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11 September, 2015 00:00 00 AM
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The Talibanisation movement in Pakistan is not restricted to the tribal areas only. The influence of the Talibans has spread into the settled areas and threatens to extend into the rest of the country

Pakistan-- cultural terrorism on the rise

Saeed Khan

Lahore is the undisputed cultural epicentre of Pakistan that has played a historic role in forming the cultural outlook of the modern day sub-continent. But sadly,  Lahore  today is the centre of “cultural terrorism” and the enemy is local Taliban.
The city of Lahore experienced yet another series of low-intensity explosions sometime ago. The bombings were aimed at theatres located around the Mall Road located at the heart of Lahore city. Condemnations from state and federal leadership followed.
Such bombings by the local extremists have taken place in Lahore in recent times to force video stores to burn their so called “obscene CDs”. After a number of investigations local police chiefs say they know the bombers but no responsible groups have been named to date. The provincial government of Punjab, like its federal counterpart seems to be supporting the convenient myth that the Taliban and their supporters exist only in Waziristan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
According to  an editorial of the Daily Times (Lahore), a popular English newspaper, the  Talibanisation movement in Pakistan is not restricted to the tribal areas of Pakistan. The influence of Talibans has spread into the settled areas and threatens to extend into the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, some of the TV reports describing the blasts tended to repeat the reactionary charges of obscenity than condemning these acts of cowardice. People in Lahore say that this misplaced objection has always been there. Some parts of society, based on their religiously conservative beliefs, have always objected to dancing of females in theatre and in display of art.
I love Lahore. As an Urdu poet I have had two books published in Lahore and consider it my second home in Pakistan. I have many friends in Lahore and often stay there during my visits to Pakistan. Unlike Karachi, the other major economic centre in the country, Lahore  used to be a very tolerant and a largely peaceful and moderate city. Lahoris’ love for art and culture has made Lahore the centre for Pakistani film, fashion, music, media, writing and various other art forms.
Despite all its social and cultural significance, Lahore has some other sensitivities too. It is situated right next to a religiously conservative Raiwind city, the house of annual Tableeghi Ijtema (preaching congregation). The congregation at Raiwind is considered the biggest gathering of Muslims after Haj, attended by faithful from more than 200 countries.
It is fair to say that Tableeghis in general are not known for
extremist tendencies and their leaders have condemned suicide bombers. However, Raiwind's  proximity to Lahore does leave it open to local, regional and international fundamentalists. Such gatherings can also provide Taliban and al-Qaida with opportunities to recruit and influence the disaffected and vulnerable.
Pakistani Talibans have repeatedly claimed to have footholds in major cities in Pakistan. Recently, in the face of renewed Pakistan military offensive , they have issued several warnings to bring the war to the rest of the country.
The Pakistani Taliban, who now control most parts of Swat in the north, have been destroying girls’ schools, burning down music CD/DVD shops, and killing anyone who opposes them. They declared Sharia Law in Swat .   The Pakistani Talibans are determined to propagate a violent brand of Sharia Law and have thrived on fear and violence.
I know what Lahoris are feeling.   Dr Mehdi Hassan of Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, a reputed commentator on the issue says extremist groups were trying to lay down their own anti-culture sharia and should be opposed by civil society.
However, despite all its troubles and stark contradictions, Pakistani society has not lost hope. There is increasing education, some prosperity and a growing middle-class that provide ideal ingredients for rebuilding civic society.
Couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend "All Pakistan Writers Conference on Literature for Peace" organised by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. This was the first major conference of its kind in almost three decades. The
consensus was clear that the civil society must not allow itself to be torn apart by extremists. Writers and political leadership must work together to rebuild the social and civic infrastructure.

The writer is the Deputy Chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW ,Australia. He is also a political observer who writes on Pakistan

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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