Mahakaleshwar temple of Ujjain, Balaji temple of Chitrakoot, Umananda Temple of Guwahati and the Shatrunjaya Jain temples, among others.

He memorised Quran and sewed prayer caps and copied the Quran by his own hands. He prayed with greater regularity than his forefathers, and abstained from alcohol and opium.At different points he tried to bar the alcohol, opium, prostitution, gambling, and public celebrations of religious festivals. Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa e Alamgiri, a synthesis of Hanafi legal judgements, and was among the few monarchs to have fully established Sharia law and Islamic economics throughout the Indian subcontinent. He sponsored the construction of Badshahi Mosque Lahore at the time it was built; it was the largest mosque in the world. Aurangzeb felt that verses from the Quran should not be stamped on coins, as done in former times, because they were constantly touched by the hands and feet of people.

Aurangzeb’s sovereign bureaucracy employed more Hindus than that of his predecessors. Between 1679 and 1707, the number of Hindu officials in the Mughal administration rose by half, many of them Marathas and Rajputs. His increasing employment of Hindus and Shia Muslims was deemed controversial at the time, with several of his fellow Sunni Muslim officials petitioning against it, which he rejected, and responded, “What connection have earthly affairs with religion? And what right have administrative works to meddle with bigotry? ‘For you is your religion and for me is mine. He insisted on employment based on ability rather than religion.(Aurangzeb by Audrey Truschke)

Conclusion:

Aurangzeb struck hard against enemies who threatened the integrity or peace of the Mughal state, no matter their status or religion. He was not anti-Hinduism, Sikhism, or Shi’ism. Ram Puniyani states that Aurangzeb was not fanatically anti-Hindu, but rather continuously adapted his policies depending on circumstances. I totally reject the claim that he wanted to convert all Hindus and Sikhs to Muslims. If that was the case he would’ve accepted/acknowledged Ottoman Empire, instead he helped the rebellions and offered them asylum in his Kingdom. If he was against Shias, he wouldn’t have invited the most famous Shia scholar Mullah Baqar Majlisi of recent history to his kingdom thrice. I personally believe that they liked each other because of their common views about the implementation of Sharia and disagreements with Sufiism. Aurangzeb’s incursions into the Pashtun areas were described by Khushal Khan Khattak as Black is the Mughal’s heart towards all of us Pathans. Pashtuns were not Hindus or Sikhs, they were Muslims. Forget the brothers he did not even spare his own son. He was brutal, barbarous, callous and merciless to his enemies. He simply didn’t like any opposition against him. He was a notable expansionist who was widely feared not respected. The conquest of Shia Golconda by 1689, Mughal victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres. But the supremacy was short-lived.

Deathbed notes:

I know not who I am, where I shall go, or what will happen to this sinner full of sins. . . . My years have gone by profitless. God has been in my heart, yet my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. . . . There is no hope for me in the future. The fever is gone, but only the skin is left. … I have greatly sinned, and know not what torments await me. . . .

President Emmanuel Macron, Secularism and Islamophobia

“The French state does not favour any one religion and guarantees their peaceful co-existence in respect of the laws and principles of the Republic,” the government’s website reads.

France has the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe, with more than 5 million estimated Muslims in a nation of 67 million.

In recent years, a specific phobia has gripped Western societies called Islamophobia. Islamophobia is an exaggerated irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.

The tensions between certain sections of Islam and the interpretation of secular values have intensified in recent years and have been particularly divided in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in many Muslim countries against France in the past few days. French President Emmanuel Macron became a special target of anger in certain parts of the Muslim world because of his speech following the beheading of the French teacher.

Three weeks after an attack on the former offices of Charlie Hebdo, Samuel Paty a history and geography schoolteacher was beheaded by an 18-year-old man for showing cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in his class. The professor had discussed the subject with his class after Charlie Hebdo magazine republished the drawings of the Prophet Mohammed to coincide with a trial related to the deadly attack on his journalists in 2015. Paty, advised Muslim students to avert their gaze if they thought they were offended. The assailant followed Mr Paty, who was on his way home from school, inflicted multiple head injuries with a knife and then decapitated him. The man later posted photographs of the victim on a Twitter account.

