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How the Ayodhya verdict plays out in Pakistan

By Hamid Mir
October 01, 2010 18:31 IST
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Pakistani peacenik Hamid Mir's singular idea to ensure extremists in his country do not retaliate over the Ayodhya verdict. 

Why are so many Pakistanis demonstrating against an Indian court's verdict on the Babri Mosque issue? It's a question I have been pondering ever since I saw protest rallies in Karachi and Lahore on television channels immediately after the verdict of the Allahabad High Court on September 30. Many Pakistanis feel this verdict is not 'legal' but 'political'. I was disturbed to watch a late-night TV show on September 30 in which a friend claimed, "no Hindu temple had ever came under attack in Pakistan, but Hindus have destroyed many mosques in India".

I remember dozens of Hindu temples did come under attack in Pakistan after the demolition of the Babri mosque in India in 1992. If that demolition was wrong, then attacks on Hindu temples in Pakistan, were wrong as well. And we should not try and hide our wrongdoings under the cover of the Allahabad High Court verdict.

Luckily enough, there are some bold and brave analysts in Pakistan, who did say we should not play politics in the name of the Babri mosque, but most Pakistani TV channels did not behave like Indian TV channels after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

This is the first time that the Pakistani media did not attempt to spread hatred against Hindus. In fact, the coverage of Pakistan's biggest private news channel Geo TV was very balanced. Geo TV highlighted the views of all the three judges on the bench of Allahabad High Court including one Muslim, Justice Sibghatullah Khan, who also favoured the division of the land among Hindus and Muslims.

A majority of Pakistani Muslims belong to the Sunni Barelvi school of thought. The most respected Sunni Barelvi scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman appeared on Geo TV and said that the Allahabad High Court verdict was political, but appealed to Indian Muslims that, "they should control their sentiments and they should avoid violence in the name of Islam".

Rehman should also appeal to Pakistani Muslims that not play into the hands of those who are trying to start violence in Pakistan in the name of the Babri Mosque.

I remember the attacks against Hindu temples in Pakistan after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and I covered many attacks in Lahore as a young reporter. Extremist groups in Pakistan fully exploited the tragedy and in fact, were the main beneficiaries of the dispute because they tried to give an impression that all the Indian Hindus were enemies of Indian Muslims, which was not a fact. The Babri Masjid dispute was the tool of many religious groups to politick and a favorite subject of many writers and journalists in Pakistan till 2001.

But 9/11 changed the world and the focus of Pakistani extremist groups shifted from India to the US. The Babri dispute lost importance in Pakistan after the attack of Pakistan army on Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007. A majority of Pakistani Muslims rightly or wrongly felt that Pervez Musharraf created the theatre where the drama of the Lal Masjid operation was used to divert the attention of common Pakistanis from the lawyers' movement on then, in support of the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan.

I remember many Muslim scholars in 2007 said they always condemned extremist Hindus who attacked Babri Masjid, but could say little when the Pakistan army attacked a masjid in Islamabad in the name of war against terror.

The Lal Masjid operation created more extremism in Pakistan and was a turning point in our history. Extremists began suicide attacks against security forces all over the country and even attacking those mosques where officials of security forces offered prayers. I can never forget the images of destroyed mosques in Swat, Buner, Dir, Khyber and other places in Pakistan, destroyed by Muslims not Hindus. Most of these mosques became targets of suicide bombers and some were destroyed due to fights between militants and security forces.

How can I forget the images of Pradlane mosque in Rawalpindi attacked by bearded Muslims – the Taliban took responsibility for the attack. We must admit that more mosques were destroyed in Pakistan by so-called Muslim militants as compared to mosques destroyed in India by non-Muslims. Let the Indian Muslims and Hindus resolve their dispute through legal recourse. We must not politick in the name of the Babri masjid.

So, what should we do as Pakistani Muslims? We must try to give more legal, political and moral protection to our minorities. I have already suggested to friends in the government and opposition parties that we should take more care of Pakistani Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

We must allow them to build as many temples and churches they so want. We must discourage the powerful land mafia in Pakistan, which always grab lands of Hindu temples and Christian churches in areas like Sind and Central Punjab. When we give them more protection, Indians will also do likewise.

Pakistanis should secure their mosques because those are the targets of Muslim extremists, not Hindus.

Extremism is a way of thinking. Extremists have no religion, but sometimes act in the name of Islam, sometimes in the name of Hindu dharma and sometimes in the name of Christianity. We must condemn all.

The best way to condemn extremism is to build a Hindu temple in Pakistan in the name of the Babri mosque demolished in India. We must not forget that Zaheerudin Babar built not only mosques, but Hindu temples as well, across India. Can't we build one Hindu temple in his name? It will give a very positive message across the border.

When Indian Hindus demolished one Babri Mosque in 1992, Pakistanis retaliated by attacking many Hindu temples in Pakistan. When an Indian court divided the land of the Babri masjid among Hindus and Muslims in 2010, Pakistanis should not retaliate but built a Hindu temple instead. It will not be a sign of weakness, but a goodwill gesture and Indians can truly believe Pakistan is changing and should also change their way of thinking.

Hamid Mir is executive editor of Geo TV in Pakistan

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