February 1, 2014 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1063

Through Facebook Discussion Forums, Liberal Pakistani Activists Push The Boundaries Of Freedom Of Thought And Expression In Pakistan

February 1, 2014 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1063

Roshni (Light) - a discussion forum on Facebook


Increasingly, a new generation of Pakistanis is using social networking sites such as Facebook to push the boundaries of the freedom of thought and expression in Pakistani society. A number of discussion forums have emerged on Facebook recently which are irreverent, argumentative, and satirical in commenting on current affairs in Pakistani society, especially those involving Islam and Pakistan's future.

This paper reviews four such discussion pages on Facebook: /JusticeMunirInquiryReport1953, /RoshniPakistan3, /Alrazi.rhazes and /Ztanqeed3.[1] All four accounts reviewed here are of liberal persuasion. Their posts are both in Urdu and English. Of all the posts, Roshni (Light) - identified by the new handle /RoshniPakistan3 and the earlier handle /Roshnipkdotcom - appears to be the most popular. All of them consistently direct the reader's mind towards the need for a democratic future for Pakistan. It is possible that some of these Facebook forums are operated from abroad, but their relevance back home in Pakistan, especially among the new generation of Pakistanis, is huge given the fact that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has banned thousands of websites, including the video-sharing website YouTube.

These forums offer satirical, often contrarian, insights into the state of Pakistani culture and consciousness and how Islam plays an overwhelming influence in it. Facts and anecdotes used by these Facebook activists play on historical narratives, and serve a purpose in questioning current beliefs about religion and society. Their posts are written from the perspective of a self-critical Pakistani who is concerned about the betterment of society. While these activist pages taunt religious and terrorist groups, their posts are also educational for a common Pakistani reader who otherwise would not have access to such simplified versions of philosophy and politics.

May 23, 2013 Post On Pakistani Clerics' Role: "The Blasphemy Of The Prophet, Blasphemy Of Religion, Blasphemy Of The Koran, Blasphemy Of Islam… One Is Sad Seeing The Blasphemy Of Human Beings At The Hands [Of Islamic Clerics In Pakistan]"

i) Justice Munir Inquiry Report 1953

Image posted August 11, 2013: "600,000 soldiers, 1,000 billion rupees budget, atomic power, Islam's fort [Pakistan]; only 15,000 Taliban have subjugated you, and talks are of fighting a war against America..."

Justice Munir Inquiry Report 1953 - /JusticeMunirInquiryReport1953 - was created on April 20, 2013. It is named after an inquiry commission that investigated the 1953 riots against Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, who were deemed as infidel by the Pakistani religious groups. Ultimately, Ahmadi Muslims were outlawed as non-Muslims under a 1974 law passed by Pakistani leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. By January 4, 2014, this Facebook forum was liked by over 2,200 people.

Among its early posts, on May 22, 2013 it quoted Syed Abul A'la Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, who had opposed the creation of Pakistan, as saying: "The establishment of Pakistan and its birth is like animal [as in barbarism]." The reference for the quote was given as Tarjuman-ul-Quran, volume 31, page 59, year of publication 1948. The next day it republished a post from Canadian-Pakistani writer Affaf Azhar about various pretexts used by Pakistani clerics to cause social conflicts: "The blasphemy of the prophet, blasphemy of religion, blasphemy of the Koran, blasphemy of Islam… One is sad seeing the blasphemy of human beings at the hands [of clerics]." On June 5, it posted a parody of Islamist poet Muhammad Iqbal's couplet and replacing the word "owl" with cleric: "In every street, there is a cleric; what will be the future of the homeland."

On June 5, 2013, it challenged a common refrain among Pakistanis who say: "I do not belong to any sect; I am a Muslim." The post stated: "These days, it is liked very much, especially among the educated, who want to portray through this refrain that the sects existing nowadays are sects but not Muslim; Islam has nothing to do with sectarianism; therefore there is no relationship of mine to any sect; rather I am simply a Muslim. However, if you look at a hadith [saying] of Prophet Muhammad, you would find that it is against the prophet's saying. You have heard the prophet having said: 'There will be 73 sects in my ummah [Islamic nation], and 72 of them will go to the hell while only one sect will enter the paradise….'"