President Macron began his speech by reasserting that the French principle of secularity guaranteed the freedom to worship, rejecting the “trap” laid by extremists which would seek to “stigmatise all Muslims”. The president singled out the ideology of “Islamist separatism” which sought to “create a parallel order” to the French Republic, asserting its own laws as superior. People should face up to a phenomenon that was enticing significant numbers of young people.

Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression: “We will not give up caricatures and drawings, even if others back away”, he said, calling for an end to hatred and violence and for respect for others.

“Our challenge is to struggle against the downward slide of some in the name of religion, by ensuring that those who want to believe in Islam and are full citizens of our Republic are not targeted.” 

He described Islam as “a religion that is in crisis all over the world today”, before unveiling his plan to tackle radicalism. There was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”, outlining plans to end a system allowing imams to train overseas, reduce home-schooling, and take control of religious funding. Associations would have to sign a contract respecting “the Republic’s values” in order to obtain subsidies.

He also acknowledged that France had failed its immigrant communities, creating “our own separatism” with ghettos of “misery and hardship” where people were lumped together according to their origins and social background. We have thus created districts where the promise of the Republic has no longer been kept, and therefore districts where the attraction of these messages, where these most radical forms were sources of hope.

Soon after his speech some leaders of Islamic world condemned President Macron, including Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Iran; while tens of thousands have attended protests in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Palestinecalling for a boycott of French goods.

Prime minister Khan did not mention the attack on Paty, or other violent attacks related to alleged blasphemy including a Pakistani migrant who attacked two people outside the former Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“It is unfortunate that he has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists,” the prime minister said in a Twitter post.

In an interview with Al Jazeera President Macron said: he understood and respected the feelings of Muslims who are offended by the drawings, but that could never justify physical violence. Blaming “lies and distortions of my words” for the reaction, he pointed out that the caricatures were “not a government project” but came from “free and independent newspapers”. Macron denied attacking Islam, saying France has “no problem” with the religion which is practised by millions of people in France who “want to live in peace”.

His targets, he said, were terrorism and those who promote “radical Islam”. These are violent extremists who distort the religion and commit violence within Islam, claiming that Muslims accounted for 80% of the victims of Islamist terrorism in the world over the past 40 years. I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw, he also hit out at what he described as “distortions” from political leaders, saying people were often led to believe that the caricatures were a creation of the French state.

Article 1 of the French Constitution is commonly interpreted as discouraging religious involvement in government affairs, especially religious influence in the determination of state policies; France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.

A ban on Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols at state schools in France was introduced in 2004.In 2011 France became the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places, while alternatives such as HIJAB, which cover the head and hair, remained legal. The French government has insisted it will not seek to ban Muslim women who wear headscarves from volunteering to help on school trips after outrage when mothers accompanying pupils were told to remove theirs.

In October 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron hadwarned against “stigmatising” Muslims or linking the Islamic religion with the fight against terrorism. “Communalism is not terrorism.”

There are many factors that can influence how Muslim and Western societies interact and respect each other. Cultural, religious and political differences can influence the opinion of one population towards the other. That is why before judging President Macron, one must keep in mind that France is an independent sovereign state like Pakistan or any other country, protests against his controversial remarks are justified, but his government should  get the credit where its due. His government blocked the bill passed by Senate to impose a ban on Hijab in 2019.

Allow me to ask you to reflect upon the following verses of the Holy Quran:

Those will be given their reward twice for what they patiently endured and [because] they avert evil through good, and from what I have provided them they spend. And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, “For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace will be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.”

