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Running for life

Threat of violence from non-state actors

Running for life

Junaid Jamshed had it good in Pakistan. For more than a decade he made Pakistanis of all ages dance to his tunes and voice. And when he decided to turn overtly religious, he was doing commercially well. In a Pakistan where the market-based economy defines the media’s interests, he could be sold to the public easily — precisely because he already had an established market. Here was a man who used to be on the ‘other’ side and then he realised how meaningless a life without embracing religion was.

The media did not need to sell him. He was famous because he was Junaid Jamshed of Vital Signs. He was now just striking a different chord in Pakistan, i.e. Islam — and one that resonates even more deeply than Dil Dil Pakistan. In this way, he joined the Inzamams, the Imrans and the Saeed Anwars in enhancing his market reach: rising to prominence through a talent and then using religion to cement commercial and/or political viability.

It soon became clear that Junaid Jamshed understood what he needed to sell. Being a ‘born again Muslim’ was not enough, since the market for religion rewards the ultra-conservative even more. His patriarchal views about women and driving, as well as advising men to never let their wives leave the house, were not the random ramblings of someone. These were carefully crafted stances to increase his appeal to the conservatives. Maybe at times he felt that the conservative Muslims’ market saw him as a ‘burger bacha’, i.e. an outsider now trying to make it big in a place where the faithful had invested much more than him. Hence he was always going the extra mile to appease the right-wing. Did he care that he insulted women and their intelligence in the process? Absolutely not. But there was good reason for not caring. The women were not his market. Without prejudice to the morality of his actions, he was being a rational economic actor — or so he thought.

Insult women on TV and all you get are a few Facebook posts. And maybe the lack of accountability for repulsive views emboldened someone in the position of Junaid Jamshed. He thought he could be as informal or irreverent as he wanted — since he had the market on his side. Little did he know.

Also read: An opportune time

The violent reaction to his comments regarding the wives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) reveals a lot about Pakistani society. As I have written before, blasphemy or even the allegation of it in this country destroys your life. A lot of people were initially unsure whether it was blasphemy or just irresponsible speech that hurt the sentiments of many Muslims. But such was the fear, and the threats from the conservatives added to this, that even his intellectual and commercial partners immediately distanced themselves from him. It is now reported that he has left Pakistan and will probably not return in the foreseeable future.

It was sad to see the reaction of many liberals in Pakistan to Junaid Jamshed’s plight. Many mistakenly assumed that he was being threatened because of his patriarchal stances. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was being hounded because in the eyes of those who wield the power to wreck violence he had committed blasphemy. Whether or not the charges of blasphemy are true is for the law to determine. However, what was and remains true is that the threat of violence by private non-state actors caused Junaid Jamshed to fear for his life. In this vein, anyone celebrating the threat of violence against him is in effect celebrating the mindset that has shed so much unnecessary blood in Pakistan in the name of religion.

Junaid Jamshed might have been the representative of a mindset that is repulsive in its own — considering its lack of regard and respect for women and other marginalised groups in society. But this does not mean that we completely ignore the intellectual and physical violence being perpetrated against individuals accused of blasphemy.

Of course Junaid Jamshed should have known better. He should not have pushed the wrong buttons of his market. He was doing well enough by appeasing his market and did not need to invite violence. This is not meant to endorse any of his positions but merely to explain where he went so terribly wrong. However, success (whether morally appealing or not) reaps its own victims. The lack of accountability made him think that he could get away with anything. And he felt that he was such an accepted commodity in the market that his credibility was beyond challenge.

What Junaid Jamshed said about women as well as the holy personalities was wrong. It was needless and irresponsible. However, we must retain a nuanced approach to such matters. This is essential to ensure that we remain cognizant of the distinction between repulsive conduct and the way it should be punished.

Junaid Jamshed faced no legal process. He ran away not because of popular sentiment or pressure or because of the threats of legal process. He had to run for his life—literally—and only because of the threat of violence from non-state actors. No one deserves that. And in our attempt to further the discourse protecting women and other marginalised communities, we must not forget this.

Waqqas Mir

The writer is a practicing lawyer. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Sir, the people of Pakistan are not non-state actors, mind you. Sunni Tehreek is not a “non-state” organization, mind you. He hurt the sentiments of the mass majority in Pakistan that practices Sunni Islam and comes from Sunni Barelvi sect. Intellectual dishonesty of liberal, secular terrorists is the gravest threat to Pakistan, as Taliban is. Your article was still not that biased, as other Western-wannabes or paid Western agents’ articles are regarding this sensitive subject. The best thing is no matter what weak-minded persons have to say against the blasphemy law, none can dare amend this law, let alone, repealing it. We are the overwhelming majority in Pakistan, so what if most of us do not have access to the Internet to speak in favor of the law.

