This is arguably the worst period in the political history of this blighted republic, and the worst government the country has seen. But then, things have never been very good in this nation state. Mr Zulfikar Bhutto, the visionary, unilaterally excommunicated a religious sect and truncated the map of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan by fuelling anti-Bengali sentiments. General Zia, the obscurantist, introduced the controversial Hudood Ordinances and helped to unleash the forces of religious oppression. And General Musharraf, the reformer, abolished the civil service, introduced an ordinance that brought back all the alleged felons who had sought political exile and turfed out the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But this writer cannot remember an incident in this country’s murky past where the governor of a province was shot in the back by one of his guards, while his armed colleagues stood by. And then, after the deed had been done, hundreds of men in black coats and other well-wishers, weeping with joy, garlanded the assailant as if he had just returned from the Crusades after defeating the enemy with one hand tied behind his back.
Mind you, these were lawyers and advocates, people who had graduated from law school, respectable citizens who defend the innocent and the guilty, not the sort of chaps who go around burning tyres and minibuses and looting shops. What was really frightening was the fact that the tempers of these men had been stoked with a great self-righteous pleasure and an indulgent joyous malevolence. Whatever happened to the dignity and resilience which was shown when they fought for the reinstatement of the chief justice?
There have been quite a few political assassinations in the subcontinent in the past. After Mr Liaquat Ali Khan had been shot, the infuriated crowd literally tore the body of the assailant to pieces, so there was no question of trying and punishing the attacker. The Sikh personal guard who gunned down Mrs Indira Gandhi surrendered immediately after the shooting, a trial was conducted and the killer hanged. The fact that the president and the leader of the opposition, both friends of Salmaan Taseer, couldn’t find the time to attend the latter’s funeral, and the fact that neither the president nor the prime minister went on television to condemn what can only be described as murder, not justifiable homicide, has made a number of people in the secular, liberal intelligentsia wonder if attempts will not be made to ensure that, after a suitable period has elapsed, the killer of the Punjab governor is whisked away to North Wazirstan. The events of the last fortnight have indicated that it is the religious parties and not the ragbag coalition that passes for a government that are calling the shots. The nation will have to get used to the idea.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2011.