No country for brave men

Published: January 4, 2011

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi and has worked for Newsline and The Express Tribune Magazine

This is no country for brave men. Words alone are enough to get you killed. Just testifying to the horrors perpetrated on the country is akin to signing one’s death warrant. Salmaan Taseer, unlike so many lily-livered politicians, never equivocated in denouncing those who are terrorising this country. He brushed off the threats to his life with grace and humour.

Our graveyards are witness to the politicians who spoke out against the militant menace, the men in uniform who battled them and countless unknown thousands who only made the mistake of trying to live a normal life in an abnormal country.

In the days to come, people will try to make sense of the unthinkable: that a person was killed because he spoke out against a law that is used to kill those whose speech and actions don’t meet the approval of zealots. I have no words of wisdom to offer, not right now. No thoughts that can explain how we have come to this. Like everyone else, I just spent hours staring at the television screen, alternately shocked and furious and always stunned.

There will be those vile creatures who try and rationalise Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. They will feign reasonableness and say he shouldn’t have poked his nose into the blasphemy law debate. Such people, already fastening their mikes and earpieces on TV stations, need to be repudiated loudly and frequently. Our stirrings words hailing democracy will be shown to be hollow if we don’t understand that without the freedom to speak our minds our liberty is a lie.

Then, we also have to contend with people who will try to dodge the issue. They will bring up Taseer’s social liberalism, which we practiced and preached with equal panache. Taseer’s family was dragged into the oozing slime by his political opponents during his lifetime. To allow that to happen again would be a grave disservice to the memory of a man who believed in individual freedom and who spent, and ultimately gave, his life in pursuit of that ideal. It may seem unattainable now, but to throw our hands up in despair will give Taseer’s killers comfort in knowing they can bend society to their will.

I say ‘killers’ because, even if subsequent investigations show that there was only one gunman, there is plenty of blame to go around. Arguments over the varied geo-political of different political groups are fine for academics and analysts. As citizens, we need to understand only one thing. The murderous ideology uniting too many Pakistanis is the ultimate culprit. We need to stamp out the virus that has infected them.

Let us begin that by honouring Salmaan Tasseer. He has already been awarded many titles and awards and more will follow posthumously. They will be richly deserved but won’t be enough. The party he served so faithfully, even spending a stint in prison for it during the Zia era, should pass legislation to ensure his death was not in vain. Too many people have already been killed by the hideous misuse of the blasphemy laws. Salmaan Taseer should be the last. His fight against the blasphemy laws was his last crusade. Repealing it now would be the greatest rebuke to his murderers.

Ignore those who will bring up any of Salmaan Taseer’s flaws. Now is not the time. Whatever flaws or foibles he may have had only show that he was human. Salmaan Taseer wasn’t killed because of politics. He was murdered in cold blood because of who he represented: innocent men and women who try to speak out against the evil that lurks among us.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2011.

Reader Comments (27)

  • umer
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:20AM

    could’nt agree more. Only hope is our fellow Pakistanis get it right as well. Recommend

  • Asad Ahmad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:54AM

    Salman Taseer, with all his flaws, was still more of a man than all the other hypocrites we call politicians. The sad truth is that things are likely to get a lot worse before we hit rock bottom. Time for the rest of us cowards to abandon ship.Recommend

  • Gurriya
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:04AM

    thanks Tribune for publishing op-ed pieces on this issue. yes, we have been shocked the later half of the day, we have been deprived of a sane voice who made himself heard in the media, unfortunately most of the times he spoke for the right cause but was punished by the media for the wrong reasons. we need not go in his political history, i agree with the strongest point of the write up – he wasnt killed for his wrongs in politics or business, he was killed for being sane. a true liberal that he was, he was one of those people in power which we actually needed. Cold murder that left many heartbroken. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:21AM

    “This is no country for brave men.”

    –> I dont mean to talk bad about a dead man but Salman Taseer was not brave but simply ignorant of the state of his own nation and people.

