Ramazan in Pakistan is usually a festival of hypocrisy and this year is no exception. As the first three weeks of the holy month have demonstrated, the notion that Ramazan should be a time for reflection and restraint is utterly ignored in the Land of the Pure. Instead, it continues to be marked by conspicuous consumption of the most egregious kind, fuelled by relentless corporate efforts to cash in on piety, even as self-appointed custodians of morality set about imposing their overbearing religiosity on all who deviate from their parochial interpretations of Islam. Amidst all this, the violence and bigotry that have unfortunately come to characterise life in this country continue unabated.

Much has been written about the killing of Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most renowned musical talents. A faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Karachi although, as is usually the case when such tragedies strike, the usual suspects have gone into overdrive in their attempts to pin the blame on anyone other than the religious militants who have spent the past decade butchering tens of thousands of Pakistanis. There has been considerable speculation about what Amjad Sabri might have done to invite the ire of these groups; some have claimed that he had been accused of blasphemy, while others have suggested that his adherence to, and propagation of, Sufi Islam was to blame. None of this is really relevant; Amjad Sabri was an artist in Pakistan, with his music and poetry representing everything that the millinerian zealots of the Taliban and their associated groups wish to extinguish from society. The vision they have for Pakistan is one in which light, beauty, and truth are replaced by darkness and ignorance.

The hypocrisy at work here is clear. The government of Pakistan dutifully enforces the Ehteram-e-Ramazan Ordinance of 1981, criminalising anyone who makes the mistake of consuming food in public during Ramazan, yet fails to do anything meaningful to stop the slow slaughter of its people and the unraveling of their culture. Apparently, the sight of someone eating represents an existential threat to the belief of the faithful while murder does not, especially when the perpetrators themselves claim to be defenders of the faith.

We have been here before. APS, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Safoora Goth, Youhanabad, the list goes on and on. Each time, in the aftermath of the attack, the usual list of politicians, ministers, and officials mouth empty platitudes about the deceased, feigning grief and outrage while knowing full well that nothing concrete will be done to prevent such atrocities from taking place again. As the bodies continue to pile up, terms like ‘strategic depth’ and ‘proxy warfare’ are bandied about as if they somehow take away the pain of the families that have lost loved ones. And, for all the horror and the anguish that often greets these acts of pernicious violence, it is impossible to ignore the chorus of voices that continues to insist that the victims deserved it.

It is not difficult to see what has gone wrong in Pakistan. Relying on militant proxies as a means through which to achieve international strategic objectives was always a bad idea, especially in a context where rampant poverty and deprivation created an ideal breeding ground for precisely the kinds of disenchantment and marginalisation that fuel radicalisation. Add to this the cynical use of religion as a means through which elites in the state have attempted to acquire legitimacy, and you end up with a situation in which two generations of Pakistanis, having grown up while being fed a steady of diet of intolerance and bigotry, now view each other and the establishment that sought to control them through a deeply parochial and often violent ideological lens.

One need only look at the situation in Pakistan to realise that the response to this crisis has been inadequate to say the least. Multiple military operations later, after resorting to military courts and other pieces of draconian legislation that trample on civil liberties in the name of security, and despite the proliferation of acronyms like NACTA and NAP, Pakistan remains unstable, violent, and insecure. More importantly, some might argue, it remains poor, deprived, and deeply unequal. It would not be incorrect to say that there has been little interest in, and effort towards, addressing the root causes of terrorism and militancy. Instead, bombs are deployed where bread may be more useful, and ideological appeasement is preferred to robust intellectual confrontation.

This is perhaps most evident in the latest instance of Ramazan hypocrisy, namely the decision by the government of KPK to award a grant worth Rs. 300 million to a religious seminary that has long been associated with the Taliban and other Islamist and sectarian organisations. The PTI has justified this decision with nebulous references to ‘mainstreaming’, arguing that funding extremism is the best way to control it. Even if this argument were to be accepted on its own shaky foundations, the PTI and its coalition partners have thus far failed to provide any details about precisely how the seminary in question would be subjected to official control. For example, would its curriculum be revised and monitored? Would its faculty be regulated and monitored? Would the premises themselves be open to inspection? None of this has been specified precisely because none of this is actually part of what the government wishes to achieve. One again, craven appeasement and accommodation have trumped any genuine commitment to fighting extremism. The situation is made all the more ironic by the KPK government’s simultaneous announcement that it had slashed the amount of funds earmarked for the uplift and development of the province’s religious minorities!

KPK is not an exception. Across the country, the purveyors intolerance continue to get a free pass, exploiting the space that is made available to them to peddle hate and bigotry. However, while the government itself may have failed to expose the hypocrisy of these people, the same cannot be said for Qandeel Baloch, the social media ‘celebrity’ whose brief encounter with an allegedly pious member of the Ruet-i-Hilal committee conclusively showed how those with the biggest beards and hats are, ultimately, as flawed and imperfect as the people they ceaselessly castigate.