Out of turn


Who is safer where?

A question for the internationally recognised terrorist, ideologue and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, Hafiz Saeed, resident of Lahore, who has just offered sanctuary in Pakistan to our superstar Shahrukh Khan. Pakistan was carved out in 1947 to ensure security for this subcontinent’s Muslims in a separate homeland. Why, six decades later, has Pakistan become the most insecure place for Muslims in the world? Why are more Muslims being killed each day, on an average, in Pakistan than in the rest of the Muslim world put together?

This continual mass murder is not being done by Hindus and Sikhs, who were once proud residents of Punjab and Sindh but are now merely a near-invisible trace. Some Pakistani leaders even express pride in the fact that non-Muslims, who constituted around 20 percent of the population in 1947, have been reduced to less than 2 percent. In contrast, the percentage of Muslims in secular India has increased since independence. Hindus and Sikhs are not killing Muslims in Pakistan; Muslims are murdering Muslims, and on a scale unprecedented in the history of Punjab, the North West Frontier (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Sindh. Why?

There have been riots in India, some of them horrendous. But the graph is one of ebb from the peak of 1947. When a riot does occur, as in Maharashtra recently, civil society and media stand up to demand accountability, and the ground pressure of a secular democracy forces even reluctant governments to cooperate in punishment of the guilty. When Shias, or other sectarians, are mass-murdered in Pakistan on a regular basis, the killers celebrate a “duty” well done.

History’s paradox is evident: Muslims today are safer in India than in Pakistan. The “muhajirs” who left the cities of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in 1947 would have been far safer in Lucknow, Patna and dozens of cities in their original land than they are now in the tense streets and by-lanes of Karachi.

Could Shahrukh Khan have become an international heartthrob if his parents had joined the emigration in 1947? Since he is talented he would have gained some recognition on the fringes of elite society, but he could not have become a central presence of a popular culture that has seeped and spread to every tehsil and village. Nor is Shahrukh the only Muslim superstar in Mumbai’s film world; Salman Khan is bigger than him. Shahrukh, Salman and Amir Khan do not hide their identity through an alias; their birth name is their public persona.

The television set in my office serves two main purposes: it shows cricket and offers access to an FM radio station which plays old film songs. A song by Muhammad Rafi was on the air while the previous paragraph was being written: Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare, O nirmohi moh na jaane, jinka moh kare…Janm maran ka mel hai sapna….koi na sangh marey… It is a beautiful classic, written by Sahir Ludhianvi. Muhammad Rafi, as his name confirms, was a Muslim. He was born in 1924 in western Punjab and came to Mumbai as a very young man in search of dreams. Those dreams had not come true by 1947. Rafi had the option of returning to Lahore. He chose to remain in Mumbai, and brought his family in what might be called the reverse direction. It was a wise choice. Mumbai made Rafi’s voice immortal. Rafi, like India, was the distillation of many inspirations.

Hafiz Saeed and his ilk possess cramped, virulent minds which condemn the ragas upon which our subcontinent’s music, both classic and popular, is based, as inimical. They want to destroy a shared Hindu-Muslim cultural heritage in which Muslim maestros took classical music to splendid heights under the patronage of padishahs, rajahs and nawabs. Instead of art, they possess vitriol, even as the violence they spawn turns Pakistan into a laboratory of chaos. They call themselves guardians of their nation, but they are in fact regressive theocrats who are shredding the Pakistan that Jinnah imagined.

There is an answer to the opening question. Extremists who reduce faith to a fortress do not understand a simple truth: faith cannot be partitioned. Islam was a revelation for mankind; it cannot be usurped by a minor tract of geography. Nations are created by and for men, within boundaries of language or culture or tribe. Religion comes from God; it is not a political tool for human ambition. Those who equate religion with nation distort the first and destroy the second. Pakistan has become a battlefield for dysfunctional forces because theocrats will not permit it to become a rational state.

Logic suggests a reciprocal offer: Pakistani Muslims would be safer in India. But that offer cannot extend to Hafiz Saeed. His mission is to be India’s adversary. What he does not understand is that he is really Pakistan’s enemy.


  1. I would love to know how Hafiz Saeed replies to the questions posed to him, although I doubt if he has the guts to do so.

  2. Part is the Muslim religion where score is settled by killing. In tolerance. There is not single religion which preaches to kill other or convert them by force. May be it is best way to control population.

  3. Wonderful OpEd. I do disagree with one idea though. You said "but they are in fact regressive theocrats who are shredding the Pakistan that Jinnah imagined"

    They are in fact acceerating Pakistan into becoming just the nation Jinnah spoke of. A nation where neighbour cannot live with neighbour if they are not exactly alike. If one neighbour will not yield then they should be killed for no reason other than the fact that they are different. All that has changed is the definition os 'us' which is getting narrower by the day and 'others' which is getting broader by the day.

  4. Mr Praful ! Islam does not allow to force someone to accept it.and any individual or group actions do not be taken as teachings of a particular religion.

  5. ask the poor muslim in India how he feels about Pakistan. Why ask the successful and well of muslim to pen these words. He has no reason to show any sympathy or desire towards pakistan. Yes there are a lot of killings going on in pakistan but do not equate it as a religious sectarian killing. was this happening in Pakistan before 9/11 or before the american invasion of afghanistan. we know that the afghan war is now being fought in pakistan. this too will pass, america is already on the run. this too will end in pakistan, but india is in a natural fault line there are half a dozen insurgences under way you may watch your own back

  6. truth is bitter. some persons Like Mr hamid will be late to accept. There are two neighbors. one neighbor tells the other, look i saw your marriageable girl in a cinema theater or a park sitting close and hugging. a boy . if you are a sensible neighbor you will though hurt will investigate and take preventive or corrective action. If you get angry and ignore even God cannot help. you have to watch your back, front and sides. fata to Karachi there are only killings and killings.

  7. Apprently it was stupid statement by Rehman Malik he is know for that. But in the context of throwing out Hockey players from Pakistan and Baring Pakistani women cricket team from living in a decent hotel india on demand of a hindu terrorist group in india it was a sarcastic statement that we know you can not provide sucurity to ours players from rss look SRK is complaing he is indian provide security to him. That gives a chance to people like MJ to poison the atmosphere with same old clap trap.

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