The Quran, Al-Qasas 28: 54, 55

The meesha shafi

Regardless of the legal position, employers should strive to eliminate workplace bullying and harassment as they both have a negative impact on employee morale and motivation.

In every employment contract there is an implicit obligation of mutual trust between the employer and the employee. Failure to address intimidation and harassment likely leads to a breach of trust, which amounts to a breach of contract.

Many people refer to bullying and harassment interchangeably. However, because in recent years the law on sex, race and other types of discrimination has explicitly recognised harassment as a category of unlawful discrimination, there is now a tendency to use “harassment” specifically in this context. 

In United Kingdom under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is described as unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating another person’s dignity or creating an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for another person. It may be of a sexual nature or related to the gender of the victim, transgender status, disability, race, age, religion or belief or sexual orientation.

In April 2018, Meesha turned to her social media account and publicly alleged that she had “been subjected, on more than one occasion, to sexual harassment of a physical nature” at the hands of Ali Zafar. Meesha wrote that by speaking out, she hoped to “break the culture of silence that pervades our society.”

Ali Zafar denied the allegations and filed a civil libel suit against Shafi for one billion rupees in damages. The court agreed to the trial and imposed closure on Shafi, which still prevents her from discussing the allegations in public.Zafar has accused Shafi of organising a social media campaign against him. According to newspaper reports, he said he could not believe that “anyone can come forward and accuse someone who is innocent and decent, has worked hard for over two decades – solely on social media. 

In the following two and a half years, Ali Zafar took part in quite a few television programs to defend his name, sometimes accompanied by his wife. He claimed the charges were a smear campaign, coordinated by a group of women who created false accounts and were financed by foreign money.

When Ali Zafar accused Meesha Shafi and Nighat Dad of leading an overseas-funded campaign against him, it reminded me of a speech by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She appeared to be well aware of such situations and said:

“Civil society is a concept intrinsically linked to strong democratic traditions, giving real meaning to the concept of pluralism in society. Nongovernmental groups, community organisations, women’s organisations, student unions, trade unions, environmental organisations, professional associations, and religious groups each represent the interests of particular constituents. Collectively, they form the foundation of democracy in theory and practice. The groups making up civil society are often at the vanguard of political reform and demands for governmental transparency. They are the internal election monitors. They stand up against violations of human rights. They work with international groups that promote democracy to guarantee a fair political process but not a guaranteed political outcome. Such civil society groups can be both powerful and credible. Although civil society cannot replace political parties in the democratic process, it complements political parties by ensuring a level playing field in politics. By working with their counterparts around the world, NGOs in the Muslim world can integrate societies and break down walls of ignorance. Civil society is therefore invaluable to building democratic systems that isolate extremists. There can be no democracy without a civil society, just as there can be no democracy without the rule of law. Laws should be enacted to protect civil society from political attack. Financial and tax incentives can further strengthen civil society institutions. Here again, women’s organisations have played the most crucial role in civil society in promoting political reform in the democratically developing world. 

We need a powerful, heavily networked international group aggregating activist women’s groups throughout the Muslim world. Women’s groups can serve as the linchpin of civil societies around the world.”

In July 2018, Shafi also initiated court proceedings, attempting to bring Zafar to trial for sexual harassment in the workplace. Her case was rejected because of the technicality that freelancers were not subject to the legislation. An appeal before the Lahore High Court was dismissed and although her lawyers challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, the case has still not been heard.

Until September 2020, when news of the charges broke, nine people, five women including Meesha Shafi, and four men, had been booked for defamation by the FIA’s cybercrime wing over the alleged social media “character assassination” of Ali Zafar.

Meesha Shafi’s lawyer Nighat Dad, says she knows dozens of women who have complained to the FIA about online abuse, hate-speech, rape threats and vindictive sharing of intimate videos, but had received no response. When girls at the Lahore Grammar School recently alleged harassment by teachers and fellow students, several were threatened with criminal defamation, after which the accusations went quiet.

