At some point in time, a lot of the citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan quietly renounced their citizenship to become ‘Takfiristanis’. They took upon themselves the right to declare anyone they willed a non-Muslim and gave themselves the right to murder.
I was always under the impression that ghazis in history were men and women of valour, who stared death in the face and didn’t flinch because the mettle of their belief was so strong. So as it emerges that the killer of Salmaan Taseer, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, is a ‘ghazi’ to many, it’s odd that he allegedly requested the other guards not to kill him. That he killed an unarmed man in cold blood is cowardly, that he wanted his life spared is cowardly. That doesn’t sound courageous to me.
After the killing of Salmaan Taseer, the silent majority of Pakistan finally spoke. They liked it. It didn’t matter what class they were from, what clothes they wore, how many years of education they had. They agreed with murder most foul. But they are still silent on their secret identity as Takfiristanis.
Salmaan Taseer’s record as governor Punjab isn’t exemplary; he was a willing participant in the uncomfortable ‘allies, but not really’ dance between the PML-N and PPP. But whatever the specifics of his tenure, he put his life on the line because he saw an act of injustice and wanted to correct it. It was a morally brave and intellectually honest decision.
He only wanted to amend the law to make sure the honour of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is not used by people who want to settle personal scores. There is nothing he said that can justify the murder. I wonder how much research Malik Mumtaz Qadri did on the late governor before deciding to extinguish the light from his eyes.
This murder is not an isolated incident. A mosque in Karachi has announced that Sherry Rehman is not a Muslim, no doubt the prayer leader is hoping that there is another Malik Mumtaz Qadri waiting in the wings somewhere. Yet, I am absolutely sure that the imam has not read the private bill tabled by Sherry Rehman. He wants to be able to decide who is, or who is not, a momin by hearsay.
In November, I wrote a piece about the blasphemy law, arguing that the law could be applied to anyone who was made aware of the teachings of Islam yet still remained a non-Muslim. I got a lot of critiques for that interpretation. But then, three weeks later, a doctor was charged under the same law for throwing a man’s business card into the dustbin — the man’s name was Mohammad Faizan.
The man in question, Mohammed Faizan, should have been charged for insulting the name of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), for wrongly accusing another of alleged blasphemy. But no, that’s inviting potentially lethal wrath.
I have heard from many that what Pakistan needs is a real counterterrorism strategy, one that is based on more guns, Kevlar and troops. True, but what happens when there is fanaticism in those charged with countering terrorism? It won’t do anything to tackle the real problem, the mindsets. The plague is very real.
If America leaves Afghanistan tomorrow, the drones stop humming, the Jews of Israel drown in the sea, will that stop the bloodlust? No, they will find new causes and kill Pakistan in the process. And the new cause will be Pakistan itself, if it isn’t already.
There is no easy solution. But we can start incrementally. The media needs to be first. If Meher Bokhari nods her head in approval when someone describes Malik Mumtaz Qadri on the just side of morality, if Hamid Mir and Javed Chaudhry suggest that Salmaan Taseer brought it upon himself, it feeds the monster further.
Rehman Malik unconsciously is also one of them, happily proclaiming that he, too, would kill anyone for an alleged act of true blasphemy. The PML-N has always been a moral pygmy, but one expects better of the PPP after this tragedy.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2011.
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