On June 28, it posted an image containing a short story titled "The Pharaoh's Mummy Is About To Visit Pakistan," stating: "The Pharaoh's mummy kept in the British Museum has begun shaking; the officials were worried and asked it for the reason of its plangency; it said that its strength has grown and the time is near for its rebirth. As per details, the Pharaoh expressed the desire to visit Pakistan to hand over certificates of appreciation to the members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehreek-e-Insaf [party of Imran Khan], the Islamic Ideological Council, and prominent leaders of the Taliban-supported banned organizations, which previously they used to get secretly. The Pharaoh said further that after centuries Pakistan is the only country that has come into existence where his real followers have been born, and that after rebirth he would like to be part of the TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] because power like theirs was not available to the Pharaoh even in his first life."

September 19, 2013: "Pakistan Is An Agricultural Country; Here The Taliban Grow The Most; After The Coming To Power Of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Has Become Independent In Producing The Taliban; It Is Expected That This Time The Taliban Too Will Be Exported"

On July 1, 2013, it reposted a comment from Affaf Azhar describing the state of the Pakistani nation: "We are silent today because the blood of our people is forgiven. This nation shouting for Aafia Siddiqui [jailed in the U.S. over a terror plot] adopts silence on [gang rape victim] Mukhtaran Mai. These people shouting against the drone strikes [lose no] sleep over the issue of the suicide bombings of temples, gurudwaras, and shrines [of Sufi mystics], as if they were lullabies. These people playing politics over the killings of Muslims in Burma and Palestine are deaf and dumb [to] over hundreds of people being killed in [the] homeland…"

On July 6, it posted a video of a Pakistani television program in which Islamic cleric Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer said that having sex with women of enemies in war time is justified as per Islam. Its post stated: "Then why to cry over Aafia Siddiqui? When American soldiers rape Muslim women in the state of war, it is declared haram [forbidden in Islam], but when Muslims rape, it is halal [permitted in Islam]?" On July 15, it posted a news story of a cleric arrested over sexual allegations involving children at a madrassa in Lahore. On July 26, it posted a newspaper clip stating that police seized an alcohol-manufacturing unit from the rooftop of a mosque in the Usman Ali area of the town of Gujranwala. On August 1, it posted an image of Taliban fighters beheading a Pakistani soldier, with text stating: "What kind of jihad and religion is it?" On August 8, it posted a news story of how a cleric delivered a lecture on the blessing of contracting a marriage on the 27th of the Islamic month of Ramadan, and soon after fled with a girl without marrying her.

On August 11, it posted an image of a Pakistani military tank at a parade, along with the text: "600,000 soldiers, 1,000 billion rupees budget, atomic power, Islam's fort [Pakistan]; only 15,000 Taliban have subjugated you, and talks are of fighting a war against America and Ghazwa-e-Hind [the Battle of India prophecy of Prophet Muhammad, in which he said that a group of people will rise from India and join with the forces of Jesus in present-day Israel to establish Islamic rule]." On September 19, its post noted the arrest of Al-Qaeda members from a hostel from Punjab University. On the same day, another post carried an image of Taliban fighters travelling in a pick-up along with the text: "Pakistan is an agricultural country; here the Taliban grow the most. After [the] coming to power of Nawaz Sharif [following May 2013 poll], Pakistan has become independent in producing the Taliban. It is expected that this time the Taliban too will be exported."

On November 21, its post stated: "The society is under construction, humans are urged to cooperate." A week before Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was to retire as the chief justice of Pakistan, its post dated of December 5 stated: "The chief justice's demand: I have just a few more days, and the terrorists to be freed are many more." On December 19, it posted a comment urging Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to remove the block on YouTube in Pakistan, reminding that the video-sharing site is not banned even in Mecca and Madina. On December 24, it stated: "The place where religiosity overpowers human intelligence is called Pakistan." The same day it commented on jihadi suicide bombers: "Sodium, potassium, sulphur, and nitrogen - when these four elements join, explodes a Muslim." In another post dated December 24, it showed an image of a cleric in Syria alongside the Urdu text: "How dare Islam that it will not spread; we will make it spread"; a subtitle noted: "A gun-borne psychological training in a Syrian mosque to spread Islam."