 “The cyber laws that were enacted in the name of protecting women in Pakistan now are being misused and weaponised to silence them.”

For the women, most galling of all was the law they had been charged under. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act was passed in 2016 partly to protect women from online harassment, but the wing of the FIA tasked with prosecuting these cases is accused of being ineffective.

According to Nighat Dad she herself has been subjected to a vicious smear campaign, with newspapers making allegations that she is a foreign operative running an “illegal NGO”, unsubstantiated claims retweeted by Zafar. 

In a recent development, on January 11th, 2021, the Supreme Court approved Meesha Shafi’s plea for workplace harassment against Ali Zafar. She was granted leave by the court in her appeal against Zafar, meaning the court will be deliberating if Meesha Shafi’s accusations of sexual harassment should come under the workplace harassment law. 

The Punjab government as well as Zafar received advice from the court, as the judges decided that there should be a proper hearing of the points raised in the case.In my opinion, it is no longer a matter of winning or losing. The case will establish new precedents and guidelines regarding harassment at work in Pakistan. Regardless of the outcome, Meesha will forever be remembered for seeking justice for victims of harassment in the workplace.

That is why I refer to Meesha as “the Meesha Shafi”. 

Paramount of Feminism; Zainab bint Ali

The battle of Karbala is largely considered a male event, revolving around the sacrifice of Hussain Ibn e Ali and the lack of visibility of women. The women of Karbala are known through the suffering of the male kin and the hardship they endured in the absence of men. The Karbala narratives that are derivative from this historic event, the martyrdom of Hussain being seen as the key moment in the history. In the earlier narratives, women were largely seen as passive victims of the tragedy and know largely through the trials and tribulations they faced. In some accounts the central female character Zainab bint Ali in Karbala is described as being weak with grief, choked with tears, in the aftermath of Karbala. This trend of representations, portraying the Karbala women as weak and passive actors changes adequately when you read the post Karbala events, the journey of the family of Holy Prophet from Karbala to Damascus as prisoners of war. 

Zainab bint Ali’s character has been an integral part of the Karbala narrative, in her augmentative role Zainab is the epitome of command, who had her father’s fiery tongue and her mother’s forbearance. It was the night of the tenth of Muharram that Zainab took charge of her desolated household. The focus shifts to Zainab at the dusk of Ashura. From this point onward, she spoke with paramount authority and unrivalled courage. Zainab confronted Yazid at his court in Damascus, to redeem her family’s suffering and tell the world the reasons for which Hussain Ibn e Ali and his companions suffered. From this moment onward, Zainab evoked the far-flung conquest of Hussain, metaphorically turning Damascus into a variant of Karbala. Hussain’s martyrdom and his physical combat are reinforced through Zainab’s subsequent confrontation with Yazid; her battle with words and deeds. Zainab became the feminine face of Hussain and Abbas Ibn e Ali.

A rigid disunion between the emotional and the rationalised versions of Karbala narrative, where the traditional narrative only make people cry and the authenticated one teaches lessons is problematic because, it separate the political from the spiritual and tends to overlook the intrinsic spiritual message of Karbala. The characters of the Karbala women are no less important than the men and their intellectual skills and oratory powers are equal to the defiant powers of their male kin. The following excerpt of the sermon of Zainab bint Ali at Yazid’s court is a prime example of such courage:

Whatever you consider today, as a bounty would turn into reparation for tomorrow; whatever you have sent in advance would be received by you. Allah does not like oppression toward his servants. I complained to Him and put my trust upon Him; thus whatever deceit you want to practice, go ahead and do it; whatever endeavours and efforts you can make, try them. 

By Allah you would never be able to remove our remembrance from the hearts, nor would you ever be able to destroy our revelations; you would never reach our splendourand majesty; you would never be able to wash this ugly spot of tyranny from your dress; your opinion and suggestions are invalid and unstable. The duration of your rein is very short, and your assembly would soon be scattered; on that day when the heavenly crier would announce: Praise be upon the Lord of the Worlds, and are beginning- with prosperity and salvation-and our end-with martyrdom and blessing. O You, Who is just and righteous toward us and who is the most compassionate among all the compassionate ones, we put our trust only upon you.

