Who’s afraid of Mumtaz Qadri?

Published: January 14, 2011
The writer is a media and PR consultant based in London. She has a master’s degree in media anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies 

The writer is a media and PR consultant based in London. She has a master’s degree in media anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies [email protected]

I am suffering from writer’s fatigue, despite not producing a column this year. Largely because I have been tweeting up a storm with like-minded Pakistanis, outraged by the sickening apotheosis of Mumtaz Qadri, a coward who shot an unarmed man in the back and walked away a celebrity. What could I possibly add that my erstwhile colleagues Fasi Zaka, Mosharraf Zaidi and the bloggers at Five Rupees have not already articulated to their readers in the Pakistani blogosphere and English language press?

Silence, however, is not an option for anyone who believes that what Pakistan needs today is loud, sane voices. It doesn’t really matter if these voices are few. What does matter is that they exist and those of us who have access to any kind of national forum must put in our dissenting vote. So, for the record, this is where I stand and, like countless others, I will not be browbeaten.

Rudimentary democracies are often subject to the tyranny of robust displays of crowd clout. It is difficult to retain perspective when approximately 40,000 people turn out in Karachi to noisily extol vigilante justice and only 2,000 gather outside the Governor House in Lahore to protest the death of Salmaan Taseer.

Look again. Electorally impotent religious parties in Pakistan are known for organising marches of fascist proportions as a show of strength. But when 2,000 people turn up to participate in a candlelit vigil, despite the nagging uncertainty that there might be more trigger-happy Mumtaz Qadris out there, it is significant. That Saba Hameed — a famous actor whose audience may well incorporate some of the 40,000 who marched in Karachi — appears on television openly condemning Taseer’s killing, is noteworthy. PPP MNA Sherry Rehman’s refusal to leave the country, despite ominous warnings that extremists are out gunning for her, carries psychological weight. Don’t let the math fool you. There are people of moral fortitude still out there.

Still, that those who approach serious debate over ideological positions have to be unerringly brave to survive in Pakistan is a shocking indicator of how far off-track we have gone. The rowdy conflict over the blasphemy laws has deepened the nation’s ideological fissures. Assuming that Pakistan’s political polarisation is new is politically naive. The country’s original vanguard consisted of a liberal, largely secular Muslim League, led by a westernised Jinnah. But it spoke to its largely uneducated rural vote-bank in populist language, feeding its fear of the Hindu middle class. The seeds of polarisation were not sown by Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation of Pakistan; rather, the General deviously magnified an inherent conflict in the country’s body politic. Mr Jinnah knew he was courting danger but possibly assumed the ramifications could be controlled. Clearly, he was overly optimistic. So here we stand today, as a nation divided between what some columnists have called Mr Jinnah and Ziaul Haq’s Pakistan. The nation’s future may depend on how successfully our politicians are able to negotiate the middle ground.

Politically, liberal Pakistan has been abandoned by realpolitik advocates. Even the PPP, a left-of-centre party in spirit if not in practice, has had to admit that the centre itself has shifted. Amidst the embarrassing shouts of ‘political murder’ from official circles, strong words from an unexpected source: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairperson of the PPP, spoke out in London, saying that his party would not be silent or frightened. To give weight to such proclamations, his party’s government would have to commit itself to criminal prosecution of anyone who incites extra-judicial killings or hate crimes.

Mumtaz Qadri is not just a man, he’s a mindset. But it takes a government of strong convictions to make sure that this mindset does not yield more of the same ilk. Unless there are clear legal signals that inciting murder — on any grounds — is intolerable, religious vigilantes will continue to roam our streets, looking for fresh causes.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Humanity
    Jan 14, 2011 - 11:30PM

    We are all tired of feeling bad, sad, and mad at the murder of humanity.

    Let us find in ourselves the positive energy of hope and faith. Let us start to make small changes for compassions for others, regardless of which mindset they belong to. Compassions is a powerful tool. It subdues the meanest of the mean.

