While thronging Irani and Iraqi mourners stole the spotlight after Americans killed off their top generals, little global attention was paid to how much the assassination inflamed neighboring Pakistanis, perhaps enough to turn simmering anti-US sentiment into a revolution that finally casts off decades-long American dominance.
Influential Pakistanis, including politicians, military officials, scholars, political activists, and journalists across the country, took it upon themselves to give bellicose speeches upbraiding American foreign policy while youth torched American flags and chanted anti-American slogans at rallies and women clutching babies in even the tiniest villages lit candles at vigils held to commemorate the January 3 assassinations of Irani General Qassim Suleimani and comrades.
"Pakistan is indebted to Hajj Suleimani," Allama Syed Jawad Naqvi, Chancellor of Jamia Urwa-tul-Wusqa, expounded at a gathering in Islamabad he helped organize to protest America's assassinations and policies in the region. After wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria ISIS (Daesh) had announced its plans to move towards Pakistan and Afghanistan on its way to Iran, and some factions in Islamabad were ready to welcome it, Naqvi said. "But Hajj Suleimani put his hand on Daesh's neck and did not let it take a single step towards any other Muslim land. Why did they kill Hajj Suleimani into bits and pieces? Because he tore apart [America's] schemes in the region into bits and pieces."
Other prominent protestors:
- Pakistan Muslim League (N) Leader Khwaja Asif lambasted Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan during a Parliament session on January 6 for failing to stand by Iran. He accused Khan of making foreign policy decisions based on"fear" and "blackmail" from America and Saudi Arabia.
- In a GTV Network interview on January 10 former Pakistan National Assembly member Syed Raza Abidi of Pakistan's People's Party said he's returning to the political arena "because my country needs me," and he wants to "help defeat American plots" in the region.
- Former Pakistani Army Chief Mirza Aslam Baig, whose picture with young Suleimani getting military training in Cherat, Pakistan, in 1989 is circulating on social media, called Suleimani a "friend" during a protest organized by Muslim Unity Forum in the nation's capital of Islamabad on June 5. He said "we should unite under the guidance of Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (S) and ready ourselves to challenge our enemy (American government and its foreign policies)."
- Thousands of Sunnis and Shias attended Murdabad America (Death to American Hegemony) rallies in major Pakistani cities in the days after the assassinations. Mufti Sayyid Ashiq Hussain said at the march to the American Consulate in Lahore: "America [government] is not only an enemy of Iran but also of Pakistan and all of the Muslim world. Pakistan should stand with Iran. This one martyrdom has united and awoken us all."
- Deputy Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Liaqat Baloch led an 8-member delegation to Iran on January 14 to offer condolences to Irani political and religious leaders. Baloch had spoken the previous week at the Islamabad rally. "We have to take revenge on the enemy's of Islam, humanity, and Muslim unity." Thirty-five religious organizations plan to meet soon in Lahore under the banner of the National Alliance for Religious Harmony to strategize on how to deal with "new threats to Islam."
Independence has been an evolving process for Pakistanis, starting from day one when millions put their lives and wealth on the line to create a land where Muslims could live according to Islamic teachings. Intellectuals like Allama Iqbal urged Pakistanis to continue the struggle and break away from neocolonial rule. After suffering for decades under corrupt puppet governments, Pakistanis thought voting in an outspoken leader like Khan would bring independence, dignity, and prosperity to themselves and their Kashmiri neighbors. But it didn't, and in fact the opposite happened.
At this point, enough Pakistani people seem to realize that the only path to freedom is through themselves. If they're looking for a bit of direction, Iqbal showed them nearly a century ago where to turn.
Dekha hai Malukiyat-e Afrang ne jo Khwab
Mumkin hai ki Us Khwab ki Tabir badal Jaye
Tehran ho gar Alam-e Mashriq ke Geneva
Shayad Kurra-e Arz ki Taqdir Badal Jaye
Imperial dreams of the West
Could become dashed
If Tehran becomes the Geneva of the East
The fortunes of this hemisphere might turn
The crude assassinations catapulted Iran into the spotlight, and it responded by vowing to lead the region to freedom from American subjugation. It's up to Pakistani scholars like Naqvi--one of the best leaders Pakistan has produced in decades--to channel people's renewed enthusiasm into a new reality that helps achieve that goal.