Transposing emblem by Kashif Butt

Pakistan, a mostly Muslim country with a history of long-term military dictatorships, often appears in the news due to some cataclysmic events or incidents. After separating from British India, we enjoyed a healthy environment for dialog over the first 2-3 decades, where several movements emerged and successfully engaged the masses. However, in 1974, the first lockdown was witnessed when, under the extreme pressure of Muslim fundamentalists, a second amendment was adopted for the constitution of Pakistan, and the Ahmadiyya Muslims were declared non-Muslims. This amendment not only decreased the space for religious dialog but also opened the way for rigid Sunni Muslims to initiate a movement for declaring Shia Muslims as non-Muslim too. Hence, the previous religious dialog turned into a state of no tolerance, and a door opened for religious terror throughout the country.

Peshawar, Pakistan – Bringing the sacrificial animal – M Selcuk Oner

Later in 1977, when General Zia ul Haq1 imposed martial law on the country, there was a surge in religious intolerance. Mr. Zia started to reshape society by taking a specific fundamentalist approach. The changing political circumstances in the region, the Afghan-Soviet war and the interests of Saudi Arabia and the United States also had a heavy impact on the policies of the government and society. The prime minister of Pakistan (Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) was hanged and the rest of the political leadership, workers, writers, journalists and intellectuals were put behind bars. In particular, there was a crackdown on socialist and communist gatherings throughout the country. The intellectuals were barred and publicly punished with lashes.

Peshawar, Pakistan – Hot, dusty – Jono Photography

Gen. Zia was not popular among the masses. He managed to create the impression that he was the savior of Muslims and was determined to restore the Islamic State. He started to collaborate with the United States and Saudi Arabia to support the Taliban’s fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Under the influence of Saudi Arabia, Gen. Zia encouraged the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan, which seriously damaged the dialog culture in Pakistan. Writers were imprisoned and pseudo writers were introduced by the military establishment, working to promulgate the military agenda. The educational syllabus was revised throughout the country to Islamize society as Gen. Zia desired. Jihad was glamorized, along with the idea that murdering a non-Muslim was a ticket to heaven. Special arrangements, including literature, videos and audio recordings, were made by the military government to recruit people for Jihad in Afghanistan. Young people were picked out and trained in military camps that were specifically designed for the training of Taliban members involved in the Afghan-Soviet War. No one was allowed to read or watch what they wanted. Freedom of expression was nowhere to be found. Gen. Zia was a god, and the people were forced to live in a society shaped by him. That was the death of open dialog.

Rawalpindi, Pakistan – At Reja Bazaar – Patrick Poendl

The generation that grew up in Zia’s era did not have a chance to live in a society with different shades and colors in all aspects of life, including politics, religion, culture, research, education, norms and values. Therefore, they were not prepared for the situation that they were going to face one decade later. After the death of Gen. Zia in a plane crash (1988), a space was created for the people who believed in dialog. However, a huge gap emerged between post- and pre-Zia generations. The new generation had grown up in a hard and tough situation, with a single-shaded society, and was not capable of handling different opinions. It was impossible for them to understand that an alternative opinion can also be viable. The absence of a dialog culture in the new generation pushed them towards rigidness and intolerance. This resulted in both physical and verbal abuse in the society, from the streets to parliament. Physical abuse was frequently encountered, and even several dialog sessions were aired live, with immoral and unethical physical abuse.

Lahore, Pakistan – Lahore Railway Station – M Selcuk Oner

It is due to the black time of Zia’s era that the religious-based murder rate increased day by day. The most prominent example of intolerance was the murder of the governor of Punjab (Salman Taseer2) by his bodyguard (Mumtaz Qadri3) in 2011. He was murdered publicly because he supported the freedom of a Christian woman named Asia Bibi,4 who was falsely involved in a so-called blasphemy case. And thanks to the influence of fundamentalists, the murderer could not be punished for several years, and when he was hanged, the entire country was shutdown by protests. The funeral of Mumtaz Qadri was the one of the largest funerals in the history of Pakistan, and many religious and political leaders attended the funeral. After this incident, religious terror engulfed society and seized the dialog.

Peshawar, Pakistan – Riding through the bazaar – M Selcuk Oner

To date, hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered in the name of religious terror in Pakistan. You are not free to support religious harmony or minorities. If someone belongs to a minority or sect and encounters social injustice, no one will speak for them, and if someone does, they will be treated in the worst possible way. Mashal Khan5 is another example: He was brutally killed by a mob in the lobby of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, in 2017. He was murdered over allegation of blasphemous posts on social media. However, after his death, a police investigation confirmed that he was not involved in any blasphemous activities.6 No one came to rescue him at the time of the brutal murder. The mob was charged with religious intolerance and unfortunately, graduate students and university officials were part of the mob.

Peshawar, Paskistan – At Karkhanai Bazaar – M Selcuk Oner

Despite all the bad circumstances, social media is making a difference. People use social media to discuss things that cannot be discussed in public places. Although there are several restrictions and limitations on it in Pakistan, Pakistanis living abroad are contributing a lot to the revival of dialog in society. It is obvious that the situation is precarious for social media activists in Pakistan. Several bloggers have been illegally arrested by law enforcement agencies and never been seen in any court of law. Nonetheless, we are optimistic that the re-emergence of some dialog will bring a return of the good days of openness we once enjoyed.

Kashif Butt


(1) Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Aug. 12, 1924 – Aug. 17, 1988), Martial Law Dictator and 6th President of Pakistan. Fundamentalist leader and one of the founders of the Taliban. Died in plane crash.

(2) Salman Taseer (May 31, 1944 – Jan. 04, 2011), 26th Governor of Punjab. A liberal politician known for the human rights activities. Murdered by Mumtaz Qadri.

(3) Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri (1985 – Feb. 19, 2016). A terrorist supported by fundamentalists. Murderer of Salman Taseer. Hanged.

(4) Aasiya Noreen (Born 1971). A poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy, spent 10 years in prison before the Supreme Court finally acquitted her.

(5) Mashal Khan (Murdered April 13, 2017).



Snapshot 1: Islamabad, Pakistan – Climb the sun – Nouman Raees (Unsplash)

Snapshot 2: Peshawar, Pakistan – Bringing the sacrificial animal – M Selcuk Oner (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 3: Peshawar, Pakistan – Hot, dusty – Jono Photography (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 4: Rawalpindi, Pakistan – At Reja Bazaar – Patrick Poendl (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 5: Lahore, Pakistan – Lahore Railway Station – M Selcuk Oner (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 6: Peshawar, Pakistan – Riding through the bazaar – M Selcuk Oner (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 7: Peshawar, Paskistan – At Karkhanai Bazaar – M Selcuk Oner (Shutterstock)

Cinemblem voiceover: Esmonde Cole




Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes

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Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.

Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.

Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.

Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.

Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.

Deiana, Sarah. The Unbearable Weight of Being a Woman – Italy. September 2019.

Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.

Escobar, Christian. Between the Sky and the Earth: Looking for Love – Columbia. October 2019.

Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019.

Husseini, Maha. Bilingual Par Excellence – Canada. August 2019.

Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.

Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.

Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.

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Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.

Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.

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CW 43 – Tunisia – Sarah Turki
CW 44 – Estonia – Margot Arula
CW 45 – Ghana – Kwasi Amankwah Awuah
CW 46 – Dominican Republic – Aura De Los Santos
CW 47 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 48 – America – Talia Stotts
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Italy – Martha Corzo
CW 51 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 52 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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