Utter madness

Published: January 4, 2011

Policemen secure the site of a fatal attack on Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, by his bodyguard in Islamabad on January 4, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in Islamabad by one of his own police guards, in one of the federal capital’s most upscale markets (often frequented by foreigners, diplomats and the well-heeled) should open our eyes to the utter madness engulfing our nation. According to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the killer surrendered himself after doing the ‘deed’ and said that he did it because the governor had called the blasphemy law a “black law”. The assassination comes a few days after a countrywide strike by religious parties, fully backed by banned militant and sectarian outfits, against any government plans to change the blasphemy law. In the run-up to that strike, Mr Taseer and his PPP colleague, the courageous MNA and former information minister Sherry Rehman, were singled out by name by the obscurantists and many of the statements that were made by the leaders of some religious parties bordered on incitement to violence. Mr Taseer had also spoken out in defence of Aasia Bibi, after visiting her some weeks ago in prison. He had pledged to do all he could to free her since, in his view, she was innocent of the charge against her because she had not committed blasphemy and was being victimised because she was a Christian.

In all of this, the Punjab governor said all the right things and it was heartening to finally see someone speak with the voice of progressiveness and respect for human rights that the PPP had historically been associated with. And now it is revolting to see the same man done to death, so viciously, and that too by a member of his own police guard, someone whose duty it was to guard him with his own life. The policeman who killed Mr Taseer was, in all likelihood, so indoctrinated by the culture of hate and intolerance that pervades against minorities, especially on the blasphemy law in this country, that he must believe that his action will guarantee him a place in heaven. And it will not be long before we will find many people, in the media and on television in particular, who will become apologists for the killer and try to justify his actions. In this it needs to be said, clearly, and again and again, that Salmaan Taseer was not a blasphemer and he was not an apostate. He said what needed to be said because the blasphemy law is misused and targets defenceless people who, more often than not, belong to the minorities and any country comprising civilised and sensible people, would have in-built provisions to prevent its misuse. And for that he should not have been killed. But what we have is utter madness, a situation where those who try and speak out for the poor and defenceless, for the victimised and the harassed, are targeted themselves. And Mr Taseer’s untimely and tragic death shows that position and power doesn’t play a role in this — one can be the governor of the country’s largest province and an important member of the ruling party but all of that comes to naught in front of a brainwashed individual who thinks that taking another man’s life is a passport to heaven.

Also, lest we forget, since we all, especially in this country, tend to have very short memories, the blood of Salmaan Taseer is on all our hands. We, each one of us, are to blame for his assassination. And this is because, when he was being targeted by the extremists and the religious elements in our society, when some people came on television and hinted that Mr Taseer was, in effect, wajibul qatl we did nothing to stand up and support him. It is these same people who are now targeting Sherry Rehman — how many members of civil society rallied to her defence, except for a few hundred people in the federal capital?

The PPP is known to be a party of progressive values with a vision, and it needs to reclaim that space and fight the extremists. It needs to provide exemplary punishment to the killer and it should not back down from modifying the law since it is much misused and cause for violence. If this is not realised and nothing is done on this front, we will all be victims of the same fate that befell Salmaan Taseer.

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

Reader Comments (26)

  • Jan 4, 2011 - 11:52PM

    They are so many people congratulating each other on Salman Taseer’s murder and supporting his murderer on Facebook, in Blogs or sharing text messages. These same people, are essentially condemning everyone who does not subscribe to their world view to death and celebrating such a tragedy. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:04AM

    If the people who are supposed to protect you kill you or become responsible for your death then who is to be trusted? Guess Pakistanis know more about this than anyone.

    The culture of intolerance which was encouraged by the Establishment to help its fight against India is growing stronger everyday.

    I wonder if Zardari, Sherry Rehman and the likes should ask CIA to send people to protect them.Recommend

  • Schazad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:40AM

    Shame on this countrymen and shame on us for losing such a leader like this. He didn’t deserve this. Pakistan didn’t deserve a leader like him. My heart bleeds….Recommend

  • Maha
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:46AM

    What a sad day! The man was not without his flaws but he was indeed a courageous person. I salute you Salman Taseer for your bravery.Recommend

  • Talha
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:55AM

    Jinnah’s Pakistan is dead, we are monsters.

