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A New Caste System And The Old Outcasts

07 August, 2007

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


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There were two mosques in our large street near its southern and northern ends. The latter was bigger and was also serving as a small madrassa where religious knowledge was taught. The students would come here from remote villages of Hazara and had bright eyes and innocent faces. Everyone loved them and the street community would bear their expenses happily. They were regular visitors to our homes. They would feel so glad when they would meet my caring mother. She would treat them as special guests and give them love and respect. As part of her hospitality, she would also try cooking something for them immediately.

During vacations, the children would go back to their villages and on return, would bring a special gift of corn flour packed in small bags. They would carry the bags through a long journey to Rawalpindi to present it to my mother. That degree of reciprocity and affection I have never seen afterwards. I remember asking my mother once, “Isn’t it inappropriate to accept their gift? They are poor and they carry it over such a long distance?” “It will hurt their little hearts. It will hurt their mothers’ hearts. Do not say it ever again.” My mother silenced me, but continued talking to herself, “Why a madrassa? They should have been in the schools and nearer to their mothers. It is cruelty.”

These children would stay at the madrassas till they would get enough education to become maulvis (religious scholars). Afterwards they would teach in a mosque or a madrassa in Rawalpindi or elsewhere. There was a balance between the students and the opportunities. Almost all of the religious teachers would find a place. Those from our mosques, who stayed in Rawalpindi, would come occasionally to see us. Our relationship with the students and the maulvis ended when we moved to Islamabad.

The religious students I knew that were becoming maulvis were almost all humble and humane. Where are those children? Where are those maulvis? Where are those days? Where is that balance?

The mosques were managed by the masjid committees. Each had four members. All of them were reasonably educated, matriculate or above. They were respectful people. The children used to stay away from them. They would not stop us from playing. All that they would say was, “Play in the ground.” In those old days, there were many grounds in Rawalpindi. All have been buried under concrete structures. Some of the managers were quite strict with their children. They would not allow them to go out except for that of the ‘roosee’, whose occupants were relatively more educated. The word ‘roosee’ meant the Russians; and that was how the socialists were known among common people in those days. Incidentally, our home was the house of the roosee.

Where have those wise mosque managers gone? Where has wisdom gone? Where have those days gone?

The children of Jamia Hafsa, whom we saw leaving the besieged premises before the start of Operation Silence were not different from the children of our mosques. But their eyes were asking saddening questions. Why are we being humiliated and harassed? What have we done? One day your flowers become our necklace, the other day your bullets hit our head: Who are we? Who are you?

People asked similar questions after the chase that began in the wake of 9/11. Is it their sin that they were born in Bajaur or Bahawalpur? Is it their sin that they were born to poor parents? Is it their sin that when General Ziaul Haq declared Jihad against the Soviets, they were in madrassas and not in a grammar or government school? Is it their sin that they were motivated and trained for Jihad, and sent to Afghanistan?

They were not the sinners. We, who did not care for them are the sinners. We, who send our children to Canada, Britain, France, Australia and the US for education or jobs or green cards while sending the children of the others to Afghanistan, Kashmir and elsewhere to kill and be killed, are the sinners. These were the common answers to the saddening questions.

General Zia’s Afghan jihad could be a policy blunder and liberal Benazir and General Babar’s creation, the Taliban, could be the extension of the same blunder and the resurgence of the Taliban in General Musharraf’s period could be a matter of ‘national interest’; but, what are the thousands of madrassas and their millions of students all about?

We have devised a new caste system, which is worse than the one that our ancestors had lived by two thousand years ago. Shame on us! We are the ugliest social architects around. We have turned ourselves into a nation at war with wisdom and peace, and also with itself.

All those generals, bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and the managers (maulanas) of the madrassas who planned, funded and executed religious extremism do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. They are the architects of Pakistan’s social and political decline. All of them knew that they were doing something terribly wrong. They knew what was good and bad for the children. They knowingly pushed the children of others into the Afghan and Kashmir furnace.

We, the common people of Pakistan, have no hope that our ruling elite will ever change. Neither will the present managers of the madrassas. The elite led by a corporate army thrive on chaos. So do the maulanas of the madrassas. There is no permanent conflict between them. Their ongoing clash is arbitrary. The Lal Masjid operation and its repercussions should not be seen in isolation. Before the operation, all those maulanas who matter did not support the maulanas of the Lal Masjid. None of them tried for any reconciliation. The most effective maulanas, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed left for London to take part in an all time useless drama, the All Parties Conference (APC). After the military operation, the effective maulanas and their parties remained as partners in governance. Why did the friendship between the generals and the Ghazi brothers break? The only possible reason is that treason from within is not tolerated. Who betrayed whom and why are the questions whose answers will not be known soon.

The army in its present shape will not change its perceptions and actions. It will continue to transgress. It cannot become an army as it used to be in the pre-partition days, committed to its sole purpose, acting as required by the state. The wise managers of the madrassa have become extinct. The madrassas with their present environment cannot become centres of knowledge. If we want to stay normal, we will have to nationalise both the army and the madrassas. This is the first step to end the new caste system and also towards making Pakistan a welfare state.

One wished that the PPP workers should have taken Pakistani politics as it is, a pastime for the ruling mafias, and stayed away from it. Given the genuineness of the lawyers’ movement, participation in it was perhaps difficult to resist. The workers of the PPP are outcasts. They are disliked by the generals, the maulanas, the bureaucrats and the rich, and even by the top leadership of the PPP. Given their commitment, they are a rare breed. They know they are chasing a fantasy, a different Pakistan, an egalitarian Pakistan. They know their top leadership is not any different from the rest. Yet, they are steadfast. Given our environment, they are not a threat for the system. They are at the most, a shadow of the threat. The fearful elites are not ready to tolerate even the shadow.