    Any moderate or reasonable view will be perceived as anti-Islamic in this ultra-Religious, scary-intolerant country, especially one which seems to deviate from popular perception of Islam.Recommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 5:59AM

    Well written article. I just feel the PPP needs to take a stand. If they do I am sure ANP and MQM will support them. If the PPP does not take a stand I am afraid we are doomed. Recommend

  • Sonia
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:11AM

    No hope after Taseer’s death. Its pressure on government not to repeal the balsphemy laws. All secular minds will leave Pakistan or get killed for their resistence against extremism. Its not a place for creative and free thinker.Recommend

  • MQ
    Jan 5, 2011 - 9:09AM

    Bravo Sir. I salute you for the courage and clarity of your sensible message.Recommend

  • R.Raheem
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:45AM

    ST we loved you & will remember you all our life! Down with Blasphemy laws. Recommend

  • sehban sethi
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:06PM

    Hello sir..
    a thought provoking write-up.

    whatever salman taseer suffered was brutal and injustice on part of the murderer and those who encouraged him to do so.

    BUT i believe when judicial proceedings are taking place so there is no sense to inturde in them and sympathise the accused of setting him or her free.

    we are still not aware of the words the woman uttered for our beloved prophet (PBUH). she has testified on the allegations she was charged with. on some part salman taseer (may ALLAH grant him peace) might have taken a wrong step BUT your write up is truly an eye opener for every citizen of Pakistan.

    Appreciated!

    Thank You..Recommend

  • Haseeb ur Rehman
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:12PM

    First of all I would like to make it clear that I vehemently condemn the killing of first a human being then a father and in the end a serving governor of Punjab. I would say that fate he suffered can, in no way, be justified. I have been arguing and quarreling all day with people who had been congratulating me on the death of a “gustakh” e Rasool(PBHH).

    Having said that, I would like to differ from the writer. He wasn’t brave, if he had been he would have spoken against the law when he was not a governor, as according to our so called “human-rights-activists” Pakistan is full of the victims of this law. He enjoyed great influence in Pakistan even before his governorship, getting someone out of jail was nothing for a person of his stature.

    Something about your tirade at the so-called “religious extremists”. If you don’t realize that even with all its flaws this law is a sensitive issue to talk about and you need proper forums to talk about it then your are nothing but stupid. It is right that this law is mis-used most of the times, but aren’t there many other laws which are used the same way, but we never talk about them and never say that they may be repealed of looked over.

    The thing is, there is a proper way of doing things. If the so called religious-extremists go on protesting and rampaging the so called moderates should do the same or whatever but a person sitting in the position of a governor must consider that he is not representing a single faction but a whole society.Recommend

  • parvez
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:25PM

    Nice article. Completely agree with @Asad AhmadRecommend

  • Fizza Rizvi
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:36PM

    It’s good to see that Mr. Taseer’s sacrifice has not been wasted and there are people still fighting for his cause. I am not and I’ve never been a follower of Mr Taseer. I’ve disagreed with many of his political views and was very critical of the flaws in his personality. But on Asia’s case he was on the very right side and I believe, all of his sins might have been forgiven as he has proved himself the very right follower of Prophet (PBUH) by standing against the killing in the name of my beloved Prophet (PBUH). This is time for our religious leaders to prove to us when and where “Rehmat-ul-lil-Alameen” has killed or asked to kill people in his name. Recommend

  • M
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:38PM

    Dear Sehban Sethi,
    There IS a lot of sense in intruding the judicial proceedings because the law is WRONG. The blasphemy law serves only to repress minorities as well as Muslims. It serves to trap people who may/may not have blasphemed, to try and propose a rigid and puritanical version of Islam and to give credence to cold-blooded murderers like Qadri who are then glorified by our misled youth.

    It would make sense not to interfere with the judicial proceedings if the law was just. Which, understandably is a subjective matter, but if we can avoid future violence like this, I propose we do protest this law.

    In their arrogance of claiming to be the only, rightful interpreters of Islam, most of the people supporting this law vociferously have conveniently forgotten Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.)’s life and message. At a very elementary stage we learned about how at Taif, the Prophet (pbuh) witnessed people who mocked him and yet he stood there patiently, stopping his followers from taking any acts of revenge – confident in his view that people would imbibe the true message of Islam (peace) through example rather than force.