    It’s time the minorities are airlifted and the world let’s Pakistan die a horrible death.

    We are sorry Jinnah, we did not deserve all your work.Recommend

  • Mubarak
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:30AM

    Pakistan first degraded into Donkey-isthan and now from Donkey-isthan to ‘blood thirsty beast-isthan’ and ultemately it will degenerate into Nothing-isthan if Pakistani mullahs are not put into their proper place.Recommend

  • Moazzam
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:00AM

    90% of Pakistanis are dipped in celestial merry Salman Taseer has been killed for what sin he committed. Recommend

  • Dr Muhammad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:00AM

    Why must any typical Pakistani believe that Allah depends on him/her to defend Islam and Muslims? Has Allah actually asked for help in this department? Is Allah so weak and helpless, that Pakistanis must help HIM in this world and the next?
    Is it a coincidence that nearly all states being run in the name of religion, i.e Pakistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are living hells on earth for ordinary people?
    I find lots of painful similarities between Pakistan and Israel, like:

    Both established on basis of religions.
    Both populations believe they are God’s chosen on earth.
    Both will readily commit human rights abuses in the name of national security.
    Militaries of both countries are highly respected to the point of worship.

    As a tribute to the brave, outspoken Salman Taseer, I hope and pray that all the rotten laws introduced by Zia Ul Haq, are erased from the constitution. Benazir had the chance in 1988/1989, to do this, but proved disappointing to me. If only this government has a fraction of the courage they claim to have, this can be done. But alas, the government and KURSI is all that matters for them, even at the price of a hundred Salman Taseers every month.

    Rest in peace, Salman Taseer. Your brave sacrifice at the hands of cowards not willing to listen, let alone tolerate a different opinion, may well prove to be in vain for the government, but I will always remember you for speaking out, in a society where everyone is afraid yet hates the opinions of others. You had some leadership qualities, but this country did not deserve a brave son like you. May Allah grant you peace and paradise! Recommend

  • D. Asghar
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:01AM

    @Nadir Bhai, well said and I second your comments. It is appalling to see the congratulatory messages.But what can one say.

    If Prophet PBUH was around today, he would be amazed to see the level we have stooped to. Can someone answer this, by saying anything defamtory and if it is false, how does it impact anybody. It is like verbal abuse, which is utter nonsense and a lie, how does it impact the one being accused.

    May ALLAH save Pakistan. Ameen.Recommend

  • amlendu
    Jan 5, 2011 - 8:45AM

    What the. Are Pakistanis hell bent on eradicating even a modicum of sensibility from their country???????????????Recommend

  • Ahmed Iqbal
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:19AM

    we are a nation of intolerant people, not necessarily uneducated. All we have to do is make anyone into a holy cow and then kill in their name. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a man of peace which has been proven but are his followers men of peace? No sir. They are not.Recommend

  • lkhan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:00AM

    With a deeply saddened heart for Salmaan Taseer’s loved ones and for Pakistan, I can not agree more with the editorial. It is a shame on us Pakistanis for not standing up for the rights of all minorities and humanitarian causes. Anyone threatening the existence of a human life, may they be leading mullahs should be immediately thrown behind bars. It is time our judiciary instead of overstepping their responsibilities by dabbling in politics, in the interest of the nation, begin work for the good of the country’s civil society which of course includes ALL minorities. It is time the government of Punjab comes down hard on the extremism emanating unhindered against minority causes within its borders. Within three years, we have lost many lives senselessly and two great visionaries who championed gender, humane ways, and understood our historical ties towards cultural tolerance as very few. What a terrible loss to our nation. Words fail to express the despair I feel at this time. These mad ways must not prevail, let us hope the passing away of Benazir Bhutto and Salmaan Taseer will open our eyes and minds to the mad downward spiral we are in, before it is too late for our country to look up again towards its civilised ways of old.Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:33PM