    • Yasir, anyone who takes the law in his own hand and murders someone else IS a non-state actor.

      What has happened to Islam that the sentiments of Muslims get so much hurt and so quickly? And how did the reaction became so violent during and after 1980s? Are you saying the Muslims who lived before that time were not pious Muslims in love with their religion?

      You have to admit there is a STRONG wave of HATRED in the country now. And that is not what my religion teaches me. It tells me to be KIND, and FORGIVING, and most importantly, to know that all actions are based on INTENTION. This last part is something that all people including the Sunni Tehreek you mention, have forgotten. Read another article on this website: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/junaid-jamshed-time-to-revise-blasphemy-laws/#.VI017WSUc_8

      Lastly, alleged “intellectual dishonesty of liberals, secular” is NOT terrorism and they are NOT worst than Taliban. They don’t murder for their cause, they don’t FORCE people to live the way they want them to live. They want to DEBATE, and have space for everyone in society as long as no one imposes their thoughts on others.

      • What debate? They will kill you or put you in jail for blasphemy before you finish your opening argument

      • No it is indication of a bigger mess, religion and people’s passion towards religion must never be studied in isolation. People are getting more frustrated, more and more are dying of hunger and those who are alive are not living at all – in such cases the only way to catharsis is by letting the emotions out whether negative or positive.
        Activities like physical non-judicial prosecution of people by other people provides an outlet of catharsis to most people who in their whim to earn Jannah are not apprehensive of the torture they are inflicting and only believe the ends to be sacrosanct.

        Question is, why more and more people are trying to put their own damned logic in religion, why people to whom people look up to are now being so irresponsible about things which they know can end up getting them killed?

    • Pure bigotry and hypocrisy at best for petty Political and sectarian point scoring. Sunni Tehreek has an alliance with the Majlis WM (Shia organization). Shias are known for blasphemy but no qualms there for Sunni Tehreek. This is just a pathetic attempt to marginalize the Deobandis. Fortunately people are now seeing through the hypocrisy. This will pass soon unless another Barelvi idiot like that Qadri who murdered Salman Taseer is unleashed again. Have we learnt any lessons. Time will determine.

    • brother may i ask you who gives people the right to kill others in the name of blasphemy when our own beloved Prophet (PBUH) never punished anyone who insulted him. He stopped angels from destroying taif, tended to the lady who used to throw garbage on him and forgave the entire population of Mecca. today pakistan is the most unsafe place for minorities as we hound them by wrongfully branding them blasphemous and then instead of letting govt handle the matter kill those people by burning them alive. Is this brand of sunni islam even remotely close to what our Prophet (PBUH) preached and practised???

    • I agree with Yasir, secular terrorists are the agents of the West.

  • As a moderate muslim I cannot help but chuckle at JJ’s demise. He dug his own grave. My mother always tells me that Khuda always gives enough rope to vile human beings so that eventually they hang themselves with it. This is exactly what happened.

    At the very least he has accepted that he is neither an aalim nor a mufti. Add to the fact that he isn’t an expert on female psyche either.

    Au revoir disco maulvi. May more so-called maulvis meet your fate. Ameen.

    • ‘Dushman mariyay khushi na kariyay, sajna wi mar jaana” Dont’ celebrate if an enemy dies, your beloved will die too…
      Cant get myself to feel happy for him or anyone who is hunted for what they said.

      • Not necessarily happy but satisfaction of knowing mullahs drinking their own potion that they have it for others

  • Feel sorry for him man but he has messed up.

    • Justice should be for all..not for Muslim or non Muslim or one sect vs. Other sect when come to applying a law..He should meet the same fate what others had to deal with under blasphemy law. Or remove the laws. Who are we as humans to decide ones fate..this is between him and Allah swt. we are certainly not above Allah swt. (Naoozbillah)to punish one who has appologized, shown true remorse and willing to change his way. Looks like we still live in the age of jahilya.

  • So the disco Mullah is on the run,,,,,all that fame & power is over, now a fugitive, there is no business like …….

  • ALLAH ny zarror junaid ko maf kardiya hoga apni galti ki maffe to mange anjany mae ki hy junaid pareshan na ho
    [ALLAH must have forgiven junaid he should ask for forgiveness for the mistake he made unintentionally junaid dont worry]

  • Apart from my opinion about Junaid and his act ,,,,this article is a one sided forgetting the importance and presence of two powerful school of thoughts under the one roof of hanafi maslak…..its political and rationale implementation on our society is observed since few centuries in indo pak……come on sir look at the bigger picture

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