By Rashmi Talwar
Whatever Gen Parvez Musharaff was to Pakistan and whatever cowardly refuge he took by refusing to shed his uniform (small clothes change!) or India Bashing, he did IT to win ‘brownie’ points in his own country. He was most certainly walking a tight rope, as far as politics in his country was concerned.
For India, he was the architect of the Kargil Misadventure and a petulant leader at the Agra Summit.
His recent comments in the “India Today” organized Conclave saw the rug being pulled from right under his feet, when a muslim leader Mehmud Madani, member of Rajya Sabha and leader of Jamat-e-Ulema-i-Hind, bluntly told him to mind his own business as far as ‘Indian Muslims’ were concerned and take care of his own in Pakistan . Adding, “Indian Muslims are capable of handling their own problems and did not need either him or Pakistan to do so for them. Don’t try to play your politics of Pakistan from here” bullseye ! …it exposed Musharaff’s true intentions to be in India right on…
Back home no one really cared how he was run over by the muslim community in India, in the widely televised “India Today Conclave”.
For all his drawbacks and loud mouthed claims, what cannot be ignored is the fact that Musharaff as a martial ruler, tried to bring some veneer of balance for minority communities in a ‘highly’ theocratic state of Pakistan.
During his regime2-million rupees were sanctioned to beautify the “Katasraj” Hindu Shrines in Chakwal district of Pakistan which suffered more from human anger than the rigors of time besides a long pending demand of cremation ground in Lahore for sikh and hindu community (hindus are almost negligible in Lahore) was accepted in addition to Christian community that got funds .
Artists and theatre too flourished more freely. A beginning of the CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) with People to People contact between India and Pakistan started . No major terrorists strikes in Pakistan were seen duirng his regime other than two attempts on his (Musharaff’s)life and assassination of Benazir Bhutto ……that ultimately spelled doom for his political career.
After the effects of emotional franchise brought ‘Mr 10 percent’ –Asif Zardari to power, came —-the Talibans!
Major terrorist strikes, killings, rape, public floggings took place in Pakistan. Consequently, rallies of outrage against terrorism, high-handedness grew, fear psychosis has gripped Lahore and Punjab– the largest of the 4-provinces of Pakistan that also dominates the Political scene in Pakistan. Following this, perhaps people by and large in Pakistan are in a ‘mood-to-forgive’ Musharaff for his acts of omission and commission.
The fact that minorities in Pakistan, though almost negligible in number, had barely started feeling a little comfort during Musharaff’s time while just a few months onto the Zardari regime, has overturned the goodwill and security; Moreso with manifold misery unleashed on them ….is just another factor, albeit, of very little consequence.
At no time, has the alienation of minorities in Pakistan been as great as during the reign of the present incumbent.
News of Sikh community members’ abduction and demands of “Jazia” a Tax Imposed on Non-Muslims living under Sharia law by Taliban of Orakzai Agency in FATA, has shocked the world.
‘Jazia’ a tax on non-Muslims was re-imposed by Aurangzeb after Akbar had abolished it. The unearthing of ‘Jazia’ from the grave by Taliban not only comes as a retreat into the medieval ages but a sharp slap to world sanity.
The Orakzai Agency is one of seven tribal regions in Federally Administered Territory Area of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan which for months has been under control of Tehreek Taliban Pakistan.
After this news, More than five hundred thousand Christians in NWFP province of Pakistan are in wave of fear of life and property.
More than 5000 Pakistani Hindu families have recently migrated to India illegally after Zardari signed off SWAT to Taliban . The Hindus rather be jailed than return to NWFP and areas near Swat, where Taliban call the writ.
The recent incident where Sikhs were targeted happened in areas of Qasim Khel and Feroz Khel in Orakzai Agency. More than 50 Sikh families were living here even before independence of Pakistan. The Sikhs were running small businesses of grocery stores and wholesale outlets in Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan, when thousands of Sikh community members were forced to leave on Islamic Tax on Non-Muslims during Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 1999-2000. Only a few Sikh families remained here loyal to their religion while many others converted.
In recent wave of Sharia law in Swat Valley, Malakand, Dir, and Kohistan Areas 200 Sikh families and 1000 Christian families were forced to leave on issue of Taxation “Jazia” to seek protection living in the Islamic state.
In Orkzai Agency which is ruled by Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, homes of Sikhs were occupied by Taliban on failing to pay 50 million Rupees as Jazia. The Taliban kidnapped and tortured Sikh community leader Sardar Kalyan Singhand Sikhs collected and paid 7 million but failed to pay full amount on which they were driven out of Orakzai area of FATA.
Later, it was reported that the extremists occupied houses and shops of the Sikhs in Qasim Khel and Feroz Khel areas of the Agency and auctioned their valuables for 0.8 million rupees. Earlier, the Taliban had also demolished houses belonging to the Sikh community in the region.
Many of these sikh families have taken refuge in Nankana Sahib, Hasan Abdal , Panja Sahib , Dera Sahib and other Gurdwaras of Pakistan.
The Taliban bombed Christian Schools in Swat Valley and forced thousands of Christians to convert to Islam or to pay Tax levied to Non-Muslims on which they migrated to Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan.
The Christians from Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Sawabi and Charsadda districts of NWFP province have been already migrating to safer places in other areas with their relatives without any UNO or government of Pakistan assistance.
On news of Sikhs migration from FATA, the Indian government strongly protested to Pakistan and asked to secure life and property of Sikh and Hindu religious minorities in Pakistan.
Agitated Sikhs even burned effigies of Taliban in Amritsar.
India took up with Pakistan the matter related to the treatment of minorities in that country in the wake of reports that Taliban had driven out Hindus from their homes and were demanding ‘jaziya’ (taxes) from them.
Dr Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC commenting on issue of Sikhs and Hindus migration from FATA and Northern Areas of Pakistan appreciated stand of Indian government but expressed his disappointment on killing of Christians and mass migration of Christian families and silence of India and International forums to formally lodge protest with Pakistan.
Be that, Pakistan’s refrain of taking up issue of minorities treatment in Pakistan by India, amounts to interference in the internal matter of the country. But, Chief of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC reminds and clarifies that Pakistani Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities reserve right to invite India for their moral support according to “Liaquat-Nehru Pact” signed among neighboring states to protect rights of minorities in respective countries.
In all this mele, there is not a word of empathy, for the plight of minorities in Pakistan, from anywhere in the country. A Pakistani civil officer aptly puts it “Minorities in Pakistan are of no consequence, they don’t register and their presence or absence means nothing.”
No one in Pakistan, has gathered the guts for a mere lip-service on the plight of minorities, fearing upturning their political fortunes. Minority leaders themselves admit that Musharaff was a far better ruler than Zardari. However, this opinion means nothing per se.
The major fact is, the vital ground scenario that things have gone ‘Horribly’out of control of the ‘fragile’ Zardari regime. This has indeed instilled morbid fear among those of cushy lifestyles In Pakistan(elite, politicians, army, bureaucrats, landlords and druglords), whose very existence is threatened to be overshadowed by the might of the Taliban. The thread of protests has been joined by various artist organisations, writers forums, NGOs,associations, societies and institutions in Pakistan against Terrorism.
It is they, maybe who will bring Musharaff back as a lesser evil.
Or has Mushraff —the architect –cleverly laid the plans for his return…….albeit– Op Lal Masjid that had an ominous dastardly spillover in the present day Pakistan and no one to clean the mess !