    This is a sad day for Pakistan that a brave man can be killed with impunity when he speaks the truth. Pakistan has become a frightening and sad country not the vibrant young Pakistan of the 1960s that we knew and i think it is the forces of evil ( uneducated mullas or even so called educated mullas) backed by the great and glorious army t(hat has lost all the wars with our neighbour India that has spread the poison. )Islam does not depend on mullaism, the Prophet was used to even more abuse than what we imagine ( but did he kill anyone? no), and he taught the opposite of what is being practised in Pakistan. I cannot imagine that if it wanted, the army cannot put down these forces of evil but it will not for it has nurtured them and the poison spread by Zia has seeped into the body fabric of Pakistan. The curriculum, the bent towards religiosity has all speeded the trend. We are raising monsters in our midst and have become a pariah nation, no one, not one country regards Pakistan as normal. Brave persons like Sherry Rehman are harassed and the state just watches and does nothing. I would like to mention some practical steps which i know will never happen for the trend to change;
    1. Remove the blasphemy law
    2. Mullas should be banned from leading processions on this issue and from politics altogether
    3. The curriculum and whole education system has to be changed to teach how to live and learn and prosper not to chant like wild eyed monsters and to hate and kill, then you can compare yourself with India!
    4. Parliament should dellete reference to Objectives resolution and proclaim this to be a secular country where all religions are equal.
    5. The army should be banned from politics on pain of death. they should concentrate on their job instead of the big organisation they have become, ( which army provides land and other priveleges to their officerss, specially to losers?)
    6. The Punjab has to step back and let the other provinces and other peoples have their due.
    7. All feudalism has to be abolished with one act of Parliament, like India did. why do we still have this system in place? was Pakistan created for these few 100-150 families only?
    8. A social safety net programme for lower income people of Pakistan providing free health and medicnes and free quality education, do this by cutting army expenditure on useless weapons which are either never used or if used cause the army to loose battles
    9. Tax agricultural income and impose taxes on all earning groups
    10. Merit based system to be vigourously introduced

    Will any of the above happen? As they say, Yeah keep dreaming. Recommend

  • Ercelan
    Jan 5, 2011 - 2:40PM

    so what if ST was a blasphemer or even an apostate? His point was to deny divine penalty as death, which his murderer claimed. Of course, no one should be murdered for an opinion.Recommend

  • Dr Muhammad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:34PM

    Dear Bilal, I loved your 10 points! You really did hit the bull’s eye, and your demands are the same what the East Pakistanis were demanding from our Army, until they were pushed against the wall. Considering how our Army has become our country’s worst enemy, I seriously wish I was a Bangladeshi than a Pakistani. Bangladesh escaped from the hands of the 2 most caustic men in Pakistani politics, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who started Islamization by banning alcohol, night clubs, bars and everything mullas think “unislamic”, and then of course our brave and unrivalled hypocrite General Zia Ul Haq, Amir Ul Momineen, the Defender of Islam.
    Come to think of it, why did not either Mr Bhutto or General Zia Ul Haq ban the game of cricket in Pakistan. It is not a game invented by Muslims, it’s been an English Lords’ game. And since Zia ordained government civil servants to show up for work in Shalwar Kameez, hence all Army men should have only worn khaki shalwar kameez instead of Sandhurst designed uniforms and military bands and parades.
    To all Pakistanis who are Muslim, not Pakistani first: Exercise your right of return to the original land of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Burn your passports before Saudi immigration officers, and declare that as Muslims, you don’t need any visa to enter, live and die in the Holy Land. And those with this “Muslim first” mindset with western passports, throw away your passports, and take your children back to a Muslim majarity country. Start off by putting your future and money where your mouth is, hypocrities!
    As for the sorry state of our country and society, all senior Army generals deserve to be caned by the stick they so proudly carry and parade everywhere. If only I get some support, I will form a group of like minded Pakistanis to research and publish the wealth and homes/assets of Pakistan Army men in the USA. That will expose how honest they have really been while blaming the civilians for the mess we are in.Recommend

  • harkol
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:38PM

    What is worrying the world at large is the religious indoctrination that has seeped in to the establishment within Pakistan – Army & police included. While Pakistan govt. keeps saying its nuclear weapons are safe, it states that on the back of the security provided by its armed forces, which surely have enough people who are equally indoctrinated as the person who killed Taseer.