    One should not assume, but it is safe to say that the Prophet would have not liked people committing murder in revenge for blasphemy against him. Recommend

  • Khawaja Faraz
    Jan 5, 2011 - 12:54PM

    i visited a uneducated man in a village heard about his son was most literate in village. i asked him about his sons education what education he recieved out of curiosity you all will be amazed to hear what he said

    ” bao g pata nai kitna parha hai bas yeh pata hai k ab khara ho kar pishab karnay laga hai”

    that means
    i dont know how much he is literate and what education he recieved but know one thing he started peeing standing”

    hope you have understood what i mean……
    if not you must know which countries of the world have blashphemy laws and what is blasphemy all about.

    question to the writer , have you ever read Blasphemy law of Pakistan?Recommend

  • Karim Khan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:29PM

    He indeed was a wondeful person. It is high time for the government to imemdiatley repeal the blasphemy law and prove to the terrorists that this country is not yet in their hands altogether.Recommend

  • Y. Alam
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:34PM

    I am deeply troubled by the brutal murder av Gov. Salmaan Tasser. No words can portray the sorrow and regret it has caused in the hearts and minds of millions of people in Pakistan and around the world who see this killing as senseless and another step in the destruction of a true society based on mutual respect and personal freedom. All the true peace loving people should condemn this barbaric act of vigilantism. People should stand together and show their distaste so that life of Salmaan Tasser does not go in waste. We should press the government to repeal the blasphemy law into a law that protects human beings irrelevant of their faith. We are all human beings of flesh and blood and have the right to live our life according to our ideals and wishes. No one should be allowed to take that from us. Recommend

  • Noreen Shams
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:37PM

    “without the freedom to speak our minds our liberty is a lie”

    Agreed… I am astonished to read a courageous article even after such incident..

    May Divine Help us …Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:47PM

    Well spoken sir;
    May ALLAH grant the shaheed governor Taseer peace, and jannat. It is so sad to see the so-called agents of Islam condoning this disdainful and COWARDLY act by this police GUARD (and I am stressing the words GUARD and COWARDLY). Why these religious “scholars” are not educating these extremists, the very BASIC fundamentals of Islam (our beautiful religion), about the DUTIES (fardhs) expected of the guards (i.e. first and foremost to PROTECT their charge). If the killer was so upset with the governor’s just stance regarding this controversial law (NOT a Quranic law; as these zealots want you believe), he should have resigned from the force. The bottom line is that in any religion (and specially in Islam), performing one’s DUTY is considered the highest level of responsibility than taking law into one’s own hands.

    I sincerely hope that plenty of sane voices are raised in a chorus to demonstrate to the extremist thugs that the reasoned stance of the majority cannot by subdued through such cowardly threats and dastardly acts. Wassalam (Peace to ALL).Recommend

  • Butool
    Jan 5, 2011 - 1:54PM

    Salman Taseer was an outspoken, courageous man who was unapologetic about who he was. People like this are rare in this country of liars and thats why everybody hated his guts. Kisi se ST hazam hi nahi hua and he ended up paying a price for speaking his mind. I completely agree with the author as well as most of the comments here. He was much more respectable in spite of his flaws which he never attempted to hide than all the hypocrites we have in our country in the garb of politicians. What kind of a nation is this which revers the bloodsucking, murderous,vengeful politicians with secret lives built on corruption and hypocrisy but hates a man who was candid, open about who he was, and tried to actually voice out an opinion about a grave situation. It’s not even about whether he was right or wrong. At least he is better than the others who never pick a side, are shamelessly diplomatic about the most serious of issues, and who prefer staying mum or ranting on about the already gone ‘dictatorship’ and merits of democracy instead of ACTUALLY taking action about literally anything. It’s a shameful situation to be in. Recommend

  • Arif Shah
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:39PM

    The greatest honour Salmaan Taseer’s colleagues can afford him is to banish the draconian law he so bravely spoke out against. It was an act he ultimately sacrificed his life for. Let it not be in vain. Recommend

  • vikas ranjan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 4:34PM

    Will the Pakistani political class now repeal the blasphemy law as a tribute to Shaheed Salman Taseer, or will obscurantism still prevail?Recommend

  • Sara
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:26PM

    @ Anoop
    Salman Taseer was not ignorant. Yes he was brave and daring. He raised a voice to amend the loop holes of the blasphemy law. He was not against that Law but to amend it. People are not humble as the SO CALLED MULLA’s made them so passionate in the name of ISLAM. People do those things as reaction which ISLAM even never said.

