All hope died with Shahbaz Bhatti
Bhatti's death has made me come to one conclusion: I have lost and the extremists have won.
As I write this, the body of Shahbaz Bhatti is being flown to Faisalabad for burial.
He has been dead for three days. As expected, Rehman Malik has claimed that the assassination was Bhatti’s own fault and not the interior ministry’s.
The government has called it an act of terrorism, condemned it and is observing three days of mourning.
The maulanas of two mainstream religious parties have issued lukewarm condemnations on TV but have refrained from actually meeting the minister’s family.
But none of the leaders have so far said a word about the blasphemy law that has been used as an excuse for this killing.
How can they?
They don’t want to die.
How can they come out and say ‘stop misusing the blasphemy law’ when saying it would count as blasphemy in the eyes of the extremists?
How can they raise a voice when the force silencing these voices comes in the shape of bullets?
How can they speak when it could ‘hurt’ the sentiments of the extremists that control our nation? Whether the extremists are a minority or not, the truth is that they are in control.
They define what we can say and what we can’t. They define the ‘sensitivities’ and we chart our course around them. They justify their acts by using the name of Islam, but their Islam is all over the place. It is in the bullets that target people who do not adhere to it; in the bombs that blow up shrines and mosques killing and maiming hundreds of those who paint a moderate picture of Islam.
So, we continue to live in silence.
The rule of these extremists is reinforced through our parliamentarians fear, incompetence and sheer selfishness. The silence will continue until our leaders find the courage to challenge brutality instead of hiding for fear of ruffling the wrong feathers.
But these power hungry vultures turn death into an opportunity to strengthen their vote banks and the democratic corridors faking concern and delivering nothing.
Members of the PTI and PML-N have been known to raise slogans alongside those of the JUI-F. These rallies in support of the blasphemy law are conducted although it is common knowledge that no one in the government is trying to amend it.
And yet, the grandstanding continues. Religious leaders provide tacit support to radicals by telling them that as long as it is a religion is ‘under threat’ killing is justified.
As one by one our leaders fall all we do is watch with fear, mostly quiet, terribly afraid and totally powerless. Some voices are raised but muted quickly – for what strength do words have when fighting bullets?
Every time I write, I am criticised for uttering words that won’t make a difference.
But I ask you, dear readers, what would you have me do?
Do you think it would make a difference if I went out to protest against the killers that distributed pamphlets claiming the act but yet elude any punishment?
Should I campaign for tolerance in a state whose constitution legitimises intolerance?
Should I try to make the extremists understand that an educated woman who they believe to be the scum of the earth, has a better understanding of Islam than them?
Or should I go their way and take up a gun and shoot down those who don’t believe what I believe?
What should I do?
What can I do?
The answer is: nothing.
I can’t do a thing that will make a difference in this God forsaken country.
Nothing I do will change anything, because the people in power prefer things to be this way.
They are leeches sucking our blood, which is more profitable to them than giving their blood to save us.
I cannot think of one person I can vote for who will change the situation.
Not the liberal PPP who claims to be progressive but has no qualms about abandoning its own governor when its popularity was at stake.
Not the PML-N who openly supports banned terrorist outfits just for a few votes.
And not the Jamiats who politicise religion so much that they can’t separate it from politics.
I am just a powerless pawn in this game. And so are you.
Even though I know that my weakness gives them strength, I don’t have a way out.
There was a time when I believed that my words would make a difference, that there was hope.
But today, I have nothing.
As Faiz aptly put it:
Is waqt to lagta hai
Kahin kuch bhi nahi hai,
Mehtaab, na Sorraj
Na andhera na savaira
(The time for nothingness has come upon us
There is no sun, no moon, no hope, no fear)