    It is wrong to say the danger to Pakistan is from Taliban or from ‘non state actors’. It is the cancer within that will consume Pakistan (and perhaps other parts of the region), as the moderate civilians and ruling elite by and large are unwilling to fight the violent forces with all their might.

    Pakistani’s should ask themselves, why is it they think they are the victims of a larger conspiracy, when they themselves are the propagators of worst form of religious hatred?Recommend

  • harkol
    Jan 5, 2011 - 3:42PM

    @Bilal

    Wonderful 10 commandments!

    But, as you rightly said, you are dreaming. If Pakistan accomplishes all of the above, then what will be the identity of Pakistan?

    After all ‘Pakistan ka matlab kya’??Recommend

  • Dr Muhammad
    Jan 5, 2011 - 4:46PM

    If Salman Taseer’s words were replied by bullets, I am prepared to take up the gun and fight these religious men on the streets. If they are looking for a bloody, brutal civil war, I say it’s about time for it to start.Recommend

  • Jan 5, 2011 - 7:21PM

    @Dr Muhammad … yes these butchers used bullets.. lets use the QURAN to defeat these murderers…

    Following the QURAN and its teachings without the Corruption of HADITH will be the strongest weapon.. NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO STAND AGAINST the QURAN!!Recommend

  • sammar
    Jan 5, 2011 - 7:35PM

    this is a great tragedy for pakistan, we want the pakistan of jinnah and iqbal not of ZIA.
    Ya Allah save this country from those people who killed Taseer and narrow type of islam.
    those MULLAHS should be arrested who issued the FATWA for the murder of Salman Taseer.Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jan 5, 2011 - 10:19PM

    Dear Dr. saheb and harkoi , thank you for your comments, i just wrote what i felt, I agree with Mohammad saheb about Bangla Desh, I lived and was brought up in Chittagong, and had family in Dacca and have been allover, I can tell you guys we lost a big part of the sweetest culure and tehzeeb and refinement when we let these gentle people go. ( Justhave to listen to the sweet bengali songs) and compare it with the dhana dhan of some of our healthy “actresses”. we lost more than tehzeeb and culture though. I now introduce myself as originally from India from whence my parents came at partition and how they sufferred after coming from such cosmopolitan cites like Hyderaabd, Bombay and Calcutta.
    May God have mercy on us, I shall try and add to these 10 points later
    May God keep all of you in His care and mercy and protect you all in this land of danger and surprises. Recommend

  • Asim
    Jan 5, 2011 - 11:42PM

    PPP is the only progressive minded party…. but I dont see any new leadership which can reclaim the progressive party status. Mullahs are on the up and sane people are in hiding – not because of the fear, but because of the lack of leadership and direction. For mullahs, they dont need any clear-cut direction or one leadership as their mission is to destruct everything. They will destroy everything then they will destroy themsilves as desctruction and hatred are in their seed.

    With this insight, I think we are on the path of a total destruction and total chaos for a considerable period of time, and when everything will be destroyed new beginning will emerge. After mullahs will kill mullahs.Recommend

  • Indian Muslim
    Jan 6, 2011 - 1:42AM

    @ Dr & Bilal,

    Without going into specifics, I would say, If I were living in a state like pakistan, I will not be writing such comments for the fear of commiting blasphemy. For all that you know, someone is watching! :)

    Seriously, I salute you guys.Recommend

  • Hina
    Jan 6, 2011 - 10:38AM

    For us it is a shame to be a Pakistani. Recommend

  • harkol
    Jan 8, 2011 - 9:32PM

    The tragedy of a country is when a moderate, progress minded majority doesn’t stand up to its bloody, violent and vocal minority.

    History shows that every country country – where the civilians let a small cache of armed, extremist folks to take control of the state, it has brought upon it unmitigated disaster, and has spread that pain to the larger region too.

    A house owner who doesn’t clean up the swamp in his own house suffers from the mosquitoes the most and also lets others in the neighborhood suffer the mosquitoes.Recommend

  • azizhasan
    Jan 13, 2011 - 8:27PM

    What i failed to understand if this is a religious issue than why in all Muslim countries around the world this madness is only in Pakistan; and if Pakistani Muslims considered themselves more/better Muslim than Muslims in other countries than why Pakistani society is plagued with all kinds of social evils??? Recommend

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