December 1, 2013 Post On Pakistan's Stance On Taliban And Drone Strikes: "[Pakistani Stance Means] The Sacrifice Of Millions Of People Be Given, Because This Is A War Of Islam Against The Forces Of Kufr… To Bathe The Entire World In Fire And Blood Is Acceptable, But A Military Operation Against A Few Thousand Taliban Is Unacceptable"

ii) Roshni (Light)

December 15, 2013: Cleric (left): "What is thinking?"; Cleric (middle): "What about issuing a fatwa declaring thinking to be haram"; Cleric (right): "Yes, and we will say that this awakens sexual desire"

In recent years, Roshni (Light) has used two handles on Facebook - /roshnipkdotcom and /RoshniPakistan3, the latter being its latest page, actively updated, and reviewed here. As of January 4, 2014, its old page is liked by more than 32,700 people, and by over 27,700 people on the new page /RoshniPakistan3. Its website is blocked in Pakistan.

On November 26, 2013, when it launched /RoshniPakistan3 it noted that its very first page on Facebook was blocked: "Dear readers: Facebook, on instructions of government of Pakistan has banned the second/backup page of Roshni (RoshniPakistan). We refuse to give up in the face of naked fascism curbing freedom of expression and will fight back with thus third page…" It was liked by more than 2,000 fans in just two hours. The next day, it posted an image with the following Urdu text: "Many torchbearers of Islam level allegation against us that Roshni is an anti-Islam page; its purpose is to defame Islam, it is a conspiracy against Islam, etc. We clarify that Roshni is not a religious page. The purpose of Roshni is neither to spread Islam nor to counter it… Roshni is a secular page that wants separation of religion from politics and state affairs…"

On November 29, it again posted a message about its purpose: "Roshni is primarily a secular democratic platform which believes in free speech with responsibility and promotes tolerance, harmony, and pluralism in a multicultural Pakistan. Its objective is to provide a strong voice to the oppressed communities of Pakistan including, but not limited to, Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, and Baloch. Roshni will be a human rights campaigner on all matters of present and slowly create awareness on matters of civil rights and equality…" The message further stated: "Roshni's objective includes being a strong voice against terrorism and extremism of any forms, especially Islamist militancy. Roshni will provide commentary on religious and political leaders and organizations, and how they respond to this threat facing Pakistan and the wider world. Unlike the mainstream media, Roshni will be a voice for 70,000 dead Pakistanis who have lost their lives to terrorism and will not bow down to Islamist threats and propaganda."

On November 28, it posted: "One who just to prove his beliefs kills a person on any religious basis, is nothing but a murderer and mentally sick." The message was liked by 242 people and shared 100 times. On November 30, it posted a news story of two Hindu girls who were raped by two persons, Khadim and Siraj, in district Umerkot of Sindh province, but one of the girls mustered the courage to file a police case which was closed due to the influence of local people. However, Khadim upset that she had gone to the police, kidnapped and shot her dead. The same day it posted another message on how Salim Raza, a former official of Pakistan Navy, "was killed mercilessly for being a Shia" and his head hung over a bridge in Karachi by the jihadists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a jihadi group specializing in killing Shia Muslims in Pakistan. The message noted: "The Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba (Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) entered Salim Raza's home, beheaded him, and carried his head with them [and hung it from the bridge]." Such posts are vital, as much of Pakistan's mainstream media doesn't note that these murders are due to one's Shia beliefs and identity.

On December 1, 2013 it posted a statement of noted Pakistani author Mobarak Haider which summarized the Pakistani opposition against the U.S. drone strikes on jihadi hideouts, and sympathy for the Taliban who have killed thousands of people. In the statement, Haider concludes: "[The Pakistani position] simply means that Pakistan forget the killing of its people by the Taliban and shoot down the drone aircraft. Then if America fires a missile from the Indian Ocean, its vessels be destroyed by [Pakistani] atom bombs; if India intervenes, then atom bombs be rained on it too. It means that the sacrifice of millions of people be given because this is a war of Islam against the forces of kufr [unbelief] in which believers do not worry about consequences. To bathe the entire world in fire and blood is acceptable, but a military operation against a few thousand Taliban is unacceptable because we do not compromise on principles." The post was liked by 210 people and shared 142 times, while several others commented on it.