The late Fahmida Riaz who was a progressive Urdu writer, poet, human rights activist and feminist, depicted the address of Zainab bint Ali in a poem, titled Hazrat Zainab ka KhutbaSham key Darbar Mein. The poem ends with a declaration of defiance from Zainab bint Ali, and the defiance is immediately followed in the final couplet by a call to feminism.

You perpetrated a horrible crime, O murderer Yazid

Do not think it is glad tidings of victory decreed

But the very end of the low which you think to be a high

The men and women you over-ran with your army were a handful

The Gracious Lord from the sky watched the unjust slaughter

You have caused yourself a huge loss

The wrath you visited, your oppression upon our brood

You cut your own jugular, drank your own blood

The Prophet’s family have embraced martyrdom

Their heads held high, departing successfully from this kingdom

They shine on the firmament, will be remembered by the earth

The darkness of your face is now indelible, you accursed

There is great noise in every quarter over your tyranny

You deserve curses, and are worthy of a penalty

Humanity presents her a golden tribute

She elevated the world of femininity with a crowning attribute

Translated by Raza Naeem

Zainab was the third child of Ali ibn Abi Talib and his wife Fatimah bint Muhammad. Like her two elder brothers, Hassan and Hussain ibn Ali, Zainab was named by Prophet Muhammad pbuh. The name “Zainab” means, “adornment of her father”. 

She is a constant reminder that the human spirit will fight against and triumph over oppression and is seen as a protagonist, not as a victim. And finally, women were given the right, or even the responsibility, to challenge male authority when a man acted in an impious manner, even if he was the ruling caliph. Hussain’s Jihad was marked partly by sword and arrows; Zainab’s Jihad was waged through words of eloquence. Hussain made Karbala immortal; Zainabassured the immortality of Karbala through her sermons in Damascus. The manifestation of her acts is seen in the words of her grandfather Muhammad pbuh: 

The best form of jihad is to utter just words in the presence of a tyrant ruler.

The struggle of Zainab the conqueror of Damascus reminds us again and again that the minority must not be intimidated by the Majority.

Attacks Won’t Silence Us

Starting from ‘you’re a bitch’ to ‘you deserve to be killed because you’re against the state’. This is one extreme to another. Everything that goes in between, you can imagine.

Umaima Ahmed works for The News on Sunday said this in December 2018. Many journalists in Pakistan face online harassment and in the case of women, the abuse they get is often sexual in nature.

A survey in 2018, among Pakistani journalists by the Digital Rights Foundation, showed that 66 percent of respondents had experienced ‘digital insecurity’. This includes, but is not limited to, being hacked, threatened, blackmailed and being harassed over a sustained period of time. Many women whochallenge the status quo face extraordinary backlash and abuse. There is self-censorship not only because of the abuse they face online, but also because there is real fear of that becoming offline abuse. When it comes to women journalists, it’s very sexual in nature. People abuse them not based on their content but based on how they look and their body. They body shame them. Such online abuse threatens media diversity in a country where women already make up a small fraction of journalists. Women are coming out of their comfort zones and out of their homes. The more they are reclaiming spaces, the more they are facing challenges, said Nighat Dad

Nothing has changed I am afraid since then, on August 12, a joint statement signed by some 50 women journalistscondemning a “well-defined and coordinated campaign” of harassment on social media, including abusive language and threats of violence, vicious attacks through social media are being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for us to carry out our professional duties. The statement further outlined the systematic abuse the female journalists are subjected to beinstigated by government officials and then amplified by a large number of Twitter accounts, mainly declaring their affiliation to the ruling party. In what is certainly a well-defined and coordinated campaign, personal details of women journalists and analysts have been made public. To further discredit, frighten and intimidate us, we are referred to as paddlers of “fake news”, “enemy of the people” and accused of taking bribes. Critical posts are drowned under sexual slurs and baseless allegations. There have also been multiple reports of pictures and other personal information of female journalists being accessed and spread online, endangering their safety. The group of journalists also retreated that they are being prevented from exercising their right to free speech and participate in public discourse

