The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti has given rise to the usual sentiments of denial, self-loathing, embarrassment and shame. The moderate sections of society have made plain their indignation for the murders taking place in the name of Islam, however, with that said; it is precisely these sections of society which have ensured that the religious right remains in a position to kill off all dissent without fear of any repercussions.
The moderate politicians in Pakistan have traditionally cowered down to the blackmailing of the religious right, for whom religion may very well be an article of clothing to be worn and taken off at will.
Additionally, the moderate population in and of itself has tremendously contributed to the state of affairs in Pakistan. They long ago willingly ceded to these extremists the exclusive license to deal with, direct, mould and regulate religious discourse within the country.
Furthermore, the moderates have allowed the menace of intolerance to increase in strength by remaining in a constant state of denial of their role and responsibility. They blame the religious right for spreading an extremist ideology, yet ignore the fact that they have contributed by refusing to rebuff the same and not offering any alternative. They blame the government for the current turmoil, yet gloss over the fact that it is their acts of tax evasion which have limited the efficient functioning and capacity building of government institutions, which would ultimately enable the government to fight terror more effectively. And finally, they will target the alleged basis of the country itself, stating that this is bound to happen in any country illogically created in the name of religion. They do this while ignoring the fact that the founding father was a secular man, and is that the utility and purpose of any country is determined by its citizens, not any warped historical narrative.
The moderates, although quite loud, have perpetually refused to stand up to tyranny, and amusingly expect others to do it for them. And when that doesn’t happen, they moan, pout and eventually seek to leave the country in a fit of rage and heartbreak. In fact, it is precisely this kind of selfishness and irresponsibility that has served as the bedrock of our degradation. If only it was realised that our collective salvation lies, not in shunning societal realities and insulating ourselves from the community itself, but rather in staying and initiating the process of reform by being the ‘change’ that we want to see in Pakistan. In this way, even if we aren’t able to change the whole of society, we would have at least brought a little bit of ‘change’ to it. And, surely, that is better than washing our hands, and perhaps our conscience, off our country and booking a flight to the UK.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2011.
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