On December 2, it posted a short story articulating Pakistani leader Imran Khan's stand against the U.S. drone strikes, saying: "We have a leader who loves peace and believes in negotiations [with the Taliban]. One day, a man visited him. Leader: 'Who are you?' Man: 'Sir I have come from Waziristan.' Leader: 'You must be a victim of a drone strike. My ex-wife [Jemima Khan] is making a movie [on drone strikes], contact her.' Man: 'No sir, I am not a drone victim.' Leader: 'I know everyone in Waziristan is scared of drones. Allah willing, we will stop the NATO supply, then we see how they fire drones!' Man: 'But my problem is different.' Leader: 'Oh, what problem can there be other than drones?" Man: 'Sir, I am a school teacher and my school has been closed for a long time.' Leader: 'Due to the fear of drone strikes. Do not worry, NATO supply….' Man: 'My school is closed due to the fear of the Taliban, not the drones.' Leader: '[Arabic words] there is no might disobeying Allah; ask for forgiveness; the Taliban are our brothers. They all are our brothers; the entire issue is of America's war…' Man: 'The Taliban bomb our school.'" And the story continues until the man is told to come back after the drones are shot down.

December 11, 2013: "In Front Of Our Eyes, Our Neighbors, The Known People Of Our Area, Join The Taliban And Carry Out Terror Attacks In Our Own Area; But Consider Our Audacity That We Shout: 'No, They Are Not Muslims'"

On December 2, it posted a news story with the following words: "All praise be to Allah, the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is serving Islam, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorists are caught from homes [of its leaders] and now alcohol and weapons are seized [from the hostel rooms of its student leaders]…." In Pakistan, teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, has been criticized by Islamists recently for serving Western interests. On December 3, it posted a message of how an Indian Muslim woman who considered Malala Yousafzai as her idol won Who Will Become A Millionaire on Indian television, while Pakistanis continue to dislike Malala. On December 4, it posted a video in which it expressed indignation at the double standard of Pakistani leaders for advocating Islam for the masses while enjoying dancing, noting: "Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, dancing to Arab music [at a function for guests from UAE]."

On December 5, its post took a critical look at the role of clerics in Pakistani society: "If a mullah [cleric] lives in your street, keep a close eye on him and save the locality from his dirty eyes. Keep watch on the cleric that he isn't a member of a terrorist organization. Do not leave a cleric alone with children when he comes home to teach them, [even if] he be from the local mosque. This is obligatory on every Pakistani." On December 7, its post questioned what issues are being debated on Pakistani television channels: "Look at the old people working at bus stops whose age requires that they be living on pension a decent life, but even in this age they are begging or selling miswaks [toothbrushes made from plants]. Look at those kids who are searching for food in rubbish, but we do not discuss their situations. Our discussion is whether a Shia is an infidel or not." On December 7, it posted an image of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan emir Syed Munawar Hasan, along with a statement: "How does it matter if our lads drank a little alcohol?" Below Hasan's image it carried another statement: "Why bother about alcohol, the rape of thousands of Bengali women was right to uphold Islam" - a reference to thousands of women raped by Jamaat-e-Islami members in the 1971 war leading to the secession of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

On December 11, it posted a comment on the common refrain in Pakistan that the "Taliban are not Muslims," noting: "In front of our eyes, our neighbors, the known people of our area, join the Taliban and carry out terror attacks in our own area. But consider our audacity that we shout: 'No, they are not Muslims.' However, we all know that not only are these people Muslims, but also kill us in the name of Islam itself. And they do this, considering it a pious duty. They call themselves mujahid and this war jihad…" The same day it posted what it called a "fundamental question": "The question is not who is carrying out these bomb blasts. The question is for what disease are the medicines, the security agencies on whom about 700 billion rupees are spent?" On December 11, the day he retired, it questioned the role of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, noting: "During the time of Iftikhar Chaudhry, funerals were said for more than 100,000 Pakistanis [killed by terrorists]. How do I accept that the judiciary was independent and Iftikhar Chaudhry an honest judge, because when judges deliver justice, societies experience peace. Not a single terrorist was hanged, whereas the terrorists executed more than 100,000 Pakistanis…."