The statement demanded the government to immediately restrain its members from targeting women in the media. Asking Prime Minister, Imran Khan should send out a clear message to all party members, supporters and followers, to desist from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly. The government should hold all such individuals within the government accountable and take action against them.

In response to the joint statement, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Pakistani authorities to ensure that the online threats and hate messages are stopped. We regard the highest levels of the Pakistani government as either responsible or complicit in these recent cyber harassment campaigns against certain women journalists who don’t toe the official line, said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

Benazir Shah said the social media harassment usually follows a very specific pattern. First government officials target you, calling your tweet ‘fake news’ or accusing you of being an ‘enemy of the people’ or a ‘lifafa’ journalist.

As expected, trolls responded back with filthiest language to the female journalists. Special Assistant to the prime minister on political communication, Dr Shahbaz Gill responded on social media earlier today accusing Benazir Shah and Mehmil Sarfaraz of being a supporter of PPP and PMLN, who are specifically trying to link only PTI with harassment. 

Not long ago, an alleged audio call of Member Provincial Assembly of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf Uzma Kardar wasleaked on social media, wherein the she was heard saying that First Lady Bushra Bibi has restricted the movement of PTI leaders in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence. There’s a line in the house which nobody can cross. She controls everything in the house. She also said that establishment isplaying a very prominent role and has controlled the media. There is a clear message that establishment and government are on one page. It is good because no government can survive without the support of establishment in Pakistan.

On June 15, Special Assistant to the PM for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Rights Development Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari criticized Uzma Kardar on twitter for her disrespectful remarks about the First Lady. The PTI MPA could be heard saying indecent things about Bushra Bibi in the audio. One can’t expect her to understand the calibre of First Lady but it is extremely shameful of Uzma Kardar to be talking behind her back, prime minister and First Lady’s respect comes foremost for all of us. Embarrassing behaviour from anyone who claims to be associated with the party.

Ultimately Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan removed treasury MPA Uzma Kardar from his ministry’s media strategy committee and the slot of the Punjab government’s spokesperson. If an MPA of sitting government can be removed within a week of a leaked audio, why prime minister’s office cannot issue a statement in favour of the women journalists?

I sincerely expect Prime Minister Imran Khan to take immediate notice of this dirty campaign on social media and instruct his advisors to abstain from attacking female journalists instead. It is in the interest of whatever democracy is left in the country not to silence the voices with force and online harassment. 

Let me repeat it again with that attacks cannot silence women journalists.

Eyewitness to extremism

Majority in Pakistan recognises the fact, that the people of the Islamic republic are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan in 1979, and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and pandemonium. The Tazias of the Ustad and Shagird in the city of Saints, Multan. Shah Jamal Wala Tazia of Jhang and the Tazias of Chiniot is the true legacy of shia-sunni unity. 

The Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had faced vigorous opposition throughout his premiership years. In 1977 the opposition was united under the revivalist banner of Nezam-e-Mustafa. According to supporters of the movement, establishing an Islamic state based on sharia law would mean a return to the justice and success of the early days of Islam. In an effort to stem the tide of street Islamisation, Bhutto had also called for it and banned nightclubs, horse racing, and the drinking and selling of wine by Muslims. 

