Not unlike Benizar Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated for his belief in a pluralistic and democratic Pakistan

Salmaan Taseer

About the author: Rusty Walker is an educator, author, political commentator, ex-military, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Rusty Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan.

The Tragic Murder of Governor Taseer (Updated)

The cold-blooded killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer illustrated the vulnerability of the government of Pakistan and its top political figures. The tragedy serves to warn us that it only takes one misguided Islamist fanatic who may even come from the very security agencies we provide. Mumtaz Qadri belonged to an elite police force tasked with protecting Taseer. Qadri is just one of many Takfiri Salafists that can, and do, emerge from nowhere in opposition to the establishment or a rival group. In Qadri’s case he was against the blasphemy laws carrying the death sentence for insulting the Muslim faith.

It is not unlike the assassination of Benizar Bhutto, in this regard: Both desired Jinnah’s original vision: a pluralistic Pakistan, in which people of different social classes, sects and religions are protected in a society where different traditions and cultures may exist in peace.

The guards were apparently provided by the PML N-lead Punjab provincial government which may have roots that spread to the Taliban. It is time to face realities, and shed the endemic “political correctness” we find here in our cities. There were signs. Only a few days before his assassination Taseer warned of leakage of Khawaja Sharif’s murder plot report, by a PML-N activist, and cited the development as a plot against democracy. Taseer had hinted that the Chief Minister’s Secretary, Shahbaz Sharif, is involved in the disclosure and his intention to have the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry “set up a special judicial commission to probe the report.” Such political intrigue is common in Pakistan, and a warning sign to careful observers. Later, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry set lose Qadri, the admitted murderer.a1

Was the murder a conspiracy or, just one lone zealot? Was the PML-N also involved in Taseer’s assassination? No one knows, but a swift and deep investigation needed to occur, unlike the pseudo-investigation of the assassination of Benizir Bhutto which died on the vine, and is still unsolved.

This loss of the highest-profile Pakistani political figure to be assassinated since Benazir Bhutto three years ago, underscores the difficulty in protecting our political figures against extremists. It is alarming to note that Taseer was considered a moderate. Taseer had came out in support of Aasia Bibi, who allegedly insulted the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and apparently lost his life over what Qadri called, the ‘black law.” Out of fear of religiopolitical groups, ever since this assassination, the government has been silent on ridding the Blasphemy Law. The silence is pathological within the governmental system.

There is also the larger issue that the Blasphemy Law is a 1977 legacy of General Zia-ul-Haq, who gave in to radical Islamic demands for Sharia Law. The existence of Islamic Law might have had a place in ancient tribes, but inserted into a modern democratic, secular government it becomes an anachronism with more potential for settling scores or targeting minorities, than impeding the few would-be blasphemers. Instead the goal should be an equal protection under the law of Pakistani secular community; the protection of religious sects and minorities in order to foster a culture of pluralism.

In the final analysis it is the different interpretations of Islam within the Muslim Ummah that is at issue. The Ummah can perpetuate terrorism, or, instead, promote tolerance between the spectre of extremism and the tradition of moderation by overwhelming denouncement of Deobandi Takfiri Salafists.

Shutting down radical Madrassas would be a start. In concert with the religious community, the government, together with the media and educational institutions, can play a role towards early education, attention to the economically disenfranchised, and increased face-to-face dialogue in an effort to remove barriers between religious sects, and create a greater understanding and tolerance within the religious community. Is the rest of the world to see Islam as the “Religion of Peace?” Or, is Islam to be the “Religion of the Sword,” where no one dare question the radical interpretations – revisionist versions -of Mohammad’s (PBUH) once considered peaceful words? Islamic scholars once were open to interpretation of the Quran, in the spirit of ijtihad (independent interpretations) once common in Islam’s history. Many of Mohammad’s (PBUH) words were in the context of the time, as were biblical passages that no longer are relevant to modern times. The Reformation allowed the spirit of the sacred law to remain undisturbed.

