Finding a threatening hashtag on social media is enough to give anyone sleepless nights. But for civil society activist Jibran Nasir the #HangJibranNasir on Twitter only made him more determined to stand up and be heard.
After December 16, 2014 which has become the darkest day in Pakistan’s history, when terrorists allegedly members of Mullah Fazlullah’s led Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked an Army-run boys school in Peshawar and killed more than 141 people, mostly children,people like Nasir have taken up the task to protest against terrorism.
In an unprecedented move, Nasir and others from Pakistan’s civil society rallied against TTP, which is mostly responsible for the deaths of more than 50,000 people in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. And as expected, Nasir is facing severe criticism from radical elements in the Pakistani society for his stand against Taliban and other banned outfits.
The whole country went into mourning after the Peshawar massacre. But soon this mourning turned into rage when Moulana Abdul Aziz – a radical cleric of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) – categorically refused to condemn this barbaric act while talking on a talk show.
Aziz went on to term the Peshawar massacre as a response to the military operation in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.
Nasir led a group of people and organized protest demonstrations and candle vigils for victims of the Peshawar school attack outside Lal Masjid.
A large number of people from all backgrounds responded to Nasir’s call and joined him in the demonstration outside the mosque. This led to the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) to filing a complaint against the protestors, declaring them a threat against the mosque. More than 10 civil society members were arrested as a result of this FIR.
However, this did not scare the demonstrators away. It only led to more people coming out to support Nasir and finally an FIR was registered against the Lal Masjid cleric Moulana Abdul Aziz in a local police station in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
As a large number of people celebrated this brave step, it enraged the TTP with the Ehsanullah Ehsan (a spokesman of the TTP splinter group Jamaat ul Ahrar) lashing out at Nasir, threatening him not to lead a campaign against Moulana Abdul Aziz.
Jibran refused to cower down, and he replied that places of worship should not be used for inciting violence.
Some supporters of the controversial cleric have started a malicious campaign against Jibran Nasir on social media, accusing him of conspiring against Islam. And as campaigns run on social media, this one is also based on many falsehoods and unverified data.
A Facebook page has been created using the name of a famous conservative Pakistani analyst Orya Maqbool Jaan, which is posting various photos trying to start different controversies against Nasir.
In one such campaign this FB page has posted a picture of Nasir with MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi. The significance of this photograph is to establish that Nasir as an agent of Shites as Rizvi hails from this sect.
This is also an attempt to coax the larger Muslim sect – Sunni – into believing that Jibran’s protests are in fact a Shite conspiracy against Lal Masjid, and therefore against the interests of Sunnis.
The same Facebook page posted another photo, falsely quoting Jibran as saying that “former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer is my hero and his guard Mumtaz Qadri who assassinated him on the charges of blasphemy should be hanged.”
Commenting on this, Nasir said that some people are sharing his pictures with female cousins and this could endanger them.
He has conveyed security concerns with the Federal Information Minister Pervez Rasheed and he says it is now the government’s responsibility to protect the members of civil society.
Nasir’s stance went beyond the boundaries of civil society and it was also mirrored by the very vocal political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) that also organized protests against Moulana Abdul Aziz.
MQM’s Chief Altaf Hussain accused Lal Masjid affiliated sister seminary Jamia Hafsa of forcefully detaining students (females) and demanded that the government raze the mosque.
As expected there was retaliation from the other side. And in a video message, Lal Masjid’s Moulana Aziz threatened Altaf Hussain and his party, terming them as enemies of Pakistan. The MQM registered an FIR against the moulana for threatening party chief Hussain. A few days later, civil judge in Islamabad had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Moulana Aziz but till writing this he has not been arrested yet.
Now it remains to be seen whether the government lives up to the expectations of people like Jibran Nasir, who have spoken up at their own personal risk in a country where anyone can be killed. Is the government up to the task to protect citizens? Will it be able to take any measures to control terrorism in Pakistan? Only time will tell. Till then, brave voices will continue to be raised.