On December 12, 2013, its post summarized the basic teachings taught to Pakistani children as part of "Pakistan Studies" in school textbooks: "i) Hindus didn't want Urdu to progress due to their eternal prejudice against Muslims; ii) Gandhi was an enemy of Muslims and used to adopt a stubborn stance on every issue; iii) Christians and Jews were not happy at the progress of Muslims; iv) India is our traditional enemy and we should be always prepared to save ourselves from its mischief; v) Hindus were oppressors and cruel, and wanted to keep Muslims as slaves; vi) from an Islamic perspective, there are two nations in the world: Muslims and non-Muslims..." On December 13, its post noted how at religious functions, songs are sung in praise of Prophet Muhammad urging him "to call us to Madina, oh lord" while praying to relatives in the West: "please settle me in a European country."

On December 14, it posted a short story: "In Britain, a Pakistani cleric was waiting for a taxi. When he saw one, he signaled it to stop. The English driver said hello to him decently and he got into the taxi. Once inside the taxi, he ordered the driver to shut the radio as music is forbidden in Islam. The driver opened the door and told him there were no taxis in the times of your prophet, so get off and wait for a camel." On December 15, it posted an image with the following text: "Why the support for violence? There is a gap between statements and actions of the religious groups because the sadness of the religious parties of being rejected by the people during the democratic struggle of 66 years [of Pakistan's life] has forced them to practically support those following on the path of capturing power through terrorism, while opposing them in words."

On December 15, it posted a cartoon in which three Islamic clerics consult amongst each other (see the above cartoon). The first one says: "What is thinking?" The second one says: "What do you think about delivering a fatwa on thinking being haram?" The third one says: "Yes, and we will say that this causes sexual desires to awaken." On December 17, it took on right-wing writers who tell Pakistanis that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, noting that they forget that the largest number of those becoming atheists are also children of Muslims. On December 19, it quoted Pakistani writer Anwar Maqsood as saying: "The most difficult thing in Pakistan is to speak the truth." On the same day, it stated in two posts: "Behind every terrorism and suicide bombing is a Wahhabi or Deobandi"; "Behind every terrorism is the military."

In a post dated December 20, 2013, it produced a quote from the Justice Munir Commission Inquiry Report 1953, which investigated the riots against Ahmadi Muslims. The quote looks at who is a Muslim: "If the definitions narrated by all clerics be taken into account, this commission is forced to reach the conclusion that two clerics do not agree on this basic question [of who is a Muslim]; every cleric's definition is different from the other. If the commission accepts the definition given by one cleric, then all Muslims of the other schools of thought are out of the ambit of Islam. If we are a Muslim according to a cleric of one school of thought, then all of us are infidel according to the definition of all other clerics." Throughout 2013, Roshni posted many messages that questioned the role of Sipah-e-Sahab Pakistan (SSP) in the killings of Shia Muslims, the role of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Pakistani denials about the 1971 war as a result of which Bangladesh came into existence, pieces of poetry about Muslims and unbelief, images of people of Baluchistan marching for rights and freedom of Baluchi persons abducted by Pakistani intelligence agencies, double standards of Islamic clerics, and so on.

July 1, 2013 - On Muslim Belief That Humans Did Not Evolve From Primates: "If A Sperm Cell Can Become A Human In 9 Months Then Why Can't Humans Evolve Over Millions Of Years From A Single Cell?"

iii) Al-Razi

The title image of Al-Razi forum, signifying equality of all religions

The discussion forum Al-Razi - identified by the handle /alrazi.rhazes - was created on June 16, 2013. It had previously operated under the handle /IdiotMyshkin, which was liked by more than 1,100 readers but was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). As of January 4, 2014, the new page of Al-Razi - /alrazi.rhazes - is liked by more than 1,350 readers. The new page is reviewed here.

The forum is named after the 9th century Muslim philosopher Tayyab Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi. In a post dated June 19, 2013, it noted: "This great philosopher had lost his eyesight in the last days of his life. The loss of sight is explained as: an emir of the orthodox Mansoor family of Bukhara was so angry at some ideas discussed in a book of Al-Razi that he ordered that as punishment his head be hit with this book 'til either his head or the book is torn apart…."

