On Friday, a cleric in Landi Kotal had publicly burned musical instruments and warned those found playing music of dire consequences, including burning their houses to ground.
However, the cleric’s actions were condemned by the civil society and their protests bore fruits as the political administration took notice of the matter and made the cleric issue an apology.
The incident is a sad reminder of intolerance that runs rampant in the country.
It has also brought back bitter memories from days when Taliban were on a killing spree in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province before the military began anti-terror operations. They would burn down CD shops and ask people not to listen to music. To this day, Pakistan is fighting this mindset, and anything remotely related to Talibanisation should be countered.
The country has suffered enough at the hands of religious extremists and we now need to eradicate the menace once and for all.
In most cases, religious elements are able to get away with taking law into their hands. Therefore, an apology alone would not do in the case of the Landi Kotal cleric. He must be held accountable for his actions. This brings us to the urgent need for extending the Constitution to the FATA – meaning residents are provided with fundamental rights and civil liberties and recourse to due process of the law through legislative, executive and judicial institutions.
Meanwhile, the cleric’s apology also indicates that social media protests do make some difference after all. The practice of influential groups enforcing their own rules — derived from an abhorrent mix of patriarchy, custom and religious dogma — is still common in parts of country, especially in tribal areas. Time and again, we come across instances like women being barred from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Such groups are frequently backed by local political elite. This allows them to carry out their activities with impunity.
Now is the time to act against those challenging the state’s authority so we can strengthen the democratic system and ensure that people are involved in the process of decision-making. All political parties should ensure that their leaders do not back groups enforcing undemocratic decisions anywhere in the country.*
Published in Daily Times, September 11th 2017.