The Pakistani state would want us to believe that it supports the fight against terrorism, that it is an important ally of the US in eliminating terror masterminds, or that it does not support the rapid Islamist radicalisation movement that is sweeping the country. Nothing can be further than the truth.
In what could have been dismissed as a joke if not for its sinister context and intent, Pakistan’s federal minister for railways, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, announced a bounty of $100,000 for those who would kill the filmmaker behind the mindless short film Innocence of Muslims, which has created an unprecedented uproar across the Muslim world. Even if Bilour was talking in his personal capacity (the bounty will be paid by him personally, he claims), it shows how Pakistan’s government is infused with those who, instead of showing restraint by defusing an explosive situation and an ability to unite the country, are able to make statements that incite religious hatred.
The violence in reaction to the American film has spread across various countries, and has killed several people including the US ambassador to Libya. In such an internationally fragile environment, for a minister to make a statement that endorses murder is not only reprehensible, it should have resulted in his immediate expulsion. That it has not happened for two days conveys two things: that the Pakistan government is virtually helpless against the rising tide of religious fundamentalism. And that the state has endorsed the statement with its own silence.
The press secretary to the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf asserted on Saturday that “the PM will work something out with the minister.” This is as absurd as it comes. Until late on Sunday night, there was no move from the Pak PM’s office to even discipline the minister, leave alone sacking him.
When it comes to normalisation, Pakistan has become a country that wants to take one step forward but ends up taking five back.