[Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad. The Reverend Bishop was an embodiment of gentleness, piety and faith. His love for Pakistan was as strong as was his love for his Lord Jesus Christ’s message for humanity]
The Gojra incident should be an eye opener for all of us. The extremism we see in Pakistan of today is a phenomenon quite foreign to this land and its people, for these very people accepted the Sufis, saints and the reformers from all regions, all shades and hues, all walks of life. So large hearted have these people been that they welcomed every religion, every philosophy and every thought.
Starting from the days of Harrapa and Moenjo-Daro, the period of Mahabharta, the epic period of Hinduism, followed by Buddhism which prospered in the Gandhara valley of Pakistan and finally Islam, the soil of Pakistan has been a fertile rich ground, not only to provide food for body but for thought too.
The transitions of different philosophies and religions during different periods of history finally culminated in transcendence of Islam which is the religion now practiced by a majority of its people, a religion which by itself is a message of peace.
From my boyhood days, I remember a Hindu friend of my elder brother used to visit us at home. Our dad welcomed all of them. Mom and sisters used to prepare meals for us and we all used to dine together around a big dinner napkin as was customary in those days. We never had any feel of an untouchable Hindu amongst us. (I recall he belonged to the community called Dalits in India and scheduled castes in Pakistan). My elder sister used to have a Christian friend named Catherine. Though my father was a devout Punjabi Muslim and my mother, a Pashtun of Kohat, they never ever taught us in terms of Muslims as “haters” of Non Muslims. My father was such a regular and firmly practicing Muslim that his friends used to call him “Maulvi” (though I know from heart of his hearts, he never liked to be called a “Maulvi”).
As the virtual celluloid of my boyhood days flickers on my present frame of mind, I vividly recall another incident. I was once in our Mohalla mosque, offering prayers as usual. After the ‘Namaaz’ I questioned the Imam whether we as Muslims could use our left hand as well to prepare morsels (when it was too big and a hard piece of bread as they did in our villages in those days). The Imam was furious that how a 12 years old boy could ask him a question. Naturally, he didn’t answer me and the other ‘Namaazis’ too scolded me. I came home and told my father what had happened. In reply, my father recited some couplets from a Punjabi Sufi poet and explained this to me in plain Punjabi “Puttar Ji, Rabb maseetaN wich naeeN labhda. Rabb te saadhay dillaN wich wasda ai”. You cannot find God in mosques, for He lives in the hearts of the faithful and true believers”.
Unfortunately, the Maulvis became too forceful during late General Zia-ul-Haque’s regime. This was the time, the Shia Muslims also started exercising their presence being felt and hence militant outfits like Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and so many other lashkars and sipahs mushroomed all over Pakistan but particularly so in Punjab. However, militancy amongst these groups remained always confined to attacks on Shia Muslims and vice versa. Consequently a strong Shia militant group “Sipah-e-Muhammad” also emerged on the scene during those days. This phenomenon started and progressed under Zia-ul-Haque’s rule and then successively under the premierships of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. However, never did these outfits, during the high frequency of clashes between two sects of Islam target any non Muslim community of Pakistan.
If one digs out the history of these militant groups, these seem to have originated and sponsored, by foreign elements initially from Iran, then Saudia and Iraq. Unfortunately these forces were abetted by local hands including the military regimes (firstly by Zia-ul-Haque and later by Musharraf Pervez). Interestingly these groups continued to exercise their militant attacks even during the civilians’ rule. The abetment of such groups during military regimes is understandable because no military dictator wants the issues of common man’s interest to be discussed on streets (as public representative institutions are usually banned in non civilian setups). However, no matter it was a military rule or that of civilians, clashes remained restricted to ‘Muslims vs. Muslims’ only. That target could be non Muslim communities of Pakistan too, is quite a later day phenomenon. And this phenomenon appears more to be a “gift” of the Afghan war which created so many religious zealots who were either groomed in the “nurseries” of the NWFP or imported into Pakistan from the Central Asian Republics. Who nurtured them then, or does it now, no one knows!
In the wake of Gojra killings, (mostly of Christian community) a good news has indeed been coming from our north that the mastermind of so many suicide attacks in Pakistan, the head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsood has been killed along with his wife, driver and some other fellows who were in his company at the time of attack. In the backdrop of this good news even, my heart weeps for that noble soul, the Reverend John Joseph of Faisalabad.
I met the Reverend Bishop for the first time, when he was invited by us at the Rotary Club of Faisalabad (I was an active Rotarian then). I thought the he would be in typical iconic attire of Bishops, will be serious looking, protocolean and self centered, but much to my amazement, I saw a youngish looking man, in typical Shalwar Qameez with a shawl on his shoulders. And this John Joseph not only was a Christian leader and a missionary, he was a hardcore Pakistani too and that’s what made me fond of having a frequent discourse with him.
Once when he came to a Rotarians’ meeting, I asked the Reverend Bishop in my plain folkish Punjabi “Bishop Ji, tuseeN John wi o, te Joseph wi o, eh kis taraN? And his reply came in “thaith” Punjabi, “Hashmey Ji, tuseen jo wi samajh lao, maeN tuhaday lyi Jaan aaN”, I’m your life and so you are for me, a typical Punjabi style of expressing respect, love and affection for each other. That was my dear John, the Reverend, my life but alas! That noble soul, the Pucca Pakistani, too was sacrificed on the altar of religious fanaticism.
As I put up now the post that follows, my heart weeps for that Pakistani patriot, that noble soul named John Joseph, not a Muslim but still a proud Pakistani like all of us.
At the end, a word of alarm! On website where the PCP appears, I happened to see a piece by one Nazeer Bhatti (I didn’t read much of this though) but it advocates dividing Pakistan on the lines suggested by Ralph Peters and so many others of his likes, specially the lobbies in Washington D.C. and Pentagon as well as in many other think tanks, who are wanting to fragment Pakistan to meet the grand strategic designs of the Neocons for a new world order (which of late has been renamed as Project for a New American Century PNAC). I shall put up some more posts on the PNAC very soon.
The other day, I even saw another website named “Divide Pakistan”. For them and the likes of Mr. Nazeer Bhatti I would only say one thing, ‘the land of Pakistan has been a cohesive unit not since 1947, it has been so through the ages, ages which are spread not over centuries but many millennia. This is a land of the people, who introduced the Homo sapiens what the ‘civilized’ way of life is. Its a gift of God to all of us, all Pakistanis (irrespective of color, caste, creed or region) and it will remain so Insha’ Allah. Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and NWFP (Pakhtun khawah) have been a contiguous region not only geographically but economically as well. They together form a coherent and conjoined state and all are interdependent. Those who think in its fragmentation, they do no service to their own cause nor to that of our federation as a nation state.
They might be playing in the hands of the forces who have set it as their agenda to dismember Pakistan, but this is a warning to them from all Pakistani patriots: whosoever conspires against this state is harboring to meet the agenda set by the forces of neo-imperialism. And they will ultimately be eliminated by those very sources and forces they are working for. What these neos did with the Mujahideen and the Taliban (through puppet regimes like those of Pervez Musharraf and Hamid Karzai, what they did to Pervez Musharraf and may do the same to their man in Kabul should be an eye opener for such Pakistani friends. Irony though is that Zardari regime too, appears to be towing the same line as adopted by the former dictator i.e. blindly doing what neo-imperialists would want them to do in this region.
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