By Luqman Patino –
Pakistani lawyer and social activist Jibran Nasir, 28, spoke at Citizens Reclaiming Pakistan, a May 21 event at the Phoenix Airport Marriott, where he told of his efforts to take back Pakistan from what he thinks are religious extremists. Nasir reported that despite receiving many death threats along the way, he is dedicated to facilitating discourse beyond his homeland.
Nasir told the audience that he believes Pakistan is becoming home to religious extremists who use Islam to fit their own agenda and tear the country apart with sectarianism. In many parts of the country, many citizens have taken the law into their own hands and have become the judge, jury and executioners. Nasir revealed how many people are being falsely accused of blasphemy, which can be punishable by death.
Nasir said he has received many death threats from the Taliban. In December, for example, he was warned that if he doesn’t stop, then he and his family and the people that he loves are at risk. This is not something that Nasir takes lightly. Recently, Nasir recounted, Sabeen Mahmud, an active supporter of Nasir, was murdered while walking home after hosting a seminar.
Nasir was motivated to start serious discussions about the state of Pakistan after the attack on the Peshawar military school on December 16, 2014. It was carried out by seven gunmen affiliated with Tehrik-i-Taliban, a known militant group in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis consider it to be the biggest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history, according to Nasir. A total of 145 people were killed, including 132 children, ranging from 8 to 18 years of age.
While the attack itself was a tragedy, Nasir believes the inaction following the attacks took its own toll on the country. Nasir attributes the inaction of Maulana Abdul Aziz, a prominent religious figure in Pakistan, to issues of religious extremism in the country. Aziz said he would not condemn the attack against the school. Aziz reportedly said that it would be wrong to condemn one incident and remain silent on others. This left many citizens angry and frustrated.
Nasir rallied Pakistani citizens through social media and was able to gather approximately 400 people outside the Central Mosque of Islamabad to demand the arrest of Aziz, who he felt was supporting such acts of terror. Nasir believes that those who came out in support of the arrest of Aziz are the silent majority of Pakistan.
After significant effort, an arrest warrant was issued for Aziz. Aziz later publicly condemned the Peshawar attack. Nasir criticized Aziz’s backpedal on the issue. “People call him a cleric. People call him a smart man. People call him someone who can lead the congregation, a scholar, but if he’s really a scholar would he change his views because he’s threatened by an arrest right now? The will of the people rattles the biggest of the terrorists. The one thing that scares the terrorist, is that the person that faces him does not have any terror inside of him, so when they know that we’re not afraid of them that rattles them, and he rattled, that’s what he did,” Nasir said of Aziz.
Nasir is on a public tour of America, visiting universities and holding events to share his perspective and efforts, particularly with the Pakistani-American community who may still have ties with their homeland.
Nasir hopes that one day Pakistan may become secular which he believes could result in progress with religious extremism and sectarianism that plagues the country.
Yusuf Bhuvad, who attended the event, spoke about the potential for Pakistan to become a secular country. “It is possible. It will take a lot of work from the general population itself, a lot of education and tolerance,” said Bhuvad.