Cabbages & Kings: Snakes & ladders

“‘Sesame’ wasn’t the cave’s name
It was a word in the unknowable
Language of rocks.
Pronounced it opened a fabulous horde
Unlike the jar
Called Pandora’s ‘Box’
Which once opened
Couldn’t be shut
No ‘why’ no ‘if’, no ‘please’, no ‘but’…”
From Janooji’s Parables by Bachchoo

Richard Dawkins is never restrained. The evolutionary biologist, self-promoter and proselytising atheist attacks, whenever he can, God and those who believe in him. In our day, he has ample opportunity because fanatics all over the world protest that they are killing, maiming, beheading, crucifying, kidnapping, enslaving, raping and torturing other human beings in God’s name.

Dawkins should win respect for denouncing the actions of the “Islamic Caliphate”, Al Qaeda and now the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which murdered 132 children and nine teachers in a school.

A day before that massacre, Haron Monis, a Shia Muslim, renounced his faith, adopted what he called “real Islam”, held 17 people hostage in a Sydney chocolate cafe and murdered two of them.

In West Asia, the slaughter in the name of religion goes on. Professor Dawkins is obviously aware that religion is not the only motivation for mass murder in our time.

The Norwegian lunatic Anders Brevik murdered 69 teenagers at a political party camp in 2011 because he disagreed with the party’s immigration policy.

The CIA tortured an unknown number of suspects to get information which they said could save lives. West Asians may be fighting for land and power, but their allegiances are drawn along narrow sectarian religious lines and have resulted in the massacre of thousands.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime may plead that it is fighting terrorists, but the divisions of enmity are drawn along factionalised religious lines the same lines that roughly define the poor and the privileged in the Syrian society.

The suicide attack on the school in Peshawar, Pakistan was, the perpetrators claim, an act of revenge against the Pakistani Army in a war which they admit, even through this cowardly attack, to be losing.

And yet the foundation of their bid for power is religious. They profess, as does the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, that they wish to convert the world to a belief in a particular brand of repressive medieval Islam and kill everyone who doesn’t share this passion.

The Pakistani state will have to take into account the reaction of the Pakistani people to this wanton act of mass murder on their own soil.

As evidenced by the turnout at the rallies of terrorist leaders, a considerable minority of Pakistanis, while not actively engaged in support for Islamicist or terrorist organisations, sympathised vocally or silently with them.

The remarks of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the comments of the Pakistan media indicate that this act of mass murder is seen, if not as a turning point, at least a juncture at which sympathy for the tactics of the Islamicist will have been considerably eroded.

Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif’s pronouncements, which reflect his political calculation that the target school was run by the Pakistani Army, may mean that his government will have to be seen to direct the Army to tackle and eliminate the TTP.

This is, as the Prime Minister and his government must be aware, more easily said than done. Pakistan politics is a board of snakes and ladders.

Sections of the Inter-Services Intelligence, a state within a state, not only spawned the Taliban, they still support it with money, arms, protection and intelligence.

Terrorist groups are pushed up the ladder to attack Indian cities and then pushed down a small snake when the White House scolds Islamabad.

For the terrorists, various arms of the state and sections of the Army are instruments to advance their cause and go up the board while other instruments of the state play the game of bringing them down.

The leader of the TTP is somewhere in Afghanistan. The Pakistani state, while taking money and arms worth billions from the US, has been ambiguous in its support for the elected Afghan regime and has maintained connections with the Afghani Taliban that is fighting it.

Today, Pakistan will not be able to wholeheartedly commit its forces, power and support to an alliance with the Afghan government, the Americans and even possibly India to combat and eliminate the several Pakistani and Afghan factions of the Taliban many of whose fighters are derelict Arab and Uzbek mercenaries.

It doesn’t need quantum mathematics to see that the defeat and dismantling of the Ottoman Empire which kept West Asia stable for a few hundred years has resulted in the conflicts of populations which were settled in the arbitrary states of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Neither was the stability assisted by the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s tough, intolerant but working regime.

Richard Dawkins is right to condemn people who kill schoolrooms of fellow Muslim children for reasons that paradoxically have their roots in religion.

What he hasn’t taken into account is the relation of this terror to the history, ideology and professions of the state in which it operates.

There is no profit here in discussing the origins of Pakistan. Nations which define themselves as “Islamic” invite the strictures and disciplines of the religion into the structure of life and law.

There will always be myriad definitions and interpretations of what the religion says about these structures of living and law. The evidence is not just staring us in the face; it is exploding in the faces of and murdering innocent children. This needn’t be true of one religion alone.

If a country, an imaginary one in this instance, defines itself as a Hindu rashtra, there will inevitably be sections of the population interpreting the religion idiosyncratically and forcing, let’s say vegetarianism, prohibition, the demolition of the places of worship of other religions, the teaching of erroneous or biased history, outrageous claims for the achievement of the past and, most dangerously, providing a state-supported platform for hatred.

Thank Bhagwan that there is no such country.

Next Story