Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Pakistan : Blood on the concrete pavement was what the television screens showed. It was the blood of a distinguished human being, Salmaan Taseer, an outstanding son of the soil who worked hard and achieved a lot. He was a professional, a businessman, a politician, a friend and a family man. He also had the most valuable human asset — a sense of humour. Salmaan Taseer was and will remain a role model for a long time. May God bless his soul.
He laid down his life for a cause. He was one of the very few outspoken politicians and he did not mince his words. He boldly stood up for principles and justice for all. He believed that the innocent should not be persecuted without the appropriate process of the law. He believed that any law made by men could be reviewed if its practical implementation were faulty. Significantly, the first person to lay a bouquet of flowers on the blood stained pavement in Kohsar Market, outside the restaurant Table Talk, was the Ambassador of Spain in Islamabad, symbolic of the fact that Salmaan’s voice for justice was heard around the world.
The religious fanatics have silenced a voice of sanity. If the extremists continue to infiltrate the different ranks of society and its disciplined forces, then more murders will happen and the sane will continue to lose their lives. History is a witness to the fact that the voices of Khulafa-e-Rashideen (caliphs) were also silenced. What is going on? Are the Kharji, Salafi, Qutubi and other such extremists now using their sleeper cells after being pushed back in Waziristan? How deep has the cancer of extremism spread in the polity? Can the nation survive or is it going to succumb? It is a matter of life and death now. The learned ulema, civil society, establishment and particularly all the services that are issued arms must act immediately to control the menace. It is shocking that some lawyers presented flowers to the murderer of Salmaan Taseer when he was produced in the court. Who were they? Have the security forces identified them yet?
There is no question about a security lapse. Surely, it was a huge security lapse and the involvement of security personnel other than the murderer is almost certain. It is said that other members of the ‘elite force’ did not fire or overpower the assailant because there was an understanding between some of them to let Qadri complete his crime and only then arrest him alive. Obviously, there is planning in the crime and the desire to gain publicity after the assassination during court appearances. There are also statements being issued by some religious extremists showing no regret. If such people call themselves Muslims, then they need to study the Quran once more and understand the message of the Almighty, “He is the most Merciful and Beneficent.”
Also consider that this was not a case of an individual losing control in anger; the assassination was premeditated. On November 23, 2010, the Almi Tanzeem-e-Ahle Sunnat issued a decree saying that Salmaan Taseer was no longer a Muslim because he considered Aasia Bibi innocent and desired a review of the relevant law and the procedure of its application. Then Pir Afzal Qadri threatened that there were many like Ghazi Ilm Din who had killed a Hindu for blasphemy. This was an obvious indication for potential fanatics to follow suit. The Governor’s House started receiving threats of bomb blasts. Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool leader Qari Sheikh Yaqoob demanded the death penalty for Salmaan Taseer. These actions were also reported in the national press. There were echoes of similar demands and edicts from other groups that claim to be very righteous. In short, Taseer was being labelled a non-Muslim, threatened to meet with the fate of a Hindu blasphemer and liable for the death penalty. Following all this, tempers were whipped up further with rallies and sermons. In spite of the clarifications issued by Salmaan Taseer, it is clear that the intent to eliminate him persisted.
In this situation, the responsibility of the security providers should have increased manifold. It is shocking that the assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, found his way back into the Punjab Elite Force protecting Salmaan Taseer. Five years ago, Qadri was declared unfit for VIP duty due to his religious fanaticism. It is almost impossible to believe that some of the providers of security to Salmaan Taseer were not involved in the conspiracy. Also responsible are the higher-ups that recruit such persons. An immediate cleanup must be taken in hand. One expected a crackdown within 24 hours. Exemplary punishment must be given immediately; delay is counter-productive.
May I ask the honourable courts why they are turning a blind eye to the threats? Has there been an enquiry pertaining to whether the court in Nankana Sahib announced the conviction of Aasia Bibi under threats or on merit?
Threats and incentives for murder were issued in the case of the Governor Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and continue to be issued to others. Head money is being offered for other murders as was offered in the case of Salmaan Taseer. Are the judges so concerned for their own personal safety that they do not take suo motu notice? Talal Bugti, a cleric in Peshawar, and another in Rawalpindi have been reported for open incitement for murder. The press has done its duty and has brought such activities to the notice of public. What is the use of all this if the law does not take its course and justice is not enforced? If a government, federal or provincial, cannot find protection for its citizens, even for its distinguished leaders, or apprehend those issuing threats and incitements, then does it have any justification to be there? I hope the sectors responsible for security see this crime as their last chance to prove their worth in enforcing justice and cleansing the system. Please do not wait for all the voices of sanity to be silenced.
NOTE : The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor