The fallen liberal

Everyone knows Taseer was not the first to call for a review of the laws that deal with the issue of blasphemy.


Mohammed Rizwan January 04, 2012

The Punjab Assembly yesterday bowed its head in memory of Salmaan Taseer, the fallen liberal and democrat, and former member of the house. The PPP’s Zulfiqar Gondal asked the speaker for a prayer on the first death anniversary of the Punjab governor assassinated by a member of his own security detail.

The speaker, a staunch opponent of the governor when he was alive, obliged without hesitation. Gondal said while “so-called liberals like a certain former Test cricketer are frightened to even name the extremists,” Taseer always faced them head on. The retired army major from Mandi Bahauddin was referring to Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and his interview with Indian journalist Karan Thapur.

The ‘war on terror’ is not just about chasing and hunting down a few cavemen who planned to bring down two high-rise towers in downtown NewYork. It is also not about nabbing and bringing to justice international fugitives who committed that horrible act.

It certainly wasn’t a remote control coup staged by the CIA to remove Mullah Omar and bring in Hamid Karzai.

It is much more than that. It is a direct collision between the exponents of two ideas. Things came to a head when one ideology attacked the other.

The small cracker bang outside a concert in a remote town in south Punjab and the passenger airplanes rammed into the Twin Towers in Manhattan are manifestations of this collision. Taseer never hid what side he was on in this battle.

He belonged to a frail, unarmed and vastly outnumbered community of liberals and was killed like a sitting duck.

The issue was not his alleged remarks against a law which he thought was discriminatory.

The journalists covering crime and the courts know that Taseer was not the first to call for a review of the laws that deal with the issue of blasphemy.

International and local human rights groups, representatives of minority groups and many others have cried hoarse to amend or repeal the laws.

So what really triggered Taseer’s assassination?

The war on terror has long descended from the mountains and is being fought in the hearts and minds of Pakistanis living everywhere. The extreme positions are entrenched, radicalising the whole society along the way.

The contradictions in society, simmering for long, have manifested through violence.

In Pakistan the friction between the ‘religious-minded’ and the ‘liberals’ has been omnipresent since Partition. But before, it was subtle and manageable and seen as a natural characteristic of the country.

The incident of January 4, 2011, showed how bad things have gotten.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.

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