By Prof. Atif Mian:
There is a line separating man from God that should never be crossed. For when it is, hell breaks loose. We witnessed hell today in Pakistan. One hundred and thirty two children slaughtered in a barbaric attack on a school.
This time the line was crossed by Taliban – a serial offender. They gloatingly accepted full responsibility, adding that the children were murdered in response to Pakistan army’s offensive against them. One might question such logic. After all there are rules, even in war. Rules set by the very religion the Taliban profess to follow. Civilians are off-limits. The children for sure.
But such logic matters not. For when you have crossed the line, you are no longer subject to constraints put on men. You are “god” now – judge, jury and the executioner – all rolled into one. The Taliban want to impose “shariah”. We can never know what that means, except to know that it means whatever the Taliban want it to mean. Murdering children could be kosher, if “the god” Taliban so decides. We better submit, or our head could be next.
There is a word in the western world for crossing the line between man and God. It is called Fascism, and the line-crossers are known as Fascists. But we in Pakistan know them through more honorific titles such as Maulana, Allama and Mashaikh – or even Generals and Prime Ministers.
Yes, make no mistake. The Taliban are not the first to cross the line between man and God. In fact, they are really one of the last to join this habitual pastime of Pakistani elite.
The line was first breached by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974 who, flanked by every political party and religious scholar, set out to determine who was a true Muslim and who wasn’t. General Zia took this initiative to the next level by inventing his own “divine laws” that prescribed precise penalties for a wide range of “blasphemous” acts.
The following generation of leaders, both within the army and beyond, became even bolder. Why not just decentralize the whole business of trespassing on God’s territory, they thought. Thus you no longer had to head the parliament, or be a General to decide “god’s will”. Anyone with the right length of beard could do it. The subtleties of law and due process were no longer a hindrance.