(Daya Varma, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Vinod Mubayi)






From Daya Varma to :Pervez Hoodbhoy (Jan 9, 2011)


 Earnest Plea!


 Pervez you should get out of Pakistan. It is no time to teach Physics and sense. You write too much and hence are bound to slip.


From Pervez Hoodbhoy to Daya Varma  (Jan 9, 2011)


 Dear Daya


Re: Earnest plea


I hear what you are saying. I am sharing with you some lines that I have just written for family and friends like you who are warning me:


Whatever one might think of governor Salman Taseer’s politics, he was killed this Wednesday for what was certainly the best act of his life: trying to save the life of an illiterate, poor, peasant Christian woman.


But rose petals are being showered upon his murderer. He is being called a ghazi, lawyers are demonstrating spontaneously for his release, clerics refused to perform his funeral rites. Most shockingly, the interior minister – his political colleague and the ultimate coward – has said that

he too would kill a blasphemer with his own hands.


Pakistan once had a violent, rabidly religious lunatic fringe. This fringe has morphed into a majority. Its the liberals that are now the fringe. We are now a nation of butchers and primitive savages. Europe’s Dark Ages have descended upon us.


Sane people are being terrified into silence. After the assassination, FM-99 (Urdu) called me for an interview. The producer tearfully told me (offline) that she couldn’t find a single religious scholar ready to condemn Taseer’s murder. She said even ordinary people like me are in short supply.


I am deeply depressed today. So depressed that I can barely type these lines.


Yesterday a TV program on blasphemy (Samaa, hosted by Asma Shirazi) was broadcast (it’ll be rebroadcast today). Asma  had pleaded that I participate. So I did – knowing full well what was up ahead.  But I could not bear to watch the broadcast and turned it off after a few minutes.


My opponents were Farid Paracha (spokesman, Jamaat-e-Islami) and Maulana Sialvi (Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi and supposed moderate). There were around 100 students in the audience, drawn from colleges across Pindi and Islamabad.


Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed around me (and at me), I managed to say the obvious: that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan; that the self-appointed “thaikaydars” of Islam in Pakistan were deliberately ignoring the case of other Muslim countries like Indonesia which do not have the death penalty for blasphemy; that debating the details of Blasphemy Law 295-C did not constitute blasphemy; that American Muslims were very far from being the objects of persecution; that harping on drone attacks was an irrelevancy to the present discussion on blasphemy.


The response? Not a single clap for me. Thunderous applause whenever my opponents called for death for blasphemers. And loud cheers for Qadri, the murderer. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said he had Salman Taseer’s blood on his hand, he exclaimed “How I wish I did!” (kaash ke hota!).


Islamofascism is a reality. This country is destined to drown in blood from civil war. I wish people would stop writing rubbish about Pakistan having an image problem. It’s the truth that’s really the problem.


Am I afraid? Yes, I’d be crazy not to be. And never more than at the present time. The battle for sanity has been lost. Many friends have written to me to leave Pakistan. How can I? One must keep fighting as long as possible. It is what we owe to future generations.


Warm regards, Pervez



From Vinod Mubayi  to Pervez  Hoodbhoy (Jan 10, 2011)


 Dear Pervez:


Daya forwarded your response that has touched me deeply.  Of course, the images that are replayed here are simply terrible; lawyers showering rose petals on an obvious lunatic and fanatic is bad enough, the utter cowardice exhibited by the PPP leadership when one of their own was assassinated is

worse.  Daya’s plea to you which I join is a reflection of our worry at your well-being in this dark time. Of course, I applaud your courageous response and can only say to you, Hajra, your daughters and the whole family to “take all care possible.”


What you have written about the impending chaos, civil war, etc. in Pakistan obviously reflects your intimate knowledge of and involvement in the evolving situation.  Your sense of despair is almost palpable and I empathize with you completely.


From this far-off distance, I have one question and two observations on what you have written that I would like to share with you.


My question has to deal with the place and position of the hitherto preeminent force in Pakistani politics, the Army, in the current crisis.


Clearly, it is not in the Army’s interest that chaos and civil war occur, leading to anarchy (and a possible breakup of Pakistan).  This may be the Pak Armys nightmare. What I have some difficulty in imagining is, if a civil war does ensue, who are the likely protagonists? Will it be the Army vs. the fundamentalists  (TTP, etc.)? Or are there liberal and illiberal, Islamic sections in the military itself who will fight each other with the fundamentalists on one side?  Or is there some other possible scenario?  No doubt, the Army, ISI, etc. have supported various factions of hard line Islamists and maybe they are still doing so, but have they lost control of their own Frankensteins (as Indira Gandhi did of Sant Bhindranwale who she had initially encouraged as a means of destroying the more moderate Akalis among the Sikhs)? Or, more cynically, is all this simply a way for the Army to systematically discredit the current democratic regime (which is of course doing its best to discredit itself) to pave the way for another Martial Law regime?


