We are rapidly turning into a land where opinions cannot be expressed; views that clash with the fundamentalist opinion cannot be said out aloud. When this happens, the punishment meted out is one that frightens most into silence. This is, of course, what the extremists want. In January this year former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by his police guard, who wished to take revenge on the courageously outspoken politician for daring to suggest that the blasphemy laws in the country should not be used to victimise people. It is not yet known if the audacious kidnapping of his son Shahbaz Taseer in Lahore, close to his office, in an upscale part of the city, is linked to his late father’s words. But it is known that the Taseer family has been facing threats in connection with the ongoing case in an anti-terrorism court against Salman Taseer’s alleged killer, Mumtaz Qadri. Since then, Qadri has been declared a martyr by extremist forces while the dead man’s alleged lifestyle is time and again mentioned in court.
Police are also reportedly exploring the possibility that Shahbaz, taken away after armed motorcyclists surrounded his car, dragged him out and drove him away in a larger vehicle, may have been abducted over a business feud. There has, since Salmaan’s death been some litigation involving business affairs. This is, of course, a possibility. But it is disturbing that a broad daylight abduction took place on a day when security was already on high alert because of Jummatul Wida. There are also other aspects to the crime that are disturbing. The kidnapping hit news channel headlines minutes after it occurred. Yet the disappearance of ordinary people, which happens day in day out in this land, goes relatively unnoticed by those in authority. Kidnappings of businessmen, traders and others — some members of minority communities — take place on what is a regular basis across the country but we don’t see the prime minister giving pledges that all state resources will be used to ensure their safe return. Some of these people have been missing for years and in most cases their families lack the influence to make their voices heard. One can only hope that Mr Taseer returns home safe as soon as possible. However, the government also needs to give a thought to the fact that lives of just about every ordinary citizen need to be made safer, whether they ride limousines or motorcycles.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.