One year after Salmaan Taseer’s murder, Pakistan still bleeds. The debate on laws introduced or amended by General Ziaul Haq has been muzzled. Progressives and moderate Pakistanis who mourned for Taseer continue to remain bewildered at the shameful support given to the Taseer’s murderer.
Contrary to many predictions, the trial court delivered a sentence against Mumtaz Qadri and that was a small ray of hope which reminded us of the innate possibilities of reforming and strengthening the state. Yet, the judge who sentenced Qadri has had to flee the country because he was facing death threats. Earlier the prosecutors were threatened and when the judge delivered the sentence, lawyers vandalised the court premises. The foot soldiers of the rule of law movement were never exposed better than in the Taseer episode when hundreds of Islamabad and Rawalpindi lawyers garlanded a murderer; and thus emerged the unfortunate image of our times — a smug killer celebrated, denoting the disturbing side of Pakistani society.
More importantly, the eerie silence of Pakistan’s moderate parties such as the Pakistan People’s Party, the Awami National Party and the PML-N on the issue of Taseer’s murder revealed how weak the political process is against the forces of extremism. The near-capitulation of the political class was evident when senators refused to offer prayer in the house. Only when a strong woman parliamentarian insisted and took the initiative, a prayer was held. These incidents will remain a shameful testament of how far we have allowed bigotry to rule us.
Reportedly, the PPP-affiliated cleric who offered the funeral prayers for Taseer has also had to leave the country. Furthermore, citizens wish to know what happened to the members of the elite police force who were apparently complicit in Qadri’s crime. Has the leadership of a force meant to protect people been asked to answer for this fiasco? Moreover, what measures have the federal and provincial governments taken to prevent similar incidents taking place in the future?
A year later, the media is yet to take stock of its questionable role in fanning misinformation and sensationalism about Taseer’s murder. One newspaper printed the copy of the fatwa against the former governor and a TV anchor called him a westernised liberal and almost a blasphemer. The media bodies, inactive as they are, have taken no cognisance of these ghastly cases of misconduct. It seems that the state and its strange ally, the media, are leading us towards further radicalisation.
Taseer’s family continues to live in fear and his son, since August 2011, is in the custody of his abductors, who according to media reports, are none other than the infamous militant groups hell-bent on destroying Pakistan. The establishment, the political elite and the media are, at best, pandering to the rise of radical ideologies, which merge with the global Islamist movements.
Should we let Pakistan slide into this extremist morass, deep into a sectarian abyss, or should we think of alternatives? Taseer’s murder and his son’s abduction are symptomatic of the easily identifiable fault lines that endangers Pakistan’s future. A year later, there is much to keep mourning about. Taseer was not an ordinary man — he represented the lost vision for Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.
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