We must reach the young and the impoverished, before the radicals do. It is essential to let them know we have their best interests at heart. This is only possible if that, in fact, is the case. It is easy to turn against the establishment, see only the corruption and ignore the positives, but this is a process. The enormous gap between the educated and the uneducated, literate and illiterate, and the haves and have-nots allow Talibanization of the tribal lands, when Taliban provide food and education in radical Madrassas free, and the government ignores FATA and Waziristan. It is this mentality that encourages murderers like Mumtaz Qadri.

Political Correctness and Establishment Press

Political Correctness and the careful establishment press who soft peddles and avoids controversy, allows a deceptive business-as-usual calm between violent acts in the bustling cities of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, while the deep state stirs with violent thoughts; the disenfranchised, the uneducated are silently recruited into al Qaeda and affiliates, and the new generation of terrorist acronyms grow and boggle the mind: LeJ/SSP/ASWJ, LeT, LeO, JeM, HuM, TTP, Haqqani Network, Afghan Taliban, (Including ISIS, and African Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab). These groups harbor the same beliefs- Takfiri Salafist/Wahhabi radical Sunni Jihadists.

They exist outside the control of military or government, are the cancer, in Africa, the Middle East and within Pakistan; Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, and other militant groups based in FATA and KP, all share logistical support by elements within the ISI. The economically challenged and neglected federally administered no-man’s land create the abject environment that tears at Pakistan’s internal organs, spawning BLA secessionist groups in southwest Balochistan, and radicalization of youth in tribal lands, and across the Durand Line.

This is not a sectarian conflict, as much as it is as Muslim against Muslim, including Sunni radicals against Shia, but, also Sunni moderates are murdered by radical Sunnis, as are, Christians, Hindu, Sufi, Ahmadis, and other minorities are at risk. Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Pakistani government politician Salmaan Tasseer were both killed for advocating Asia Bibi’s behalf in her dubious Blasphemy charge.

These disingenuous forces utilize Islamofascism for its own questionable gamesmanship over misguided notions of “Strategic Depth,” Af/Pak goals, the Kashmir chess game, obsession over India, and cultivation of internal terrorists such as ISI-supported LeT, to allow Mumbai-type killing of innocents, but allow plausible deniability of the Pak military.

Yearly, the violent disruption by Salafist Takfiri terrorists during Shia Mourning of Muharram continues. The genocidal intentions against Shia of Deobandi terrorists continue while government, military and Rangers turn their backs. Religious processions, and the threat of assassination against political rivals, have become the expected norm and contributes to the control and silence of the population and government establishment by fear tactics. The security establishment hidden in plain sight supports the Taliban, through misleading categories of “Good Taliban,” and Bad Taliban.” These related Jihadi groups as future assets to be used in the Afghanistan and Kashmir also take out secular and progressive politicians like BB, Tasseer, and Bhattii to the detriment of this globally significant and nuclear state, who once harbored Osama Bin Laden.

It is complex, that is, it becomes a more dangerous world when the most powerful nation on the globe- the United States – can be misled by rival Islamic nations. The successive presidents, Bush and Obama, work with different methodology, and a sincere belief in what they do. But both hold a similar naïveté that results in short term action without long term strategic planning.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen and Oman financially, if tacitly, supports much of the Salafist goals, in Pakistan and globally, meanwhile, encourages the U.S. to work with these oil producing states. Bush once asked “Who’s in charge of the ISI? And, appeasement speeches of Hilary, Kerry, and Obama have proven only to embolden Taliban.

Currently this is compromising Pakistan’s democratic and true Jinnah-based pluralistic ideals. It also compromises the mutual goals of U.S. and Pakistan in the need for control in Afghanistan. The balance of power throughout the Middle East, South Asian Subcontinent is at stake. None of this should dash the hopes for our future. The terrorists will not win. But, the time it takes to defeat them, the amount of violence in between, is what is relevant. There is still the very real strategic value of the U.S. and Pakistan alliance.