On 5 July 1977, General Zia-al-Haq led a coup d’état. Hecommitted himself to establishing an Islamic state and enforcing sharia law, established separate Sharia Judicial courts to judge legal cases using Islamic doctrine. New criminal offences of adultery, fornication, and types of blasphemy, and punishments of whipping, amputation, and stoning to death, were added to Pakistani law. Offices, schools, and factories were required to offer praying space. Conservative Islamic scholars were added to the Council of Islamic Ideology. Separate electorates for Hindus and Christians were established in 1985 even though Christian and Hindu leaders complained that they felt excluded from the country’s political process.

Despite reservations expressed by the Shia Ulema, Zia al Haq promulgated a new ordinance regarding automatic annual deduction of the 2.5% Zakat from bank accounts. In July 1980, the Shia political organisation Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh-i-Jafaria, under the leadership of Mufti Jafar Hussain, organised the largest Shia demonstrations in Pakistan’s history at Lal quarters ground in Islamabad. Most of the participants were from Multan, Shorkot and Bakkhar district. When the demands of Shias were turned down by the military government, the Shia leadership decided to march towards Secretariat Islamabad. As soon as the announcement was made, Islamabad Police was ordered to attack the crowd with teargas, which created a panic in the crowd and they all started marching towards the Secretariat. One of the teargas shells hit one of the demonstrators in the head which went through his skull and the victim died at the spot. The crowdreached Secretariat Islamabad after few hours, where the sit-in was announced by the Shia leadership. The sit-in forced Zia after two days to backtrack and he agreed to exempt Shias from Zakat deduction and change the laws for inheritence. Known as the Islamabad Accord, President Zia al Haq viewed it as a personal humiliation as it sent a strong message across the country that his so-called ‘Islamisation’ was not acceptable to all Pakistanis.

As a matter of fact that was the beginning of the opposition of Shias at State level. It was the Islamabad Accord which signalled the start of sectarian war in Pakistan more than Saudi-Iran proxy war or Afghan Jihad. Military Dictator President Zia al Haq viewed Shias as a threat to be controlled and, therefore, first instigated a split in the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-Jafaria in 1984 with the help of his intelligence agencies. Second, and more importantly, he approved the appearance on the scene of the anti-Shia sectarian organisation Anjuman Sipah Sahaba later renamed Sipah Sahaba Pakistan. The formation of the Imamia Students Organisation soon after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of Arif al Hosseini to top positions who was later murdered in Peshawar on August 5, 1988. The emergence of a new class of Shia religious clerics who had either spent most of their time in Iran or were ideologically allied to Tehran. More importantly, it also invited backlash against Shias when the Saudis bankrolled Pakistani-state sponsored madrassahs during the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, which resulted in the rise of sectarian outfits. The first major sectarian riots in Pakistan broke out in 1983 in Karachi and later spreading to Lahore and Balochistan.

“In May 1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.” The Herald April 1990 

Malik Ishaq, the leader of one of Pakistan’s most notorious anti-Shia extremist groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi declared Shia Muslims “the greatest infidels on earth” and demanded that the Pakistani state “declare Shia non-Muslims on the basis of their beliefs.” Lashkar-e-Jhangvi death squads are believed to have been responsible for the killings of thousands of Shias throughout the country, including a campaign of targeted murders in 2011 which killed Shia doctors, lawyers and politicians residing in Karachi.

A fierce crackdown by security forces in 2015 which resulted in a dramatic drop in sectarian violence. The crackdown culminated in July 2015 when Malik Ishaq was killed in a firefight with police along with 13 fellow militants. The shootout wiped out much of the top leadership of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

On September 11 and 12 this month, mainstream religious right-wing parties, allied with banned outfits, held mass rallies to demand stricter blasphemy laws and for the Islam Protection Bill recently passed by the Punjab Assembly to be replicated across Pakistan. The protesters demanding a ban on Muharram processions that marks the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and his followers on 10, Muharram 61 AH. The commotion followed the detention of a Shia cleric in Karachi under blasphemy laws for leading Ziyarat-e-Ashura, a prayer that salutes the martyrs of the Battle of Karbala, on Channel 24 News on Sept. 13. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a notice to the news channel and suspended its license for 15 days, and its owner was arrested.