On June 18, 2013, Al-Razi noted in a post the common problem faced by secular activists: "Why you attack only MY religion, eh?" Through a series of posts in June 2013, it challenged the anti-Darwinist Muslim activists such as Harun Yehya, and reported about the parading naked of three Christian women in the town of Kasur, renowned social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi's decision to donate his organs, Pakistan being named the second country after Nigeria where the most children are out of school, and more. On July 1, it published an image of a sperm along with text that challenged the belief that humans did not evolve from primates: "If a sperm cell can become a human in 9 months then why can't humans evolve over millions of years from a single cell?"

On July 3, it published a 2009 letter of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which declared Shia Muslims as infidels and noted: "All infidels (Shias) are invited by the Tehreek [TTP] and are warned that if the infidel (Shias) want to live in peace in this region then they should follow three points: i) embrace Islam, ii) pay jizya, or iii) migrate. In the event of any one of the three points not being accepted, all properties and imambargahs [mosque-religious places of Shias] will be seized. The women of the infidels [Shias] will be kept as servants and sexual relationships established." On July 13, it posed a question for its readers: "Aafia [Siddiqui who is jailed in the U.S.] wanted to go for jihad in Afghanistan and Malala [Yousafzai] for education to school. It is a question for all the sympathizers of Aafia: where you would like to send your daughter? School or Afghanistan?" On July 23, it posted a link to an article in Urdu which described Malala Yousafzai as the "key" - symbolically - to social development in Pakistan.

On September 21, a post stated: "Today is being observed as peace day throughout the world. And in the Pakistani town of Sialkot, clerics conveyed their message of 'peace' to the world in their familiar way by attacking a mosque of Ahmadiyya Jamaat. They cry before the world that they are peace-loving and say that Islam is a religion of peace - and if anyone disagrees with it he is wajib-ul-qatl [liable to be killed as per Islam]." On September 24, it posted a comment: "If the Taliban are indeed Israeli and Indian agents [as alleged by Pakistani politicians], why do they not attack the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Raiwind and of Jamaatud Dawa in Muridke [both in Lahore] along with their attacks on Data Durbar shrine, imambargahs, and mourning processions of muharram [by Shia Muslims], churches, and Ahmadi places of worship? Either the security of these centers is stricter than the GHQ [general headquarters of the Pakistani Army] and Mehran base [of Pakistan Navy], or the Taliban are their own people."

On October 12, it posted an excerpt from a book by Islamic scholar Allama Niaz Fatehpuri: "The religious scholars believe that earlier human sacrifices were offered for gods. This ritual was ended by Abraham and it was replaced by sacrifices of animals. As a replacement for human sacrifice, a part of the human body is cut and offered to God (circumcision)." After Israrullah Gandapur, the law minister of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was killed by a suicide bomber, it posted a comment on October 19, wondering if Pakistan was experiencing something like the fall of Baghdad, as Pakistani leaders avoided condemning the attack and were still talking of negotiations with those who had dispatched the suicide bomber. On November 7, its post stated: "The Taliban announce revenge after killing of their every fighter and reject the so-called talks; whereas our 50,000 civilians and recently a major general were killed, even then we raise the slogan in favor of negotiations [with the Taliban]…."

On December 22, its post questioning the global Islamist narrative among Pakistanis stated: "The military is a national institution which should have no relationship with religion. The job of the Pakistani military is to defend Pakistan, not the defense of any religion or ideology [of Pakistan]. Similarly, Pakistan's assets, namely the atom bomb, belongs to Pakistan; why call it an Islamic bomb? Do other Islamic countries call their armies ... the military of the Islamic world? Iran has recently produced a drone; do they call it an Iranian drone or an Islamic drone?" On December 29, it questioned the conception of houris in a post: "Do good things in hope of getting prostitutes and alcohol in jannat [heaven]."

December 3, 2013: "Welcome To Pakistan; A Border Is A Border Whichever Country It May Connect To, But For Our Soldiers A Border Is Only The Border With India; I Swear Even If A Dog Mistakenly Crosses Into Pakistan, It Will Be Declared A Spy [While We Say Nothing Against Taliban Coming From The Afghan Border]"

iv) Zauq-e-Tanqeed (Love for Criticism)

October 29, 2013: Graffiti: "Kafir, Shia Kafir, Khomeini dog"

On October 16, 2013, Zauq-e-Tanqeed created a page on Facebook with the handle /ztanqeed3. Unlike other forums which are anonymous, it is operated by Noman Alam, a Pakistani writer who lives abroad. As of January 4, 2014, it is liked by over 4,800 readers.

