By Farooq Sulehria
The political mullahs rub salt into wounds of earthquake victims
every time they shoot their mouths off blaming ‘sinful’
people for earning ‘wrath of God’ in the form of recent
earthquake. Without a shred of respect for a generation of innocent
school children lost to earthquake, MMA President Qazi Hussain
Ahmed attributing the earthquake to ‘sinful’ nation,
declares the earthquake a ‘warning by God’ and sermons
on the urgency of modifying life-styles. His parliamentarian daughter,
Rahila Qazi, indicates ‘barrage of obscenity unleashed on
media under government sponsorship’ as the cause for ‘wrath
This ‘wrath-of-God’ nonsense invoked in the wake
of natural catastrophes is not Pakistan-specific. Despite ‘clash
of civilisations’, theology sans humanity cut across ‘civilisational’
divisions. Recently, evangelists in the USA blamed lesbian/gay
and pro-choice people for Hurricane Katrina while a contributor
on the Christian Broadcasting Network website wrote: ‘Whenever
this country encourages Israel to give up any part of their rightful
God-given land we have suffered the consequences.’ No Christian
fanatic in the USA, however, attributed the disaster to child
abuse in Catholic church!!
Earlier, when tsunami hit Buddhist Sri Lanka, Hindu India, Muslim
Indonesia alike, clerical justifications cut across all religious
divisions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity.
In Sri Lanka, Buddhists recalled the story of a tsunami which
hit the island circa 200 BC when a king killed a Buddhist monk
in a fit of anger. They wondered which of their political leaders
angered the sea gods this time
Hindu fundamentalists blamed their government for earning the
wrath of Almighty by arresting, in November 2004, their spiritual
leader Kanchi Shankracharya.
Certain Christian groups thought Tsunami as a just punishment
for the countries treating their Christian population bad (one
wonders why Pakistan was spared ).
In Israel, Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar said that the tragedy
was ‘an expression of God's wrath with the world. The world
is being punished for wrongdoing -- be it people's needless hatred
of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude’.
No doubt, some natural disasters are natural in their causation
but are aggravated or mitigated by arrangements, or lack of them,
provided by the states and societies. Last-year’s tsunami,
hurricane Katrina and earthquake in Kashmir show that the natural
catastrophic effects of natural disasters are determined by the
policies followed by the governments. In godless Cuba, government
efficiently evacuates million-and-a half people before hurricane
while in God-fearing USA Katrina leaves 1200 dead. The enormity
of misery befallen the people of Kashmir is in no way a product
of God’s wrath. A lot has to do with the policies Islamabad
has perused vis-à-vis Kashmir. Since occupation of Jammu
Kashmir, misnamed Azad Kashmir has been a victim of neglect. A
deliberate and criminal neglect. Islamabad never built any infrastructure
Even when people in Pakistan and rest of the world, are generously
donating to relief efforts, it is not certain if relief will reach
in time owing to bad infrastructure. Access to 500 villages wiped
from the face of earth is not possible without helicopters since
roads were never built to link villages. Relief from abroad could
reach in time had there been airport. Kashmir has no airport despite
a million Kashmiris, out of its 3.5 million population, live abroad.
This utter lack of infrastructure has enhanced the enormity of
the catastrophe that shook Kashmir on the morning of October 8.
True, the government of Pakistan could not evacuate the people
of Kashmir since earthquakes hit, unlike hurricanes, without prior
knowledge. But certain similarities between Kashmir and New Orleans
are striking. While black population of New Orleans was given
damn for decades on racial basis, quake victims in Kashmir have
been victims of Islamabad’s high handed policies. Respect
of human rights should also be judged by the level of development.
Grave contempt for human rights in Kashmir, particularly in Gilgat
Baltistan, a region cleverly detached from Kashmir by Islamabad
in case Kashmir goes independent, is evident by the total lack
of infrastructure in Kashmir.
Also, natural disasters pick on the poor and the weak, rather
than the privileged. None of the political mullahs lost family
members or was rendered homeless. Not because they are the chosen
ones. But because all mainstream political mullahs enjoy life
in concretely built luxury villas. Despite abundant natural wealth,
majority of Kashmir population has been held in poverty. Thus,
if earthquake was a natural disaster, it was aggravated by poverty
and decades of neglect in Kashmir.
Also, we can not attribute ‘Mountain tsunami’ as
a warning to General Musharraf, despite his disastrous regime.
Neither we can blame the ‘obscene’ media as some mullahs
and right wing columnists are trying to do. If divine wisdom is
to punish innocent citizens for the deeds of an unelected military
ruler, than Hasba-billed, MMA-ruled NWFP should have been spared
God’s wrath. If media obscenity and ‘unIslamic’
rulers of Pakistan are to be blamed than divine wisdom should
be questioned because Iran was hit twice by earthquakes in last
six years despite its pure media and puritan Islamic government.
Similarly Afghanistan experienced two earthquakes (1999 and Feb
2001) while Taliban were running Kabul and Radio Shariat would
not broadcast anything but the word of God.
Above all, earthquakes would occur even before ‘sinful’
descendants of Adam and Eve inhabited the mother earth. Who was,
in those good old days, God angry at?
Meantime, BBC reports that God asked Bush to invade Afghanistan
and Iraq. Gods must be crazy!