Just two years ago, lawyers, political parties, civil society activists and students were marching to establish the rule of law in Pakistan. We, as a country, stood united behind the belief that the law must take due course and the rule of law must reign supreme. We promised not to bow down to the pressures of dictators or external forces. But today, those who stood on the frontlines and made these promises are nowhere to be found to condemn a man who scorned the rule of law, broke sworn oaths of duty and murdered a man.
I am confused and angry. A murderer has been crowned a hero and the man he slaughtered is the villain. I am told a murderer of this ilk proudly walks down every street of Pakistan, waiting to slay anyone he, in his own head, accuses, tries and convicts of blaspheming. There are scores who will defend and glorify him. Then there are those who will sit in their drawing rooms and say the murderer shouldn’t be glorified, but the victim was asking for it. They will then tell you that Pakistan is a failed state, spiralling into the abyss of religious fanaticism. Some will incite you to take to the streets against the illiterate cleric propagating intolerance and violence. Others will invite you to a candlelight vigil or a Facebook group. Here they will collectively wish they could swat the mullahs back into their caves with their Prada bags.
The bloodlust and hysteria of the masses that cheered the governor’s assassin has me mourning for the flight of reason, tolerance and the rule of law from this country. The small band of people advocating that liberals confront this blood-thirsty mob in the streets has me worried for their sanity.
That’s how I’ve felt since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer.
I’ve tried to write many times since it happened. Maybe it’s not the words hiding from me but me hiding from the words that will spell out in cold, indelible ink, what Pakistan has become.
You have to be one if you want to live in a country where 500 lawyers will sign a petition to defend the murderer, but not one will prosecute him for the crime he has proudly confessed to. You have to become an escapist when those leading the charge against intolerance are busy being intolerant of each other.
I’ve thought about writing a response, but I’ve never found the words to criticise those who do much more for this cause than I ever will.
I’m not the only one. There are hordes of us lurking in the editorial pages of English dailies. Our pens churning out clever little eulogies for the country lost, preaching sermons of realism, hiding our cowardice under the garb of ‘reality’. Some of us have been to a protest or two for a ‘tolerant’ Pakistan, but that’s all we’ve done.
What more could we have done in the face of such violent opposition? I don’t know.
But we could have found one lawyer to represent the Taseer family. One man or woman to stand up for the rule of law, in a country that just experienced a great movement in its name, should not have to be such a tough ask.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.
More in OpinionPoints to ponder for Team Pakistan