    I have pledged to not use harsh words that hurt. What is it that you want to change in yourself, Fifi? Say it out loud in public so that you make the commitment to carry through your words.

    Thank you. Keep up the good work!Recommend

  • parvez
    Jan 15, 2011 - 12:09AM

    Very correctly said that a lot will depend on how the government will act if it acts at all.
    As it stands there does not appear to be any money to be made in this nor is the governments majority threatened so this will be marked as low priority to be dealt with by the “talking heads” with the view that this too shall pass.Recommend

  • Faysal Jamal Khan
    Jan 15, 2011 - 12:18AM

    Writer has luxuriously avoided the subject of blasphemy & her belief’s about it, a Pakistani girl with western upbringing talking about Pakistan & its dynamic’s. unfortunately no one buy’s Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Jan 15, 2011 - 1:27AM

    I’m afraid of the ‘Mumtaz Qadri’ mindset.Recommend

  • Azeem
    Jan 15, 2011 - 1:43AM

    Very well said!Recommend

    Jan 15, 2011 - 1:45AM

    fifi is a brave and courageous lady.i offer her full support and praise.

  • Jan 15, 2011 - 2:49AM

    Good articleRecommend

  • Amir
    Jan 15, 2011 - 10:57AM

    the problem with Pakistan’s two extremes are , one is Urdu medium conservatives and on the other hand its totally English medium extremists, who believes in ‘Westernising’ , the whole mind set of nation.
    they are not liberals BUT anti-Islam.. and believes in criticising the practising Muslims in their drawing rooms.Recommend

  • habib
    Jan 15, 2011 - 11:37AM

    This has all been said. A rather tepid regurgitation.Recommend

  • yousafzai
    Jan 15, 2011 - 1:09PM

    fifi is a brave and courageous lady.i offer her full support and praise… its easy to be brave and courageous when one is sitting far from ground zero!! Recommend

  • m
    Jan 15, 2011 - 2:42PM

    Can’t agree more with you Fifi. Need of the hour to counter this threat in an organized manner to negate the growing threat of ‘mullahgradi’. Recommend

  • Sheheryar Khan
    Jan 15, 2011 - 2:56PM

    There is a healthy amount of your words to which I have a strong feeling of disagreement but I shall limit myself in speaking about Jinnah’s secularity.

    Please convince your readers (from all backgrounds) that Jinnah was a secular (ideological). Infact, he was a staunch ideological Muslim and I do not known whether he was in practise as well. Those who practise, inculcate and emulate Islamic values and personalities in their personal lives are bound to be non-secular. If you fail to write convincing words, allow me to do so. I shall reply to this comment if you’re seriously interested.


  • Haris Masood Zuberi
    Jan 15, 2011 - 3:07PM

    Brilliant Fifi! Recommend

  • SUB
    Jan 15, 2011 - 3:12PM

    There is another Great silent majority which completely rejects & condemns Mr. Qadri’s mindset and what he did to Mr. Taseer however they don’t think Blasphemy law is wrong. These people do not approve the misuse of this law in any case against any human being, Muslim or non-Muslim however when the liberal extremist start condemning the blasphemy law in the cover of Mr. Taseer’s murder they lose the support of this majority.

    Had there been no blasphemy law the mindset of Mr. Qardi would still be active and at large

    @ Amir: You are absolutely right, reading both the mediums of English & Urdu one gets confused who’s right and who’s wrong. it’s not possible that Urdu media is absolutely correct and English media is absolutely wrong or vice versa. Both these mediums have their share of hypocritesRecommend

  • Zeeshan
    Jan 15, 2011 - 5:01PM

    Excellent write up.Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Jan 15, 2011 - 6:12PM

    For a law to be prevented from being misused, it needs amendment. But your clerics and the so called Anti-Taseer-Murder-Pro-Blasphemy-Law silent majority, have made this man-made law absolute, raised it’s status to divine in nature and not be reviewed or questioned.
    How can you prevent a law’s misuse when you’re not even willing to scrutinize and amend itRecommend

  • rufi
    Jan 15, 2011 - 8:37PM


  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos
    Jan 15, 2011 - 9:42PM

    With more awareness & education, maybe some day things will get betterRecommend

  • Obaid
    Jan 15, 2011 - 9:55PM

    Why drag Mohammad Ali Jinnah in this argument?Recommend

  • SUB
    Jan 15, 2011 - 11:49PM

    @ Disco: I am not an expert of law so I respect that if U are one.

