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Pakistan: Bloodshed In Lahore And The State Of Denial

Categories: South Asia, Pakistan, Disaster, Governance, Religion

Data Darbar – shufi srine in Lahore. Image by Flickr user Ikhaninc, CC BY-NC-SA

Pakistan faces yet another episode of terror as one of it's more revered shrines in Lahore, popularly known as Data Darbar [2], came under attack. According to media reports [3] the shrine was attacked on Thursday by two suicide bombers who were able to sneak in and blow themselves up despite the security arrangements. Huge losses were incurred as the death toll rose to 45 [4] with about 150 injured.

Immediately after the attack, the Pakistani blogosphere was fraught with posts filled with horror and anger. Most of them blame the serious lapse on security directly on the provincial government, who's official stance still stays far from admitting Taliban as the real enemies. In my own blog I wrote [5]:

The worst part of the entire episode is the deluded denial the Punjab government still seems to dwell in. Sideeq-al-Farooq, the PML N [6] spokesperson, openly defined the provincial government’s stance in a talk show on Samaa TV: that to them, Taliban are the good lot who successfully established a glorious rule in Afghanistan. He didn’t go beyond that. Nothing said on the show would stir him to admit that the Taliban were now the terrorists killing innocent people and are now a threat to national security.

Ahsan notes in his blog Five Rupees [7]:

“It is this point which, for me anyway, is cause for the most angst and anger. If you picked a random person off the street from anywhere in Lahore, or even Pakistan, and asked them to name five potential sites for a terrorist attack in Lahore, Data Darbar would make most everyone's list. In addition, given Lahore's recent lapses in security — from the Ahmadi [8] mosque attacks last month to the Moon Market attacks to assorted others — you would think that the shrine would be heavily protected, especially given the fact that just two days ago, the Interior Ministryhad informed the Punjab government of intelligence on an impending attack [9]. But you would be wrong.”

The attack has also disenchanted those who believed Taliban would stay away from the shrines and other holy places. Clearly, to the militants, every thing different from their own version of Islam is a viable target. It is important to note here that Taliban belong to a rather puritanical faction of Islam, Deobandi [10] which views shrine-going as an act of ‘shirk’ [11] (worshiping someone other than God). Barelvis [12], on the other hand, are a faction that believe in shrine-going and many other rather unorthodox practices. The latter has a long history of peaceful existence, refusing, at all points, to resort to armed struggle.

Dr. Mubarak Ali, a famed Pakistani historian, cites in a BBC Urdu article [13]that the Deobandis, the faction Taliban belong to, has been actively supported by Saudi Arabia. The translation reads:

“Barelvis didn't get any support from abroad. On the other hand, Deobandis and those belonging to Ahl-e-Hadees faction had Saudi support. Their madressahs [14] were well funded and patronized by the Ahl-e-Hadees scholars. And because of this, Deobandis emerged much more powerful, politically and financially.”

A lot of other Pakistanis are also pointing fingers at petro-dollars for the virtually infinite funding that seems to be pouring into Taliban pockets. In a rather angry remark, Ale Natiq's facebook [15]status reads, “its time all the Muslims in general and Pakistanis in specific stand against the Islamofascism exported by the KSA. Barelvis, Ahmedis, Shia, Sufi, Christians – who's turn now ?”

He also goes on to cite a number of research articles concluding sufficiently that the Saudi money, trickling down the Deoband madrasahs in Pakistan, has actively contributed towards furthering a much more radical, violent version of Islam.

While most of the blogs have expressed their angst over the attack, many of them have demanded the Punjab government to immediately come out of it's deluded denial and accept that Taliban are a reality, and a bitter reality for that matter. However, so far, the provincial government remains undecided as to whether or not take up the cause of eliminating the terrorist, evidently in fear of losing a part of its vote bank.