 

Reader Comments:

The new Caste,

This is a very interesting
article by Mr. Ahsan Yatu. Yatu sahib writes well tries hard to open the eyes of the people of Pakistan to change for the better.
To change present state of affairs, Pakistan needs a social but secular revolution. By secular I mean
a spritual Islam that existed
in pre partition India.

Onkar Sharma, Australia - 09 August, 2007

Social Disparity

This problem was,is,will be there for long time.Caste system exists everywhere in different way and degree.

Nikus, Hungary - 09 August, 2007

A good article.

Yatu Sahab,
Your article is as usual cool,interesting and stimulating.You have a good indstinct for opinion and analysis.You sure qualify to be ambassador of Pakistan,but no, you are not qualified for it.For the position of ambassador one should be a retired General,even a 10th grade air marshall is ok,speak english in punjabi accent.This is the tragedy of Pakistan.where merit doesn't mean anything.Principles and merit is sacrificed over personal realtions.
God bless you.
YOu have opened few very good points.The maulanas, I never thought but you made me think unfortunately are managers and think and behave like managers.Also why all these monkeys went to UK for a conference which was nothing more than a drama.
Rawalpindi was a beutiful city.I used to walk home from Liaqat Bagh lorry adda to my home in front of Centrl govt Hospital(now called Rawalpindi Generl hospital)at 2 am in the morning without any fear.That was before Zia's time,then Zia's support in US war in Afghanistan brought an era of drugs and klshinkove and with it and law and order situation changed completely.Now people are afraid to pray in masjids.

Dr.M.KhanMD, United Kingdom - 09 August, 2007

Not so innocent

My mother had a saying, "If u see evil, either combat it or walk away from it. If u stand by and watch it u will become associated with it."

The innocent students of the mosque should have either protested or walked away, when the mosque began taking the law into its own hands. There was nothing innocent about it. Needless to say, the elite of Pakistan are not going to have their future dictated by some illiterate hardcore fanatics.

Ganenthiran, Canada - 10 August, 2007

New caste system - New Schedule casts

There were 6000-7000 students in the Jamia Hafsa women and Children school located at G-6 Islamabad, those students remain under siege for ten days, water and electricity was disconnected, nerve gas was used, trained SSG commandos of Pakistan Army were used during the invasion.

Out of 7000 students only 1200 were able to come out side the complex, remaining students and teachers were brutally murdered, thousand of women and children are missing, attendance registers have been taken in control and names of many students who brutally killed have been removed. Dead bodies of women and children have been disappeared, probably burnt in incinerators.

Media played a shameless role, no any human rights organization came forward; neither any women action forum nor NGO’s who always earn money on the name of women rights came forward. It is strange that some prominent women who always plead for women rights used aggressive language against victims like Mehnaz Rafi, Benazir and Kashmala Tariq type who are very active for sexual independence of women since long.

It is now very clear this is a fight between elite privileged class and those who have no resources. Also it is a fight between vulgar extremists and normal citizens of the society. Society has been divided visibly which is basic requirement of a fascist rule. Where are those orphan children who were under education with boarding and lodging? Which government or foreign funded NGO has any facility to teach, feed and provide shelter to needy, helpless, poor and forgotten elements of the society at Islamabad? It is also proved that Government officials were involved in directing them toward brothel and massage parlor cases. Ch: Shujaat and Ijaz ul Haq worked as a mole, It is also a question mark that why massage parlors hang the portraits of dictator.

Regarding invasion of Army on the school, in Israel there are hundred of Faujis who refused to attack on fellow Jews, Pakistan is only exception around the world where citizens are being labeled due to their ideological beliefs and represented as terrorists, data of citizens is provided to intelligence agencies. Pakistani media start propagation against own citizens. Pakistan Army personal must refuse to attack on a mosque and a religious school, all that attacked and involved in genocide are responsible for mass murder and crimes against humanity.

Time has proved that all such brutalities were conducted to please US for economical benefits, there was no terrorist, no foreigner and it is strange that when cement, bricks and steel almarah were molded due to use of chemicals and heavy ammunition, only a few guns shown to media were intact without any sign of fire or explosive on it. Where are tunnels and Al-Qaida, Jaish e Mohammed, Sipah e Sahaba and Taliban groups? This was a fabricated and well planned conspiracy, at least three Generals, five Brigadiers and dozens of Col’s were directly involved in mass murder with air and tanks support.

Present government is embracing with smiling faces with those war lords, opium mafia of Afghanistan, who are anti-Pakistan since its creation, who brutally murdered thousand of Pakistanis and many still in their prisons. Since last week Jihad was justified against communists and their allies, but now kissing on their cheeks tells a new storey of again fooling nation. Pakistani nation was fooled by Army on the name of Jihad Kashmir, Jihad Afghanistan, recent Jihad to save interests of US, now when Army has to fight its own war without the help of Mujahideen, it started kissing on the face of Abdulla Abdullah and Northern Alliance enemies of Pakistan. Total number of Army personal killed in internal war is more then all the wars it fought on borders. This is Anglo-Indian army; their priority is to keep interests of neo-imperialists on priority and welfare of their own children studying abroad. Next fight will be played between new schedule cats and corrupt priviliged class.





Khadim Husain, Pakistan - 12 August, 2007

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