KARACHI: When people held their candles high in the air, they were not only mourning the death of the Punjab governor but also the “death of moderation”.
“I’m a mother and I’m concerned about my children’s future in this country. That is the only reason I have come out,” said a housewife Nihad Muraj.
She was one of the many people who chose to come out of their homes and gather at the press club on Wednesday evening and protest the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in Islamabad.
Even though the vigil was organised at the last minute through late night text messages, it still managed to gather a large number of people, who shouted slogans against what they called “mullah gardi” and they believed that it is gaining momentum over time.
The progressive people of this country are in a very bad spot right now, said Muneezah, a housewife accompanied by her daughter. “It has become a do or die situation. You can either voice your opinion or choose to die or be part of the silent majority. Either way you are doomed.”
Pakistan Medical Association senior member Dr Tipu Sultan, who is a gynaecologist, said that if we do not stand together as a nation we will gradually move towards “Talibanisation”.
Referring to the fan page on Facebook made to honour and admire the governor’s killer, Muraj said: “in just a day I feel uncertain and shocked beyond words”.
Habibullah Junaidi, a senior member of a labour organisation, said that Taseer’s murder is a result of intermittent attacks on freedom of speech and tolerance in Pakistan. “As a result, today’s generation is confused about what to think and support,” he said. “The very people who liked the fan page of the governor’s killer listen to western music and on many occasions support liberal ideas.”
With the killer getting support from young people, participants such as Nuzhat Kidvayi, an active member of the Women Action Forum, felt that this incident translates into the “gradual death of moderation”.
“If I want to know about blasphemy and the laws related to it, I need not ask General Ziaul Haq or a maulvi,” she said. “I would consult the Holy Book rather than rely on someone else’s version on it.”
She added that the religious factions know that they are on shaky grounds on this issue “because the Quran has not sanctioned the killing of innocent people”.
The candlelight vigil was followed by a walk towards Zainab Market and back to the press club. “Every bit counts,” said Dr Shehla Baqi, amidst slogans of “we can die but cannot bow”.
Joint Quran Khwani for Bhutto, Taseer
A joint Quran Khwani for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was held at Peoples Secretariat on Wednesday. A large number of party officials and activists gathered to pray for the two.
Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Information and Archives Sharmila Farooqui praised the great leadership of Bhutto but said she does not have words to condemn Taseer’s assassination. She called the killing a “political murder” and said that the Punjab government failed to provide adequate security to him.
Additional reporting by Mohammad Yaseen
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2011.