Sunday, August 22, 2010

We are all Harami

On August 15th 2010, two brothers Moiz Butt and Monib Butt were publicly tortured and beaten to death by a mob in a village near Sialkot. Not the Taliban or any extremist organization, but by the public. And not just murdered, but brutally tortured for two hours for "allegations" of robbery (even if the allegations were true, it is still not acceptable). As Haroon Riaz points out, there was no proof, no trial. Nothing, but public justice. According to reports, the Punjab Emergency Service 122 arrived at the scene, but were prevented from intervening by the local Police and security organizations.

To top it all off the whole incident was recorded for posterity.  Apart from being extremely violent and highly distrubing the videos also highlight the indifference, the lack of response by the public. No one, I repeat, no one looks perturbed by what is happening in front of them. They are indifferent, enjoying this brutal spectacle, this "tamasha" and at times egg the attackers on. The crowd is dotted with the grey caps of Police officers, but no one steps in to stop this mass lynching. At one point, a young child steps in and participates.

Image Credit: Cartoon Stock

So much for Pakistan's "image deficit". From where I'm standing, it seems pretty well deserved.

Remember, when the Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore earlier this year and everyone; the media, the politicians and the civil society blamed the Taliban and extremists.

Image Credit: Pak Defense Forum

Well, it was all a lie. To be more specific, we were lying to ourselves.

Image Credit: Sodahead

You see by pushing the responsibility of the murder of 90 Ahamdis on the extremists, we absolved ourselves from any sins in this matter. Forget about the ostracism of Ahmadis on a national scale.

Image Credit: The Persecution

Forget about the calls for the removal of Ahamdis from public office.

Image Credit: Ahmadiyya Times

It wasn't us.

Image Credit: Martin Kronicle
But as this gruesome lynching shows, we do not need any extremist ideology to precipitate extreme acts of violence. We just need ourselves.

Image Credit: Parental Gleanings

This is not to say that the prevalence of extremist ideology is not a problem, but that this ideology is not simply something thrust upon us by evil Saudi petrodollars. The prevalence of extremism in our society is a product of our gradual descent towards intolerance.

Image Credit: Txt2Pic

As a society we do not tolerate dissent of thought and action from the accepted social norms. Anyone who engages in any behaviour deemed to be outside of these norms is ostracized and put down, often through violence. The blasphemy laws, the discrimination of special provisions  for Ahamdis in the Pakistani constitutions, the mal treatment of religious minorities, the imposition of Urdu as the national language are all a product of this social mindset. These political developments nurture an intolerant national narrative. This creates a negative feedback loop heightening social intolerance which leads to the Lal Masjid incident, the burning of more than 70 christian houses in Gojra, Punjab and the increasing attacks on Ahamdis, Shiites and Hindus, the almost daily suicide bombings in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the attack on the Data darbar shrine.

The general reaction to this public lynching has been extremely predictable at least within the blogosphere. Many of my fellow bloggers are wondering how people could have stood by and watched, even participated in the murder of two human beings. In my opinion this outrage is entirely superfluous. After all in a society where dissent is not tolerated, where difference of opinion is not respected, where a group of flood victims were denied aid and governmental assistance  because they were Ahamdis, would you expect anything else?

In several conversations, I have heard people refer to the individuals involved in this violence as harami. However, to paraphrase Thomas Moore if we are the ones who create these individuals/haramis in the first place and then we punish them, what does this say about us? Aren't we equally, if not more Harami?

Sidenote 1: Harami is a Urdu/Hindi profanity which can be interpreted as being equivalent to bastard X10.

Sidenote 2: One of the pioneers to develop the concept of Pakistanis as Haramis was my fellow blogger Karachi Khatmal, whom I hold in the highest regard.


  1. true. Pakistan desrave a corrupt leader because we have a corrupted heart.. the entire concept of empathy and respect is now gone from our society..

  2. It would be befitting to say that we got what we deserved. A corrupt nation and its corrupt leaders.

  3. I hold the view that all my life i was defending Pakistan in the worst of its times but that day I felt hollow inside out... i can no more stand for Pakistan.....

  4. What an intolerant society we have become. This is sorry state of affairs.

  5. I live abroad and i have always loved,defended even fought with people who said anything against pakistan or pakistanis. After that video i say fuck that. jitna jaldi ho sake nikal jao iss mulk se wahan allah ka azaab aana hi aana hai. agar nahi nikal sakte tou bad luck.

  6. what happened was wrong shamefull awefull brutal and the list goes on..... there are hardly any words!! but i have a question for those who are now ashamed to be pakistanis and who no longer want to defend pakistan! is it really countries fault!! for the mistakes of a few country men will you desert your homeland whivh has given you everything. its understandable to feel ashamed to be a part of a society where such evil prevails but to abandon your country on the whole isn't right!!! its people like you who are educated who need to stand up for this state instead of running away! this country is only 60 years old! we cant give up now!!! such incidents shouldnt make us hate our roots they should make us stronger and stand up to correct such wrongs around us! its time we stop blaming the administration because frankly you and i both know those politions will do nothing but fill their own pockets with the tax payers money!!! let this incident be a realisation ponit for all!! let it change us as a nation fir the better!!!

  7. Firstly, I would like to apologize for the late feedback. Things have been very hectic in my life this week.

    @itriq Thanks for your thoughts.

    @Insanely insane Ditto

    @Floydian Ditto again. What you have said is very much true

    @Anonymous Trying to change this intolerant social mindset would be better than asking for a punishment from God. It is certainly more productive than praying for the end to come

    @dennoops I think you have misunderstood my post, so I'm going to clarify. Firstly, not defending Pakistani society and being ashamed of being Pakistani are two different things. I am not going to defend a state where human rights abuses are the norm. But I am also not going to denounce myself as being Pakistani either. Just as the Pakistani society has produced intolerant individuals like those who participated in this incident, it has also produced individuals like Dr. Abdus Salam and Edhi. The problem is that Dr. Abdus Salam and Edhi exist in spite of this social mindset rather than from it. We need to create an atmosphere where these types of individuals are the norm rather than the exception.

    Secondly, I have not abandoned Pakistan as a state or the Pakistani people. I do not hate our roots. But I am also not going to pretend that the problems do not exists. I am not going to pretend that there is nothing wrong. The reason that we are in our present state does not have to do anything with others, it has to do with us. We need to understand this first. We need to accept the fact that we are the problem if there is to be a change in our present condition. That is the point of this post.

    Thirdly, the majority of Pakistanis do not pay taxes. So for your assertion that Politicians do nothing but fill their own pockets, I would like to ask why shouldn't they. The only way we can hold the government accountable for our deeds is we are directly invested in them. The taxes we pay are that investment. We have no right to ask our government for accountability of public funds, if the majority of us don't pay for those funds in the first place. It is very hypocritical to point out corrupt politicians while not admitting the fact that we are corrupt ourselves.

    Lastly, I agree with your assertion that the Sialkot incident should be a realization point for all. But unless we admit that this was not an isolated incident but a product of our social mindset, any progress that we make will be superficial.