Nevertheless, currently, the Obama administration remains hopelessly naïve in understanding the dynamics of the Islamic world. That became obvious early on when Obama hired Dalia Mogahed as an advisor- CAIR is still a credible organization though pro-Jihad. Obama, during his speech in Egypt proved that when he ended up embarrassingly, and unwittingly, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, by ignoring the reformist movements across the Muslim world. While he was endeavoring to tacitly apologize for past American strategic blunders, and bond with the global Muslim community, his hesitant methods are instead confusing the issues. Appeasement to Taliban and cooperation with terrorists is a mistake.

We Americans are played by the Saudi’s just as are the other Muslim countries. Muslim against Muslim, is no more going to advance civilization, than the West against Muslim.

I understand that the feeling in Pakistan might be that it is too late. Consider Kashmir itself: That even if Kashmir were to fall into Pakistani territory, the potential for imposition of strict Islamic radicalism within Kashmir is high, if things were to continue in the current path. However, I am suggesting that things could get worse if one abandons hope of turning the tide against these insidious groups spawned and nurtured by the security establishment; that if the military were to decide to eradicate the terrorist groups, then the result would be a spike in terrorist reprisals; one writer cited it might bring a “blood bath.”

And, consider this: Aren’t we already in a “blood bath?” It might be tempting to roll over and submit to terrorist groups that have for so long, essentially blackmailed the peaceful and progressive people of Pakistan, including the government itself. It took a while for this hostage situation to develop; I am not suggesting it be easy, or immediate, to eradicate a cancer that has been allowed to spread. But, I do know that doing nothing, and hoping for change, invites a cancer to metastasize.

Pakistan has some of the most intelligent and industrious minds in the world. Isn’t it possible that a ‘new” intelligentsia (lawyers, jurists, professionals, et. al.) can come together and begin such a movement, by replacing the current intelligentsia-dilettantes that instead have chosen to play both sides? A grassroots beginning, working within the system and outside the system, including elections, pressure on government, and a free press that exposes corruption is a good start.

Mass education, democracy and economic reform will raise the marginalized lower strata into a growing middle class. Professionals, civil society, human rights activists, judicial activists, journalists/ media bonding together with reform minded Islamic scholars and secular intellectuals can be a powerful force against those in government, military and security forces that thrive on the “chaos.” So many sects and provinces seem to be marginalized by the state, which plays to the extremists. Secular dictators are no better or worse than religious dictators.

I do not presume to have all the answers, but is has occurred to me in my studies that secular and religious intellectuals, professionals and educators, press and legal community need to come together. How do authoritarians manage to keep power in Pakistan? By pitting Muslim against Muslim, and Secular as a dirty word? “Divide and conquer,” retains control, encourages the shadow government corruption.

Exaggerating the differences, rather than realizing the commonalities of family, economic and ethical imperatives, allows those in power to manufacture dissent between brothers. Where are the secular trained religious scholars that can interpret the Quran with reasonable debate against extremist interpretations? Iqbal’s ijtihad is perfectly compatible with Islamic progress. If Islamic interpretation is the Quran’s alone, who are the extremists to presume to hold interpretation hostage, and indulge in an endless war with differing sects? A needless jihad against the West? To what end? It is a waste of resources.

It is also incumbent upon the U.S. as allies of Pakistan and future Islamic and Western alliances to study the harmful effects of Saudi funded US Muslim groups like CAIR, ISNA, (both of which are un-indicted co-conspirators of terror as per US courts), ICNA, MSA . These crafty organizations create a false sense of victimhood, and build upon the confusion to insert their potentially lethal agendas.

Long live the memory of Governor Salman Taseer, and long live the memory of Benazir Bhutto; both believed in a pluralism; a democratic “power of the people,” education women, and for the disenfranchised, and for this, Taseer and BB were martyred.

A change toward a pluralistic Pakistan, devoid of Constitutional Zia legacies, would honor their martyrdom.



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