The Liberal is Dead, Long Live The Liberal – by The Baloch Hal

زندگی اتنی غنیمت تو نہیں جس کے لئے -- عہد کم ظرف کی ہر بات گوارا کر لیں

The tragic murder of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer by his own security guard in Islamabad is the most high-profile assassination in the country since the killing of the Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. Both Benzir Bhutto and Taseer ultimately paid a heavy price for their straightforwardness and liberal views. What has made Taseer a new icon in the country’s liberal and progressive circles is his commitment to minority rights and steadfast resistance to religious fanaticism. With Taseer dead, the country has been deprived of a liberal and secular voice.

Mumtaz Qadari, 27, the assassin of the flamboyant entrepreneur-turned-politician, confessed in front of the media that he had killed the governor because of the latter’s resentment to the infamous blasphemy law. The slain PPP leader had termed the blasphemy law as a “black law” which he had insisted was a man-made law and needed to be repealed or improved. The murderer said that Taseer had committed blasphemy and the the punishment he deserved was death. PPP’s powerful governor had also drawn considerable criticism from the religious elements for his support to a forty-five year old Christen woman Asia Bibi who had been convicted under the blasphemy law. During his life time, Taseer knew that he was jeopardizing his life by irking the strong right-wing and supporting the religious minorities.

Mumtaz Qadari of the Elite Security Force is now in the government custody after surrendering before the authorities. As shown on television screens, Qadari seemed confident and unapologetic about his crime. Even though it is the first time in the history of this country that a perpetrator needed in a high-profile murder case has been arrested, this does not elucidate the matter. Qadari has plunged us  in a more complex situation as he  is very hard to punish just like a suicide bomber who no longer fears  death. The bearded security guard reflects a mindset that we do not only find in the Elite Security force. People carrying a dangerous fanatic mindset like Qadari can be found in our offices, streets and market places. Who knows any one of us could become the next Salmaan Taseer in their hands for the wired reasons like not sporting a beard or wearing western/un-Islamic clothes.

One could understandably have a sharp difference of opinion and views with the slain governor on scores of issues and policies but there is no way one can endorse his barbaric murder. Taseer was a multidimensional man who richly contributed to the development and progress of the society. As a totally self-made man, he ended up as a successful businessman, liberal politician,  an author and a leading newspaper publisher. He was a reasonable politician who believed in the politics of argument, logic and tolerance. Taseer’s killing is an emphatic message sent by the religious obscurantists to the progressive and liberal people that they all will have to pay a similar 36-bullet price if they stand for a social change or de-radicalization. This is indeed an attack on democracy. Supporters of democracy should take this as a reminded about the level of deep penetration of the fundamentalists in our society and the country’s security apparatus.

No doubt, our society is in the grip of the worst form of religious fundamentalism. If alive, Prophet Mohammad (SAW) would never sanction such inhuman actions on his name. The Prophet of Islam (SAW) never asked his followers to murder people who disrespected him. In 630 AD when Prophet Mohammad (SAW) entered Mecca with a ten-thousand-men strong force as a victor, he announced amnesty for all his enemies. He even went to the extent of pardoning Hind bint Utbha, who reportedly killed his uncle Hazarat Hamza.

The existing blasphemy law is not divine but tailored by a military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, who wanted to perpeturate his illegal control over power by using the Islamic card. This law is extremely hostile towards the religious minorities and must be repealed.

Leading television anchorperson Moeed Pirzada rightly argued in a note on his Facebook page, “with 95% or more Muslim population (in Pakistan), we should not be insecure to need these (blasphemy) laws, certainly not the way they have been drafted which has lead to abuse. No one in this land can think of insulting the Prophet of Islam, these laws are an insult to the glorious traditions of Islam and the splendid examples set by the Prophet of personal tolerance– sacrifice of Taseer’s life will bear meaning once we develop the confidence to move beyond such laws which have become tools in the hands of the vile and the powerful to be used against the weak and the poor.”

Taseer will be remembered as a hero of liberal values and minority rights. His democratic, secular and liberal admirers will miss him.

Source: The Baloch Hal