    About ‘my clerics’ and the ‘so called’ Anti-Taseer-Murder-Pro-Blasphemy-Law silent majority, do U plan to take on them by some argument or U plan to conquer them? With a name like that I wish U luck if U can have a decent argument with a Mullah.

    How can I win peoples’ hearts & minds or convince an opposite point of view if even my name is derogatory for him/ her

    We should not completely write off anybody or a sect even Mullahs. If our elites, dictators & politicians have not done enough for the education of masses then we can not blame masses for making wrong choices.Recommend

  • Jan 16, 2011 - 2:16AM

    Very Well Said.To the point analysis of the Religious mess in Pakistan

    “The seeds of polarisation were not sown by Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation of Pakistan; rather, the General deviously magnified an inherent conflict in the country’s body politic. Mr Jinnah knew he was courting danger but possibly assumed the ramifications could be controlled. Clearly, he was overly optimistic. So here we stand today, as a nation divided between what some columnists have called Mr Jinnah and Ziaul Haq’s Pakistan.”


  • Jan 16, 2011 - 3:17AM

    Excelllent, “Silence, however, is not an option for anyone who believes that what Pakistan needs today is loud, sane voices. It doesn’t really matter if these voices are few.”Recommend

  • Haroon
    Jan 16, 2011 - 11:37AM

    We r not keeping silent. we r not supporting qadri or his mindset. Yes Im sorry that how quickly ppp and pml-n led governments so qucikly surrendered to such mindset as if God forbid qadri is a hero of sorts. I was never so sad on the prospects of pakistan as Im now. But I would suggest, lets turn this tragedy of Salman Taseer’s shocking death into our advantage and bring this very needed change that we all want for our beloved nation. So that we can stand proudly in the commity of nations in light of the enlightened teachings of Real Islam. This way we can really pay a big tribute to Salman Taseer.Recommend

  • Meeral
    Jan 16, 2011 - 4:25PM

    Mumtaz Qadri is not just a man, he’s a mindset. I think itz a Very close analysis and it is agreed by the way Islamic Education prevailing in Pakistan. The way Islamic education misuses is dishurting for being a muslim, Islam based on freedom of choice.. Mumtaz Qadri no doubt just a man but where r those hands who brainwashed the subject man. Lets see what our institutions playing role in getting of justice to our nation. Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Jan 16, 2011 - 4:30PM

    No where have I written about ‘conquering’ anyone nor do I have any desire of conquests, unlike the Mullahs of this country.
    One need not be an ‘expert’ of religion in order to know what’s right and what’s wrong and ‘U’, i.e Disco Molvi, is surely isn’t nor ‘U’ has proclaimed that he is.
    Unlike the experts in field of medicine or engineering, Islam is neither a subject not a specialty that only the ‘expert'(?) Alims/Muftis/Mullah have an authority over (i.e no concept of priesthood) and to make others follow according to their perverted interpretations.
    The day Muslims decided to leave Islam in the hands of such clerics, it gave birth to all such misgivings and Pakistan’s Blasphemy law is such an example.
    Oh and even with a decent name, I still can’t have a decent argument with an indecent Mullah.Recommend

  • kkk
    Jan 16, 2011 - 8:17PM

    yawwwwwwn . yeah well, we have read all of that. Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Jan 16, 2011 - 10:36PM

    Mumtaz Qadri mindset has been tolerated for a long time. Calling a section of the society wajib-ul-qatal is a manifestation of mindset.Recommend

