Sufis on pilgrimage to the shrine of billawal shah noorani.Photo: gilbert kolonko
Despite pakistan army’s pronouncements that terrorists in the country have been driven out to afghanistan, bombs continue to go off in pakistan
On saturday, 52 women, men and children were again victims of a terrorist attack. On sunday morning, pakistani officials ied the usual phrases of condolence, along with the oft-heard phrase that they would do everything in their power to defeat the terrorists.
At the sufi shrine of billawal shah noorani, near the village of muhabat faqeer in balochistan, people tried to protect their pilgrims themselves. During one of my visits to the shrine of noorani i asked a tea seller in front of the entrance what the journeyman was doing with the kalashnikov. The old man then took an automatic handgun out of the drawer and said: "here we do not rely on the government, here we watch ourselves."
On saturday evening, even that was no longer of any help: while the sufist dharma rituals a bomb went off on the premises. Besides the 52 dead, more than 100 other people were seriously injured. The next major hospital is in karachi, 130 kilometers away.
In pakistan there are over 30.000 sufi shrines. Photo: gilbert kolonko
The rather unaming shrine of shah noorani is a special place for sufis from around the world – it is the destination of the annual pilgrimage lahoot. It begins 150 km east of here, at the shrine of the red sufi shahbaz qalandar, and leads mainly through the stone desert. Not only shiites, but also sunni muslims, christians and hindus undergo the hardships alleviated by the constant use of the hashish pipe. Many pakistani muslims are adherents of sufism, an ascetic and mystical faith that emphasizes love of neighbor and closeness to god. Whichever of the various sufi philosophies they may pursue: they are all disbelievers to the taliban and their ilk, since they worship gods in the eyes of the radicals.
How did sufism become radicalized in pakistan despite its firm roots in the country’s society?? "It all began in 1977 with the coup of general zia ul-haq and the invasion of afghanistan by soviet troops", answers ali, a financial consultant from karachi who is also involved in social projects:
"Zia used u.S. Support to transform pakistan into a wahabi state (wahabism is an ultra-orthodox form of islam that originated in saudi arabia). The usa was only interested in the supply of fanatics for their fight against the soviets in afghanistan. To this day, the textbooks rewritten by zia are in use in our country. They praise jihad and islam as the only world legion."
When i respond that tolerant islam still prevails on the streets of pakistan, ali replies:
It is still the heads of families who pass on the tolerant islam to the younger generation. But in karachi the change is clear to see. In the last few years i have been robbed up to 5 times a year. It has always been young men who lack respect even for my wife and children. Even for criminals in pakistan there were taboos and rules. But these boys are victims themselves: torn away from their families, their heads full of nonsense from the madrasas or the textbooks that help them justify every act: just as the pakistani taliban do – when in doubt, the other was an unbeliever. Our leaders must finally change the policy – more soldiers will not help.
(ali, a financial consultant from karachi)
But this rethinking is not in sight. Neither a crude program to renew textbooks nor a special effort by the state to invest in education. Why also? Neither the feudal bhutto family, which has provided three of the country’s prime ministers to date, has any interest in educated subjects, nor does the feudal sharif family of coarse industrialists, which provides the current prime minister: an army of cheap labor is the goal – because thanks to the west’s hunger for cost minimization, a dazzling future is in store for a small segment of pakistan’s population.
Buses also travel daily from karachi to the noorani shrine. Photo: gilbert kolonko
To the pakistani army as well. Already it is not only the country’s largest employer, but also the largest landowner. More than 100.000 intelligence agents of pakistan, in dozens of different organizations, who do not trust each other, will, out of their instinct for self-preservation, see to it that nothing changes. All rough western secret services in pakistan perform with own actions "valuable" contributions to this; the case of raymond davis, who shot two people on the street in lahore, is only one example.
As one said "gentleman" from the army of agents in pakistan to me? "We’re just zombies chasing each other, and at the end of the day, the world certainly hasn’t gotten any better."
The next major attack in pakistan that bombs away another piece of tolerance is only a matter of time.