Talking about the state.

Dissent is essential to any state. It helps reflecting upon the policies employed by the state, to correct them and to improve upon them. With dissent comes tolerance. The two can’t exist without each other. And once a state becomes abhorrent to dissent, what follows is violence.

Now lets come back to Pakistan and reflect. Saleem Shahzad, a correspondent of Asia Times Online was killed just days back. We don’t know who are perpetrators of this heinous crime. But we do have some pointers. What pointers: Well, HRW and HRCP both point toward the state.

Now, one of the prime responsibilities of the state is to maintain law and order. It must be able to protect the vulnerable against the aggressor. It must provide its citizenry protection against blatant banditry.

And that’s where the state of Pakistan is so interesting to look at.

On one hand, it fails to protect its vulnerable citizenry against the aggressors, time and again. You can simply call it a problem of law and order. And it isn’t a recent phenomenon. It has been happening throughout its history. You want an example? Ahmadiya Riots 1950s’, Gojra 2009, Ahmadi Massacre 2010, Shanti Nagar 1997 etc..

Then it goes on to protect or at least remain indifferent to the aggressors who inflict these kind of attacks on its citizenry. To check that, you can go to any maderessah around your place, and ask about the rights of Ahmadis in the Pakistani state. Even more, you can ask a random Jamaat activist and inquire about Ahmadis’ source of funding.

And it all happens under its nose, the state’s eye. It doesn’t do nothing about it.

Finally, it employs violence, but well, with impunity to further its goals. One can skim through the literature on Balochistan to realize what this is all about. Repeated abductions, killings, harassment is part of what state does in its quest to impose authority. Or to put another way, kill dissent.

So when it doesn’t act against the perpetrators of violence who lie outside its fold, that is those who are not exactly a part of it, how can one expect to it put on trial those who are actually a part of it?

Now, ask yourself, from where must the state begin to impose a modicum of dignity and respect for human rights? By clamping down on whom against it remains silent, the Lashkars and Jaishs and others, or by cleansing its own ranks?

Well, I have no clue if it is even ready to rethink. What I do know is that when a state becomes so indifferent to the suffering of its people, and it isn’t only the minorities that have been suffering at its hand, that citizenry fails to trust it, things like the Sialkot butchery of those two brothers by the manic crowd happens.


Salman Javaid is interested in political philosophy and fiction. He tweets at @JavaidSalman

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