The first observation I have is the complete disconnect between what now seems to be the hold of the fundamentalists on large sections of the population and my own limited personal experience during several visits to Lahore in the last 5-6 years.  I discount my left- liberal friends that I stayed or spent time with who are not representative of the population.  But when I took my mother on a completely unannounced, spur of the moment, visit to the house she was born in the old walled city whose inhabitants 60 years after Partition were complete strangers, the rapturous welcome she received from the whole mohalla after they were told who she was and why she had come there was completely unscripted and a complete (very welcome) surprise.  These were just lower middle-class Lahoris, not westernized, quite unsophisticated, Punjabi-speaking common folk but every word and gesture showed them to be as far from a fundamentalist mind-set, which would have been quite obvious in the spontaneous situation, as is possible.  One can understand if such people are now just cowed-down, silent spectators, afraid to speak up but are they just a small minority?


The second observation I have is on some of the similarities, as well as the many obvious differences of course, of Taseer’s killing to that of Mrs. Gandhi in 1984. The conduct of her own bodyguards, and the celebrations following the killing among a section of the Sikhs are the similarities, while the widespread condemnation of the act in India is the obvious difference (the brutal killings of innocent Sikhs mainly in Delhi in the aftermath appears to be another difference, but masks in fact a broader similarity of the failure of state organs in both India and Pakistan to act decisively in the face of politically motivated and tolerated hoodlums who have a mass street presence, whether using religion or some other divisive symbol).  In the wake of Hindutva’s rise and the demolition of the Babri mosque, the poet(ess) Fahmida Riaz (of Pakistan) who had been living  in a kind of exile in Delhi during Zia’s rule was moved to recite her poem “Tum bilkul ham jaise nikle” (You came out just like us) that almost caused a riot even in the leftist precincts of JNU, when BJP-led students rushed the stage. The disturbing evidence of the secret plots, bombings, killings, etc. by the Hindutva crowd that are now beginning to be unveiled are a chilling reminder of the disaster that may happen in India if the cracks in the secular edifice that are now appearing widen any time soon; especially when one looks across the border at the havoc politicized religion can bring.  It is the events in Pakistan that you describe so evocatively that should inform assorted Indian leftists, who never tire of lumping BJP, Congress, and the parliamentary left together into one assorted enemy, how precious Indias legacy of secularism (even what little remains of it) is and how it needs to be strengthened not torn apart and denigrated.


With my very warmest regards and best wishes,





From Pervez Hoodbhoy  to Vinod Mubayi (Jan 12, 2011)


 Dear Vinod,


You have many questions each deserving a detailed reply. It’s end of term here so very briefly:


1) The army does not want to govern but will remain the only power making key decisions (foreign policy, nukes, etc) On jihadism it is fragmented, with the top officers viewing the situation with alarm. And yet, as an institution, it is solidly anti-India and will not give up the jihadi option – at least at the present stage. It might at a later point, but by then it will be too late.


2) Your visit stirred both curiosity and hospitality. If you lived in Lahore, you’d regret it after a while.


3) Fanatics exist everywhere, but its a question of their strength and power. The guy who shot the congresswoman will be jailed/executed. The guy who killed Salman Taseer is a national hero. There was demonstration of 50,000 people in his support yesterday in Karachi. His fellow policemen were complicit. Its open mutiny.


This crisis may be controlled, but Pakistan doesn’t have long to go before it self-destructs. I’d give it another 5-10 years.


My nightmare is Mumbai-II, followed by Cold Start…it’ll snowball from there. We’ll take India down with us.


My warmest regards to you all, and deep appreciation for your concern over my personal safety. I am not at the very forefront by any means, although I do speak up when necessary. However, I need not tell you that my person scarcely matters in the larger scheme of things.



From Vinod Mubayi to Pervez Hoodbhoy (Jan 16, 2011)


 Dear Pervez:


Thanks for the response and answering my questions. I have been traveling the last few days and am now in Delhi, will go to Bombay for the Kabir festival in a few days. The bleak assessment you have made of Pakistan’s future does seem very plausible based on the events that are occurring there. Its impact on the rest of South Asia, mainly on India of course is bound to be destabilizing, whether it will “take India down with us,” as you put it, needs some elaboration to be understood better. Some of the accounts I have read in Indian media about the situation in Pakistan since I got here day before yesterday parallel closely what you have written.


Warmest regards, Vinod


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