On October 29, it posted an image in which a person writes a slogan "Kafir, Shia Kafir, Khomeini dog" on a wall in Pakistan (see above image). Its post stated: "The world may progress, [but] what do we have to do with it? We have to first decide who is this kafir in reality." In November 2013, Jamaat-e-Islami emir Syed Munawar Hasan was in news headlines for describing Hakimullah Mehsud, the emir of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who was killed in a U.S. drone strike that month, as a martyr and noting that Pakistani soldiers fighting against the Taliban are not martyrs. On November 4, Zauq-e-Tanqeed posted a video of Hasan, which had been recorded a year ago and in which he refuses to accept the existence of Mehsud.

On November 10, it posted a newspaper clip which reported that the Pakistani Supreme Court had ruled that those having dual citizenship cannot be members of parliament, while noting that such people can become judges. It posted a definition of religion, stating: "According to Islam, the definition of religion is - 'Without doubt, your God is nearer to you than your jugular vein.' It clearly means that religion is a personal affair of every person; on the basis and name of religion, you cannot cause divisions in humanity. From day one, religion is working as a speed breaker between Allah and humans."

Commenting on the history of wars and suspicion between Pakistan and India, Zauq-e-Tanqeed posted a comment on the meaning of "border" on December 3, stating: "Welcome to Pakistan. A border is a border whichever country it may connect to, but for our soldiers a border is only the border with India. I swear even if a dog mistakenly crosses into Pakistan, it will be declared a spy and probably killed. But through our northern borders [with Afghanistan] militants, accompanied by guards, come sitting in four-wheeled [vehicles] and live in bungalows situated a mile from the military garrisons. What answers do the mustached eunuchs [i.e. military generals] sitting in the GHQ [general headquarters of the Pakistani military] have?"

On December 17, it posted images of children injured in attacks in Pakistan, along with the text: "All praise be to Allah, if there is a place in the world where Islam exists it is Pakistan." The next day, its post read: "In Pakistan, if you pose a question before a cleric, you are an infidel and an enemy of Islam. If you read the history of the military and ask a question, you are a traitor and enemy of the nation. If you ask a question about history, you get the reply: 'you know [Islamist national poet Muhammad] Iqbal was a Waliullah [representative of Allah].' And if you ask about the Two Nation theory [that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together, leading to the creation of Pakistan], then they will prove from the hadiths [sayings of Prophet Muhammad] that, no matter what, Allah descended on earth to create Pakistan."

On December 23, it posted a comment on how clerics led a movement for Ahmadi Muslims to be legally declared infidels: "In 1974, Shia, Sunni, Wahhabi and other sects were trying to outdo each other that Qadianis [Ahmadi Muslims] be declared kafir [infidel]. For their one objective, the Wahhabis, Deobandis, and Salafis did not see any problem in the beliefs of Shias. Even if there was any, then just for pragmatism, they set aside their objections to the beliefs of Shias and raised the slogan of unity across sects, leading to the declaration of Qadianis as kafir. The Shia ulema too were out to have the Qadianis declared as kafir… Now this boat is rowing in the opposite direction and these Wahhabi and Deobandi clerics are offering arguments from Islam and hadiths to demand that Shias be declared kafir…" The same day, it quoted an excerpt from a book of Pakistani writer Ibn Insha: "Who lives in Iran? The Iranian nation lives in Iran. Who lives in France? The French nation lives in France. Which country is this? This is Pakistan. The Pakistani nation must be living here? No, the Pakistani nation doesn't live here; the Sindhi nation lives here; the Punjabi nation lives here; the Bengali nation lives here… But the Punjabis also live in India; the Sindhis too live in India; the Bengalis too live in India. Then why was this separate country created? Please forgive us, it was a mistake, we will not create it in the future."

* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (


[1] All Facebook pages were accessed as of January 4, 2013. The original English of some posts was mildly edited for clarity and standardization.

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