The tragic irony of this increasingly violent sectarianism is that Friday’s demonstration saw thousands of protesters rally near the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who himself was a Shia Muslim though he maintained a secular public religious identity and preached the same for the country. Once a respected and well-integrated minority in a country and count the nation’s founder as one of their own, Shia Muslims within Pakistan have become a community under siege in recent years and are facing a situation which is increasingly being described by many as a slow-motion genocide.

The Pakistani state and political parties have been a bystander, and an accomplice, in the Shia cleansing. The Tahaffuz e Bunyad-e-Islam legislation, passed by the politicians in Punjab Assembly. The political ramifications of such a gathering cannot escape anyone, particularly in the wake of the fact that an anti-Shia movement there had once led to the killing of a large number of Shias, including professionals and other prominent persons. The State of Pakistan must not ignore the fact that the sectarianism is a dangerous political tool, even worse than religiosity. Wake up!

You are free to go to your temples…

You are free; you are free to go to your temples…
 
 
It was Salman Taseer in 1967 who welcomed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he left the government of General Ayub and came to Lahore to form the Pakistan People’s Party. Salman Taseer, who was himself a student at the time, was there to sing the taglines for “Jeye Bhutto”. This was the beginning of Salman Taseer’s long journey with Pakistan People’s Party. And it was Salman Taseer again in 1986 who came to greet the daughter of Pakistan’s first elected Prime Minister. He was the official spokesperson for young Benazir Bhutto. His words, on her arrival still resonate in my mind:
 
“A new realism is dawning on these people who have no people, not even a cat or a dog behind them. I saw people running around the Grand Trunk Road for miles barefoot just to get a glimpse of Benazir Bhutto. She is their Joan of Arc, with courage, credentials and she is attractive.”
 
But I commend the Salman Taseer for strongly defending Asia BiBi. Salman Taseer’s brave stand exposed the hidden extremism in Pakistan. Before his murder only Taliban’s were known extremists and terrorists. As governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer visited Asia Bibi at Sheikhupura jail in 2010 who was wrongly accused of blasphemy. In a televised press conference, with Asia sitting veiled beside him, Salman Taseer had appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon her.
 
A few weeks later, on 4 January, 2011, Salman Taseer was murdered in broad daylight by his own security guard. In the middle of the busy Kohsar Market in Islamabad, Mumtaz Qadri fired at the governor 27 times at close range. Overnight, Qadri emerged as a hero to millions of people. Giving himself up to the authorities, Qadri told the police that he did not regret killing Salman Taseer – it was his religious duty.
 
Khadim Rizvi served as a clerk in a small local mosque. He was an employee of the government and a marginal figure, but even then he was known for his controversial lectures. As a preacher, Khadim Rizvi often glorified Salman Taseer’s murder. He was ultimately dismissed from his work as a cleric over the sermons which praised Qadri as a martyr. He turned toward politics and founded the TLP.
 
Then, during 2018 elections, claiming to be defenders of Prophet Mohammed’s honour, this small populist party won more than two million votes. Throughout the campaign, their posters and banners carried pictures of Mumtaz Qadri, Idolising him as a martyr of the cause.
 
The deep rift within Pakistani society between the so-called religious and openly secular, between western liberal elites and ordinary Pakistanis threatens to further destabilise Pakistan. Pakistan remains grappling with a serious identity crisis. The Urdu interpretation of secularism is “no religion”, sometimes referred to as “anti-religion”. Supporters of a neutral religious space are thus hindered by the perceived hostility of this neutrality towards Islam.
 
Salman Taseer, was a rare Pakistani politician. He was an avowed liberal, a fierce opponent of extremism, and a staunch advocate for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer’s blood gave life to the dying words of father of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah:
 
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
 
Long live Salman Taseer!
 

The journey, not the destination….. travel; envisage; contemplate