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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pakistan's Web of Barbarity

Trailer for 'Sinner Among Saints' film

Any society is a complex web of interacting elements.  In Pakistan, the violence and barbarity comes from several elements.  The above trailer gives a brief taste, and points to a major problem - the 1962 constitution that made Pakistan an Islamic, rather than a secular state and the ensuing power of the Islamic religious political parties and movements (including, on a rather topical note, their tendency to intimidate judges and lawmakers).  

This article will briefly link several disparate stories to demonstrate this wicked web of barbarity.  First is a report from Pakistan's intelligence community about the strength of religious extremist groups.  Their survey showed that Islamic militant groups are far stronger in society than they were in the 80's and 90's when terrorist attacks were common.  They pose a grave threat to the state and society.  

This growing influence is almost certainly a major factor in the huge increase of attacks on religious minorities, and the fact that the authorities so often seem unwilling or unable to stand up for them.  For instance, see this article about the grave concerns of Hindu's in the Sindh province over the routine kidnap, rape and forced marriage and conversion of their girls and women, along with young men kidnapped for ransom (an example of Islamic groups forcing jizya, perhaps?).  Typically, the police refuse to investigate.  It has gotten so bad that representatives are saying that if the violence does not stop, Hindus will be forced to flee from Pakistan.

Another element in parts of the country is the Jirga system of village or tribal governance.  In a recent story a wedding dance in a village near the Afghan border in the North ended up with one such council condemning 6 of the guests to death.  A video of the wedding celebrations was made which was alleged to show violations of the tribes strict ban on gender mixing.  (Sources say that in fact there were separate clips of men and women at the celebration with none showing them mixing).  The 6 individuals were sentenced to death by their local village council.  According to custom, the men had to be executed first, and then the women.  However, the men managed to escape, but the women were left tied up to starve while the tribe tried to hunt down the men.  Apparently a local police chief has managed to get written undertakings that none of the 'criminals' will be harmed, for what that is worth.  Apparently the women are now (relatively) safe in their parents' homes.  Relatives say the group has been targeted due to jealousy, as the family are quite rich and well off, and that the video was engineered.  NGO's have noted how the Jirga system is used to systematically suppress women in Pakistan.  Sources here  and here

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