Nobody knows what the truth is but one Pakistani, Zaid Hamid, is said to have been nabbed in Saudi Arabia during a minor pilgrimage and condemned to eight years in jail and 1,000 lashes — bunched in weekly instalments — for badmouthing the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If you go on the internet, the man is “Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, founding president of an internationally recognised threat analysis consultancy and defence think tank, Brass Tacks”.
He was once popular on TV talk shows in Pakistan and had quite a following, appearing in military fatigues — his father was in the army — under a red cap and giving good tidings about a forthcoming battle (ghazva) against infidel India. He spouted sharia — lambasting the West and its borrowed curse, democracy — the political masala that sells in all Muslim societies these days. He added another fundamentalist but stupid arrow to his quiver — monarchy is un-Islamic.
No surprise that with his ghazva theme, he soon attracted followers. When I was going to Bangladesh for a peace conference with the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) in 2009, a flight bursar of the PIA told me proudly that the entire flight staff were followers of Hamid. Later, Hamid went to court against the SAFMA, under Article 6, for treason punishable by death, accusing it of being an agent of India.
Cult status urges overreach. (There are three national political leaders in Pakistan with a cult following who have overreached and are in trouble.) Hamid had his own spiritual guru, Yusuf, whom people soon called Yusuf Kazzab (super liar) after he overreached in a funny way. He claimed to be the Prophet Muhammad PBUH himself and was killed in prison by an outraged fellow prisoner. Charisma is finally nothing but a bit of self-dramatisation for the benefit of low minds longing for a chastiser. False prophet Yusuf had named Hamid his “companion” and renamed him Abubakr. (Leaders of Boko Haram in Nigeria and of the Islamic State sport the same name.)
Hamid ramped up his rhetoric and announced that Prophet Muhammad PBUH had declared war (ghazva) on Hind (India), and “it will come to pass that Bharat will be trounced and enslaved according to sharia if Hindus don’t repent and embrace Islam”. And why shouldn’t Hamid be the commander of the Islamic force after having fought nine years against the Russians in Afghanistan? He is thus another piece of the fallout from Pakistan’s unlucky Afghan war.
Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, wrote to explain why the terrorists thought India had to be defeated: In one version of the Hadith, attributed to Thawban, a freed slave of the Prophet Muhammad, “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘there are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the Fire: The group that invades Hind, and the group that will be with Isa bin Maryam (Christ), peace be upon him.’” One might then ask why we are killing Christians in Pakistan.
The irony takes over as usual. The caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, called the Islamic State, has announced its various provinces, including one named Khurasan, which is explained as comprising Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Hamid cools his heels in a Saudi prison, it is not India but Khurasan that is under threat from the true caliphate of Islam. In fact, the caliphate has formed its avant garde in the Namangan province of Afghanistan right next to the Pakistan border. The Pakistan army, fighting the Islamic army of warlord Mangal Bagh in the Khyber Agency of Pakistan, has driven Mangal Bagh out to Namangan as an ally of the caliphate. Pakistan, as Khurasan, risks being destroyed by Al Baghdadi, who — judging by his practice in Syria — will kill all the men and take all Pakistani women as his concubines.
Soon, however, Hamid tangled with the jihadi seminaries of Karachi because of his self-inflating hubris, thus trespassing on turf that was never his. The banned magazine of the Sipah Sahaba, the monthly Paigham Khatme Nubawwat (March 2012) wrote that Hamid was the continuation of the mission of “False Prophet Yusuf”, who hid after the death of Yusuf, then appeared on TV talking in such a way that people took him to be connected with the spooks. When Karachi’s Maulana Saeed Jalalpuri became critical of him, he was mysteriously killed. The most powerful seminary, Binoria, put out a fatwa of apostasy against Hamid.
Hamid had to go underground, given the seminary’s murderous outreach. All terrorists claim the “ghazva” against India but end up assaulting Pakistan. Warlord Fazlullah of Swat announced it, but killed scores of innocent Pakistanis before running off to Afghanistan. In September 2014, al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri formed al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). But the same month, the AQIS fell upon the Pakistan navy instead of India, trying to hijack the frigate PNS Zulfiqar in Karachi. It said the aim was to “liberate” Indian Muslims from Hindus, but Pakistan came in first as India’s “doorstep”.
The Pakistani press says, “As per the Saudi law, Zaid Hamid is set to be publicly lashed 50 times a week for 20 weeks.” This punishment is too severe for what was essentially an act of exaggeration to please Muslims too dense to comprehend what was happening in the world, and to them. Like everyone else, he thought he must first begin by cursing the Muslims before tackling the non-believers, and ended up offending the Saudi kingdom.
Long before the advent of the sanguinary Abu Bakrs of Iraq and Nigeria, violence was mostly verbal. Pakistani politicians, too, used anger as a device of arousal, little realising that bloodshed may follow their rhetoric. But it comes easy as the states they wish to run have mostly become economically unviable. The avoidance of war may benefit the economy, but their “corrective” anger simply does not allow peace to prevail.
The writer is consulting editor ‘Newsweek Pakistan’.