  • Abrar
    Jan 17, 2011 - 2:02AM

    Over the years Pakistan has drifted towards extremism, from teachers forcing girls to have big dupattas to later a scarf or hijab, the present trend of men towards beards with or without mustache , educated or illiterates, this has been quietly spreading , instead of travel to hawaii or dubai, you have more advertisements for umra or hajj.
    A quiet religious has been spreading while the peole has considered this to be awareness, when benazir becoming PM was putting on the slipping dupatta for inaugaration speech , she was appeasing the extremist, today people are scared to even support Salman Taseer openly. A sorry state of affairs Recommend

  • King of nowhere
    Jan 17, 2011 - 11:17AM

    Admi se dartey ho admi to tum bhi ho admi to mein bhi hun… tolerance and patience are two words of virtue my friends mr qadiri showed nothing of both, so did we. if you wana kill evil with another big evil then my friends you are on a wrong path… if you want people to listen to you then you have to be polite in you words and your actions like the Prophet (PBUH) and all the Wallis and sufies.

    Peace and RespectRecommend

  • Zarein Ghulam
    Jan 17, 2011 - 12:05PM

    impotenet religious parties is the best line to summarise the devastation the country is victim to.Recommend

  • S Imam
    Jan 17, 2011 - 2:36PM

    An article which in fact contributed in the discussion over a subject of serious nature. Well done Fifi!Recommend

  • SUB
    Jan 17, 2011 - 7:28PM

    The point I am trying to raise is: How to counter this mindset? Can we do it by completely rejecting condemning or looking down upon it? A lot of people around here curse the law and the mullahs however is it a solution to the menace? As I mentioned earlier If our elites, dictators & politicians have not done enough for the education of masses then we cannot blame masses for making wrong decisions. And WE have to suffer it, because its “Democracy”

    As you mentioned one of the beauties of Islam is that there is no theocracy or priesthood in it. Any Muslim among us can lead a prayer however the one needs to know the way prayer is said and he has learned a few surah’s that he can recite during prayers. Ansar Abbasi has very well explained it in today’s Jang http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jan2011-daily/17-01-2011/col9.htm (I hope you are not a Desi Angraiz and can read urdu :)) where some mulla has written him a letter quoting an example of the constitution which was passed by the parliament however right of its explanation is only reserved with the judiciary which comes through a system and has qualification and unchallenged authority for the explanation of the constitution of Pakistan. Now we can debate on that but again my point is if you, I or we insult it how can we correct it?

    As Muslims we actually have given it in the hands of these Mullas, because we prefer our children and ourselves to be good doctors, engineers, chartered accounts however few if none among us want to bring up our children a moderate “Mulla”

    Again about conquering the mulla mindset or indecent Mullah :) we have to change the mindset by debating it, if there are plenty of indecent ones there has to be some decent ones who are influential also, it would be unjust to write all of them off and believe all of them as the conventionalist.

    Again I would reiterate that it’s the lack of education that’s causing all the mayhem. And the governments that we have voted & dictators we have supported in the previous years are responsible for it. As I read somewhere in comments that this country is run by PPP not mullahs so where is the writ of the government. They (Zardari & Gillani) even don’t have the spine to publicly say a few nice words about Mr. Taseer rather stand by what he believed in.

    I don’t consider myself a liberal however I wonder what is the solution? Politicians have other more important things at hand like milking our national resources, it’s us the commoners who have to find a cure. We have to decide what is our role to bring peace to this country cause it’s the only place on the planet that we have

    God Bless Us AllRecommend

  • Farhan
    Jan 17, 2011 - 9:19PM

    the country cannot be a hostage of pseudo intellectuals…!!
    Disagree with all of above….The greatest man for which this universe was being created , our prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) cannot be made controversial. Sunnah Rasool is the best path of mankind. The law should never be changed nor discussed…!!

    ‘ Asia ‘ was convicted , proven guilty and sentenced to death by the highcourt…so why this civil society was favoring that woman??…why the west was supporting her?….where were we, when thousands of muslims (women n children) in Iraq were being bombarded over a lie (which collin powell himself admitted after he retired), where were we when our muslim brothers n sisters were being slaughtered & raped in Bosnia, where were we when veil was being banned in france, where were we when a construction of mosque was being stopped in switzerland??/

    why do we so called pseudo intellectuals, influenced by the fake west culture want to follow n discuss those pathetic civilizations??….are these westren countries civilized??

