While thronging Iranian and Iraqi mourners stole the spotlight after Americans killed 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.
Iran’s Leader Imam Sayyid Ali Khamanei and the rest of the Axis of Resistance vowed straight away to avenge the assassinations by “ending the corrupting presence of America in the region” and tens of thousands of Pakistani voices echoed the sentiment, even though their government itself refused to condemn the killings and apparently banned media from referring to the slain as martyrs.
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 Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and comrades.
“Pakistan is indebted to Hajj Soleimani,” 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 them, Naqvi said. “But Hajj Soleimani 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 Soleimani 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 Soleimani getting military training in Cherat, Pakistan, in 1989 is circulating on social media, called Soleimani a “friend” during a protest organized by Muslim UnityForum 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-give 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.”
Indeed, the assassinations may be the spark that burns down perennial American subjugation in Pakistan. This nation usually ranks top three in Pew polls for strongest anti-US sentiment thanks to the devastating consequences of “friendship” with America, especially during the last 40 years of U.S. adventurism in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Khan, who had promised while campaigning to stand up to U.S. dominance, lamented in 2011 that “ours is perhaps the only country in history that keeps getting bombed by our ally.”
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.
At this point, enough Pakistani people seem to realize that the only path to freedom is through themselves. And if they’re looking for a little bit of direction, Iqbal nearly a century ago told them 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 be 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.
By Salina Khan
Salina Khan is a journalist living in America. She obtained her B.A. in political science and M.A. in journalism from Northwestern University.