    Second thing, will u welcome that man who is abusing ur parents? Definitely not, u will hit him or what ever. Same the case in Religious feelings. I am sure Hindus will not bear if some one will say bad to their LORDS. The thing is Blasphemy law itself is not bad, but there are loop holes which we should amend.

    A very well article written by Nadir Hassan.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 6, 2011 - 12:56AM

    @Sara,

    I cant understand the very meaning of blasphemy. Not just for followers of Islam but all Religions. Some dude talks bad about some Hindu God. So what? Does that mean he should be punished? Why? Because he hurt my feelings? Or has he hurt His feelings? What sort of punishment does that deserve? Death?

    I believe there is no such as blasphemy. If you are offended by some one’s remark then it is your problem. The smart ones will ignore him/her and pity him.

    When I called Salman Taseer ignorant I was pointing to the sad state of affairs in Pakistan. Ever since the 1990s the violence and bigotry is increasing and I personally think that Taseer ignored the warning signs. For that he paid the Ultimate price.

    “I am sure Hindus will not bear if some one will say bad to their LORDS. ”

    –> Hindu culture’s very basis is tolerance to all living beings, and even is extended to Animals. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is a Christian, who has publicly said that he believes Ramayana never happened and Lord Ram never existed, and he has been the CM for the past 5 years and this is the 3rd or 4th time he is becoming a CM. For some it may be blasphemy but the Culture is such that it allows people to forgive and forget. Recommend

  • Jan 6, 2011 - 4:44PM

    Taseer wasn’t brave at all. Upper class members of the secularist minority regularly say the same things he did, but in their own enclaves, their English newspapers and magazines etc. Taseer was just stupid, he went about provoking the public, secure in the misplaced belief that his wealth, his power and the support of the west would protect him from the peopleRecommend

  • Sara
    Jan 7, 2011 - 8:17PM

    @ Anoop

    I appreciate the tolerance of ur society, but sorry to say incidents like Gujrat and Mali gao also happen in India. It creates sense of insecurity.

    About blasphemy, Its not about only MUHAMMAD Mustafa (S.A.W.A), but its about all messengers of Allah. Allah says in Quran: (the meanings are like this)

    If some one make joke to your prophet, ignore him. Allah will see him.

    Quran also says: Death punishment is given in only two cases.
    1: if some one kills
    2: if some one does mischivious act on earth.

    This blasphemy law is man made, and unfortunately being mishandle.

    Threat is from those MULLAHs who are doing brain washing of the youth at the name of ISLAM and becoming the cause to defame ISLAM.

    These are not the preachings of Islam. These ignorant MULLAHs are playing with the future of the nation, and also they do not represent the whole society. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 8, 2011 - 12:31AM

    @Sara,

    “It creates sense of insecurity.”

    –> Absolutely. No society is perfect but the Constitution of India is Secular. The important thing here is the State in India doesn’t discriminate.

    “These are not the preachings of Islam. ”

    –> See there is the mistake you make. You guys tend to argue everything with respect to Islam.

    I am sure Islam is a very moderate Religion, 15% of my fellow Citizens practice a very peaceful version of it and have scaled heights. But, I ask you to argue against Blasphemy law not because of what Islam says or doesn’t, but argue against it because it is just plain wrong!

    My stand is this: Blasphemy law is wrong because it just is. Islam ideally should not have nothing to do with laws of man.

    I hope you got what I am referring to here. There is only one ultimate Religion. It might sound cliched but I think thats called Humanity.Recommend

  • Samah qasim
    Jan 20, 2011 - 12:28PM

    SALMAAN TASEER IS MY HERO!!!!!!!!!Recommend

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