    How many churches, Mandirs or other sacred places of non muslims have been destroyed in Pakistan since 1947??…How many people have been sentenced to death or killed due to blesphemy law??…

    Please all readers…try to open up your minds…the minorities in Pakistan are well protected n we should concentrate on other serious issues like corruption, inflation, terrorism, etc. Recommend

  • Jan 18, 2011 - 9:47AM

    In fact Murderers did not know, what price any nation pays on loss of an intellectual. Salman Taseer was a preacher of peace, justice equality and cared for minority rights in his homeland. In fact For a good Muslim, you ought to be good Human first. He neither was a bad human nor a bad Muslim. This in fact is a complex story, starts from quack mullahs and mists somewhere around his blind followers. Would Khalil Gibran be here, must have expressed his famous “Pity The Nation” on this ignorant sect of world. They virtually r not followers of Islam in true sense, rather they are international evil doers. S O S.Recommend

  • SUB
    Jan 18, 2011 - 12:08PM

    Today Ayaz Amir has explained it very comprehensively, please read http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/jan2011-daily/18-01-2011/col2.htm Recommend

  • mehriene
    Jan 22, 2011 - 1:17AM

    @Faysal Jamal Khan:
    Faysal, Fifi’s,or anyone else’s,beliefs on blasphemy are NOT the issue ! And neither is being a”westernised” person the issue. The issue here is that Mumtaz Qadri,even according to Sharia law, committed a murder ! He must be punished for his crime.
    As for her being a “westernised” Pakistani , A PAKISTANI is A PAKISTANI no matter what their upbringing or beliefs maybe. Allah ka shukar hai that we have Pakistanis like FIFI around….gives us hope that there is a future for Pakistan ! We need more people like her and less ill-informed bigots like you.Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 2, 2011 - 3:21AM

    Yes Qadri is a mindset, few years back I was in Islamabad, just to keep busy in my spare time I joined a short course at a small talioring Institue there, I knew that the students were of rural background and thinking, and I would be the odd one out but still managed well and found most to be friendly and cooperative, during my time there the institute issued some things to hang on car mirrors adorned with Quranic verses including Ayatul Kursi which is a Surah but on the item it was titled Dua, so I just asked my classmates if its a Surah why is it being called a Dua, in a polite and decent way, since I dont really know, and one guy gave me a dirty stare and turned the whole thing around in a split second by uttering out of nowhere “Haan ab Quran may sub kuch ghalat hay” in a sarcastic, disgusted manner, I was taken aback by his reaction considering there was nothing provocative about my query, and what if I had said something regarding blasphemy had there been a discussion on the subject or anything else touchy?. Ironically he also wore the longest beard of all in class.Recommend

  • Jawad
    Mar 2, 2011 - 3:58AM

    Salam Taseer was brutally martyred that was a quite sad day.
    I only want to raise the point about the creation of Pakistan. My opinion was same as you have written in the article, but with the last few days I am trying to figure out what was in the mind of the people who were part of it. It appear that Allama Iqbal had the ideology of having the separate land for Muslims where they can reshape the Islamic values and laws which are in practice for the last ten centuries. And then He convinced M.A Jinnah who was than in England fed up by the situation here. But when He came back and reorganize the party they also had with them people who were business man and feudal views and have there own interest in creation of new state.For the QuaideAzam you can certainly say that He was convinced that the Islamic rules will be applicable but can’t say about the ideology of the people around Him.
    I am not in any way saying that out of these religious party have any idea what M.A. Jinnah had in His mind as it higher than their intelligence. I think it better to go to the root and than try to figure out some solution and point out the black sheep in our ranks.


  • mona
    Mar 4, 2011 - 4:59AM

    Loved the article and especially the part where mumtaz Qadri is not just a man but a mind set that hit it home!!!!! Recommend

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